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Table of Contents > 2.8 Xenophon, Cyropaedeia

2.8: Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.4.27-28

This work is a fictionalized account of the education and life of the elder Cyrus, first king of Persia (c. 580-529 BCE). It is mainly a vehicle for Xenophon to portray his image of an ideal ruler.

[27] If it is all right to bring up a story that has to do with boy-love too, it is said that when Cyrus was going away, and they were saying goodbye to each other, his relatives took their leave from him with a kiss on the mouth, as is the Persian custom; for even today the Persians still do this. A certain Median,26 a thoroughly fine gentleman, had been smitten for quite some time with Cyrus' beauty, but when he saw his relatives kissing him, he held back. When the others had gone away, he went up to Cyrus and said, "Am I the only one of your relatives that you don't recognize, Cyrus?" "What," said Cyrus, "are you too, then, a relative of mine?" "Very much so," he said. "Then that is why," Cyrus said, "you were always looking at me; for I think I have often noticed you doing so." "I always wanted to come up to you," he said, "but, by the gods, I was ashamed." "But you shouldn't have been," said Cyrus, " seeing that you are a relative." And at the same time he went over and kissed him. [28] And the Median, when he had been kissed, asked, "Is it then really the custom among the Persians to kiss your relatives?" "Absolutely," he said, "or at least when they see each other after a long time, or when they part from each other." "It might be time," said the Median, "for you to kiss me again: for I am already parting from you, as you see." And so Cyrus kissed him good-bye again and went off. But they had not gone very far when the Median appeared again with his horse in a lather. When Cyrus saw him, he said, "What's this? Did you forget something that you wanted to say?" "No, by Zeus," he said, "but I have come back after some time." "By Zeus, " Cyrus said, "cousin, after a short time, rather." "You call it short?," the Median said. "Don't you realize, Cyrus, that you are so beautiful that the time it takes to blink seems long to me, because in that time I don't see you?" Then Cyrus left off crying and laughed and told him to go off in good spirits, because he would be with them in a little while, so he would be able to see him, if he liked, without blinking.
This website makes available to the public the first two chapters of Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, edited by Thomas K. Hubbard and published by University of California Press in April 2003. The index also lists the rest of the sourcebook's contents; the book may be ordered at, list price $34.95 paperback. In addition, a file of close to 200 pertinent artistic images is assembled, including those published in the sourcebook and many others. Acknowledgement is made to University of California Press for permission to reproduce this material, as well as to the various museums that have granted permission to use their photographic images. Comments may be directed to Prof. Hubbard at