Comments by Commenter
To pick up on the thread that a title may refer to the events of the beginning of a work, as is the case in Anabasis, this would make particular sense to an ancient audience accustomed to referring to poetic works by their first line. As this is not a custom confined to Greece, but with a very long pedigree (e.g. Enuma Elish), an ancient reader would probably have little problem understanding that the “Education of Cyrus” is the starting point, the first book, of a work that includes much more than this. As a multi-book (i.e. multi-scroll) work is only a complete whole in the sense that all the rolls are put together in the same bucket, the idea that the title has value as hermeneutic for understanding anything beyond the first book (pace Tatum and Higgens) is more compelling to a modern reader than it would likely have been to an ancient reader.
On the other hand, one approach to the question of the title’s implications for understanding the work might be to ask how the meaning of the title, which has a direct and obvious connection to the first book, might be exploited in oblique ways in later books. To put it another way, book 1 provides a measure for later books. This paradigmatic relationship between book 1 and subsequent books may extend to the title, such that the paideia here is a potential model for things which are sort of like but not exactly “paideia” in later parts of the work.
See also Gera 1993:13-22, especially Gera 1993:16.
The coordination recurs later in the book,
Cyropaedia 1.4.25. There it becomes more specific, as it is this good repute which impacts directly Cyrus’ relationship with Astyages and Cambyses. Further, the mention there of Cyrus’ good repute follows directly on the fact that Astyages didn’t know what to say (
Cyropaedia 1.4.24: οὐκ ἔχων…) about Cyrus’ deeds. This silence is, in turn, contrasted with Cyrus’ boasting over the conquered foes.
ἔτι καὶ νῦν: This phrase and its variants are regular in describing lasting institutions and foundations. This is the first such usage in the work. How is it used here?
This phrase is used later of customs (
Cyropaedia 1.3.2 of Persian clothing,
Cyropaedia 1.4.27 of the custom of kissing on the lips,
Cyropaedia 1.6.33 on a ῥήτρα passed which requires teaching boys to tell the truth), but this first usage of the phrase in the work seems to require that sense that something that is done “still even now” is a law or custom or ordinance. It may be then that the practice of speech and song about Cyrus is performed like a custom and Xenophon is being hyperbolic. Or, perhaps, Xenophon here reflects the fact that praise of Cyrus was regularly given at certain types of commemorative events.
σωφροσύνην: How is σωφροσύνη of value to a prince?
Though “moderation” or “self-control” is very familiar as a Greek value, it has an important resonance in the customary praise of kings. It is important here that the two values Xenophon highlights as part of describing Cyrus’ early education are justice and good sense. Justice (δικαιοσύνη, above in section 6) has an obvious role in kingship (e.g. in
Hesiod Theogony). The importance of “good-sense” in rule may be equally conventional. To take two tragic examples, Menelaus in Sophocles Ajax 1073-6 wants his armies to behave “moderately”.
Sophocles Phaedra fr. 683 Radt similarly refers to good sense as a mark of civic good order. See in general Rademaker 2005:165 (Sophrosyne and the Rhetoric of Self-Restraint, Brill) on justice and moderation; North 1966:32ff. (Sophrosyne: Self Knowledge and Self-Restraint in Greek Literature, Ithaca, Cornell University Press) on political uses of the term. This section seems work in two ways at once. Against the paradigm of good order in the city, justice and good-sense are appropriate to citizens. They are thus values which continue Xenophon’s focus, from earlier in the work, on what makes a good and orderly authority. But it is also entirely conventional praise for a king, in part because his justice and self-control are models and guarantors of such attributes in the people he rules.
On other places where Xenophon talks about sophrosyne, I am not sure what (if any relevance) the mention in
Cynegeticus 1.1.23 (assuming that this is authentic Xenophon) of Hippolytus being honored for his sophrosyne and piety (ὁσιότητι) might have. Piety can be explained as something with a particular importance for Hippolytus, but I suspect that this is part of the conventional praise of legitimate and good rulers. Piety of a good king, in purely practical terms, means making the right sort and quality of dedications to gods. “Moderation” and “piety”, however relevant to Hippolytus’ particular story, are near antitheses in value judgment about how a ruler in particular must negotiate too much and too little and plot that middle course between over-consumption and under-consumption. In Xenophon’s account of Hieron — to take another Xenophonic work for comparison to Cyropaedia — it is interesting how much time is spent discussing dietary habits of kings. Against expectation that kings consume a lot, we hear that they do not (or should not) over indulge. And we could of course get into issues of Macedonian heavy drinking and then to anecdotes about Alexander. But my point would be that all these sorts of self-control seem to be very material (as opposed, perhaps to intellectual). So, for the question about how this particular mode of learning self-control might work, is it the implication that the youths were to be corrected frequently (i.e. like the fathers teaching sophrosyne through crying rather than laughter in
Cyropaedia 2.2.14) and the very fact of performing this service would force them to suffer into sophrosyne. On the erotic self-control which comes later in the work, I wonder how much this is part of an expected progression. Erotic sophrosyne becomes the most visible marker of a potential failure or test of one’s self-control?
How does Cyrus speak? Is his manner of speech distinct from other speakers within the work or in other works?
Cyrus’ transition from talkative lad to somewhat more laconic but charming (ἐπίχαρις) youth is presented in the best possible light. It is not an over-boldness (θράσος) but rather ἁπλότης καὶ φιλοστοργία. Recent scholarship, along these lines, finds in many conversations in the Cyropaedia a “Socratic tenor” Gera 1993:27 and Cyrus as Socrates. But in this and in the next paragraph of the work, Xenophon seems to back off from the qualities which, as described in the present paragraph, would underpin Cyrus’ Socratic discourse. The topic of talkativeness and children is an important one in modern research in child development and social psychology [ref]see, e.g. (Leaper 2004:993-1027) Leaper, C. and Smith, T. “A Meta-Analytic Review of Gender Variations in Children’s Language Use: Talkativeness, Affiliative Speech, and Assertive Speech” Developmental Psychology 40.6, 2004:993-1027[/ref] Though this modern work is of limited value because it takes as data modern, culturally narrow groups (mostly upper middle class and American or European), it provides some orientation to the sort of issue that may be relevant here. One of the more consistent findings across cultures (though again, data is limited) is that male speech tends to be more assertive against female speech which is more affiliative (i.e. aiming to establish relationships with others). This is not in itself surprising, as certain markers of male speech in Greek (first person verbs in particular) would seem to be evidence of this distinction as well. As the authors of the above-mentioned study note, “the ability to coordinate the use of self-assertive and affiliative communication functions is generally viewed as the hallmark of the highest levels of psychosocial competence” (Leaper 2004:993). It may be that in Cyrus’ speech, whether we characterize it as Socratic or in some other way, we have something of this precocious combination of assertiveness and affiliative competence. This passage seems to describe both sides of the coin, with Cyrus both asking questions and able to answer questions put to him, in all cases making himself someone that others want to hear more from.
ὄλβον . . . εὐδαιμονίαν . . μεγὰλας δὲ τιμὰς: The endpoint here seem conventionally Greek (e.g. as the endpoint in epinician praise); is there a specifically Persian inflection or more specific resonance to any of these goals which, according to Cyrus, are the endpoint of the warrior?
Why is Cambyses (or, as some critics think, Xenophon) hating on manteis here?
This is a fascinating question. On the issue of style, and as you point out in the book (Hirsch 1985:94), stylistic assertions about this passage are often subjective and short on specific features that we might use to gauge authenticity. One potential line of investigation here is to use computer analysis. I wonder whether others know of any analysis along these lines already? In the interest of getting more specific data on this question, I had before run some data mining tests on Xenophon’s corpus against various non-Xenophon sets. (There are a number of limitations here– an incomplete corpus of prose, certain omissions; I mention this here only as an initial foray into this question.) A lot of what you get back is an artifact of the small corpus size and overfits the content of the material. That is, even though the statistical test will pick up all types of information and, in cases where sociolinguistic patterns are quantifiable (e.g. male vs. female speech, high status vs. low status speech) will be quite revealing about important markers of differences in language, for the Xenophon vs. not Xenophon test I am so far finding that it is not much better than noise. For what it is worth though, this section (
Cyropaedia 8.8) has some of the markers of “Xenophon” and very few of the markers that I’m getting for “Not Xenophon”. I don’t think that proves anything, as one needs more data and I offer this only as a quick and dirty result of some initial tests, but I suspect it reflects the problem and maybe a restatement of the question. How would we know whether it is Xenophon or not? Or, rather, would you imagine that anyone reading this in antiquity would have difficulty imagining in is authentic Xenophon? More if I can find anything that is not noise in these sorts of statistical tests…
The story about Alexander pouring out water in front of his troops also comes from
Arrian Anabasis of Alexander 6.26.It seems to me that this is Xenophon’s attempt at setting a Greek standard for the type of characteristics typical of a great leader. Similarly, Alexander’s biographers (such as Arrian) set him up as an exemplar of leadership, who the Romans looked to as an ideal leader. I think it is interesting to think of this kind of description as a tradition, which was crucial to the image of a successful leader, and also a tradition that continued across cultures.I have seen this type of leader standard in early ancient near eastern art. For example, the
stele of Naram-Sin portrays the king as a warrior king, endowed with kuzbu (sexual allure). See I. Winter 1996, “Sex,Rhetoric, and the Public Monument,” in (ed.) Kampen, Sexuality in Ancient Art. I know Naram-Sin is an early example, but the aspects of kingship, leadership, etc., as described in this passage, can also be found in later depictions of Assyrian and Achaemenid kings. So imitation seems to follow a standard of leadership previously established.
This is an interesting parallel! Here, Xenophon casts Cyrus as a future philosopher-king, like Alexander is cast by
Plutarch Life of Alexander 5.1. I think Xenophon’s young Cyrus is πολυλογώτερος because (following
Plato Republic) a true lover of learning must, from his earliest youth, desire all truth (see http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/plato-republic-philosopherking.asp); a truth which can be achieved through inquiry.Plato’s influence on Xenophon (and Plutarch) reveals itself here. But it also seems a bit one-sided when we consider material representations of Achaemenid kings. Are there any examples from the Persian sources that have Achaemenid kings cast as philosopher-kings? Maybe on cylinder seals? I am interested to know what was the Persian concept of a philosopher-king. There may be some Greek and Persian connections worth exploring.
There is also the the
Old Oligarch Constitution of the Athenians 1.10 who complains that one cannot beat slaves in Athens for fear of accidentally beating a free man (since Athenian slaves dress as well as Athenian citizens).
This scene started with Astyages giving Cyrus παντοδαπὰ ἐμβάμματα καὶ βρώματα (
Cyropaedia 1.3.4) to ward off homesickness, yet after Cyrus vigorously criticizes Median food, Astyages responds by giving him κρέα…θήρεια καὶ τῶν ἡμέρων anyway. What might we make of his (inappropriate?) reaction? Is Astyages not really listening to Cyrus or does Astyages just think he knows better than Cyrus? If Cyrus’ arguments against Median food do not convince Astyages, would they (or could they) convince anyone or is there something different about Astyages?
Maybe this would be the best place to ask this question: are there slaves in Persia prior to Cyrus’ career as general? There are slaves in Media (Sakas, the slaves who riot in the Median camp at
Cyropaedia 4.5.8), there are slaves in Assyria (
Cyropaedia 4.5.56), but there is no mention of slaves in Persia or slaves owned by Persians before Cyrus re-enslaves the freed slaves at
Cyropaedia 4.5.57 (the distribution of prisoners comes shortly afterwards at
The parallel example of how Cyrus adopts luxurious Median foods perhaps undermines what the narrator says, as you note, at 8.8.15. The Persians before the capture of Babylon are moderate in food: they eat bread, greens, and water (
Cyropaedia 1.2.8) and seem to only eat meat if they have hunted animals (
Cyropaedia 1.2.11). Yet after Cyrus becomes king in Babylon, his diet, like his clothes, mirrors Astyages’. The narrator implies that in Cyrus’ palace there is, in Ambler‘s translation, “one person to boil meats, for another to roast them, for another to boil fish, for another to roast them, for another to make loaves of bread—and not even loaves of all kinds, but it is sufficient if he provides some one form that is well regarded (
Cyropaedia 8.2.5-6).” Unlike the old Persians, when Cyrus marches with his army his soldiers don’t rely on simple food but when he sets up a camp Cyrus “determined, first of all, how far distant from the king’s tent his bodyguards should pitch their tents; then he showed a place on the right for the breadmakers, and one on the left for the saucemakers, and another on the right for the horses (
Cyropaedia 8.5.3)…” Cyrus is accompanied on the march by saucemakers (which he had once condemned) and prioritizes them over his cavalry (and seems to place the bakers closer than the cavalry to the safety at the center of the camp). In the epilogue the narrator complains of the Persians after Cyrus that “as for foods baked for their meals, they have not omitted anything previously discovered; rather, they are forever contriving new ones. So too with sauces, for they possess inventors of both (
Cyropaedia 8.8.16).” The narrator criticizes innovation and specialization in food and sauces as effeminacy, but it was Cyrus who personally introduced these specialist and innovative cuisine to Persia.
τὸ πρόσωπον τοῦ πάππου ἠγριωμένον ἐπὶ τῇ θέᾳ τῇ αὑτοῦ: why is Astyages angry at the sight of Cyrus? Is it because Cyrus has been disobedient throughout this skirmish, because he is μαινόμενον τῇ τόλμῃ, because he was staring at the corpses of the dead, or for another reason?
That’s an intriguing reading of thea I hadn’t considered. I had read it as ‘the sight of him (returning from the battle).’ As for whether Cyrus does this again, Nadon 2001:160 suggests that Cyrus might enjoy the sight of Abradatas’ corpse more than the sight of the living Pantheia, but I’m not sure whether this is tongue-in-cheek. In regard to your question about Leontius, I think there is absolutely a connection: they both look at corpses and there is a struggle. The difference is that Leontius’ struggle is internal and Cyrus’ is external. Leontius knows that staring at corpses is ‘wrong’ but the appetitive part of his soul forces him to. Even the combination of the rational part of his soul and his anger cannot in the end check his impulse. His struggle is internal between the various parts of his soul. Cyrus, on the other hand, does not have an internal struggle. He looks at the corpses with no hesitation, which suggest that the appetitive and rational parts of his soul agree that looking at corpses is desirable. If Cyrus is placed onto the model of Leontius, it seems that something that Leontius has is lacking in Cyrus: perhaps his knowledge of justice is not as fully formed as Leontius’ or he lacks Leontius’ empathy. Cyrus’ struggle is external: he only stops looking at the corpses when he is bodily dragged away by the soldiers (and it is only once he sees Astyages’ anger that he acts ashamed). Leontius struggles against himself to avoid looking at the dead, but Cyrus struggles with soldiers in order to continue looking at the dead.
No Foot, No HorseThis statement will ring true to all horsemen from cowboys to dressage performers. It is the point Xenophon makes in
On Horsemanship I.2, where he states that just as the upper parts of a house are of no use without a good foundation, a horse’s best points are of no use without good feet.He uses the same comparison here, to make a point about the importance of a quality reserve of infantry. I wonder if this house metaphor is common in Xenophon? Or common in Greek literature generally?In the On Horsemanship passage, a pair of future less vivid conditions are used to make the point. This kind of construction would seem very useful in Xenophon’s didactic style of writing. Does he employ it elsewhere?
Pardon me for my clumsiness, but this comment goes with the next paragraph VI.111.25.
What does valor have to do with the foundation of a house? Each is indispensable in its own context. This is the point Xenophon makes in
On Horsemanship I.2, where he states that just as the upper parts of a house are of no use without a good foundation, a horse’s best points are of no use without good feet; no foot, no horse as a modern horseman would say.
I wonder if the foundation/house metaphor is found in Greek literature outside Xenophon? In the On Horsemanship passage, he uses a pair of future less vivid conditions to make his point. This kind of construction would seem very useful in Xenophon’s didactic style of writing. Does he employ it for the same purpose elsewhere?
Another relevant source on thauma as a historiographical and analytical concept might be analysis of thauma (or rather thôma) in
Herodotus (cf Herodotus’ proem and its ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά). Rosario
Munson 2001 is good on this, Telling Wonders: ethnographic and political discourse in the work of Herodotus (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press)). Thauma is also important to Plato, but his language of wonder has many nuances and occasional irony. Thauma as an introduction to an argument or piece of rhetoric is also familiar from
Isocrates Panegyricus 1. In summary, I think any thauma language at the start of a work can be taken to signal an argumentative approach, and to make some claim about genre. One would expect to find lots of thauma-worthy things in a work that tackled both politics and the inherently thauma-generating world of Cyrus, and Xenophon is dutifully signally that to his audience.
Ruling the willing and ruling the unwilling are the first way in which Plato distinguishes types of constitutions, e.g. at
Plato Statesman 291e1-5. Ruling willing subjects marks someone as a king rather than a tyrant, so it’s an important distinction for Xenophon to make about his Cyrus and his type of rule.The vocabulary of persuasion here (and also the compulsion that we accept it) is rather reminiscent of Plato’s later political thought; persuasion through speech rather than compulsion through law underlies much of
Plato Laws, for example. Again, this vocabulary here seems to me to be setting out a message to the reader to read this work as political theory, or at least as a politeia type text, rather than simply as a historical narrative.
I’d also be interested in finding out more about later homages to the Cyropaedia, especially ones which play with notions of genre and authorship. The one I know about is Laurence Sterne’s 18th century novel,
Sterne Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy Vol V, Ch 16. Very roughly, Tristram’s father endeavours to produce a ‘Tristra-paedia’ after the manner of Xenophon to ensure the proper education of his young heir Tristram. But the enterprise doesn’t prosper, as the boy grows up faster than his father can write the work to educate him. The intriguing link is that both the Cyropaedia and Tristram Shandy contain lots of engagement with philosophy and ideas embedded within narratives that are far from straightforward, and challenge notions of genre prevalent then and now.
I’m not sure about this. In some cases it’s clear that Plato is using mythology precisely to oppose the kind of historiographical argument by exemplum that typified 4th century history writing. The
Plato Statesman myth, for example, seems to be pointed at dismantling precisely the ‘leader as shepherd’ imagery which Plato finds insufficient, and returns to on many occasions. It certainly removes the possibility of any simplistic idealisation of monarchy as the best form of government by transposing it into a different cosmological era not accessible to us. Of course, Xenophon’s argumentation is more sophisticated than Plato usually gives him credit for.And Plato’s war on poetry isn’t so much on poetry per se, as on its use as a vehicle for ideologies he dislikes (hence his particular problems with the democratic discourse of tragedy). That’s probably a side issue here, but I think that there’s a lot to gain from considering how well Xenophon’s models work in the light of Plato’s criticisms of the type of argumentation that Xenophon uses.
Perhaps somewhat akin are Isocrates’ views on Philip as a ruler of the Macedonians.
Isocrates To Philip 107-108 makes the point that Philip’s monarchy is an acceptable form of government because his ancestors won rule over what Isocrates regards as a non-Greek people for whom kingly rule was appropriate (it isn’t for Greeks who live in poleis, of course). There’s some interesting discussion just before this in To Philip about Philip’s particular suitability to lead an expedition into Asia, which touches on the Anabasis and might shed some different light on the particular issues of ruling ἔθνη. Plato touches briefly on this at various points –
Plato Republic 1 discussion with Thrasymachus distinguishes the rule of ethnê and poleis at several points, and considers tyranny over ethnê a specific topic (Plato Republic 336a5-7, where Xerxes is named, and the discussion around
Plato Republic 351c6-9). There does seem to be an impressive overlap of imagery between
Cyropaedia 1 and
Plato Republic 1.
The article you’re thinking of is, I think, one by Simon Hornblower 2000:57-82, ‘Sticks, stones, and Spartans: the sociology of Spartan violence’, in H. van Wees (ed.), War and Violence in Ancient Greece (Swansea: Classical Press of Wales). I don’t have a copy to hand, but it does talk about Spartan leaders in Xenophon, such as Mnasippus in
Hellenica 6.2 (pp.68-73).
Is this somewhere where Xenophon is on the cusp of departing from his earlier Greek historian peers? We hear very little about the appearance of historical actors in Thucydides, for example, even Alcibiades. On the other hand, Plato often describes the appearance of Socrates’ interlocutors (for example, Theaetetus at the start of
Plato Theaetetus) and their physical features become part of the discussion (Simmias and Cebes in
Plato Phaedo). The equation of physical and moral beauty is certainly more apparent in philosophical than historical texts at the time when Xenophon was probably writing. Alcibiades’ beauty may not be evident from his speeches and actions in
Thucydides Histories 6.9-23 (e.g., the Sicilian expedition debate), but it is inescapable in his dramatic entrance at
Plato Symposium 212c3-215a3.
It’s also worth looking at what
Aristotle Politics VII-VIII does with these ideas in his own ideal polis, which draws from the Cyropaedia as well as from
Plato Laws. It’s my view that very little of ancient Greek political thinking, especially before Aristotle, is directly related to the political reality they confronted, but rethinks issues and problems in largely idealised settings; here Xenophon seems to be responding to the deficiencies of his idealised Sparta in his Lacedaemonian Politeia.
How does the political and judicial role of elder citizens in Xenophon’s Persia relate to that of elders in Sparta?
Is this another place where Xenophon is revising his views on Sparta? How does the age-class structure here compare with that in Plato’s Laws, which gives a significant leadership role to elders?
Are they at all related to the many groups of 12 that occur elsewhere in Greek historiography? And which are perhaps pointedly different from the 10 tribes of democratic Athens. The 12 villages of Athens founded by Cecrops and synoecised by Theseus (
Marmor Parium 20,
Philochorus FGrH 328 F2, F94) the 12 kings of Egypt subsumed back under a united monarchy by Psammetichus (
Herodotus Histories 2.147-53), and the 12 cities of Ionia (
Herodotus Histories 1.143,
Herodotus Histories 145). Fehling 1989 (Fehling, D. (1989) Herodotus and his ‘Sources’: citation, invention and narrative art, trans. J.G. Howie (Liverpool: Cairns) is good on the use of ‘typical numbers’, although I wouldn’t agree with his argument and very negative response to the use of typical numbers in historiography (ie I don’t take it as a sign of ‘lying’ but see it as a way of marking important structures). There are also 12 tribes in Plato’s Magnesia (
Plato Laws 5.745de).
I think there’s at least an allusion to
Plato Republic 7.537-541 and the discussion of the training of leaders in dialectic which suggests that some candidates will fail the various stages of the training and not progress to the next level of knowledge and ruling.
He doesn’t quite say that in total (it’s complicated); he’s not at all sure that there is an actual rather than theoretical possibility of a human leader whose rule would render law unnecessary (just as Aristotle Politics 3 is unsure about the possibility of the related figure of the pambasileus). The implication of the Statesman myth is that this isn’t possible, and
Plato Laws 4.713c5-7 further thoughts on the inability of human leaders (contra divine leaders) to resist hubris also tend in this direction.What makes Xenophon’s contribution to this discussion, central to 4th century political thought, so interesting is that he is much more open to the construction of kingship as implying a distinct status for the person of the king, often expressed as a superior possession of knowledge or access to the divine (cf.
Cyropaedia 8.7.1). This must draw from Persian kingship traditions, often disturbing to Greeks (such as the Spartan ambassadors who refuse to prostrate themselves, at
Herodotus Histories 7.136). But surely Xenophon’s last word on this is at
Cyropaedia 8.1.22: τὸν δὲ ἀγαθὸν ἄρχοντα βλέποντα νόμον ἀνθρώποις ἐνόμισεν. The good ruler is a seeing law.
Second thoughts: I was being a little pessimistic about the possibility in
Plato Statesman of a ruler possessing basilike episteme (kingly knowledge), and therefore being able to rule without recourse to law, rather than the more ordinary politike techne, which would require laws. But it’s interesting to compare Xenophon and Plato here – the possibility of such a ruler seems more likely in Xenophon’s model.
Achilles in the
Iliad is the primary example; the question of whether Achilles’ personality traits make for good leadership is of course key to the Iliad and much subsequent discussion, and any leader sulking in their tent/withdrawing from the group is probably intended to make the reader think of Achilles as an exemplum. Whether the imitation is a conscious act by the leader (possible in Alexander’s case) or is supplied by the historian (more likely here?), the image of Achilles as ideal warrior is never far away.
I wonder whether this is another piece of hunting imagery, noting the importance that
Xenophon Cynegeticus 6.14 and
Xenophon Cynegeticus 7.5 give to calling each hound by its name, and the significant names given to hounds in the pack?
Possibly (although the modes of hunting are different, and different modes of hunting seem to bear some significance elsewhere in Plato and Xenophon). Other significant boar hunts are that for the Calydonian boar (
Homer Iliad 9.529-605), and that which results in the young Atys’ death (
Herodotus Histories 1.36-44). Plato Republic 4.432be uses a form of hunting which seems to resemble boar hunting as a metaphor for the hunt for justice, which leads me to suspect a metaphorical aspect to any use of hunting in a text which is in such a close dialogue with Plato.
I think that the contrast here is with the location of the hunts – this one on border territory suggests the ‘rite of passage’/ephebic model outlined by Pierre Vidal-Naquet 1986:106-128 in the Black Hunter and that might be driving some of the oppositions that are generated here.
Note the recurrence of the puppy imagery to describe immature behaviour (τὸ σκυλακῶδες τὸ πᾶσιν ὁμοίως προσπίπτειν οὐκέθ᾽ ὁμοίως προπετὲς εἶχεν).
Plato Republic 8.539ac also likens immature trainee philosophers to puppies.
Is Xenophon here echoing Plato’s many discussions about the appropriateness of payment for education, and the importance of the possession of specialist expertise?
Firstly, one has to admire Xenophon’s literary skill in weaving discussions about the nature of education into the narrative fabric of the Cyropaedia. But the language here of techne, learning and knowledge seems to point to discussions on the possibility of teaching and pay familiar from Platonic dialogues such as the Protagoras and Meno. Xenophon elsewhere has an interesting reverse take on this topos; in
Memorabilia 1.6 he reports a discussion on the topic between Antiphon and Socrates, in which Antiphon criticises Socrates both for failing to take payment and for failing to deliver the expected educational goods.The discussion here is also somewhat reminiscent of that between Socrates and Pericles Jr on the latter’s ambition to become general (
Memorabilia 3.5), although there it’s attention to tactical details that the young would-be general overlooks. The young Glaucon’s political ambitions are similarly dissected in
What kind of teacher might this have been? Is this a reference to sophists and their ability to argue both sides of an argument? And why are these capabilities presented as negative ones – lying, being greedy, deceiving and slandering?
What is the significance of hunting hares in Greek literature?
Xenophon describes the contemporary practice of hare hunting with dogs and nets in great detail in the Cynegeticus. But Plato outlaws it in the
Laws, at least for the elite. In the Sophist, hunting becomes an image for improper intellectual training and relationships, as exemplified by the Sophist and also by the use of hares as love-gifts between erastes and eromenos. (I will find references for some images and upload them later, if you like)
Are Cyrus’ ‘dinner parties’ more like Athenian symposia or the Spartan communal messes? How do they compare with other representations of Persian feasting, such as those in Herodotus, notably the
Herotodus Histories 9 comparison of Spartan and Persian meals?
How does this argument about distributive justice compare with other more theoretical accounts, such as in
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 5 and
Does the political vocabulary here suggest that Xenophon is treating an army as a kind of polis, as he does in the
Anabasis, or at least an environment in which political ideas can be tested?
Certainly: the distribution of goods (of various types) was a prime source of conflict in Greek society, and so of major interest to political thinkers; it remains a prime problem of political philosophy to this day. The division of spoils after battle was a traditional flashpoint for aristocratic conflict; the narrative of the Iliad opens with a conflict over Agamemnon’s claim to claw back goods (in this case a girl) that had been distributed to Achilles. The redistribution of Achilles’ armour after his death was another aristocratic conflict over goods that surfaces in many responses to the
Sophocles Ajax. Within the polis the problem of distributing a range of goods among citizens becomes problematic because of the issue of citizen equality. Should citizens have the same or different quantities of goods such as property, political participation and so on? Should they all get the same (strict arithmetic equality) or should goods be distributed in a ratio according to the individual merits of each (geometric equality).
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics V.9 is the most detailed discussion of this, but Isocrates (e.g.,
Isocrates Areopagiticus 21) is also interested in this, and by embedding such discussions within the Cyropaedia Xenophon is participating in a lively political debate.What’s particularly interesting about Xenophon’s discussions of justice in the Cyropaedia, I think, is the way that he marries the theoretical and political interest in the distribution of political goods within the polis to a military context, where both spoils and responsibilities are to be shared out. This evokes the aristocratic battlefield setting of the Iliad. See Lamont 2008 in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for a good summary of contemporary thought on distributive justice (Lamont, Julian and Favor, Christi, “Distributive Justice”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/justice-distributive/>.)
Does this discussion relate to other accounts of distributive justice and equality, and particularly interest in arithmetic and proportional equality in Aristotle’s Politics?
Who is the συνεθήρα and σοφιστήν? What is the relationship between hunting and education in Xenophon’s thought?
That’s very interesting – and another intriguing example of how thinking about context and possible references (Greek v Persian) brings in many different layers and possibilities. So different audiences might interpret this passage differently, based on their own context and experience.I think that there is some slippage here between the metaphorical use of hunting, in which Plato often characterises Socrates and others as hunters, and the actual hunting which was closer to Xenophon’s heart.
What are the major sections of
Cyropaedia 7.5.37–41 Cyrus decides to adopt kingship as a means of government, and devises a plan to ensure the assent of his peers.
Cyropaedia 7.5.42–47 Cyrus addresses his friends and outlines his proposed arrangements to them.
Cyropaedia 7.5.48–57 Cyrus’ friends (Artabazus at
Cyropaedia 7.5.43-54; Chrysantas at
Cyropaedia 7.5.55-7) respond to show their assent.
Cyropaedia 7.5.58–69 Cyrus then organises his court, establishing his personal bodyguard and the elite forces who will guard his palace in Babylon.
Cyropaedia 7.5.70–86 Cyrus acknowledges that the maintenance of his friends’ skills and virtue will be essential for the maintenance of his rule. He exhorts them to hard work and virtue.
This leads straight into Cyropaedia 8.1-5, a response to this speech by Cyrus’ Persian friend Chrysantas, and the remainder of chapter 8.1, which describes the administrative arrangements Cyrus puts in place to ensure the stability of his new empire.
How does this section mark a turning point in the Cyropaedia? And how does it fit with other Greek political writing of its time?
What is the significance for the ideological tension between republican and imperial forms of government of the fact that Cyrus establishes himself ‘as he thought became a king’?
This chapter marks a turning point in Cyrus’ biography, the end of conquest and the beginning of rule. Xenophon shows Cyrus’ awareness of this critical moment through his decision to take on a different form of leadership than the Persian-style generalship he has held up to this point. For those who read the Cyropaedia as a contrast between the republic and the empire as forms of government, this section marks the moment when Cyrus transitions between republican and imperial leadership, and becomes open to accusations that he has become a tyrant; see Nadon 1996:361-74, and Newell 1983:889-906 (see also the authors’ later books, Newell 2013 and Nadon 2001. An alternative analysis of Cyrus’ political progress is given in Breebaart 1983.
Xenophon here appears to step back from a strong endorsement of this model of kingship, although there is much dispute about this. Xenophon presents this view of kingship, as presented in this passage, as being that of his character Cyrus, focalised through his speech with occasional comments from the narrator. It is the character Cyrus’ decision to involve his friends in his exercise of power, and specification of the equipment that is suitable for a king, just as his friends’ response to Cyrus, when he appears in full regalia at his procession (ἐκπλαγέντεςτῇπαρασκευῇ,
Cyropaedia 8.3.14), is their personal response to his appearance.
Xenophon here appears to step back from a strong endorsement of this model of kingship, although there is much dispute about this. Xenophon presents this view of kingship, as presented in this passage, as being that of his character Cyrus, focalised through his speech with occasional comments from the narrator. It is the character Cyrus’ decision to involve his friends in his exercise of power, and specification of the equipment that is suitable for a king, just as his friends’ response to Cyrus, when he appears in full regalia at his procession (ἐκπλαγέντεςτῇπαρασκευῇ, Cyropaedia 8.3.14), is their personal response to his appearance.
To what extent can we separate the character Cyrus from the author Xenophon in this section?
Whether one can read a strong separation between the views of character and author on this matter is disputed; the extent to which Cyrus’ views of good government in this section are consistent with what we see elsewhere in Xenophon is a matter of interpretation.
However, some scholars take the distance between character and author even further and interpret Xenophon’s positive account of Cyrus’ rise to power as an ironic critique of despotic rule. By using the literary device of irony Xenophon can present his critique as apparent approval. Some scholars who adopt this reading of the work (such as Tatum, Nadon) draw on the work of Leo Strauss, whose interpretation of Xenophon’s political thought is particularly influential in the USA. Others outside the Straussian tradition also discern irony in this work (Pierre Carlier 1978, now in English as P. Carlier 2010; Too 2001); Carlier’s perspective differs from Straussian interpreters in placing Xenophon’s analysis within the tradition of Panhellenism.
What is the significance of the distance created between Cyrus and his subjects, in terms of other Near Eastern examples and Greek attitudes toward such distancing?
Both the substance of kingship (the practical arrangements for administration of an empire) and its ritual and performative elements (religious ceremonies, processions, special costume, court ceremony) will be established and explored in the following sections of the narrative.
In practice, as the remainder of this chapter explores, the question is one of removing Cyrus from everyday contact with his subjects. This royal distancing and seclusion is a key feature of oriental kingship for Greek authors, as seen in Herodotus’ account of the establishment of the empire of the Medes by Deioces (
Herodotus Histories 1.95-102; see Asheri 2007 at
Herodotus Histories 1.195-102 for detailed historical commentary). Persian royal iconography, as seen in the reliefs that decorated wall palaces, suggests that establishing distance and communicating it was important to kings such as Cyrus and his successors (see Root 1979); other sources include the Hebrew Bible (for example at
Hebrew Bible Esther 5:2).
Although the historicity of this account of the Median empire has been questioned (for example Helm 1981), it functions within Herodotus’ text as a template for monarchy and the role of the founder king in establishing a secure state, against which other monarchs can be compared.
Principal features of this kind of kingship include the separation of monarch from subjects; elaborate court rituals that restrict access of subjects, even elite ones, to the monarch; surveillance of subjects by the monarch’s spies; justice and law becoming identified with the monarch (see Dewald 2003; Walter 2004; Ward 2008 for analyses of despotism, based on Herodotus’ model, but applicable to Xenophon). Xenophon incorporates these themes into his analysis of tyranny, as in his
Hiero. Within the Cyropaedia itself, these topics will be explored through this final section, with enquiries into friendship, surveillance (the king’s eyes and ears,
Cyropaedia 8.2.10-12), and the construction of court practices of separation (the topic of much of this chapter).
For Xenophon, however, kingship also requires the monarch to provide an example and template (paradeigma) of virtuous behaviour and superlative physical qualities for his courtiers and subjects (
Cyropaedia 8.1.12). Again, this is reflected in numerous Near Eastern sources, including the Old Persian inscriptions. See, in particular, the text referred to as DNb (Darius I,
Naqsh-e Rostam, Inscription b), in which Darius describes his qualities. This idealistic self-representation of the monarch has been called an ancient “Mirror of Princes.” See Kuhrt 2007:504-05.
Clearly, within the model as it stands, it is not possible for the vast majority of subjects, excluded from access to the king, to perceive him well enough to gain sufficient knowledge to imitate him. After Cyrus’ institution of kingship, the same becomes true of the peers themselves, when they are moved to obedience through emotional responses of wonder and fear (for example at
Cyropaedia 8.3.14, when the peers are moved to perform proskynesis for the first time, because they are ἐκπλαγέντες, a term often used to describe extreme fear on the battlefield). Most of Cyrus’ subjects obey him without directly perceiving him (
Cyropaedia 1.1.3; even those who know that they will never see him are willing to obey him).
How influential was Xenophon’s account of kingship in Greek political thought?
Xenophon’s account of Cyrus’ kingship appears to have been influential, based on apparent references to it in other examinations of monarchy by Plato and Aristotle. Plato and Aristotle both draw on this account in their analysis of kingship and the foundation of regimes; Plato chooses Persia under Cyrus and his successors as his example of extreme monarchy (
Plato Laws 3.694a3-698a8), while Aristotle’s discussion of pambasileia (absolute kingship,
Aristotle Politics 3.15-7) surveys many of the same themes common to both Herodotus’ and Xenophon’s analysis (see previous comment). A strong case can be made that Plato in the Laws responds to Xenophon’s account (Danzig 2003; Dorion 2003). The close relationship between
Plato Laws and
Aristotle Politics, as well as Aristotle’s emphasis on themes emphasised in the Cyropaedia, such as the role of friendship in political relationships, suggest that Aristotle too may be thinking of Cyrus when he describes the phenomenon of absolute monarchy (pambasileia).
Xenophon’s depiction of Cyrus was thought to have influenced Alexander the Great, via the historian Onesicretus (see comments on Cyrus Paradise at
In what ways might this form of kingship be problematic for Xenophon’s Greek readers?
Cyrus’ adoption of this mode of kingship, in response to his military success, puzzles many modern readers, who see Xenophon’s hero apparently abandoning the positive republican political values of the earlier part of the book, and replacing the Persian republic with an autocratic empire. The imposition of a formalised and multi-layered hierarchy seems a complete reversal of the apparent egalitarianism of the Persian aristocracy, described as homotimoi, ‘the same in honour’, and Cyrus’ own earlier actions as a leader who is effectively first among equals. Cyrus’ previous modifications to this system introduced further levels; he armed the Persian commoners in the same way as the homotimoi (
Cyropaedia 2.1.15-19), but then re-establishes a distinction for the homotimoi in retraining them as cavalry (
Cyropaedia 4.3.1-23; see Johnson 2005).
Xenophon indicates some of the problems of this form of kingship by presenting distinctive sets of approaches to rule through descriptions of different societies, so that some aspects of Cyrus’ approach to rule in this section will remind readers both of his grandfather Astyages’ rule over Media (
Cyropaedia 1.3.2-14), and the problems his mother Mandane raised about the differences between Persian and Median justice (
How does Xenophon use Cyrus to explore the problem of monarchy and the polis?
Cyrus’ story illustrates the problem of one-man rule, which is that a consequence of such a form of rule is the elevation of one man to a status distinct from that of the citizens as a whole. While Cyrus’ exceptional qualities might provide some justification for him being elevated in such a fashion, and may even provide utilitarian grounds for treating him in such a way, it is nonetheless a difficulty within the polis ideology of a city of equal citizens (see
Aristotle Politics 3.4,
Aristotle Politics 3.14-18).
While the presence of a monarch was problematic for polis ideology with its emphasis on equality, the idea of monarchy as a means to the good life exerted a fascination for Greek political theorists (Atack 2014b; Lévy 2006; Mitchell 2013). Isocrates, most likely writing before Xenophon, identifies the idea that a king can provide a model of virtue for his subjects. His trio of connected speeches, the
Isocrates Nicocles and
Isocrates To Nicocles, contribute to a model of the king as paradeigma of good behaviour; copying this behaviour enables his subjects to flourish (Alexiou 2010; Bloom 1955).
Xenophon treats this theme more expansively than Isocrates does in these works, investigating the problem of the powerful monarch both within the smaller-scale equal society, in his discussion of the relationship between Cyrus as king and his home ‘polis’ of Persia (
Cyropaedia 8.5.21-28), and across the larger empire that he creates. Cyrus chooses not to exert his full authority over Persia, leaving his troops at the border, and leaving the Persians to govern themselves in his absence (and Cambyses warns him to do so,
Cyropaedia 8.5.24). The model of absent king of a larger empire as ruler over the self-governing but subsumed polis is also addressed in Isocrates’ later works (
Isocrates Panathenaicus), based on his analysis of Athens’ political situation, as conquest by Philip of Macedon and incorporation into his growing empire became more likely (see Atack 2014a; Masaracchia 1995). Both Xenophon and Isocrates can be seen to anticipate a model of rule that would become more common in the Hellenistic world, where the successors to Alexander the Great ruled kingdoms incorporating cities which still maintained many aspects of their pre-existing systems of internal governance (Farber 1979).
Why does Cyrus seek his friends’ approval?
The form of kingship that Cyrus adopts rests on the approval of those whose situation as homotimoi is displaced by the elevation of the king and his separation from them. A similar process occurs in Herodotus’ accounts of the rise to kingship of Deioces and Darius. Deioces is elected as king by the Medes (after his friends have lobbied for this outcome,
Herodotus Histories 1.97-98), while Darius persuades his fellow conspirators to adopt monarchy as a form of government, then wins the competition among them to be the monarch (
Herodotus Histories 3.80-88). Even among apparently hereditary forms of monarchy in ancient cultures (including the created societies of Homer) there may be competition between potential heirs, especially in complex royal dynasties where half-brothers may compete to succeed their father.
While Deioces maintains separation because he fears that his former peers will recognise that he is not better than them and thus lacks authority to rule, Xenophon’s account of Cyrus presents him as superior in capability to the Persian homotimoi and others who make up his peer group.
However, friendship has a greater significance for kings as a means of controlling and managing relationships with powerful subjects. The relationship of friendship they perceived between the great king and powerful noble subordinates was a further object of fascination to Greek political theorists; Xenophon’s exploration of the theme here is expanded both by Plato and Aristotle, who each attempt to define different types of friendship to explain how rulers who are unequal to their subjects can (or cannot) be friends with them (
Plato Laws 8.837a-838a,
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 8.7.1158b11-1159a12, within the discussion of friendship in books 8 and 9). Xenophon’s thought on friendship has been interpreted in different ways; for Vincent Azoulay, Xenophon’s exploration of friendship in the Cyropaedia tests the philosophical and metaphysical problem of friendship between non-equals, while for Vivienne Gray readers should resist reducing Xenophon’s depiction of political friendship to pure exploitation, and accept David Konstan’s more positive account of Xenophon’s model of friendship (Azoulay 2004; Gray 2011:291-329; Konstan 1997:53-92).
Would Xenophon’s readers have found Cyrus’ manipulation objectionable?
Cyrus’ use of cunning and apparent deceit in his consolidation of power disappoints modern readers such as Tatum (Tatum 1989:97-98, cf. Nadon 2001:6-10), who see these actions as evidence of negative character traits and behaviour that should be deplored. This episode follows several previous ones in which Cyrus secures his desired goals through actions that seem manipulative or even deceitful; the most important of these is the central episode by which Cyrus wins the loyalty of the Median troops and dislodges his uncle Cyaxares from their affections, enabling him to control the direction of the war and ultimately to secure his own position (see Danzig 2012 for a detailed reading of the debate between Cyrus and Cyaxares,
Cyropaedia 5.5, alongside accounts more critical of Cyrus, Tatum 1989:126-33 and Nadon 2001:87-100).
However, the use of intelligence and clever trickery (mētis) to consolidate power has a long history and mythology for the Greeks, being thought to start with the gods early in the history of the cosmos in Hesiod’s Theogony; Zeus incorporates the personified Metis into himself before she can become the mother of Athene (
Hesiod Theogony 886-900). The Homeric Odysseus has plenty of tricks up his sleeves (as evidenced by his Homeric epithet polumētis) but this is neither entirely positive nor negative; his resourcefulness enables him to escape from the Cyclops (
Odyssey 9.315-460; his mētis is equated to trickery, πάντας δὲ δόλους καὶ μῆτιν ὕφαινον); Sophocles’ Odysseus is likewise presented as intellectually resourceful, as in the opening scene of the Ajax (
Sophcoles Ajax 1-8) where he is compared to a keen-nosed hunting hound in his pursuit of knowledge. The tradition of mētis in Greek thought is explored in Detienne and Vernant 1974.
Trickery is likewise a part of the process by which Herodotean kings secure power. Deioces does not actively engage in trickery, although his friends improperly influence the debates at which he is chosen as king (
Herodotus Histories 1.97-98). Darius does use trickery to secure victory over his fellow conspirators after they have agreed to a monarchy (Herodotus 3.82-87). Xenophon’s exploration of Cyrus’ use of trickery seems to draw on the broad tradition of rulers and mētis, with a particular nod to the Herodotean account of its role in the rise to power of other Persian rulers.
Cyrus’ use of trickery is not so much to gain power as to legitimate his friends’ (and hitherto equals as homotimoi) exclusion from it. In denying them access to him through this staged encounter, he persuades them to submit to the new court hierarchy in which the relationship between him and his friends can no longer be analysed in terms of strict equality. For some interpreters, this simply formalises a hierarchy that was implicit in the arrangements of Persia, which was not an egalitarian republic, rather than demoting the homotimoi to a lower status than that which they previously enjoyed.
What does the chaos of the unmanageable crowd imply about the success of Cyrus’ new form of rule?
The crowd here represents the large number of subjects now under Cyrus’ control. But perhaps the idea of the mass (τὸπλῆθος) and the disorder created by the demand to meet Cyrus also suggests that direct relationship between the one ruler and the many ruled will be impossible, other than in a manner resembling conflict. Xenophon describes the crowd pushing (ὠθουμένων), a term used of hoplite encounters, and emphasises this link by describing the scene as a battle (μάχη). Cyrus will use the same language and imagery within his speech (
Cyropaedia 7.5.39-45); after encouraging his friends to think that if they wait for him, there will be a time when they push aside the crowd together (ἕωςἂντὸνὄχλονδιωσώμεθα, 39); he describes those who hope to defeat his friends by pushing them aside (ὠθοῦντες, 45) to gain access to him.
Are Cyrus’ peers described as being part of this crowd?
The relationship between the peers and the crowd is ambiguous in this chapter. The problem that they have is that the presence of the crowd makes it impossible for them to access Cyrus. They cannot easily be discriminated from the crowd (and it is slaves who perform this task on behalf of Cyrus, οἱδὲὑπηρέται … διακρίναντες,
Cyropaedia 7.5.39),and thus merge into it, losing their status as individuals with privileged access to Cyrus as his equal. Desire to meet Cyrus turns all individuals (οἱἄνθρωποι) into an undifferentiated mass (τὸπλῆθος), but one that is the site of conflict; one can only hope to emerge from it through scheming (μηχανή) and fighting (μάχη).
Is this episode an example of Cyrus deceiving his friends?
