Xenophon c. 430 B.C.-c. 354 B.C.
Greek historian and philosopher.
Xenophon was a fourth-century Greek historian best known for his Hellenica, which began where Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War had stopped, and for the semi-historical, semi-novelistic Cyropaedia. While he often appears alongside Herodotus and Thucydides in major studies of Greek historiography, he is not always included with enthusiasm. Critics have regularly remarked on his limitations as a historian, finding his presentation of historical material selective and biased. He is also found wanting as a philosopher: critics brand his dialogues, such as the Oeconomicus and the Symposium, derivative, weak on comprehension and original insight, and unsuccessful in the attempt to capture socratic thought. Such critical condemnations, however, are relatively recent: his reputation in the centuries following his own age was very high and remained so through the Renaissance. Since the height of the Roman Empire, Xenophon has won praise for his detailed and reliable information on military matters, for his style, which is simple, straight-forward, and concise, and for his aptitude as a storyteller. By the nineteenth century, his Anabasis, an account of a Greek army's travails in Persia, became a common textbook for young people studying Greek because of its accessibility and narrative pull. Overall, however, he was by this time often named only to be criticized. Nonetheless, his works have received extensive critical attention, both for their documentation of Greek life and ancient history and for their rhetorical strategies.
Xenophon was born in Ercheia, a rural district outside of Athens; his father, Gryllus, was probably an upper-class Athenian citizen. Biographer J. K. Anderson surmised from Xenophon's environment and writings that his upbringing and personal opinions were generally conservative—invested in preserving the class structure into which he was born. He grew up during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) and appears to have had his first military experience as a cavalryman close to the end of the war. When the war ended, the preceding era of Athenian democracy also came to a close, replaced by the oligarchic rule of thirty men, later known as the Thirty Tyrants. Initially, many men of Xenophon's class supported this change, since, according to authorities on Greek history, many believed that Greek democracy had become excessive during the war and had possibly harmed the Greek cause. Ultimately, however, the Thirty lost the support of the upper classes; when they were overthrown, democracy reemerged.
Despite an unremarkable intellect, Xenophon met and became a disciple of Socrates, the most influential thinker of his age and many others. According to Xenophantic legend, the young man was traversing a passage in Athens when the philosopher barred his way and began asking him questions about where one could find various kinds of goods, to which Xenophon replied with the names of various kinds of vendors. When Socrates asked him, "And where do men find virtue?" Xenophon had no answer, at which Socrates invited the young man to follow and learn from him. Ultimately, however, military experience appears to have been of greater value to Xenophon than intellectual training. In approximately 402 B.C. Xenophon's friend Proxenus invited him on a military expedition: they would fight in Persia, on a mercenary basis, for Cyrus the Younger, who was challenging his brother Aratxerxes' claim to the Persian throne. It was a politically risky move, since he would be selling his military loyalty outside of Greece and to a man viewed as an enemy by Athenian authorities. Xenophon, on Socrates's advice, sought the counsel of the oracle at Delphi, but rather than asking the oracle if he should fight for Cyrus, he asked to which god he should make a sacrifice to ensure success. His determination may have been motivated, as several historians have speculated, by the need to make up losses suffered by his family estate under the demands of the Thirty Tyrants.
In Cyrus's service the next year, Xenophon was affiliated with a Greek army of 10,000 soldiers. He became one of their leaders after Cyrus's defeat and the execution of most of the Greek commanders, when the column needed to make its way back home. The account of that expedition, known as the March of the 10,000, became one of Xenophon's most popular works, the Anabasis. Xenophon followed his Persian military career with a similar position for Agesilaus, a Spartan king, in 396-394 B.C. Here he risked his political position at home even further, since Sparta was a traditional enemy of Athens. In 394 B.C., this association brought him directly into battle with Athenian forces, after which the Athenian authorities formally exiled him and confiscated his property. His reputation in Athens had endured earlier blows when Socrates was tried and executed in 399 B.C., with suspicion cast on many of his followers.
Deprived of his home in Athens, Xenophon acquired an estate at Scillus in Elis, in Spartan territory, where he pursued his writing in earnest and raised a family. He remained at Scillus for two decades, roughly from 390-370 B.C., until Sparta lost Scillus to Thebes, and then relocated to Corinth. When Spartan-Athenian relations improved in c. 365 B.C., Xenophon was able to return to Athens; some historians have located him back in Athens after that date, but most have described him remaining in Corinth until his death.
