Type 5373
(formerly typ/3408)

Οὐδέν τι τερπνὸν ὡς παλαιός τις λόγος,
μάλιστα μεστὸς Ἀττικῆς εὐγλωττίας,
ἔχων τε λαμπρὰν τὴν ἀλήθειαν πλέον
καὶ ζωγραφοῦσαν τοῦ βίου τὰ πράγματα·
σοφοὺς διδάσκει καὶ σοφωτέρους ἔτι
ἐν τῷ βίῳ τίθησιν εἰς τὰ πρακτέα·
δίδωσιν ἀνδρείαν τε καὶ προθυμίαν
καὶ προξενεῖ φρόνησιν ἀτρεκεστάτην·
γέροντα ποιεῖ τὸν νεώτερον χρόνῳ
ἐκ τῆς παλαιᾶς γνώσεως τῶν πραγμάτων.
Λέγε, Ξενοφῶν, τῷ λόγῳ συνηγόρει.
Σκοπὸς γάρ ἐστι τῶν λόγων ὁ δεσπότης
Λέων, τὸ φαιδρὸν ἀγλάϊσμα τοῦ κράτους,
ὃς ἐξερευνῶν συγγραφὰς παλαιτάτας
τρυγῶν τ’ ἐκεῖθεν κοσμικὴν ἐμπειρίαν
ὀφθαλμός ἐστι τῆς ὅλης οἰκουμένης.
Τίς γὰρ θεωρῶν ἔνθα Κῦρον τὸν νέον
τὸν μυρίαν τάξαντα κείνην ἀσπίδα
καὶ χεῖρας ὁπλίσαντα πρὸς πρῶτον Κῦρον
οὐκ εὐθὺς ἔγνω πῆμα τὴν φιλαρχίαν;
Θυμὸν γὰρ αὐτὸς ἐμπνέων καὶ πικρίαν
σφύζων τε πολλὰ καὶ διᾴττων ἀσκόπως
ὁρμαῖς ἀτάκτοις συμπλακεὶς ἀνῃρέθη.
Δοκεῖ δέ μοι Κλέαρχος ὁ κλεινὸς Λάκων
σφῆλαι τὰ πάντα συσχεθεὶς ἀτολμίᾳ
Κύρου σοφὸν βούλευμα φαυλίσας τότε.
Εὐχὴν δὲ λοιπὸν μετρίαν προσακτέον
τῷ μαργαρίτῃ καὶ σοφῷ στεφηφόρῳ,
εἰς πολλὰ κύκλα καὶ γαληναίους χρόνους
ἔλθοις ἀνάσσων εὐτυχῶς αὐτοκράτορ.
Text source A. Markopoulos 1994, Ἀποσημειώσεις στον Λέοντα ΣΤ' τον Σοφό, in L. Bratzioti (ed.), Θυμίαμα στη μνήμη της Λασκαρίνας Μπούρα, Αθήνα, 193-201: 195
Text status Text completely known
Editorial status Not a critical text
Genre(s)
Metre(s) Dodecasyllable
Subject(s)
Tag(s)
Translation(s)
  • Nothing is pleasant quite like an ancient text,
    crammed full of Attic eloquence,
    that speaks the truth clearly and
    depicts how things are in life;
    it teaches the wise and makes them even wiser
    about the things that must be done in life.
    It bestows manliness and readiness
    and helps one to think reliably.
    It makes the young old over time,
    through the knowledge of antiquity.
    Speak up, Xenophon, and support my claim!
    The argument is addressed to the lord
    Leon, the shining splendor of the state,
    who is exploring the most ancient writings
    and gathering from them worldly experience;
    he is the eye of the entire world.
    For, looking upon Cyrus here, the Younger,
    deploying the ten thousand as his shield and
    taking up arms against the elder Cyrus,
    who would not instantly see what a disaster the lust for power is?
    Impelled by anger and bitterness,
    throbbing violently and rushing across without purpose,
    his wild charge got him killed in battle.
    It seems to me that Klearchos, the famous Spartan,
    caused everything to fail when he lost his nerve,
    ruining Cyrus’ wise plan.
    Let us then make a modest prayer
    for our pearly and wise crowned lord,
    may he rule successfully as sole emperor
    for many cycles of peaceful years.
    Language: English
    A. Kaldellis, 2015, Byzantine Readings of Ancient Historians, Abingdon and New York: 26-27
  • Nothing is as pleasant as an ancient text oozing with Attic eloquence, especially if it lucidly shows the truth and depicts the state of affairs; then it teaches the wise and renders them even wiser so that they know what to do in life. For it provides courage and readiness for action, procures the more accurate insights and renders the young more mature and aged through its lessons in ancient lore. Speak up, Xenophon, in support of what I am saying! For I have in mind our lord Leo, the bright splendour of the empire, who, having culled intimate knowledge about the world from his study of ancient writings, is the eye of the whole universe. For, whoever sees Cyrus the Younger here as he deploys his shield of tenthousand men and takes up arms against Cyrus the Elder, would he not immediately understand that the lust of power is fraught with disaster? In a fit of blazing anger and spite, rushing at full speed but without any sense of direction, he was killed, a victim of his own undisciplined impulses. Yet I think that Clearchus, the famous Spartan, ruined the whole enterprise by his cowardice, thus thwarting the wise strategy of Cyrus.
    Language: English
    M. Lauxtermann, 2003, Byzantine Poetry from Pisides to Geometres (vol. 1), Vienna: 209-210
Comment The poem contains many allusions and coded references, which have led to several interpretations.

