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Fragments of Xenophon's Hellenica, Papyrus PSI 1197, Laurentian Library, Florence.

Hellenica (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 Hellenica

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]

Hellenica is divided into 8 books covering the years 411 to roughly 362.The first book follows the final stage of the Peloponnesian war, or Decelian war from the years BC 411-406. book 2 covers BC 406-402, and mainly focuses on the internal politics of athens and its instability. The beginning of books three ends the Peloponnesian War narrative and focuses more on the Spartan hegemony. Book 3 starts with a brief account of the expedition of the Ten-Thousand and covers BC 401-395. Book 4 covers BC 395-388. Book 5 narrates BC 388-375. Book 6 describes the years BC 374-370. The final 7th book, BC 370-362 covers the final destruction of the Spartan Hegemony and the second battle of mantinea. The works ends with a summation by Xenophon that his historical works has ended, but the continuation may be told by another historian. however, unlike Thucydides history of the Peloponnesian War, The Hellenica has no known surviving continuation of the narrative. The only major narratives of this time period in Greco-persian politics is in the works of diodorus Siculus and the biography’s of Plutarch.

Other works titled Hellenica

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 also


  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

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