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Sample Syllabi: Leadership and the Cyropaedia; Syllabus – Greek 210 (Hamilton), Jesse Weiner
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Walter Miller’s Loeb Translation of the Cyropaedia (Volume One, Books 1-4; Volume Two, Books 5-8)
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Gleason’s School Commentary to the Cyropaedia (with glossary)
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A Vast Collection of Online Books by Xenophon by the UPenn Library
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Parse on Perseus
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Goodwin’s Greek Grammar
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Smyth’s Greek Grammar
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Sunoikisis, A national consortium of Classics programs
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August 16, 2016 at 4:56 pm
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”?
See in context
August 16, 2016 at 4:15 pm
On this see now Norman’s own Sandridge 2012.
February 17, 2016 at 8:23 pm
Hale, J. R. 2013. “Not Patriots, Not Farmers, Not Amateurs: Greek Soldiers of Fortune and the Origins of Hoplite Warfare.” In Donald Kagan and Gregory F. Viggiano (eds.), Men of Bronze: Hoplite Warfare in Ancient Greece. (Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013): 176-193
Luraghi, N. 2006. “Traders, Pirates, Warriors: The Proto-History of Greek Mercenary Soldiers in the Eastern Mediterranean.” Phoenix 60.1/2: 21-47
February 17, 2016 at 8:19 pm
On Greek soldiers in the service of foreign kings, see also Luraghi 2006 and Hale 2013. On the rhetorical, panhellenist context see especially the speeches of Isocrates.
February 17, 2016 at 8:02 pm
Coming back to this after a few years, I am still intrigued by the question of what Xenophon found too sordid to talk about or worthy of blame. One of the interesting things about Xenophon is that his private life is relatively well documented, and he sometimes makes his moral evaluation clear and sometimes leaves it implicit. So asking how the =Cyropaedia= reflects Xenophon’s ethics and ‘taste’ sounds like it would be a fun research project for someone ready to dive deep into Athenian literature and hard questions about Xenophon’s literary and philosophical goals.
Another point of comparison might be Greek epic, and its ways of talking about violence, slavery, money, sex, and bodily functions.
January 17, 2016 at 4:57 pm
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.
January 17, 2016 at 4:54 pm
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).
January 15, 2016 at 5:18 pm
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.
January 15, 2016 at 5:17 pm
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.
January 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm
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
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.)
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?
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.
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?
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).
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)?
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).
I also think that the very physical language here is striking. Cyrus prostrates (καταπληξαι) his subjects so they do not raise their hands against him (επιχειρειν αυτω). Free Greek men were very sensitive about physical violence as a threat to their status as free men (there is a good article on Spartiates striking free men with their staffs which I wish I could recall).
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).
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).
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…
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).
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?
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.
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.
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?
Cf. his progress in understanding of justice at
Cf. Cyrus’ new shyness at
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.
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.”