Xenophon was a prolific writer, producing many works from the end of the fifth century to his death, all of which appear to have survived in some form or another. Critics generally group his works into three categories—histories, philosophical works, and technical works—although many of the pieces defy easy categorization. His status as a historian derives mainly from the Hellenica, the Anabasis, and the Cyropaedia. He may have begun the Hellenica, his most ambitious historical work, as early as 411 B.C., thereby matching his intial writing date with the opening of the history. The seven books trace the history of Greece from 411 B.C.-362 B.C. The Hellenica also fields the most fire from critical scholars, since it appears to fail the standard criteria of historical accuracy and impartiality. The Anabasis has earned more favor and has been praised for its narrative style and apparently more solid historical detail. Although the author refers to himself in the third person throughout, the work, probably written in 379 B.C., is largely autobiographical, relating Xenophon's own experiences and observations during the March of the 10,000. The Anabasis and the Cyropaedia, on the other hand, have been appreciated for the new territories they appeared to explore: a kind of proto-novelistic storytelling and experiment in biography and autobiography. The Cyropaedia, c. 365 B.C., combines Persian history and biography in a narrative presentation of the life of Cyrus the Elder, who founded the Persian monarchy. Scholars have hotly debated its value as history, many asserting that the picture of Persia Xenophon presents is too romantic and that Xenophon marred his objectivity with his desire to make the text a lesson in good citizenship and good leadership. Critics agree, however, that it has had a major influence on later generations, both contributing to the development of the novel and, in the words of Moses Hadas, having "an appreciable effect in shaping European ideas of what a gentleman should be." Xenophon also apparently completed one other biography in 365 B.C., the Agesilaus, an encomium, or laudatory biography, of the Spartan king Agesilaus, for whom Xenophon fought.
Like his historical works, Xenophon's philosophical works have also come under attack. Some critics have suggested that they be classified as a kind of memoir, since almost all present Socrates as a central character. The most famous of these are in fact called "memoirs"—the Memorabilia possibly begun in c. 384 B.C. and completed in c. 356 B.C.—Xenophon's memories presented for the specific purpose of depicting Socrates. The earliest portion of the Memorabilia may have been the Apology, Xenophon's rendition of Socrates' trial, meant as a defense of his teacher. The accuracy of the Memorabilia is considered doubtful and suggests that Xenophon failed to reproduce Socrates's doctrines very clearly. The other socratic dialogues, however, receive even more criticism, sometimes fielding the charge that Xenophon's Socrates appears simply as the mouthpiece for Xenophon's own thoughts. These works include the Apology; the Oeconomicus (On Household Management), c. 362 B.C., in which Ischomachus, a young husband, consults Socrates about how best to manage his estate economy and, specifically, his new wife; and the Symposium, a philosophical dialogue set during an imaginary dinner party, formally much like Plato's work of the same name, praised for its unusually strong structure and consistency. One other philosophical work, the Hiero, also c. 365 B.C., presented a dialogue, between King Hiero I of Syracuse and the poet Simonides, on the nature of rule. Xenophon also produced quite a few technical manuals, ranging across his favorite topics. Sometimes the Oeconomicus is included among them because of its detailed information about a typical Greek estate of the era. Other technical manuals present similarly valuable information on different topics, including the highly valued On the Spartan Constitution (c. 388 B.C.) and On Horsemanship (c. 380 B.C.).
Many critics and editors have suggested that the centrality of Xenophon's name in the study of Greek historiography has less to do with the quality of his work than with the extent to which it has been preserved. It appears that most, if not all, of his writings survive in some form, usually in Medieval or Renaissance transcriptions or translations. The absence of original and even ancient manuscripts has led to considerable debate over dating Xenophon's writings, especially regarding the different books of the Hellenica; consequently, most works are placed either in the author's twenty years in Elis or in the period after his exile was revoked. Extant manuscripts that are housed in libraries in the Middle East and throughout Europe, with the earliest dating from 1166 A.D.
