Xenophon’s Hellenika Book IV: Greek Rebellion Against The Spartan Hegemony

Book IV of Xenophon’s Hellenika picks up in the fall of 395 BC. The Spartan King Agesilaus is marching into Phrygia on the Hellespont (present-day Turkey). He crosses into the territory of the Persian satrap Pharnabazos. Xenophon offers an amusing tale of Agesilaus orchestrating the union of two regional rival kingships by marrying one man’s daughter to another. While traveling, Agesilaus’s army relies on locally grown provisions wherever they go, rather than depending on an elaborate chain of imported goods. Xenophon takes careful measure to inform us of this distinction between Athens and Sparta.

Despite making inroads in Asia, Agesilaus is forced to turn back to Sparta around 394 BC because Persia delivers funds to a cohort of Greek cities in order to spawn a rebellion against the hegemony of Sparta. Meanwhile Sparta invades Corinth fighting against a coalition of Athenians, Corinthians, Thebas and others. However, Spartan forces are surprised and resoundingly defeated. Agesilaus engages in several battles while en route to Sparta where he is wounded, and he hides the truth about a Spartan naval loss at Cnidus. A variety of impious acts an atrocities are committed.

Book IV details numerous battles between the Athenians, Spartans, Argives, Achaeans, Corinthians, Thebans, and others while Agesialus continues his march back from Asia and Persia plays the various Greek cities against one another. Book IV ends when the Athenians under Iphikrates launch a devastating surprise attack on the Spartans, and Athens begins refortifying the walls of the Piraeus under Konon. The earlier construction of the wall under Themistocles in the Persian Wars, as well as the Konon improvements, can both be seen by the naked eye in Athens today. Book IV concludes in the year 398 BC.


For this reading I used the impeccable Landmark edition of Xenophon’s Hellenika by businessman-turned classical scholar Robert B. Strassler.

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