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Anabasis

Page: 107

(6) Cf. "Cyrop." II. i. 1; an eagle appears to Cyrus on the frontiers of Persia, when about to join his uncle Cyaxares, king of Media, on his expedition against the Assyrian. (7) It is important to note that the Greek word {oionos}, a solitary or lone-flying bird, also means an omen. "It was a mighty bird and a mighty omen."

Thus Xenophon sacrificed, and the god as plainly as might be gave him a sign, neither to demand the generalship, nor, if chosen, to accept the office. And that was how the matter stood when the army met, and the proposal to elect a single leader was unanimous. After this resolution was passed, they proposed Xenophon for election, and when it seemed quite evident that they would elect him, if he put the question to the vote, he got up and spoke as follows:—

"Sirs, I am but mortal, and must needs be happy to be honoured by you. I thank you, and am grateful, and my prayer is that the gods may grant me to be an instrument of blessing to you. Still, when I consider it closer, thus, in the presence of a Lacedaemonian, to be preferred by you as general, seems to me but ill conducive either to your interests or to mine, since you will the less readily obtain from them hereafter anything you may need, while for myself I look upon acceptance as even somewhat dangerous. Do I not see and know with what persistence these Lacedaemonians prosecuted the war till finally they forced our State to acknowledge the leadership of Lacedaemon? This confession once extorted from their antagonists, they ceased warring at once, and the siege of the city was at an end. If, with these facts before my eyes, I seem to be doing all I can to neutralise their high self-esteem, I cannot escape the reflection that personally I may be taught wisdom by a painful process. But with your own idea that under a single general there will be less factiousness than when there were many, be assured that in choosing some other than me you will not find me factious. I hold that whosoever sets up factious opposition to his leader factiously opposes his own safety. While if you determine to choose me, I should not be surprised were that choice to entail upon you and me the resentment of other people."

After those remarks on Xenophon's part, many more got up, one after another, insisting on the propriety of his undertaking the command. One of them, Agasias the Stymphalian, said: It was really ridiculous, if things had come to this pass that the Lacedeamonians are to fly into a rage because a number of friends have met together to dinner, and omitted to choose a Lacedaemonian to sit at the head of the table. "Really, if that is how matters stand," said he, "I do not see what right we have to be officers even, we who are only Arcadians." That sally brought down the plaudits of the assembly; and Xenophon, seeing that something more was needed, stepped forward again and spoke, "Pardon, sirs," he said, "let me make a clean breast of it. I swear to you by all the gods and goddesses; verily and indeed, I no sooner perceived your purpose, than I consulted the victims, whether it was better for you to entrust this leadership to me, and for me to undertake it, or the reverse. And the gods vouchsafed a sign to me so plain that even a common man might understand it, and perceive that from such sovereignty I must needs hold myself aloof."


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