Cyrus appears to be deceiving his friends here, with promises of attention from him that are not fulfilled (
Cyropaedia 7.5.39-40); his friends wait all day for his attention but are dismissed at the end of the day without receiving it. This experience will make them more likely to submit to the new arrangements, although they may not, as Chrysantas hints, have much choice in the matter (
Cyropaedia 8.1.4); choosing to serve under Cyrus will enable the friends to escape the slavery of being compelled to serve under him.
Readings of the Cyropaedia that emphasise Cyrus’ deceit use this episode to illustrate the trickery and the barely disguised force through which Cyrus achieves his goals (Nadon 2001; an extreme version of this perspective is Reisert 2009), who describes Cyrus as a ‘moral black hole’.
What does this phrase mean, δίκην δεδωκότες ὑπὸ πάντων τῶν ἀναγκαίων?
Xenophon adds a moment of low comedy here to the description of Cyrus’ friends, waiting to see him all day, then running off to attend to ‘all the necessities’. Delebecque comments that this remark is not in good taste (Delebecque 1978:75, n.3), and treats the ‘necessities’ as ‘besoins naturels’ (‘wants of nature’ in Miller’s translation). The necessities are not named, but may be the same as those similarly hinted at in
Cyropaedia 1.6.36, bodily needs that should be attended to at the start of the day, or those mentioned a little less coyly at
Cyropaedia 8.8.11 as the consequences of eating and drinking. Delebecque suggests that the πάντων may refer to both hunger and thirst, but presumably here the necessities are the same physical necessities as at
Cyropaedia 8.8.11, hence the comedy of the peers running away quickly to attend to them in private.
How does Cyrus use the Persian lancers (ξυστοφόρων)? How consistent is this with historical Near Eastern practice, and how tyrannical might it seem?
Cyrus prevents the crowd from approaching him by surrounding himself with a circle of Persian lancers (ξυστοφόρων). This use of Persian soldiers as bodyguards prefigures the adoption of the 10,000 Persians as bodyguards and special forces, that Cyrus will implement soon as part of his new royal establishment (
The separation of ruler from ruled by special elite forces or bodyguards is a topos of Greek and other ancient thought on tyranny (such as Herodotus’ account of Deioces;
Plato Republic 9). See Lewis 2006; McGlew 1993; Morgan 2003.
What purpose in Xenophon’s narrative does this speech by Cyrus (
Cyropaedia 7.5.42-47) perform?
In this speech Cyrus attempts to justify the changed arrangements by which he will restrict access to himself, by interposing his friends between himself and the external world. Access to the king will be mediated through his friends, transformed into courtiers. Cyrus presents the new arrangements as a practical response to the unpleasant crowding that he and his friends have endured in Babylon, although the friends may not realise that this situation has largely been engineered by Cyrus to encourage them to accede to the new political order. A change of scale in Cyrus’ arrangements is made inevitable by the increased scale of his empire; the crowding may also reflect the status of Babylon as a major city.
Does the problem of the peers getting lost in the crowd symbolise the problem of scaling up rule for the new empire?
I suspect that this highly rhetorical opening sentence – of course no-one would blame the gods for delivering them everything they had asked for – is setting up the next sentence, in which Cyrus appears to run the risk of blaming the gods, in offering to reject the eudaimonia of his new situation.
To what extent did the Greeks think a leader should “sacrifice” or “offer himself up” to others (cf. ὑφέξει)?
Cyrus suggests here that he has to pay a heavy price for his new role, in that the demands on him prevent him from enjoying the company of his peers as before. The cost of leadership to the leader is a Xenophontic theme that counters the view that power automatically confers happiness on the holder, expressed for example by sophists such as Thrasymachus and Callicles in
Plato Republic and
Plato Gorgias respectively. It is most fully expressed in the paradox of the Hiero, that the tyrant is unhappy in his tyranny, and in which Simonides proposes remedies for this unhappiness (
Hiero 8-9) that resemble strategies adopted by Cyrus (for example instituting competitions among troops, creating obligation through gifts, and exhibiting charisma).
Why does Xenophon use the language of parts and wholes (μέρος) and participation (μέτεσται) here?
Cyrus expresses his regrets about the loss of leisure and the company of the peers using the language of parts and wholes (μέρος) and participation (μέτεσται). The verb λογίζομαι might suggest that Cyrus treats this change either as having a value which can be calculated (an interpretation that would support a utilitarian reading of Cyrus’ motivation) or as an exercise in philosophical enquiry. Xenophon may be invoking the language of Platonic metaphysics by using these technical terms, and demonstrating his engagement with Plato’s more abstract political ontology. (For more on Plato’s exploration of parts and wholes, see Harte 2002; for an introduction to Platonic metaphysics, see Harte 2008).
Why is the problem of the crowd ‘ridiculous’ (geloion)?
What differences does Cyrus identify between the leadership of a general and the rule of a king?
Cyrus here distinguishes the form of leadership he formerly exercised, that of a general on campaign, from the form of leadership he must now exercise as ruler of an empire. He emphasises the distinction in terms of accessibility and visibility. While a good general must be accessible and visible in order to do his job, in order to know what is happening and continually reassess the situation and opportunities, this continuing presence will not, it seems, be as necessary for the rule of an empire. In practice, Xenophon will identify alternative means through which Cyrus maintains the flow of information and analysis that enables him to to act in accordance with opportunity (kairos). The king’s eyes and ears, a network of spies (
Cyropaedia 8.2.10-12) perform this function and enable Cyrus to act as if he had witnessed events across the empire himself. See Hirsch 1985: 101-39 for a detailed analysis of all sources on ‘spy’ networks in the Persian empire; the existence of the officer known as the ‘king’s eye’ is doubtful (cf.
Plutarch Artaxerxes 12.1, where Artasyras is identified as holding this office.
What is the relationship between knowledge and the kairos?
Xenophon identifies two respects in which the good general should not fall behind others, in gaining appropriate knowledge of his circumstances (τῷ εἰδεναι ἃ δεῖ) and in doing whatever is kairos (τῷ πράττειν ἃν καιρὸςῇ). Knowledge and the ability to make use of the kairos are closely connected.
The ability to spot an opportunity (kairos) and take decisive action to capitalise on it is identified as an important skill of generals and politicians, both by Xenophon in this work and by Plato (notably in
Plato Statesman, where it is a key concept; see Lane 1997). For both writers, the ability to determine the kairos and to act in response to opportunity represents the specific form of knowledge that identifies its holder as a statesman or king. Plato’s Eleatic Stranger argues that “what is really kingship must not itself perform practical tasks but control those with the capacity to perform them, because it knows when it is the right time (enkairias) to begin and set in motion the most important things in cities, and when it is the wrong time (akairias); and the others must do what has been prescribed for them” (
Plato Statesman 305c10-d4; translation from Lane 1997:142).
While the concept of the kairos is important in several genres of Greek literature, notably rhetoric and historiography, this refinement of the concept by Plato and Xenophon will be significant for later political thought (Lane 2012). Earlier writers had both temporal and normative models of the kairos (see Guillamaud 1988; Race 1981; Trédé 1992 for detailed surveys of the concept of kairos across multiple genres).
One way in which Xenophon marks Cyrus’ development as a leader throughout the Cyropaedia is in showing his ability to identify and act upon opportunity; in particular, it marks the point where his skills and ability to execute surpass those of his uncle Cyaxares, and he takes leadership of the Medes from him (see sections
What is the ideological significance of describing war as the ‘most loving of toil’ (φιλοπονώτατος)?
The idea of ponos as an aspect of virtue, or means by which individuals may both demonstrate and consolidate their virtue, is central to Xenophon’s thought, most fully expressed in the story of the Choice of Heracles (
Memorabilia 2.1). Good leaders exemplify hard work in all their pursuits; but there is an ideological aspect to what was considered to be ponos by Xenophon and his contemporaries, as Steven Johnstone has shown (Johnstone 1994); aristocratic leisure pursuits such as hunting are identified as examples of ponos, rather than the physical labour of the ordinary worker (for example
Cyropaedia 8.1.34-36, where Cyrus identifies hunting as an activity that habituates its practitioners to ponos).
Within the framework of this ideology of aristocratic ponos, a good leader demonstrates superior capacity to withstand hardship and to work in extreme circumstances; Norman Sandridge cites Xenophon himself chopping wood in the snow as an example (
Anabasis 4.4.12) as an example of such capacity, and Cambyses’ argument that the ruler demonstrates his superiority through the possession of ponos (Sandridge 2012:60-63).
In transferring this epithet to war, Xenophon personifies it with an apparently positive characteristic. War loves toil, but has halted (ἀναπέπαυται), itself a verb that Xenophon uses for troops on campaign (
Cyropaedia 7.1.4). If Cyrus’ opponent, war, has actually (νῦνδ᾽) taken a rest, he may now be justified in claiming leisure for himself.
Xenophon’s use of superlative forms of philo- compound adjectives is also notable, and marks important features of his ethical thought; see
Cyropaedia 1.2.1, where Cyrus is described as φιλανθρωπότατος, φιλομαθέστατος, and φιλοτιμότατος.
Why is Artabazus the first to respond to Cyrus? What is the function of this speech (
The responses to this speech represent two opposed responses to Cyrus, from his Persian supporters and his Median supporters, represented by Chrysantas (Persian) and Artabazus (Median), respectively. Artabazus, in speaking first, may be seen to have the less serious or important points to make; these will be made by Chrysantas in closing the debate. One might assume that a Median courtier such as Artabazus is already willing to accept a subservient role in the new royal hierarchy, whereas for Chrysantas, as an egalitarian Persian, such a role will require more change and be harder to accept.
Artabazus’ speech provides a summary of his involvement with Cyrus, reminding the reader of his participation to Cyrus’ rise to power, now to be rewarded with subordinate roles in the new empire.
Why does Artabazus ask for a share of Cyrus’ attention? And how does this relate to the theme of ‘distributive justice’?
Artabazus’ final request for a proper distribution of the specific good (Cyrus’ attention and favour) to the most rewarding links this speech back to a major concern of the Cyropaedia as a whole, distributive justice (see note on
Cyropaedia 7.5.54). The Achaemenid royal inscriptions show that distributive justice was an important concern of the kings. Darius I states: ‘The man who cooperated with my house, him I rewarded well’ (
DB 63) and ‘The man who cooperates, according to his cooperative action, thus do I reward’ (
DNb 2c; see Kuhrt 2007:503-05 for text and analysis of royal ideology in this tomb inscription). Artaxerxes II gives valuable gifts to his loyal officers and soldiers in the aftermath of Cunaxa (
Plutarch Artaxerxes 14). Briant provides a good summary of the Achaemenid system of gift-giving, distributive justice, and the unequal exchange of gifts with strings attached (Briant 2002:302-23).
How well does Artabazus’ appearance here agree with his overall role in the Cyropaedia?
Artabazus is a recurring minor character in the Cyropaedia, whose appearances provide comment on the effectiveness of Cyrus’ appearance and arguments, and also an element of humour, through his infatuation with Cyrus. At his first appearance (
Cyropaedia 1.4.27-28) he provides proof Cyrus’ charisma and beauty, and also his youth and naiveté, by tricking him into a kiss. Throughout the work Artabazus reappears (
Cyropaedia 6.1.9), with his speech here drawing all these episodes together, and, as Bodil Due points out, showing that the apparent humorous asides that featured Artabazus all contribute to an important theme, Cyrus’ charisma (Due 1989:62-66).
In this speech, Artabazus recaps the progress of Cyrus from Persian leader to king through his various military engagements, and underlines the support that Cyrus has received from a series of allies and friends and that has enabled him to succeed. He also outlines the difficulties that Cyrus’ friends have experienced in gaining access to him, the costs of doing so in disregarding personal comfort, and the jealousy that access to Cyrus inspires in others.
Artabazus’ support for Cyrus’ changed role could be predicted from his account of Cyrus’ charisma, which he compares to that of a king bee over the hive (
Cyropaedia 5.1.24-25). Likewise, the good housewife should be both a queen bee (hegemōn melittōn,
Oeconomicus 7.32-4 and a guardian of the law (nomophylax,
Oeconomicus 9.15) in her relationship with the workers in her household (see Pomeroy 1984 for analysis of the gender implications of this comparison). Artabazus was the first character to respond to Cyrus in this way, even though the initial presentation of his response suggested that it should not be taken seriously.
What was Artabazus’ role in securing Cyrus’ leadership over the Medes?
Artabazus played a pivotal role at two points in the key central episode of the work, in which control of the Median army moves from Cyaxares to Cyrus. When Cyaxares challenges Cyrus to find volunteers to join him in pursuing the Assyrians, Cyrus selects Artabazus, recognising him as the man who had claimed to be his relative in order to kiss him (
Cyropaedia 4.1.22-23, referring to
Cyropaedia 1.4.27-28); Artabazus is willing to persuade other Medes to join him in following Cyrus.
After the raid, Artabazus volunteers to continue with Cyrus rather than to return to Cyaxares (
Cyropaedia 5.1.24-25), and is therefore instrumental in persuading other Medes do the same. His reason for doing so is that Cyrus exudes a natural form of royalty, like the king bee in the hive; such bees command the others by generating a strange but powerful form of desire in them, δεινόςτιςἔρως.
While Artabazus’ support may be genuine, the Median soldiers may not know the history of his infatuation with Cyrus, and that he is not choosing to take further action on purely military or pragmatic grounds but because of his desire to be close to Cyrus. In this sense, Artabazus provides a deceptive element, possibly manipulated by Cyrus and certainly enabling Cyrus to manipulate others.
Artabazus’ support for Cyrus’ proposals here is also pointed. For Artabazus, the new regime proposed by Cyrus is sufficiently similar to the rule of Astyages, and the processes of the Median court, which it is not difficult for him to accept, in the way that it might be for the Persians, who are used to equality and frugality. Hirsch has suggested that Xenophon is, in books 4 and 5, describing a coup by Cyrus against Astyages, rather than a peaceful take-over (Hirsch 1985:81-82); this reading brings Xenophon’s account closer to other sources such as the Nabonidus Chronicle, which mentions Cyrus’ victory over Astyages due to a mutiny in the Median army, and parallels Herodotus’ account of the Median aristocracy supporting Cyrus in obtaining the kingship (
Herodotus Histories 1.123). See also
Diodorus 9.23, who reports on unrest in the Median camp at the time of Cyrus’ takeover.
Who were the Hyrcanians?
The historical Hyrcanians (OP Varkana, “People of the Wolf-Land”) were a people who lived east of the Caspian Sea (
Hecataeus FGrH 1 F 291) and north of the Parthians, on the north-eastern portion of the Iranian plateau, present-day Gorgan. In the
Anabasis 7.8.15, Xenophon encounters some Hyrcanian cavalry who fight for the Persian king (see C. Tuplin 1996:134). Hyrcania is thought to have been annexed into the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great, although it rebelled under Darius I (
DB 35); Hyrcanians fought in Xerxes’ expeditionary force to Greece (
Herodotus Histories 7.62) and were commanded by the satrap Phrataphernes along with the neighbouring Parthians at Gaugamela in 331 BC (
Arrian Anabasis 3.8.4). Simmering conflict between Hyrcanians and Parthians also features in the account of the Roman Empire in the east,
Tacitus Annals. For more on Achaemenid Hyrcania, see Vogelsang 1988.
Hyrcania itself was a fertile agricultural region:
Polybius 10.28.3 preserves details of royal rewards for villages maintaining irrigation systems. It was also famed for cavalry and hunting dogs (
Aelian De Natura Animalium 7.38,
Aelian De Natura Animalium 16.1).
What is the role of the Hyrcanians in the Cyropaedia?
In Xenophon’s narrative the Hyrcanians were originally allied with the Assyrians, but defect to Cyrus’ side after his defeat of the old Assyrian king (
Cyropaedia 4.2.1-8). Their defection provided Cyrus with the information that he needed to consolidate his victory over the Assyrians. Although the Hyrcanian king provides further information and support (
Cyropaedia 5.2.23-25), he does not become one of the named leading characters of the Cyropaedia. Nonetheless, Hyrcanians are among those who choose to remain close to Cyrus and to be settled in estates around Babylon, when Cyrus distributes the Assyrian land to his followers (
Why does Artabazus single out Gobryas and Gadatas here?
Cyrus’ most recent allies, Gobryas and Gadatas, were gained in the course of his campaigns. Winning them over was a mark of his progress towards building his multinational empire, and also a sign that he was willing to expand his inner circle of friends beyond his close associates from his youth. Artabazus, as a Mede, was an early follower of Cyrus but still outside this Persian inner circle, unlike Chrysantas. The possibility of tension between Cyrus’ supporters adds an element of risk to the foundation of empire.
What contrast does Xenophon draw between Cyrus and Artabazus?
Artabazus’ contrast between his own limited personal concerns and the pressing matters distracting Cyrus from paying him attention adds an element of humour, but also expresses the distance which Xenophon wishes to point out between the concerns of ordinary individuals and the serious responsibilities of the leader. Cyrus’ military concerns, the horses and chariots, are contrasted to Artabazus’ lack of responsibility. (There seems to be a similar contrast between Pheraulas and the Sacian solider, to whom he hands over all his possessions, namely there seem to be some who like the responsibility of leadership and some who are just happy to serve. See
Cyropaedia 8.3.49-50, and Henderson 2012 for an analysis of the Pheraulas episode and its relation to Cyrus’ own story).
How does Xenophon use humour in this speech?
Artabazus’ infatuation with Cyrus has provided humour earlier in the book, as well as demonstrating Cyrus’ charisma, from his first appearance when he claims to be Cyrus’ kinsman to steal a kiss (
Cyropaedia 1.4.27-28) to subsequent references to this (such as
Cyropaedia 4.1.22, when Cyrus makes use of Artabazus’ infatuation to secure his services). By reframing the narrative of the military expedition from the point of view of Artabazus, a different perspective is presented in which the jealousies and rivalries of Cyrus’ associates are introduced without being presented as a threat to his success.
Artabazus swears by Mithras. How do Mithras, and other aspects of Persian religion, feature in the Cyropaedia?
This is the only mention of Mithras by name during the course of the work. While Cyrus’ piety is a major theme of Xenophon’s enquiry, the object of that piety is more usually ‘the gods’ in general or Zeus, for example when Cyrus is first shown consulting the gods before embarking on an expedition (
Cyropaedia 1.6.1). The importance of piety, and the possibility that Cyrus can be closer to the gods than his associates, is first introduced in his conversation with his father Cambyses (
Cyropaedia 8.3.11-12 a distinction is drawn between gods, shown in the bulls sacrificed to Zeus and the horses sacrificed to the sun-god. Helios the sun-god has been identified with Mithras, but this identification is problematic (Briant 2002:250-52). Further exploration of the religion of the historical Cyrus can be found in Boyce 1988 and Daryaee 2013.
However, as Deborah Gera notes, the religion in the Cyropaedia seems more related to Socratic concerns about the divine than to specific practices and cults, especially Persian and Achaemenid ones (Gera 1993:54-59). Tuplin 1990:27 points out that this oath represents ‘a genuinely Persian manner’, but in a ‘belated “token” gesture’, noting that Xenophon elsewhere attributes the same oath to Cyrus (
Norman Sandridge identifies this Socratic concern with epimeleia, which he treats as the leadership quality of attentiveness (Sandridge 2012:51-57, Sandridge 2012:70-73), rather than any concern with the supernatural. In his historical works, Xenophon pays great attention to the religious activities of leaders, such as performing sacrifices before battle or crossing borders (for example Agesilaus sacrificing before leaving Sparta,
Hellenica 3.4.3, compared with Cyrus at
Cyropaedia 1.6.1), and using divination to determine the course of action.
What is known about the cult of Mithras/Mithra in the historical Cyrus’ empire?
How does Artabazus’ request for a share of Cyrus’ attention fit Xenophon’s theme of the distribution of goods?
Throughout the Cyropaedia the correct distribution of goods, one of the primary concerns of Greek political thought, has been a continuing theme. This concern extends back to the start of Greek literature, where the correct distribution of war booty in the form of female captives triggers the dispute between Agamemnon and Achilles that opens and drives the plot of the Iliad (see Donlan 1982 on reciprocity in the
Iliad). The goods to be distributed vary – booty (including both objects and captives), the rewards of battle, rewards for participating in military training (
Cyropaedia 2.1.22-23), and here, attention from Cyrus himself. In requesting that Cyrus’ attention be distributed among the various claimants on the grounds of desert or merit, and indeed long service to Cyrus seems to count for much in this reckoning, Artabazus echoes earlier discussions of this theme even if the goods to be distributed are different. Cyrus’ understanding of distribution, and attention to practical results rather than maintaining existing distributions, is emphasised in the story of the two boys and their cloaks (
Cyropaedia 1.3.16-17, see Danzig 2009 for an assessment of this episode’s contribution to Xenophon’s political thought).
What is the role of Chrysantas in this speech (Cyropaedia 7.55-56), and how is it consistent with his role elsewhere in the narrative?
Chrysantas acts throughout the Cyropaedia as a representative of the Persian aristocratic values of equality and frugality. He is therefore a foil to the Median values represented by Artabazus; by opposing the Persian and Median supporters of Cyrus, Xenophon can represent two positions from within Cyrus’ group of close supporters. Differences between Artabazus’ and Chrysantas’ responses to Cyrus’ proposals are therefore significant. But Chrysantas, as a Persian, also represents Cyrus’ more closely than other characters; he is presented as an intelligent and thoughtful man, qualities that counterbalance his short stature and lack of physical strength (
Cyropaedia 2.3.5-6), which in turn demonstrate his inferiority to Cyrus, who is both intelligent and handsome.
Chrysantas first appeared among Cyrus’ Persian friends during his first campaign (
Cyropaedia 2.2.17), and thereafter plays a significant role (Due 1989:70-73). Cyrus’ first discussion of distribution is with Chrysantas, after Chrysantas raises the question about whether the distribution of booty and other rewards should be made according to merit (
Cyropaedia 2.2.18). In this discussion among the peers, Chrysantas opposes the idea that Cyrus should hold a more public discussion about this issue, and suggests that he should simply announce his intentions, as the army as a whole would not vote for an unequal distribution.
When such a discussion does take place (
Cyropaedia 2.3.5) Chrysantas supports Cyrus’ plans. Chrysantas often performs the function of explaining or expanding Cyrus’ ideas, whether the plan to retrain the Persian peers as cavalry, or this present plan to set up a new form of government; Gera describes him as ‘the enthusiastic “seconder” of new proposals put forward by Cyrus’ (Gera 1993:184). It is Chrysantas who compares the Persians to centaurs (
Cyropaedia 4.2.15-21), who encourages Cyrus to exhort his men before battle (
Cyropaedia 3.3.49-53), and who also displays intelligence and initiative as a military leader.
Why does Cyrus’ need for a home require debate?
Cyrus’ move into a palace reflects the change in his status marked by his desire to present himself as a king. It therefore takes on a symbolic importance as well as causing practical changes in the way in which Cyrus will interact with the former homotimoi. Palace building projects featured in the works of several Achaemenid kings, including Darius I at Persepolis, and Artaxerxes II at Susa.
Is there any archaeological evidence for a royal palace at Babylon, or mention of it in other ancient sources?
How does moving into the palace mark a significant change for Cyrus?
Apart from his stay with his grandfather Astyages in Media (
Cyropaedia 1.3-4), Cyrus has not lived in a large-scale royal court. In Persia as a boy he was trained with the other boys, and the simple Persian lifestyle was not that of the luxurious Median or Assyrian court. For much of the narrative of the Cyropaedia Cyrus has been on campaign, living in temporary encampments.
By showing Cyrus adopting a permanent home (albeit one from which he will travel frequently as part of the annual royal progress), Xenophon signals the significant change in Cyrus’ objectives and methods, from campaigning and conquest to maintaining rule over those already subjected to it. Cyrus’ aims and desires may not have changed since the start of his campaign, but in separating the period of conquest and the period of rule Xenophon is making a typically Greek distinction between gaining rule and preserving it (cf.
Aristotle Politics books 5-6). All the changes underscore the change in Cyrus’ mode of rule.
Why does Cyrus sacrifice to Hestia and Zeus?
By sacrificing to Hestia, goddess of the hearth, before other gods, Cyrus may be indicating that this is his permanent home; likewise, Zeus as the god of hospitality may be being invoked. However, when these gods are paired in the sacrifices that precede Cyrus’ first departure from Persia on campaign (
Cyropaedia 1.6.1), they are both described as patroos, ancestral gods. So it is much more likely that Xenophon is using the Greek names to refer to non-Greek gods, as implied by their ancestral status.
The identification of Hestia with Atar (Fire, in Zoroastrianism at once both a freestanding divinity and a symbol of Ahuramazda) is made by several scholars; see Boyce 1982:40, Boyce 1982:209-15, Jong 1997:346.
What is the role of the Magi in Persian religion?
Are there any parallels in other Greek texts for this section on the organisation of royal courts?
The organisation of royal courts was a typical theme of Greek historiography, providing authors with the opportunity to describe a different political system from that of the Greek polis, and also to analyse its operations, strengths and weaknesses.
As with much of this section of the Cyropaedia, Herodotus’ account of the rise to power of the founder of the Median empire, Deioces (
Herodotus Histories 1.97-102), serves as a template or a starting point (see Thomas 2012). Herodotus describes the initial building of a city and its citadel, and the invention of court protocols within that citadel. Xenophon follows the latter part of the model fairly closely, but with a significant difference; while Herodotus’ Deioces secludes himself to prevent his friends from seeing that he is not their superior (and therefore lacks authority to rule them), Xenophon has made Cyrus’ superiority to and distinction from his friends clear from the outset of the work; seclusion is not required to maintain his authority, and Xenophon, through the narrative of this chapter, provides a different justification or rationalisation for the practices of the Persian court.
Investigations into the historicity of Herodotus’ account of Deioces have concluded that Herodotus’ account of the Median empire is highly stylised (Brown 1988; Helm 1981; Sancisi-Weerdenburg 1988; Wiesehöfer 2004). Xenophon’s account too may serve its programmatic and argumentative function more carefully than any descriptive function, although his continuing references to recent events and continuing practices suggest an intention to combine the two functions.
There is also an account of the Persian court in the
Pseudo-Aristotelian De Mundo 398a.20-30, but this text probably is of a later date, most likely the first century CE.
Is this account of the Achaemenid court and its practices historically accurate?
While the broad strokes of depiction the institutions and practices of Cyrus’ empire (
Cyropaedia 7.5.37-8.6.23) match Xenophon’s other accounts of Achaemenid rule, including the
Anabasis and the account of Persian government in the
Oeconomicus, there is a great deal of detail omitted that is known from other contemporary accounts, documentary sources and material evidence, as noted by Christopher Tuplin (Tuplin 1990, Tuplin 1996; see also Tuplin 2004). Apart from omissions, there may also be some anachronism in the account, with Xenophon’s description of Cyrus’ acts of foundation conflating the actions and practices of several later kings.
Xenophon wavers between documenting practices and constructing a didactic paradigm; it may not always be possible to identify which process is uppermost in any single example, especially when symbolic practices such as the establishment of bodyguards are being described. Tuplin 1990 and Tuplin 2013 argue that Xenophon is aware of but does not understand some of the details, such as the use of eunuchs, but is nonetheless particularly interested in the phenomenon of kingship. Concern over the accuracy of detail, or the omission of details of Cyrus’ administration, should not divert attention from Xenophon’s construction of a model of kingship.
What symbolic role do bodyguards play in accounts of kingship and tyranny?
The idea that tyrants required bodyguards is central to the ‘despotic template’ (Dewald 2003), and is established by Herodotus in his account of Deioces the founder of the Median Empire (
Herodotus Histories 1.98.2). The unpopularity of tyrants, and their lack of authority, meant that they either were, or imagined themselves to be, under continuous threat of attack and assassination. Xenophon’s Hiero expresses this problem; a tyrant feels least safe at home, the place where everyone else feels most safe (
Hiero 2.9-10). Hostility to him from both his own courtiers, as rivals to his rule, and the populace as a whole, mean that his security can never be guaranteed. Kings, ruling with consent and in the interests of the ruled, should not need bodyguards and their presence may be suggestive of tyranny.
The presence of a bodyguard emphasises the distance between ruler and ruled, and the possibility of violence and conflict between them. It makes visible the lack of trust and community that characterises tyranny as a deviant form of rule. For Athenians, the most familiar example would be Peisistratos, tyrant of Athens, who receives a bodyguard after using trickery to gain control of the city (
Herodotus Histories 1.59).
Why is the king most at risk at home?
Palace intrigue and dynastic conflict were thought to be an ever-present danger for monarchs, whether they were formally identified as kings or tyrants;
Ctesias’ Persica documents such intrigues within the Achaemenid court. Xenophon lists occasions when the king is most at risk; readers might identify these with other examples, such as the murder of Agamemnon after he returned inside his palace, representing the risk to the king from within his own household and from aristocratic faction (
Aeschylus Agamemnon 1343-97).
For ordinary citizens, the household represents a safe space distinct from the public space. But for kings and tyrants whose rule represents the conflation of royal household with the city or state, creating such truly private space is difficult.
The palace holds other dangers too. Cyrus’ earlier response to Astyages’ behaviour in his Median court (for example,
Cyropaedia 1.3.10, when he expresses concern that Astyages’ drunkenness means that he has been poisoned), combined with the worries about drunkenness expressed in
Cyropaedia 8.8, suggest that the dangers within the palace are both internal and external to the ruler himself.
How unusual is Cyrus in his willingness to make use of eunuchs?
For Greek historians the eunuchs of the Persian court were a barbarian phenomenon illustrative of tyranny and contempt for the individual as potential citizen, yet also the objects of orientalist fascination.
The utilitarian arguments that Xenophon gives to Cyrus for the employment of eunuchs as his personal bodyguard are unusual among Greek texts of this period, but he is attempting to explain a historical phenomenon that was in conflict with his and his readers’ values. Gera notes how Xenophon focalises the thought on eunuchs through Cyrus’ perspective, distancing the author from the opinions expressed by using a range of third-person verbs to express opinion (Gera 1993:287-88; in this section ἔγνω, ἡγήσατο, ἡγεῖτο). See also Azoulay 2000 for an analysis of Xenophon’s interpretation of the role of eunuchs in Cyrus’ courts.
Herodotus describes the way that barbarians trust eunuchs (
Cyropaedia 8.105), within an anecdote in which the eunuch Hermotimus takes revenge on his captor and castrator by mutilating them in turn.
For Ctesias, eunuchs were a feature of the Persian court that he documents in detail, for example giving the names of the chief eunuchs of each new king; many such servants are named in the fragments of
Ctesias Persica; see Llewellyn-Jones and Robson 2010, and Llewellyn-Jones 2013. Biblical accounts of Persia also discuss eunuchs; see
Hebrew Bible Esther 2.8-18.
Were the eunuchs really castrated?
The question of whether the eunuchs of the Persian court were castrated or not has divided historians, in a continuing debate which throws into question orientalist assumptions attributed to both ancient and modern historians.
One question, raised by Pierre Briant, is whether the Persian word translated by Greek historians as eunuch actually meant castrato, or whether two separate terms, one indicating the castrated slaves, the other the title of a powerful role at court, were conflated by the Greeks. Briant doubts that all the individuals referred to as “eunuchs” in the classical literature were, in fact, emasculated. According to him, the abundance of so-called “eunuchs” reflects a misunderstanding of a Mesopotamian court title sa reshi shari, “he who is stationed at the head of the king” (Briant 2002:268-77).
Other historians point to the wide range of ancient sources that describe eunuchs as part of the royal court in a range of ancient cultures; see Llewellyn-Jones 2013, for both a selection of sources and assessment of the continuing historiographical debate on this issue.
This question becomes significant because of the powerful status attributed to some eunuchs in the court hierarchy. He also questions questions whether the typical origins of eunuchs, captured as boys, castrated and sold to the court, would fit them to take on the powerful roles held by some eunuch courtiers – such as Gadatas, as Cyrus’ most trusted personal servant and organiser of his household. He argues that the figure of the powerful but dangerous eunuch courtier is one imagined by Greek historians (Briant 2002:168-71), such as the story of Bagoas (
Diodorus Siculus 17.5.3-5), Artapanus and Spamitres (
Ctesias F13) and the eunuchs who support and foment palace conspiracies in Plutarch’s accounts of Persia (for example
Plutarch Artaxerxes 28-30).
Is it necessarily the case that eunuchs need masters to protect them?
Xenophon suggests that eunuchs need a master as a patron, because they are held in such low esteem (ἄδοξοι) by others that they need the protection to prevent others from taking advantage of them. But, he goes on to say, eunuchs can be outstanding in their faithfulness to their masters. Although Xenophon does not expand upon these thoughts here, they resemble to some extent the arguments advanced by Aristotle in the Politics that some men are slaves by nature (
Aristotle Politics 1.5.1254a17-1255a3) and the best life they can lead is that guided by a good master. Xenophon’s eunuchs, although not in a natural condition (since they are castrated), display the lack of full capacity that characterises Aristotle’s natural slaves. So although the eunuchs’ condition resembles the condition that Aristotle identifies as a natural predisposition to slavery, it is not a natural one.
Xenophon makes no comment on the processes by which the palace slaves, and those who serve other characters, became eunuchs; but in the case of the elite warrior Gadatas, castrated as a punishment at the behest of the young Assyrian king (
Cyropaedia 5.2.28), his achievements and loyalty in supporting Cyrus against the Assyrians (beginning at
Cyropaedia 5.3.15-19) earn him similar respect to Cyrus’ other elite friends, and he is treated differently from the palace slave eunuchs.
However, access to both the public and private parts of the court complex, and their role as servants and messengers for powerful royal women, gave some eunuchs unusual power within the court.
Why does Xenophon compare eunuchs to animals?
Xenophon conceives of a complicated hierarchy of humans and animals, in which some humans and some animals are valued more highly than others. The situation of the eunuchs of Cyrus’ court provides a problematic test case for this hierarchy of species, status and gender.
Xenophon uses animal comparisons to point out situations where an individual acts contrary to the human gender norms he identifies. For humans, there is a sharp division of labour by gender – women work inside the home, men outside it (
Oeconomicus 7.22-32) – but some animals provide counter-examples for this. Female hunting hounds are as capable as male ones, if not more so, when it comes to following scents (for Xenophon the point is too obvious to make explicitly; in the Cynegeticus he always refers to hounds using feminine word forms, for example in describing the two kinds of hounds, Castorian and vulpine (
Cynegeticus 3.1, αἱμὲνκαστόριαι, αἱδὲἀλωπεκίδες).
In the same way, the conventional wisdom regarding eunuchs that Xenophon identifies is that they lack the essential capacities of men, such as strength and courage (see
Cyropaedia 65 below). Again, prestigious animals such as hounds and horses provide counter-examples; castrated animals are as serviceable as others, and their lack of extremes of temper is an advantage not a weakness. Xenophon’s accounts of animals contain a detailed hierarchy; see Louis L’Allier (L’Allier 2004). Patterns of gender in Greek discussions of animals are analysed by Christiana Franco (Franco 2014).
But this comparison with animals may seem to dehumanise or devalue the eunuchs (see Tamiolaki 2010:314). As slaves they are being treated as living tools, versions of the κτῆμά τι ἔμψυχον (
Aristotle Politics 1.4.1253b32) and ὀργάνων… τὰ δὲ ἔμψυχα (
Aristotle Politics 1.4.1253b28). Xenophon also analogises animals and slaves in other descriptions of Cyrus’ behaviour as king; slaves taken on hunting expeditions are fed and watered along with the beasts of burden, and do not participate in the deprivation through hunger and thirst that develops enkrateia in the free men whom Cyrus is training (
Is there any evidence for eunuchs serving as soldiers?
This passage appears to run against the depiction of eunuchs as located within the royal household, suggesting that they maintain a capability for masculine activities such as fighting on foot and on horseback. The only eunuch identified as participating in war in the Cyropaedia is the castrated prince Gadatas.
Do slave eunuchs participate in hunting?
Xenophon here suggests that eunuchs display the same abilities in war and hunting shown by other men. This does not fit well with the division between free men and slaves as participants in hunting set up by Cyrus (
Cyropaedia 8.1.43-44), but does fit the assessment of Gadatas as a heroic and capable individual despite his mutilated status (although, in being castrated as an adult, Gadatas had not been excluded from the education and training of an elite male). Xenophon may mean that slave eunuchs can perform the role of servants in hunting expeditions, but Cyrus’ prescription for official court hunting expeditions is that slaves are to be denied participation at a level that will develop their capacity for endurance and virtue. For Xenophon, enkrateia is a virtue suitable for the elite and specifically for rulers (see
Memorabilia 2.1, and comment on
Why does Xenophon emphasise that eunuchs provided Cyrus with bodily/personal service?
Service to the bodies of others is treated by Xenophon as servile in nature. He describes the eunuchs as θεραπευτῆρας to Cyrus; this links his court back to the arrangements of Astyages’ court, where the servants to whom Cyrus distributes food are identified as θεραπευταῖς (
Cyropaedia 1.3.7), and one is identified as providing service (θεραπεύεις,
Who are the people who bear Cyrus ill-will (τῶν δυσμενῶς ἐχόντων)?
Cyrus clearly has enemies, although he has just defeated the major one, the king of the Assyrians. In the new palace framework, hostility to Cyrus may come from within the empire, whether from subjects outside the palace or courtiers within it. The suggestion here, that it is a large number who are hostile to him (τὸ πλῆθος τῶν δυσμενῶςἐχόντων), might suggest threats from subjects outside the palace, in which case a larger and more militarised bodyguard than that provided by the eunuchs might be necessary.
The idea that Cyrus is under constant threat of violence heightens the concern that his new rule is a form of tyranny.
Why does Cyrus choose the Persians to provide his elite troops and second layer of protection? And how consistent is Xenophon’s description of them with other ancient sources?
Who makes up the 10,000 soldiers for Cyrus’ second bodyguard?
The number of soldiers in Cyrus’ elite regiment, who provide a first line protection for the king, is given as 10,000 by both Xenophon and other sources including Herodotus; in his later procession (
Cyropaedia 8.3.15-16) they are deployed in smaller groups. Herodotus also describes the 10,000 participating in Xerxes’ procession (
Cyropaedia 7.41.1-2) but the relationship between the 10,000 and smaller groups of 1,000, such as those distinguished by gold decorative spear bases in the shape of apples, is unclear. Other historians also describe these adornments of the elite group of 1000 within the bodyguard (
Heraclides of Cyme FGrH 689 F1,
Aelian VH 9.3). These melophoroi, men of particularly high rank, were specifically charged with the personal protection of the king.
Herodotus also describes the process of constant replacement to ensure that the 10,000 were kept up to strength as the reason that they were called the ‘Immortals’ (
Cyropaedia 126.96.36.199). Joseph Wiesehöfer notes some dispute as to whether this title was a Greek misinterpretation of the original Persian name (Wiesehöfer 1996:91-92, plus bibliographical note Wiesehöfer 1996:272).
How does paying for the guard help keep Babylon under control?
The guard of the 10,000 helps to maintain order and protect Cyrus in two ways. Firstly, it provides physical protection for him, both at home and abroad; soldiers surround him wherever he goes. Secondly, the cost of maintaining the guard falls to the citizens of Babylon, and thus impoverishes them into submission.
The deliberate impoverishment of Babylon by the Achaemenid kings is alluded to in other sources. In his controversial tax register of Darius I’s satrapies,
Herodotus Histories 3.92 has the Babylonians pay the unusually heavy annual assessment of a thousand talents of silver and five hundred boy-eunuchs. In addition, Babylon had to provide for the royal court fourth months of the year. In another passage (
Herodotus Histories 1.192), Herodotus mentions the great burden placed on the people of Babylonia in providing for the satrap Tritantaechmes. For the interpretation of this data as evidence of ‘ruinous taxation,’ see Olmstead 1948:293. It should also be noted that on the Achaemenid tomb reliefs at
Naqsh-e Rostam, the representatives of all the subject lands, except for Babylonia, are shown bearing arms. The right to bear arms in the presence of the king was a sign of honor and trust, ‘so that the unarmed Babylonian represents an act of deliberate humiliation,’ perhaps reflecting the resentment of Darius I and Xerxes I toward the Babylonians for revolting on several occasions between 522 BCE and 482 BCE. See von Gall 2009.
Why does Cyrus identify the practice of virtue (τὴντῆςἀρετῆςἄσκησιν) as the key to preserving his rule over so many people?
Cyrus reflects that his forces are outnumbered by those whom they must keep in subjection. However, in a broad application of the principles of geometric equality, in which distributions are made by proportionately with amount of a quality possessed (whether wealth or a character virtue), a few excellent men can dominate the less virtuous many through having greater strength in total.
It is the possession of virtue of pre-eminent quality and quantity that both entitles the king to rule and ensures that he is able to do so effectively.
For a detailed account of the workings of ‘geometric equality’, see
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 5.3, on geometric equality and distributive justice. Further detailed analysis of the principles and mechanisms of geometric and arithmetic (retributive justice, in Aristotle’s model) in Greek thought, is to be found in Harvey 1965, Harvey 1966 and, with specific reference to Xenophon, Lévy 2006.
In practical terms, excellence in the skills of ruling, as well as possession of practical virtues, will be necessary to govern effectively, and these practical skills and capabilities are encompassed by the term aretē. See Nadon 2001:120-30.
What does Xenophon mean by virtue (aretē)?
The idea of virtue or excellence is central to Xenophon’s political and ethical thought without its precise nature being fully explored. In some contexts Xenophon’s virtue appears to be a particular practical capability, while it also has an ethical component. It is distinct from Plato’s exploration of virtue as knowledge.
Virtue is a capacity to perform actions well that is enhanced and preserved through use. In this respect, it is developed through habituation just as much as Aristotle’s character virtues are. While Aristotle speaks of habit (ēthos) and habituation, Xenophon tends to refer to virtue as requiring and being gained through practice (askēsis). What this practice of virtue might be and how an individual might participate in it is a theme that appears frequently in the Memorabilia (for example at
Memorabilia 3.9.1-3). Virtue and its practice and maintenance are particularly important in book III of the Memorabilia, which explores the qualities needed to compete for leadership roles within Athens.
Xenophon’s conception of virtue as a largely practical ability, and as the means to achieving the desired end, whether stable government or individual fulfilment, has been criticised by many commentators as evidence of a utilitarian ethical philosophy. But the centrality of virtue to Xenophon’s thought makes it difficult to align him with modern utilitarianism; perhaps it would be more useful to use Xenophon’s ethics to reconsider the nature of ancient virtue ethics, and whether they are compatible with or related to utilitarian approaches to ethics, in a way that the opposed modern ethical systems of utilitarianism and virtue ethics are not.
Did Socrates influence Xenophon’s thought on virtue?
Much of Xenophon’s writing on virtue is to be found in his Socratic works, which Xenophon represents as a record of Socrates’ thought and conversation. Thus readers of
Xenophon Symposium and
Memorabilia encounter many ethical ideas attributed to Socrates, as well as some, such as hedonistic and individualistic ideas expressed by characters such as Aristippus (
Memorabilia 2.1), that Socrates argues against (see Dorion 2008).
Whether Xenophon’s Socratic writings capture the authentic thought of the historical Socrates has been much debated; the differing interests of and dissimilarities between ideas expressed by Plato’s character Socrates and Xenophon’s character Socrates led Xenophon’s depiction of Socrates to be dismissed or valued less highly than Plato’s (Joël 1893; Vlastos 1983). However, more recent revaluations have shown the sophistication of Xenophon’s depiction of Socrates’ thought and of the intellectual world of the Socratics (Dorion 2006, Dorion 2013; Morrison 1987).
Involving the peers: why does Cyrus select this audience for this speech?
On his military campaigns Cyrus has made many speeches to the peers, or to select groups of leaders. In a sense, the cultural policies that Cyrus wants to institute represent a continuing campaign, and the peers will play their part in delivering it. There is also historical evidence that the Persian aristocracy played an important role in the administration of the empire, and that the king was reliant on their participation: see Briant 2002:302-54.
The problem of maintaining virtue in the new society is very much one for the elite, those who interact with Cyrus and deliver his rule across the empire. For the vast majority of subjects, the achievement of virtue is not as important as that of the obedience generated by wonder and fear of the great king. But Cyrus here argues that for those who have a share in implementing his rule and governing his empire, continuing devotion to the practice of virtue will be important. The final section of the Cyropaedia, documenting the failure of Persian values and of virtue in the Persian elite and Cyrus’ heirs, emphasises this. Cyrus’ emphasis on virtue in addressing the peers foreshadows the threat of decline that will be realised in
What does Cyrus achieve with this policy speech (
The final section of this chapter contains a long policy speech by Cyrus, addressing the issue of the maintenance of his rule and empire through the exercise of virtue by Cyrus himself and those for whom he sets the example. It serves as an introduction to the more detailed exploration of the imperial institutions and practices established by Cyrus that will form the bulk of the remainder of the work (see Mueller-Goldingen 1995:218 for an analysis of the structure of the speech).
This speech is answered by one from Chrysantas (
Cyropaedia 8.1.1-5), in which Chrysantas praises Cyrus as a father to his people and encourages his other friends to support his new regime. Bodil Due (Due 1989:96-100) observes that these two speeches provide a mirror scene to the policy discussion between Cyrus and Cambyses in
Cyropaedia 1.6.2-46; however, the dialogic structure of that earlier encounter is not replicated. We do not see Chrysantas learning through dialogue as Cyrus himself did; he simply accepts the arguments made by Cyrus and encourages others to do likewise.
What kind of law is Cyrus invoking here?
Cyrus claims that it is an established universal and eternal nomos that both persons and property captured in war belong to their captors as property, and could be disposed of at will. There is a strong connection between war and slavery in Greek literature, such as the concerns expressed by Homer’s Hector about the fate of his wife Andromache if he is killed (
Iliad 6.440-465), dramatised in Euripides’ Trojan Women where the captured Trojan women lament their future as slaves.
The idea that those conquered in battle became the property of the conquerors was well established in Greek culture, though rarely the subject of explicit discussion (Ducrey 1968). It becomes more pressing in Greek sources when the conquered are themselves Greek, although Thucydides notes that the Athenians and some others of those defeated at Syracuse were treated differently from other captives, who were sold (
Thucydides Histories 7.87.4), possibly by being ransomed rather than sold (Hornblower 2008:743).
Why does Cyrus reject luxury?
