On Hunting, by Xenophon


To the gods themselves is due the discovery, to Apollo and Artemis, patrons of the chase and protectors of the hound.1 As a guerdon they bestowed it upon Cheiron,2 by reason of his uprightness, and he took it and was glad, and turned the gift to good account. At his feet sat many a disciple, to whom he taught the mystery of hunting and of chivalry3 — to wit, Cephalus, Asclepius, Melanion, Nestor, Amphiaraus, Peleus, Telamon, Meleager, Theseus and Hippolytus, Palamedes, Odysseus, Menestheus, Diomed, Castor and Polydeuces, Machaon and Podaleirius, Antilochus, Aeneas and Achilles: of whom each in his turn was honoured by the gods. And let none marvel that of these the greater part, albeit well-pleasing to the gods, nevertheless were subject to death — which is the way of nature,4 but their fame has grown — nor yet that their prime of manhood so far differed. The lifetime of Cheiron sufficed for all his scholars; the fact being that Zeus and Cheiron were brethren, sons of the same father but of different mothers — Zeus of Rhea, and Cheiron of the nymph Nais;5 and so it is that, though older than all of them, he died not before he had taught the youngest — to wit, the boy Achilles.6

Thanks to the careful heed they paid to dogs and things pertaining to the chase, thanks also to the other training of their boyhood, all these greatly excelled, and on the score of virtue were admired.

If Cephalus was caught into the arms of one that was a goddess,7 Asclepius8 obtained yet greater honour. To him it was given to raise the dead and to heal the sick, whereby,9 even as a god among mortal men, he has obtained to himself imperishable glory. Melanion10 so far excelled in zest for toil that he alone of all that flower of chivalry who were his rivals11 obtained the prize of noblest wedlock with Atalanta; while as to Nestor, what need to repeat the well-known tale? so far and wide for many a day has the fame of his virtue penetrated the ears of Hellas.12

Amphiaraus,13 what time he served as a warrior against Thebes, won for himself the highest praise; and from heaven obtained the honour of a deathless life.14

Peleus kindled in the gods desire to give him Thetis, and to hymn their nuptials at the board of Cheiron.15

The mighty Telamon16 won from the greatest of all states and wedded her whom he desired, Periboea the daughter of Alcathus;17 and when the first of Hellenes,18 Heracles19 the son of Zeus, distributed rewards of valour after taking Troy, to Telamon he gave Hesione.20

Of Meleager21 be it said, whereas the honours which he won are manifest, the misfortunes on which he fell, when his father22 in old age forgot the goddess, were not of his own causing.23

Theseus24 single-handed destroyed the enemies of collective Hellas; and in that he greatly enlarged the boundaries of his fatherland, is still today the wonder of mankind.25

Hippolytus26 was honoured by our lady Artemis and with her conversed,27 and in his latter end, by reason of his sobriety and holiness, was reckoned among the blest.

Palamedes28 all his days on earth far outshone those of his own times in wisdom, and when slain unjustly, won from heaven a vengeance such as no other mortal man may boast of.29 Yet died he not at their hands30 whom some suppose; else how could the one of them have been accounted all but best, and the other a compeer of the good? No, not they, but base men wrought that deed.

Menestheus,31 through diligence and patient care, the outcome of the chase, so far overshot all men in love of toil that even the chiefs of Hellas must confess themselves inferior in the concerns of war save Nestor only; and Nestor, it is said,32 excelled not but alone might rival him.

Odysseus and Diomedes33 were brilliant for many a single deed of arms, and mainly to these two was due the taking of Troy town.34

Castor and Polydeuces,35 by reason of their glorious display of arts obtained from Cheiron, and for the high honour and prestige therefrom derived, are now immortal.

Machaon and Podaleirius36 were trained in this same lore, and proved themselves adepts in works of skill, in argument and feats of arms.37

Antilochus,38 in that he died for his father, obtained so great a glory that, in the judgment of Hellas, to him alone belongs the title “philopator,” “who loved his father.”39

Aeneas40 saved the ancestral gods — his father’s and his mother’s;41 yea, and his own father also, whereby he bore off a reputation for piety so great that to him alone among all on whom they laid their conquering hand in Troy even the enemy granted not to be despoiled.