It’s interesting that Greeks of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. talk about monarchy as much as they do, given how little direct experience of it they have. They know about Homeric kingship from the epics, and would have thought of it as part of their past, but it was neither exclusive nor all that powerful, as the plight of Agamemnon in the Iliad makes clear. Spartan “kingship” is obviously a special case, as there were two of them and their powers were pretty limited. The kings of the fourth century Greek world, such as the rulers of Syracuse, Evagoras on Cyprus, and Jason of Pherae, are all closer to tyrants than proper kings, having gained power recently and tending to be relatively short-lived phenomena. The contemporary examples of hereditary kingship other than Persia that Xenophon gives in
Cyropaedia 1.1.4 – Scythia, Thrace, and Illyria – are all rather rough and disorganized barbarians, and clearly not models to emulate (intriguing that he doesn’t mention the Macedonians). Discussions of monarchy as one of several theoretical forms is, of course prevalent – Greeks liked to think about things theoretically. In an early example, Herodotus’s constitutional debate, the arguments for monarchy are not all that compelling, but monarchy has to win out, not because of the superiority of the arguments but because Darius did, in fact, become king. Against this context, one has to ask why Xenophon is so interested in kingship as a form (the best form?) of government, and whether his conception of it might be different from that of many of his Greek compatriots, in part, at least, because of his unusual knowledge of things Persian. A lot of my current work is in the area of comparative history/civilization of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and ancient China. Whereas so much attention is given in classical political thought to forms of government, this is a non-issue in China, where monarchy as the best and only conceivable form of government is a given and is deeply validated by religious concepts (ancestor worship, Mandate of Heaven theory). In ancient China the political discussion is all about the character, conduct, and attitudes of the monarch, for herein lies the key to good government. The Cyropaedia seems to me to be infused with that approach to the problem – Cyrus comes off looking like a good Confucian king! I am not for a moment suggesting that there is any East Asian influence on Xenophon. But he seems to think about monarchy in the way that people who live under monarchy think, and that can, perhaps, best be explained by his unusual experience of and knowledge about Persia.Note that this is also the approach to justifying his rule taken by the Persian King Darius in his inscriptions. Aside from the constant reminders that Ahuramazda wants him to be king, he frequently advertises his character and his conduct as validations of his fitness to rule. Come to think of it, this is pretty much what Herodotus’s Darius claims as the justification for monarchy – if the best man is king, then that will be the best kind of government.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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’d like to hear more about why you think Xenophon is not really favorable to Cyrus and early Persia. It feels positive on the surface, and I don’t tend to think of Xenophon as being particularly subtle or ironic. The only locus of overt negativity is in the so-called epilogue (
Cyropaedia 8.8), and there the object of attack is not Cyrus or the Persia of the past but rather contemporary Persia. There is much scholarly controversy about whether Xenophon or someone else composed the epilogue. I’ve argued (Hirsch 1985:91-96, The Friendship of the Barbarians) that Xenophon is not the author. But either way, Xenophon or the forger read the bulk of the Cyropaedia as positive, and used the epilogue to show that contemporary Persia had fallen away from the virtues of the past.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
The limited success of the Athenians and their allies in “liberating” lands from Xerxes and Artaxerxes I, and the failure of the Spartans and their allies to do the same after the revolt of Cyrus, would also have come to mind. Xenophon describes several such attempts in the
Anabasis including ones as small as his own dream of a colony on the Black Sea and the wars of Dercylidas and Clearchus against the European Thracians. Even inside Greece, he saw a whole series of powers fail to maintain hegemony, let alone maintain it through voluntary consent. Perhaps his own failures in this area, and those of leaders he admired such as Agesilaus, made him especially respectful of Cyrus the Elder?
Herodotus Histories 1.6 has a similar account of the conquests of Croesus:
 οὗτος ὁ Κροῖσος βαρβάρων πρῶτος τῶν ἡμεῖς ἴδμεν τοὺς μὲν κατεστρέψατο Ἑλλήνων ἐς φόρου ἀπαγωγήν, τοὺς δὲ φίλους προσεποιήσατο. κατεστρέψατο μὲν Ἴωνάς τε καὶ Αἰολέας καὶ Δωριέας τοὺς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίῃ, φίλους δὲ προσεποιήσατο Λακεδαιμονίους.  πρὸ δὲ τῆς Κροίσου ἀρχῆς πάντες Ἕλληνες ἦσαν ἐλεύθεροι· τὸ γὰρ Κιμμερίων στράτευμα τὸ ἐπὶ τὴν Ἰωνίην ἀπικόμενον Κροίσου ἐὸν πρεσβύτερον οὐ καταστροφὴ ἐγένετο τῶν πολίων ἀλλ᾽ ἐξ ἐπιδρομῆς ἁρπαγή.
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?
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.
ἐθελήσαντας πείθεσθαι: What does Cyrus do to win willing obedience/friendship from his followers?
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.
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?”
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.
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.
According to Cramer 1993:149-151 (Richard Ben Cramer, What It Takes: The Way to the White House) this Christmas card list grew from 4,000-5,000 file-cards (which could include whole families) in the mid-seventies to 39,000 Christmas cards sent in 1986.
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.
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.
