70 Best Xenophon Quotes on Leadership, War, Wisdom and Sparta

Xenophon was a Greek historian and philosopher whose works are noteworthy for depicting late Classical Greece.


Best Xenophon Quotes


The sweetest of all sounds is praise. ~ Xenophon.


He who eats with most pleasure is he who least requires sauce. ~ Xenophon.


Anything forced is not beautiful. ~ Xenophon.

I will choose to die rather than to remain alive without freedom and beg, as an alternative to death, a vastly inferior life. ~ Xenophon.

Success always calls for greater generosity – though most people, lost in the darkness of their own egos, treat it as an occasion for greater greed. ~ Xenophon.


I am a stranger in all countries. ~ Xenophon.

Most people, when they are set upon looking into other people’s affairs, never turn to examine themselves. ~ Xenophon.

You know that neither numbers nor strength give the victory, but that side which, with the assistance of the gods, attacks with the greatest resolution is generally irresistible. ~ Xenophon.


Early on, you can expect no one to believe in your destiny as much as yourself. ~ Xenophon.

People often say what is right and do what is wrong; but nobody can be in the wrong if he is doing what is right. ~ Xenophon.

Most of us are always trying to increase our wealth, but you and your officers seem far more concerned with perfecting your souls. ~ Xenophon.

Leaders must always set the highest standard. In a summer campaign, leaders must always endure their share of the sun and the heat and, in winter, the cold and the frost. In all labors, leaders must prove tireless if they want to enjoy the trust of their followers. ~ Xenophon.

Top Xenophon Quotes

I deeply believe that leaders, whatever their profession, are wrong to allow distinctions of rank to flourish within their organizations. Living together on equal terms helps people develop deeper bonds and creates a common conscience. ~ Xenophon.


Brevity is the soul of command. ~ Xenophon.

Do you think there is anything worse for a man than that which makes him choose what is bad for him instead of what is good, and persuades him to cultivate the former and disregard the latter, and compels him to behave in the opposite way to that which is adopted by disciplined people? ~ Xenophon.

We must also be careful to educate our sons and daughters when children are born to the women whom we’ve taken as wives. Striving to set the best example we can for our children will make us act even more nobly. ~ Xenophon.


Separated from Hellas by more than a thousand miles, they had not even a guide to point the way. ~ Xenophon.

When soldiers are sick or wounded, doctors can fix them up, but you’ve got to save them from falling ill in the first place. ~ Xenophon.

If any among you covet riches, let him endeavor to overcome, for the victorious not only preserve their own possessions but acquire those of the enemy. ~ Xenophon.

I would force myself again and again to guard against my own over eagerness. Such self-control was crucial, for many times it led to great victories when self-indulgence might have led to defeats. ~ Xenophon.

A man may hate cruelty and lies, but if he’s never given an opportunity to show what he’s made of, no one will remember him when he dies. ~ Xenophon.


In the Face of Danger, Be Eager, Not Intimidated. ~ Xenophon.

Remember too, I added, that getting rid of scoundrels ends the danger of contamination for the rest of the army. Men are drawn closer to virtue when they see the dishonor that falls on misleaders. ~ Xenophon.

If an army is to win through to victory, it has to spend all its time helping itself or hurting its foe. Therefore, an army should never be idle. ~ Xenophon.

Wise Xenophon Quotes

A Persian army being then subject to great inconveniences, for their horses are tied and generally shackled to prevent them from running away, and if an alarm happens, a Persian has the housing to fix, his horse to bridle, and his corslet to put on before he can mount. ~ Xenophon.

Gentlemen, I said to my officers, let’s talk about discipline within our army, and let’s consider our danger from no-account leaders. Unfortunately, such rogues sometimes find more followers than good leaders. Promising everyone a good time with plenty of instant rewards, these scoundrels can exert much more influence than virtuous men, who end up alone on steep, rocky paths. ~ Xenophon.


Battles are decided more by the morale of the troops than by their bodily strength. ~ Xenophon.

Shamelessness, they hold, treads close on the heels of ingratitude, and thus ingratitude is the ringleader and chief instigator to every kind of baseness. ~ Xenophon.

No human being will ever know the truth, for even if they happened to say it by chance, they would not know they had done so. ~ Xenophon.

When a horse wants to display himself…he lifts his neck up high and flexes his poll haughtily, and picks his legs up freely, and keeps his tail up. ~ Xenophon.


Self-confidence should always ride side by side with a strong sense of humility. ~ Xenophon.

He had put on the best-looking uniform that he could, thinking that… victory deserved the best-looking armor. ~ Xenophon.

Men, the enemy troops you can see are all that stands between us and the place we have for so long been determined to reach. We must find a way to eat them alive! ~ Xenophon.

Most of all I vowed that my followers would learn more from my own example than from any legal code or set of regulations. As important to the people as written laws may be, the leader serves as a living law. He not only acts as a competent guide but also functions as a wise judge, detecting and punishing those who fail to serve the people with justice and honesty. ~ Xenophon.

In my experience, men who respond to good fortune with modesty and kindness are harder to find than those who face adversity with courage. For in the very nature of things, success tends to create pride and blindness in the hearts of men, while suffering teaches them to be patient and strong. ~ Xenophon.


Excess of grief for the dead is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not. ~ Xenophon.