Cyrus appears to reject the trappings of the luxurious lifestyle associated with the “despotic template.” Xenophon has made much use of the contrast between the “hard” lifestyle of the Persians and the “soft” life of the Medes, partly to illustrate the political and ethical differences he gives to the two cultures. In living a hard, Persian life, Cyrus escapes from being easily categorised as an oriental despot.
Herodotus’ Cyrus makes similar claims at the close of the Histories (
Herodotus Histories 9.122), encouraging the Persians to maintain the traditional “hard” values that enable them to conquer other peoples. The “soft” life carries the risk of defeat and subjugation (see note in Cyrus’ Paradise on
Cyropaedia 7.5.67, and Gorman and Gorman 2014; Rood 2015).
What use does Xenophon make of the “virtue as craft (technē)” analogy here?
The analogy between virtue and craft (technē) was a feature of ancient ethical thought, particularly apparent in Plato’s Socratic works, and also in Xenophon’s own Socratic writings; although the analogy appears in many of Plato’s works, there is a particularly full exploration in
Plato Gorgias, which uses the analogy to explore the way in which sophists display skills and teach them. Xenophon uses the analogy extensively; at
Memorabilia 4.2.6, Socrates contrasts recognition of the practice required to excel in productive crafts with the assumption that politics and administration are skills that do not require training and practice.
By conceptualising abstract qualities (such as virtue or knowledge) as a craft (typical crafts invoked in this context are medicine, navigation and expertise in physical training) a model of its possible development within the individual, and a process by which it could be passed from individual to individual, could be developed and explored. See Irwin 1977, and Roochnik 1998 for two interpretations of Plato’s use of the craft analogy.
Both Xenophon and Plato conceptualise kingship itself as a craft in their Socratic writings (see Dorion 2004 for an exploration of the different ways that they do this, and the way in which the craft of kingship is related to other crafts), but in both the Cyropaedia and
Plato Statesman each writer moves away from the exploration of the royal craft (basilikē technē) to a closer investigation of the personal qualities of the ruler.
Here, Cyrus identifies the typical Xenophontic virtues of sōphrosunē and enkrateia, along with physical strength, as attributes that, like a craft, require practice and attention to maintain (see Sandridge 2012:63-4; Dorion 2013:103-05).
Do other sources share Cyrus’ view that preserving an empire is harder than winning it?
Cyrus claims that it will be harder to maintain his new empire than it was to win it. While creating a new empire involves processes of change, maintaining an empire requires resistance to change. While there are several different Greek views of political change (particularly whether it is a linear or a cyclical process), most historians and philosophers think that change is inevitable, and will usually be for the worst. From Hesiod’s myth of the ages (
Hesiod Works and Days 106-201) comes the view that there is a long-term process of decline, in which the current age (the Age of Iron) is one of particular conflict among humans. From Herodotus comes the idea (drawing on Presocratic ideas of change) that history is marked by constant change, in which cities alternate between periods of expansion and decline (
Herodotus Histories 1.5).
In Herodotus’ histories, kings who inherit rather than conquer their kingdoms fear being seen as potentially weak: Xerxes, as heir to the great king Darius, makes the need to expand rather than simply manage explicit in announcing his reasons for the expedition against the Greeks (
Herodotus Histories 7.8.a1-2), and a similar concern is expressed to Cambyses (Herodotus Histories 3.34.4). Plutarch’s Alexander also expresses the thought that he would rather inherit a less established regime from his father and have more opportunities for successful expansion himself (
Plutarch Alexander 5).
Further claims about the problems of maintaining empire appear in Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War, in which Athens struggles to maintain its empire of tribute-paying poleis. Pericles’ final speech to the Athenians examines this issue (
Thucydides Histories 2.60-64), considering the benefits of fighting to maintain the freedom and power that Athens enjoys, and the risks of losing them.
How does one practise virtue?
The idea that virtue is an action or set of actions that can be practised is central to Xenophon’s ethical thought, and related to Aristotle’s idea of virtue as achieved or acquired and developed through habituation. For Xenophon, specific tasks are particularly effective at developing and maintaining virtue within the individual; Xenophon connects physical and intellectual virtues. The paradigmatic activity for practising virtue is hunting, which combines physical exercise, craft skills, and endurance, to develop the prime virtues of sōphrosunē and enkrateia, respectively mental and physical virtues (see Due 1989:170-81; Sandridge 2012:63).
Participation in military training is another route to practising virtue. It involves obedience, exertion, and the experience of being placed in an order.
Does being better than the ruled give you authority to rule them, in Athenian political thought?
It seems axiomatic for Cyrus that the worse should accede to rule by the better. This theory is part of the virtue model of kingship, but also fits into broader structures in Greek thought in which ruling was thought to be the province of the better (as in the idealisation of aristocracy as a form of government, the rule by the best men).
Political authority and political legitimation were not highly developed concepts in Greek political thought (unlike the Romans’ auctoritas). Authority might be based on class (as in aristocracy) or simply the exertion of power and force (as in tyranny). The priesthoods included in some roles, such as the kingship of Sparta, might also confer authority on their holders.
Why does Cyrus restrict access to knowledge of the arts of war (πολεμικῆςἐπιστήμης)?
Cyrus argues that, while he and his immediate subordinates should share in the hard work and the hardships of campaign that they expect from those who serve them in war, they should not share scientific knowledge of military expertise with them, as well as limiting their access to arms. Again, this expresses the realpolitik aspects of Cyrus’ thought; by maintaining themselves in armed readiness, but restricting others’ access to arms, the homotimoi can easily maintain their rule by force (Nadon 2001:57). It is also similar to the restrictions on participation in hunting for slaves (
This section has a Spartan flavour, in that the participation of non-Spartiates in warfare, and the problematic balance between the need for auxiliary troops and the risks of arming and training non-Spartiates was a continuing difficulty for Sparta. However, the point expressed here is more a general and philosophical one than a specific comment on Spartan arrangements (see Tuplin 1994 for a detailed investigation of the Spartan flavour of the Cyropaedia).
What does Cyrus’ removal of arms from subordinates and the conquered imply about their access to self-fulfilment (eudaimonia)?
Cyrus acknowledges that the possession of military skill and equipment provides the means to achieving freedom and self-fulfilment, and that they are gifts of the gods.
But his desire to limit access to both the tools and the knowledge of war, as instruments for gaining freedom and happiness, also provides evidence that the cascade of virtue from Cyrus as paradeigma to his subjects (or at least campaign forces, to whom as general he should have some visibility) is limited. Cyrus’ subsidiary forces and subjects in this new vision must exist without full knowledge and with limited access to arms; they are in this respect the opposite of the Greek hoplite as arms-bearing citizen with the right to participate in citizen assemblies and political decision-making.
That eudaimonia can cascade down from the ruler to those excluded from knowledge and war is suggested by the acceptance of Croesus to his new situation after his defeat by Cyrus (
Cyropaedia 7.2.26-28). Croesus, forbidden to participate in war, expresses the view that he will be happy, in that he will have the life identified by others as most happy (μακαριωτάτηνβιοτήν,
Cyropaedia 7.2.27). He will be in the same position that his wife once enjoyed (
Cyropaedia 7.2.28), of benefitting from the efforts of others. Thus the subjugated warrior king is effectively feminised, but at the cost of losing his identity as a male participating in political life on an equal basis.
What does the ban on holding weapons imply for the participation of slaves in war?
The interpretation of this passage has been controversial. Is the question of restricting access to weapons and military expertise raised here by Cyrus specifically related to this context of the subjugation of the Medes, a broader philosophical point, or does it relate to other historical contexts such as the distinction within Sparta between Spartiate soldiers and subjugated peoples?
Peter Hunt suggests that even if the workers (ἐργάτας) mentioned here are not explicitly slaves, slaves are included a fortiori in the exclusion (Hunt 1998:147-49; Melina Tamiolaki suggests that the word implies agricultural labourers, Tamiolaki 2010:196 n.207). However, Hunt goes on to observe that the “military exclusivity” implied by this passage is at odds with Xenophon’s experience of war, particularly the Spartan use of Helots and the non-citizen Neodameis in warfare (for example, the use of Helots in 370/69 to defend Sparta against invasion,
Hellenica 6.5.28-29, Hunt 1998:170-75), and his proposal that Athens should use slave soldiers to defend Attica (
Poroi 4.42, Hunt 1998:175-77). The use of slaves to crew the Athenian ships at Arginusae in 406 BCE is another example (
Hellenica 1.6.24; Hunt 1998:89-95; Tamiolaki 2010:265-68). But this military deployment of non-citizens was deeply problematic for the citizen-soldier ideology of the Greek polis (see Cartledge 1987:40).
What are the benefits of ponos?
For Xenophon, ponos is an important means by which virtue can developed and maintained. Undertaking ponos is the particular concern of the gentleman. Much of the work identified as ponos is discretionary, leisure activities involving physical activity and training, rather than agricultural labour required for the maintenance of life.
However, the leisure activities identified as ponos do have a practical purpose in training for war, which Xenophon personifies as ‘the most loving of ponos’ (
Cyropaedia 7.5.47). Ponos prepares the gentleman to display excellence in war, whether in his own physical activity on the battlefield or in coordinating and commanding the efforts of others. The good leader displays capability in ponos in enduring the hardships of war, leading from the front and engaging in hard work, a recurrent theme in
Xenophon Anabasis (see Hunt 1998:149-53).
Physical toil for subsistence does not seem to count as ponos in Xenophon’s categorisation; while aristocratic leisure hunting is valorised as ponos (throughout the Cyropaedia, and in the treatise on hunting, the Cynegeticus), trapping animals for food does not count as ponos in that it does not develop virtue in the same way.
See Johnstone 1994 and Sandridge 2012:60-63 for more on the ideology and practice of ponos. Xenophon’s views on ponos can be linked to the thought of later Cynic philosophers, and the role of Antisthenes, fore-runner of the Cynics, in his Socratic works suggests his sympathy with the views that would become those of the Cynics (see Tsouna-McKirahan 1994 for an investigation of the links between Socratic thinkers, the Cynics and the Cyrenaics).
How do hunger and thirst function as themes in the Cyropaedia?
Cyrus suggests here (
Cyropaedia 7.5.80-81) that there is a benefit to enduring hunger and thirst. Deprivation from food and drink is an important feature of the endurance training that is part of the military training that contributes to the development of personal virtue; both as boys and as young soldiers, the young Persians are encouraged to go without food or with limited food (
Cyropaedia 1.2.10). Such training encourages the development of enkrateia, physical self-restraint, and through it its mental counterpart sōphrosunē.
The ability to endure hunger and thirst also provides an opposite to the excessive satisfaction of those desires represented by the luxurious life-style that was a feature of the court of Astyages (
Cyropaedia 1.3.4-5) and will now be a feature of Cyrus’ court (
Cyropaedia 8.2.4-6, where the preparation of delicacies is presented as evidence for the proper use of the principle of specialisation in Cyrus’ court). Voluntary deprivation of food, in continued exercise and the maintenance of character virtues, will, Cyrus hopes, counteract the psychological and physical effects of living the luxurious life.
Training in endurance of hunger and thirst is part of the regime Cyrus institutes (for example on hunting expeditions,
Cyropaedia 8.1.43-44), but a training that is only available to the free; slaves may not participate in developing the qualities that are valued in free men. See Hunt 1998:149-53; Tamiolaki 2010:197-201.
What is andragathia?
Andragathia is an abstract quality or virtue that encompasses all the characteristics or virtues that a man described as kalos kagathos would possess or embody (see Nadon 2001:122), but it is a more explicitly gendered term. Cyrus has mentioned this specific quality before, as one that requires both education and the presence of examples, supported by exhortation, to be developed; it cannot be achieved without the mixture of both, as Cyrus says to Chrysantas when they discuss the value of speeches from the leader in exhorting troops on the battlefield to display excellence in fighting (
Why does Cyrus think that virtue is necessary for continuing happiness or good fortune?
Xenophon links virtue closely to eudaimonia, human flourishing or good fortune. Human flourishing is not possible without virtue. In part, this is because of the obvious falsity of the opposite claim, explored here; becoming less virtuous than before should not permit the maintenance of rule, nor should there be any link between vice and eudaimonia.
Again, the relationship between virtue and eudaimonia will be explored in greater detail by Aristotle in his ethical works; Aristotle
Nicomachean Ethics 1.8.1098b30-31 is broadly in agreement with the identification of the two, but cautions both that some consideration should be given to the role of fortune, and also to exploring the nature of virtue as a whole and its constituent character virtues, and the way in which the development of character virtues can contribute to living the good life and achieving the human goal of eudaimonia.
Why should the ruler be better than the subject?
The claim that ruler should be better than the subject (in terms of character virtues and of specific capabilities) underlies the virtue theory of kingship that Xenophon explores throughout the Cyropaedia. This speech contains one of its stronger statements in the work; the discussion of exhortation on the battlefield and its role in developing the virtue of the soldiers (
Cyropaedia 3.3.49-55) is another related one. But just as everything else from Cyrus’ campaigning days is changed in the new regime, the way in which virtue is developed needs to be reconsidered.
In this virtue theory, kings create and encourage virtue in their subjects by providing them with an example (paradeigma) for imitation (mimesis). In some versions of the theory, the subjects’ imitation of the king’s virtue can never reach the same quality or quantity, because the king’s excellence is of an extreme kind or possessed in an extreme quantity, so that the rational choice for the citizens in seeking eudaimonia (the happiness of the good life) is to subject themselves to the virtuous king in order to maximise their own eudaimonia. This version of the virtue kingship theory (named by Aristotle as pambasileia or complete kingship) is put forward by
Aristotle Politics 3.14-18 as a hypothetical alternative to the polis route to good judgement and flourishing, the achievement of good decision making through the wisdom of the multitude. While Xenophon does not identify Cyrus with the Aristotelian terminology of the pambasileus, he does present him as an individual with extraordinary capabilities that clearly mark him out from other men, whether his Persian peers, the kings and leaders that he encounters, or other examples of empire-founders from historical sources.
To what extent does Xenophon suggest it will be possible for the Persian peers to recreate their own society in the new court at Babylon?
Cyrus hopes that the Persian culture in which he was educated can be transplanted to the new environment of his court at Babylon. This includes the system of paideia in which his education began, and which forms the basis of his character.
The suspicion that Persian paideia may not survive transplantation to Babylon, and that Cyrus may no longer embody its principles, is perhaps suggested by Cyrus’ call to the Persians that he and they should mutually monitor each others’ behaviour for signs of deterioration. The failure of Persian paideia is identified by Plato as the cause of the decline of the Persian empire and the failure of Cyrus’ sons to live up to the example of their father (
Plato Laws 3.694a3-696b).
The preservation of Persian values in governing the empire was a frequent theme of Greek commentary on Persia; the courts of satraps were expected to maintain the same values (see Briant 2002:347).
Isocrates Panegyricus 152 refers to this: ‘Therefore, those of them who go down to the seashore and whom they call satraps do not appear unworthy of the education of their country and keep the same customs.’. Evidence that the Persian educational system may have influenced local aristocrats may be gleaned from the epitaph of the fourth century BCE Lycian dynast Arbinas, who professes to have been able “to ride, to shoot, and to tell the truth.” According to
Herodotus Histories 1.136, these were the hallmarks of the Persian educational system. Also note the emphasis that Darius I places on the Persian educational system in his tomb inscription (
Why does Xenophon mention sons here?
The closing section of this speech points to the problem of succession and inheritance. This was broadly recognised by Greek historiographers as a problem for monarchies (as with the good king, bad successor pairs in Herodotus’ histories, such as Cyrus and Cambyses). But within the context of the Cyropaedia it will be a specific problem, as Cyrus seeks to ensure the continuity of his empire and peace between his two sons, only one of whom can be the ruler.
Plato’s Athenian Stranger argues that Cyrus’ failure to educate his sons within Persian culture causes the failure of his empire (
Plato Laws 3.694a-696b). It seems most likely that this passage, part of a wider argument which contrasts Persian monarchy and Athenian democracy as extreme (and unstable) forms of government with the more stable mixed constitution exemplified by Sparta, is a response to Xenophon’s description of Cyrus’ regime in this part of the Cyropaedia. On this see Danzig 2003; Hirsch 1985:97-100, Hirsch 1985:40-47.
Do Achaemenid sources reflect this concern with sons and succession?
Achaemenid sources reflect a great deal of concern about taking care of future generations, and providing them with advice on how to behave. In the Bisitun Inscription, Darius I admonishes his successors and future generations (see, e.g.,
Behistun Inscription 64-69). Similarly, Xerxes admonishes ‘you who shall be hereafter’ to abide by Ahuramazda’s law in his
Daiva inscription XPh. For similar concern for youth as a recurring trope in the Iranian epics, see Sancisi-Weerdenberg 1985.
Cyrus presents the difficult situation in which his friends have found themselves as amusing. Humour and ridicule play an important role in Greek rhetoric and dialogue (Halliwell 1991). Humour of different kinds can denote inclusion within the membership of a group, or exclusion from it. Speakers hope not to appear ridiculous; in Platonic dialogue the stronger term katagelastos always denotes an unfavourable response, geloios a gentler and more inclusive form of humour (Vries 1985).
The gentle humour of Cyrus’ camp was noticed by Gobryas when he joined them (
Cyropaedia 5.2.18, see Halliwell 1991:280 on the mixture of pleasure and play in Cyrus’ laughter); humour and the insult of hubris were kept separate. Cyrus now suggests that the situation in which he and his friends now find themselves is laughable, in this more gentle sense, but his suggestion of humour in the situation appears to work to distance him from responsibility for it.
Why does Cyrus emphasise the extremes of pleasure (ἥδιστα, ἡδίστων) that can be obtained from the satisfaction of the basic appetites for food, drink and rest?
Would being kalos kagathos provide such a strong protection for the individual if it were exemplified by activities other than military training?
Perhaps one of the things that makes the Cyropaedia like a modern novel is, as said above, that it incorporates a variety of genres. There’s lots that could be done (has been done?) with the Cyropaedia and the way in which different genres intrude into each other. Bakhtin would be the obvious theorist to illuminate such a reading, perhaps looking at the way that Andrea Nightingale 2000 has applied his theories to Platonic dialogue (Genres in Dialogue). I’m intrigued that people here who like genre fiction perceive the Cyropaedia in terms of their favoured genres. I like experimental literary fiction, so I read the Cyropaedia as experimental literary fiction, where the character of interest is the narrator and the action of interest is the way that different elements are woven into the narrative.
I find the relationship between the two works and their receptions very interesting (but I may be in the very small group of people who finds both works entrancing). Reading the Cyropaedia through the same literary and theoretical lenses that are applied to
Tristram Shandy opens up a great many possibilities for appreciating the playful literary qualities of Xenophon’s work, which don’t always jump right out at you if you’re expecting him to be dull and worthy. So one option for promoting the Cyropaedia might be its avant-garde literary character, leading into its relationship with the ancient novel.
In addition to the ruling (in both senses) metaphors that Norman mentions, we might also account for Xenophon’s preference for monarchy, or at least the way the text appears to elevate monarchy, by considering the pressure exerted by Cyrus as Xenophon’s focus. That is, instead of seeing “the theoretical question of how to maintain the willing obedience of followers” as leading to Cyrus as an example, we might instead consider Cyrus’ life itself as the subject that gives rise to this theoretical frame – a frame which, given Cyrus’ success, naturally favors monarchy. To put it another way, Cyrus’ success as a monarch in the story overdetermines the political philosophy that frames the story. As Steven says regarding the constitutional debate, “monarchy has to win out, not because of the superiority of the arguments but because Darius did, in fact, become king.”
Jwilson (et. al.), could you elaborate on what qualifies something as a manual? I have thought about this issue in the context of agricultural and other didactic poetry, but not government. What are the characteristics of a manual? To what extent do positively-valued/exemplary portraits of leaders, governments, and societies “teach” even when they are not in manual-form?
The scarcity of books and education in the ancient world and the academic quality of Xenophon’s discourse should not lead us to assume that Xenophon was writing exclusively for an informed audience or that such an audience is the only one for whom his text is intelligible.
Vergil is less meaningful without
Homer (in the literal sense that fewer meanings are available), but not meaningless.Why are you opposed to different readerships?
I don’t know, but it might be interesting to compare
Herodotus Histories, who, in Rosalind Thomas 2000 (Herodotus in Context, 2000), sees human nature as implicated in the nature of the cosmos (or at least its other constituents).
A few reasons: (1) The system is interesting in its own right; Xenophon is participating in a long, Herodotean tradition of giving time and attention to foreign nomoi even when they appear “superfluous” to the main narrative. (2) Cyrus’s only partial participation in the curriculum wouldn’t stand out as much if we hadn’t been introduced to the abstraction first. (3) I’m not sure whether it’s problematic, but Cyrus’s unorthodox movement through the curriculum certainly creates a lot of suspense: can he transcend the disruption? What will be the effect on his character? The gap between Cyrus’s particular education and what his education should or could have been seems to me emblematic (especially with reference to the work’s title) of an underlying concern of the text, i.e., the relationship between abstraction — political philosophy, ethnographic description — and biography, the history of a particular life. How does a writer grapple with these different genres of writing, and how does a reader evaluate the data they provide? If we want to emulate Cyrus, do we have to adopt the Persian educational system? If we adopt this system, how much can we deviate from it? In this sense, it doesn’t make sense to speak of a philosophical “frame” around a biographical “story” as I did in my comment on
Cyropaedia 1.1. We see here how the intertwining and interdependence of different generic elements is what’s really interesting.
The text is sensitive to the feminizing and softening potential of Median luxury, including Median dress, but Cyrus’s generosity (
Cyropaedia 1.4.26, where he gives away the robe itself) and adherence to Persian hardiness and excellence (
Cyropaedia 1.5.1, where Cyrus, back in Persia, is initially suspected of corruption but finally accepted) seem to counteract this potential. Xenophon describes this dynamic explicitly at
Cyropaedia 8.8.15 (in Miller’s translation): “Furthermore, they are much more effeminate now than they were in Cyrus’s day. For at that time they still adhered to the old discipline and the old abstinence that they received from the Persians, but adopted the Median garb and Median luxury; now, on the contrary, they are allowing the rigour of the Persians to die out, while they keep up the effeminacy of the Medes.” This is a neat way of acknowledging the trope of “eastern luxury” without allowing it to poison our opinion of Cyrus.
What is the significance of Cyrus’s description of the meal as a “road” (ὁδός), through which the Medes “wander” (πλανώμενοι)? Are there any parallels for this image?
I’m nervous about gendered language too, but then
Euripides Bacchae comes to mind…could scholarship on Dionysus help us out? Those Homeric similes are fascinating, but is motherhood feminine in the same way that beauty and luxury are?
Those are fascinating possibilities, but I think we can understand Cyrus’s comments more locally. He criticizes the Medan paradise (1) because he’s used up most and the best of the game within the enclosure, as we learn at
Cyropaedia 1.4.5, and (2) because, as you say, he’s ready to move on to bigger and more dangerous tasks. The animals of the paradise are perhaps actually defective, because they’re the only ones left, but, more importantly, appear defective to Cyrus because he now sees them with a man’s eyes. The attractiveness of the animals outside the paradise is also important for motivating the poaching expedition of the Assyrian king, at
Cyropaedia 1.4.16, an episode that is fundamental for cementing both our and Cyrus’s family’s sense of his maturity. Thank you for highlighting this scene; the way that Xenophon uses hunting to provoke Cyrus’s inner development and to progress the plot is really masterful!
We discussed this also at
Cyropaedia 1.3.3. It should be remembered that Herodotus’s comment about soft countries producing soft peoples is itself meant to illustrate a decline, that is, a change; negative change is definitely possible in Herodotus’s and Xenophon’s worlds – I’m not sure about positive change. Cyrus was able to “ward off” the corrupting influence of the Medes, but the Persians as a whole, in the end, were not. Are they doomed now to a corrupt existence?
Your science-fiction parallels put me in mind of the last chapter of James Romm 1994 The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought.
I don’t know enough about the ancient novel to have an opinion about whether the Cyropaedia counts, but I am struck by the “sub-genre-y” nature of a lot of your parallels, the fact that we would class many of them as “genre fiction” rather than “serious” novels. Could a similar sort of distinction (I’m tempted to say prejudice) be at play in our evaluation of the Cyropaedia and its intruding “genre” material?
Sean: As you say, the absence of natural wonders is quite striking, but the war-technologies you mention seem a lot like the maybe-it’s-possible-maybe-it’s-not sorts of technical wonders one finds in science fiction. The question of escapism is really important, I think. Of course, a lot of science fiction (including
Heinlein), and other exemplary/utopian fiction (like
Ayn Rand), is at least in some sense dead serious – even if it’s also seen as “frivolous” by literati. Carol: Thank you so much for that observation about seeing our favorite genres!
Is there a reason Xenophon has this bias against democracy versus monarchy and oligarchy?
Xenophon compares men to that of domestic farm animals in that men will rise up against one another while domestic animals will not rise up against man. Would that mean that Xenophon is comparing man to wild animals that compete with one another for dominance and survival, and if so why doesn’t he address this idea?
Xenophon addresses the fact that Cyrus and the people that he ruled do not understand one another’s language. How does this help him become a great leader?
I was wondering does Xenophon, later on, go into more detail about how Cyrus was able to first conquer these nations with only his small band of Persians?
Is it a normal custom to show gratitude to servants in this way or is Xenophon stating this to show how generous Cyrus is?
This is a great observation. Certainly there are a number of contextual realities that are somewhat unique for Xenophon’s experience. Having grown up in the midst of the Peloponnesian War, particularly as a young adult through the later stages, this might certainly give him a sour disposition towards democracy. Also acknowledging his close association with Socrates, and the lengths he goes to, (as we will see), to import or even manufacture a Socrates-like character in the Cyropaedia highlights the probability that he was very critical of democracy based on the Athenian form. It seems to be a long tradition in academic study of Classical Greece that Athens was the superior polis in all ways, especially government. Is not therefore possible that Xenophon also represents a philosophical reaction to the Periclean Age, where Pericles operates in actuality very much like a constitutional monarch in imperial practice, but for the sake of appearance has no official title? For the sake of argument, during the height of the Athenian Empire, we can just say that the democracy of Athens was something less than a technical democracy, precisely because it was so completely dominated by the efforts of Pericles. Those decades and policies were the antagonist that sparked the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. Athens as a polis sat at the head of an empire that was anything else – certainly not a democracy. It seems logical that Xenophon correctly saw the dressing of democracy that was (and often still is hailed as a great governmental achievement) as something of a sham. These circumstances also ushered in horrific consequences that affected the entire Greek world, throwing it into political chaos. The democracy which was defended in the Persian Wars, then turned and exiled the most prominent of its defenders, Cimon, Miltiades, Themistocles – even those great leaders held up as the standard Athens had thanked them for their services by exiling them. Very early on Xenophon himself was exiled, therefore is so difficult to see the logic that Xenophon saw democracy as being vulnerable to be counterproductive to itself?
It does seem, especially in the case of the post Peloponnesian War reality, that the varying democracies have failed. At least it is easy to understand why Athenians and other Greeks may come to the conclusion at the end of the 5th Century going into the 4th Century. With that in mind, is it easier to try and “fix” the problems that brought on conflict between Athens and Sparta? And of course attempts were made from within, but those reformers, (who probably had their own not so noble agenda in mind), also failed. Then I ask, would it not be easiest to presume that some other more successful government be the “magical solution” to cure these ails? Of course the Achaemenid Empire had been running at various levels of competency, for over a century.
Some excellent points. I think the question I was attempting to tease out, how the cumulative effects (or experiences) in Xenophon’s own life influenced his memory of past events. In this case, allow me to offer an obvious observation, dealing with his perception of ruling government. Xenophon was himself exiled by the Athenian Democracy. He also witnessed that same group of men allow the trial and subsequent execution of his teacher Socrates for nothing more than trumped up charges. As we all know, neither of these instances were extraordinary in Classical Athens. Contrary to the what is often claimed by modern talking heads, sadly even within our profession, Athenian ‘rash’ action tended to be the rule rather than the exception. If you stood heroically in battle leading a phalanx or defeating an enemy the chances were that you would return home and face a trial with the probability of execution or exile as your reward. With that context in mind, it seems only logical that Xenophon was rightly suspicious of democracy that lacked sensibility to reserve the gravest of actions for the gravest of offenses. In many cases these trials and punishments were meted out by those citizens who for that time, were at home rather than abroad participating or even observing the actions which were claimed the offense that brought on the specific trial.Of course from what we know, this was the right of the people in the institutions, but it is easy to see how a young man, as Xenophon, in his formative years would have a keen distaste for this type of charade. In my own experience I can empathize with the difficult position of desiring the noble conduct on the battlefield (land or sea), but also knowing that no battlefield is conducive to bringing out the best of people. Contrary, a battlefield does more often bring out the unmitigated determination of the participants. It is true that there are many noble annals from the battlefields, survival and victory must serve as the watchwords if there is any expectation for a side to prevail.I do not downplay the presence of what we consider atrocities and war crimes, ancient or modern, they exist on the battlefield and they always have. For most of recorded history those things existed as simply part of war. The reaction in Athens in Athens following the massacre on Melos does serve as a credible distinction between what was acceptable and actions which were not. Of course Melos was not at war with Athens, and thus I think that is what elicited such a strong reaction once news spread of the incident. Taking the realities of the years immediately following Peloponnesian War, into account – it is easy to follow Xenophon’s own (probable) association putting democracy and uncontrollable emotion together as precisely what not to do. My thought is that familiarity with conflict, of the first-hand order, focuses an acute awareness that is rarely discussed. Ironically, the Spartans (who had 2 kings) opted not to allow their decision in regards to Athens be ruled by reaction. Likewise the “historical” Cyrus the Great after conquering an area, integrated his newly acquired subjects – to some level and degree. Looking at Cyrus to Cambyses, is exposed for failing to totally grasp this in the Egypt episode. Relevant considering how to or not to deal with newly acquired subjects in the immediate aftermath of victory on the battlefield. That is precisely the point I try to bring out.
It is an excellent question, of course I believe the answer to be more complicated than it might appear as there are more than one ‘type’ of resource being discussed what appears to me to be layered as well as overlapping fashion. The type of resources I am referring to are those that Xenophon discusses in
Cyropaedia 1.6.5-8, the resources of the family. If we use two young men, one born into the wealthy part of the spectrum and one born as a slave. In this context the wealthy young man would be taught to hunt as appropriate to his rank and class, and thus he would be taught the necessary horsemanship, navigation, and tactical skills to conclude a hunt with success. He would also be introduced with the vital aspects (what we call “combat service and support”), the supply and communication problems and solutions as appropriate – fundamental to a successful hunt. All of these are embodied as part of the “hunt.”
On the other side the slave, may even participate at a level on the same hunt, but his experience is merely to carry this pack from here to there, without even an explanation of why. To him there would be no context. He may or may not be bright enough to understand that the pack he carries contains the necessary tools to repair the weapons periodically – vital to success of the hunt. The large difference being that the wealthy young man is made involved in the entire process presumably for the purpose of learning the entire context and the slave is serving as simple labor. He may pick it all up and come to understand but generally the lower men are meant primarily to follow orders, certainly it is above their “station” to understand the how and why. As far as teaching the lower men to be capable of understanding the whole process especially the preparation for the hunt.
What is interesting to me about the conversation Xenophon presents in these sections, is the emphasis that he places on the difficulty in learning the entire process. It reads to me as an idea that must be pursued in order that it can be learned well enough to be mastered – a level of competence that must be obtained for a great leader. He implies that competence requires effort in order to be gained gain in
Cyropaedia 1.6.5. In
Cyropaedia 1.6.6, he refers specifically to this idea referencing cavalry, marksmanship, naval encounters before moving on to non-battle successes. He implies that competence in those areas is required before asking the assistance of the gods in those matters.
It is appropriate to acknowledge our lack of verifiable corroborating historical evidence in these cases. Even if such additional sources survived, everything that is written is done so through a respective agenda that we have no way to account for. Certainly Xenophon is known for writing with specific perspectives, not always clearly identifiable and he is notorious in several works for what must certainly be deliberate omissions, (most notably in the
Hellenika). Only complicating the task further. Perhaps whatever those motivations were for deliberate omissions in other works, provides unknown insight into his undertaking of the Cyropaedia as a quasi-(non)-historical work? so that he could avoid the encumbrance of being ‘absolutely historically accurate’ and convey his own idea of the perfect situations?
The importance of intelligence, its collection, and most important the application of that information cannot be understated. Xenophon goes to considerable effort to sketch the importance of information in several of his works. I do think that he places varied levels of importance on them depending on the situation, since that information’s respective importance can be measured more or less depending on the respective situation.
There is also the important distinction between applying tactical intelligence on the battlefield (
Pol. Strat. 1.49.2-3) and the larger ‘operational/strategic’ intelligence noted in
Cyropaeida 1.5.14. At the highest levels it is absolutely essential to the long term success of a commander. I would argue however that at the lowest levels of command, while helpful at every level, such skills are not always “required” per se. At the ruler or commander of army – it is a requirement absolutely. In the context of the Near East, more acutely in the dynastic succession struggles of Achaemenid Persian court – ‘political’ intelligence was essential to survival.
It is a good question to ask, how many could imitate this ideal leader if indeed any at all could. I would venture the idea that Xenophon was not necessarily attempting to write a ‘field manual’ that every military leader should follow – meaning I do not get the impression he was pushing every military leader to pursue world conquest even on a small scale. It seems he was far too pragmatic for such an idea, though we have no way of knowing and that may be exactly what he thought. Given his vast experience with rulers and military leaders this seems unlikely.
Defining or guessing his exact audience, is problematic for sure. It is fair to assume that he was writing for an audience like himself. At least it would be logical to assume that those are the people (by virtue of shared background/experience), were most likely to understand his perspective. However, it is interesting to consider that very few hippeis would have any comparable experience to his march into and out of Persia. Precious few would be able to relate, in real terms, to the challenges of a campaign distance over a few hundred miles let alone thousands of miles through scorching dessert, high mountains, and snow! In fact, based on what we know from surviving sources, Xenophon’s fellow cadre members are the only Greeks who could truly understand these challenges and difficulties. To others who read it, it must have surely seemed like a fantastic tale indeed! It may also be the case that both the Cyropaedia and Anabasis were not widely circulated until after most of these fellows were gone. But it does seem that the Anabasis was written with the intent to repudiate the claims made by Sophaentus. (Cf. Loeb Anabassi 2006, p. 7 for a full discussion of additional ancient sources.) This is a strong indicator that multiple accounts of Cyrus the Younger’s campaign were available including Xenophon’s in his own time. The intentions of the various authors involved were likely quite varied.
Is Astyages angry at Cyrus’ “gazing” (ἐθεᾶτο , θέᾳ) at the fallen in itself or Cyrus’ persistence in gazing? I suggest the latter. “Gazing” (θεᾶσθαι) at battlefield dead does not seem a blameworthy activity in and of itself. In
Herodotus Histories 6.120, for example, the Lacedaemonians “gaze at” the fallen Persians on the battlefield of Marathon, and Xerxes’ sailors “gaze at” the fallen on the battlefield of Thermopylae (
Herodotus Histories 8.24-25). Where Cyrus in
Cyr. 1.4.24 goes wrong (and where he angers his grandfather) is that he refuses to stop gazing; he has to be dragged off the battlefield by Astyages’ men. I attribute Cyrus’ persistence here more to Cyrus’ youthful enthusiasm than to any “gloating” (as the heading in the commentary has it). In
Cyropaedia 1.4.24 Cyrus has just won his first battle, and he does not want the experience to end. “Gloating” implies a maliciousness that appears to be totally absent from Cyrus’ awestruck gazing.
Cyropaedia 7.1.3, thunder, at any rate, is taken as a good sign by Cyrus. When “thunder sounded on the right” (βροντὴ δεξιὰ ἐφθέγξατο) Cyrus said, “We will follow you, greatest Zeus” (ἑψόμεθά σοι, ὦ Ζεῦ μέγιστε).
Cyropaedia 7.5.13 and
Cyropaedia 7.5.14 the only instances in the Cyropaedia of negative laughter? In both passages, the Babylonians “laughed at/mocked” (κατεγέλων) Cyrus’ army as it surrounded Babylon. By negative laughter, I mean laughter that reflects the laugher’s ignorance or arrogance (as it does in the case of the soon-to-be-conquered Babylonians). In Herodotus, laughter usually (but not exclusively, as in
Herodotus Histories 4.36.2) reflects poorly on and often portends disaster for the laugher. But in the Cyropaedia laughter usually seems positive; Cyrus and especially his friends engage in good-natured laughter with each other on several occasions (e.g.,
Cyropaedia 7.5.50, I am struck by Artabazus’ image of the allied Hyrcanians being almost like babies to the Persians. Artabazus says that the Persians were so happy to have the Hyrcanians as their first allies “that we all but carried them around in our arms, cherishing them” (ὥστε μόνον οὐκ ἐν ταῖς ἀγκάλαις περιεφέρομεν αὐτοὺς ἀγαπῶντες). Does anyone have any other references to passages in which allies are talked about fondly as one’s children or even babies?
Perhaps the prominence of Helios (particularly in
Cyropaedia 8) could also be explained by the prominence of horses in the Cyropaedia. Horses, horsemanship, and cavalry are a thread that runs throughout the work (see David Johnson 2005 TAPA article on the Persians as centaurs). Persians in general did seem to connect horses, moreover, with the worship of the Sun. In the Cyropaedia, horses are sacrificed specifically to the Sun in both 8.3.12 and 8.3.24. For his part, Herodotus lists the Sun among the gods that Persians worship (
Herodotus Histories 1.131.2, cf.
Herodotus Histories 1.138.1), and he also tells of the way that Darius secured the kingship by having his horse be the first to neigh at sunrise (
Herodotus Histories 3.84-87).
Another example of an “anonymous introduction” in the Cyropaedia involves Tigranes. At
Cyropaedia 3.1.7 Xenophon first mentions the Armenian prince Tigranes by name and says that he was the one “who once had gone on a hunt together with Cyrus” (ὃς καὶ σύνθηρός ποτε ἐγένετο τῷ Κύρῳ). To find out what Xenophon is talking about here we have to go back to
Cyropaedia 2.4.15, where Cyaxares is discussing the Armenians with Cyrus. Cyaxares agrees with Cyrus that Cyrus himself has a good chance of winning over the Armenian king. “For, I hear,” says Cyaxares, “that some of his [i.e., the Armenian king’s] children were companions of yours on the hunt” (ἀκούω γὰρ καὶ συνθηρευτάς τινας τῶν παίδων σοι γενέσθαι αὐτοῦ). Is the narrator Xenophon in 3.1.7 correcting Cyaxares in
Cyropaedia 2.4.15, not only by giving a specific name (Tigranes), but also by implying that it was only one Armenian prince who was Cyrus’ hunting companion, and not several as Cyaxares implies?
Thanks very much for your insightful comments, Norman. To answer your questions, first, I think you are absolutely right that one of the things that sets Xenophon apart from the tradition here is his removal of some of the more conventional trappings of a control level in the Cyrus narrative. This is precisely what is so intriguing about that decision: the change must have some significance for the way he wants to tell the story, and that means understanding it can help us understand what it is that he “invents” when he creates this unparalleled literary form, as well as what his legacy is when later authors decide to follow in his path (but notably reinsert more of the conventional markers of an overt control level).
Second, the purpose of a control level (in Nick Lowe‘s model) is, at a minimum, to justify within the story universe the closural elements in the narrative. One of the universals of narrative is that it is “closed” in a way that the reality it is a mimesis of isn’t (though the degree of closure varies). So, for example, the rage of Achilles must dissipate, Odysseus must return home, and so on, and these tales must come to a (relatively) predictable end. How do we know that Odysseus isn’t going to die halfway through the
Odyssey in a freak accident, and that the rest of the poem will not be about one of his companions bringing news of his death to Penelope so that she can remarry? Because that is not how the narrative works (among other things, we get to watch a council of the gods where they concoct an alternate plan, and we get Teiresias’ prophecy, and so on). There is a certain amount of flexibility in any narrative, certainly, but there are important boundaries within which that flexibility must be restrained. Justification of these boundaries (many of which do not exist in reality) is sometimes necessary, or they risk seeming too facile, which then makes them seem to depend on little more than the whim of the author.
Modern taste prefers either to naturalize these boundaries (making them the natural result of some powerful but still human conspiracy, or the product of “science,” or something similar) or else to leave them generically implicit (we know the mystery will be solved at the end of a detective novel, for example). In many ancient narratives, however, these boundaries are given explicit authors, who may even function as characters: how do we know Odysseus will make it home in the end? Because Athena is his patroness, and she is a powerful goddess. Either way, though, the control level is always there in some respect, because narratives must be closed (not just temporally, either: only a select set of characters are important, e.g., and that, too, must have a reason; there are other important forms of narrative closure…) and that fact has to make sense within the world of the narrative itself as well as within our world. An author can rely on the reader to fill in the gaps, or simply to ignore the artificiality of it all, but there is always a reason, even when implied or ignored, for the finiteness of what is supposed to be a mimesis of an infinite reality.
Turning back to the Cyropaedia, then, another way of expressing Xenophon’s elimination of the explicit narration of the control level in Cyrus’ story is to say that he changes our focus, or the narrative perspective, on the cause-and-effect that justifies the limits placed on his tale. The gods are definitely not eliminated altogether from the story universe; they just take a back seat to Cyrus himself. I don’t know yet why this is, and won’t know for sure until I complete my research. At this point, though, my working theory is that Xenophon, by changing the story in this way, has essentially invented the character-focused novel that has become our dominant literary form today. In his closure of the Cyrus-plot, Cyrus still becomes ruler of a vast empire because the gods love him (a number of signs, including his final dream, bear this out), but the gods love him because of his character, not the other way around: thus the closure of the narrative has its arch-motivation in Cyrus’ character rather than the forces of destiny or divine will, and that makes all the difference. By trying to tell the story that way Xenophon has invented an incredibly powerful narrative technique that opens up the possibility for extended prose “realistic” fiction (though we still have a long way to go before that potential is fully realized), because as the world becomes increasingly secularized the gods in the back seat can quietly slip away, and no one notices much…
What is the purpose of this list of (failed) governments? Are there specific historical rules and their failures that Xenophon expects us to have in mind?
What are we to make of the difference between this and Cambyses’ advice to Cyrus (cf.
Cyropaedia 1.6) to rule as a doctor rules his patients?
1.1.6–ἐπυθόμεθα καὶ ᾐσθῆσθαι δοκοῦμεν: what sorts of data are covered by these two terms? Does Xenophon imply that he stops short of pure imagination, or could that be covered by “thinking (seeming) to have perceived” something? Consider that δοκέω+ infinitive is one standard way to describe a dream or hallucination…
Gray 2004:397 admits the possibility that this phrase may reflect uncertainty, but also suggests that such phrases are “regularly used in philosophical works to accentuate the process of reflection and thus confirm its findings.” I wonder, though, if that nuance is a real possibility when the phrase is conjoined with (and thus contrasts with) the more confident ἐπυθόμεθα; or are we to read these two as hendiadys?
The question of the use of fear is certainly part of the contradiction I see, but more generally, Xenophon here attributes Cyrus’ success in ruling men to two elements, fear and the desire to please him. And it is precisely these two that Cyrus will suggest are the best forms of motivation for the leader to employ in
Cyropaedia 1.6.20, by punishing those who disobey and rewarding and praising those who obey (the stick and the carrot). But Cambyses promptly responds that this is how one rules by compulsion (ἀνάγκῃ), but that it is far better to rule those who are willing to be ruled, and he then provides the formula for this: by becoming wise, you will seem to be wise, and by seeming to be wise, others will want to do as you command (as the patient obeys his doctor). This notion seems to echo the idea of the Socratic philosopher king (cf. Gera 1993:66). So to put my question more precisely, can we make anything of Xenophon’s decision to attribute Cyrus’ leadership to the stick and the carrot, and not to his sagacity (though that may come later, perhaps) at this point? Is he denying him philosopher-king status, or does he simply not want to ruin the surprise (i.e., is he simply avoiding prolepsis of the thrilling discussion at the end of this first book)?
Could the analogy of ruler with herdsman also have some basis in the Persian material? Cf.
Avesta Yasna 29.2: “Then the Fashioner of the Cow asked Asha: Hast thou a ratu for the Cow such that you are able to give him, together with a herdsman, zeal for fostering the Cow? Whom do you want as a lord for her, who, hostile toward Liars, may repel Wrath?” (Malandra 1983:38), particularly if we are to take this as an allegory for social conflict (see the discussion on the preceding pages).
With respect to the question “who was Xenophon the Athenian?”: another way of asking this is to ask whom his successors believed him to be. What, in other words, was Xenophon’s cultural legacy and where did the Cyropaedia fit into that?
One significant point is that later authors of fictionalized history (or even plain fiction) seem to have adopted “Xenophon” as a coded pen name, e.g. Xenophon of Ephesus, Xenophon of Antioch, and Xenophon of Cyprus; see Perry 1967:167 ff.
As an introduction to the story of Cyrus itself, this chapter and the following “spoil the ending” (i.e. proleptically summarize the narrative as a whole). How does this change the narrative’s effect, or would the reader be familiar enough with the significance of Cyrus to render this question irrelevant?
Note the frequency in the later biographical tradition (e.g.
Suetonius) of answering that sort of question. In the “historical fiction” of
Dares the Phrygian 12ff., the details of the physical appearance of the various Greek heroes are invented, partly because there seems to have been an interest in this question, and partly to give credibility to the claim that this is an “eyewitness” account.
This reminds us of the Alexander tradition, in which he is always the first over the wall, or the tale about him emptying his canteen (citation?) when his men have no water…is this simply part of a cultural definition of leaderly behavior, or could there be a definite line of influence/imitation here?
This and the paragraphs that follow introduce the Persian educational system ostensibly as a way of narrating Cyrus’ early years. Why, then, are we presented with a generalizing description of the system rather than a specific description of Cyrus’ experience of it? It is only later, most notably in Cyrus’ conversations with his father and grandfather, that his particular experience of the Persian system is filled in analeptically (and only partially), and indeed there we learn that he missed a significant portion of this education because of a sojourn with this grandfather. Why, then, the description of the system in such general terms? Is it being held up to us as a model? If so, is it not problematic that Cyrus does not complete the curriculum?
