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I emptied my purse into his clay pot, again halting his mindless chortling when he felt the suddenly increased weight in his hand. Peering up at me with his rheumy eyes, he blessed me by nodding gravely, and as he clenched my forearm I was startled to note that his gnarly, bent fingers belied a grip forceful and unyielding, like that of a warrior with strength yet remaining for battles to be fought. His gaze locked on mine, and he recited again, in a low, cracking voice, the precise words I remembered my mother chanting from so many years before. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and then my knees weakened and I wept openly in the street, the passersby averting their eyes in embarrassment.

After a moment I stood up shakily and walked away in silence, convinced I had wrung everything from the old man that he was capable of giving. I had returned across the crowded street, my vision still a blur, when it occurred to me how singular it was to have seen a beggar here. Under this city's harsh administration, vagrancy was punishable by, what?-death? imprisonment? No reasonable man would even attempt to beg in Sparta. Panicked at the danger the old fool would face if caught, I whirled and raced back across the street, dodging the carts and mules passing in front of me, to the corner where he had stood a moment before.

It was empty.

My family: two lines of ancient and forgotten song recited by a tramp. I later taught them to Xenophon's sons, in a fruitless effort to keep them among the memory of the living.


Character is destiny.-HERACLITUS THE OBSCURE

After a month's time spent gathering provisions and looting the surrounding Colchian countryside of its stores, the army and Xenophon made arrangements to continue back to Ionia, by ship and by foot, much to the relief of the overwhelmed townspeople, and the troops departed early one sunny spring morning. Several months and many deaths later, we arrived in Byzantium bereft of any plunder or even of those belongings with which we had started our long journey. Though poor in coin, however, Xenophon was rich in reputation and guile, and after campaigning with distinction for ten years more with the Spartan king Agesilaus, he retired wealthy to a large estate at Scillus, hard by Sparta itself, to spend the remainder of his years hunting and writing and observing from afar the affairs of Athens, which had banished him for life.

Accompanying him, as always, I too lived at Scillus. Philesia, his plain and uncomplaining Spartan wife, served him admirably in his daily care. Xenophon continued to sacrifice to the gods daily, and became closer to their world as he advanced in age, even at times maintaining running conversations with one or another of them when he thought he was alone. I, on the other hand, participated in the sacrifices not to seek omens or to entreat the gods' favor, but merely to appease them in order to avoid their notice of me one way or the other. "Pain," my countryman Epicharmus said, "is the price the gods demand we pay for all our benefits." If that is the case, I preferred their indifference.

Sparta's defeat by the Thebans at Leuctra changed our lives, driving us from beloved Scillus and forcing us to Corinth, a city without the beauty and grandeur of Athens, or the simplicity and nobility of Sparta. This move, I am certain, cost ten years of Xenophon's life. He aged as I watched him, becoming an old man before my very eyes. Even more disconcerting, he told me that I did the same. As I write this, a fanfare of trumpets and beating of drums can be heard in the distance, as Corinthian youths train for their never-ending military campaigns. Hearing such sounds revives long-dormant emotions in an old soldier, like watching a beautiful woman pass by, when there is nothing remaining to him but the memory of desire. The sway of her hips, the quiver of her breasts make the man's stomach knot. Yet though the woman beckons, her eyes filled with desire, though the trumpets brazenly summon to war-still the old man remains rooted to his chair, unable to rise.

Xenophon's two sons, who did act on such calls, died in the battles raging across Attica and the Peloponnese, and this was his final burden. Not having a son to follow one is difficult to bear, to which I can attest in my own acarpous life, though this was small comfort to him. In vain did I try to assuage his and my regret on this score. Hous hoi theoi philousin, apothneskousi neoi, I told him: Those whom the gods love die young. The minute these words left my mouth, however, I regretted them, for like most simplistic, pithy sayings this one was dual-edged, and of particularly small solace to those of us who die old.

I wax maudlin and sentimental, and it is with increasing effort that I try to keep my pen on the straight and narrow path of my tale. A Gallic sorceress named Yourcenar once said that no man is a king to his physician. To this I would add, nor is he a general to his squire. Both the physician and the squire, in order to be successful in caring for their wards, must be skilled to some degree in professional prevarication, omitting the bad news while yet retaining the recipient's full confidence. In the end, however, the truth must be laid bare and though neither party may quite wish it, social niceties and conventions must finally be set aside for the sake of precision.

And thus, seventy-five years after his birth, I again find myself in the position of caring for my alternately incontinent and strangurious ward, wiping his nose and cleaning his bottom as I did when he was an infant. It is a quiet role, and a not unsatisfying one, no doubt the last one I will play. But I err-for in hastily scribbling these leaves, in contemplation of my twin, my student, my benefactor, my very self, my last role will be not that of a nurse or an undertaker, but rather of a midwife, even of a god, as I strive, through these writings, to bring his true life to light.

Through this poor threnody I hope and trust that my goal will have been achieved, and that I will have shed some small bit of enlightenment on even one reader, even a hundred or more generations from now. The father of history wrote his masterpiece "in order that the memory of the past might not be erased from among men by time." Although I have no ambition myself to aspire to Herodotus' literary glory, I note nevertheless that a mere child sitting on the shoulders of a giant may see even farther than the giant himself. Perhaps purely by dint of my difference of perspective, I may be capable of seeing farther than my more worthy predecessors.

Let this, then, be the end of my narrative. I sign this document with the remnant of a songbird feather, which I have carefully saved for fifty years in a small pouch of oiled fabric; and I use my full name, to which as a man finally free and at peace, I am now entitled. Someone else, perhaps, will complete what I have left undone.

Themistogenes of Syracuse

1st year of the 105th Olympiad,

in the archonship of Callidemides, Corinth