B. Due 1989:15 devotes half a page to the question and suggests that Persian παιδεὶα included all four stages of life of
Cyropaedia 1.2.4. In her view, Cyrus’ παιδεὶα “does go on all through life.” I am personally agnostic about the question.
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.
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).
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.
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 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”.
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?
It’s a side point, but I think Xenophon would have responded to Aeschines’ speech with “hold on, what about Sparta!” The idea that the Spartans were a lawful people goes back at least to the early 5th century (the Thermopylae scene in
Herodotus Histories 7 and the epitaph where the Lacedaemonians were “persuaded by words” to fight and die). Of course the short-lived extension of Spartan imperium outside the Peloponnese from 404 to 371 wounded that reputation … I unfortunately don’t have access to Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society except through interlibrary loan.
See Carlier 1978:333n16 (in Gray 2010) for the history of this debate. Carlier notes that several commentators have thought that Xenophon prefers monarchy.
Raaflaub 2007:107-108 cites
Pindar Pythian Odes 2.86-88 as the “earliest tesimony for the distinction between three different constitutions, based on the number and type of persons holding power.” Pindar says, “In every sphere, the just and well-spoken man wins respect, whether in a tyranny, or where the noisy crowd hold sway, or the wise keep watch” (transl. F. J. Nisetich).
For a helpful introduction to many facets of Athenian democracy, see Demos: Classical Athenian Democracy.
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.”
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.
Good point. It’s also there in the first line of the
Hieron and the
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians.
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.
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.
Norman, I’d like to make a counterargument about Xenophon and Herodotus. It seems perfectly likely to me that Xenophon could assume that his readers were familiar with Herodotus. The reading public in classical Greece was presumably not that large, and any audience that would be interested in the subject matter of the Cyropaedia would also probably be interested in Herodotus. There seems little doubt that Xenophon continued the work of Thucydides in his Hellenica, since he begins right where Thucydides text breaks off. Why not try to outdo Herodotus as well? Herodotus was the great expert on Persia in an earlier generation, a title that I think Xenophon (and also Ctesias) was eager to lay claim to in his own era. In the agonistic society of the Greeks, that usually meant contradicting and even badmouthing their predecessors (the contrast with Chinese historiography is startling – Chinese historians were so respectful of their predecessors that they basically copied what they had written when covering the same ground). Has anyone done a study in which they try to see whether Xenophon may be continuously playing off of Herodotus’s account?
The foregoing thoughts about the relationship of Xenophon and Herodotus inevitably get us into the question of what kind of book the Cyropaedia is. Xenophon was an innovator in literary genres, creating or contributing to the early stages of memoir, biography, history, philosophic dialogue, technical manual, and, perhaps, the novel. There was still much fluidity in these genres, and an author can have more than one purpose. In the Cyropoaedia Xenophon gets to do some history of the Herodotean kind (of the distant past – the kind Thucydides disapproved of), to advertise his expertise on Persia (which continued to pose a serious threat to the Greeks – “know your enemy!”), To disseminate his ideas on government, human character, education and other philosophical topics, and to compose attractive fictions. As you know, I think his patron Cyrus the younger gave him some openings. I’ve always been struck by the constitutional debate in Herodotus. It seems pretty obvious to us that the Persian debaters are tossing around the concepts of Greek political theory, and Herodotus had already obviously run into this criticism, because he insists that he has it from a reliable source. I assume that the source must be Persian. There were Persian families that had lived for generations on the Greek frontier, and some Persians must have learned the Greek language and imbibed Greek ideas, such that they could explain themselves and their civilization in terms the Greeks could understand. Likewise, there were Greek professionals and slaves in Persian service who could also talk across the language and culture boundary. We get a glimpse of this when the claim is made that the Persians descended from Perseus, and the Persian fleet that lands on Delos in 490 gives assurances based on their familiarity with Greek religion. The younger Cyrus spent seven or eight years on the Western frontier, making friends with Greeks (e.g., Lysander, Clearchus) and, it would appear from the Anabasis, learning to speak some Greek. Could he not have told the Greeks in his entourage stories about the great and wise founder of the Empire? And could not this have given Xenophon (who obviously took copious notes on the March into and out of Mesopotamia) an opening and some ideas which he later ran with and, at the least, used as a frame?