Although Xenophon's reputation appeared to be that of a minor author in his own age, he became a favorite of Roman readers including Cato the Elder, Cicero, Julius Ceaser, and Mark Antony, all of whom favored his military expertise and simple prose style. In the second century B.C., Lucian classed Xenophon with his two notable predecessors, Herodotus and Thucydides, and commented that in his own age "everyone wanted to be a Xenophon." His currency remained high with European readers through the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The fifteenth century saw many Latin translations of his works, and the sixteenth century, many translations into modern tongues. By the the nineteenth century, however, his reputation had fallen. His later style, which retained the simplicity of his earlier works but became ever more colloquial, carried little weight with the century's scholars of Greek literature and his historical works came under fire for their evident partiality and errors. The judgement trailed through into the twentieth century, captured in M. I. Finley's remark in 1959 that the Hellenica "is very unreliable, tendentious, dishonest, dreary to read, and rarely illuminating on broader issues." Ironically, while Western scholars have tended to discount Xenophon's historiographie skills and, specifically, to regard his depiction of Persia in the Cyropaedia as wholly romantic, Orientalists have long considered Xenophon a reliable source on the history of Persia. Only recently have these two currents pulled together enough for Orientalists to assure Western critics that Xenophon's knowledge appears to be reliable.
The late twentieth century has seen something of a revival in Xenophon's popularity, especially as his texts are studied as more than historical tracts. Classicist Leo Strauss has been instrumental in creating a resurgance of interest with his translation and study of the Hiero, or On Tyranny, in 1948, and J. K. Anderson's 1974 biographical study marked a groundswell in renewed appreciation. The bulk of this recent critical attention has focused on the Cyropaedia, since this text best allows critics to re-examine the issue of Xenophon's reliability as a historian. Emphasizing the necessary artifice of any literary production, Steven Hirsch and James Tatum have studied the book using the tools of literary analysis rather than historiography. From this perspective, the Cyropaedia becomes not only a rich text, but a central progenitor in the development of the Western novel. In a similar vein, Arnaldo Momigliano has recognized Xenophon as integral to the development of both biography and autobiography in Western literature, including him among the fourth-century Socratics who "moved to that zone between truth and fiction which is so bewildering to the professional historian."
Principal English Translations
The School of Cyrus (translated by William Barker) 1567
The Works of Xenophon (translated by H. G. Dakyns) 1890-97
The Art of Horsemanship (translated by Morris H. Morgan) 1893
Cyropaedia (translated by Walter Miller) 1914
The March up Country (Anabasis) (translated by W. H. D. Rouse) 1948
The Persian Expedition (translated by R. Warner) 1949
Recollections of Socrates, and Socrates Defense Before the Jury (translated by A. S. Benjamin) 1965
Hiero (translated by Leo Strauss) 1968
Xenophon's Socratic Discourse: An Interpretation of the Oeconomicus (translated by Carnes Lord) 1970
History of My Times (Hellenica) (translated by R. Warner) 1978
Memorabilia (translated by Amy L. Bonnette) 1994
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SOURCE: A preface to The School of Cyrus, by Xenophon, translated by William Barker, 1567. Reprint by Garland Publishing, Inc., 1987, pp. 1-8.
[Barker, a fellow at Oxford University, completed the first known English translation of Xenophon's Cyropaedia in 1567. In the preface that follows, Barker dedicates the work to the Earls of Pembroke and Surrey, stressing the volume's educational value.]
A Preface to the Right Honorable William, Earl of Pembroke, Lord Harbert of Cardife, knight of the honorable order of the Garter, and President of the King's Highness Council in the marches of Wales, William Bercker wishes health and honor.
Those authors be chiefly to heard, which have not only by finess of wit and diligence of study attained to an excellency, but also have had the experience of manners of men, and diversity of places, and have with wisdom and eloquence joined those two together. For as general things and order of nature can not be perceived, but by them whose natural sharpness of wit is helped with earnest and continual pain, fullness of study so the private doings and dispositions of men only known by daily use and trial of them. And there be many skillful in the one, that be in the other kind very simple, and say much of generalities, but in particularities be utterly ignorant, and other again, who can talk well and wisely in singular points wherein they be experienced,...