How influential is this model of education (or Xenophon’s description of it, at any rate) on curricular developments in later Greco-Roman society? Is it significant in this regard that educators like
Hermogenes of Tarsus and
Quintilian seem to be very familiar with Xenophon, including the Cyropaedia, and indeed quote from it regularly?
In Zoroastrianism (illustrated in
Avesta Yasht 14), the horse is (among other things) one of the ten manifestations (number 3) of Verethraghna (god of combat, force, victory, “the smashing of resistance”); the other 9 being Wind, Bull, Camel, Boar, 15-year-old Ephebe, Falcon, Wild Ram, Goat/Buck, and Hero/Warrior (Malandra 1983:80-88; Schwartz 1985:671-672).
Why does Xenophon choose this moment as the first to narrate in singulative fashion (the first narrative “scene”)?
Heliodorus Aethiopika 7.27, some 6 centuries later or more, find the motif of a contest in cup-bearing worth imitation? Is it significant that he maps out the trained/natural dichotomy onto oppositions between Greek/barbarian and freeborn/slave?
Why does Xenophon switch back now to an “iterative” mode of narration?
Is there any significance (and if so, what might it be) to the similarity between how Cyrus treats Astyages and Cyaxares here and how Pantheia treats Araspas in Book 5 (
Cyropaedia 5.1.18: more specifically, note Xenophon’s attention to the way she strives to anticipate his needs, which is one of her actions that causes him to fall in love with her)?
How does Xenophon characterize Cyrus as a boy in this and similar scenes from the court of Astyages, and how is that boyhood character referenced in portrayals of him at later stages?
It may be of interest (though perhaps only tangentially so) in answering this question to note that the rhetorician
Hermogenes of Tarsus chooses Cyrus’ first utterance in this passage (and thus the first thing he says in the entire Cyropaedia), “ὦ μῆτερ, ὡς καλός μοι ὁ πάππος,” as a prime example of the rhetorical style called “Simplicity” (apheleia), citing also
Cyropaedia 1.4.9, “ἀλλ᾽ οὖν πονηροί γε φαινόμενοι καὶ ἐπὶ πονηρῶν ἱππαρίων ἄγουσιν ἡμῶν τὰ χρήματα,” as well as
Theocritus Idyll 1.1. This style (“Simplicity”) is considered by Hermogenes to be one of the main components of the greater overarching style called “Character” (ethos). See Cecil Wooten 1987:70-72, Hermogenes’ On Types of Style, Chapel Hill.
That is a very interesting suggestion. The idea of laughter as a negative force is brought up a little later in the work, by the rather dour Persian Aglaitadas in
Cyropaedia 2.2.11-16; Cyrus’ response to him there is worth noting in this context. Of course an important distinction must be drawn between these two discussions: what you are talking about (and what Norman has brought up here) is what a willingness to laugh reveals about the person laughing, while there the emphasis is rather on what effect laughing has on a person who is made to laugh.
There is a tradition that Hestia always receives the first portion when sacrificing to the gods (e.g.,
Homeric Hymn 29), which is particularly appropriate here since Cyrus is praying before departing from his house, where Hestia is especially significant; naming Zeus next is appropriate both to Cyrus’ royal status and to the magnitude of the undertaking, and prepares the way for the omens that appear. But we might also compare
Plato Laws 745b, where Hestia, Zeus, and Athena (in that order) are given the acropolis in the ideal city (see Burkert 1985:334-5). Is there perhaps a Socratic element in this particular flavor of piety?
Gera 1993:56 suggests the alternative, however, that Xenophon may mean their Persian “counterparts”; she provides ample reference for further information on this topic. Particularly intriguing is the possibility that by Hestia the Persian Atar is meant; Atar is apparently associated with Asha Vahishta, “Best Asha” or the principle of Truth/Order (Schwartz 1985:668); if Xenophon’s account reflects an actual Persian source and is not simply a case of Hellenizing the story (however unlikely the possibility), Cyrus’ recognition of “Hestia” first contrasts with Darius’ privileging of Ahura Mazda (Schwartz 1985:684) as well as Herodotus’ account of the primacy of “Zeus” in the Persian religion (
Herodotus Histories 1.131 seq.).
Could the adjective πατρῴος be, in fact, a way Xenophon marks this as an interpretatio Graeca of Persian divinities and not simply coloratura on his part?
As far as the question of his “Socratic” nature is concerned, Gera 1993:50-72 treats this at some length: her conclusion is that “The Persian king is as Socratic as can be, not only in his didactic methods and style of argument–his use of analogies, cross-examinations, positive exhortations, and a final, long speech–but also in his ideas on the gods, on good generalship, on the relativity of justice, etc.” (Gera 1993:72).
How, if at all, does Cyrus’ speech (and the speeches following) reflect 4th century Greek rhetorical theory?
Or perhaps the other way around? That is, to corroborate the diviners’ consensus by his own skill; in Cambyses’ advice, at any rate, part of the point (if I am reading it correctly) was that Cyrus’ should learn the diviner’s art so that he could not be taken for a ride.
The singularity of this moment, both in the description of Cyrus crowning himself and in the emphasis on the consensus between diviners and leader about the gods’ will, does seem to mark this point out as one of critical importance to the narrative progression. Is this because it is the first real test of Cyrus’ leadership against the enemy that presents the greatest obstacle to his rise to power? If so, why is it important to emphasize at this critical juncture that the gods give their approval AND predict victory?
If we read it together with the passage you cited (
Cyropaedia 1.6.23) it would suggest that part of the key to Cyrus’ wisdom, which is in turn the key to his authority as a leader (according to Cambyses), is letting the gods dictate when a military action should take place, and more importantly, having a direct channel to them by which he might acquire that guidance. Why, then, is the religious element in the motivation of the plot so sterile in the Cyropaedia by comparison with, for example, the Anabasis (Gera 1993:58)?
αὐτοῖς στεφάνοις: Why is it important enough to note, both here and in Cyrus’ exhortation immediately following, that these men are still wearing their crowns from the sacrifice?
See the discussion on
Cyropaedia 3.3.34 above: what is the significance of the “crowning” in these religious scenes, and why should that symbol be carried onto the battlefield?
προσευξάμενος τοῖς θεοῖς: Why does Cyrus pray yet again to the gods, when he has already received their blessing to proceed? Is this gratuitous piety?
Ζεὺς σύμμαχος καὶ ἡγεμών: What purpose does the passing of this σύνθημα serve?
More importantly, how does it relate to the use of the paean immediately following, as well as (perhaps) the “crowning” of the rearguard (see above on
Cyropaedia 3.3.40-41) as part of Cyrus’ use of religion? Xenophon’s description of the effect gives a very general and not terribly helpful explanation: religious fervor keeps fear in check.
δεισιδαίμονες: could this adjective have any pejorative sense here, as it does, e.g., in
Theophrastus Characters 16?
πρῶτον μὲν τοὺς θεοὺς ἐγὼ ἐπαινῶ: is there any real theology in this statement and what follows, or is this simply routine piety on Cyrus’ part?
Is the verb ἐπαινῶ standard in a religious context?
I cannot find a singe definition of it with a divinity as its object in the LSJ entry.
ὅταν δὲ καὶ ἄλλο τι ἀγαθὸν ὁ θεὸς δῷ: who is “the god” here, who seems almost like “fortune” in the way he is referred to?
θεοφιλεῖς καὶ ἀγαθοὶ καὶ σώφρονες: what is the significance of the conjunction of these three descriptors? Are they tangent or do they overlap semantically? And do they relate somehow (causally or otherwise) to the instructions given (to eat and pour libations and hymn and await the watchword)?
θεῶν ἡμῖν αὐτὰ διδόντων: is this an empty turn of phrase (everything is a gift of the gods), or are we to imagine Cyrus treating his potential victory as a religious boon? Put in other words, is there a hint here of the traditional account of Cyrus as divine agent, to which Xenophon so seldom refers?
See also his parenthetical σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς in the next paragraph: is this simply idiomatic, or does it reflect a real, if vestigial in Xenophon’s account, theology of conquest?
εὐτυχίας ἣ νῦν ἡμῖν παραγεγένηται: is it significant that Cyaxares here and in the following paragraph refers not to the gifts of the gods (whom he does not mention), but to fortune or chance? Does his theology differ from Cyrus’?
ἀπὸ θεῶν γεγονότος: how many references are their to Cyrus’ supposed divine lineage? Is there a reason the reference appears here?
The fact that this is embedded within indirect discourse originating with Artabazus puts the notion of Cyrus’ divinity alongside the preceding superlatives as the opinion of a man who is hardly unbiased in his view of Cyrus. Are there examples where Xenophon’s narrator emphasizes the idea that Cyrus is of divine lineage?
πιστὰ θεῶν: of what do these consist, and is their transportation to the Hyrcanians wholly metaphorical, or is there some way in which these pledges really will be carried to the Hyrcanian camp?
καὶ νῦν ἔστιν: are we to read this flash forward to the present time as an indication of Cyrus’ good faith, that he made good on his pledge to such an extent that it has remained so through succeeding generations?
ἐπηύξατο μάλιστα: the campaign is again preceded with a prayer, but why is there no indication of a sacrifice or taking the omens?
λέγεται: why is this response of Cyrus’ (in contrast with many other speeches Xenophon reports) specifically marked as part of an oral tradition? Is there a perceptible pattern to those speeches and stories that Xenophon chooses to present as part of the tradition?
ἢν οἱ θεοὶ θέλωσιν: in this context of an expectation of punishment for the betrayal of an oath, can we read this proviso as closer to a guarded prediction (i.e., IF the Hyrcanians betray their pledge, the gods WILL want to punish them)?
ῥώμην τῆς ψυχῆς: this seems like an unusual phrase; does it occur elsewhere, and if so, what quality does it describe?
φῶς: is this miraculous light divine intervention, or does it serve some other purpose? In other words, are we to read a causal link between the courage it instills and the Persians’/Medes’ success, or is it rather a token of Cyrus’ right relationship with the divine, or a manifestation of his destiny, or something similar?
φρίκην…θάρρος: why should the appearance of this strange provoke these two distinct reactions?
Cyropaedia 3.3.58 above, where Xenophon already claimed that fear of the divine goes hand in hand with courage in the face of opponents.
τοὺς μάγους: why do we hear so little about these important officials; given that we hear so little about them, too, why is it important to mention them here?
προφαίνει: is the word choice here significant? Why does he say that the god has “manifested” riches rather than simply “given” them?
τὰ μὲν πρὸς τοὺς θεοὺς: how do these offerings differ from those he has already asked the magoi to choose out (paragraph
Cyropaedia 4.5.14 above)? And why is it necessary to consult his father on this question? Is this an offering to specifically Persian gods, linked to the request for more Persian troops (and his father thus, as head of the Persian state cult, the official in charge of such matters)?
ὅ τι ἂν οἱ μάγοι ἐξηγῶνται: why is this brought up again (see
Cyropaedia 4.5.14 above)?
σὺν θεοῖς: is this mere colloquial convention for a promise (“god willing”), or is Cyrus suggesting that his aid brings with it divine assistance?
Or does he possibly mean that vengeance is, in this case, a religious imperative?
θεοὶ δ᾽ ἡμῖν μάρτυρες ἔστων: why are the words of the oath given here (by contrast with, for example, the pact with the Hyrcanians)? Is there something significant about the words used? They seem rather ordinary.
ἀποδόντες τοῖς μάγοις, Κύρῳ δ᾽ ἐξῃρηκότες: what is the implication of moving immediately from the portion that was given to the gods to the portion that was selected for Cyrus, including the “Susan woman” (note that Cyaxares’ portion, which they agreed should include beautiful women, is not mentioned)?
It is very interesting, Norman, that you see Pantheia/Abradatas as falling within a broader scheme of politics and diplomacy. As Rob has noted, some have pointed to this narrative as a proto-novel, so your observation is particularly striking in light of some of the work that has been done lately on the political dimensions of the Greek romance plot. Earlier interpretations (e.g., that of Perry 1967) saw the romance plot as something apolitical, developed from an alternative value system that arises when the Hellenistic Greeks lose their unique civic identities and roles and become awash in the vast chaos of the Hellenistic cosmopolis; more recently, however, some scholars (e.g., Perkins 1995; Swain 1996) have argued cogently for a political dimension to the seemingly private love-story that forms the core of these works. If they are right (and I believe that they are), your comment would suggest that this political dimension of the romantic love-affair, far from being something the later novelists simply use it for, is already inherent in the very earliest example of this story type.
What is the narrative purpose of contrasting her custodians’ clumsy attempt to reassure her with its (seemingly unexpected) completely opposite effect?
Perry 1967:169-170 finds
Chariton Callirhoe VII.6-12‘s adaptation of this scene more emotionally compelling, since he deploys dramatic irony by making the commander whom Callirhoe’s guards praise and recommend to her the very husband she has lost.
This is quite fascinating. As far as the clumsiness of the approach assumed by my question, I suppose my reading is colored by having read the adaptation of the scene in
Chariton first; there it is clearer, since the guard who addresses Callirhoe acts on his own initiative, that consolation is his goal and the promise of a superior husband is the means to that end, rather than a necessary piece of information that must be communicated, which makes the guard’s assumption that Callirhoe’s grief can be assuaged simply by replacing her husband with a new, better one (cf., on the humorous side, the “Widow of Ephesus” in
Petronius Satyricon 111-112).
This highlights one of the problems inherent in trying to interpret this scene: how we interpret the guard’s address to Pantheia depends at least in part on his motivation in speaking to her in the first place. If, on the one hand, it is necessary for him to communicate the fact that she has been chosen for Cyrus to her, then you are surely right that he is trying to break that news as gently as possible by praising Cyrus’ qualities. I see nothing in Araspas’ account, however, that suggests they are under any compulsion to tell her anything. If, on the other hand, he is telling her this in an attempt to console her (which is suggested to me by the description of her tears which immediately precedes the report of this speech, as well as the opening imperative tharrei), it seems to reflect a poor understanding of what is upsetting her in the first place to praise another husband to replace her old one as consolation. Again, though, my reading is surely colored by Chariton’s expansion of the emotional potential inherent here, since he has Callirhoe not only weep at the guard’s speech, but also deliver a speech in reply, where she declares that marriage is the last thing she wants, and that she would rather kill herself.
What significance, if any, is there in the similarity between the way Pantheia treats Araspas here and the way Cyrus treated his grandfather and uncle while he was in the Median court (
Cyropaedia 1.3.12)? More specifically, note how Xenophon calls attention to the way each tries to anticipate the needs of the person(s) in question.
εὐχομένους ὥσπερ καὶ ἄλλης τινὸς νόσου ἀπαλλαγῆναι: is the comparison of love to disease linked (since one “prays” for relief in both cases) here to notions of the latter as a form of divine punishment? Can we thus read Cyrus’ refusal to be put in a situation where he might be vulnerable to love as another example of the “god helps those who help themselves” motif in his dealings with the divine (cf. his discussion with Cambyses at
εὔχονται μὲν αἰεὶ ὡς ἄθλιοι ὄντες ἀποθανεῖν: why has Araspas interpreted the “prayer” to which Cyrus refers to be freed from the “disease” of love as a prayer to die?
The idea that the lover wishes to die when he or she is certain never to possess the object of his or her love does become a motif in the later novel (e.g.,
Xenophon Ephesius 3.6; etc.). There, however, the lovers are put in situations where they are able to prove, unlike Araspas’ “μοχθηροί,” that they are willing to follow through on these wishes (though they never succeed, of course).
What purpose could this (rather drawn out) sophistic discussion on love serve in the broader narrative scheme?
It is worth noting that the sophistic discussion of love seems to become a trope in Xenophon’s novelistic successors: Our longest surviving
fragment of Metiochus and Parthenope narrates just such a discussion; in Callirhoe the Persian king and his trusty eunuch discuss whether he can resist Eros or not (
Callirhoe Book 6, passim); Achilles Tatius gives us numerous examples, in introducing the narrative (
Achilles Tatius 1.2), when Clitophon is wooing Leucippe (
Achilles Tatius1.16-18), and elsewhere. Longus’ entire narrative is even presented as a didaxis in the nature of Eros, and there is a lengthy episode in the middle when the shepherd Philetas tells the Liebespaar about Eros, of whom they are completely ignorant (
Longus 2.3-7). In these works, however, such discussions are completely germane to the overarching narrative arc, which is concerned wholly with a love affair; in the Cyropaedia it is not clear what purpose this discussion serves.
φοβοίμην ἂν αὐτοὺς καὶ αἰσχυνοίμην: why does the thought of abandoning the gods gifts inspire these twin emotions? Could this reaction suggest that Cyrus thinks of his success so far as evidence that the gods are directing him to accomplish still more?
ὡς ὄμνυμι ὑμῖν πάντας τοὺς θεούς: is this oath perhaps hyperbolic? What purpose does it serve (rhetorically or narratologically) to include it here?
τοὺς ἐμὲ τιμῶντας νικῆσαί με εὖ ποιοῦντα: is this a model of the sort of prayer that a theology like that introduced in
Cyropaedia 1.6 would approve of (i.e., Cyrus asks to be allowed to do something that it is already right and within his power to do)?
It does seem a rather odd sort of prayer, very vague in its conditions and not at all the sort of specific request that we see so often in other texts.
σὺν θεοῖς: is there any pattern in the appearance of this phrase, which is commonplace enough but hardly ubiquitous, in the Cyropaedia? Is it supposed to reflect real piety or religious feeling, or is it mere formula?
πᾶσι θεοῖς: why is this form of reference to the divine powers used here in preference to a less marked phrase (simply “the gods” or “god” or th nme of a specific god)?
εἰ μή τις θεὸς βλάπτοι: what is the theological difference between saying “if some god doesn’t harm them” rather than “if the gods allow it” or “with the help of the gods,” and why is the former idea invoked here?
τοῖς θεοῖς ἐξελόντες τὰ νομιζόμενα: does Cyrus ever neglect to mention the tithe in his discussions of what to do with plunder? If the dedication of this tithe is so formulaic, why is it necessary to mention it on every occasion? Is it not then implicit, and therefore gratuitous to mention it on every occasion that plunder is discussed?
τοῖς μάγοις: why are the magoi mentioned here, when they are by no means always the intermediaries for Cyrus’ religious dealings?
σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς: a phrase that normally accompanies a promise or a prediction (like “god willing”), so why is it used in this rather different sense here, namely to attribute divine collusion with the actions of an individual?
πολλήν με τοῖς θεοῖς ποιεῖς χάριν: does this exclamation hint at the tradition that Cyrus was commissioned by the gods, or is simply a turn of phrase to emphasize how well loved Cyrus is?
μὰ τοὺς θεούς: the second time Gadatas has added an oath to his speech for emphasis (see also ναὶ μὰ τοὺς θεοὺς in the preceding paragraph); is there any significance to the disproportionate frequency with which the gods are invoked in this exchange?
ὦ Ζεῦ: does the reference to sacrifice following (ὥστε καὶ θύειν) imply that this invocation is undertaken as the preamble to a full-scale religious celebration?
ἐὰν θεὸς θέλῃ: why is this phrase, which is more marked than the simpler σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς, employed in this promise not once, but twice?
σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς καὶ σὺν ἡμῖν: why is the phrase (rather unusually) here extended with the reference to “our” responsibility in bringing the desired outcome to pass?
ὄμνυμί σοι θεούς, οἳ καὶ ὁρῶσι πάντα καὶ ἀκούουσι πάντα: Gadatas’ exchange with Cyrus proves once again to be unusually emphatic in their invocation of the gods (see also μὰ τοὺς θεοὺς in the following chapter). Is this just an idiosyncrasy used to characterize Gadatas, or is there something else at work here?
καὶ θεοῖς ἐχθρὸν καὶ ἀνθρώποις: is there an allusion in this characterization of the Assyrian king to the religious (e.g. Zoroastrian) interpretation of Cyrus’ conquest, whereby he is an agent of the divine against the forces of evil?
See also “ἢν οἱ θεοὶ ὥσπερ νῦν σὺν ἡμῖν ὦσιν” in paragraph 37 below; could such phrases be vestigial hints at Cyrus as agent of divine justice?
θεῶν, ὦ θεῖε: is Cyrus (or Xenophon) playing with words here?
ὦ Ζεῦ: is there a reason he invokes Zeus specifically here?
σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς: does it dilute Cyrus’ point (that Cyaxares owes his safety to Cyrus’ actions) for him to attribute success to the gods in this way, or does it strengthen it (since it might prove the justice of his actions, for example)?
σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς: why is Cyrus so relentless, even redundant, in reminders that success in battle is up to the gods?
θεῶν, ἔφη, ὦ θεῖε: if the example above (paragraph 8) is wordplay, does the insertion of ἔφη in its midst here change that (or at any rate make it less noticeable)?
Note that these are the only two times in the exchange that he addresses Cyaxares as “θεῖε,” in in both cases the phrase is immediately preceded by “πρὸς τῶν θεῶν.”
ἃ μὲν δὴ πρῶτα ηὐξάμεθα, πάρεστι σὺν θεοῖς: which prayers are these, or (if this is the first we are hearing of them), why were they not mentioned before? Or is this simple a turn of phrase (“we’ve got everything we could have wished”)?
θεούς τε ἀκούω ἔρωτος ἡττῆσθαι: what are the implications of these divine precedents for the proper behavior of leaders in matters of the heart? Does Cyrus’ blaming himself for Araspas’ transgression tell us more about the role of the leader or the importance of romance (e.g. the romance of Pantheia and Abradatas) for understanding leadership?
τοῦ ἀδίκου σοφιστοῦ τοῦ Ἔρωτος: is this idea of Eros as a sophistic teacher a serious reference to the philosophical tradition?
This is certainly a typical presentation of Eros’ role in human affairs in the later novels; could this passage provide some clue as to either the purpose of including the Pantheia and Abradatas episode or the influence of the Cyropaedia on later prose fiction?
εἰ δέ ποτε θυσίαν ποιοῖτο: what does this mixture of the pragmatic/military with the religious tell us about Cyrus’ use of religion?
σὺν θεοῖς παρεσκευάσμεθα: is this meant to encourage the troops (θαρρεῖτε) through the same sort of logic that justifies the da quia dedisti prayer form?
See also “σὺν θεῷ” in paragraph 25 below; why does Cyrus switch to a singular “god” there?
διδάσκει δὲ καὶ ὁ θεός: how does the notion of “the god” as a “teacher” fit into Cyrus’ religious views, in particular his stance that the gods help those who help themselves? Is there a connection between “the god” (in this case as embodied in the natural order) as teacher and the leader as teacher?
ἐγὼ δὲ θύσομαι ἐπὶ τῇ ὁρμῇ: does this exclusion of all but the ruler himself from the sacrifice reflect Persian practice (by contrast with the more social sacrifices of the Greeks)?
ὅταν δὲ τὰ τῶν θεῶν καλῶς ἔχῃ: why is there no mention of the magoi or the manteis here?
ἐπεὶ δὲ καλὰ τὰ ἱερὰ ἦν: does this suggest that the omens could have been unfavorable at first, and that our narrator simply chose not to tell us about them? If so, why is there no interest in mentioning or describing unfavorable omens? Or are we supposed to believe that the omens are always immediately good for Cyrus? In that case, is there an implication of divine destiny for Cyrus’ conquests?
ὦ Ζεῦ μέγιστε: is there a reason Zeus megistos is the deity invoked?
ἕως ἂν ἐγὼ θύωμαι: does this advice to his soldiers imply that Cyrus will be sacrificing in lieu of breakfasting? If so, what does the role of religion in his leadership?
Κῦρος μὲν ἐθύετο, ὁ δ᾽ ἄλλος στρατὸς ἀριστήσας καὶ σπονδὰς ποιησάμενος: what are we to make of this division of labor with respect to the cultivation of divine favor? Is Cyrus more pious or observant, or is it simply his job as leader to make sacrifice on behalf of everyone else?
ὦ Ζεῦ μέγιστε: why is Zeus, specifically, called upon here (by name) when it is so often “the gods” or just “the god” who are invoked?
ὡς δ᾽ ἐκεκαλλιερήκει μὲν ὁ Κῦρος: are we to understand from this that Cyrus has been sacrificing during the entire breakfast, arming, and this scene between Pantheia and Abradatas? If so, does the length of time suggest that the first omens were prohibitive? Why, then, would that fact be suppressed?
οἷάπερ ὅτε τὴν πρόσθεν νίκην ἔδοσαν: what purpose does the internal analepsis serve? Does it imply a da quia dedisti logic?
οἷς ἐθύσαμεν θεοῖς: is this the “royal we,” or does Cyrus here imply that his sacrifices were made on behalf of all of the soldiery?
οὖσιν ἀμφὶ τὰ ἱερά: is a second sacrifice implied? If so, does the fact that breakfast is brought to Cyrus’ attendants now imply that they were present for the previous sacrifice as well? Why are they then mentioned here if they were not worth mentioning before? And what does this breakfasting while sacrificing imply about Cyrus’ leadership? Why did he not have recourse to this option before, when all of his soldiers were breakfasting?
Δία πατρῷον: how does this Zeus differ from the Zeus Megistos who has been invoked on several other occasions? Why the specificity here?
βροντὴ δεξιὰ ἐφθέγξατο: is there any indication from Xenophon’s narrator that Cyrus’ interpretation of this omen is correct? How does this moment relate to the one other spontaneous lightning-bolt, at
ἢν οἱ θεοὶ θέλωσι: why is this more emphatic phrasing used instead of the standard “sun (tois) theois“?
Ζεὺς σωτὴρ καὶ ἡγεμὼν: this is almost identical to the watchword used at
Cyropaedia 3.3.58 (Ζεὺς σύμμαχος καὶ ἡγεμών), but not quite. Why is this one word changed while the rest remains the same?
αἰτιατέον: does this imply that in other circumstances the gods might indeed be reproachable? What does such an assertion reveal about the implicit theology at work here? Are we meant to think of Croesus’ reproach of Apollo in
Herodotus Histories, which will result from the battle about to be fought? If so, what does the contrast between the two approaches to divine will tell us?
ὥσπερ σὺ ἠξίους: are we supposed to know what Cyrus is referring to here? Is there a specific moment that Cyrus has in mind, as the tense suggests?
σὺν θεοῖς: does this really fit the context? That is, does Cyrus need the gods’ help to carry out this plan, or is it gratuitous piety (or hedging) on his part?
ὁ θεὸς νίκην διδῷ: does his hedging here imply no faith in the accuracy of the various omens we have been told about so far, all of which allegedly pointed to his victory?
τῷ Ἐνυαλίῳ: is this the only mention of Ares in the work? Why is he invoked here?
θεοὺς ἐπικαλουμένων: how does the addition of this detail (that the combatants were calling on gods) affect the presentation of this scene of carnage?
ἡ τύχη: is it significant that this is the only place in the Cyropaedia where agency is attributed to ἡ τύχη?
Following Sarah’s suggestion above, an examination of the parallel passages in Herodotus reveals only one instance in this episode in which agency is attributed to τύχη, at 1.32.5, where Solon tells Croesus that “unless fate compels him to finish his life well, possessing all good things” he cannot count a man fortunate.
What does the contrast between this version of Croesus’ relationship to the gods, especially to Pythian Apollo, and the relationship portrayed in Herodotus (where, notably, Croesus must be informed by the oracle as to why he has no cause for reproach against the gods), including the significantly greater amount of moralizing in this version (the self-reflection, for example, that it was wrong for him to test the oracle), reveal about the differences in the role of religion between these two works?
ἐκ θεῶν γεγονότι: why has Xenophon chosen to have Croesus refer to the tradition of Cyrus’ divine birth here, when that aspect of the Cyrus legend is played down elsewhere in the work?
μὰ Δία: is it significant that Croesus here switches to Zeus as the object of his invocation, or is this simply an idiomatic exclamation and not worth our attention?
ἡ ἐμὴ γυνή: why is it that Xenophon’s version has Croesus’ wife singled out as living the most fortunate life (with the thanks-offering Croesus will make to Apollo driving the point home), and points to the domestic sphere as the locus of happiness and good fortune (by contrast with, for example, Solon’s “happy” exempla in
Sarah has suggested above (in her comment on the previous paragraph) that at least one reason might be the segue to the ending of the Pantheia and Abradatas romance. It is possible, though, to see this as the local example of a far more significant and sweeping trend: it is, after all, in a peaceful domestic existence that the later novels, which grow out of this work, locate the end-all and be-all of human happiness for both men and women. Could Xenophon’s switch from the civic-minded Tellus and Cleobis and Biton stories to the very personal, domestic life of the nobility that Croesus’ wife enjoyed mark the start of a shift in the “endgame” criteria of later prose narratives?
The tale is often seen as a prototype for the ancient novel (even more so than the Cyropaedia itself). But this scene in fact points out one striking difference between this tale and the five “canonical” Greek novels: they all have “happy” endings. What is it then, I wonder, about this tale that makes it seem so much like one of the novels? Is it simply that it is a love-story with a husband and wife who are passionately devoted to each other and who face great obstacles to their love?
Bodil Due 2003:581-599, “Xenophon of Athens: The Cyropaedia,” in Schmeling, Gareth, The Novel in the Ancient World (Leiden), gives a summary (Due 2003:585n15), noting also
Philostratus V.S.I 22.254, which states that Celer wrote a novel about Araspas and Pantheia under Hadrian, and Schmeling’s argument that the
Liebespaar of the Ephesiaka of Xenophon of Ephesus is modeled on Pantheia and Abradatas.
It is interesting that you focus on the monument as a key element in the parallel; the Scheintod motif in the later Greek novels plays with this sort of scene, borrowing as much of its pathos as possible without actually killing the protagonists; in those instances, a massively overblown monument is sometimes constructed; see, e.g.,
Xenophon Ephesius 3.7.
οἱ μάγοι: is it significant that the magoi are once again responsible for the selection of the gods’ portion? Why are they tasked with this but not with the sacrifices before battle (which Cyrus himself performs)?
For (b), might there be an alternate reading? I think ἡμῶν may be partitive with πολλοὶ, or, alternatively, if we keep ἡμῶν as complementary with ἀξίως, note that ἀξίως is an adverb, modifying χώσουσιν: only the way the tomb is handled is worthy “of us,” not the tomb itself.
ἐπισφαγήσεται αὐτῷ: is this just respect for the dead, or is hero-cult implied by the blood-sacrifices? If so, is there a Persian (or Susan) tradition of hero-cult, or is Xenophon imposing a Greek practice here? And why is Abradatas the only one singled out for this treatment?
ὁ μὲν ποταμὸς ἡμῖν παρακεχώρηκε: is Cyrus being disingenuous by presenting this as a semi-miraculous occurrence, or is he speaking metaphorically? And are we at all meant to think of Achilles’ confrontation with the Scamander here?
ἔχομεν σύμμαχον θεὸν Ἥφαιστον: again (as at paragraph 20 above), how seriously is this being presented as a theological fact and not as mere metaphor? And does this strengthen the possibility of the Homeric allusion I suggested there (since it is Hephaestus who assists Achilles in his conflict with the Scamander)?
σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς: another odd use of this phrase; Cyrus will presumably lead them whether the gods aid him or not. Why, then, does he add this phrase? Is it (contrary to conventional usage) an affirmation rather than a caveat (“with the gods at my side” rather than “gods willing”)?
θεοὺς μὲν πρῶτον προσεκύνουν: does this detail simply preserve the proper hierarchy of gratitude (and thus show Gadatas and Gobryas’ righteousness), or does it, by juxtaposition of Cyrus and the gods, suggest a near-divine status for the latter?
καὶ τεμένη: this is the first instance of conquered land being granted to the gods as well; why now? Does this contradict the tradition of Cyrus’ religious tolerance in any way, or is he simply adding more temples to those already in existence? And why is this the only conquered spot worth transplanting Persian religion to?
μέμψασθαι: is the possibility that the gods may at times be censured being seriously considered here? Is the implication that had the Persian effort failed, the gods might have been blamed? If so, is Cyrus taking for granted that his side is in divine favor?
ἑστίας, οὗ οὔτε ὁσιώτερον χωρίον ἐν ἀνθρώποις: does the second clause (“no place is more holy than this”) imply that the ἑστίας of the first is more than a metaphor (i.e., is used in a religious sense)? Cf. also the following chapter.
πρῶτον μὲν Ἑστίᾳ ἔθυσεν, ἔπειτα Διὶ βασιλεῖ καὶ εἴ τινι ἄλλῳ θεῷ οἱ μάγοι ἐξηγοῦντο: this is both similar to and different from the sacrifice Cyrus offered when he first set out (
Cyropaedia 1.6.1). What might these similarities and differences tell us? Why, for example, is his sacrifice now to Διὶ βασιλεῖ rather than Διὶ πατρῴῳ? And why are the magoi now involved, though they were not consulted on that previous sacrifice, nor on so many of Cyrus’ previous sacrifices?
σὺν τοῖς θεοῖς: how does the appearance of this phrase in a description of Cyrus’ thought processes rather than his speech affect our view of the role of religion in this narrative?
ἔδοσαν ἡμῖν τυχεῖν ὧν ἐνομίζομεν ἄξιοι εἶναι: what sort of a conception of the divine role in human affairs does this rather contorted phrasing reveal (i.e., why not simply “they gave us what we prayed for”)?
τοὺς μὲν οὖν θεοὺς οἴεσθαι χρὴ σὺν ἡμῖν ἔσεσθαι: is the reasoning he gives for this assertion meant as an exhaustive explanation of the cause of divine favor of the Persian side? Are we to believe, in other words, that the Persians had the gods on their sides for no other reason than because the Assyrians were the unjust aggressors?
ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς παρασκευαστέον: does this imply either that a) divine favor alone is not sufficient or, b) it is contingent on taking this further step, or c) it cannot help with this additional and necessary prerequisite to successful rule?
οἱ θεοὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἀπέδειξαν: why is war craft especially given a divine source here?
The next three chapters (23-25) outline the conceptual basis of the theocratic elements Cyrus puts in place in his new empire, but there are some contradictions between this and the preceding books. Should we read retrospectively and correct (or reconcile) the contradictory elements, or is this evidence that Cyrus’ approach to religion is supposed to have changed?
πρῶτον κατεστάθησαν οἱ μάγοι: does this contradict the several references to the magoi in the earlier books, or are we meant to assume that they existed earlier but were simply not officially organized until this point?
οἷς οἱ μάγοι θεοῖς εἴποιεν: why does Cyrus now delegate so much control of even his own religious practice to the magoi, where before so much was made of his retention of direct authority over cult practice?
νομίζοντες καὶ αὐτοὶ εὐδαιμονέστεροι ἔσεσθαι: what sort of theology makes eudaemonia the explicit goal of religious practice? What sort of eudaemonia is meant here: is it philosophical, or material, or both?
μετὰ τῶν εὐσεβῶν…ἧττον ἂν…ἀνόσιόν τι ποιεῖν: are these two rationales mutually reinforcing, or does one simply rationalize the other? That is, is the belief that a pious society is more peaceable within itself and to its ruler simply a more secularized way of saying that god punishes the pious with the impious?
This veiled reference to “Sodom and Gomorroh” theology is one of the few references in the Cyropaedia to a concern on Cyrus’ part with a framework of divine control beyond his personal responsibility to maintain a right relationship with the gods. Could Xenophon’s second explanation here be a clue that the first preserves an earlier source, one with a more aretalogical view of Cyrus’ success, and that he offers the second as a more rational, Realpolitik alternative?
θεοὶ δόντες: what are the philosophical implications of treating limitless human desire for wealth as a divine gift?
See also “ἐγὼ δ᾽ ὑπηρετῶ μὲν τοῖς θεοῖς” in the following paragraph, which makes it clear that he means to treat the lust for wealth as a divine impetus. Is this notion paralleled elsewhere in Greek philosophy or theology?
σὺν τῷ δικαίῳ: is this in contrast with the formulaic sun tois theois, or is it equivalent (or complementary)?
ἐλάσαι βούλοιτο εἰς τὰ τεμένη τὰ τοῖς θεοῖς ἐξῃρημένα καὶ θῦσαι μετ᾽ ἐκείνων: does the artificiality and calculated manipulation of this sacrificial procession cast doubt on Cyrus’ earlier piety? Is there any reason we should not suppose that his constant sacrifices and references to the “gods’ help” were not part of an elaborate show to win over his followers?
περὶ τοὺς θεοὺς μᾶλλον τεχνίταις χρῆσθαι ἢ περὶ τἆλλα: is Xenophon here imposing a contemporary Persian habit of relying on priestly experts retrospectively on Cyrus’ Persians? Does he thus consider this a preference that has its origin with Cyrus (or before)? And if so, how are we to reconcile this with Cyrus’ preference to handle these matters himself in earlier books?
Is there any significance to the order of the divinities here? Why, for example, is Hestia last when she is elsewhere the first (e.g.
εἴτε καὶ ἄρξαι τινὲς κεκελευσμένοι εἴτε καὶ ἐκπλαγέντες τῇ παρασκευῇ καὶ τῷ δόξαι μέγαν τε καὶ καλὸν φανῆναι τὸν Κῦρον: is there any way of knowing which of these possibilities Xenophon considers more likely? Is there any sense that this might be more than mere pageantry, even if we adopt the second explanation (since it was only this elaborate show, and nothing in Cyrus’ person or conduct otherwise, that caused the Persians to react this way)?
Γῇ: has Hestia now been fully replaced by Gaia? Why is this particular trinity of gods chosen here?
ὡς ἐξηγήσαντο: does this imply that the holocaust offerings just mentioned were not directed by the magoi? And why are the offerings to Ge treated differently? Is there an Olympian/Chthonic division at work here, and if so, is this a case of Xenophon imposing a Greek model or does this reflect Persian practice?
ἥρωσι τοῖς Συρίαν ἔχουσι: which heroes would these be, and why does Cyrus sacrifice to them as well? Is this an effort to appease the local population?
οἵπερ με ἐποίησαν βληθῆναι ὑπὸ σοῦ: is this a case of da quia dedisti? If so, how is the logic of that particular type of prayer affected when the thing asked for is the ability to pay back the earlier gift?
εἰς θεοὺς καὶ εἰς φίλους καὶ εἰς ξένους: is this a reference to the Greek liturgy system and/or parallel social expectations? Was there a similar code in Persian society, or is Xenophon making Persia Greek here?
θύσας δὲ καὶ ὁ Κῦρος νικητήρια: how are these sacrifices different from those already conducted? Is this a private practice by contrast with the official state sacrifices just described? Why is an additional sacrifice necessary at this point?
νὴ τὴν Ἥραν: why Hera, specifically? Cf. paragraph 26 below, where Artabazus uses the more common exclamation “μὰ Δί’”.
πρὸς τῶν θεῶν: does Chrysantas’ vehemence here enhance the humor of Cyrus’ response?
ὡς πᾶσι Πέρσαις ἱκανὰ θύειν τε καὶ ἑστιᾶσθαι: does this imply that the Persian people themselves will be conducting the sacrifices? What does the contrast between this and Cyrus’ religious practice outside of Persia reveal about his use of religion for political purposes?
σὺν θεοῖς: how is the force of this phrase affected by being put into Cambyses’ speech?
θύσαντας ὑμᾶς κοινῇ καὶ θεοὺς ἐπιμαρτυραμένους συνθέσθαι: why is this contract between the Persians and Cyrus necessary, since he is himself one of the Persians (and the heir apparent)? What danger is Cambyses trying to avert, and what does it tell us about the role of religion in Cyrus’ empire?
θύειν τὰ ἱερὰ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἅπερ νῦν ἐγὼ θύω: is this source of the model Cyrus has followed outside of Persia? Is his departure from this pattern in Babylon then a move towards an un-Persian method of rule?
Πέρσαι τε καὶ βασιλεύς: does this imply that in Xenophon’s own day the religious role of the Great King was different in Persia from his role elsewhere in the empire?
Why does this piece of information get pride of place as the only thing revealed in a dream throughout the narrative of Cyrus’ life (compare, e.g., the many dreams, particularly dreamt by Persian rulers, in
Is this the only mention of this dance? It seems odd, if this is a traditional practice, that it has not been mentioned on any of the previous occasions when the Persian royal sacrifice was described.
Is it significant that this dream occurs while he is at home in Persia, and that follows soon after his participation in the state cult?
Besides the parallel tradition of Cyrus’ dream in Herodotus, how does this dream compare more generally with other prophetic dreams in Greek literature? How does it compare with other prophetic dreams in Persian sources?
Is the idea of a deceased King joining the other gods something that there is precedent for before Cyrus, or is this possibly one of the main reasons for this dream, originally: not to announce that Cyrus is dying, but that he will undergo apotheosis?
Διί τε πατρῴῳ καὶ Ἡλίῳ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις θεοῖς: Hestia is again notably absent, by comparison with earlier prayers, and she is here definitely replaced by Helios. Are these simply two ways of “interpreting” the same Persian divinity?
ἅ τ᾽ ἐχρῆν ποιεῖν καὶ ἃ οὐκ ἐχρῆν: are the words of this prayer (which is a sort of summary of the gods’ role in Cyrus’ life) borne out by the narrative that precedes? Did the gods, for instance, ever tell Cyrus what he ought not do, as far as we know?
οἱ θεοὶ: why does he focus here on the sons alone as a divine gift (rather than everything else he has obtained in life, as is more usual for him)?
θεῶν τε διδόντων: to what purpose does he make the gods accessories in his granting kingship to Cambyses? Why does he not include them when enumerating the offices he is leaving his younger sons?
ἃ οἱ θεοὶ ὑφήγηνται: to what, exactly, does this refer? Tokens, traits, shared history, familiarity…what aspect of fraternal bond are we meant to believe is god-sent?
πρὸς θεῶν πατρῴων: why is it specifically the θεοὶ πατρῷοι who are invoked here?
τότε δήπου θειοτάτη: does this view at least partly explain why Cyrus’ only dream (the only one that is reported, at any rate) is a harbinger of his own death? Do these two passages make better sense when read together?
θεούς γε τοὺς ἀεὶ ὄντας καὶ πάντ᾽ ἐφορῶντας καὶ πάντα δυναμένους: does this view of the gods correspond to any events in the narrative that would confirm it? Is there any evidence, that is, in the earlier portion of the book of an all-overseeing all-powerful pantheon?
οὐ γὰρ ἐν σκότῳ ὑμᾶς οἱ θεοὶ ἀποκρύπτονται: does he assert this of them qua princes, or qua humans more generally? Are we to read this rationale for piety and justice, in other words, as one applicable to all humans or only to those who are ever in the public eye?
μήτε ἢν μετὰ τοῦ θείου γένωμαι μήτε ἢν μηδὲν ἔτι ὦ: does his continued uncertainty about life after death imply that he is skeptical about the veracity of his dream (which has assured him, after all, that he will join the gods)?
διὰ τὴν ἐκείνων περὶ μὲν θεοὺς ἀσέβειαν, περὶ δὲ ἀνθρώπους ἀδικίαν: are these qualities equated (i.e., symptoms of the same illness in two different contexts) or separate, compounding characteristics? Does ἀσέβεια always imply ἀδικία, or vice versa?
ἐκ τῶν θείων: what can it tell us about the role of religion in this work that Xenophon’s narrator, after saying he will begin from religious matters, proceeds to discuss oaths, reputation, and related issues, never once mentioning prayer, sacrifice, or the other outward and visible signs of “piety” as conventionally defined?
ἀσεβεστέρους…ἀνοσιωτέρους…ἀδικωτέρους…ἀνανδροτέρους: how are these four aspects of their decline related? Does Xenophon suggest any causal relationship among them?
ἀσεβεστέρους περὶ θεοὺς: what can Cyrus’ example teach us about the role of religion in leadership, and how have the later Persians fallen short of that example such that religion no longer plays its part in a just state?
Thanks for the link: a fascinating little lecture, though in some ways very depressing. I hadn’t actually thought specifically of games designed to emulate life from start to finish, nor was I familiar with some of the games Lepore mentions. Thinking of it now, however, the comparison sheds some light on the different ways control levels are included in narrative: each of these games balances chance with free will and authorial control in different ways. I think this needs further investigation.
As you may well be aware, an entire branch of literary theory (Reception theory) has grown up around this very question: how changing horizons of perception, both individual and societal, alter the response elicited by a text (in the broadest sense of the term). I once ran a simple experiment in “reader response” with a Latin class I was teaching, asking them to document their altering responses to the line “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” over time. I was fascinated to discover precisely this sort of schism in response among those who had served, where it was noticeably absent among most who had not.
I find this explanation the most plausible. The passages you cite below, where Xenophon does show some interest in logistics, seem to me more the chance occurrences natural in a work by a military man of the highest caliber, and not part of any thorough-going interest in the logistics of Cyrus’ conquests. Generally, I think, Xenophon’s attention is elsewhere: on the character of Cyrus qua leader (see Norman Sandridge’s excellent work, coming out this September, for more on this). Logistics will thus only be relevant in as far as they illustrate Cyrus’ interpersonal relationships. The parallel to the Medieval romances thus seems to me apt (and more than coincidental: Xenophon “invented,” with this work, the genre which would eventually branch in multiple directions, one of which bore fruit as the “romance”): where the Cyropaedia is concerned with illustrating Cyrus’ nature and character as an ideal leader, the Medieval romances (from my limited knowledge of them) seem centrally focused on the heroic nature of their protagonists; narrative economy will preclude anything that does not touch on this (this is before the re-invention of “verisimilitude” in fiction; see Gerald Sandy 2010:169-191, “Classical Forerunners of the Theory and Practice of Prose Romance in France…,” Antike und Abendland 28).
Since the Cyropaedia is sometimes considered the first ancient novel (or at the very least a proto-novel), this interpretive dichotomy you bring up reminds me very much of the famous interpretive dichotomy that
Apuleius’ Golden Ass has produced. There the discussion has centered around whether the work is, at the end of it all, a serious moralizing work of philosophy or an absurdly entertaining joke. The reason I bring this up is because Jack Winkler 1995 showed, in his groundbreaking narratological analysis (Auctor & Actor, Berkeley), that this interpretive ambiguity is built into the work itself, and that it rests with the reader to select those elements that support one version of the novel’s “meaning” over another.
