Xenophon Biography


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

0111205903-Xenophon.jpg Xenophon (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.


Little is known about Xenophon’s (ZEHN-uh-fuhn) early life, except that he was a member of Socrates’ circle. In 401 b.c.e., he joined a revolt against the Persian king and led the Greek forces home afterward. He then served with the Spartan king Agesilaus II against the Persians in Asia Minor. Banished from Athens, Xenophon returned to Sparta with Agesilaus, who rewarded him for his service with a large estate at Scillus in the Peloponnese, where he remained until the Spartan defeat at Leuctra in 371 b.c.e. He spent the rest of his life at Corinth.

At Scillus, Xenophon began a productive literary career. His diverse output includes a number of Socratic works, technical treatises, and topics of political importance, including a history of Greece from 411 to 362 b.c.e., a favorable commentary on the Spartan constitution, a biography of Agesilaus, the gripping tale of his Persian adventure, and a fictional reconstruction of the life of Cyrus the Great. A common moral and didactic purpose unifies Xenophon’s works.


Xenophon’s Ellīnika (411-362 b.c.e.; History of the Affairs of Greece, also known as Hellenica, 1685) is the only surviving continuous narrative of Greek history from 411 to 362 b.c.e. His Socratic works provide a useful counterpart to Plato’s portrait of Socrates.

Further Reading:

Anderson, J. K. Military Theory and Practice in the Age of Xenophon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970. The title gives the focus of the work. This lengthy study (more than four hundred pages, including index and bibliography) is enhanced by diagrams of formations and battle plans, as well as nineteen black-and-white plates illustrating military costumes and weapons.

Dillery, John. Xenophon and the History of His Times. New York: Routledge, 1995....

(The entire section is 783 words.)