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SOURCE: "On the Peculiarities of Xenophon's Style," in The Anabasis of Xenophon, Vol. I, edited and translated by Alfred Pretor, Cambridge of the University Press, 1881, pp. 17-26.
[In the following excerpt, Pretor prefaces his translation of Xenophon's Anabasis with comments on the author's limitations, including a tendency to be dry and "slovenly."]
In the subject of his history Xenophon is fortunate beyond the majority of authors. The interest excited by the circumstances of the expedition and the desire to learn something of the unknown land through which the travellers made their way: above all, the dangers consequent upon the undertaking and the unparalleled bravery by which they were surmounted would have made the work acceptable, even if the shortcomings of the historian had been of a more decided kind. It is true that to one class of readers the Anabasis will present but few attractions, and the student who expects to find in its records the brilliant descriptions of life and scenery which illustrate the path of modern exploration will inevitably be disappointed. It was the Fortunes of the Ten Thousand which Xenophon had undertaken to describe, and he has confined himself even too literally within the limits of his task. Of the physical characteristics of the countries through which he passed and of the tribes by which they were inhabited the information he affords us is of...
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SOURCE: "Xenophon the Precursor of Hellenism," in The Progress of Hellenism in Alexander's Empire, The University of Chicago Press, 1905, pp. 1-27.
[In the following excerpt, Mahaffey uses Xenophon as a "case study" in his discussion of the transition from "Hellendom" to Hellenism in ancient Greece; he finds Xenophon exemplary of the period in both style and content.]
… [By] "Hellenism" I mean that so-called "silver age" of Greek art and literature, when they became cosmopolitan, and not parochial; and by "Hellenistic," not only what was Greek, but what desired and assumed to be Greek, from the highest and noblest imitation down to the poorest travesty. The pigeon English of the Solomon islander is as far removed from the prose of Ruskin or of Froude as is the rudest Hellenistic epitaph or letter from the music of Plato's diction, but both are clear evidence of the imperial quality in that language which sways the life of millions of men far beyond the limits of its original domain. Yet it must needs be that as the matchless idiom of Aristophanes passed out to Macedonian noble, to Persian grandee, to Syrian trader, to Egyptian priest, each and all of these added somewhat of their national flavour, and so produced an idiom and a culture uniform indeed in application, though by no means uniform in construction.
It is customary to date the origin of this Hellenism from the reign...
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SOURCE: "The Development of Greek Historiography after Thucydides," in The Ancient Greek Historians, 1908. Reprint by Dover Publications, 1958, pp. 150-90.
[In the excerpt that follows, Bury assesses Xenophon as one of the primary historians to follow Thucydides 's career. Of the three that he examines, he finds Xenophon the "least meritorious," but influential nonetheless.]
Thucydides had set up a new standard and proposed a new model for historical investigation. He taught the Greeks to write contemporary political history; this was the permanent result of his work. But the secret of his critical methods may be said to have perished with him; it has been reserved for modern students fully to appreciate his critical acumen, and to estimate the immense labours which underlay the construction of his history but are carefully concealed like the foundation stones of a building. Influences came into play in the fourth century which drove history along other paths than those which he marked out; the best of the principles which his work had inculcated did not become canonical; and his historical treatment was not sympathetic under the new intellectual constellations.
The age succeeding his death was perhaps not favourable to the composition of political history. The engrossing intellectual interest was then political science, and the historical method had not been invented. The men who might...
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SOURCE: "Xenophon's Cyropaedia, 'The Compleat General'," in The Classical Journal, Vol. 29, no. 6, March, 1934, pp. 436-40.
[In the essay that follows, Pease advocates for the historical value of the Cyropaedia, claiming it as thorough documentation of ancient Greek military strategy; he ultimately dubs it "the first general military treatise ever written."]
Colonel Oliver L. Spaulding, Jr., in the June number of the Classical Journal, (XXVIII, 657-69), gives a list of ancient military writings, with a valuable appreciation of most of them. But Xenophon's Cyropaedia is very much more than "the amusement of his later years, the vehicle for his military fancies." Actually, the Cyropaedia is a work of unique military importance; it is in fact not only the earliest but the most exhaustive of all ancient military treatises; but its character has not been fully realized, because of the importance assigned to the character of Cyrus and because of certain romantic additions.
