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The Cavalry General   By: (431 BC - 350? BC)

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By Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns

Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans, and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land and property in Scillus, where he lived for many years before having to move once more, to settle in Corinth. He died in 354 B.C.

The Cavalry General is a discourse on the merits a cavalry general, or hipparch, in Athens should have. Xenophon also describes the development of a cavalry force, and some tactical details to be applied in the field and in festival exhibition.


This was typed from Dakyns' series, "The Works of Xenophon," a four volume set. The complete list of Xenophon's works (though there is doubt about some of these) is:

Work Number of books

The Anabasis 7 The Hellenica 7 The Cyropaedia 8 The Memorabilia 4 The Symposium 1 The Economist 1 On Horsemanship 1 The Sportsman 1 The Cavalry General 1 The Apology 1 On Revenues 1 The Hiero 1 The Agesilaus 1 The Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians 2

Text in brackets "{}" is my transliteration of Greek text into English using an Oxford English Dictionary alphabet table. The diacritical marks have been lost.




Commander of Cavalry at Athens


Your first duty is to offer sacrifice, petitioning the gods to grant you such good gifts (2) as shall enable you in thought, word, and deed to discharge your office in the manner most acceptable to Heaven, and with fullest increase to yourself, and friends, and to the state at large of affection, glory, and wide usefulness. The goodwill of Heaven (3) so obtained, you shall proceed to mount your troopers, taking care that the full complement which the law demands is reached, and that the normal force of cavalry is not diminished. There will need to be a reserve of remounts, or else a deficiency may occur at any moment, (4) looking to the fact that some will certainly succumb to old age, and others, from one reason or another, prove unserviceable.

(1) For the title, etc., see Schneid. "Praemon. de Xeno." {Ipp}. Boeckh, "P. E. A." 251.

(2) Or, "with sacrifice to ask of Heaven those gifts of thought and speech and conduct whereby you will exercise your office most acceptably to the gods themselves, and with..." Cf. Plat. "Phaedr." 273 E; "Euthr." 14 B.

(3) The Greek phrase is warmer, {theon d' ileon onton}, "the gods being kindly and propitious." Cf. Plat. "Laws," 712 B.

(4) Lit. "at any moment there will be too few." See "Les Cavaliers Atheniens," par Albert Martin, p. 308.

But now suppose the complement of cavalry is levied, (5) the duty will devolve on you of seeing, in the first place, that your horses are well fed and in condition to stand their work, since a horse which cannot endure fatigue will clearly be unable to overhaul the foeman or effect escape; (6) and in the second place, you will have to see to it the animals are tractable, since, clearly again, a horse that will not obey is only fighting for the enemy and not his friends. So, again, an animal that kicks when mounted must be cast; since brutes of that sort may often do more mischief than the foe himself. Lastly, you must pay attention to the horses' feet, and see that they will stand being ridden over rough ground... Continue reading book >>

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