Characters Discussed


Cyrus, the hero, whose education for kingship is the subject of the story. Cyrus is presented as the ideal leader and king, aware of the art of statesmanship as well as its practical politics. Cyrus has great strength of character but always puts the state’s interests before his own. Cyrus is born a prince in the minor kingdom of Pars, which is but a small part of the great Median realm of the king Astyages. Cyrus is the son of the Persian prince Cambyses and of Mandane, the daughter of Astyages himself. His father, a firm man, gives him vigorous instruction in the arts of war. He is also tutored by Astyages and is particularly inspired by his grandfather’s love of horses. The obvious talents possessed by Cyrus spur court observers to predict great achievements for him in the future; these prophecies are given concrete force by omens and oracles. When Cyaxares succeeds Astyages and discovers that the Median kingdom has been attacked by Assyrians, he summons Cyrus to his aid. Cyrus helps vanquish the Assyrians and later conquers Babylon on his own. Advised by Chrysantas, Hystaspas, and Pheraulus, Cyrus becomes the most powerful leader the world has ever known. He even supplants Cyaxares as king of the Medes and marries Cyaxares’ daughter. Rather than directly confronting opponents such as Cyaxares and Croesus, he tries to co-opt them into his own political framework as much as possible. At once victorious general, wise administrator, and...

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Due, Bodil. The “Cyropaedia”: Xenophon’s Aims and Methods. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1989. Provides a concise and general summary of the characters, themes, and structures of the work. Recommended for those with some knowledge of ancient Greek.

Gera, Deborah Levine. Xenophon’s “Cyropaedia.” Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1993. A rigorously argued close reading that also gives attention to questions of the work’s sources in the Greek and Persian traditions.

Hirsch, Steven. The Friendship of the Barbarians. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1985. Uses Xenophon’s work to explore the Greeks’ views of other peoples. Argues that far from being ethnocentric, the Greeks admired many aspects of their Persian adversaries’ culture. Addresses anthropological and historical as well as literary concerns.

Tatum, James, ed. The Search for the Ancient Novel. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Indispensable reference for the study on the narrative form of the Hellenistic romance, of which Cyropaedia is the earliest available example.

Tatum, James. Xenophon’s Imperial Fiction: On “The Education of Cyrus.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989. The best treatment of the Cyropaedia available for the general reader. Illuminates rhetoric, political leadership, literary history, and the canon of ancient classics.