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Leo Strauss (essay date 1948)
SOURCE: "The Teaching Concerning Tyranny," in On Tyranny: An Interpretation of Xenophon's "Hiero," Political Science Classics, 1948, pp. 50-62.
[Strauss published his book on tyranny in Xenophon's "Hiero" in 1948, only three years after the end of World War II. With that recent history as his context, Strauss attempts to determine what concept of tyranny the Hiero, a dialogue between a tyrannical ruler and a philosopher, presents. In the excerpt that follows, Strauss also considers how Xenophon's own political context may have influenced the form in which he presented his ideas.]
Since tyranny is essentially a faulty political order, the teaching concerning tyranny necessarily consists of two parts. The first part has to make manifest the specific shortcomings of tyranny ("pathology"), and the second part has to show how these shortcomings can be mitigated ("therapeutics"). The bipartition of the Hiero reflects the bipartition of the "tyrannical" teaching itself. Now, Xenophon chose to present that teaching in the form of a dialogue, and he had therefore to choose a particular conversational setting. However sound, and even compelling, his reasons may have been, they certainly lead to the result that he has not given us his "tyrannical" teaching in its pure, scientific form, in the form of a treatise. The reader has to add to, and to...
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SOURCE: "The Fourth Century," in The Development of Greek Biography, revised edition, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993, 43-64.
[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1971, Momigliano locates Xenophon at the forefront of fourth-century experiments in biography, which he claims occupied "that zone between truth and fiction."]
In the fourth century individual politicians found themelves in a position of power very different from that of their predecessors in the previous century. In the fifth century Miltiades, Themistocles, Leonidas, even Pericles and Cleon, had been the servants of the state to which they belonged. The tyrants of Sicily had been the exception, which disappeared in the course of the century. In the fourth century the initiative passes to states which built up their new power under the guidance of individual leaders. The conservative states, such as Sparta and Athens, have to adapt themselves to the new situation. Hence the new power of professional military commanders; hence ultimately the emergence of a professional politician like Demosthenes who cannot rely on the steady support of his city as Pericles had done, but has to establish or re-establish his authority in a succession of crises within his own city. In the fourth century Lysander, Conon, Agesilaus, Dionysius the Elder, Epaminondas, Philip of Macedon, and ultimately Demosthenes and Alexander the Great...
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J. K. Anderson (essay date 1974)
SOURCE: "Religion and Politics," in Xenophon, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974, pp. 34-45.
[Working from Xenophon's writings and the little biographical material available, Anderson here reconstructs Xenophon's religious and political attitudes, which he characterizes as largely conservative.]
Xenophon's education in religion and politics, whatever it may have owed to Socrates, was, like his moral instruction, not complicated by abstract speculations. Throughout his life, Xenophon remained the sort of conservative whose acceptance of the doctrines and principles that he has inherited seems either unintelligent, or dishonest, or both, to those who do not share them. Xenophon repeatedly represents himself as sacrificing before military operations, in order to determine, from the entrails of the victims, whether a projected operation would succeed or fail. At least once (Anabasis vi. 4.12ff.) he repeatedly delayed what seems to have been an absolutely necessary movement because the sacrifices had not turned out well, and noted that those who acted without waiting for the proper omens encountered misfortune, while after a favourable sacrifice was at length vouchsafed everything went splendidly. The episode bears some resemblance to one which he recounts of the campaign of 397 B.C. in Asia Minor...
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Christopher Grayson (essay date 1975)
SOURCE: "Did Xenophon Intend to Write History?," in The Ancient Historian and His Materials, edited by Barbara Levick, Gregg International, 1975, pp. 31-43.
[In the following essay, Grayson offers a qualification to the general opinion that Xenophon was a poor historian by suggesting that the Hellenica, his most "historical" text, has a moral intent that overrides its function as history.]
Xenophon as a historian stands condemned. His intellectual honesty is impugned as his abilities are questioned. For the history of the first half of the fourth century he is frequently ignored in favour of the unknown author of the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia fragments, in favour of parochial Atthides, hardly less fragmentary, in favour of orators, the bias of whose speeches is at the same time universally recognised, and also in favour of Ephorus, intuitively read between the lines of a third-rate first-century hack, Diodorus.
