William Barker (essay date 1567)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 3577 words.)

Alfred Pretor (essay date 1881)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

John Pentland Mahaffey (essay date 1905)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 5624 words.)

J. B. Bury (essay date 1908)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1094 words.)

Samuel James Pease (essay date 1934)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1561 words.)

Leo Strauss (essay date 1948)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 5177 words.)

Arnaldo Momigliano (essay date 1971)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 4559 words.)

J. K. Anderson (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 4278 words.)

Christopher Grayson (essay date 1975)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 3952 words.)

Arthur Heiserman (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 1120 words.)

W. E. Higgins (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 8666 words.)

Steven W. Hirsch (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 6801 words.)

V. J. Gray (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 2463 words.)

Vivienne Gray (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 4135 words.)

James Tatum (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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,...

(The entire section is 8408 words.)