Retreat of the Ten Thousand - F. Younghusband

The After-Life of Xenophon

The Hellenes were now among their countrymen; but they still had many difficulties to encounter, and many toils and dangers to pass through, before they could actually reach their home. They could not get ships enough to take so large a number by sea, and were obliged, for the most part, to make their way on foot all along the Black Sea coast, getting food, as best they could, by plundering any enemies within reach.

Xenophon had been anxious to return to Hellas as quickly as possible, but he would not forsake his comrades, and determined to remain with them as long as they needed his help and counsel. After a time, however, the greater number of the soldiers decided to join the Spartans, who were just then sending an expedition into Asia to make war upon Tissaphernes, and Xenophon resigned his charge to the Spartan general in command of the expedition.

[Illustration] from Retreat of the Ten Thousand by F. Younghusband


Soon after leaving Trebizond, the spoil taken from the Colchians and other enemies had been divided among the troops, a tenth part having first been set aside for the god Apollo, and his sister, the goddess Artemis, whose magnificent temple at Ephesus was one of the wonders of the world. The share for the gods was assigned to the generals, to be offered in any way that they might think best, and out of a part of the treasure given to him for the goddess Artemis, Xenophon bought in after years a piece of land near Olympia, and dedicated it to her service for ever. It was a lovely spot, with a little stream running through it called Selinus, which happened also to be the name of the river that flows past the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and like the Ephesian Selinus, it was full of fish and mussels. There were groves, moreover, and forests abounding in game, besides hilly ground, and pastures for cattle, sheep and horses.

Here Xenophon built a temple to Artemis, and planted around it a grove of many kinds of fruit-trees; and in the temple he placed an altar, and an image of the goddess. The temple was like the temple at Ephesus, only far smaller, and the image was like the image at Ephesus, but instead of being made of gold, it was of cypress-wood. Lastly he set up a column near the temple, and on it this inscription:—"This Place is sacred to Artemis. He who lives here and enjoys the fruits of the ground must every year offer the tenth part of the produce to the goddess, and out of the residue keep the temple in repair. Should he neglect this duty, the goddess will remember it against him."

The first guardian of the temple was Xenophon himself. In this beautiful place he settled down on retiring from the cares of public life, and here he spent many happy years with his wife and two brave sons, living to the age of ninety. Every year he made a feast in the name of the goddess, and invited to it all the people of the neighbourhood. Booths were erected for the reception of the guests, and they were feasted on the produce of the sacred ground,—on barley and wheaten bread, flesh of the flocks and herds, game caught in the chase by Xenophon and his sons, wines and sweetmeats.

In his old age Xenophon had the grief of losing one of his dearly loved sons, who fell in battle. The news was brought to him as he was standing, crowned with a garland, before the image of the goddess, about to offer a sacrifice. On hearing it he put off the garland, the emblem of joy and gladness; but when he was told his son had fallen in fair fight, after a brave resistance, he put on the garland again, and ended the sacrifice, saying, "I knew that my child was mortal."

It was no doubt in this pleasant retreat that Xenophon composed the writings that have been handed down to us as a record of the events which he saw with his own eyes, and in which he took an honourable and distinguished part. Among them all there are no more graphic or more interesting pages than those which describe the doings and sufferings of the brave Ten Thousand.