In heaven’s name, let us not wait for other people to come to us and call upon us to do great deeds. Let us instead be the first to summon the rest to a path of honor. ~ Xenophon.

Those men who, in war, seek to preserve their lives at any rate commonly die with shame and ignominy, while those who look upon death as common to all, and unavoidable, and are only solicitous to die with honor, oftener arrive at old age and, while they live, live happier. ~ Xenophon.


Well-trained personnel always come through in a pinch. ~ Xenophon.

And do you think, you fool, added Socrates, that kisses of love are not venomous, because you perceive not the poison? Know that a beautiful person is a more dangerous animal than scorpions, because these cannot wound unless they touch us; but beauty strikes at a distance: from what place so ever we can but behold her, she darts her venom upon us, and overthrows our judgment. ~ Xenophon.

We’re bound to be proud of the way our children turn out if they see nothing unseemly and hear nothing shameful. They, like us, will live in the light of all that’s good, and their virtue – like ours – will be their strength. ~ Xenophon.

If you wish to be thought of as a good estate manager, or a good horseman, or a good physician, or a good flute player without really being one, just imagine all the tricks you have to invent just to keep up appearances. You might succeed at first, but in the end you’re going to be exposed as an impostor. ~ Xenophon.


The man who doesn’t know his own ability is ignorant of himself. ~ Xenophon.

Let’s banish these misleaders from among us, and when we do, we shouldn’t fill their places from our Persian peerage alone. As our journey continues, we’re going to be joined by many races of men. Just as we choose our horses from the best stocks, not limiting ourselves to our national breed, we should choose the best men to join us in the work of command, regardless of their country or color. ~ Xenophon.

He who marries a beautiful woman in hopes of being happy with her knows not but that even she herself may be the cause of all his uneasinesses. ~ Xenophon.

An impostor is a man who claims more wealth and courage than he actually possesses. He’s a man who begins what he can never finish. On the other hand, those who can make their friends laugh are men of good taste. ~ Xenophon.


Success should never breed complacency. ~ Xenophon.

Nothing that is really good and admirable is granted by the gods to men without some effort and application. ~ Xenophon.

Famous Xenophon Quotes

For in the very nature of things, success tends to create pride and blindness in the hearts of men, while suffering teaches them to be patient and strong. Well spoken, Gobryas! Exclaimed. ~ Xenophon.

The true test of a leader is whether his followers will adhere to his cause from their own volition, enduring the most arduous hardships without being forced to do so, and remaining steadfast in the moments of greatest peril. ~ Xenophon.


I will venture to maintain that where the teacher is not pleasing to the pupil, there is no education. ~ Xenophon.

To quote a dictum of Simon, what a horse does under compulsion he does blindly, and his performance is no more beautiful than would be that of a ballet-dancer taught by whip and goad. ~ Xenophon.

Don’t give them enough time to arrange a solid defense. We’ve got to appear against them like an uncontrollable nightmare of spears and battle-axes and flashing swords! ~ Xenophon.

For I believe that the best life is lived by those who take the best care to make themselves as good as possible, and the pleasantest life by those who are most conscious that they are becoming better. ~ Xenophon.

You know, I need hardly remind you, it is not numbers or strength that gives victory in war; but, heaven helping them, to one or other of two combatants it is given to dash with stouter hearts to meet the foe, and such onset, in nine cases out of ten, those others refuse to meet. ~ Xenophon.


And even as you’re working to ensure the health of your army, you must remember to take care of your own. ~ Xenophon.

What angers me are all those kings who are fabled for the heaps of gold in their coffers, and their freedom from trouble and pain. I have a different vision. I say that the true leader shuns luxury and ease. Once in power, he should want to work harder than ever. ~ Xenophon.

Inspirational Xenophon Quotes

Truly, men often fail to understand their own weaknesses, I said neutrally, and their lack of self-knowledge can bring terrible disasters down on their own heads. ~ Xenophon.

The suffering of the leader is always lightened by his glory. As much as possible, you must let others share in your glory, so that they never lose heart. ~ Xenophon.

There is a deep – and usually frustrated – desire in the heart of everyone to act with benevolence rather than selfishness, and one fine instance of generosity can inspire dozens more. ~ Xenophon.

Moderation in all things healthful; total abstinence from all things harmful. ~ Xenophon.

Misleaders are slow to work hard but quick to act on greed. They convince their men that dishonest behavior leads to great wealth. ~ Xenophon.

If you consider what are called the virtues in mankind, you will find their growth is assisted by education and cultivation. ~ Xenophon.


Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Xenophon.

I made my people understand the crucial difference between modesty and self-control. The modest person, I told them, will do nothing blameworthy in the light of day, but a true paragon of self-control – which we all should strive to be – avoids unworthy actions even in the deepest secrecy of his private life. ~ Xenophon.

A horse is a thing of beauty… none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor. ~ Xenophon.

Your leader is only one man, I heard my voice say. His strength is no more supernatural than your own, nor is his virtue, and by himself he could never preserve the good things that belong by right to everyone. To govern well, he must have your help – the help of his true, trustworthy friends. You must forever be worthy of his trust, and you must raise up true friends of your own, to help you carry your own burdens. And it is love that must bind all of us together. ~ Xenophon.

So these were the 70 top Xenophon Quotes on Leadership, War, Wisdom and Sparta.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Dean Martin quotes and Mario Andretti quotes.