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?
Your points are all well made and well taken. And I continue to be intrigued by your parallels with China. I confess that I am something of an agnostic on this question of what Xenophon is really trying to do vis-a-vis previous authors, though I’m ready to be converted at a moment’s notice. As I say in my comments to the questions about “occasion” and about “thauma” in
Cyropaedia 1.1.1, I see ample room for reading the Cyropaedia as a “response” to Herodotus. For that matter I think the work can also be easily read as a response to
Thucydides Histories and certainly to Plato (esp.
Plato Republic). I’m just not sure what the exact nature of that response is or what it means to say that Xenophon’s audience had “read” Herodotus. On the one hand, Xenophon may be doing just as you say, “trying to outdo” Herodotus as a historian and hoping that his audience will see acknowledge his superiority. Maybe that is particularly what he’s up to in these opening chapters of Book One. Where I start to lose faith is in the intensity or obviousness of their interplay. Was it the case that Xenophon’s readers had the kind of familiarity with Herodotus that we classicists have, who can make comparisons at the level of a plot detail or even a choice of phrase, and, when our memory fails, can refresh it by pulling a book off the shelves or doing a word search on the TLG? Is it possible instead that Xenophon just hoped to tell a more compelling/edifying story than Herodotus and thus to be the guy that people chose to copy and read in the future? Perhaps his claim to expertise derived not so much from the fact that he was showing himself to have done better research than his predecessor as from the fact that he had actually campaigned with Persians. I am also somewhat dubious about Xenophon’s pose as a historian in the rest of the work, where he seems much more interested in story-telling (maybe even adapting Iranian folklore). He seems largely uninterested in geography and chronology (and even in the names of characters), and I can’t think of any places off the top of my head where he says that there are multiple accounts of some event but he has chosen his version for X-reason. Perhaps now I am agreeing with your point below about the Cyropaedia having more than one purpose. On your question about a scholarly work that looks for a continuous dialogue between the Cyropaedia and Herodotus, I don’t know of one. It is my hope that as this commentary becomes more and more fleshed out, we may be able to do a simple search in the comments section of “Herodotus” and study this phenomenon fairly quickly and easily. We could do it for Thucydides and Plato, too. As a test of all these points, I would be interested in what you think Xenophon is doing with the Croesus vis-a-vis Herodotus. Perhaps we can look at that scene in more detail in the coming days.
Ah, I just thought of what I hope is a clear example to make my point about Xenophon’s audience “reading” Herodotus: If someone today read a new biography of Abraham Lincoln, it would hopefully be the case that this biography was not written totally anew but would rely on and thus in some sense be “responding” to previous biographies and even source material on Lincoln. It would be possible for professional historians of Lincoln to wonder about the new biography’s attitude toward these previous sources, noting where they seemed to coincide and where diverge. But (I imagine) for a large portion of the highly literate public, and even of those who were familiar with previous Lincoln biographies, the interaction between the current biography and previous ones would be largely unnoticed. Nevertheless, it would be possible for the new biography to “out do” previous biographies because it was written in a more engaging way and focused on topics and themes that were more appealing to the contemporary audience. (I hesitate to mention Bill O’Reilly 2011 Killing Lincoln (a recent best-seller) as just such an example.) Thus I guess I would make a distinction between a scholarly reading of Xenophon (something I associate more with the Hellenistic aesthetic) and a more “mainstream” one, one that I imagine many of the leading statesmen, generals, and aristocrats of the day engaged in.
I can’t resist… Is the Cyropaedia then akin to the new movie about to hit the theaters – Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Killer? But seriously, our contemporary world that is so awash in books does not provide a good analogy to the situation in classical Greece. Name a Greek text that does not in some way assume knowledge of Homer. Virgil’s Aeneid is in constant dialogue with the Iliad and Odyssey. I think ancient people did read that way. Not that Herodotus was anywhere near as important as Homer to the Greeks, but in cultures in which only the few are educated and books are rare, there is a very “academic” quality to the discourse.
