Xenophon’s Hellenika Book V: Teleutias and The King’s Peace

In Book V of Xenophon’s Hellenika he begins with a story of Teleutias (King Agesilaus’s brother) who comes to the rescue of the Spartans at Aegina. He is described as having “splendid good fortune” and earned the respect of the soldiers while being honored with a garland on his head. Xenophon takes this unique moment to swear “by Zeus” that it is extraordinarily worthwhile for readers to consider how Teleutias earned the praise of the men he commanded, which Xenophon says, “For this is truly an achievement for a man, more worthy of being recorded than spending a great deal of money or encountering dangers” (5.1.4). This is a key section of the text, what does Xenophon have to say about Teleutias and his leadership?

At the time Teleutias was sent out from Sparta to Aegina the soldiers were mostly demoralized, they were twice attacked and surprised by the Athenians. Their previous commander Eteonikas lost the support of the men because he tried to compel them and didn’t pay them. The troops were “overjoyed” at the arrival of Teleutias. He speaks at 5.1.14-5.17 wherein Teleutias humbly addresses the soldiers, praises their bravery, and encourages them to be willing to seek great abundance of provisions. With the troops rallied, Teleutias sets sail for a surprise attack on the Piraeus and then raids the coast of Attica. With their conquests Teleutias pays the men one month’s pay. It winds up being a turning point in the Corinthian War. By 387 BC the “King’s Peace” was negotiated at the behest of Artaxerxes of Persia (it was also known as the “Peace of Antalcidas”). Sparta gains the most from the treaty and still engages in conflict with Mantineia.

As Book V continues we witness Sparta in battle against Olynthos and an occupation of Thebes which features a mercenary army led by Teleutias but he meets his death in 381 BC which causes disarray among the troops. Here Xenophon pauses, noting that “men can learn from such experiences, and they can learn especially that it is not right to punish anyone in anger -even a slave, since masters who are angry often themselves suffer greater evils than they inflict on their servants. And it is a complete and utter mistake to attack an enemy with anger rather than with judgment. For anger acts without foresight…” (5.3.7).

Sparta continues its siege of cities, such as by starving the city of Phleious of its grain. By 379 BC. We are again forced to consider the connection between agriculture and war in Xenophon’s Hellenika. Book V concludes with a story about Athenian agricultural transportation under threat.

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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