(Redirected from Hellenica (Xenophon))
Fragments of Xenophon's Hellenica, Papyrus PSI 1197, Laurentian Library, Florence.

Hellenica (Ancient Greek: Ἑλληνικά) simply means writings on Greek (Hellenic) subjects. Several histories of fourth-century Greece, written in the mold of Thucydides or straying from it, have borne the conventional Latin title Hellenica. The surviving Hellenica is an important work of the Greek writer Xenophon and one of the principal sources for the final seven years of the Peloponnesian War not covered by Thucydides, and the war's aftermath.[1]

Xenophon's HellenicaEdit

Xenophon's Hellenica

Many consider this a very personal work, written by Xenophon in retirement on his Spartan estate, intended primarily for circulation among his friends, for people who knew the main protagonists and events, often because they had participated in them.[citation needed] Xenophon's account starts in 411 BC, the year where Thucydides breaks off, and ends in 362 BC, the year of the Battle of Mantineia.[2] There is virtually no transition between the two works, to the extent that the opening words of Hellenica, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα, are translated as After this, or sometimes Following these events.[3]


Xenophon's Hellenica is divided into 7 books and describes Greco-persian history from 411 BCE to 362. The first two books relate the final years of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. The remaining Books 3-7, narrate the post war period of Spartan hegemony and Theban hegemony after the battle of Leuctra. Scholars believe the first two books were written at a much earlier time period, when Xenophon was still living in Athens; while the later books 3-7 were written after Xenophon was banished from Athens and living in Sparta. The work ends with a summation by Xenophon that his history has ended, but another historian may continue it. However, there is no known direct continuation of the narrative. The Hellenica is the only primary source for the period from the end of the Peloponnesian War until the time of Alexander. This period is also recounted in the works of Diodorus Siculus and in some of the biographies of Plutarch.

Book 1 covers the Decelian period of the larger Peloponnesian conflict, from BC 411-406. Book 1 begins with a direct continuation of Thucydides Pelopennesian War history. It is alleged that Xenophon was the editor of Thucydides manuscript after Thucydides supposed sudden death. This period of the conflict resulted in several major victories for the Athenian navy in the Hellespont region. It also saw the return and restoration of Alcibiades to Athens.

Book 2 narrates the years BC 406-402. This includes the end of the Peloponnesian War with the surrender of athens to Spartan leader Lysander. The long walls of Athens were torn down and Athens formally allied itself with the Spartan hegemony. Book 2 focuses narration on the internal politics of athens following the war. Following the surrender, Sparta instituted a new oligarch regime, known as the thirty tyrants. This regime was quickly overthrown and there was a resumption of democracy in athens.

Book 3 shifts viewpoint athenian to spartan politics from the years BC 401-395. Book 3 starts with a brief account of the expedition of the Ten-Thousand against Persian king Artaxerxes II. For further description see xenophons Anabis. Book 3 narrates the Spartan expedition led by King Agesilaus in Asia minor against the Persians. The satraps of Ionia Pharnabazus and Tissaphernes are prominent characters with shifting allegiances throughout the Hellenica.

Book 4 narrates BC 395-388, and is primarily concerned with the Corinthian War. Book 4 recalls King Agesilaus’s Ionian campaign against Persian BC 396-395. During this time, Satrap Pharnabazus bribed Greek states into revolting against the Sparta. This eventually led to the Corinthian war, with the states of Athens, Corinth , Argos, and Thebes united against Sparta. This led to the recall of Spartan king Agesilaus and his army in 394 BC from his campaign against Persia. This time saw the beginning of the Corinthian War. The Persian empire, now sides with Athens against the Spartans. The Persian satrap pharnabazus let exiled Athenian general Conon lead the Persian navy in a number of battles, including the BC 394 battle of Cnidus. Conon then convinced Pharnabazus to allow Athens to keep the Persian fleet, and to fund rebuilding of the long walls at Athens.

Book 5 narrates the years BC 388-374. There is a peace conference at the end of corinthian war that results in a treaty called the “kings peace” in BC 387, ending the Corinthian War. Book 5 goes on to narrate the seizure of the acropolis in Thebes, by supposed renegade spartan Phoebidas. For the next several years, Thebes becomes a Spartan city until in 379 a group of Thebans successfully expelled the Spartans and became masters of their city.This led to the six year long Beotian war that started in 378 BC.

Book 6 describes the years BC 374-370. The Beotian war continues until 372 BC. Athenian general iphicrates stealthily travels around Peloponnesus battle leuctra, results in a major loss for the Spartans against Thebes. This ends the Beotian war and Spartan hegemony, although Sparta would be a major player for the next decade. After the battle of Leuctra the Theban hegemony begins under the leadership of Theban general Epaminondas.

Book 7 narrates the years BC 370-362. During this period Thebes was the ascendant power in Greece. The old power structures were fluctuating as new ones came into being. For a brief time, there was an alliance between athens and Sparta against Thebes. Sparta faced increasing harassment from both internal rebellions and outside resistance. The Lacedaemon homeland saw the first invasion in centuries. The Theban hegemony ended in BC 362 with the second battle of mantinea.

Other works titled HellenicaEdit

Among competing works under this title, now lost, two stand out,[4] that written by Ephorus of Cyme and that by Theopompus of Chios. Ephorus attempted a universal history, and though he attempted to set apart history from myth, he began his work with the legendary "Return of the sons of Heracles", which modern readers understand as wholly mythic aitia.[5] As a pupil of the rhetorician Isocrates he was not above embroidering his narrative with believable circumstantial detail. Oswyn Murray remarked "His style and completeness unfortunately made him rather popular, but at least he stands out as one who had thought about the purposes that history should serve, and got them wrong."[6] The Hellenica of Theopompus, another pupil of Isocrates, was a continuation of Thucydides.

Yet another, fragmentary Hellenica found in papyrus at Oxyrhynchus, is known as Hellenica Oxyrhynchia; it covered events from 411 to the year of the Battle of Cnidus, 395/4 BCE. It has been tentatively attributed to several historians.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rex Warner translated its title for the Penguin Classics edition as A History of My Times.
  2. ^ Xenophon, Hellenica 7.5.27; Xenophon. Xenophontis opera omnia, vol. 1. Oxford, Clarendon Press. 1900, repr. 1968
  3. ^ Hellenica - A History of My Times by Xenophon - Books I-VII Complete, EPN Press, 2009, ISBN 1-934255-14-9
  4. ^ According to Oswyn Murray, "Greek Historians", in John Boardman, Jasper Griffin and Oswyn Murray, Greece and the Hellenistic World (Oxford History of the Classical World I, 1986; 1988) p. 192.
  5. ^ See Heracleidae.
  6. ^ Murray1988:193.
  7. ^ s.v. "Oxyrhynchus, the historian from", in Hornblower and Spawforth, eds., Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition, pp.1088–1089

External linksEdit