Lauxtermann (2003: 210-212): 'Κῦρος ὁ πρῶτος is Leo VI and Κῦρος ὁ νέος is Alexander. It is no secret that Leo VI suspected his younger brother Alexander, officially co-emperor, of plotting to take the throne (...). The book epigram tells him that his fears are justified. Beware of φιλαρχία. With all your φρόνησις, which makes you as wise as the legendary Cyrus the Elder, you will certainly know that your brother, Cyrus the Younger, is scheming against you. (...) In v. 26, the same young Cyrus who was killed because of his lack of prudence, is said to have devised a “wise strategy”, which, unfortunately, was thwarted by the cowardice of Clearchus. The word σοφόν refers to the wisdom of Leo VI. Whereas in the previous lines Κῦρος ὁ νέος symbolically stood for power-mad Alexander, here he quite unexpectedly changes masks and turns into the figure of Leo the Wise. (...) Can we identify “Clearchus”? Let us look at the Greek. The word ἀτολμία, which I translated as “cowardice”, literally means “lack of daring”. The most notorious instance of ἀτολμία displayed by any general during the reign of Leo VI is certainly that of Himerios in the summer of 904 when, as the commander of the Byzantine navy, he pursued the Arab fleet at a safe distance, but dared not engage the enemy into combat. (...) the sad result of his ἀτολμία was that the Arabs captured Thessalonica and sacked the city.' Based on these assumptions, Lauxtermann (2003: 212) dates the epigram to the autumn of 904.

Pérez Martín (2013: 826) objects that the poem is addressed to a young Leo and dates the poem to the year 886. Pérez Martín (2013: 826): 'the φιλαρχία which the poem denounces did not have to refer to the situation in 903 but to the permanent tension between the co-emperors. This does not explain why the author of the poem changes Artaxerxes to Cyrus the Great, but neither does the interpretation of Lauxtermann; nor does the identification of Klearchos with Himerios explain lines 24–26, because it would suggest that he supported Alexander’s ambitions, which is nowhere attested.'

Kaldellis (2015: 30-32) offers yet another way to decipher the poem: 'Lauxtermann postulates junior and senior “Cyruses,” i.e., emperors. But what if we shift this up by a generation, making Leon’s father (Basileios I) the elder Cyrus? The poem in fact calls this person “the first Cyrus,” and Basileios was the founder of his imperial dynasty just like Cyrus was. (...) As it happens, Leon, Basileios’ designated heir, was implicated in some kind of conspiracy against his father in the early 880s, for which he had been arrested and imprisoned for a substantial time (...). If the poem were composed in those circumstances, an allusion to Cyrus the Younger’s attack, driven by a lust for power, on a relative who is not his brother (as in the Anabasis) but a more senior “Cyrus” could be a coded reference to a plot by Leon against Basileios. (...) Unfortunately, while the fact of Leon’s imprisonment is not in doubt, our sources for the plot itself are meager, and mostly late or embellished. As a result, we cannot securely identify “Klearchos,” the instrument of Leon’s attack against Basileios whose “lack of daring” foiled the plan. We can retain Lauxtermann’s clever suggestion that “Klearchos” refers to a “Byzantine general,” but avoid one of the main challenges facing his interpretation (namely that “Klearchos” is being criticized for an event unrelated to the conflict between the two Cyruses). (...) One more problem remains, however, namely that the plan of Cyrus the Younger (= Leon), which Klearchos foiled through inaction, is called “wise” in v. 26 of the poem. In the Anabasis, Klearchos refuses to obey Cyrus’ order during the battle to cut across the lines and attack King Artaxerxes directly.36 Why is the plan called wise after Leon has already been reproached for it (and for his “lust for power”) earlier in the poem? It is possible that the adjective “wise” is being used ironically here. “For all your vaunted wisdom,” it would then be saying to Leon known as the Wise, “you still made that terrible mistake.”'
Bibliography
Number of verses 30
Occurrence(s)
Acknowledgements
Contributor(s)
Identification Vassis ICB 2005, 564: "In Xenophontis Cyropaediam et in Leonem VI imp."
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Last modified: 2020-11-19.