Steven, I would pay good money to see Cyrus team up with Abe Lincoln (or Buffy Summers) to fight vampires, especially after they had eaten some cardamom to give themselves superhuman strength.
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 suppose we are dancing around the question “how did people read in fourth century Greece?” Starting in late antiquity, we have strong evidence for an educational traditional based on artes memorativae. There is some evidence for this back to the sixth century BCE: aside from an anecdote about Simonides, I believe
Aristotle describes the “attach elements to letters of the alphabet” mnemonic, and there is more in
Quintillian (I think Small‘s Wax Tablets of the Mind and Carruthers‘ Book of Memory are my main sources). In other words, can we assume that an 4th century Greek with a literary education would be able to reel off a summary of Herodotus by memory, and some passages verbatim? This also touches on the times where Xenophon seems to repeat himself across different works.
I think we’re actually seeing things in a pretty similar way. I’m only suggesting that rivalry with Herodotus and some inter-textual playing off of Herodotus is a piece of what he is up to, particularly prominent in book 1. We could, as you suggest, also look closely at the Croesus episode, and Xenophon’s version of the death of Cyrus can in no way be reconciled with Herodotus.
I’ve been thinking more about the relevance of Herodotus to our inquiry. How different, really, is Xenophon’s approach to recounting events of a distant past about which he only had so much “information?” Clearly Herodotus took traditions, mostly oral, about the seventh, sixth, and early fifth centuries B.C.E. and fleshed them out into a full narrative, replete with plausible details, emotions, and speeches. What conceivable source could he have had for the dialogue between Periander, the early sixth century tyrant of Corinth, and his estranged son, or for the conversation between the Persian king Xerxes and his uncle, Artabanus, in the king’s bedroom that led to the decision to invade Greece? He had, presumably, inherited the framework of the stories, and felt no qualms about filling in the details, characterizing the protagonists, and putting words into their mouths. Of course, the expectations about what an historian should properly do developed subsequently, but even a Thucydides (
Thucydides Histories) allowed himself some amount of license in reproducing speeches, and more latitude had to be allowed those historians who chose to cover the distant past. Livy (
Livy Histories), living at a much later time, when the obligations of the historian were more clearly defined, is still doing this when he narrates the conversation between Lucretia and her relatives just before she killed herself. I am, therefore, suggesting that Xenophon could have seen what he was doing in the Cyropaedia as being, among other things, a kind of history, where, given the nature of the evidence, no other kind of history was possible.
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.
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.
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,
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).
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 of previous treatments of Xenophon’s tone toward his main character; she herself sees the work as laudatory. With some qualification I am strongly inclined to agree with her (though I could be wrong). Cyrus is not a morally perfect or physically indestructible creation and he does seem to evolve in the course of his childhood. Later in life, I think his awareness of his vulnerability makes him a better leader. That said, I don’t think his vulnerability is meant to undercut Xenophon’s praise for him. This discussion would make for an excellent blog post if you’d like to begin it!
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).
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.
For a comparison between the leader as herdsman metaphor in Plato and Xenophon see Carlier 1978:329n4 (in Gray 2010).
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.
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.
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.
Johannes Haubold 2000:17-35 with Appendix A1, Homer’s People, has a good discussion of the tradition of the herdsman (poimen) as leader in Homer. He cites Xenophon’s Socrates as explaining how this metaphor is supposed to work:
At another time he fell in with a man who had been chosen general and minister of war, and thus accosted him.