Achilles,42 lastly, being nursed in this same training, bequeathed to after-days memorials so fair, so ample, that to speak or hear concerning him no man wearies.

Such, by dint of that paintstaking care derived from Cheiron, these all proved themselves; of whom all good men yet still today are lovers and all base men envious. So much so that if throughout the length and breadth of Hellas misfortunes at any time befell city or king, it was they who loosed the knot of them;43 or if all Hellas found herself confronted with the hosts of the Barbarians in strife and battle, once again it was these who nerved the arms of Hellenes to victory and rendered Hellas unconquered and unconquerable.

For my part, then, my advice to the young is, do not despise hunting or the other training of your boyhood, if you desire to grow up to be good men, good not only in war but in all else of which the issue is perfection in thought, word, and deed.

1 Or, “This thing is the invention of no mortal man, but of Apollo and Artemis, to whom belong hunting and dogs.” For the style of exordium L. Dind. cf (Ps.) Dion. “Art. rhet.” ad in.; Galen, “Isagog.” ad in.; Alex. Aphrodis. “Probl.” 2 proem.

2 The wisest and “justest of all the centaurs,” Hom. “Il.” xi. 831. See Kingsley, “The Heroes,” p. 84.

3 Or, “the discipline of the hunting field and other noble lore.”

4 Lit. “since that is nature, but the praise of them grew greatly.”

5 According to others, Philyra. Pind. “Pyth.” iii. 1, ethelon Kheirona ke Philuridan; cf. “Pyth.” vi. 22; “Nem.” iii. 43.

6 See Paus. iii. 18. 12.

7 Hemera (al. Eos). For the rape of Cephalus see Hes. “Theog.” 986; Eur. “Ion,” 269; Paus. i. 3. 1; iii. 18. 7.

8 Lat. Aesculapius. Father of Podaleirius and Machaon, “the noble leech,” “Il.” ii. 731, iv. 194, 219, xi. 518; “Od.” iv. 232.

9 Cf. “Anab.” I. ii. 8; Lincke, “z. Xen. Krit.” p. 299.

10 Melanion, s. Meilanion, Paus. iii. 12. 9; v. 17. 10; v. 19. 1.

11 “Which were his rival suitors.” As to Atalanta see Paus. viii. 45. 2; iii. 24. 2; v. 19. 2; Grote, “H. G.” i. 199 foll.

12 Lit. “the virtue of Nestor has so far penetrated the ears of Hellas that I should speak to those who know.” See Hom. “Il.” i. 247, and passim.

13 Amphiaraus. Pind. “Nem.” ix. 13-27; “Olymp.” vi. 11-16; Herod. i. 52; Paus. ix. 8. 2; 18. 2-4; ii. 23.2; i. 34; Liv. xlv. 27; Cic. “de Div.” i. 40. See Aesch. “Sept. c. Th.” 392; Eur. “Phoen.” 1122 foll.; Apollod. iii. 6; Strab. ix. 399, 404.

14 Lit. “to be honoured ever living.”

15 For the marriage of Peleus and Thetis see Hom. “Il.” xxiv. 61; cf. Pope’s rendering:

To grace those nuptials from the bright abode
Yourselves were present; when this minstrel god
(Well pleased to share the feast) amid the quire
Stood proud to hymn, and tune his youthful lyre
(“Homer’s Il.” xxiv.)

Prof. Robinson Ellis (“Comment on Catull.” lxiv.) cites numerous passages: Eur. “I. in T.” 701 foll., 1036 foll.; Pind. “Isthm.” v. 24; “Pyth.” iii. 87-96; Isocr. “Evag.” 192. 6; Apoll. Rh. iv. 791; “Il.” xxiv. 61; Hes. “Theog.” 1006, and “Epithal.” (ap. Tsetz, “Prol. ad Lycophr.):

tris makar Aiakide kai tetrakis olbie Peleu os toisd’ en megarois ieron lekhos eisanabaineis.

16 See “Il.” viii. 283l Paus. i. 42. 1-4.

17 Or Alcathous, who rebuilt the walls of Megara by Apollo’s aid. Ov. “Met.” viii. 15 foll.

18 Reading o protos; or if with L. D. tois protois, “what time Heracles was distributing to the heroes of Hellas (lit. the first of the Hellenes) prizes of valour, to Telamon he gave.”