Though I know of no approach to the Cyropaedia that takes a similar tack, I think it might make sense to think in these terms about this work as well. I will soon post a blog entry with my initial findings on the topic of religion and narrative authority in the work, which is part of a larger project I am working on surveying the ancient novel and its precursor(s) more generally. As you will read there if you care to, I see Xenophon’s use (or general lack thereof) of a divine “control level” as part of a move towards a character-derived system of narrative motivation, which is a better fit for his professed object in composing the work. Such a move is in fact a first step towards the kind of fiction we are far more comfortable with today. Nonetheless, as I will argue there, the natural result of such a move is that it leaves the question of who is “pulling the strings” open-ended. This opens the work up to precisely the sort of bifurcated interpretation you mention here, and thus leaves a lot more room for (and necessitates a greater degree of) creative interpretation on the part of the reader. Though a work that is open-ended in this way may still contain small hints that nudge a reader towards one interpretation over another, it is naturally significantly more capacious for accommodating the inventiveness of its audience. And that makes it potentially far more interesting, depending on how hard the audience is willing to work, but significantly more likely to be dull to an audience that is disinclined to engage very actively with the narrative. If we want to find ways in which the Cyropaedia might be made interesting, then, we must do precisely this: find something that will motivate our students to supply some of the many pieces Xenophon leaves missing. And if that turns out to be a court intrigue, the thrill of searching for the conspiracy behind the veil of power, then at the very least such an interpretation provides an exciting way into the text, one that will likely be, for many as for you, less “dull” than the alternative.
Another solution seems to me possible here, somewhere between your 4) and 5) (though equally, if not even more, conjectural): could it be that Xenophon, in the process of stitching together a variety of shorter stories about Cyrus’ life from various sources, waits to supply the name until it is supplied in the story he is actually recounting, and then supplies the “retrojection” himself, whether by conjecture or on someone else’s authority? That is, Artabazus is not actually named in his source for the kiss, but later, when the name Artabazus comes up, he reasons that this fellow must be the same (from his dedication to Cyrus, perhaps), so he asserts that this devoted courtier is the same as the one who stole the kiss. One argument in favor of this explanation is that three of your four characters are first introduced in book 1; tales about Cyrus’ childhood seem to me likely to be the obscurest and most legendary (and hardest to corroborate from any other, more historical sources), so it seems possible that Xenophon’s sources for Cyrus’ childhood just don’t use as many names (a common feature of folklore). It would not surprise me if Xenophon then filled in the names retrospectively if his rationale for doing so seemed sound. Of course Pantheia is the notable exception who challenges this hypothesis.
This subject is also treated by Bodil Due 2003:581-599 in “Xenophon of Athens: The Cyropaedia,” in Schmeling, Gareth, The Novel in the Ancient World (Leiden); her list (Due 2003:594) does not include Cyaxares, but adds Gadatas (
Cyropaedia 5.2.23 and
Cyropaedia 5.3.8). She sees this phenomenon as something designed to create “a sort of suspense or stimulus for further reading…”
Appeared in 2012 (or at least with a 2012 date).
I might suggest that Xenophon rather moves us away from democracy by listing it first, only to leave it behind and make the transition to individual leaders. After all, the reversals of Athenian democracy listed above took place some time before the Cyropaedia was written, and the Athenian democracy was rather stable in the 4th century.It is hard to see an political application of the Cyropaedia at Athens, then–even if one thinks Xenophon was rather anti-democratic, it is hard to imagine him advocating a transition to monarchy. Philip Stadter 1991:461-491 rather interestingly argues that the work was rather directed at individuals as private persons–as the end of section one suggests–i.e., that individual aristocrats could adopt Cyrus’ virtues in their own lives, without founding empires of their own (“Fictional Narrative in the Cyropaedia,” American Journal of Philology 112). I think Stadter goes too far in making the work less political than it appears, but he does certainly come up with a way of making the Cyropaedia relevant at Athens, and hence explains why “Xenophon the Athenian” wrote it.
The wonder here is passive and not ascribed to Xenophon/the narrator himself, it least not immediately, so if there is any admiration for tyrants we cannot assume he shares it . Xenophon begins the
Memorabilia by noting at his wonder that the Athenians convicted Socrates. Unless one reads that work very ironically indeed, his θαυμα there is not admiration puzzlement. But in our current passage the verb θαυμάζω must mean something like “admire”, given the adjectives, and Norman’s comment well elucidates what many people may find impressive about long-lasting tyrannies
I suppose we must also throw Thrasymachus’ comparison from
Plato Republic I into the mix (shepherds are interested in profiting from the meat and wool from sheep, not in the welfare of the sheep). This comparison is particularly pointed given that Xenophon explicitly notes that the sheep let their leaders make whatever use they’d like to of their “fruits”. But as the
Iliad language makes clear, shepherds were often used as a positive comparison for leaders of men, rather than to imply that leaders exploit their followers as shepherds do sheep.Compare the ambiguity of the famous moschophoros illustrated here. On the one hand, we have the happy shepherd who, like many a pet owner, is coming to resemble his pet. But he is presumably bringing that cute lamb to be slaughtered as a sacrifice a top the Acropolis.
Memorabilia 3.2 Xenophon has Socrates teach a man elected general that his goal ought to be the eudaimonia of those he rules, so Xenophon does recognize the factor you note above–at least Xenophon’s Socrates does there. Eudaimonia there (as Louis-André Dorion 2011 stresses in his new commentary on the Memorabilia–Paris, 2011) is most likely to be understood in material terms. Here (as you note elsewhere) Xenophon is concentrating on what is most amazing about Cyrus, and what he finds most amazing is people’s willingness to obey Cyrus, rather than Cyrus’ success in making them fortunate. This doesn’t mean Cyrus didn’t do the latter, but it is not the stress here. Cyrus’ subjects were not remarkably well-off; they were remarkably willing to obey, especially given how many of them there were.
At the end of the
Oeconomicus Ischomachus himself (the master of those slaves) admits that leadership is something very difficult (much more difficult than farming, which merely requires effort-epimeleia), so difficult that it is in some sense divine. You are of course right that elsewhere in the work Ischomachus gives plenty of apparently successful advice about how to manage slaves, so this remark is surprising even within the Oeconomicus.
Another essential comparison is
Oeconomicus 13. Ischomachus, discussing how he trains his overseer, notes that the methods used for animals also work with human beings, to a point–and in fact suffice in many cases for slaves. Humans can be moved not only by carrots and sticks but by words, especially praise and reproach. Cyrus will of course be a past master when it comes to praise and rewards (and, though more rarely, reproach). In the Oeconomicus passage, in other words, the metaphor is more than a metaphor.
The relationship between
Plato Republic and Cyropaedia must of course be complex (starting with the question of whether Xenophon even knew the Republic in the form we know it, though I think that is likely). One interesting point of comparison (especially for those obsessed with the epilogue of the Cyropaedia, as I am) is the failure of succession in Cyrus’ case, and the corresponding stress on the difficulty of succession in the Republic (the business about the “birthing number”, which must be deliberately and even ridiculously obscure). That is, both Republic and
Oeconomicus may concur that a paradisaical community is unlikely, given how rare individuals like Cyrus or like philosopher-kings are. But I’ll grant that this passage itself implies that leadership is easy, if one just knows how. The question is whether anyone other than the (fictional?) Cyrus has ever known how. (Xenophon comes to mind, but his leadership of the 10,000, for all its glories, was hardly the success that Cyrus’ leadership is.)
Another possibility to consider is that Xenophon isn’t at all critical of early Persia–I see nothing ironic in his treatment of the Persia of Cyrus’ youth–but that the appendix raises questions about what Cyrus does to Persia and the Persians. One doesn’t have to claim that everything is ironic (as, say, Nadon does in Xenophon’s Prince), that Xenophon is critical of all existing regimes. I found your own argument that the appendix is inconsistent with a positive reading of the Cyropaedia pretty convincing, but consider it (ironically?) an argument against the positive reading of the Cyropaedia, rather than against the authenticity of the appendix. To be convincing, though, ironic readings need to rely on more than the appendix.
Perhaps we ought to bring the verb καταπλῆξαι to bear here when trying to understand this variety of fear. A closer parallel passage then may be
Cyropaedia 3.1.25 (which I stumbled over in LSJ).
The fear in
Cyropaedia 8.7.7 instead followed alongside Cyrus throughout his days (συμπαρομαρτῶν) and prevented him from being completely at ease–until he died, at which point he seems to think, with Solon, that he can die a happy man.
μέν . .. δέ need not ‘underscore’ any tension; cf.
Cyropaedia 1.1.1 just above. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a real question here–how much Cyrus achieves by fear versus something more like ‘admiration’ (if not love). But the strange thing to me seems to be Xenophon’s not underscoring what strikes us (post Machiavelli?) as a fundamental distinction between modes of ruling.
A way to start here would be to consider ἐδοκοῦμεν καταμεμαθηκέναι in
Cyropaedia 1.1.1 and ἐδοκοῦμεν ὁρᾶν in
Cyropaedia 1.1.2. Those versions of δοκέω don’t seem to be particularly speculative; they rather perhaps Xenophon’s self-awareness. A quick skim of other 1ppl usages of the verb elsewhere in Cyropaedia also suggests that δοκἐω is more focalizing than hedging–i.e. “we’re conscious of x-ing” rather than “we seem to be x-ing”. Cf. Gray’s work on source citations in Gray 2010 (Oxford Readings on Xenophon).
In this particular passage we do have a possible contrast with ἐπυθόμεθα, true enough, and, heaven knows, much of the Cyropaedia seems speculative enough. For that general issue see however C. Tuplin 1996 (“Xenophon’s Cyropaedia: Education and Fiction” in Sommerstein and Atherton, eds. Education in Greek Fiction, Nottingham); Tuplin suggests Xenophon would have regarded Cyropaedia as historical.
I’ve always taken the old time Persian education as being something Xenophon regards very highly, but is there any hint of litigiousness in this emphasis on having the typical disputes of the young turned into quasi-legal proceedings? And would having an adult resolve these disputes result in the young learning about justice more effectively than having them work it out for themselves? Cyrus himself tells of his undergoing judgement of this sort in
Cyropaedia 1.3.16-18 (on which see Danzig 2009).
See Davidson’s Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens for lots on the meaning of ὄψον.
Given that Persian education is rather idealized in these chapters, is it surprising to hear that there are villains to be tracked down and bandits to run down?
ἡ πολιτεία αὕτη, ᾗ οἴονται χρώμενοι βέλτιστοι ἂν εἶναι So the Persians think they have the constitution that produces the best men. Does Xenophon agree? To the extent he does, is there a contrast with the pessimism about leadership at the outset of the work?
Does the account of sweat, urine, and flatulence come as an anticlimax? Do Xenophon’s allusions to present day Persia throughout the text prepare us for the so-called palinode in
πρὸς δὲ τούτοις μανθάνουσι καὶ τοξεύειν καὶ ἀκοντίζειν this bit appended to Xenophon’s account looks like a glancing allusion to
Herodotus Histories 1.136-oh, they also learn what you’ve heard elsewhere. But Xenophon omits to say that the Persians learn to tell the truth. Is that significant? The boys are taught justice and moderation, but in neither case is the truth a significant theme.
On this see now Norman’s own Sandridge 2012.
I’ve argued in my article (Johnson 2007:177-207) “Persians as Centaurs in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia” (TAPA 135 (2005) 177-201) that the introduction of horses, as clued by the comparison to centaurs at 4.3.19-20, is meant to signal the onset of their decline from a tough foot soldiers to the luxurious weaklings of
Cyropaedia 8.8. This despite Xenophon’s own appreciation for horses and horsemanship.
Well, if the Persian education produced superb leaders, then the problem Xenophon presents at the outset of the Cyropaedia would have been solved already–just send your lads to Persia, and they’ll be capable leaders. So I suppose there is a sense in which we should expect Cyrus will need to transcend this educational system, for all its apparent value. Perhaps it forms good followers but not great leaders? If so, given the obvious similarities to Sparta (with ‘improvements’!), this would lead us to wonder if Sparta could produce capable leaders.
His reply to the question about who’s the fairest shows considerable charm & finesse. One wonders what his mother was thinking!
Perhaps an odd comparison, but Cavendish’s life of Cardinal Wosley shows a similar fascination with robes, silver furnishings, etc. as objects marking out the Cardinal’s vast wealth & status before his fall. In the preindustrial world items like this counted not only as symbols of status but as real honest to goodness wealth–it’s not like one had a large bank account. Robes and jewelry could be a substantial portion of one’s wealth. So such items were symbols, but not only symbols.
It doesn’t seem very similar at first, but the joke about ἰσηγορία might connect it to some extent. Do we have any other evidence to associate this quality with the Medes? Or could this be a subtle dig at the Athenians, who are better known for that quality? We could then have a little parody both of Persian and Athenian deliberative practices.
The poison Sakas testing for is of course not alcohol but intended to protect against something rather worse: the cupbearer’s participation in an assassination plot. Is there any resonance with that darker possibility here?
This is the sort of observation I expected to find in the Struassian Nadon‘s book on Cyropaedia (Xenophon’s Prince) but did not find, at least via the index locorum. In support of this sort of dark reading I suppose we could say this: the boyish Cyrus goes on to compare Astyages’ drinking unfavorably with that of his father in the next paragraph; Xenophon earlier made self-control a central part of Persian custom; Cyrus here not only replaces Sakas but rules him, taking on Astyages’ role (at least in that small respect); Cyrus the Persian eventually takes over Media.
At any rate, one could argue that one has here, in nuce, the whole of the Cyropaedia: Cyrus charms and serves his way to the top. Whether there appears to be anything dark about that may say more about the reader than the author.
Memorabilia 4.4, Socrates discusses justice with Hippias and argues that justice and nomos are one and the same. There may be more to it than that–or at least so I argue in my Johnson 2003 and Johnson 2012 articles on the relevant passages, but at first glance it certainly looks like all one needs to do to be just is to obey the law, i.e., the written statues of Athens. And at
Memorabilia 1.2.39-46 a mischievous Alcibiades tangles up his guardian Pericles by arguing that anything that is biaion can’t be nomimon–so the poor can’t force the rich to pay taxes, say.
What’s going on with Median ἰσηγορία? Is this a little Xenophontic jibe directed toward Athens, which was famed for that “freedom/license/excessive of speech”?
Given that Cyrus’ uncle is Cambyses, whom he will later outmaneuver, it seems to me there’s some foreshadowing of that in his saying that he’ll credit Astyages with any beast he kills. That is, the youthful Cyrus smartly/cunningly gives others the credit while at the same time showing himself increasingly independent of them, just as the older Cyrus will take Cambyses’ troops, do with them what Cambyses couldn’t, and make them his troops.
I wonder how much of this whole episode is passive-aggressive. At paragraph 12 above I thought Cyrus was being entirely manipulative, goading his friends into begging him to go to Asytages; he had after all just had a very successful encounter with his πάππος.
Βut in 13 the narrator, who is presumably reliable, tells us that Cyrus was stung by their words and then had to gird up his loins to go to Astyages, implying it wasn’t all a show.
Perhaps it’s a bit of both–that’s how we passive-aggressive types tend to experience life in any event, unsure of how manipulative we are being. In that case, we might say that Cyrus learns that he can use a certain shyness to his advantage just as effectively as he used his chattery childhood. Unless I’m reading way too much into this, the psychological realism here, mixed with acute observation of the development of an adolescent, is rather acute.
Why do we see this entire hunt through Astyages eyes?
Does anyone else feel ‘robbed’ of an account of a conversation between Astyages and Cyrus after the battle? Cyrus keeps his escort out in front of him in an effort to avoid making eye contact with his grandfather, which I suppose explains the absence of any conversation here, but that of course is just another way of saying that Xenophon decided not to discuss why Astyages was upset–i.e., to discuss the very things the earlier comments on this chapter go into. Perhaps Astyages is indeed dumbstruck by Cyrus (cf. ὑπερεξεπέπληκτο in the next chapter, a very rare word)–though that is just another reflection of the narratological choice.
I’d look to the immediate context: Cyrus shows himself brilliantly able to forestall punishment and manipulate Cyaxares and Astyages by distributing the spoils to Astyages. Cyaxares’ comment shows a surprising amount of insight for one who will later be so thoroughly outmaneuvered by Cyrus. There is boldness here not only on the hunt but in the court.
What was Cyrus attempting to achieve with his question here?
My guess is that he expected the answer he got, but that Astyages said a bit more than he expected. That is, Cyrus would be content to receive a whipping upon his return, so long as he was treated the same way otherwise–all the more so if the whipping were no more severe than that he got the first time around, i.e., no whipping at all! But Astyages quickly adds that it would be foolish of him to allow his grandson to risk his life for some meat, momentarily checking Cyrus’ plan.
We see the runaway slave analogy again in the trial of the Armenian (
Cyropaedia 3.1.11-12). I’m not sure if this is meant to be striking or in some way parallel–perhaps it is only evidence for the prevalence of this problem in antiquity, hence something that regularly comes to mind to the ancients.
διὰ τὸν πόλεμον So were the Medes and Assyrians at war? In what sense?
Unless I’m missing something, this is the first hint of any such conflict. Perhaps we’re just to think of the sort of low-scale conflict over borderlands that may have be endemic in the ancient–Greek? Persian?–world. I wonder if this event plays any role in the later great conflict between Media and Assyria, which is obviously on a different order of magnitude. Clearly the Assyrians are the aggressors, as they hunt on Median land, but Cyrus’ bold pursuit does not merely chase off the hunters and retake their kills, but results in many dead Assyrians. Could it be that in some sense Cyrus’ boldness contributes to the Assyrian decision to attack Media later? Or are we to think of it mainly as an isolated episode that showcases Cyrus’ character in formation?
It is presumably significant that Araspas is a Mede, not a Persian, given the contrast between the customs of the two peoples early in the Cyropaedia, and the fact that his ignorance of Persian kissing customs is thematic here. Hence this episode tells us nothing about pederasty among the Persians (though your question of course wasn’t about this episode, but any background knowledge we might possess).
Araspas, as we later learn in the Pantheia episode, is not particularly self-controlled. Cyrus, rather like Socrates in this respect, appears perfectly comfortable with homoerotic banter, but does not appear to get very involved in physical consummation of such desires (not that we hear of any heterosexual consummation on his part either, save in parenting).
Compare the Assyrian’s use of preemption as a justification for war to that of Croesus in Herodotus and perhaps to more contemporary cases of preemption as a justification/motivation for waging war.
We just heard of sacrifices at
Cyropaedia 1.5.6, though that was rather brief. I’m not quite sure where we would have expected attention to the gods earlier. Before the battle with the Assyrians over the hunt? But that was a rather hurried affair. Perhaps the absence of any pre-battle sacrifice there was symptomatic of the ad hoc nature of that battle–or is there some difference between Median and Persian customs?
Has anything we’ve seen previously prepared us for Cyrus’ comment that the Persian elders never gained anything for the Persian community or themselves through their practice of virtue?
ἐπειδὴ καὶ ἐκποδὼν ἡμῖν γεγένηται τὸ δόξαι τῶν ἀλλοτρίων ἀδίκως ἐφίεσθαι Does Cyrus maintain the interest shown here in waging war justly? How do his justifications for war compare to those of the Assyrian, as outlined above? How important is justice as a motive/explanation/justification for war compared to the pursuit of riches, happiness, honor in paragraph 9 above?
Applying these analogies for the traditional Persian way of life, are we to conclude that the Persians have heretofore enjoyed no happiness, riches, or honor? Is it fair to compare them to farmers who (bizarrely!) leave their crops unharvested, or someone who trains for athletic competition but does not compete?
Does anyone else find Cyrus’ sign off comment here rather lame? After giving a rousing speech to his chosen followers, he tells them he’s going to quickly learn about warfare from his father, and then rejoin them? Not a comment I’d be comfortable from someone about to lead me into battle!
Thinking about it, I realize that my question is predicated on the assumption that we are to read Cyrus’ comment mainly as addressed to his followers. The followers won’t be reassured by his conversation with Cambyses, which they aren’t privy to, though that does certainly show that Cyrus knows a good amount about military leadership (though there are also gaps).
Xenophon’s line closing this chapter frankly sounds to me more like a transition to the next paragraph (aimed at readers) than something a leader would direct to his followers. One could argue that similar issues are at play in the next chapter, i.e., that the apparent gaps in Cyrus’ knowledge (as concerning logistics) are more a means to allow Xenophon to introduce new lessons to readers than hints as to Cyrus’ level of preparation. I’m not particularly comfortable thinking that Xenophon’s text doesn’t work both within and outside the ‘fourth wall’, but sometimes I find it hard to avoid suspecting that Xenophon is talking directly at us and over the heads of the audience within the text.
These sort of narratological issues (if that is the right term for this sort of thing) are distinct from the ‘dark’ and ‘light’ readings of Cyropaedia–this is a different sort of ‘realism’. But they will interact with such questions. If you are right that Xenophon never (or at least rarely) presents the Persians as a group with a difficult issue to consider, we might be expecting the wrong sort of realism from the text. I wonder, though, whether the decision to arm the commoners wouldn’t count as such an issue . . .
I suppose we should also note that in this case the Assyrian was absolutely right–the Persians & Medes would conquer everybody. Whether they would have done so absent a pre-emptive attack is an open question (for the Cyropaedia, at any rate–I don’t know if we have any historical evidence that Cyrus acted defensively).
It’s possible he’s thinking of Nicias in Syracuse, who failed to retreat in time because of what the manteis said; he is criticized for this (implicitly) in
Plato Laches 199a: the general is to lead the mantis, not the mantis the general. Concern about phony divination is of course premised on belief in the value & reality of divination.
Do Cambyses’ goals here for the kalokagathos and even for the leader coincide with Cyrus’ speech to the Homotimoi about virtue being worthless if it leads to no gain?
That is, is Cambyses articulating the old ways (which Cyrus said in the last chapter were foolish) or Cyrus’ new attitude? I think Cambyses’ views are a bit more conventional. The kalokagathos does have to secure what he needs for himself and his family, in addition to being recognizably kalokagathos. And the leader needs to provide for others in abundance, while seeing to it that they are as they should be. While there’s no need for the kalokagathos to gain more than what he already has, ἔκπλεω suggests that the leader must provide bountiful goods.
Is Cyrus’ trust in Cambyses reasonable, or a sign of immaturity?
Cyrus’ inattentiveness to matters of supply reminds one a bit of Glaucon (Plato’s brother) at Memorabilia 3.6. Glaucon was laughed from the rostrum in the Athenian Assembly and then shown up by Socrates in conversation for his ignorance of Athenian military preparedness.
Alternatively, we could see Cyrus’ lack of knowledge and trust in Cambyses more as a means for Xenophon to introduce these topics in a naturalistic way than as an insight into Cyrus’ level of knowledge at this point.
Heretofore in their conversation, Cyrus and Cambyses were repeating previous conversations–there were no new lessons.
Here, on the other hand (I’m comparing section 9 with my note), Cyrus is a very apt student, who at once sees the advantage of providing his men with supplies himself–thus well applying the teaching Cambyses gave him in more general terms. He also recalls the argument he made to his own troops earlier about failing to get any advantage out of one’s resources (// leaving the field idle; 1.5.8ff). *If* we are to read this as psychologically naturalistic, Cyrus initially trusted Cambyses to provide enough supplies, but then immediately grasped the advantage to providing additional supplies himself.
Note here how Xenophon varies the conversational structure: here Cyrus retells a previous occasion where Cambyses showed him the shortcoming of another teacher. Add this to (a) the two discussing previous lessons together and (b) Cambyses providing new lessons.
The substance of the conversation here is very close to
Memorabilia 3.1, where Socrates shows a companion how limited his lessons in tactics from Dionysodorus were.
Re the ease in identifying healthy locales, cf. Ischomachus’ teaching on how easy it is to identify good farmland (
Oeconomicus 16). Xenophontic characters often say that ἐπιμελεία is more vital than fancy learning.
It looks like the argument here is that followers will willingly obey a leader in any area where they recognize his superiority to them. Presumably they also need good reason to believe he has their best interest at heart, as Xenophon goes on to say just a bit later. Examples of experts like doctors and ship captains make the definition quite reasonable, but Cyrus will lay claim to a more universal sway–leadership that is all-encompassing. There the analogy with the expert gets strained, at least from a modern liberal perspective: do we recognize that there are leaders who are better able to look after us, all things considered, than we are able to look after ourselves? One wonders how we would differ from natural slaves (via Aristotle’s definition) were this the case.
To be clear, I’m not at all sure that this is a thought Xenophon wants us to have–i.e., that we are to see willing obedience as somehow sinister. The problem comes when the willing obedience we would all (presumably) want to give a general, say, becomes the willing obedience no free Greek (to employ ancient terminology) would want to give any sole ruler. Xenophon’s insistence that ruling is the same on any scale–oneself, household, city–might get us into trouble here, especially when coupled with the lack of any clear demarcation between military and political leadership in a work like Cyropaedia.
Sophists could be one target, but Socrates and the Spartans are also possibilities. Socrates was quite willing to share with a fairly young companion that it was just that it is just for a general to deceive his enemies–and even his own troops, when doing so will boost their morale and lead them to victory (
Memorabilia 4.2). So too Plato’s Socrates in
Plato Republic 1. Much here depends on the age of the ‘student’; it may be that Xenophon thought Socrates shared these lessons too openly with those who were rather young.
And of course Spartan boys were encouraged to live off the land–and friendly land at that, so via plundering friends. The use of the term ‘rhetra’ is probably a hint that Sparta is at least part of what is on Xenophon’s mind (so Christopher Tuplin, though I don’t have the exact reference handy).
ὅπως τὰ τῶν πολεμίων ἄν τις μάλιστα αἰσθάνοιτο, ἢ ὅπως τὰ σὰ οἱ πολέμιοι ἥκιστα εἰδεῖεν certainly counts as intelligence gathering and ‘counterintelligence’, but the rest is a list of situations and tasks and how to deal with them–not how to know they are coming, know how the enemy is utilizing them, etc. It looks like it’s more tactics (in the etymological sense) than anything else . . .
Sorry to be quarrelsome, but what’s the evidence for Xenophon preferring ‘real intelligence’ to divination? This looks like an anachronistic rationalization to me; in particular, the trust in ‘intelligence’ seems somewhat unfounded–intelligence gathering has not been a major theme of Cambyses’ remarks (at least in my reading). Socrates gives pretty much the same advice regarding divination in Memorabilia 1.1, and he didn’t have a superstitious army to buttress. On Xenophon’s attitudes see R. Parker 2004:152 in “One Man’s Piety”, in Lane-Fox’s The Long March (Yale, 2004); Parker looks for a middle way between modern doubt and ancient credulity but concludes that “he portrays the gods’ advice as having a decisive influence on the decisions he made, and hopes to be believe” (152). It will however be interesting to see of Cyrus makes similar usage of divination; the test cases are when the gods do not approve of a course of action people want to undertake. We have that in Anabasis but not, I think, in Cyropaedia.
Cambyses does certainly give piety a very important role, particularly in making the fundamental decision of how aggressive & ambitious to be in pursuit of power. I’m frankly not sure, however, how much his cautionary words here resonate with 8.8, because there the Persian problem isn’t with being overly aggressive (rather the opposite, perhaps–being complacent and soft). Cambyses’ warnings would seem to apply to the Cyrus of Herodotus, who went a river too far and ended up with his head in a sack of blood. As one with a weakness for ‘dark’ readings of the Cyropaedia, I’m tempted to see Cambyses’ remarks as casting doubt on Cyrus’ whole imperial exercise. But it is certainly possible to read them as simply making the case for the importance of divination. Cambyses’ lesson about divination is very close to that Socrates gives in
Perhaps one important question to ask would be whether Cyrus consults the gods about these sorts of large issues. I.e., not whether he should attack now rather than later, but whether he should wage war at all, build an empire, etc.
We should at least consider the possibility that Cyrus is tailoring his words to his goal, persuading the commoners to take up heavy arms. In such a context it would prudent to play up the commoners’ potential.
Nadon thinks this speaker is Chrysantas, comparing
Cyropaedia 8.4.11. Is he correct? Xenophon of course has a pattern of anonymously introducing figures who are named later. In this case however there is no clear reference back to this passage providing the name, unless I’ve forgotten it. Is it perhaps fitting that the Peers not be individualized yet?
Note that Cyrus has just told the Peers that they need to whet the souls of the commoners–i.e., that the commoners need some training in something akin to boldness.
Note as well the apparent inconsistency in Cyrus telling Cambyses that battles fought through missiles are simply a matter of numbers. When speaking to the commoners, he stresses the skill required to shoot the bow.
Hmm–I don’t see that much in common. The commoners more closely resemble Spartans than Athenians. They aren’t fighting for anything–in this immediate context–but fighting lest they show themselves utterly unworthy. A greater role in the Persian koinon could follow upon their being armed as the Peers, but hasn’t been directly raised by this point, has it? And there’s not talk of isegoria. As the Peer pointed out just above, it is important that commoners are given these arms by Cyrus, their general and the son of the king: we are in a hierarchical society with Cyrus on top, not an emergent democracy.
The focus on one thing reminds me a bit of the famous ‘division of labor’ passage in
Is the comparison to centaurs loaded with mythological baggage? Yes, I (Johnson 2007:177-207) argue (shameless plug), in TAPA 135 (2007) 177-207, “Persians as Centaurs in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia“.
Does anyone else find it odd that (a) Cyrus offer Pantheia burial goods from himself, and we’re then told that its Gobryas and Gadatas who are at hand with the goods? Perhaps they are merely carrying things from Cyrus. Or that (b) Cyrus says that Abradatas’ tomb will be worthy of “us” (Cyrus). Though he does add that the sacrifices will befit a good man (presumably Abradatas).
What does Cyrus expect Pantheia to say in response to this question? My best guess is that he hopes she’ll end up with him–but if he does he’s in for a big surprise, isn’t he?
How does Pantheia’s disillusionment here reflect on Cyrus’ leadership?
Thanks for your remarkably fast & full reply–you must indeed be a full-time gardener. You are of course right that the proof is in the pudding; Cyrus’ interaction with Cyaxares is an excellent test case. I agree with you that Cyrus’ response is remarkably restrained–and I heard the oral version of Gabriel Danzig’s piece, so suspect that he may agree with me that Cyrus is manipulative but know that he thinks that the manipulation is in a good (enough) cause.I suppose in some part my general blanket post here is meant as a lazy replacement for close reading, which I don’t fully have the time to do on the Cyropaedia in the next ten days, and also because I found myself (not alone) making rather general comments in the commentary in lieu of close readings. One of the funny features of this project is the time limit, which I am certain makes all sorts of sense, given the vast editorial task of shaping whatever you get into something usable this fall, but also makes life difficult for the rest of us. It’s one thing to launch into generalities about the Cyropaedia off the top of one’s head; it’s another to find time to present a close reading when one isn’t vacationing in paradise, with only Cyrus to occupy one’s thoughts. Very briefly re Cyaxares. Cyrus treats him, I agree,, better than he deserves to be treated–Cyaxares’ complaints aren’t well founded, and he loses power because Cyrus wields power better than he does. But it is also true that Cyrus plays him like a pipe; little of what he says to him, I think, is literally true–or at least most of what he says is true in only complex and interesting (not dull!) senses. I suspect (though I have reviewed neither Xenophon nor Danzig’s paper) that Danzig and I (and perhaps you) agree thus far. The decision about whether or not this treatment is admirable or justifiable is rather complex. This sort of manipulation may be justifiable and indeed necessary when dealing with an incompetent nominal superior whose amour-propre threatens the survival of his kingdom (and thus your own, allied to his). On the other hand, Cyaxares’ remarks, unjustified as they may be, do reveal just how Cyrus has outmaneuvered (a more neutral term than “manipulated”) him, and thus may help us analyze other cases where Cyrus’ maneuvers may not be as justified. I look forward to seeing your book, and thanks for the Rasmussen reference. I certainly agree that it is essential to keep lines of communication open on such things. One thing I think Gabriel Danzig and I share (I know him a bit from a couple of Xenophontic conferences) is an interest in crossing the ironic/non-ironic divide among readers of Xenophon, a line which so often breaks down along the Straussian/anything other than Straussian camps, with the concomitant & so often incendiary political overtones.
Your questions are good ones. I think your question about the alternative here is a particularly good way of defending Cyrus, as I can’t name a better alternative for dealing with Cyaxares, and agree with you that there are plenty of obviously less pleasant alternatives. Outmaneuvering and even manipulation seem rather justifiable motives when dealing with inferior superiors. But can the same be said of Cyrus’ treatment of Abradatas and Pantheia, say?Cyrus’ motives, more generally speaking, are a bit of a mystery to me. His philanthropia is noted on numerous occasions, but it isn’t always clear to me just who Cyrus is trying to benefit–especially as time goes on. He begins having to help the Persians and Medes fight off an attack, which is clearly justified (there’s obviously no reason to think the Assyrians would be better rulers), but the benefits of his empire in the longer run aren’t nearly as clear to me. My guess is that Xenophon is indeed fond of the early Persia he sketches at the beginning of the work–but the egalitarian values of that society are undermined by Cyrus and his meritocarcy, and of course there’s 8.8 to worry about in the longer term. Neither is Cyrus, though, some megalomaniac would-be god-king. He’s not interested in honor for the sake of honor, I suspect we agree–he rather seems to think that honor and privilege are tools he can use in the same way he uses other resources.If the Cyropaedia is a work showing not only how to found an empire but why would shouldn’t found an empire–a very debatable point, I grant you, and one where contemporary distaste for imperialism is bound to (mis)shape our interpretations–it is a sort of a fortiori proof: if imperialism is bad even under as great a leader as Cyrus, then it must really be bad.
My guess is that Cyrus understands Araspas’ character very well indeed, that he knows that Araspas will fall for Pantheia before Araspas does, and sends him off knowing that he will then be able to come to the rescue as Pantheia’s protector. But demonstrating this (or even showing it plausible) had better be done ad loc, as I’ll try if I have time.
This is a great question. Consider also
Cyropaedia 5.4.46-50, where Cyrus says that a leader should learn the names of those he gives orders to, for the sake of efficiency, and to honor them. I believe that C. Nadon, in Xenophon’s Prince, ties this passage to the Xenophontic habit you note here, but I don’t have Nadon handy so can’t give the full reference.
Cyropaedia 2.1.13 may provide an example of Chrysantas being introduced anonymously–at least that’s what Nadon suggests (again, sorry, no page reference). I don’t have a record of his analysis, but I have wondered whether the anonymity of the peer there (whether he is to be identified as Chrysantas or not) may suit his status as a representative of that supposedly homogenous group. Finally (one other half-baked thought), there are a number of anonymous interlocutors in the
Memorabilia 3.14. The last two chapters include many short chreiai, with many nameless interlocutors. In these Mem. passages the interlocutors are characterized–very rapidly–as “one just elected general” and the like. They don’t yet deserve a name, perhaps, rather as Pantheia is just “the most beautiful woman in Asia” until her story unfolds further: these Socratic interlocutors never get more of a story. The anonymity there is something like that in folktales, perhaps.
This rather fine observation raises what is for me one of the $64,000 questions of the Cyropaedia: what we are to make of its final chapter. If the Cyropaedia often asks us to read backwards in this way, it would be harder to regard the final chapter as an afterthought. There are of course better ways of arguing that
Cyropaedia 8.8 does not undermine the praise of Cyrus throughout the work–say that the failure of subsequent Persian leaders in fact shows how superlative a leader Cyrus was.
Alternatively (or in addition) “the Assyrian” is unnamed because he’s not worthy of a name, which would do him a certain honor (cf.
This is an interesting question – I wonder whether there is more going on here than Cyrus’ display of his extraordinary tact, even at this young age (it seems important, however, that this is what Xenophon chooses to highlight in his first narrative about his hero). Beauty and power often go hand in hand; Xenophon ties beauty to power elsewhere as well: so in the Hiero, Simonides argues that tyranny makes a man more handsome: αὐτὸ γὰρ τὸ τετιμῆσθαι μάλιστα συνεπικοσμεῖ, ὥστε τὰ μὲν δυσχερῆ ἀφανίζειν, τὰ δὲ καλὰ λαμπρότερα ἀναφαίνειν (
Hieron 8.4-6). I would note also Aeschines’ report that one of the Athenian ambassadors to Philip in 348 praised Philip’s appearance (τῆς ἰδέας αὐτοῦ) before the Athenians, despite the fact that Philip even at that point in his career must have looked more like an old pin-cushion than a handsome fellow (
Aeschines 2.47). Does Cyrus, even as a child, comprehend this connection between beauty and power? Of course, Xenophon had already told us that Cyrus himself, according to the old stories, was exceptionally handsome (
Why does Mandane evince such concern that Cyrus’ Persian morality remain intact? She is, after all, a Mede herself and, as Cyrus himself stresses here, Astyages is her own father (Cyrus calls the Median king σὸς πατήρ twice in this paragraph). Are her comments critical of Astyages’ kingship, or are they merely meant to point out the differences between the two styles of kingship and warn Cyrus away from a mindset that will do him no favors among his own people? What is Mandane’s role in Cyrus’ education?
How is this episode about Artabazus’ love for Cyrus connected to the surrounding text?
The episode picks up on the themes of love and shame, and feeling shame before a loved one, with which
Cyropaedia 1.4.26 ended. So Cyropaedia 1.4.26 describes Cyrus’ fear that he will feel shame before his Medan friends if they do not get to keep the gifts which he gave them; here, the Medan man has felt shame (ᾐσχυνόμην) before his beloved and it is up to Cyrus to assuage this feeling. Is there a broader connection between love and shame to be made in the Cyropaedia?
If I may be Socratic for a moment, is Cyrus really resistant to luxury? He’s certainly quite happy to don his soft cloak and parade about – when in Media! It seems to me that Cyrus’ brilliance lies rather in his ability to Median among the Medes and Persian among the Persians – he knows boundaries, and he doesn’t cross them.
Herodotus Histories 4.76-90, on the other hand, is full of stories of people who come to bad ends because they try to mix cultures (perhaps most prominently Anacharsis and Scyles. To tell the truth, I’ve always been slightly disappointed in Herodotus’ Cyrus because his Median-Persian origins never seem to come under discussion or to affect him. Herodotus’ Cyrus is just Persian, despite Mandane, and that seems to be that. Xenophon’s Cyrus, on the other hand, more than makes up for it! I would suggest that Cyrus is able to handle Median luxury because he is partially Median, whereas the other Persians are new to it – it’s not “in their blood”, so to speak.
Yes, I may have overstated my case a bit – I haven’t entirely squared in my mind how Cyrus’ adoption of some Medan customs works with his rejection of others. Why is wearing a fancy cloak, for example, OK while eating luxuriously is not? Thanks for the reference to Plutarch’s Alcibiades! I’ll have to have a look at that. I did have the additional thought that changing one’s customs according to one’s environment was probably something that Xenophon himself would have engaged in – an Athenian with a great familiarity with Sparta who also spent a lot of time in Persia must have been something of a cultural chameleon himself.
This may not be entirely relevant, but on a quick reread of Herodotus I was struck by the fact that hare-hunting and trickery in relation to Cyrus comes up there as well: Harpagus uses a hare to send Cyrus a message at
Herodotus Histories 1.123, and even dresses up his messengers as hunters!
This seems to be the first mention of a desire, on the part of Cyrus, to rule over Asia. But where did this desire come from, and why is it first introduced here, in a message to be delivered to the Persians back home?This chapter seems to mark a turn in the dynamic between Cyaxares and Cyrus (precipitated by Cyaxares’ violent jealousy at
Cyropaedia 4.5.9) and, perhaps in consequence, in Cyrus’ psychology and goals for the expedition.
What is the army’s decision-making process? Are there any parallels in other Greek literature for such deliberation? How closely does it resemble the way in which Persian military decisions were actually taken?
The debate resembles Athenian deliberative rhetoric, despite the fact that it begins with Cyaxares’ ostentatious display of his own superiority. Cyaxares himself ends up undermining his own authority as he addresses the allies in language reminiscent of ekklesiastic debate: he calls them ἄνδρες, and then remarks that it is his greater age that gives him the right to make the first speech: compare for example Demosthenes’ apology for his apparent youth at
Demosthenes 4.1, or the ordering by age of the ambassadors’ speeches at
Aeschines 2.22. Cyaxares is reversing the trope in a way that would have perhaps read to a contemporary audience as self-aggrandizing (I can’t think of any place where a speaker actually stresses his own age, only apologies for youth – though I may be missing something). The order by age allows Cyrus to speak last (as the youngest in the group?)
I also find it interesting that the first few speeches are devoted to the basic question at hand – whether to disband the army or not – and only the last speech deals with the actual nuts and bolts of how staying in enemy land will work. Granted, Xenophon leaves this last speech for Cyrus, but it still would seem to mirror the way actual deliberative debate would function: a basic proposal would be opened to the floor, and only once a basic yes/no decision was taken would a serious proposal for the actual mechanics of a military expedition, for example, be raised.
This is such an interesting idea! Your post is making me want to go and read old military journals. I had to think about this a bit, but two parallel novels came up for me: first,
Hermann Hesse The Glass Bead Game – it has the same escapist narrative feel with a focus on the education and life of a protagonist that seems almost “too good to be true”, also contains extended dialogues of a similar philosophical bent, and like Cyrus’ Near East, the futuristic world of The Glass Bead Game is only vaguely sketched out, so that the philosophy is in the forefront and actual day-to-day life is in the background. Given Hesse’s interest in all things eastern and Indian, is there a parallel to be made there with Xenophon’s influences from the east? It also reminds me of
Samuel Richardson Sir Charles Grandison – not least because both are often considered “dull” and their heroes “too excellent to be interesting”!
Such a wonderful and innovative idea: I’m looking forward to the party already!
It seems to me that lineage is absolutely crucial for Xenophon’s theory of leadership, which is why he differs from many modern leadership guidebooks which abstract from the particulars of the individual and offer methods that can be adopted by anyone at all. Xenophon seems to recognize that social position is an essential condition for leadership. I am reminded of the story that president Bush II used his mother’s Christmas card list to launch his first fundraising campaign. Not everyone can do that, and not everyone is born into royalty. This would be part of Xenophon’s realism.
Perhaps this is the place to ask Why does Cyrus have his education interrupted? Perhaps it is merely a side-effect of Xenophon’s desire to portray the scenes of young CYrus in Media. But the effect is tat CYrus gets some education in Persia and some in Media. This is emphasized in the debate with Mandane, which suggests quite strongly that we are to view Cyrus as a product not only of a mixed lineage but also of a mixed education. I imagine that one point is simply to suggest the advantages of exposure to more than one politeia, especially for a future imperial power. But more interesting to me is: What elements of Persia and what of Media are adopted by Cyrus and what roles do they play in the ”regime” he constructs? Is there a doubleness of some sort in that regime?
This is a very good question. Norman may be right that the source material plays a role, but even so, this is a very appropriate place to begin if Xenophon’s interest is primarily political rather than ethical. The move to Media provides Cyrus with the first opportunity to display his political instincts. It illustrates his first “conquest”. Although he starts from a privileged position as the grandson of the king, he nevertheless has to prove himself more than he would at home. Moreover, he is invited not simply because he is a grandson but because his reputation has gone before him.
I would like to add a related case, namely Cyrus’ father. Although his name is given two or three times in the preceeding narrative, it seems ot me remarkable that it does not appear once in his only major appearance, namely the conversation with Cyrus in chapter six. Some translators add it, and many writers refer to him as Cambysis in this scene, but Xenophon does not. It is understandable that Cyrus refers to him as father throughout, but why doesn’t Xenophon find a way to refer to Cambysis? Perhaps we can call this anonymous dialogue? My inclination is that such a naming would draw atention away from the content and into a biographical direction: this is not advice that is special to Cambysis, it is simply good advice and it happens to be given by Cyrus’ father. Perhaps in other cases the use of name would distract from the contents being described? On the other hand, there is a degree of personalization in the conversation, so I am open to other hypotheses.A second related case is that of the unnamed sophist in Armenia.One may also consider in this context unnamed characters in Plato. I don’t have a full list, but I am thinking of the unnamed audience of Apollodoros in
Plato Symposium who is dubbed “friend” in the manuscripts, but is actually unnamed in the dialogue.
It is worth mentioned the content Xenophon gives to the words “justice”and “ingratitude”. It reminds us the extremely strict education Spartans gave their children.
Someone is punished for being either “α-χάριστος” or “α-ναίσχυντος” and “α-μελως έχειν”.
Could one assume that the ancient Persians look like their modern equivalents, or has there been a significant migration of peoples in the area?
Yes, indeed, Barker seems to have translated
Appian Histories, which might indeed add further to your comment about Holland. (He also translated a racy Italian novella, and published a book of the inscriptions on tombs etc that he had copied out from his Italian travels – very vogueish, apparently, and something I’d love to know more about, if anyone has any suggestions?
But for the early moderns, ‘history’ was the usual term for ‘story’, so although humanists developed fully-fledged historiographical theory, they read their history for much more than simply an account of what happened. To learn usable models and guidelines from what happened in philosophical and political ways is, arguably, of much greater concern to them. As for Cicero’s comment on Xenophon, it was very well-known indeed, particularly as
Sidney Defence of Poesy translated it (composed 1580s), as you note, that Xenophon has succeeded in producing not a history (as, interestingly, he thinks
Justin Epitome of Pompus Trogus’s work has done), but ‘“effigiem iusti imperii”, the portrait of a just empire’.
I like this idea of considering the translations within the wider purview of histories; it situates Xenophon more broadly within its moment, especially the increasing availability of and interest in historiography in the later sixteenth century.
Great question. I forgot to specify here that the 1552[?] edition which this reader was using contains only Books 1-6; in 1567 a new edition appeared with all eight Books and epilogue, now titled The VIII. Bookes of Xenophon … only then admitting to the odd cut-off point of the previous text. But yes, what’s wonderful (and relatively unusual) about this annotator is that he (almost certainly a he) reads and comments all the way through to the end. And when he gets to the end of Book 6, he adds further comments, almost in bullet-points, summarizing what happens next! That includes details from Herodotus – and Tomyris is the first to be mentioned. So yes, this reader seems to have the whole thing, as well as a strong sense of other writings on Cyrus, ancient and early modern. But I agree that many readers may not have made it beyond Book 1, especially as it fulfilled the expectations of the title and, apparently, much of the teachings of the text.
Early modern readers seem not to have been bothered as much at all about the change of tone in the final chapter/epilogue (what should I be calling it?); in fact, it fits very neatly with the well-established ‘fall of princes’ arc inherited and modified from late medieval culture and prevalent in various different genres at the time. Does it moralize, if you like, the preceding material, then? I would think so, but not to the same degree or in the same way that we would expect, given the familiarity of the story arc and genre implications, as it were.