Socrates. Why did Homer, think you, designate Agamemnon “shepherd of the peoples”? Was it possibly to show that, even as a shepherd must care for his sheep and see that they are safe and have all things needful, and that the objects of their rearing be secured, so also must a general take care that his soldiers are safe and have their supplies, and attain the objects of their soldiering? Which last is that they may get the mastery of their enemies, and so add to their own good fortune and happiness; or tell me, what made him praise Agamemnon, saying–He is both a good king and a warrior bold?–Did he mean, perhaps, to imply that he would be a ‘warrior bold,’ not merely in standing alone and bravely battling against the foe, but as inspiring the whole of his host with like prowess; and by a ‘good king,’ not merely one who should stand forth gallantly to protect his own life, but who should be the source of happiness to all over whom he reigns? Since a man is not chosen king in order to take heed to himself, albeit nobly, but that those who chose him may attain to happiness through him. And why do men go soldiering except to ameliorate existence? and to this end they choose their generals that they may find in them guides to the goal in question. He, then, who undertakes that office is bound to procure for those who choose him the thing they seek for. And indeed it were not easy to find any nobler ambition than this, or aught ignobler than its opposite.
After such sort he handled the question, what is the virtue of a good leader? and by shredding off all superficial qualities, laid bare as the kernel of the matter that it is the function of every leader to make those happy whom he may be called upon to lead. (
Memorabilia 3.2, translation Dakyns)
Haubold 2000:20 notes a tension, however, in the way that herdsmen are regarded in early epic, on the one hand indispensable leaders but on the other outsiders (they do not own their flocks and are thus not strictly “masters” of them) who may be seen as lazy or incompetent: “The shepherd of bibilical narrative is a far more positive figure than the one we find in Homer, and it is he, rather than his hapless counterpart, who came to dominate the imagination of Europe and its cultural descendants.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
You make a good point: even though there may be some examples of successful leadership, Xenophon seems to focus on the abundance of failures at all levels (including those of other farmers in the
Oeconomicus). It would be interesting to ponder who thinks good leadership is rarer, Plato or Xenophon…
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
Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics Book 6 (1134b).
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?
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.)
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).
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.
It may also be of significance that
Ctesias F*8d3 says Cyrus was from a family of goatherds on his mother’s side.
Is the language used here to describe Cyrus’ success as a leader reflected in actual Persian inscriptions?
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.
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.
See Tatum 1989:3-4 on
I never did get around to finishing it, but what about
The Education of Henry Adams? That is the autobiography of a Boston Brahmin who spent the 1860s in Europe and came back to find a new, commercial, industrial world in the US that his classical education hadn’t prepared him for. I assume the title is an allusion to Cyropaedia, and it has the same ambiguity about whether education is an event in youth or a life-long process.
Thanks for this recommendation! I just ordered it in paperback, though it looks like you can get it for the Kindle for $0.95.
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.
I am only one chapter into the
Education of Henry Adams (many thanks for the recommendation, Sean!), but already I have noticed several interesting (I do not say intentional) parallels. (1) Adams notes a tension early in life (younger than age 10) between the city of Boston and the country of Quincy. While not exactly modeled on Persia and Media, they are presented in many antithetical ways, the former rigid and lawful, the latter free and sensuous. (2) Adams has a somewhat contentious relationship with his mother (about going to school) and periodically goes to visit his beloved grandfather, John Quincy Adams, in the summer (see p. 10 in the
Chalfant 2007 edition). We could relate this to Cyrus’ own contentious relationship with Mandane, insofar as she, too, is concerned about the kind of education Cyrus will receive in Media, particularly in justice. John Quincy Adams, as a former president, might, too, be equated to Cyrus’ Medan grandfather, Astyages, who is also the greatest ruler in all the land. (3) Adams shows a compulsive need to hang around his grandfather’s house and go wherever he wants to, somewhat like Cyrus trying to gain access to Astyages; he, too, wonders if his grandfather favors him, especially above his brothers and sisters (p. 11). (4) Finally, Adams grieves at the death of his grandfather, much like Cyrus worries that his own grandfather might die at
Cyropaedia 1.4.2 (cf. p. 16). I wonder if these similarities are just coincidental, if Adams himself noticed them, or if he in fact ever saw himself as another Cyrus and tended to process and relate his own life in those terms.
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.
Both Stark 1958:203-210 and Stadter 1980:60-88 cite several interesting parallels between the narratives of Alexander’s career by Plutarch and Arrian of Nicomedia and the Cyropaedia (#reception #Alexander).
