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Table of Contents > 2.9 Xenophon, Agesilaus

2.9: Xenophon, Agesilaus 5.4-6

Agesilaus was a king of Sparta from 399 to 360 BCE and, like Cyrus, was praised by Xenophon as a model of the ideal ruler.

[4] Is it not worth mentioning his self-control in erotic matters if for no other reason than one's amazement at it? One would say that his holding off from those he did not desire was merely the act of an ordinary human. But he loved Megabates, the son of Spithridates,27 just as the most intense character would love the most beautiful boy. When Megabates tried to kiss Agesilaus (since it is the custom among the Persians to kiss those whom they honor), Agesilaus struggled with all his might not to be kissed. Isn't this a mark of temperance and exceptional high-mindedness? [5] Since Megabates took it as a slight and no longer attempted to kiss him, Agesilaus spoke to one of his friends and asked him to persuade Megabates to "honor" him again. When his friend asked whether he would kiss the boy back, if Megabates should be persuaded, Agesilaus fell silent for a moment and then said, "Not by the twin gods,28 not even if I were to become the most handsome, strong, and swift man alive! Indeed I swear by all the gods that I would rather fight the same struggle again than have everything I see turn to gold." [6] I am not ignorant of what some people suspect in regard to these matters. But I at least think I know that more men are able to gain mastery over their enemies than over such appetites.
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