Thanks for the reference to contemporary views of the final chapter.
Yes, this is certainly true. Now we have to decide whether or not we view it as important simply that this is a literary motif, or if it is worth our time to try to distinguish what was ACTUALLY characteristic of Alexander’s behavior with relation to Cyrus. For instance, is Alexander’s treatment of Sisygambis in
Curtius 3.12.17 and
Arrian 2.12.31. Arrian’s way to evoke
Cyropaedia 7.3.8-16 or did Alexander act this way towards her BECAUSE of the way Cyrus treated Pantheia in the Xenophon passage? Is this important or are we just mincing words? The idea of folk tradition leads me to think about Semiramis, the mythical founder of Babylon. I won’t venture to guess who she actually was, but she exhibits qualities in the Greek authors that make her almost “manly” (a good source for this is “Semiramis in History and Legend,” in (ed. E. Gruen 2005:11-22) Cultural Borrowings and Ethnic Appropriations in Antiquity, Franz Steiner Verlag (2005), 11-22) though I would also suggest caution when reading this article. But the ideas are interesting, though one might be led to wonder what we can believe, after all, when distinguishing between authorial interpretation and actual fact. I like to think, given the similarities between Cyrus’ stated objective in the Cylinder (a “historical”? document) and those in the Cyropaedia that Xenophon may have been dealing with a more factual Cyrus than we typically allow. And it is my preference, given Alexander’s extensive education in Persian culture (wither prior to his arrival via Aristotle or afterwards due to local exposure) to believe that he did many things the way he did because he wanted to act like Cyrus. We should remember that we have copies of the Bisitun inscription from places all over the empire (e.g. Elephantine), so texts like the Cyrus Cylinder may very well have made their way into Alexander’s hands.
Honestly, I see a lot of Alexander and Hephaistion here. Alexander’s reaction to his death was (some would say) overblown, and he even erected a monument to Hephaistion (a lion, a key symbol of Achaemenid power) at Hamadan, deep in the Persian Empire, much like Cyrus does for Pantheia here. I already spoke about the ways in which Alexander’s behavior towards Sisygambis is much like Cyrus’ is towards Pantheia, so even in this very story there is a great deal of literary mixing that makes it very rich and interesting indeed.
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics Book 6 (1134b).
Xenophon writes that Cyrus inspired both fear and a desire to please him, and the tensions between these two ideas are underscored by the use of a μὲν… δὲ… construction. What possible resonances of this paragraph might we read in
Machiavelli The Prince (esp. Chap. XVII)?
What are the major sections of
Section outline and overview:
How does the epilogue (
Cyropaedia 8.8) differ in tone from the rest of Cyropaedia?
Does the turn Xenophon takes in
Cyropaedia 8.8 cast doubts upon the authenticity of the epilogue?
Can the epilogue be reconciled with the main body of Cyropaedia?
The epilogue seemingly does an about-face from the rest of the Cyropaedia. It moves from celebrating Cyrus as an ideal leader and Persia as a great empire to anti-Persian propaganda. Hirsch 1985:94 calls the epilogue’s tone “sarcastic, abusive and sometimes even vulgar” (see also Gray 2011:255). And if Persian power and education dissolve so quickly after Cyrus’ death, the epilogue at least begs the question of whether Cyrus was truly a great leader, or in some way the harbinger of Persian political and moral decay. Furthermore,
Cyropaedia 8.8 mocks Xenophon’s contemporary Persians as weak and effeminate, and so adopts an Orientalizing posture not present (or at least far less explicit) in the main body of Cyropaedia. On Orientalism in
Cyropaedia 8.8, see my comments on
Because of its perceived shift in tone from the rest of Cyropaedia,
Cyropaedia 8.8 has prompted at least two major interrelated questions in its modern scholarly reception: 1) Is the chapter authentic, or a spurious later addition? 2) Is the chapter coherent with, or inimical to, Xenophon’s treatment of Cyrus and depictions of Persia throughout the main body of Cyropaedia?
Over the past several centuries, numerous scholars have doubted the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8. Sage 1995 traces these doubts about
Cyropaedia 8.8’s authenticity to Valckenaer 1766. The view that
Cyropaedia 8.8 must be spurious was especially prominent in nineteenth century scholarship. See, for example, Holden 1890:196-97 and Goodwin 1879:165-66. In more contemporary scholarship, Steven W. Hirsch 1985 similarly casts aspersions on the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8, especially because its anti-Persian sentiment appears inconsistent with the rest of Cyropaedia.
Against Hirsch’s view, Eichler 1880 argues “for Xenophon’s authorship of 8.8 on linguistic and stylistic grounds” (see Sage 1995:161n3). More recent defenders of the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8 include Field 2012, Johnson 2005, Müller-Goldingen 1995, Sage 1995, Due 1989, Tatum 1989, and Delebecque 1957. Christesen 2006:56 accepts that, despite the controversy surrounding its authenticity,
Cyropaedia 8.8 “is now generally taken to be an integral part of the work.”
Those who doubt the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8 very consistently point to the epilogue’s inconsistency with the rest of Cyropaedia. For instance, Hirsch 1985:93 points to the fact that:
“Flagrant contradictions between the epilogue and the main body of the text are to be found. It is hard to believe that these are mere oversights, the more so since no such striking internal contradictions surface within the body of the work… The contradictions are there, they are glaring, and they are unparalleled elsewhere in the work. They cannot be glossed over.”
Belief that the epilogue is not Xenophon’s own original conclusion to Cyropaedia uniformly goes hand in hand with the opinion that the apparent change in tone and the inconsistencies of 8.8 (often involving ἔτι καὶ νῦν constructions) are irreconcilable with Cyropaedia’s main body of text. Similarly, critics of the epilogue’s authenticity argue that
Cyropaedia 8.7 provides a natural conclusion to Cyropaedia and that the tone of the epilogue is atypical of Xenophon’s writing in other works (Hirsch 1985:94).
Those who defend the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8 are divided over whether the epilogue is consistent with the rest of Cyropaedia’s portrayal of Cyrus and construction of Persia. Delebecque 1957:405, for example, reads
Cyropaedia 8.8 as disharmonious with the rest of Cyropaedia. Others who defend the Cyropaedia’s positive view of Cyrus, yet accept
Cyropaedia 8.8 as authentic include Due 1989:16-22; Müeller-Goldingen 1995:262-71; Tatum 1989:215-39. Sage 1995:161 invokes the authority of the manuscript tradition in her defense of the epilogue’s authenticity. Sage 1995:162 argues that
Cyropaedia 8.8 “is appropriate both rhetorically and thematically, and enriches, rather than undercuts” the main body of the Cyropaedia. In this interpretation, Xenophon’s conclusion confirms Cyropaedia’s introductory statements about the difficulty of ruling men, while reaffirming the exceptional greatness of Cyrus by contrast with his successors. See also Tuplin 2004:326: “Cyrus is a necessarily flawed hero, but still a hero, and the quasi-mystic quality to his end (whatever it owes to Iranian story-telling) reflects this, just as the palinode both assures us that praise of a Persian is not to be taken wholly outside the context of fourth-century Greek reactions to the empire and underlines that the fourth-century empire is a squalid remnant of a grand, if intrinsically flawed, experiment.”
Others, however, argue that the epilogue is in keeping with what comes before it in Cyropaedia. Johnson 2005:180-81 reads the whole of Cyropaedia as unfavorable towards Cyrus and takes
Cyropaedia 8.8 as consistent with Xenophon’s larger program: “The decline in the Persian character begins not after Cyrus’ death, or even with his organization of his empire, but with Cyrus’ initial transformation of the Persians into an army of conquest, a transformation that corrupts the pristine Persia of Cyrus’ youth.” Johnson argues that “Cyrus’ transformed Persians are inherently unstable.” In this view, the epilogue invites us to reread Cyropaedia more critically. Johnson 2005:204-05 argues that Xenophon’s ancient audience “would have been less surprised than we by the epilogue.” Johnson situates Cyropaedia in a Socratic tradition, which challenged readers to think through issues by themselves: “Xenophon would… have his readers recognize the perilous attractions of empire, for both rulers and subjects, by falling prey to those attractions themselves.” Laura Field 2012:724-25‘s reading is similar: “the bleak finale casts a shadow back over the rest of the text… and acts as a deliberate invitation to consider the book and its protagonist anew…. Xenophon’s work is at bottom so seriously critical of Cyrus’ rule that the ending of the book must be considered a wholly fitting one.”
Gera 1993:300 is unconvinced by those who doubt the authenticity of the epilogue, and she observes that “while many modern readers would perhaps prefer another ending to the Cyropaedia, none of the ancients ever objected to the epilogue. Nevertheless, Gera does concede that the epilogue features numerous inconsistencies with the main body of Cyropaedia. These discrepancies revolve around practices which
Cyropaedia 8.8 claims have been discontinued, but which Xenophon has earlier claimed continue into his present day (ἔτι καὶ νῦν). Gera 1993:299n77 advises us to compare
Cyropaedia 8.8.8 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.16 (on exercise);
Cyropaedia 8.8.12 vs.
Cyropaedia 8.1.34-36 (on hunting);
Cyropaedia 19 vs.
Cyropaedia 4.3.23 (on horsemanship);
Cyropaedia 8.8.9 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.11 (on the number of daily meals);
Cyropaedia 12 vs.
Cyropaedia 5.2.17 (on temperance). Whereas Hirsch 1985 finds it unlikely that these inconsistencies are mere oversights, Gera is willing to presume “a combination of carelessness and inconsistency on Xenophon’s part.”
Gray 2011:75 looks beyond Cyropaedia to connect the tone of
Cyropaedia 8.8 with the epilogue of
Xenophon Respublica Lacedaemoniorum, since both contrast “the good character they [Spartans and Persians] showed while still under the good influence of Lycurgus’ laws and Cyrus’ rulership respectively with the perverse character they revealed once freed of those good influences.” Gray 2011:255-56 attributes much of the epilogue’s inconsistency with its rhetorical (rather than historical) purpose (see also Gray 2011:259, quoted in a comment on
Cyropaedia 8.8.11). I say rhetorical rather than historical, since, as I suggest throughout my comments, many of the Epilogue’s slanders do not appear to represent Persian reality and would likely never have been understood to do so.
Erich Gruen 2011:64-65 makes a particularly creative attempt to integrate
Cyropaedia 8.8 with the main body of Cyropaedia. Gruen argues that Xenophon lauded Cyrus and the Persians at a cultural moment with leanings towards jingoism and Orientalism. As I note in my comments on
Cyropaedia 8.8.15, Gruen suggests that Xenophon parodies Greek stereotypes of Persia. In so doing, “the historian stole a march on potential critics. He discredited the clichés by exaggerating them with parody and reducing them to absurdity.”
As Gray 2011: 256n14 notes, the approach of James O’Hara 2006 to inconsistency in ancient poetry may well apply here. It is more productive to interpret rather than remove (for instance by striking them from the text is inauthentic) or explain away inconsistency (for instance Gera’s assumption of sloppiness on the part of the author; Gera 1993:299-300). O’Hara 2006:3 posits a willingness on the part of ancient authors to make use of inconsistency. O’Hara 2006:2 argues of Virgil’s Aeneid that contradictions might serve to deceive readers, or at least offer conflicting paths of interpretation (a suggestion evocative of Johnson’s dark, Socratic reading of Cyropaedia). In the case of Xenophon, the demands of rhetoric and the element of surprise may account for dissonance between much of
Cyropaedia 8.8 and the Cyropaedia’s main body of text. Tatum 1989:224 suggests that, “for Xenophon, the gap between the political and historical world he lived in and the romantically successful but fictional world of the Cyropaedia finally outweighed his authorial desire to preserve the integrity of the text he had created.”
This is not to say, however, that the inconsistences and contradictions of 8.8 can be easily dismissed, and Gera 1993:299 is too quick to brush these contradictions aside on the grounds that they concern “unimportant” matters. That said, I do not believe the mere existence of inconsistencies between Cyropaedia’s epilogue and main body warrants dismissing
Cyropaedia 8.8 as inauthentic. The Epilogue may be a later addition and of spurious authorship, but this is by no means the only possible explanation for the contradictions of
In a sense, how to approach the inconsistencies of
Cyropaedia 8.8 may hinge on whether one brings an author-centered or reader-centered hermeneutic to bear on the text. For Hirsch 1985 and 19th century philologists who earlier questioned the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8, “Who wrote the epilogue and why?” are essential questions. However, a reader-centered approach will note that the manuscript tradition suggests that audiences were reading
Cyropaedia 8.8 as the conclusion to Cyropaedia from an early date and that the ancients seem to have accepted it as part of the text. In this view, the authorship (or not) of Xenophon becomes secondary to the role that the epilogue plays in the text as Cyropaedia’s readers have received it for more than two millennia.
How does this passage reach back to the introduction to form a ring composition for Cyropaedia?
Xenophon suggests that the vastness of Cyrus’ empire makes Cyrus’ ability to govern and the devotion he inspired in his subjects all the more impressive. Xenophon first lays out this programmatic statement at
Cyropaedia 1.1.3-5. Thus, whether or not we read the epilogue as authentic, the author of 8.8 takes great structural care to integrate
Cyropaedia 8.8 with the whole of Cyropaedia, returning to the introductory claims with the conclusion.
However, there are other instances of ring composition which close off topics before 8.8. For instance, Xenophon’s shepherd metaphor of
Cyropaedia 1.1.2 resurfaces at
Cyropaedia 8.2.14. Likewise, at
Cyropaedia 8.1.24-25 Xenophon remarks that the Persians imitated Cyrus and so became more pious. Without the epilogue, this section could be read to close off
Cyropaedia 1.2.8, which argues that imitation played an essential role in Persian education. Thus, those who doubt the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8 can point to
Cyropaedia 8.1-7 as bearing structural markers of a conclusion.
What does it mean that Cyrus’ relationship with his subjects is likened to that between a father and his children?
Xenophon here revives a metaphor he has used throughout Cyropaedia, likening Cyrus to a father (cf.
Cyropaedia 8.1.1). The imagery suggests that Cyrus commands and inspires respect and obedience, while seeing to the education, interests, and well being of his “children.” Xenophon here responds to and goes even further than Herodotus in his paternal imagery. Roger Brock 2004:249 observes, “the same image [of Cyrus as a father] is said to have been applied to Cyrus by his newly conquered subjects, the principal point being that of benefaction. In applying the image not only to Cyrus’ Persian subjects, but also to those whom he has conquered, Xenophon is going one better than the celebrated passage in Herodotus (
Herodotus Histories 3.89.3), for whom Cyrus is a father only to the Persians (and in contrast to his successors, whom they hold in less high regard).”
Of course, Xenophon’s analogy is a common one.
Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus 1, for instance, opens with Oedipus addressing his suppliant subjects benevolently with ὦ τέκνα. As Brock 2004:249 notes, Xenophon applies the image of a father to Greek leaders, too, for instance Agesilaus (
Xenophon Agesilaus 1.38).
Plato Laws 680e,
Plato Laws 690a also draws direct comparisons between a father’s rule and a kingship.
Aristotle Politics 1251a criticizes those who consider being the head of a household analogous to ruling a state.
We might contrast Xenophon’s parental metaphor with his likening of Cyrus to a shepherd. Recall that at
Cyropaedia 1.1.2, Xenophon compares the relationship between rulers and their subjects to that between herdsmen and their livestock. While this relationship may, too, be one of care and bonding, it also denotes inequality and suggests that the subjects are not fully developed humans. Aristotle separates the stewardship of children from that of animals on the grounds that children have underdeveloped capacity for reason, while animals lack the capacity for higher types of reason and even for happiness (see, for instance,
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1178b8). As Newell 1983:892 notes, Cyrus is again likened to a perfect herdsman at
Cyropaedia 8.2.14. For those inclined towards darker readings of Cyropaedia, this passage may belittle Cyrus’ subjects as docile dependents of their ruler. Whidden 2008:45: “… Cyrus made little effort to educate the vast majority of his subjects beyond conditioning them to always follow and obey his sovereign will…” Newell 1983:892 thus distinguishes between Cyrus as a “real man” and the masses of “human beings,” variously demeaned as livestock and children. “The major aim of the Education of Cyrus is to experiment with the possibility that one “real man”—epitomized by Cyrus—could maximize his honor by ruling “human beings” in such a way as to satisfy the universal, simple, and recurrent needs of the ‘animal’ part of human psychology.” On animals as metaphors for humans and Xenophon’s animal hierarchies, see especially L’Allier 2004.
To whom does παῖδες refer?
παῖδες presents a double reading, referring both to Cyrus’ actual sons (introduced very late at
Cyropaedia 8.7.5, with Cyrus already on his deathbed) and to the figurative παῖδας of
Cyropaedia 8.8.1. Thus, Xenophon presents a post-Cyrus Persia characterized both by political strife within the ruling family and by more general discord among the populace. See Sage 1995:167-68.
What do we make of the word ἐστασίαζον and what connections might we draw with other Greek literature?
ἐστασίαζον is evocative of Thucydidean stasis. As Darbo-Peschanski 2007:33 observes of
Xenophon Hellenica, Xenophon positions himself as a continuer of Thucydides in the Hellenica. Rood 2007:155, citing Tuplin 1993:39, connects Xenophon’s Hellenica with Thucydides, since each historian exhibits a “thematic preoccupation” with confusion in the Greek world and the inability of wars to solve Greece’s internal problems (see also Rood 2004 for its subtle analysis of Xenophon’s relationship to Thucydides). Xenophon’s invocation of Persian stasis may well signal similar preoccupations in Cyropaedia, especially since many read Cyropaedia to comment on Sparta and Athens. Tigerstedt 1965:178, for example, reads Xenophon as a Laconophile who bases Persian institutions upon Spartan models. For a more nuanced overview of the relationship between Cyropaedia and Sparta, see Tuplin 1994. On Athenian fear of stasis, see Wolpert 2002:79.
Perhaps more germane to Xenophon’s concerns in Cyropaedia,
Plato Laws 628b-c names the avoidance of stasis as a chief aim of the state. As John Wallach 2001:361 comments on Plato’s Laws, “military virtues exercised in an open political context seem to foment stasis. Although they would help their possessor conquer any foe, they may also encourage him to fight with other citizens and himself (
Plato Laws 626b-d).” Plato revives his discussion of stasis in Book 3 of the Laws (
Plato Laws 678e,
Plato Laws 679d,
Plato Laws 682d,
Plato Laws 690d). After discussing Persian decline and civil discord among Cyrus’ sons (
Plato Laws 695b), the Athenian stranger reminds us at
Plato Laws 697c-e that the purpose of the Persian exemplum was to illustrate the disastrous consequences of internal discord for all states. On Plato’s Laws and Cyropaedia, see especially Dorion 2002 and Danzig 2003, which argues that Plato read Cyropaedia but freely departs from his Xenophontic source material. On Cyropaedia’s links to other Socratic authors, such as Antisthenes, see especially Gera 1993.
How credible is Xenophon’s suggestion that revolt was immediate and that Persia’s decline therefore began very quickly after the death of Cyrus?
Xenophon appears to refer to a coup, which coincided with the death of Cyrus’ successor, Cambyses II, in 522 B.C. Both Herodotus and Persian sources allege that an impostor, Gaumata, impersonated Cyrus’ younger son, Bardiya (Smerdis in Herodotus Histories). (See
Herodotus Histories 3.66-68 and the
Behistun Inscription, both of which claim that Cambyses had Smerdis killed). The Behistun Inscription, presumably authored by Darius, asserts that Darius consolidated power only after putting down multiple rebellions.
Herodotus Histories 3.89-97 goes on to show that Darius refashioned the empire on a much firmer organizational and fiscal basis.
However, Xenophon willfully omits historical details from his narrative, for example the successes of Darius and Xerxes. The suggestion that Achaemenid Persia immediately became an unstable state in decline upon the death of Cyrus therefore seems manifestly untrue and invites the reader to view Xenophon’s portrayal of old Persia in
Cyropaedia 8.8 with new skepticism and reevaluate his purpose. This disregard for (or manipulation of) history affects how we understand the genre of Cyropaedia and reminds us not to expect an accurate representation of recent Persian history from Xenophon. As Philip Stadter 2010:374, whose interest lies in Xenophon’s use of fictional narrative, argues, “Xenophon does not suffer from nostalgia: he does not think that once the world was better, but has now deteriorated. Nor would his own experience of the duplicity of Artaxerxes and Tissaphernes permit him any illusions about oriental monarchy, which might lead him to propose a historical Cyrus as a model for Greek governance. Such an interpretation would read into the Cyropaideia a historicism that is not there.”
Xenophon says he will begin illustrating Persian decline by “teaching about divine things” (διδάσκων ἐκ τῶν θείων), then discusses not explicit worship but rather the keeping of oaths. What does this say about the importance of oaths for Xenophon and how does this fit into broader Greek literary and religious traditions?
To what event does Xenophon refer when he writes of betrayal and beheading, and how might Xenophon work his own experience into the narrative?
Cyropaedia 8.8.4 help to date the composition of the work?
Christesen 2006:56 notes that Xenophon here refers to “the reprehensible behaviour of Mithridates and Rheomithres during the satraps’ revolt that began in 362.” This reference therefore provides a terminus post quem for dating the Cyropaedia, since Xenophon must have written this after 362 BC (provided, of course, that we accept his authorship of
Cyropaedia 8.8). See also Gera 1993:23 and Anderson 1974:152n1.
How, if at all, do these negative examples show how Xenophon views monarchic rule? Has Cyrus’ positive exemplum been perverted? Is Cyrus himself responsible, at least indirectly, for these heinous acts?
If one reads the main body of Cyropaedia as a celebration of Cyrus as a model of leadership, then one can draw binary contrasts between Cyrus and later bad kings. However, some argue that the epilogue shows the natural results of Cyrus’ absolute rule and therefore calls the institution of kingship and Cyrus’ methods into question. Carlier 2010:363: “Cyrus wanted his subjects to be more attached to him than to each other. Mithridates, in delivering his father to Artaxerxes II and Rheomitres in leaving his wife and his children hostage to serve the king, just pushed devotion to the king to its final consequences, to the point of forgetting all familial ties. Xenophon severely condemns such ‘impieties’; it is probable that the disapproval of such acts extends also to the principles that inspired them, namely the very sources of Cyrus’ imperial power.”
Against this view, see Gray 2011:250-51: “by associating decline with the abandonment of those [Cyrus’] laws and practices, Xenophon is proving their worth and the worth of Cyrus, for it was he who created them and while the Persians were true to them, they enjoyed success.” Gray’s argument holds for the later portion of
Cyropaedia 8.8, which depicts the undoing of Cyrus’ cavalry reforms. However, the middle portion of
Cyropaedia 8.8 displays the perversion of the Persian educational system of
Cyropaedia 1.2, which was not instituted by Cyrus.
Why does Xenophon emphasize the role of the elite leaders and how does education fit into this program? And what does this passage say about the importance of education to the wellbeing of society?
Xenophon writes that elite leaders (οἱ προστάται) establish character and conduct for the rest of society. This sentiment is echoed at
Cyropaedia 8.1.24, where Xenophon writes that the Persians imitated Cyrus in religious piety. At
Cyropaedia 1.2.15, Xenophon specifies that, while no citizen is barred from receiving public education, only boys whose families can afford to do without their labor are educated in justice. Xenophon’s ring composition responds to Book One and suggests trickle-down morality, using the Persian elites after Cyrus as a negative exemplum. Farber 1979:502 notes how essential it is to Xenophon that the Persian system of education outlined in
Cyropaedia 1.2 is for the peers, since they will teach the general populace by example.
Xenophon considers the proper education of the nobility essential to state building and leadership. It is from childhood education that the ruling class learns to lead. This lesson plays an important role in the afterlife of Cyropaedia. As Grogan 2007:65 observes (quoting Jardine 1997:72), Erasmus’ mirror for princes “praise[s] the Persian belief reported by Xenophon that ‘the chief hope for the state is founded in the proper training of its children.’”
The Persian system of education helped to produce Cyrus, but it also appears to end with Cyrus. Is the system of
Cyropaedia 1.2 an impossible utopia?
Many read Cyropaedia as laying out a system of moral education (possibly pro-Spartan in its sympathies) that Xenophon finds admirable. Xenophon laments this system’s perversion and decline. Even Johnson 2005:181‘s cynical reading of Xenophon’s Cyrus takes as a premise that Xenophon admires the system of education laid out on
At the very least, the epilogue raises the question of whether such an educational system for the common good is sustainable and can survive despotism. Focusing on the Persian education of
Cyropaedia 1.2, Whidden 2007:540 reads Cyropaedia as “a work of irony” and argues that “its author was very skeptical and critical of empire.” Gera 1993:298: “The despotism he [Cyrus] inaugurates is what is left to the following generations of Persians–along with the conquered empire–and it is a poor legacy. The epilogue only serves to confirm this point, if in an extreme and outspoken way.” Whether or not we view the educational system of
Cyropaedia 1.2 as a utopia, Tuplin 1994 cautions against reading it as a Laconist one.
How does this section relate to the earlier discussion of education and punishment, at
Cyropaedia 1.2.7 Xenophon claims the Persians punish even children who make unjust accusations. From its outset, learning justice and its courtroom performance was a primary priority of Xenophon’s Persian educational system. Now that the educational system has been perverted, the prevalence of unjust and false accusations among the very ruling class that once received that education is a marker of decline and contributes to broader social collapse. The bulk of
Cyropaedia 8.8 consists of such examples of Persian moral decline, illustrated through reference to
Cyropaedia 8.8.6 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.7 (on justice);
Cyropaedia 8.8.8-9 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.16 (on spitting, blowing the nose, and sweat);
Cyropaedia 8.8.9 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.11 (on meal frequency);
Cyropaedia 8.8.10 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.11 (on drinking and marching);
Cyropaedia 8.8.12 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.9-11 (on hunting);
Cyropaedia 8.8.13 vs.
Cyropaedia 6-7 (on children being educated at court and practicing justice);
Cyropaedia 8.8.16 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.11 (on simplicity of diet);
Cyropaedia 8.8.17 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.10 (on enduring heat and cold);
Cyropaedia 8.8.23 vs.
Cyropaedia 1.2.13 (on military equipment).
How does this rather hyperbolic portrait of Persian passivity and military ineptitude anticipate
Once again, Xenophon must here refer to Persia well after the events of
Xenophon Anabasis, since Xenophon and his army were hardly permitted to roam about Persia as they pleased without fear or expectation of battle. However, Xenophon paints a picture of complete moral collapse, which leads to catastrophic military consequences. Whereas the idealized Persian education of
Cyropaedia 1.2 led to military success, the unmaking of that education in
Cyropaedia 8.8 leads to almost comical military inefficacy.
Thus, the swift transition in
Cyropaedia 8.8.6-7 from social injustice and disengagement to military decline serves as a microcosm for the remainder of the chapter.
Cyropaedia 8.8.8-19 further elucidates moral decline and the perversion of education. This leads to
Cyropaedia 8.8.20-26, which focuses on resulting military decline. In particular,
Cyropaedia 8.8.21 echoes this claim that enemies are free to range about Persian territory.
Persian reality, naturally, hardly conforms to the author of the epilogue’s lampoon and it is doubtful that Xenophon’s fourth-century audience would have taken such a disparaging view of Persian power. If the Cyropaedia was, in fact, completed after 362, it is possible that the Satraps’ Revolts and rebellions in Egypt and Phoenicia could have been taken as signs of Persian weakness. However, Artaxerxes Ochus (r. 358-338 BC) put down these rebellions and was a formidable ruler. Whether we read 8.8 as authentic Xenophon or a spurious addition to Cyropaedia, this caricature of Persian weakness rings hollow and could hardly have been taken seriously by its fourth century-audience.
Here and throughout
Cyropaedia 8.8, Xenophon attributes Persian decline to the abandonment of old customs. What connections can we draw with Xenophon’s Respublica Lacedaemoniorum?
What earlier passage of Cyropaedia does
Cyropaedia 8.8.8 recall, why does Xenophon focus on moist bodily humors, and what might they have to do with constructions of gender?
This passage reflects back upon
Cyropaedia 1.2.16, which closed the overview of the Persian system of education with the statement that even in Xenophon’s present (ἔτι καὶ νῦν) it remains shameful (αἰσχρὸν) for the Persians to spit and blow their noses. Also, at
Cyropaedia 8.1.42, Cyrus takes care that the Persians will not spit or blow their noses in public.
Herodotus Histories 1.138 provides an analogue, observing that Persians do not spit in rivers. Herodotus attributes this practice to religious reverence. See also
Hesiod Works and Days 729-32 on Greek superstition concerning urination and expelling moisture. Thus, a primary motive for avoiding spitting, nose blowing, and urinating in public was likely religious.
Cyropaedia 1.2.16, Xenophon here fixates on bodily moisture and explains that the Persians of old endeavored to work off bodily moisture in order to harden their bodies. This suggests a purpose beyond religious reverence. As becomes evident in
Cyropaedia 8.8.9, whereas the Persians in Cyrus’ time did not spit or blow their noses but worked off their moisture (
Cyropaedia 1.2.16), the Persians in Xenophon’s present still refrain from spitting and blowing the nose, but they no longer work off the moisture. The theme’s revival suggests that it is of some importance to the author of the palinode.
I suggest that this represents the first of several instances in
Cyropaedia 8.8 in which Xenophon seeks to effeminize the Persians. Greek medical writers often associate dryness with masculinity and wetness with femininity (see also the Pythagorean table of opposites, which
Aristotle Metaphysics 986a-b enumerates). Thus, Xenophon portrays the old Persians at
Cyropaedia 1.2.16 as very manly, since they work off their moisture. In contrast, he here emasculates the later Persians by suggesting that their bodies retain lots of moisture (
Cyropaedia 8.8.9). On moisture, effeminacy, sexuality, and self-control in Greek medical texts, see, for instance, King 1998:18 and Carson 1990:137-43. Herodotus closes his history at 9.122 with Cyrus issuing a warning that the Persians would become effeminate if they settled in more fertile (i.e., moister) lands.
Sarah Pomeroy 1984:103 shows that in the Oeconomicus, “Xenophon adopted the Persian King, whom he greatly admired, as a model for the wife.” In this instance, much different in tone than
Cyropaedia 8.8, Pomeroy argues that the association between the Persian king and Ischomachus’ wife is not meant to criticize the Persians but rather “shows as much enlightenment about the potential of women as can reasonably be expected in the literature of classical Athens.” On the Persian king as an ideal for both husbands and wives in the Oeconomicus, see also Pomeroy 1994:237-55.
Cyropaedia 8.8.9 be reconciled with
Cyropaedia 1.2.16, which claims that “even now (ἔτι καὶ νῦν), evidence remains of the Persians moderate diet and working off of moisture”?
Two readings appear possible. The first is that Xenophon suggests at
Cyropaedia 1.2.16 that the actual moderate diet and working off of moisture survives into his present. This reading would clearly set the epilogue at odds with the main body of text, and Hirsch 1985:92-93 cites this passage’s inconsistency with
Cyropaedia 1.2.16 as evidence against the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8. However, if we read the survival of the avoidance of spitting and nose-blowing, however perverted, as the vestiges of bygone customs (moderate diet and working off moisture through sweat), then the passage need not be irreconcilable with
How does the culture of gluttony Xenophon describes revisit the boys’ diet in
Cyropaedia 1.2.8 and the ephebes’ self-mastery in
Cyropaedia 1.2.11, as well as Cyrus’ estimation of the Persians in
In what becomes a formulaic pattern in
Cyropaedia 8.8, Xenophon claims elements of the Persian system of education survive in a perverted form. Here, the custom of eating only once a day survives from
Cyropaedia 1.2.11, but now the one meal has become a decadent feast that lasts all day and leaves little room for any other activities. In contrast, Xenophon’s discussion of diet at
Cyropaedia 1.2.8 is used explicitly to illustrate “self-mastery over food and drink” (ἐγκράτειαν γαστρὸς καὶ ποτοῦ). The Persian youth of old trained with only bread, some greens, and water for sustenance. Similarly ephebes on the hunt in
Cyropaedia 1.2.11 keep the same modest diet (slightly larger to account for increased caloric needs), augmented with a little meat when the hunt is successful. Xenophon emphasizes that this diet keeps the Persians in prime physical condition for war and psychologically prepares male citizens to endure hardship.
Because of this, Cyrus determines at
Cyropaedia 7.5.67 that the Persians who cherished this life of self-restraint were most worthy to lead with him. Moreover, at
Cyropaedia 7.5.74-75, Cyrus foreshadows the palinode’s account of Persian decline, declaring that if the Persians renounce their Spartan lifestyle for leisure and pleasure, they will become worthless and come to be deprived of the empire they have built. As I mention in my comments on
Cyropaedia 8.8.3, this is reminiscent of Cyrus’ words at the close of
Herodotus Histories 9.122. Showing oneself worthy to rule means, for Cyrus, responding to physical necessity in the best possible manner (
Cyropaedia 7.5.78). As in
Cyropaedia 1.2.11, Cyrus claims eating and drinking are and should be most pleasurable when actually hungry and thirsty.
Thus, Xenophon consistently associates gluttony (among other behaviors detailed in
Cyropaedia 8.8) with a soft life, which, as Carol Atack mentions in her comment on
Cyropaedia 7.5.75, “carries with it the risk of defeat and subjugation.” See Gorman and Gorman 2014. That risk, which Cyrus presciently foresees in
Cyropaedia 7.5, comes to fruition in
Cyropaedia 8.8.9 and throughout
Cyropaedia 8.8. As Sarah Pomeroy 1994:59 observes in her commentary to Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, Greek texts often portray gluttony as a “a vice to which females were prone,” and “control over the appetite was worth mentioning.” The charge of gluttony may thus carry with it the charge of effeminacy, a theme which runs throughout
Cyropaedia 8.8. On Median luxury as a threat to Persia’s masculine education, see also the discussion of
Cyropaedia 1.3.3 on this site.
Is Xenophon’s condemnation of binge drinking in symposia consistent with his other works, for instance
Xenophon Symposium? Might this celebration of old Persian sobriety and condemnation of new Persian drunkenness reflect upon Athens and/or Sparta?
Xenophon advocates restraint at symposia, not only here in
Cyropaedia 8.8.10 but also in his other works. For instance, καὶ σώματα καὶ γνώμας σφάλλειν is remarkably similar to Xenophon’s language to describe Spartan restraint at shared meals in
Respublica Lacedaemoniorum 5.4 (σφάλλουσι μὲν σώματα, σφάλλουσι δὲ γνώμας). Thus, old Persian sobriety may well be understood as a foil for laudable Spartan behavior.
This praise of Spartan sobriety may be set in contrast to the pervasive drinking culture at Athenian symposia, as depicted in many Attic vase paintings and in
Plato Symposium. Plato’s Symposium, for instance, casts many of its characters as still hungover from the night before, yet still committed to an evening of drinking (
Plato Symposium 176A-B) and features a very drunk Alcibiades arriving from another party (
Plato Symposium 212C-213A, Socrates is distinguished because he drinks heavily, yet is impervious to the effects of wine). In Xenophon’s Symposium, Socrates is the voice of restraint: when other guests call for a rowdy night of drinking, Socrates convinces the other guests that more moderate consumption would leave them more physically and mentally capable while allowing them to enjoy the symposium more (
Xenophon Symposium 2.24-27). Socrates’ language (καὶ τὰ σώματα καὶ αἱ γνῶμαι σφαλοῦνται,
Xenophon Symposium 2.26) similarly recalls
Cyropaedia 8.8.10 and
Respublica Lacedaemoniorum 5.4.
In contrast, Xenophon lampoons his contemporary Persians as so drunk they must be carried out of the party. Gray 2011:258 notes that “this is the almost comic kind of abuse we expect in such a rhetorical set-piece; the denunciation of Menon in his obituary at
Xenophon Anabasis 2.6 is similar.” While there are connections to be drawn between
Cyropaedia 8.8 and
Xenophon Anabasis 2.6, Xenophon’s excoriation of Menon seems somewhat less comic in tone than the lampooning of Persian debauchery found here.
How does Xenophon characterize ideal behavior at a symposium? Even if he does not advocate drunkenness, what role do Xenophon (and his Cyrus) afford to frivolity and humor?
While Xenophon may use the Persians to reinforce the virtues of relative sobriety, this is not at all to say that he does not encourage frivolity and humor. For instance, at several points in
Cyropaedia 2.2 (e.g.,
Cyropaedia 2.2.11), Cyrus either laughs or inspires laughs from the guests he entertains. At
Cyropaedia 2.2.12, Cyrus explicitly defends those who use well-intentioned humor as urbane and charming (ἀστεῖοι ἂν καὶ εὐχάριτες). Likewise, at
Cyropaedia 8.4.21-23, Cyrus jests and laughs. Social laughter and frivolity seems essential to Cyrus’ leadership. Further connecting laughter and frivolity with wisdom and the ability to lead and inspire, Huss 1999:396 observes that the descriptions of Cyrus’ laughter and lighthearted behavior in
Cyropaedia 2.2 and
Cyropaedia 8.4 evoke Xenophon’s portrayal of Socrates in
Why does Xenophon consistently present new Persian decadence not as the extinction of old Persian culture but rather as the corrupted survival of old Persian culture?
Perhaps there is something especially tragic in a culture that lacks the tools to understand, appreciate, and employ its own customs and heritage. In
Cyropaedia 8.8 the corrupted survival of old Persian culture allows for the reader to recognize the Persians of Cyropaedia’s main body and to view decline, rather than transition into a culture entirely unrecognizable from the main text. Carlier 2010:363 writes of
Cyropaedia 8.8.9-11, “The letter remained, but the spirit was lost. The traditions were not abandoned, they were perverted.” And “absolute monarchy makes it impossible to maintain traditional παιδεία” and “the abandonment of παιδεία brings about the decadence of empire” (Carlier 2010:365).
Michael Flower 2012:182 reads a warning to the Greeks in Persian corruption: “Cyrus, after conquering the whole of Asia with an army that oddly resembles Greek hoplites and Greek cavalry in its equipment and tactics, thinks that the Persians can maintain their old discipline and valor while appropriating the lifestyle and luxuries of the Medea and Babylonians. If one sees in the Cyropaedia (as I think one should) strong hints, which are confirmed in the epilogue (
Cyropaedia 8.8), that the maintenance of traditional discipline is inherently impossible under such circumstances, then any would-be Greek conquerors of the Persian Empire would also find Eastern luxury to be corrosive of their traditional lifestyle, ethos, and values.”
Gray 2011:259: “Xenophon seems to have his cake and eat it too in his praise of Cyrus in Cyropaedia. In the main text he regularly notes how such-and-such a custom continued ‘into the present time’ of writing, and these seem to mark their original excellence. In the epilogue he again marks their original excellence by equating the perversion of their practice with decline. To have them abandon the customs altogether would mean that they placed no value on them and would contradict contemporary Persian realities. Far better that the custom endures because of its excellence, but contemporary Persians are unable to live with its implications. To say that they simply abandoned the custom of one meal a day is too simple. To say that they made one meal last all day is rhetoric of the required kind.”
Is it possible to reconcile the claim that, since Artaxerxes became a drunk, the king does not hunt nor take others hunting with the emphasis on royal hunting at
Frequent hunts led by the king are an essential element of the ephebes’ education and military training at
Cyropaedia 1.2.9-11. Xenophon revives this important topic at
Cyropaedia 8.1.34-36, writing that Cyrus took troops hunting for military exercise just as Persian kings before him did, and that “even today the king and his associates continue doing these things” (καὶ νῦν δ᾽ ἔτι βασιλεὺς καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι οἱ περὶ βασιλέα ταῦτα ποιοῦντες διατελοῦσιν).
Xenophon claims the Persians no longer practice horsemanship. What does this imply about their cavalry? What evidence and events does Xenophon ignore when he claims the Persians no longer practice horsemanship?
If Xenophon does invent Cyrus’ military reforms (Christesen 2006:50), he also appears to invent the undoing of these reforms. Herodotus, for instance, claims that the Persians chose the site for the Battle of Marathon because it allowed them to press their cavalry advantage (
Herodotus Histories 6.102) and suggests that Persians thought the Athenians insane for fighting without the aid of cavalry (
Herodotus Histories 6.112). While their authority as sources may be called into question,
Nepos Miltiades 5.4 and the
Suda choris hippeis also place Persian cavalry at Marathon. All this is to suggest that the Persians maintained a formidable culture of military horsemanship into the 5th century BC. See also Gaebel 2002:69-71.
Several decades after Cyropaedia’s composition Alexander fought against large numbers of Persian cavalry, for instance at Issus (333 BC) and Gaugamela (331 BC). Moreover, Xenophon himself lauds the Younger Cyrus’ horsemanship at
Xenophon Anabasis 1.9. Xenophon may not attempt to feign historical accuracy, but his account of Cyrus’ cavalry reforms and their later disappearance does have a nice rhetorical symmetry (ex nihilo ad nihil).
How does the corruption of the legal system undo both the education of the boys described at
Cyropaedia 1.2.6-7 and Cyrus’ judicial system described at
Whereas the children used to hear (ἀκούοντες) cases being judged justly (δίκας δικαίως δικαζομένας, note the wordplay for rhetorical flourish), they now see (ὁρῶσι) that bribes have come to dominate courtroom culture (νικῶντας ὁπότεροι ἂν πλέον διδῶσιν). Once again, the educational system of Cyropaedia has been perverted. Also, Xenophon again emphasizes the importance of role models for education in a just and moral society. The verbs of perception (ἀκούοντες, ὁρῶσι) emphasize that children learn by watching and listening to their superiors, which is a prominent theme in
Cyropaedia 1.2.8 and throughout the text.
But it is not only the educational system that has collapsed in this new culture of injustice and corruption;
Cyropaedia 8.8.13 also corrupts and unmakes the legal system Cyrus established at
Cyropaedia 8.2.27-28. At
Cyropaedia 8.2.27, Xenophon specifies that the system was meant to ensure that the victor in a lawsuit was victorious because of justice, not because of favors or bribes. Field 2012:735 therefore reads ὁρῶσι νικῶντας ὁπότεροι ἂν πλέον διδῶσιν as a rebuke of Cyrus, arguing that “Cyrus’ establishment of a system of legal judgments (
Cyropaedia 8.2.27-28)” did not foster justice and instead “fueled envy and hatred (and probably corruption and bribery too).”
The study of botany is absent from Xenophon’s survey of Persian education in
Cyropaedia 1.2. What do we make of this deviation from the rhetorical pattern of
Botany appears nowhere in the Persian education of
Cyropaedia 1.2, and so its presence in
Cyropaedia 8.8.14 does appear to break the structural pattern of
Cyropaedia 8.8, which has otherwise been in consistent dialogue with
Cyropaedia 1.2. However, the deviation allows Xenophon to indulge in cultural stereotypes of Persians as poisoners, and to show yet one more way in which the just and forthright Persians of old have become masters of deceit.
Does Xenophon refer to actual events and/or pervasive stereotypes when he charges that the Persians of his present have become master poisoners?
The claim here seems somewhat odd, since poisoning does not feature prominently in
Xenophon Anabasis and the assassinations by poisoning
Diodorus Siculus Bibliotheca Historia 16 alleges Bagoas to have committed at the Persian court are too late for Xenophon to reference in Cyropaedia. However, the allegations of poison are hardly an invention of Xenophon’s. At
Cyropaedia 1.3.9, Xenophon does assert that in Cyrus’ day and before, the Medes used cupbearers to check wine for poison. Thus, Xenophon may here illustrate that Persian culture has been corrupted by the Medes.
Llewellyn-Jones and Robson 2010:210n12 suggest that the poison charge of
Cyropaedia 8.8.14 may refer to Parysatis’ murder of Stateira c. 400, detailed by
Ctesias F27 (
Photius Biblioteca 44a20-b19).
Ctesias F45m (
Aelian De Natura Animalium 4.41) also sensationalizes the Persians as poisoners. Also,
Pliny the Elder Naturalis Historia 30.1 locates the origins of magic with beneficent medicine.
Pliny the Elder Naturalis Historia 30.1 30.2 makes a Persian connection, claiming that medicine and magic originated with Zoroaster. As Maria Brosius 1998:105-22 shows, Greek authors poorly understood the role played by Persian wives within the family and frequently sensationalized the female royalty of Persia as vengeful and bloodthirsty.
How does Xenophon characterize the Persians in this chapter? How might this characterization fit both Xenophon’s earlier comments on Persian decline in
Cyropaedia 8.8 and other writing about Persians?
Xenophon here effeminizes the Persians as more “delicate” (θρυπτικώτεροι) than in Cyrus’ day, preserving Median “softness” (μαλακίαν). This furthers Xenophon’s agenda in
Cyropaedia 8.8.8-9, which also criticized the Persians as soft and effeminate by virtue of their retaining moisture.
Newell 1983:904 understands Xenophon to suggest that Persia’s new “softness” is a natural result of Cyrus’ use of “fear as a substitute for the rule of law,” which would inspire more manly desire for political participation: “In sum Xenophon regards the possibility of a regime that systematically would curtail the longing for freedom in exchange for private security and well-being as necessarily distorting – castrating or effeminating – human psychology.”
As Briant 2001:196 notes, “these are exactly the same themes developed by Xenophon in Chapter IX of the Agesilaus, where he strongly contrasts the frugal life-style of Agesilaus and ‘the boastfulness of the Persian’ (
Xenophon Agesilaus 9.1).” That said,
Xenophon Agesilaus 9.1 is specifically a eulogy of Agesilaus, not a contrast of political systems or an attack on all Persians.
More generally, Xenophon’s characterization of Persian decline provides evidence in support of Edward Said Orientalism 1978, which argues that, since Aeschylus’ Persians, Western writing has tended to depict the East as irrational, weak, and effeminate. Following Said, Edith Hall 1989:99 defines Orientalism as “the discourse by which the European imagination has dominated Asia ever since [Aeschylus’ Persians] by conceptualizing its inhabitants as defeated, luxurious, emotional, cruel, and always as dangerous.” Hall 1989:101 argues that in fifth-century Athens, “free” became “synonymous with ‘Hellenic,’ ‘servile’ with ‘Barbarian.’” In this view, Greek identity and self-perception developed in binary opposition to a barbarian, often Eastern (Phrygian, Persian), Other.