Beneker 2012:113-127 discusses Plutarch’s use of Xenophon’s Cyrus as a model for Alexander the Great. Specifically, Cyrus’ sophrosune in the face of potential eros for Pantheia influenced Plutarch’s portrayal of Alexander’s restraint toward Statira, the wife of Darius III. See Beneker 2012:118-119 for Plutarch’s use of the Cyropaedia elsewhere in his writings, esp. the Pantheia-Abradatas episode. #reception
For more on the question of whether Onesicritus is referring to Cyrus the Younger or Cyrus the Great, cf. Lionel Pearson 1960:89-92, The Lost Histories of Alexander the Great, and Brown 1962:200‘s review (TAPA 83.2). #reception
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?
What are we to make of the differences between this list of the peoples who came under Cyrus’s control and what we think we know from other sources? In Herodotus, the Phoenicians, Arabs, and Egyptians only come under Persian control in the time of Cyrus’s son and successor, Cambyses, and Egyptian documents essentially confirm Herodotus on this score. There is also ample reason to believe that Xenophon was familiar with Herodotus’s text. Is Xenophon drawing on other (Persian?) traditions? Where he diverges from Herodotus, is he (like
Ctesias) claiming to be a superior authority on Persian affairs?
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).
ὡσαύτως δὲ Σακῶν καὶ Παφλαγόνων καὶ Μαγαδιδῶν: Who are the Magadidae?
Most of the other named in this list are ones familiar to educated Greeks (but see Lee Patterson’s note to
Cyropaedia 2.4.1 for a comment on whether the Ἰνδοί are the ones in modern Pakistan or not). This people does not appear to be listed in Brill’s New Pauly or Encyclopaedia Iranica. The closest word in the TLG corpus is μάγαδις a Lydian musical instrument often mentioned by Athenaeus.
In this paragraph, Xenophon uses nouns meaning “a man of nation X” as synonyms for “the king of nation X” (ὁ Σκύθης “the Scythian [king]“, ὁ θρᾶξ “the Thracian [king]“. ὁ Ἰλλυριὸς “the Illyrian [king]“). Are there any parallels, either classical or from other times and places like the early modern European custom of referring to nobles by the name of the largest estate they owned?
Would it be worth adding to the checklist the question why is ἄρχων nominative in the phrase εἰ ἄρχων διαγένοιτο? I think its the same thing as predicate nouns with a copula agreeing with the subject in Latin, but my Greek grammar is limited and I don’t remember covering copulae other than ἐιμί in first year.
This is covered in the same expression in
Cyropaedia 1.1.1 (number 15), but we should add it here, too. Thanks for the helpful suggestion.
Why does Xenophon neglect to mention the Armenians and Chaldaeans here, both of whom figure prominently in Book Three among Cyrus’ allies?
φόβῳ: What is the relationship between the kind of fear that Cyrus inspires in his followers and the kind of fear he himself confesses to have felt throughout the course of his life (cf.
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.
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.
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.
Hansen‘s views lead to a response by Hans Van Wees and others who pointed out that much of what we think we know about early Greek warfare is based on ancient or modern sentimentalism about how things must have been in the good old days. You can make a case that what we think of as hoplite warfare emerged about 450 BCE … although I’m not sure that I agree with this. I have not studied Archaic Greek warfare in detail and can only refer people to Van Wees as a starting point.
Similarly, the early history of democracy is a very controversial field. India, some of the Punic cities, Greece, and Rome are the best documented cases. I can recommend, but have not read, an anathology edited by Steven Muhlberger of Nippising University as a starting point. I can’t speak to the political history of late 5th or early 4th century Greece in particular very well.
These are all very interesting questions! Let me take a stab at one: Does Xenophon consider a successful monarch one who has a good military background? The short answer is a resounding “yes”, although there are plenty of ways to think about this question. On the one hand, military excellence, exhibited either in the role of a commander or (even better) a warrior, is often the basis even for the privilege to speak in a Homeric assembly. Traits of the good general can readily be transformed into good leadership elsewhere, esp. the military commander’s attentiveness (epimeleia; see Sandridge 2012:51-57) and attention to order (eutaxis; see Sandridge 2012:75-76). Check out
Xenophon Economicus for a lively analogy between the king, the general, and the estate manager/farmer. Generally speaking, in as much as monarchs are expected to provide for the safety (soteria) of their communities, the ability to command an army is a must.