I have no defence to offer; nor should I venture here any ingenious thesis of systematic misrepresentation. Such is the undisputed prerogative of that master of the art [C. E. Steven] to whom this essay is with affection, and respect, dedicated. Instead I shall ask the simple question: did Xenophon intend to write history? There are I believe serious grounds for doubting this.
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SOURCE: "Erotic Suffering," in The Novel before the Novel, The University of Chicago Press, 1977, pp. 3-10.
[In the excerpt that follows, Heiserman briefly summarizes the Cyropaedia, stressing the elements that later authors of early romances could imitate; in this way, Heiserman argues, despite Xenophon's clearly didactic purposes, his work could be the "First Romance in the West."]
One candidate for the role of "First Romance in the West" is the Cyropaedia, written by Xenophon, the spartanophile admirer of Socrates, about 400 B.C. More particularly, it is the story of Panthea and Abradatas, woven through books 5, 6, and 7 of the Cyropaedia, that is clearly romantic. This story is indeed exactly the kind of arcane, serious tale that Parthenius would have called an erōtikon pathos: its early date supports its candidacy—though similar stories in Herodotus, and the Odyssey itself, would win on this score; and its fame was apparently such that later romances sometimes adopted the name Xenophon—as though nineteenth-century English novelists had habitually signed their works "Richardson." But the story as Xenophon tells it is designed to reveal the virtues of Cyrus; for Cyrus himself, along with his career, is fashioned to show that "to rule men might be a task neither impossible nor even difficult, if one would only go about it in an intelligent manner."...
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SOURCE: "The Active Life," in Xenophon the Athenian: The Problem of the Individual and the Society of the "Polis," State University of New York Press, 1977, pp. 76-98.
[In the following excerpt, Higgins delineates Xenophon's notion of the individual and his ideal relationship between individual and society; using the Agesilaos and Anabasis as examples, Higgins determines that "the claims of family and city regulate individual desire" and leadership, "if genuine, is not founded upon license but limit."]
The Spartan king Agesilaos was lame in one leg and walked with a limp. Xenophon's encomium in his honor, however, never mentions this, just as it passes over in silence the oracle against a limping monarchy current at his accession. Such reticence, which extends to the king's mental imperfections as well, suits the Agesilaos' thoroughly delicate nature. Here, by contrast with the more forthright Hellenika, physical flaws and flaws of character and policy are forgotten, criticism is eschewed, and every rhetorical device is fully employed to make deeds more illustrious which, if viewed impartially, might seem less worthy of praise. Xenophon in thus consciously improving his own historical record cannot be imagined to have expressed most completely in the encomium his own thoughts either about Agesilaos himself or about the kind of life Agesilaos pursued so...
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SOURCE: "1001 Iranian Nights: History and Fiction in Xenophon's Cyropaedia," in The Greek Historians: Literature and History, Anma Libri, 1985, pp. 65-85.
[Arguing that Classical scholars have usually treated Persia as a negligible detail of setting in the Cyropaedia, Hirsch makes its presence central in the essay that follows in order to vindicate Xenophon's knowledge of Persian culture.]
This paper, which concerns itself with one of the more curious pieces of literature which have come down to us from classical antiquity—the Cyropaedia of Xenophon— is written in that spirit of respect for the intelligence and integrity of the ancient authors which has always characterized the writing and teaching of Toni Raubitschek, to whom this volume is dedicated.
Xenophon, as is well known, was an Athenian of aristocratic family whose adult life spanned the first half of the fourth century B.C. Student of Socrates, participant in the unsuccessful revolt of the Persian prince Cyrus, mercenary commander, exile, friend of the Spartan king Agesilaus, gentleman farmer and litterateur, he experienced more of the world than is granted to most men.
Xenophon nevertheless is a much maligned figure who has been out of favor with students of Greek literature and history in recent times. Somewhere it has been said that he was "a better philosopher than...
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V. J. Gray (essay date 1989)
SOURCE: "Xenophon's Defence of Socrates: The Rhetorical Background to the Socratic Problem," in Classical Quarterly, Vol. XXXIX, no. 1, 1989, pp. 136-40.
