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(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. An extensive treatment of Xenophon’s historical writing and the times they address. Includes discussions of the Battle of Mantinea, the March of Ten Thousand, and the Spartans in Asia as well as treatment of Xenophon’s philosophies and political and social views. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.

Higgins, W. E. Xenophon the Athenian: The Problem of the Individual and the Society of the Polis. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977. This study deals with Xenophon as a writer and a pupil of Socrates. The style is pleasant and clear. In addition to the index, the author’s notes are extensive and impressive.

Hutchinson, Godfrey. Xenophon and the Art of Command. London: Greenhill Books, 2000.

Nadon, Christopher. Xenophon’s Prince: Republic and Empire in the “Cyropaedia.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Focuses on Xenophon’s political theory in The Cyropaedia and on the nature of politico-historical writing. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.

O’Sullivan, James N. Xenophon of Ephesus: His Compositional Technique and the Birth of the Novel. New York: W. de Gruyter, 1995. Includes texts in ancient Greek as well as bibliographical references and indexes.

Pomeroy, Sarah B. Xenophon “Oeconomicus”: A Social and Historical Commentary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Includes Greek text with English translation and commentary.

Prevas, John. Xenophon’s March: Into the Lair of the Persian Lion . Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2002. An...

(The entire section is 783 words.)