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Tag Archives: Alcibiades

The Greek Way of Life 700 B. C. – 343 B. C.


In the first years of Spartan peace, Greece was filled with wandering soldiers. Their little cities needed them no more. The new governments, which Spartans appointed, looked on them as men who might make trouble and were quick to get rid of them. Homeless and with no way to earn a living, the old campaigners roamed from place to place. They became soldiers of fortune, men who fought for any general or city that offered pay and three meals a day. In 401 B. C., ten thousand of them hired themselves out to Cyrus, a prince of Persia, who hoped to steal his brother’s throne. The Army of Ten Thousand was an odd lot. There were officers and men from a dozen or more Greek states, soldiers who had fought with and against each other during the thirty years of war that had torn Greece apart. Yet, under a foreign commander, they worked well together. They made a strong force which no Asian army could begin to match. Cyrus led them far into Persia and wherever they went they were victorious. Then Cyrus was killed in battle and the Greek officers were tricked and treacherously murdered. The great army suddenly found itself stranded, with neither money nor leaders. The men were not even sure where they were, except that it was hundreds of miles from the coast of Greece. Election of Xenophon The Persian king waited for them to lose heart and surrender, as any Asian army did when it had no officers to give it orders. The Army of Ten Thousand was Greek. After a day of confusion, the soldiers called an Assembly and elected a new general, Xenophon, a young Athenian who had been the assistant of one of the dead officers. For four months he led them …

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Greek Against Greek 430 B. C. – 404 B. C.

About 425 B. C., a lonely man, in a country that was not his own, sat down to write the story of a war that had begun six years before. Thucydides, an Athenian, had fought in the war’s first battles. He had been a general, in command of thousands of his city’s troops. Then he was ordered to go to the aid of another commander whose men were outnumbered. When he arrived, the battle had already been fought and lost. It was not his fault but the people of Athens were too anxious about the war to consider that. They stripped Thucydides of his command and forced him to leave his homeland. Now, while the war raged on, he could only watch and he was troubled by the things he saw. Athens and its rival Sparta were caught in a deadly struggle to see which would be the master of the Greek world. Men died, cities were destroyed and nothing was gained, but the war went on. Thucydides began to write about the senseless fighting, hoping that he might teach the men of another time to avoid war. He wrote about the ambassadors from the city of Corinth, who spoke to the Spartans in their assembly, warning them about Athens. “You have no idea what kind of people these Athenians are”, the Corinthians said, “how altogether different from you. They are always thinking up new schemes and they are quick to make plans and to do something about them; but you are happy with what you have and slow to do even what is necessary. The Athenians are bold and adventurous; you Spartans are cautious and afraid to trust your own strength. They love foreign adventure, which you hate, because they think there is something to win, while you think …

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