[In the following essay, Gray asserts that the form and even the ideas of Xenophon 's Defence of Socrates were shaped by rhetorical requirements, specifically the "rule of propriety"—that a speaker's words in a dialogue must be appropriate to his character.]
The death of Socrates gave birth to an industry of biographical literature which often took the form of a defence (apologia) or prosecution (kate̵goria), sometimes purporting to be the actual defence or prosecution conducted at his trial. Plato and Xenophon wrote works in his defence. Among his critics, one Polycrates had a certain notoriety. Lysias, Theodectes and Demetrius of Phalerum, orators and rhetoricians like Polycrates, were credited with further works of apology. There were doubtless many others. The aim of this paper is to show that Xenophon wrote his Defence in the light of the rhetorical theory that required that a speaker utter words and thoughts appropriate … to his character.
The Defence deals with a specific aspect of the character Socrates revealed at his trial: his high-mindedness (megale̵goria). It begins,
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Vivienne Gray (essay date 1989)
SOURCE: An introduction to The Character of Xenophon's "Hellenica," Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1989, pp. 1-9.
[In her introduction, an excerpt from which follows, Gray states her desire to correct previous condemnations of Xenophon's text as a poor history, arguing that critics must acknowledge Xenophon as a philosophical writer with moral purposes before they can judge the text properly.]
The attempt to understand the nature of Xenophon's Hellenica has a long history. Part of the problem is that Xenophon makes no prefatory statement of the programme of the history. It begins in medias res as a continuation of Thucydides' unfinished history of the Peloponnesian War and there is no indication in the text even of the identity of the author, let alone his intended theme, purpose or method. As it happens the identity of the author is no problem, but the theme and purpose and method remain unclear. The incidental comments he makes on such matters in the body of the work are by no means programmatic for the whole, nor are they necessarily complete statements in themselves. Whatever the reason for the lack of a preface, and there have been several theories, this feature of the Hellenica creates problems for the reader, who is given no idea of what to expect nor any guide to assess what is offered, apart from what is...
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James Tatum (essay date 1989)
SOURCE: "Revision," in Xenophon's Imperial Fiction: On "The Education of Cyrus, " Princeton Univer-sity Press, 1989, pp. 215-39.
[The following excerpt from Tatum's book treats the "epilogue" of the Cyropaedia, which, Tatum argues, "turns a work of idealistic fiction into a narrative of disillusionment. " Tatum further asserts that Xenophon understood this disjunction and, therefore, anticipated later critiques, most notably Plato's in The Laws.]
Like Cyrus and his empire, Xenophon's achievement should ultimately be measured not by what he created, but by how he created it. [In The Philosophy of Literary Form, 1967] Kenneth Burke has described the circumstances which obtain for many kinds of writing; what he says is especially relevant to readers of this imperial fiction:
Critical and imaginative works are answers to questions posed by the situation in which they arose. They are not merely answers, they are strategic answers, stylized answers.
The Cyropaedia's romance of model fathers and obedient sons ends with Cyrus's death (8.7.28), so that we may say that all the questions posed by the prologue are answered by then. These are the answers Burke means, answers whose formulation and purpose are already determined by the questions Xenophon first...
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Gray, V. J. "Continuous History and Xenophon, Hellenica" In American Journal of Philology 112, No. 2 (Summer 1991): 201-28.
Argues for an "essential unity" in the Hellenica, refuting critics who perceive the work to have been composed at largely disparate points in time.
Henry, W. P. Greek Historical Writing: A Historiographical Essay Based on Xenophon 's "Hellenica. " Chicago: Argonaut, 1966, 219 p.
A detailed analytical study of the Hellenica, often cited by later critics as the authority on the dating and composition of Xenophon's history.
Hirsch, Steven W. The Friendship of the Barbarians. Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1985, 216 p.
Pursues the questions concerning Xenophon's knowledge of and attitudes about Persia beyond study of the Cyropaedia and into Xenophon's other writings.
Johnstone, Steven. "Virtuous Toil, Vicious Work: Xenophon on Aristocratic Style." Classical Philology 89, no. 3 (July 1994): 219-40.
Analyses passages from many of Xenophon's works, focusing especially on descriptions of individual self-control, in order to demonstrate "Xenophon's interests in constructing a style of living that would justify...
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