Herodotus Histories 8.68, for instance, Artemisia cautions Xerxes that the Greeks “are, at sea, as much better than yours as men are to women.” As Munson 1988:93 summarizes, “the Barbarians are, in Herodotus and other Greek authors, female-like in a much broader sense: their culture appears on the whole characterized by many different features which the Greeks recognized as female—softness, but also deviousness, ferocity, and excess.” Wenghofer 2014:534 concludes of Herodotus, “the characterization of barbarian men as a species of moichoi, and as cuckolded husbands with no control of their oikos, so implicit in Herodotus’ account of barbarian sexual mores, would no doubt have further solidified the image of unmanly barbarians in the minds of a Greek audience.”
Despite this tendency to effeminize the Persians, Greek attitudes towards the Persians were hardly monolithic, even when confined to single texts or authors. Herodotus shows respect for the Persians, for instance in his account of the Battle of Plataea (
Herodotus Histories 9.62-63). In
Xenophon Anabasis, Xenophon greatly admires Cyrus the Youngers and portrays Tissaphernes as dangerous. In his thoughtful consideration of Cyropaedia’s palinode and its relationship to Orientalism, Erich Gruen 2011:64 proposes that Xenophon’s about face in
Cyropaedia 8.8 does not mean to ridicule the Persians, but rather to “caricature contemporary stereotypes” about the Persians, whom Xenophon himself admired. Edith Hall 1989:216 cites Hippias’ views on universal law in
Xenophon Memorabilia as evidence that Xenophon is—at least in places—less Hellenocentric than some of his contemporaries.
What role do clothes play in Persian softness?
Xenophon connects Median dress with luxury (τῇ δὲ Μήδων στολῇ καὶ ἁβρότητι), juxtaposing the corrupting Median ἁβρότης with Persian ἐγκράτεια in a μὲν… δὲ statement. Xenophon seems to place responsibility for this particular form of Persian luxury and decline on the shoulders of Cyrus, since at
Cyropaedia 8.1.40-41 and
Cyropaedia 8.3.1-4 Xenophon suggests that Cyrus initiated the adoption of Median dress. See also the discussion of
Cyropaedia 1.3.3 in this site’s commentary.
As Sarah Pomeroy 1994:252 observes of Cyropaedia 8.1.41, “Cyrus encouraged the wearing of cosmetics and platform shoes to hide bodily defects.” In the Oeconomicus, however, Ischomachus criticizes his wife for employing such means of deception.” For Pomeroy 1994:253, the effeminacy of Persian costume does not preclude the younger Cyrus from earning the respect of the Spartans for his accomplishments.
For Azoulay 2004:149-150, Cyrus uses ornate dress as a political techne, helping him to rule once he has won an empire. Thus, we need not read an “outright rejection of luxurious dress.” Cyrus shows that ceremonial pomp serves a purpose, but only when it is combined with discipline and effort. The Persian decline of the palinode is marked by the imbalance resulting from the preservation of luxurious dress without the maintenance of old Persian rigor Azoulay 2004:167.
Are Xenophon’s allegations of decadence in Persian dress consistent with other statements in Cyropaedia?
Cyropaedia 1.3.2, the young Cyrus is first exposed to ornate Median dress when he meets Astyages. He is impressed, marvels at Astyages’ beauty, and puts on a Median robe himself (
Cyropaedia 1.3.4). Later, at
Cyropaedia 8.1.40-41, Cyrus also chooses to wear Median robes, persuades his associates to do the same, and allows men to wear makeup. Cyrus thus seems at least partially responsible for initiating the effeminizing process among the Persians detailed in
Cyropaedia 8.8. Whidden 2008:42: “Having illustrated several ways in which Cyrus caused his subjects to become effeminate, Xenophon sums up the cumulative and lasting effects of Cyrus’s increased emphasis on the feminine within his imperial household, noting that after Cyrus died the Persians continued to become even more effeminate than they had been under Cyrus (
Cyropaedia 8.8.15).” This, too, is Plato’s point in the Laws. Plato blames Persian decline on Cyrus, because he entrusted education to women and eunuchs (see my comments on
However, as Gray 2011:259 well notes, there is a dissonance with
Cyropaedia 1.3.2, “which says that the Persians ‘in their homeland’ continue to have plainer clothing and food than the Medes.” Of course, Xenophon’s Cyrus himself adopts Median dress at
Cyropaedia 8.1.40-41 and persuades his court to follow suit. See also Charles 2012:261-62n18.
What repetitions and patterns appear in Xenophon’s syntax and style in
Cyropaedia 8.8? Are they rhetorically effective? Do these repetitions seem indicative of Xenophon’s style, or might they fuel doubts over the authenticity of
Notice ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ. This is the fifth consecutive paragraph beginning with some variation of ἀλλὰ καὶ (ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ, ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ, ἀλλά τοι καὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ, ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ). Goodwin 1879:165-66 complains that “this mechanical style is perfectly in keeping with the painful dulness [sic] of the ὡς δ᾽ ἀληθῆ λέγω, ἄρξομαι διδάσκων” of
Cyropaedia 8.8.2, and that “the writer of the Epilogue, from section 8 of it to the end of 26, balances his sentences between a πρόσθεν μὲν and a νῦν γε μὴν or their equivalents.” Goodwin dismisses the style of
Cyropaedia 8.8 as “far removed from the ἀσφέλεια [smooth simplicity] of Xenophon.” Against this view, Gautier 1911:130n1 is adamant that linguistic reasons should remove any doubts over the authenticity of
Cyropaedia 8.8. Gautier’s position is more recently taken up by Gera 1993:300n78, who argues that “the only unusual linguistic feature of the epilogue is the frequent use of the particle μὴν.”
How effective is Xenophon’s use of carpets placed beneath beds as an exemplum of delicacy (θρύψις)? Like several of the exempla above, is this anecdote a nearly comedic piece of rhetorical declamation?
The charge here seems hyperbolic, even by the standards of the epilogue. Nevertheless, the passage does serve Xenophon’s agenda of effeminizing the Persians in their delicacy and luxury. While I by no means suggest any direct filiations, we might observe a cultural analogue in
Hans Christian Andersen “The Princess and the Pea.” In Andersen’s fairy tale, sensitivity in sleep is established as a marker of royalty, femininity, and delicacy after the heroine spends a sleepless night atop twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds, with a single pea beneath. Regardless, Gray 2011:258‘s comment, quoted above, that “this is the almost comic kind of abuse we expect in such a rhetorical set-piece” certainly applies to
Cyropaedia 8.8.16. We might draw a connection with
Aeschylus Agamemnon 783-974, which associates carpets on the floor with despotism.
Even if Xenophon does not explicitly signal the Persians of old and their education, how does this description of bodily sensitivity to temperature recall and respond to
Xenophon continues to expound on Persian delicacy, again in direct response to the Persian educational system of
Cyropaedia 1.2 (Note the return to ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ). At
Cyropaedia 1.2.10, Xenophon suggests that the hunt is excellent training for war, since it accustoms the ephebes to endure both heat and cold (καὶ γὰρ πρῲ ἀνίστασθαι ἐθίζει καὶ ψύχη καὶ θάλπη ἀνέχεσθαι). Now the Persians do not suffer any extremes in temperature, which, read against
Cyropaedia 1.2.10, renders them unfit for war. This Orientalizing view is consistent with the Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places (see especially
Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places section 16), which combines environmental determinism with political and cultural stereotypes. Airs, Waters, Places argues that men in Asia are less courageous and warlike than their European counterparts, both because Asians live in comfort without suffering extremes in temperature and because they live in servility under monarchic rule.
Does Xenophon’s claim that the Persians now create human shade, whereas rocks and trees used to suffice, criticize more than their delicacy?
Does Xenophon simply use ἐκπώματα as metonymy for material wealth, or does he place special significance upon this particular object and the specific social relationships around it?
Elsewhere in Cyropaedia, Xenophon uses ἐκπώματα to discuss ethics and wealth. For instance, at
Cyropaedia 8.4.14, Gobryas discusses the prospect of choosing a suitor for his daughter from among Cyrus’ aides. Gobryas asserts that in order to judge a man’s character, it is important to see how a man handles success as well as misfortune, since good fortune inspires arrogance (ὕβρις) in most men. In the following section (
Cyropaedia 8.8.15), Hystapas responds in praise, saying that if Gobryas “should have many such things to say, he should find me his daughter’s suitor much sooner than if he should display to me many ἐκπώματα.” Later in the banquet (
Cyropaedia 8.8.24), Cyrus gives Artabazus a golden goblet (ἔκπωμα) as a gift. Artabazus complains (
Cyropaedia 8.8.27) that the ἔκπωμα is not of the same gold as a gift Cyrus had given Chrystantas, and says he will refuse to die and wait decades if necessary for Cyrus to give a gift of equal value. See also
Cyropaedia 5.2.20, in which Gobryas proclaims to Cyrus that the Persians are of greater worth than his own people on ethical grounds, even though they, the Assyrians, have more wealth (ἐκπώματα) than the Persians. Thus, ἐκπώματα are not only symbols of wealth and material success but also of the arrogance, greed, competition, and jealousy they inspire. On ἐκπώματα as symbols of wealth, see also
Cyropaedia 5.5.39 and
How does this section respond to
Cyropaedia 4.3.15-23, the Persian Peers vote to become like centaurs by making it shameful to go anywhere on foot (See Johnson 2005). Cyropaedia 8.8.19 therefore perverts the Peers’ lone legislative act. Nadon 2001:107, Nadon 1996:366n12 argues that here at
Cyropaedia 8.8.19, “the Peers’ first (and last) act of legislation, enacted at the suggestion of Cyrus, serves to render them unfit to live again in Persia,” because “Persia is a poor and mountainous country where it is difficult to ride and raise horses (
The passage may represent yet another small point of inconsistency in the epilogue, since
Cyropaedia 4.3.23 specifies that this practice of going everywhere on horseback continues into the present day (ἔτι καὶ νῦν). In this case, the basic practice does remain unchanged; it is only the motive that has ceased to continue, since luxury, not dignity, has become the primary motive.
What is at stake in this alleged shift from a landowner-based cavalry to a cavalry that incorporates non-landowners from service professions and how might this reflect Xenophon’s politics as they pertain to Greece?
Xenophon suggests that recruiting a cavalry from men who work in service professions creates an effeminate and inefficacious military. On the surface, Xenophon suggests that such men, who have not received the Persian military education, do not have the training necessary to become an elite military force. Class-based concerns may also lie beneath the surface of Xenophon’s rhetoric. Xenophon seems to bemoan the possibility that status and power of the Peers are threatened. As Newell 1983:896 writes of
Cyropaedia 1.2.15, “access to the lifelong curriculum in public service is in fact restricted from the outset to those families who can afford to enroll their children in it…. The citizen class is in fact a caste…”
Why does Xenophon decry financial gain as a primary motivation for military service?
The vilification of military service for financial gain seems either to ignore Xenophon’s own experience with Greek mercenaries or to suggest that even mercenaries should be guided in their service by more than remuneration. Xenophon may here tap into Greek aristocratic disdain for wage labor, evident in both Plato and Aristotle. See, for instance, Balme 1984.
Likewise, Xenophon may here comment on contemporary shifts in Greek military culture, which, traditionally, had relied on an unpaid citizen militia. During Xenophon’s own lifetime, Athens paid rowers in the fleet and garrison guards, while Phocis utilized mercenaries in the Sacred War. Demosthenes provides a possible analogue, since in
Demosthenes Philippic 1 the orator calls upon the Athenians to cease their reliance on mercenaries. In light of this close association between Greek citizenship and military service, Xenophon’s criticism of the Persian elite’s reluctance to fight on their own behalf may also be directed at contemporary Greeks in the 4th century.
Is there a tension between Cyrus’ endorsement of cosmetics (
Cyropaedia 8.1.41) and Xenophon’s disparaging remarks here about the making of men who apply makeup (τοὺς κοσμητάς) into knights?
Why would the movement of friends be restricted within Persia?
The notion that enemies are free to roam Persian territory restates Xenophon’s claim at
Cyropaedia 8.8.7. However, although Xenophon has repeatedly emphasized that a sedentary lifestyle has become customary within contemporary Persia, he does not explicitly explain why Persians and their allies have difficulty with domestic travel. Perhaps it for fear of betrayal (
Cyropaedia 8.8.2-3) and property seizure (
Cyropaedia 8.8.6). However, it seems more likely that Xenophon means that friends’ progress will be interrupted by social niceties and perpetual feasting, whereas those without obligations of philia will be more free to move around.
Which previous sections of Cyropaedia does Xenophon invoke? Can we accept Xenophon’s overview of Cyrus’ military reforms as grounded in historical fact?
Xenophon invokes Cyrus’ reform of the Persian infantry detailed at
Cyropaedia 2.1.9-10. On these reforms and their possible relation to the Spartan military, see Nadon 2001:100-08 and Christesen 2006. Nick Sekunda 1992:46-47 notes that, at
Cyropaedia 6.3.21-26, Xenophon attributes “an imaginative Persian order of battle” to Cyrus, but that it is uncertain whether “this formation is a pure invention of Xenophon’s, or whether it reflects contemporary Persian practice.” Charles 2012:265-66 takes this passage
Cyropaedia 8.8.21-22 as evidence to contradict “Herodotus’ apparent assertions at
Herodotus Histories 9.62.3 and
Herodotus Histories 9.63.2 that all Achaemenid infantry fought unarmoured, or at least without the sort of equipment associated with hoplites.” Sekunda 1992:22 notes that Achaemenid sculptures show that Persian cavalry wore heavy armor.
Does Xenophon ascribe the poor state of Persian infantry to failures in leadership? Failures in military education? Failures in moral education?
Contemporary Persians have the military equipment they need, but are no longer willing to use them in hand to hand combat (εἰς χεῖρας δὲ ἰέναι οὐδ᾽ οὗτοι ἐθέλουσιν). Note that Xenophon recalls the list of equipment detailed at
Cyropaedia 1.2.9 (οἱ πεζοὶ ἔχουσι μὲν γέρρα καὶ κοπίδας καὶ σαγάρεις). The perversion of surviving old Persian customs through softness, effeminacy, and laziness continues with military affairs. Xenophon hyperbolically suggests that the Persian army no longer uses its own weapons. While Xenophon seems to impugn the soldiers themselves for being unwilling, we must remember that the children no longer learn these skills through hunting in a military education directed by the ruler (
Cyropaedia 8.8.13). Thus, while the infantry soldiers may be unwilling to fight, Xenophon also suggests that they have not been given the opportunity to learn how to fight.
Can we draw any connections between Xenophon’s caricature of Persian military affairs and certain contemporary characterizations of modern affairs in the Near East?
Is Xenophon’s attribution of scythed chariots to Cyrus historically accurate?
Xenophon here recalls Cyrus’ implementation of scythed chariots at
Arrian Tactica 19.4 corroborates Xenophon’s attribution of the origin of scythed chariots to Cyrus.
However, Nefiodkin 2004 argues that Xenophon transposes Persian battle customs of his own time onto the conquests and innovations of Cyrus. According to Nefiodkin, scythed chariots likely did not appear until the 5th century BC, sometime after the battles of Marathon and Plataea.
Xenophon does appear to represent the function of these chariots accurately (τοὺς εἰς τὰ ὅπλα ἐμβαλοῦντας). Nefiodkin 2004:372: “The scythed chariots were invented just to break a close and numerous battle-array of heavy-armed infantrymen. Against such infantrymen cavalry charges were unsuccessful.”
How is Xenophon reworking Cyrus into his narrative in the closing sections of
Cyropaedia 8.8? What rhetorical and/or structural purpose does this return to Cyrus serve?
While the then/now dichotomy has structured the majority of
Cyropaedia 8.8, note that this section marks that third straight section that explicitly names Cyrus and his reforms, whereas Cyrus is named only once (
Cyropaedia 8.8.15) from
Cyropaedia 8.8.4 to
Cyropaedia 8.8.21. As the Cyropaedia concludes, the author of the palinode more tightly binds the decline of Persia to his main subject of Cyrus. Depending on how positively or negatively one reads the whole of the Cyropaedia, Xenophon either draws binary contrast between Cyrus’ accomplishments and Persian decline (thereby celebrating Cyrus) or binds Cyrus to this decline (assigning some degree of culpability to him).
How, if at all, are the dynamics of Persian education at play in the methods Xenophon claims Cyrus used to command dangerous chariot charges? Does Cyrus’ own psychological makeup described at
Cyropaedia 1.2.1 inform Cyrus’ leadership methods detailed here at
Cyropaedia 1.2.12, Xenophon describes how important competition for prizes and recognition was to the education of Persian ephebes. Likewise, the first description of Cyrus’ psychological profile tells us that he was ‘most loving of honor, so that he endured every labor and faced every danger for the sake of winning praise” (φιλοτιμότατος, ὥστε πάντα μὲν πόνον ἀνατλῆναι, πάντα δὲ κίνδυνον ὑπομεῖναι τοῦ ἐπαινεῖσθαι ἕνεκα,
Cyropaedia 1.2.1). This fierce competitiveness is on display here in
Cyropaedia 8.8.24, since Cyrus uses the spirit of competition, prizes as rewards, and the opportunity to win praise as key elements of his leadership methods on the battlefield. Of course, not all of Cyrus’ motivators are positive; at
Cyropaedia 6.3.27 Cyrus orders his officers to punish soft men and to execute any who turn around in battle.
What does the juxtaposition of Cyrus’ methods of inspiring his troops with the claim that contemporary Persian commanders do not know their own troops (οὐδὲ γιγνώσκοντες) attempt to teach about leadership? Does this lesson apply even outside of a military context?
Xenophon suggests that leaders must not be too distant from those under their command and it is important to know one’s subordinates. A personal relationship can inspire effort and action more effectively than a command structure alone. And positive reinforcement, reward, and recognition remain powerful motivators. This idea that proximity is necessary for mimesis, and through it the transmission of virtue from ruler to ruled, is one of the important problems considered throughout the Cyropaedia, and the main problem for Cyrus when he assumes Median style kingship and secludes himself from his subjects.
The legacy of Xenophon’s observation can be seen everywhere from managerial strategies in the workplace to electoral politics. On the power of reward and recognition for building loyalty and yielding results as a leader, see Reichheld 2000 (or most any article or manual on leadership).
If this is too fanciful for belief and borders on satire, what is the rhetorical power of
Xenophon’s concluding picture of Persian military ineptitude descends into farce, with the image of charging chariots left empty both by their drivers’ incompetence and cowardice. Farcical and embellished though
Cyropaedia 8.8.25 may be,
Cyropaedia 8.8 is a crescendo building to this point and
Cyropaedia 8.8.25 represents the apex of the argument. Declining morals and public involvement, the perversion of education and customs, effeminate delicacy, and the admission of members of the service classes to the cavalry have finally brought the Persian army to the point of collapse. Moreover, that the apogee of ineptitude involves chariots and horses, rather than the cavalry, serves to eradicate the military reforms initiated by Cyrus: Persians cannot keep their mounts long enough to engage in battle.
In his account of Persian decline, especially in military affairs, Xenophon makes no mention of the Persian Wars. Why?
Tuplin 2013:72-73: “no one would accept that immediately post-Cyrean Persia was a place of morally and physically enfeebled military impotence. Mainland Greeks did quell the forces of Darius and Xerxes, but no one wanted to call those forces negligible. Everyone knew the apogee of Persian power came after Cyrus and Xenophon felt bound to acknowledge this, albeit indirectly and without mentioning Darius or Xerxes. Part of Cyrus’ success as a leader was creating an empire and that is worth little if the empire did not persist. The ‘up-to-the-present-day’ annotations mark this persistence.”
To what does Xenophon refer when he claims the Persians no longer enter into any war without Greeks and how does this signal his own experience?
Whidden 2008:43: “By the end of the Cyropaedia the once manly and brave Persians of Cyrus’s boyhood have been replaced by the womanly denizens of Cyrus’s imperial household who are afraid to fight and who must therefore pay mercenaries to do their fighting for them.”
As Trundle 2004:6 notes (citing Tuplin 1992:67-70), “the Persians had used the Greeks in a variety of roles, such as garrison troops and bodyguards, in the fifth century.” While they may not necessarily have been mercenaries, Trundle 2004:5 suggests that “there is some evidence that Greeks found service in the Near East with the Assyrian and Babylonian monarchs of the seventh century BC.”
Xenophon Anabasis, of course, details Xenophon’s firsthand experience serving with Greek mercenaries fighting in internal Persian affairs. Persian employment of Greek mercenaries increased in the fourth century, especially during the Great Satraps Revolt of the 360s, which would have been contemporaneous with Cyropaedia’s composition. Trundle 2004:7: “The collapse of Persian imperial unity led to the prolific employment of Greeks either to uphold the authority of the Great King or to defend a part of his empire from him.” Likewise, Persians and Athenians allied against Sparta at Cnidus in 394 BC.
When Xenophon claims he has accomplished his task (ἐγὼ μὲν δὴ οἶμαι ἅπερ ὑπεθέμην ἀπειργάσθαι μοι) does he refer only to
Cyropaedia 8.8 or to the whole of Cyropaedia?
Xenophon’s conclusion is short and abrupt. On the surface, the conclusion seems explicitly to refer to the mission of
Cyropaedia 8.8, since showing that Xenophon’s Persian contemporaries are worse than those in Cyrus’ day responds directly to
Cyropaedia 8.8.2. The main body of Cyropaedia, after all, has its own mission statement: to show what made Cyrus such a great leader of men (
Cyropaedia 1.1.6). That the conclusion resolves only the thesis of 8.8 may well lend credence to those who read the epilogue as a later addition.
However, some who accept
Cyropaedia 8.8 as authentic (or at least treat it as an integral part of the work), argue that the whole of Cyropaedia is critical of Cyrus and the project of empire and that the epilogue therefore must color our reading of the main body of Cyropaedia (for instance Newell 1983). In this reading,
Cyropaedia 8.8.27 does respond to the implicit agenda running throughout the work and therefore serves as a perfectly apt conclusion. For instance, Whidden 2007:566: “Cyrus’ imperial enterprise, which at first seems so noble and beautiful, is for Xenophon in the end quite ugly and morally repugnant.”
In addition to the positive lessons of leadership running throughout the whole of Cyropaedia, why might the founders of the United States have been interested in
Do debates surrounding Cyropaedia’s epilogue and Xenophon’s overall program recall other movements in classical scholarship?
Gray 2011:246-90 frames her chapter “Readings of Cyropaedia” as a rebuttal of darker readings of Cyropaedia. Gray 2011:247: “Scholars once recognized that the epilogue confirmed the surface praise of Cyrus, but this has given way to the impression that the epilogue produces a dissonance that qualifies or contradicts the apparent praise of Cyrus in the preface and the main body of the text.” Gray notes that these darker, ironic readings of Cyrus depend on the epilogue and she traces them back to Leo Strauss (see Dorion 2001). Though she herself reads Cyropaedia as positive in its portrayal of Cyrus, Gray notes a trend in modern scholarship, which reads Cyropaedia as critical of Cyrus despite Xenophon’s surface praise throughout the text, wide fourth-century Greek praise of Cyrus (see Gray 2011:262n24), and the overall history of Cyropaedia’s reception.
While it is by no means the only analogue, this debate in modern Cyropaedia scholarship evokes trends in Virgilian criticism. Like Cyropaedia,
Virgil Aeneid gives surface praise to great heroes (Aeneas and Augustus) who perform great deeds and build an empire. As Kallendorf 1999:391 summarizes, “the traditional approach” to the Aeneid “is basically optimistic: Aeneas serves as the ideal hero of ancient Rome, the Aeneid celebrates the achievements of Augustus and his age, and the poem endures as a monument to the values of order and civilization.” However, some recent scholars have offered darker readings of the Aeneid, arguing that the text gives veiled criticism to Aeneas, Augustus, and the promise of empire. Collectively, these more pessimistic readings of the Aeneid are often referred to as the “Harvard school” of Virgilian criticism. Kallendorf 1999:391: “The new approach… is profoundly pessimistic, for it finds that the Aeneid speaks in two voices… those of personal loss as well as public achievement. That is, the poem’s successes are accompanied by failure—of Aeneas, of the Augustan order, and of human nature in general and its ability to attain its ideals.” With the substitution of proper names, Kallendorf’s overview of the Harvard school and its relation to previous Virgilian scholarship might easily describe recent readings of Cyropaedia.
While this passage may well be hyperbolic in its rhetoric, Xenophon appears both to draw upon and manipulate Persian realia. A sculptural relief at Persepolis portrays a seated Xerxes with attendants holding parasols over the king to protect against the sun. As Margaret Root 1979:285-88 and M. C. Miller 1992:93-94 have shown, parasol-bearers (likely eunuchs) were an important part of Achaemenid imperial iconography. However, Root dates this imagery to the time of Cyrus, which throws into doubt Xenophon’s attribution of parasol-bearers as a maker post-Cyrus Persian decline (Miller doubts the attribution of the epilogue to Xenophon).
Miller 1992:105 argues that, in Athens, the parasol originated as a status symbol for the elite leisure class and functioned as a marker of citizenship. In the classical period, the parasol became “the feminine implement par excellance,” which highlighted and differentiated the social relationship between mistress and slave.
We might also read some serious criticism of the Persians and their empire. The comfort of the elite depends upon the domination of others. A delicate, effeminized ruling class uses other humans as technological tools. If we read the Cyropaedia as a critique of imperialism,
Cyropaedia 8.8.17 may well suggest that a dehumanized populace is a dark part of Cyrus’ legacy. This reading highlights a great irony of Athenian democracy, that male citizenry of Athens owned slaves and depended upon the labor of a majority population (slaves and women) excluded from the polity. See especially Chanter 2011:vii.
As Oost 1977:233n19 observes, Xenophon’s Cyrus encourages the habit of wearing makeup at
Cyropaedia 8.1.41, but here “Xenophon also regards using such devices on the part of men as evidence of the decline of the Persians (effeminacy) in his own day.” Allison Glazebrook 2009:236-37 argues that Greek culture associated makeup around the eyes (such as Cyrus’ adopts) with prostitutes and disreputable women. Glazebrook goes on to argue that, in
Xenophon Oeconomicus (and in
Xenophon Memorabilia 2.1), Xenophon connects cosmetic adornment with laziness and deception. By eschewing makeup, Ischomachus’ wife becomes associated with sophrosune and can be a boon to, rather than a drain on, her household. In Cyropaedia’s palinode, cosmetics are indicative of decline and effeminacy. On makeup as a tool of deception in the Oeconomicus, see also Azoulay 2004:161. If to wear makeup is to project indolence, these are not the men a state should advance to positions of military leadership. Makeup continues to be a tool to effeminize the Persians in popular culture, for instance in the 2006 film,
Also, note the rhetorical variation. After numerous repetitive and formulaic introductions, Xenophon begins
Cyropaedia 8.8.20 with a rhetorical question, the only question in
Problematic racist Orientalizing discourses continue into the present day. Military failures in the Near East are still on occasion cast as failures in character. See, for instance, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent suggestion that Iraqi forces lack the will to fight.
In her blog post on this site, Caroline Winterer 2013 explains why the U.S. founders turned to the Cyropaedia for lessons on leadership, even though they were themselves revolting against sole rule. Thomas Jefferson and others active in early American politics were interested in the connections between ethics and empire. In addition to positive leadership skills represented in the person of Cyrus, Cyropaedia’s epilogue offers moral and ethical explanations for the decline of a great empire. The founders sought to establish a new kind of empire and this necessarily meant avoiding the mistakes of historical empires. This approach to nation building is on display, for instance, in
Joel Barlow Columbiad (1807), a classically inspired epic poem about the early United States (Barlow was Jefferson’s friend and co-translator of Volney’s Ruins).
Cyropaedia 8.8 fits neatly into late eighteenth-century intellectual conversations about imperialism.
Jefferson was himself a translator of
Volney The Ruins or Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires (1791), which sought to explain the decline and fall of great ancient empires through ethical failures. Cyropaedia’s epilogue offers a similar program and may have been a source for Volney. The legacy of
Cyropaedia 8.8 may well be felt in
Volney Ruins Chapter 12, which describes Volney’s contemporary Turks in Orientalizing terms very similar to Xenophon’s account of Persian decline:
“You were sober and hardy; your enemies timid and enervated; you were expert in battle, your enemies unskillful; your leaders were experienced, your soldiers warlike and disciplined. Booty excited ardor, bravery was rewarded, cowardice and insubordination punished, and all the springs of the human heart were in action. Thus you vanquished a hundred nations, and a mass of conquered kingdoms compounded an immense empire.
But other customs have succeeded; and in the reverses attending them, the laws of nature have still exerted their force. After devouring your enemies, your cupidity, still insatiable, has reacted on itself, and, concentrated on your own bowels, has consumed you.
Having become rich, you have quarreled for partition and enjoyment, and disorder hath arisen in every class of society.”
Volney goes on to explain how “the Sultan, intoxicated with grandeur” has developed innumerable vices and, “meeting no obstacle to his appetites, he has become a depraved being.” Volney outlines the new ignorance of a ruling class that rejects traditional education and appetite for luxury, including the rejection of “the frugal table, plain clothing” and the perverse reliance on fine tapestries and vases.
Oaths played a fundamental role in Greek religion and are treated as sacrosanct throughout Greek literature. As Jan N. Bremmer 1994:12, Bremmer 1994:40, Bremmer 1994:75 notes, Greek heroes were charged with the protection of oaths, sacrifices were made at the swearing of oaths, and Greek men and women swore oaths by patron gods and goddesses, for instance Zeus Horkios and Demeter. In
Euripides Medea 160-161, Medea invokes Themis and Artemis as protectors of oaths, and Zeus Horkios is repeatedly called upon as the divine patron of oaths (for instance
Euripides Medea 169-70,
Euripides Medea 207-08,
Euripides Medea 516,
Euripides Medea 1352), suggesting that Jason’s violation of their wedding vows is a religious transgression. Thus, Xenophon taps into deep religious and literary traditions when he treats oaths as foremost among “divine things.” The importance of oaths to Xenophon and his intended audience is evident from its structural position in the argument. It is no accident that in Xenophon’s account of Persian moral decline, the sacred breaking of oaths occupies the primary position as Exhibit A. In contrast to oath breaking as emblematic of Persian decline,
Xenophon Hellenica 2.4.43 closes with the swearing (and keeping) of oaths to mark the restoration of Athenian democracy.
To the Persians, oaths were perhaps even more sacred than to the Greeks. The Lie is the essence of evil in Darius’ epigraphic regime. Darius’ tomb inscription at Behistun repeatedly vilifies liars and makes proclamations of Darius’ honesty. An inscription of Darius’ at Persepolis reads: “Saith Darius the king: May Ahuramazda bear me aid, with the gods of the royal house; and may Ahuramazda protect this country from a (hostile army), from famine, from the Lie! Upon this country may there not come an army, nor famine, nor the Lie” (
DPd, trans. Kent 1950:136).
Herodotus Histories 1.136 reports that Persian boys learned to tell the truth as a central part of their education. Whereas the Greeks admired figures like Odysseus and Themistocles for their skill in cleverly lying to enemies, truth-telling was sacred in Persian religion and culture. Knowing this, Xenophon places telling the truth at the center of Persian religious matters. Also, in
Cyropaedia 8.8.3, Xenophon essentially concedes that the Greek commanders of the Anabasis fell into Tissaphernes’ trap because of the Persians reputation for oath-keeping.
Finally, this section represents one of
Cyropaedia 8.8’s inconsistencies, since Xenophon reports at
Cyropaedia 8.1.24 that what Cyrus established concerning the gods continues even to this day in the Persian court (here Xenophon is discussing religious worship and custom, rather than oaths).
Gray 2011:246-47 reminds us that “Xenophon is referring to the execution of Clearchus and Proxenus and the others as described in
Xenophon Anabasis 2.5.” As Sage 1995:172 observes, Xenophon here specifically references his own experience in Cyrus the Younger’s expedition against Artaxerxes.
Tuplin 2013:72 uses this event to date the Persian moral decline for which Xenophon argues: “When one reads at the start of the palinode that the Greeks in the Younger Cyrus’ mercenary army in 401 would never have been fatally deceived by Tissaphernes’ perjury [see
Xenophon Anabasis 2.5] had it not been for the reputation of Persians for keeping their word, one realises that the degenerate Persia of the palinode is a post-401 phenomenon.” Thus, this passage seems to contradict the εὐθὺς of
Cyropaedia 8.8.2; while some degree of stasis may have been immediate upon Cyrus’ death, the social fabric of Persia takes more than a century to crumble in its entirety. Cyrus’ diatribe against hard and soft lands at the conclusion of
Herodotus Histories 9.122 offers a parallel notion of Persian decline.
Perhaps it would be better not to think in terms of the failure of types of government, but rather failure of the polis system itself – after all, the revived democracy of the Athenians restored a credible semblance of empire in a comparatively short time – but in the end, they were still a polis, with all the logistical as well as political liabilities that entails. I think Isocrates concerns himself very much with precisely such limitations.
The possibility of reading thauma with a sense of irony here is intriguing, especially in reference to
Cyropaedia 1.1.6. I have wondered if this work is really as laudatory as it is usually believed, and would be glad for any direction in this area that anyone could give me.
A brief comment on the success/failure of the Achaemenids – the direct experience of the Athenians, and of Xenophon himself, is that they were at their best noble but unsuccessful imperialists, at worst (the Peace of Antalcidas and the attempt to bribe their way to a favorable outcome of the Peloponnesian War) meddlesome and ignoble. See my other post raising the prospect that this work is not as laudatory as one may think.
I think that the view that X. is pro-Cyrus and early Persia is predicated on his supposedly pro-Spartan sympathies, but that the argument becomes circular when those who argue that X is unusually pro-Spartan cite the Cyropaedia. I am not at all certain that I am right, but it might prove fruitful to examine.
The principle difficulty with determining Plato’s view on anything is his use of mythology/poetry to illustrate his points. In the end, we are never certain if he is offering practical advice or commenting on his poetic predecessors – as I argued in a couple of papers I gave on the myth of Er, he is ever backtracking to his war on poetry – only in
Plato Laws does he finally approach something like a practical approach to a realizable state.
Totally aside, I taught
The Education of Henry Adams to students at Ablay Khan University in Kazakhstan while I was doing a Fulbright there – I never really saw it in terms of the Cyropaedia. for the simple reason that Cyrus grows in his acceptance of responsibilities, while Henry Adams seems to delight in a sort of seventies-cliche ironic detachment – his education is almost to no purpose, save his own private one – for the record, my students wondered, if all Americans thought and acted as Henry Adams did, how Americans ever accomplished anything.
Sorry, I hadn’t seen your post before this – certainly,it is difficult, given the pure mass of work in Plato and the time over which the works were composed, to detect a perfectly consistent viewpoint on virtually anything – I agree that his attacks on poetry are on substance, rather than form, and in the end he can tolerate Homer better than he can the tragedians. I am merely stating that
Plato Republic cannot stand up as a manual to the extent that
Plato Laws can, given the preoccupation P. seems to feel with the challenges raised by his poetic predecessors.
Plato Statesman presents an entirely different challenge, as you well point out.
The division of labor between military and civil officials looks astonishingly Roman – can any of the Near Eastern experts tell me if this is found in earlier empires (Hittite, Assyrian, or Babylonian, particularly)/
Are we inclined to accept this account of Cyrus’ death over that in Herodotus?
The problem is that both read like morality plays – and in the absence of firm evidence, in the end you are left with probabilities – H’s account has always seemed the more plausible, but as you point out, the truth is probably somewhere else. As to Fornara and Woodman,, I know both sources – you can find it all better in many places in Syme, with the added advantage of better writing and a sense of humor.
It seems to me likely to be authentically Xenophon’s, as it seems to conform with his personal experience of the Persians in the retreat of the Ten Thousand, as well as his experience as an Athenian with Persian attempts at bribery and bullying from 420 or so to the Peace of Antalcidas, and the general Greek experience of almost uniform success in combat against the Persians for over 100 years. In fact, one might argue from a Greek perspective that Xenophon would have been forced to write this palinode in order to explain the difference between the Cyrus the Great he imagines and the Persians the Greeks actually knew.
I cannot decide which is more generous – “draw” or “fought” in reference to Artaxerxes 1 – he spent most of his time funding proxies, as I recall. Darius II waited for the Syracusans to do the hard work of beating the Athenians, then went to work on the Ionians, and I seriously doubt that X. had any good opinion of Artaxerxes II, for obvious reasons.
You both seem only to articulate my point, that it was Persian money and strategy, rather than valor, that allowed them to do as well as they did – and the Spartan withdrawal from Asia Minor had as much to do with Sparta betraying the Greek cause as Persian victory – and an oft-overlooked aspect of the battle at Salamis in Cyprus is that the Athenians, in fact, did win. Only the misadventure of Egypt is a secure “loss” and tells more of the overreach of the Athenians than of Persian capabilities. As for the “cakewalk” of the retreat, Persian treachery and the geography of empire had more to do with that than any martial capacity of the Persians.
Much of your argument seems to depend on accepting the authenticity of the Peace of Kallias – do you?
I think that it does – it makes what may be merely strategic exhaustion into a diplomatic victory that evanesces upon inspection. As for the rest, from Thermopylae to Knidos, the Persians won no significant battles outside of finishing off a stranded Greek army in Egypt – and at Thermopylae, they enjoyed an almost ridiculous numerical advantage, while at Knidos, they won the battle with an Athenian admiral. (I omit Cunaxa as a special case, since the Greeks were clearly not defeated, but Artaxerxes did win the battle. Like it or not, I doubt that any Greek hoplite thought of his Persian counterpart as much of a threat, and that deterioration of martial vigor required explanation from X. As to strategic or diplomatic advantages, the Persians did have the advantage that they could play “divide and annoy” with the Greeks, which points to the inferiority of the polis system and X.’s possible dissatisfaction with it that I pointed out in an earlier post. But even the King’s Peace didn’t achieve a great deal for the Persians.
I cannot agree that the Persians didn’t look weak, except in retrospect – there were certainly those who overrated their strength, of course. I doubt that Xenophon would have been one of them, but in the end, that is also an unanswerable question.
Steven, for what it’s worth, Simo Parpola 2003:350 also argues that Xenophon modeled his hero on Cyrus the Younger, as suggested by a biographical sketch of the latter at
Anabasis 1.9.2-28, which “reads like an abbreviated Cyropaedia.” For Parpola, making Cyrus the Younger a source for much of the material in the Cyropaedia accounts for the accuracy of many of the details about Persian government and so on. Parpola does not, however, cite your book (Hirsch 1985).
For what it’s worth, I wrote a fair amount about this in my book (Patterson 2010, Kinship Myth). I don’t have page numbers at hand, but it was in the chapter on
Herodotus Histories 7.150, about Xerxes’ overtures to Argos. The link is attested in Herodotus, Hellanicus, and of course Aeschylus’ Persians.
Hecataeus may have dealt with it as well (if not invented it), but no surviving fragments attest to that.
How do we solve the problem of the presence of “Indians” so far west of their homeland throughout the Cyropaedia?
Not only are recurring references to “Indians” problematic, but so is the geography Xenophon applies to them. At
Cyropaedia 1.1.4 and
Cyropaedia 1.5.2, he seems to situate “India” in or near eastern Anatolia or northwestern Iran. Moreover, the “Chaldaeans,” not from southern Mesopotamia but a group northwest of Armenia (as I explained in a different comment), traveled to India often and served as mercenaries for the Indian king (
Cyropaedia 3.2.25, 27). According to Simo Parpola 2003:342, Assyrian records suggest that India is in fact Andia, “a country SE of Lake Urmia (on the border of Urartu/Armenia).” Xenophon’s own passage through Armenia was well to the west, so he may not have known about the Andians and inherited a tradition that spoke of “Indians.”
These “Chaldaeans” are not the same as the ones from southern Mesopotamia.
Strabo 12.3.18-19 identifies a people called Χαλδαῖοι, whom he situates toward Trapezus. These would therefore be northwestern neighbors of the Armenians in Achaemenid times. There is a brief discussion of this in Hewsen 1983:135-36. (I’ll amend the reference page accordingly.)
Sorry about that, Sean! REArm is the standard abbreviation for Revue des Études Arméniennes.
Is there any historical basis for Tigranes?
As I’ve discussed elsewhere in this commentary, there are bits of information here and there that support the proposition that the Cyropaedia can be used (if with caution) as a historical source. Tigranes may be an example, though the evidence is somewhat uncertain. There is a reference to a Tigranes in the Armenian historian
Moses of Chorene 1.24 (dated by Robert Thomson to the eighth century CE, though others insist on the fifth century CE) who helped Cyrus overcome “the dominion of the Medes” (1.24, trans. Thomson). However, Moses has added details to this figure that clearly belong to Tigranes the Great (c.95-c.55 BCE), who extended Armenia’s territory deep into Syria. I can’t say where Moses got this specific information, but he is known to have based his vast history on many sources, Armenian, Byzantine, biblical, and even (though at second-hand) classical Greek. So it’s possible that the ultimate source (probably several steps removed) of part of 1.24 is Xenophon himself (or rather Xenophon’s source). (There may be more on this in Toumanoff 69n71 Studies in Christian Caucasian History, but Harvard’s copy is checked out, and I only have a few days left in my time here.)
I am interested in the combination of seriousness and humour apparently advocated in this chapter. To what extent is this scene similar to Xenophon’s Symposium in that respect? It seems to me that the exchanges in the Symposium are sillier and at times more aggressive, so is Xenophon perhaps partly ridiculing (some of) the actors of the
Symposium (as as been suggested by others, e.g. Higgins 1977:15-20, Xenophon the Athenian: 15-20;
Tuplin 1993:177-178, The Failings of Empire: 177-178; and
Hobden 2005:93-111, ‘Reading Xenophon’s Symposium’, Ramus 34: 93–111) , who are historical characters, while presenting his essentially fictional characters of the Cyropaedia as making up an ideal, utopian dinner party? Certainly the tone seems light-heartedly and good-naturedly joking throughout, and Cyrus makes sure that it all ends up being edifying as well, which presumably is Xenophon’s ideal combination at a symposium or other dinner party.
Well, it is hard to know what Spartan communal messes were like, but the scenes here are certainly reminiscent of
Xenophon Symposium, which is a fictionalised version of an Athenian symposium. It seems sensible to me that Xenophon modelled Cyrus’ dinners on the most civilised kind of socialised dining he knew, which was probably the Athenian version.
ἀστραπαὶ καὶ βρονταὶ: What are some other references to thunder and lightening being auspicious?
Here, you could add the commentary of the Memorabilia by Dorion, which is now completed.
Concerning French (or French-speaking) bibliography, there is an issue of the journal Cahiers des études anciennes (2008) devoted to Xenophon. And the 2009 issue of the Etudes Platoniciennes, devoted to the image of Socrates, also contains studies on Xenophon. There is also the issue 2009 of the journal Polis, which is again devoted to Xenophon.
What are the connotations of the terms demokratia, oligarchia, monarchia, tyrannia in the Cyropaedia and in Xenophon in general? Xenophon seems to qualify the tradition about constitutional debates by blurring the distinction between the tyrant and the monarch. In traditional constitutional thought (Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle), tyranny is usually considered the degeneration of basileia/monarchia. Moreover, in the fifth-century B.C., tyranny is loaded with clearly negative overtones (see, for example, Raaflaub 2003:169-190, “Stick and Glue: The Function of Tyranny in Fifth-Century Athenian Democracy”, in K. Morgan, Popular Tyranny. Sovereignty and its Discontents in Ancient Greece, Austin/Texas). In the introduction of the Cyropaedia, however, Xenophon seems to imply that there might be also successful tyrants (οἱ μὲν… οἱ δὲ θαυμάζονται). This statement creates a link with the reflection of the Hiero, but also raises some questions concerning Cyrus: might he be at times more a tyrant than a king?
The word ποτ’ is also worth commenting, since it evokes Xenophon’s socratic dialogues (cf. the beginning of
Oeconomicus 1.1: Ἤκουσα δέ ποτε αὐτοῦ καὶ περὶ οἰκονομίας τοιάδε διαλεγομένου), thus encouraging us to examine the Cyropaedia in a socratic perspective as well.
On this topic, see now Gray 2011 who emphasizes the mutual profit of ruling and ruled through leadership. See also, from a different perspective, focusing on the ambiguities of voluntary submission, Tamiolaki 2010:283-369, Liberté et esclavage chez les historiens grecs classiques, Paris, PUPS. Relevant here is also the concept of eunoia (more prominent in the Oeconomicus). See Romilly 1958:92-101, JHS 78.
The issue of thauma is indeed complex. There is a French dissertation devoted to this topic, but studies mainly the Homeric epics: C. Hunzinger 1997, Thauma: l’étonnement et l’émerveillement dans l’épopée grecque archaïque, Thèse, Paris IV-Sorbonne.
I find the question “why Xenophon thought about monarchy as the best form of government” very intriguing. Note also that in the first paragraph, Xenophon talks only about failures, when he mentions democracies and oligarchies, whereas for “those who tried to exercise tyranny”, he establishes a distinction between those who succeed and those who fail. This is peculiar, given that there was no great experience of monarchy (at least of the Persian type) in Greece, whereas there was an example of successful regime, democracy, in the sense that it was more stable than other regimes. Oligarchy, on the other hand, had indeed failed. So, would it be possible that Xenophon was in a sense encouraging Greeks to experiment on sth which was not tested before? And how far had he gone with this idea? Had he seriously considered its feasibility or was it more utopian thinking?
I cannot agree more: Cyropaedia should be studied in the context of the historiographical tradition, mainly
Herodotus Histories, but also
Thucydides Histories (see an interesting article by J. Lendon 2006:82-98, JHS 126; I think connections with Thucydides should be further explored). Moreover, concerning the Herodotean Constitutional Debate, as you mention elsewhere, the arguments used by Darius in favour of monrarchy are not compelling (I tried to show this in detail in an article published in Tamiolaki 2009:268-277, in the volume Antiphilesis, Stuttgart). But Xenophon seems to build upon the same argument in the proem of the Cyropaedia: he does not argue theoretically in favour of monarchy, he deduces its primacy from the “historical” reality, that is the success of Cyrus. Darius had done roughly the same thing in Herodotus. Might Xenophon elaborate the Herodotean Constituational Debate?