19 See Hom. “Il.” v. 640; Strab. xiii. 595.

20 See Diod. iv. 32; i. 42.

21 For the legend of Meleager see “Il.” ix. 524-599, dramatised by both Sophocles and Euripides, and in our day by Swinburne, “Atalanta in Calydon.” Cf. Paus. iii. 8. 9; viii. 54. 4; Ov. “Met.” viii. 300; Grote, “H. G.” i. 195.

22 i.e. Oeneus. “Il.” ix. 535.

23 Or, “may not be laid to his charge.”

24 See “Mem.” II. i. 14; III. v. 10; cf. Isocr. “Phil.” 111; Plut. “Thes.” x. foll.; Diod. iv. 59; Ov. “Met.” vii. 433.

25 Or, “is held in admiration still today.” See Thuc. ii. 15; Strab. ix. 397.

26 See the play of Euripides. Paus. i. 22; Diod. iv. 62.

27 Al. “lived on the lips of men.” But cf. Eur. “Hipp.” 85, soi kai xeneimi kai logois s’ ameibomai. See Frazer, “Golden Bough,” i. 6, for the Hippolytus-Virbius myth.

28 As to Palamedes, son of Nauplius, his genius and treacherous death, see Grote, “H. G.” i. 400; “Mem.” IV. ii. 33; “Apol.” 26; Plat. “Apol.” 41; “Rep.” vii. 522; Eur. fr. “Palam.”; Ov. “Met.” xiii. 56; Paus. x. 31. 1; ii. 20. 3.

29 For the vengeance see Schol. ad Eur. “Orest.” 422; Philostr. “Her.” x. Cf. Strab. viii. 6. 2 (368); Leake, “Morea,” ii. 358; Baedeker, “Greece,” 245.

30 i.e. Odysseus and Diomed. (S. 11, I confess, strikes me as somewhat in Xenophon’s manner.) See “Mem.” IV. ii. 33; “Apol.” 26.

31 For Menestheus, who led the Athenians against Troy, cf. Hom. “Il.” ii. 552; iv. 327; Philostr. “Her.” ii. 16; Paus. ii. 25. 6; i. 17. 6; Plut. “Thes.” 32, 35.

32 Or, “so runs the tale,” e.g. in “The Catalogue.” See “Il.” ii. l.c.: Nestor oios erizen, “Only Nestor rivalled him, for he was the elder by birth” (W. Leaf).

33 The two heroes are frequently coupled in Homer, e.g. “Il.” v. 519; x. 241, etc.

34 Or, “were brilliant in single points, and broadly speaking were the cause that Troy was taken.” See Hygin. “Fab.” 108; Virg. “Aen.” ii. 163.

35 Castor, Polydeuces, s. Pollux — the great twin brethren. See Grote, “H. G.” i. 232 foll.

36 As to the two sons of Asclepius, Machaon and Podaleirius, the leaders of the Achaeans, see “Il.” ii. 728; Schol. ad Pind. “Pyth.” iii. 14; Paus. iii. 26; iv. 3; Strab. vi. 4 (284); Diod. iv. 71. 4; Grote, “H. G.” i. 248.

37 Or, “in crafts, in reasonings, and in deeds of war.”

38 Antilochus, son of Nestor, slain by Memnon. “Od.” iv. 186 foll.; Pind. “Pyth.” vi. 28; Philostr. “Her.” iv.; “Icon.” ii. 281.

39 Lit. “to be alone proclaimed Philopator among the Hellenes.” Cf. Plat. “Laws,” 730 D, “He shall be proclaimed the great and perfect citizen, and bear away the palm of virtue”; and for the epithet see Eur. “Or.” 1605; “I. A.” 68.

40 As to Aeneas see Poseidon’s speech, “Il.” xx. 293 foll.; Grote, “H. G.” i. 413, 427 foll.

41 Cf. “Hell.” II. iv. 21.

42 “The highest form that floated before Greek imagination was Achilles,” Hegel, “Lectures on the Philosophy of History” (Eng. tr. p. 233); and for a beautiful elaboration of that idea, J. A. Symonds, “Greek Poets,” 2nd series, ch. ii.

43 Reading eluonto autous, or if as L. D., di autous, transl. “thanks to them, they were loosed.”


Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 14:22