Undertaking all toils is the mark of the leader. It seems that Xenophon’s peculiarity lies in the fact that he distinguishes between the supreme toils, undertaken only by leaders and inferior ones, undertaken by the idiotai (cf.
Cyropaedia 1.6.25). Toils thus are inscribed in a set of hierarchical relations that can be observed throughout the Cyropaedia.
The phrase ἔτι καὶ νῦν and its variants (ἔτι καὶ ἐς ἐμέ) is also often used by
Herodotus Histories. Does Xenophon build upon this historiographical tradition?
To what extent Xenophon’s description of the Persian educational system match Herodotus’ description of Persian nomoi (usages) attested in the first book of his Histories? Is there direct influence? Or would we rather speak about standard notions, views circulating in Greece, about the Persian education system?
Dear David, I read the Cyropaedia along the same lines with you. I also find that there is a certain ambiguity in some (if not all) of Cyrus’ virtues (this was also the topic of my paper in the Xenophon conference, in 2009, if you remember). Another example of manipulation is, I think, Cyrus’ dialogue with his mother Mandane. But I also think that one could perhpas distinguish “different degrees of ambiguity or darkness” (some passages seem more markedly dark than others), and this explains, of course, the various interpretative possibilities that open up for the Cyropaedia and that render it less dull.
I’m interested in the manner of distribution here. My first thought was of the dais eise in Homer (e.g.
Iliad 7.320). Are there any other examples of this type of distribution of meat at dinner elsewhere?
I wonder if my comment on paragraph 2 and the distribution of the meat vs. the models of distribution in
Homer has anything to do with this?
My question is more related to the development of Greek civilization. I’d like to know more about the evolution of army and governance– which comes first, can you have one without the other, (because enforcement of law is dependent and is depended on by creation of laws)? Does Xenophon consider a successful monarch one who has a good military background? Do the people overthrow governments by violence, and does this relate to the idea of citizen-soldiers? I guess I’m asking about the social context and history in which Xenophon’s ideas of governance developed.
Would you consider making a “translation diary” a part of the website? I think it could have interesting implications for understanding how a particular student thinks (and struggles) through a translation. It could be made semi-private, or shared with certain people, and might offer an insight into what particular stumbling blocks are most common or what points on grammar should be addressed in the comments (if a student doesn’t know what a construction is, he/she might have trouble articulating, or even considering it, a question). This feature could also introduce discussion about how close a translator should keep to the original Greek, and how far one can reasonably stray. If we made one translation communal, we could keep polishing it and using it as a basis for further discussion on the specifics of word choice and what impacts such choices can have (both in Greek and in translation) on the overall meaning. Do you have any plans on expanding the site to include a communal translation, or are there practical concerns that aren’t occurring to me?
Thank you! Yes, I’ve been reading many of the comments on each chapter, and it is very helpful in placing the text in its proper historical/social context. I certainly find it an excellent space for discussion and expanding my worldview, and in that sense it is more than satisfactory, but the translation could add a whole new dimension. Thank you for fielding so many questions! This is an amazing project.
I wonder if the herdsmen are good leaders only because the herds are good followers? It’s true that Cyrus is the exception, but such successful individuals come so rarely that they might be the exceptions that prove the rule. It might also be worth investigating whether or not the success of a herdsman is due to the fact that he is an “other”– and thus unifies the herds when they realize their relative similarities (theoretically anyway– who knows how much sheep and oxen perceive). Do humans overthrow each other because our similarities inspire jealousy– “If Cyrus can be king, why can’t I?”
I think it’s interesting that Xenophon says that Cyrus changed his mind about the relative difficulty of ruling men. When he says “ἤν τις ἐπισταμένως ἐπισταμένως τοῦτο πράττῃ,” does he believe that Cyrus is introducing a new form of governance that can be sustained in the future? If it’s all down to skill, then Cyrus could potentially teach others this skill, and eventually the world could be united. However, two thousand five hundred years later, with very little unification in sight, we might wonder if men like Cyrus can pass on their knowledge of successful ruling. My question is, did Xenophon think that Cyrus’ rule could put an end to tribal warfare?
I was just reading a bit on Alexander the Great today, and I came across an interesting factoid. Onesicritus, a Cynic philosopher and Alexander’s chief helmsman, “consciously imitated Xenophon’s Cyropaedia and tried to turn his Alexander into a philosopher in arms” (Cartledge 2004:276). Onesicritus is one of just six eyewitness sources extant on Alexander. I think it would be valuable to compare his work to the Cyropaedia as well as to see how the Cyropaedian tradition of Onesicritus’ work has shaped subsequent narratives on Alexander. In antiquity, Onesicritus’ work apparently prompted Nearchus, one of Alexander’s admirals, to write an account amending Onesicritus’ tale.
Did the transfer from childhood (learning about justice and societal interaction) to adolescence involve any sort of test, or was it simply based on age? Did each cohort graduate at the same time, and do we know if anyone was held back for further instruction?
It seems to me that a publicly funded hunt signifies the importance of the act in Persian society, as much as any group activity is for any society. How the collective operates in a hunt, as a simulation of war, is (apparently) central to Persian culture.
Cyropaedia 1.2.12 also describes other group contests as well– a side note: I find it intriguing that Xenophon doesn’t mention anything like Athenian theater, music, or poetry (as far as we have read, anyway). Is this an indication that Xenophon didn’t know about any such traditions, that they weren’t well-known, or that he simply didn’t find them relevant to his argument?
Anyway, I think it is vital to have a sense of community in any nation to ensure cohesion– a feeling of shared history tends to help this. If each segment of an armed population (in particular restless young men) gets a chance to gain personal and national glory, revolution is less likely to occur. I think there have been studies on the phenomenon of young men becoming disenchanted when they are unemployed and unengaged in great numbers and taking to rebellion on a large scale. At any rate, with 12 (or however many there actually were) distinct tribes, who likely identified themselves as distinct, a collaborative effort was probably critical to maintaining unity.
Has anyone done any work on the amount of “cosmetics” and focus on appearances and the connection to marked and unmarked genders? Do we know if the Persian language in this period assigned male as marked? Typically, the marked gender (in most modern societies, female) is the one that puts more effort into appearance and cosmetics. Does the linguistic theory hold here?
I thought that Astyages genuinely felt, as he told Cyrus in the previous paragraph, “γευόμενος δὲ καὶ σύ, ἔφη, γνώσῃ ὅτι ἡδέα ἐστίν”– he’d like it if he tried it.
I thought the focus was more on Cyrus’ reaction, and that perhaps that was the more inappropriate (disrespecting a foreign king)– until one considers the likely purpose of such an anecdote relating Cyrus’ precociousness, fearlessness, and self-control.
Considered in that light, then any Astyages-shaped figure is supposed to test Cyrus’ meddle. In the previous section, Xenophon took pains to describe the typical Persian upbringing and their focus on ingraining self-control, especially about food, so this is probably a reinforcement of the fact that Cyrus was a well-educated boy.
Is there more information on equestrian training in antiquity as linked to leadership? The most obvious example is probably the precocious Alexander and his horse, Bucephalus, but perhaps it is the only one needed to demonstrate the utility of experiencing control over an animal and mastering a skill used in war. By being the only one who could tame Bucephalus, the young Alexander could begin to understand when to persuade, punish, or reward his subjects. I suppose the question is if there is evidence that equestrian training was common for youths who were expected to take power.
It seems that there are distinctions between Latin and Greek namings about the whole title of Book. Besides, it would better to have an outline of the microhistory of this term in Xenophon and its counterpart too in order to appraoch the meaning (s) of it.
As a very complex and key word ἔννοιά (in Plato and Aristotle too), it seems that in Xenophon it can refer to the concrete and un-concrete realities that have come into his mind and he conceived them through reason and then can write about them. Thus they have passed through the judgement of reason and thereby can make his first proposition in the first paragraph of his book.
According to the spirit and texture of this paragraph, the approach of Professor Sandridge who consider this three words in a meaningful interconnected set seems justifiable. It means that tyrants are very clever (in distinction of wise) and lucky (in distiction of the cause-effect rules).
Does emphasis on appearance (e.g. not to appear insolent, not to spit or blow one’s nose publicly etc.) reflect a historical reality concerning Persian customs?
Did Orwell had read the Cyropaedia?
I think it is appropriate here in 1.2 to quote the opening of George
Orwell Animal Farm, when the boar, old Major, incites the gathering of farm animals to rise up against the oppressive farmer:
“This single farm of ours would support a dozen horses, twenty cows, hundreds of sheep–and all of them living in a comfort and a dignity that are now almost beyond our imagining. Why then do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word–Man. Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever.” #reception
The leading expert on the Greek way of war is ancient historian Victor Hansen. Read anything by him, especially his recent books, and you can see how a neo-conservatist uses Greek history to assess US foreign policy, especially when it comes to Israel.
Xenophon is praising Cyrus for his apparent ability to overcome language barriers, ethnic barriers, and distance barriers. Which modern American president was nicknamed “The Great Communicator” and praised for his ability to “steer” foreign nations toward American democratic ideals? Do you see any points of comparison between Cyrus as described here and this famous American leader?
This is for students of Greek mythology: Why is it important that Cyrus’ lineage be traced back to the hero Perseus? Who is Perseus? What relationship between the Persians and Greeks is established through this link?
And a follow-up: If Cyrus receives a Persian education (rather than a Greek education), what might he have learned about the hero Perseus?
ὄψον -explain translation as “relish” compared to τὸ κάρδαμον? How is what they hunt turned into “relish?” What part of an animal would constitute ὄψον? Any chefs out there?
I wonder what Xenophon would make of the current sex scandal with Generals Petraeus and Allen? Here is a good article on generals, military leadership training, and lack of self-control.
Congratulations, David, on selecting a most interesting topic and best wishes for sticking to this “marathon” plan. I have a few initial questions/suggestions and will look forward to engaging with you a the granular level down the road.
First, is it possible that Xenophon has actually stripped many “levels of control” from the other Cyrus narratives? In many instances I can think of (
Herodotus Histories, the
Cyrus Cylinder, the
Old Testament) Cyrus is the instrument of some divinity, whose will is sometimes made manifest by dreams and oracles. As you note, there is not much of this in Xenophon’s Cyrus. And his path does not seem to be guided very much by family lineage (i.e., inherited traits, as in the case of Xenophon’s Agesilaus), though his lineage seems to have some effect on his followers (
Cyropaedia 7.2.24). Nor does Xenophon’s Cyrus suffer under the weight of a father’s legacy (as is the case of Xerxes in Herodotus’ Histories). Moreover, Xenophon’s Cyrus does not even seem to have that much of a plan for establishing an empire (I’m imagining that a carefully thought out and long-held plan might count as “control level”); he just seems to go wherever there are opportunities to win honor and help his friends and he winds up the king of a vast empire (for some counterexamples to my claim about not planning for/wanting an empire, cf.
Cyropaedia 7.5.76). So, I’m wondering if Xenophon has removed a lot of these possible levels of control (I count at least four: lineage, legacy, divine agency, elaborate planning) because he imagines his work is a story wrapped around an exhortation to good leadership, which may be accomplished, as he says, “with knowledge” (
Cyropaedia 1.1.3). What I mean is you might not want the familiar levels of control if you’re trying to invite your audience to be like Cyrus. Would it make sense to look for other levels of control like paideia or Cyrus’ own phusis?
Finally, why are levels of control necessary for a narrative? Do they make it more interesting, more intelligible/memorable? Is it possible that one of the reasons people have found the Cyropaedia “dull” is that it doesn’t have a very strong “level of control” that is inscribing itself on the reader’s mind?
Did Barker translate any other Greek or Latin literature? Does the fact that Holland translated several historians suggest that he believed the Cyropaedia to be historical rather than the fiction of a philosopher or novelist? Were they unaware of Cicero’s pronouncement that Xenophon had composed not history but a “model of just command” (
Cicero Letter to Quintus 1.23, Cyrus ille a Xenophonte non ad historiae fidem scriptus, sed ad effigiem iusti imperii; cuius summa gravitas ab illo philosopho cum singulari comitate coniungitur). I find it interesting to see what company Xenophon’s Cyrus when authors mention him, e.g., Alexander and Caesar in
Montaigne (Essay Seven) or Aeneas in
Philip Sidney (Defense of Poesy), who was aware of Cicero’s understanding of the work (17).
This may seem like an odd question, but I am curious as to whether the owner of this book seems to have finished reading the Cyropaedia or to have paid as much attention to the conclusion as to the beginning (my impression is that a lot of readers would have focused only on the first book and have seen the subsequent books as repetitive; or they might not have had enough time in school to read all of them). For example, did he seem to realize that Xenophon’s Cyrus meets quite a different (and happier) ending than Herodotus’? Does he have anything to say about this? Similarly, does he (and others at the time) seem to have accepted the final chapter (
Cyropaedia 8.8) as legitimately Xenophon’s, and, if so, does it reflect poorly on Cyrus? For contemporary views on the legitimacy of the final chapter, see Steven Hirsch’s (and others) discussion here.
These are all very fascinating questions. It might be helpful to know more about what the notion of obedience entailed in the Renaissance. Did the term cover any act of following a leader (even out of personal gain) or only acts of following done out of intimidation or misdirection? What were the ideal conditions under which a follower was expected to carry out the will of the leader–and how far short was Xenophon’s Cyrus seen to be? I think one of the persistent questions that modern readers have had about Xenophon’s Cyrus is the extent to which fear of punishment is implicit in decisions to follow him (for some discussion see the comments on
Cyropaedia 1.1.5). One could argue that Xenophon sees a lot of different motives as to why people follow (or obey) his Cyrus (cf.
On the question of Cyrus’ alleged imperial ambition in contemporary scholarship cf. Sandridge 2012:7 and Sandridge 2012:7n13. Compared to the portraits of Ctesias and Herodotus, Xenophon’s Cyrus seems to arrive at an empire much more accidentally (or defensively), and with greater attention to the well being of all (not merely himself or the Persians). This activity might still be construed as imperial (and thus worthy of criticism), but it seems to be of a different kind than other ancient examples.
Using the index and the frequency of references in the margins, is there a way to tell (roughly) which books/chapters of the Cyropaedia were of greatest interest to this reader? Was it mostly Book One or were all of the books of equal importance? Similarly (and this is probably much harder to tell), were there some passages of the Cyropaedia that were more frequently read and recommended in the Renaissance than others? Given that the book is long (too long for some), I wonder how many people read it in its entirety.
For Xenophon what is more important for good leadership, nature (cf. πεφυκότι) or knowledge/education (cf. ἐπισταμένως)?
Cyropaedia 1.1.6. Note that Xenophon makes very little reference to Cyrus’ lineage other than to say that it is royal (Cyrus is not the lowborn figure he is in Ctesias.)
When you say ‘this’ are you asking a question about the role of fear in Cyrus’ leadership? If so, this is a most interesting one. Ordinarily we associate fear with the tyrant’s leadership. Xenophon, however, gives some indication that fear can be a good thing if not a necessary one. He has Tigranes explain how the fear that Cyrus has instilled in the Armenian king has taught him self-restraint (sophrosune). Aglaitadas, in his critique of comic laughter, also says that crying (presumably associated with fear) can teach young boys self-restraint. When Cyrus becomes king of Babylon (which is described as most hostile), Xenophon says that he adopted a style of procession that would both delight his well-wishers but also intimidate any potential enemies.
If we are being charitable to Cyrus’ behavior here, it would seem that Xenophon is taking a realist’s approach that no matter how benevolent the leader, some of the followers will be incorrigible and overcome only by force, which may sometimes translate into friendship as in the case of the Armenian king. In a similar vein, Xenophon gives a lengthy list of all the reasons that the Medes follow Cyrus in his pursuit of the Assyrians (rather than hang back with Cyaxares), some of which are less noble than others (e.g., some just did it to get rich).
Herodotus Histories says the Scythians, although being quite numerous, were unable come to any kind of unified organization (I think he says or implies the same thing about the Thracians), which is of course a suspenseful foil to the Greeks (will they, who are habitually at war with one another, be able to mount a unified resistance against the Persians, or just Medize piece by piece?
When we think about Xenophon’s attitude toward empire, we should keep in mind his attention to all the large nations who seemingly failed at this (admirable?) endeavor.
This is a very interesting question. I wonder how much the second term is Xenophon’s way of saying that he is on some level “filling in the gaps” of what he knows. Perhaps there is a parallel between this statement and Thucydides’ statement on speeches, that he is giving us what was likely to have been said. There may be a whole theory of empire/leadership behind Xenophon’s explanation of Cyrus’ success that may be causing him to speculate regularly (rather than strictly fabricate or fictionalize).
To what extent is Xenophon’s story of Cyrus a “coming of age story” (Bildungsroman)?
How much does Cyrus evolve as a character as a result of his various forms of education?
ἤν τις ἐπισταμένως τοῦτο πράττῃ: What was Xenophon’s purpose in writing the Cyropaedia if not to answer the theoretical question of how to maintain the willing obedience of followers?
According to this passage, Xenophon would seem to be offering knowledge of proper leadership to his audience. Hertlein vii cites several ancient authors (e.g., Cicero, Dionysius of Halicarnassus) who see Xenophon’s Cyrus as a model for emulation.
ἡγήσατο: Why does Xenophon seem to find this a noteworthy and perhaps admirable accomplishment? What is the history of Greek attempts to subdue other nations and establish an empire outside of Greece itself?
Is Xenophon’s emphasis more on the willingness than the sheer size of Cyrus’ following? cf. ἑκόντων…ἑκόντων
Does Xenophon show an interest in the ability to subdue/unite groups of people in his other works?
τὸ ἀνθρώπων ἄρχειν … ἐθελήσαντας πείθεσθαι: Are these actions identical, viewed from complimentary perspectives? Or are the types of “ruling” that don’t involve willing obedience or types of willing obedience that don’t involve ruling?
ἤθελον αὐτῷ ὑπακούειν: Is this synonymous with Κύρῳ … ἐθελήσαντας πείθεσθαι?
ἐθελήσαντας πείθεσθαι: What does Cyrus do to win willing obedience/friendship from his followers?
γενεὰν: How interested is Xenophon in Cyrus’ lineage? What are the variant accounts?
Another way of asking this question is “How important is lineage for leadership according to Xenophon?”
Why is the work called the Cyropaedia (Kuroupaideia) and how do we know?
Cicero notes that the Cyropaedia is very popular in his day and refers to it as Cyri Vita et Disciplina (
Cicero Brutus 29.112).
Cicero Letter to Quintus 1.1.23 calls the work The Cyrus. Bizos v cites
Aulus Gellius 14.3 for the first use of title in Greek, Kurou paedeia. The most straightforward way of understanding the title is that it is a reference to the education (paedia) that Cyrus receives in the Persian educational system (agôgê) and also perhaps at his grandfather’s court in Media and in dialogue with his father, Cambyses, all of which occur only in the first of eight books. To name a work after the events in the first book is not unprecedented for Xenophon, however. The
Anabasis refers strictly to the attempted “going up” of Cyrus the Younger to claim the Persian throne in Book One (Mather and Hewitt on Anabasis 1.1). Tatum 1989:90–91 argues that
Plato Laws 694c–695b reference to Cyrus’ education is proof that the work was titled Kyrou paideia by Xenophon; and, agreeing with Higgins, he argues that Cyrus’ paideia is the focus of the entire work. Another way of saying this is that Xenophon seems minimally interested in Cyrus’ lineage (something he might have focused on if it were his intention to praise Cyrus, as he does with Agesilaus) or Cyrus’ destiny, but focuses rather on his nature and his education. It is also conceivable, though unlikely, that the title refers (1) to the education that Cyrus’ career can give any reader interested in leadership (cf. ἐκ τούτου δὴ ἠναγκαζόμεθα μετανοεῖν μὴ οὔτε τῶν ἀδυνάτων οὔτε τῶν χαλεπῶν ἔργων ᾖ τὸ ἀνθρώπων ἄρχειν, ἤν τις ἐπισταμένως τοῦτο πράττῃ,
Cyropaedia 1.1.3) or (2) to the education that Cyrus gives to his followers in Book Eight as he sets up his palace in Babylon. At any rate some form of education continues after Book One.
What is the occasion for Xenophon’s reflection that all forms of government are eventually overturned?
Xenophon may be reflecting on the past two hundred years of political life in Athens (Bizos on Cyropaedia 1.1.1). The city had witnessed the tyranny of Peisistratus and his son Hippias (561–514 BCE), the democratic reforms of Cleisthenes (508), and the radical democracy of Pericles (461–429), followed by the short-lived oligarchies of 400 and 5,000 (411). In 404 the Spartans imposed a tyranny of thirty members that was overthrown in 403 by democrats led by the general Theramenes. On the volatility of political life in Greece in the period covered in Xenophon’s
Hellenica (411–362), see Dillery 1995:3–4. From a more theoretical vantage Xenophon may also be thinking of the treatment of governments devolving from the kallipolis in
Plato Republic 546a–569c, i.e., from timocracy (an aristocracy of honor-lovers) to oligarchy to democracy to tyranny. Though neither author ever mentions the other (except once,
Memorabilia 3.6.1), the correspondence between Plato and Xenophon is in many ways obvious. Both wrote Apologies of Socrates, both wrote Symposia, both wrote dialogues featuring Socrates (in Xenophon’s case, the four books of the Memorabilia), and both wrote about constitutions and the best forms of leadership, in Plato’s case in the Laws, Republic, and Statesman, and in Xenophon’s case in the Education of Cyrus, the Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, and the encomium to the Spartan king Agesilaus. In the ancient world both
Diogenes Laertius 3.24 and
Aulus Gellius 14.3 mention a tradition of a rivalry between Xenophon and Plato. Gellius says that some thought the Education of Cyrus was Xenophon’s response to Plato’s Republic and that the Laws was Plato’s response to the Education of Cyrus (see Danzig 2003 on this tradition). Tatum 1989:91 sees the Cyropaedia also as a response to the Iliad and Herodotus’ Histories. From a literary or historiographical vantage Xenophon may also be thinking of the rise and fall of individual city-states that
Herodotus Histories 1.5.4 describes. Similarly Cyrus’ father Cambyses treats the fall of city-states at the conclusion of Book One (
Cyropaedia 1.6.45). He gives several reasons why a city-state might bring about its collapse: (1) unwisely making war on another state, (2) elevating leaders and cities to a lofty place, (3) treating potential friends as slaves, (4) desiring to be lord over everything, and (5) being greedy. These instances all illustrate for Cambyses the limitation of human wisdom and the need to rely on the gods, who reward the pious. Both the Histories and the Education of Cyrus share an interest in the first king of the Persian Empire, and there is precedence for Xenophon to pick up from another famous work of literature. It is commonly assumed that Xenophon takes up the narrative thread of
Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War in his Hellenica (cf. Gray 1991 and Dillery 1995:9–11). At the beginning of the
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians he may also be reflecting on Thucydides’ observation that Sparta, though sparsely populated, was the most powerful and famous city in Greece (
Thucydides Histories 1.10). Perhaps in the Education of Cyrus he is also taking up the themes of unstable cities and Cyrus’ life from Herodotus. Throughout the work we find other correspondences to the narrative of Herodotus, most notably in Xenophon’s treatment of Cyrus and Croesus in Book Seven. In some instances it would seem that Xenophon is adopting Herodotus’ content and theme, but in others he seems to be drawing a sharp contrast. See, for example, Xenophon’s Cyrus at
Cyropaedia 1.4, in the company of his Medan contemporaries, in contrast to Herodotus’ Cyrus in the same community (
Herodotus Histories 1.114). Even if we are to read a philosophical and literary influence into the introduction, as seems likely, the fact that Xenophon begins his reflection with the decline of democracy, which, he says, some find less desirable than any other constitution, suggests that he is trying to connect broadly with his Athenian audience and its legacy of democracy, for better and worse (see additional comments to this subsection).
What is the history of classifying governments according to democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, and tyranny?
Hertlein on Cyropaedia 1.1.1 cites
Aeschines Against Timarchus 4–5:
“It is acknowledged, namely, that there are in the world three forms of government, autocracy, oligarchy, and democracy: autocracies and oligarchies are administered according to the tempers of their lords, but democratic states according to established laws. And be assured, fellow citizens, that in a democracy it is the laws that guard the person of the citizen and the constitution of the state, whereas the despot and the oligarch find their protection in suspicion and in armed guards. Men, therefore, who administer an oligarchy, or any government based on inequality, must be on their guard against those who attempt revolution by the law of force; but you, who have a government based upon equality and law, must guard against those whose words violate the laws or whose lives have defied them; for then only will you be strong, when you cherish the laws, and when the revolutionary attempts of lawless men shall have ceased” (translation, Charles Darwin Adams).
The Constitutional Debate in
Herodotus Histories 3.80-84 discusses the relative strengths and weaknesses of democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy (on which, see Pelling 2002:123-58).
Isocrates Nicocles (or To the Cyprians) gives a multi-faceted defense of monarchy and criticizes democracy and oligarchy. Protagroas by contrast (in
Plato Protagoras) defends democracy on the grounds that Zeus has instilled aidôs (a sense of shame, a conscience) and dike (a sense of right and wrong) in all humans. Angelos Chaniotis 2010 discusses the success of democracy as well as attitudes toward democracy (and illusions of democracy) in ancient Greece, especially the Hellenistic world. Xenophon seems somewhat anti-democratic here, with his observation that some prefer any other form of government to democracy. Moreover Cyrus is clearly a monarchical leader, who at times even works outside the laws. Many of the forms of leadership that Xenophon treats, including the general, the captain, the father, and the estate manager, are monarchical. Nevertheless there are features to Cyrus’ character and leadership that could be described as democratic (with Cyrus as a dêmotikos): Cyrus is educated publicly, he encourages open discussion, he seeks to build consensus, and he shows concern for the injured and needy. This is of course a far cry from saying that everyone under Cyrus has “equal rights”.
Why does Xenophon introduce his narrative with a reflection, rather than a direct statement?
Xenophon seems to be attempting to elicit wonder (thauma) in his audience and thereby draw them into the investigation of Cyrus’ character as a leader. The repetition of quantitative adjectives, “so many” and “many”, contribute to this effect. Herodotus, too, grounds his investigation (historia) on the fact that the deeds of Greeks and barbarians are wonderful (
Herodotus Histories 1.1.1). This technique is practiced today by familiar, folksy commentators such as Andy Rooney and Frank DeFord. As in the
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 1.1, Xenophon ironically undercuts his reflections at
Cyropaedia 1.1.3, saying in effect, “I thought humans could not govern other humans…until I thought of Cyrus.”
What did Xenophon’s audience know of Cyrus at this point? What were the sources for Xenophon’s knowledge of Cyrus? For how long had he known about him?
Many ancient authors, prior to and contemporary with Xenophon, wrote about the Persians: Herodotus, Ctesias, Heracleides of Cyme, Antisthenes, Isocrates, Plato (on the tradition of Persica, see Llewellyn-Jones 2010:45-55). However we answer the question of Xenophon’s audience’s familiarity with Cyrus has strong implications for how we read the rest of the Cyropaedia. On the one hand, if we assume a strong familiarity, we may read the Cyropaedia as a “knowing” dialogue with the other sources and imagine such things as Xenophon critiquing and rewriting the Cyrus tradition according to what he believes to be the more accurate account (See Gera 1993). On the other hand, if we assume this familiarity we will have to account for things like the apparent pedantic tone that Xenophon takes in explaining very rudimentary things about Persian culture and education (already spelled out in Herodotus); or the striking divergence of Xenophon’s account of how Cyrus comes to be king of the Medes peacefully from all other accounts (including evidence from material culture) that have Cyrus taking Media through warfare; or the seeming invention of the character of Cyaxares, Cyrus’ Medan uncle and heir to the Medan throne.
Where else is the problem of ruling different ἔθνη treated in ancient Greece? Is it seen primarily as a Persian practice?
To what extent do we see Xenophon (or others) addressing the ways in which Cyrus interacted with other cultures, e.g. by using their language or adopting/respecting their culture? The Cyrus Cylinder is of course a great example of this but it is not clear how consistent the portrait of Cyrus there is with Xenophon’s.
In his reference to human nature, and the human (in)ability to lead others, to what extent is Xenophon aligning himself with the Xenophontic Socrates, who favors the study of human nature over the nature of the universe (cf.
Cyrus himself orders Tigranes to forgive his father for executing his tutor out of envy because it was a “human” mistake (cf. ἀνθρώπινά μοι δοκεῖς ἁμαρτεῖν,
Cyropaedia 3.1.40). Cyrus is respectful of the humanity of others and aware of his own human weaknesses. Humanity is the basis for forgiving the rashness of the Cadusian prince (cf. ἀνθρώπινον τὸ γεγενημένον• τὸ γὰρ ἁμαρτάνειν ἀνθρώπους ὄντας οὐδὲν οἴομαι θαυμαστόν (
Cyropaedia 5.4.19). Cyrus emphasizes a shared humanity with Croesus (cf. ἄνθρωποί γέ ἐσμεν ἀμφότεροι,
Cyropaedia 7.2.10). Cyrus acknowledges his own human potential for greed (
Cyropaedia 8.2.20). Cyrus is aware of his vulnerability to overconfidence and excessive happiness (cf. φόβος δέ μοι συμπαρομαρτῶν μή τι ἐν τῷ ἐπιόντι χρόνῳ ἢ ἴδοιμι ἢ ἀκούσαιμι ἢ πάθοιμι χαλεπόν, οὐκ εἴα τελέως με μέγα φρονεῖν οὐδ’ εὐφραίνεσθαι ἐκπεπταμένως,
Is the thauma felt here for tyrants (cf. θαυμάζονται) a feeling of wonder or does it also have connotations of, e.g., respect, moral approval, admiration, or a desire to emulate the tyrant?
Doty on Cyropaedia 1.1.1 translates θαυμάζονται as “are admired,” as does Ambler on Cyropaedia 1.1.1. Bizos on Cyropaedia 1.1.1 has “sont admirés.” Miller on Cyropaedia 1.1.1 translates it as “are objects of wonder.” Nadon 2001:176 assumes that θαυμάζονται connotes admiration and uses this assumption to support an argument (also ascribed to Machiavelli) that the Cyropaedia “covertly instructs its more astute readers…in how to pursue their ambitions even, or especially, at the expense of republican government.” The interpretation of θαυμάζονται seems tied to our understanding of σοφοί and εὐτυχεῖς. Our best source for Xenophon’s views on tyranny is the
Hieron, a dialogue between the tyrant of Syracuse and the poet Simonides. Simonides seems to suppose that Hieron has knowledge or wisdom (cf.
Hieron 1.1.5) concerning the joys and sorrows of the tyrant, as opposed to those of a private citizen. He does not show interest in Hieron’s wisdom in maintaining power.
Hieron 5.1, however, provides one way of understanding the adjective sophos in a tumultuous political atmosphere. Hieron says that a tyrant fears the sophoi in his community because they might contrive to plot against him (cf. μηχανήσωνται). It is instead the dikaioi whom the tyrant fears will seem more desirable leaders to the masses. Thus sophos in this context seems to mean “good at contrivances or plots.” In the case of tyrants, Xenophon may have had in mind the contrivances of those like the Athenian tyrant Peisistratus, who came to power on three separate occasions (
Herodotus Histories 1.59–64). On one of these occasions Peisistratus was escorted into the city by a tall woman disguised as the goddess Athena;
Herodotus Histories 1.60 expresses amazement at the foolishness of the Athenian people for falling for this trick. Peisistratus is several times described with a verb of contriving (cf. μηχανῶνται,
Histories 1.60.15 and his final attack on the fleeing Athenians is described as the “cleverest plan” (cf. βουλὴν…σοφωτάτην,
Histories 1.63.8). εὐτυχεῖς: Xenophon seems concerned to make the point that it’s hard for human beings to rule others under any system of government (cf.
Cyropaedia 1.1.3). The placement of tyrants at the end of a list of toppled governments seems to make the point in the extreme. Given the difficulty that tyrants face, if a tyrant succeeds at ruling at all, the implication seems to be that he was very “lucky”, as Hertlein on Cyropaedia 1.1.1 renders it—not “happy” or “prosperous,” as eutuchês may sometimes be translated. Since it does not seem logical to admire someone for being lucky, there seems little about the tyrant’s attempts to stay in power that is admirable or worthy of emulation so much as wondrous. I would translate this passage as, “Those attempting to rule as tyrants…are regarded as having been both wondrously clever and lucky men.”
To what extent there a “Socratic” humor in this somewhat jarring metaphor of herdsmen as “leaders” and thus animals as citizens who might rebel (cf. συστᾶσαν), especially given that the metaphor is usually reversed, as in the
Iliad, with the leader as “shepherd”?
Bizos on Cyropaedia 1.1.2 points out that
Isocrates To Nicocles 12 discourages the Cyprian king from believing that only animals can be tamed and increase their worth. On the contrary, human beings can improve themselves, he says, by education (paideusis) and diligence (epimeleia). Norlin on Antidosis 209-214 notes a similar sentiment. There Isocrates makes the implicit a fortiori argument that if animals can be trained be, e.g., to be more gentle and intelligent, then humans ought similarly to be educable through diligence and training. With the analogy of animals, Xenophon seems to be casting Isocrates’ problem of educating humans as a problem of for governments (and leaders) to lead them.
βουλομένων: To what extent is the good will of the followers fundamental to successful leadership according to Xenophon (and others)?
We might imagine that the objective prosperity of the followers would be more fundamental to successful leadership, but Xenophon seems to believe that everyone will figure out what is or is not in their benefit eventually that the will is central (cf. his extensive attention to “willing obedience”). Plato Republic characterizes the sophrosune of the polis as the condition in which the rulers and the ruled are in agreement about their respective roles.
It is interesting to note that Xenophon seems to assume that the will of the followers is the basis for a city’s stability and prosperity (since he explains the collapse, at least the internal collapse, of a city-state as due to the desire of one part refusing to be governed by another part), whereas we might imagine that a country today could be maintained for a long time without the will of the people (e.g., North Korea). At the end of Book One, Xenophon explains how cities and leaders may ruin themselves with misguided invasions of other countries.
Note that the objections to all four forms of government tend to revolve around the character of the rulers, more so than some intrinsic form of rule. Another way of saying this may be that all forms could work if the leaders had the right character (sic Cyrus).
Why does Xenophon assert that it is so hard for a master to employ obedient slaves when he has written a treatise (the
Oeconomicus) devoted to success in this practice?
πολλοὺς…τοὺς δεσπότας: What is the history in Greek thought of treating the household as a type of government (and vice versa)?
Xenophon Oeconomicus and
μὴ οὔτε τῶν ἀδυνάτων οὔτε τῶν χαλεπῶν ἔργων ᾖ τὸ ἀνθρώπων ἄρχειν: To what extent is Xenophon challenging the claim made by the interlocutors (including Socrates) in the Republic that establishing the kallipolis may be impossible?
Of 24 instances of the form ἐδοκοῦμεν/δοκοῦμεν, it is only here in Chapter One of Book One that we see it coupled with a verb of learning or perceiving (cf. ἐδοκοῦμεν καταμεμαθηκέναι,
Cyropaedia 1.1.1, ἐδοκοῦμεν ὁρᾶν,
Cyropaedia 1.1.2). In both instances, that of domestic life and animal husbandry, respectively, the formulations seem to be nothing more than variations for introducing indirect discourse, i.e., ways of saying, “I have observed that…” There is likely a note of modesty (especially in the use of the plural for the singular; see Smyth 704) and also an emphasis on the process of (philosophical) reflection, as Gera notes. Hendiadys is probably the right idea, too: “whatever we have observed through a process of inquiry about him, we will endeavor to relate.” This at least seems logically necessary since Xenophon cannot have directly perceived anything about the long-deceased Cyrus.
Good question, and it touches on something I have long thought about Xenophon (or “seem to have observed”) and that is he is not like Plato in the sense that he does not usually look for a single motive or a single cause to explain something, leadership being a perfect example. At
Cyropaedia 4.2.9–10 Xenophon gives a lengthy list of reasons why the Medes followed Cyrus in further pursuit of the Assyrians, some of the motives being nobler than others (e.g., gratitude vs. personal profit). The point is that Xenophon seems to be a realist (not an idealist) in seeing multiple motives. In the case of Cyrus’ leadership, yes, he is a “stick and carrot” kind of guy when it comes to his philotimia (one of his three superlative traits), but he also shows signs of being a “doctor” with his philanthropia (specifically his therapeia toward Astyages at
Cyropaedia 1.4.2 and his philomatheia at
Cyropaedia 1.4.3. It would be inaccurate, I think, to call him very wise at this young of an age, however; he does much that is impulsive and reckless. Am I addressing your question? I argue in my book that even though these are Cyrus’ three basic motives, it would be hard to say which one is more dominant (or more important).
Interesting. If this were somehow the context for Xenophon’s reflection here (see the similar question about context in the previous paragraph), how might we account for Xenophon becoming familiar with it? What is he reading or what has he been exposed to to suggest this analogy? If there is a true Persian source, it might make the final “reflection” in
Cyropaedia 1.1.3 seem less spontaneous.
Cyropaedia 1.4.1 Cyrus wins over the fathers of his Medan contemporaries by showing favor for their sons and acting as an ambassador to Astyages. At
Cyropaedia 1.4.2 Cyrus wins over his grandfather Astyages by attending to him in his illness. At
Cyropaedia 1.4.4. Cyrus wins the affection of his Medan contemporaries for challenging them in contests that he knew he would not win (e.g., horseback riding). At
Cyropaedia 1.4.5 Cyrus wins the friendship of the wine-pourer Sacas by enlisting his help in determining the right time to visit Astyages. At
Cyropaedia 1.4.27 Cyrus is loved by a Mede (Artabazus) because of his beauty. Artabazus later agrees to follow Cyrus against the Medes and help him enlist others (
Cyropaedia 5.1.24). At
Cyropaedia 3.1.42-43 Cyrus wins the loyalty of Tigranes and his wife for sparing his father. At
Cyropaedia 3.2.22 Cyrus wins the loyalty of the Armenians and Chaldaeans by arranging a treaty between the two of them of intermarriage and mutual land-sharing. At
Cyropaedia 4.2.10 Xenophon gives a long list of reasons why the Medes agreed to follow Cyrus in his pursuit of the Assyrians: (1) they had been friends with him as a boy, (2) they like his character from their time with him on the hunt, (3) they were grateful to him for freeing them from danger in the recent battle with the Assyrians, (4) they expected him to be successful and great, (5) they felt gratitude toward him for the favors he had done for them in their youth, (6) they wanted to pay him back for the favors he had secured from his grandfather, (7) and they saw the opportunity to profit from the expedition. It is not clear to me whether the fear that Xenophon inspires in others (cf.
Cyropaedia 1.1.5) counts as a type of “willing obedience”; or if it is something that translates in to willing obedience (as in the case of the Armenian king,
Cyropaedia 3.1.23–25); or if it is an altogether different motive for following a leader.
Is the language used here to describe Cyrus’ success as a leader reflected in actual Persian inscriptions?
Cf. his progress in understanding of justice at
Cf. Cyrus’ new shyness at
It may also be of significance that
Ctesias F*8d3 says Cyrus was from a family of goatherds on his mother’s side.
See Carlier 1978 (in Gray 2010) for the argument that Xenophon may have been hoping to encourage and train a Greek leader to conquer Persia. Ultimately Carlier believes that Xenophon believed such imperial conquest was not worth the effort: “At the end of his life, Xenophon remains fascinated by the idea of an Asiatic conquest; but, after deep reflection he seems particularly sensitive to the political consequences of conquest: the establishment of an absolute monarchy, whose disagreeable aspects are not hidden–and especially to the fragility of a territorial empire. The Cyropaedia seems to be the work of a clear-eyed traditionalist, a man worried about the disruptions that the conquest of Asia would create for the Greeks.”
For a comparison between the leader as herdsman metaphor in Plato and Xenophon see Carlier 1978:329n4 (in Gray 2010).
See Carlier 1978:333n16 (in Gray 2010) for the history of this debate. Carlier notes that several commentators have thought that Xenophon prefers monarchy.
Hirsch 1985:64–65 provides several examples to show that Xenophon may have been reflecting on recent revolts, coups, and secessions within the Persian empire itself.
What do you make of Xenophon’s statement in
Cyropaedia 1.1.3 (above) that it is easy to rule humans “if someone does it knowledgeably” (ἤν τις ἐπισταμένως τοῦτο πράττῃ)? This suggests to me that for Xenophon knowledge is the basis of (i.e., the necessary and sufficient condition for) excellent leadership.
You might want to turn this discussion into a blog post where you ask the question, ‘how important is lineage for Cyrus’ leadership?’ and give some initial hypotheses. The group could collect and discuss passages that help to answer it as well. It occurs to me that we could also bring in other ancient works on leadership that emphasize lineage to a greater or lesser extent.
Hirsch 1985:79-80 studies this passage in light of Cyropaedia 8.6.20-22, where Xenophon mentions Cyrus’ conquest of Egypt using the passive legetai, “it is said.” Hirsch argues that Xenophon means to distinguish between historical fact and mere report or legend of Cyrus’ conquest (perhaps because Xenophon was aware of the discrepancy in Herodotus). legetai can certainly be used to disavow a personal belief in something, just as dokei/dokeo (“it seems”/”I seem”) can be used to distinguish reality from mere appearance (though see Gray 2011:100-105). Yet legetai appears throughout the Cyropaedia in places, such as conversations, where one would not expect a major debate about historicity (cf.
Cyropaedia 188.8.131.52). If anything, a story-teller might use legetai not to distinguish fact from report but to say, in effect, “I’m not making this stuff up; people actually say this!”My sense is that if Xenophon meant to keep up more than a veneer of historical investigation in the Cyr. (cf. ἐσκεψάμεθα, ἐπυθόμεθα at
Cyropaedia 1.1.6 and ὁμολογεῖται at
Cyropaedia 1.2.1), he would have had to qualify just about everything he said with legetai or some such verb, and he probably would have done it for Egypt here especially at the outset of the work rather than near the very end. I am puzzled by the general question of whether Xenophon wanted or expected his readers to know very much in detail about Cyrus (and thus very much about Herodotus). Obviously there had been a lot of writing on Cyrus before Xenophon (most recently perhaps the two works by another pupil of Socrates, Antisthenes), but the pose of history and ethnography throughout Book One (esp. chapters 1-3) seem to me more like an introduction to these topics than revisiting contented historical ground. For comparison note how Xenophon’s contemporary Isocrates (who is of course not a historian) casually claims that Cyrus impiously murdered Astyages (
Isocrates Evagoras 39). Either Isocrates borrowed this from some unknown source or he made it up; in either case he does not seem concerned that anyone is going to call him out on it.
Isocrates To Phillip 132 similarly claims that Cyrus was cast out into the street by his mother, also unattested anywhere else (to my knowledge).
There are lots of great lines of inquiry to pursue hear, and I certainly want to hear more about your China-Mediterranean connections! Here’s one hypothesis I’ve been working on for why the Greeks and the “best” Greek thinkers liked monarchy so much. Many of the metaphorical areas they drew from to describe government are in fact monarchical, e.g., the leader as shepherd, the leader as general/pilot, the leader as father, even the leader as physician insofar as the physician possesses special knowledge of how to heal a person, hence the “body” politic. The arguments that Isocrates puts in the mouth of Nicocles in the the speech to the Cyprians are not the best but perhaps they are the most intuitive: the gods, e.g., have a monarchy and humans should try to emulate the gods as best they can. (I often ask my students why Christians done ever refer to their savior as “President” or “Prime Minister” Jesus.) As George Lakoff has argued at length, metaphors govern the way we process the world, so to that extent the Greeks did have “direct experience” of monarchy.
Good point. It’s also there in the first line of the
Hieron and the
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians.
I realize that I was not clear in my original post. I actually think that thauma here means something more neutral like “wonder” or “amazement” than “admiration.” It is possible that Xenophon is saying that the foolish masses might want to be tyrants themselves and thus used a passive verb. But I think the passive verb is more designed to keep the focus on the different types of government in the subject of each sentence. He switches to an active verb and puts estate manages in the accusative in the following sentence because of a different form of indirect discourse. Thus I think his point about thauma is rather that tyrannies (like, say, Ponzi schemes) are so hard to maintain even for short periods of time that you need a lot of cleverness and luck to have any success, more so than the virtue of wisdom. Hence you are not someone to be emulated.
I like the point of contrast with Thrasymachus in the Republic. Xenophon may more forcefully be making the point that the reason leaders can lead other humans is that humans the metaphor of the leader as herdsman breaks down at a certain point because humans don’t like to surrender their “fruits” willingly. It takes a certain kind of leader to care for his/her followers (or, on a more cynical reading, manipulate them) so that they will be willing to share. At
Cyropaedia 8.6.23 Xenophon explains that Cyrus had reached a relationship with the many nations he ruled whereby they would give him all the excess produce from their lands and he would fulfill their needs in return. They were all of the belief that to benefit Cyrus was to benefit themselves.
That is a very interesting path to consider and part of a larger question I have been wondering about for a while: how was Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership (if we may call it that) developed or constructed? I’ll state what I think are some obvious answers here and then problematize them a bit. Maybe someone will take them up on a blog post at some point (technically, I am no longer just tackling the question of why Xenophon wrote the Cyropaedia!). On the one hand, Xenophon had some measure of firsthand access to some important leaders, e.g., Agesilaus and Cyrus the Younger, and I would include Socrates as well. He certainly also had access to information, true or otherwise, about Cyrus the Great. Moreover, Xenophon had plenty of experience as a leader himself. So, the questions from here abound: Was his Theory of Leadership an inductive generalization from all of these experiences? Did one particular leader (i.e., Cyrus the Younger) tend to condition the way he processed all other leaders? To this latter question Socrates is most often offered up as the historical “model” that infused Xenophon’s understanding of other leaders. For example, in the Cyropaedia, scholars often argue that Cyrus, Cambyses, the tutor of Tigranes, and even Xenophon himself are “Socratic”; but why can’t it be the other way around? Maybe Xenophon’s understanding of Cyrus the Great influenced his presentation of Socrates. Finally, on the question of the construction of Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership, did Xenophon perhaps work out a theory (unpublished) in more of a dialectic manner as
Plato Republic does (which is not to say that Plato did not work from any actual leaders) and then impose his conclusions about good leadership on all the putatively good leaders he wrote about?
This is one of the biggest and most interesting questions of the work (and one certainly tied to many of the other important questions).
Gray 2011 is probably the best summary o