But I would add two qualifications to this rule. It is not always expected that the would-be monarch will risk himself in battle (see Sandridge 2012:107-110), and we might detect Cyrus taking more of a back-seat on campaign than other more “heroic” warriors (e.g., Abradatas). Secondly, as armies grow more expert/mercenary in the Greek world (esp. by the Hellenistic period) and as the empire/provenance of leadership expands to many people and many cultures (cf. Cyrus in Babylon by the end of the Cyropaedia), monarchs still cling to the image of a military commander, but this is more a pose than a reality (see Hunter 2003‘s commentary to
Theocritus Encomium to Ptolemy Philadelphus).
Finally, while military command is often the basis for a monarch’s legitimacy to rule and while military command can be seen as honing the traits necessary for other kinds of leadership, we should remember that monarchs, as many Greeks conceived of them, needed to be much more versatile than your run-of-the-mill military leader. They needed to be, e.g., (literally or metaphorically speaking) physicians, gardeners, teachers, parents, providers, architects, and even philosophers. Hope this helps! You might also like Godfrey Hutchinson 2000 Xenophon and the Art of Command, esp. his chapter on the Ideal Commander.
Is there a reason Xenophon has this bias against democracy versus monarchy and oligarchy?
I’d be interested to know where you see a bias against democracy?
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
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?
This is a very good question that we will consider further in light of your points. Right now, there is a Comments section available on each of the Lectiones that we hope those processing/translating the text will use to ask questions and to share their own challenges and solutions (have you tried it? do you find it helpful?).
Your thinking is right in line with ours on the matter of the communal translation. It is definitely something we would like to build into the commentary down the line. We could thus allow anyone to comment on the translation just as we may comment on the Greek text. Such a medium would illustrate well how much is lost in translation and how our own interest in the text can govern what we decide to keep and leave out from the Greek.
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.
As someone still struggling to become a comfortable reader of Classical Greek, I think that an online commentary like this has great potential to bridge the traditional gap between the authors of a new student edition and their imagined audience. It can’t be easy to guess what points will trip people up, or to remember what problems people seemed to have when you taught this text last spring. It also seems to me that we don’t always talk about general issues and methods in translation as much as we should, so some kind of online discussion about problems could be helpful whether or not it turned into a full translation.
I couldn’t agree more, Sean, and, as with Melissa, I would encourage you to pose the most challenging questions you can think of in the Lectiones section. Every time I think Xenophon’s supposedly simple, elegant Greek has become formulaic, I’m impressed by how carefully he chooses his words and varies his expression, often for more than stylistic reasons.
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?”
These are, again, outstanding questions. Your question about Cyrus as an exception is very pertinent to the conclusion of the Cyropaedia, where Xenophon says that after Cyrus Persia began to decline, beginning with a neglect of piety. One may either explain this by saying Cyrus is so exceptional a leader that all others pale in comparison or by saying that Cyrus is somehow flawed as a leader because he could not ensure that Persia prospered after his death.
The issue of jealousy (or envy) is a very complicated one. One of the most vexing questions of leadership is the extent to which the leader should be “like” his or her followers. The best leaders seem to vacillate between being just like everyone else (a “man/woman of the people”) and something rather extraordinary, even divine. On envy/phthonos, check out this blog post.
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?
Xenophon does seem to believe that leadership is teachable, both from what he says here and elsewhere (see Gray 2011:20-22). Now, whether or not anyone can replicate Cyrus’ career seems to depend heavily on one’s nature (phusis; see
Cyropaedia 1.2.1). I suggest in my book that perhaps Cyrus’ style of leadership succeeds only because Cyrus’ nature is exceptional in so many ways and that if he were deficient in any way, his leadership might fail.
On Cyrus as putting an end to tribal warfare, see his treaty between the Armenians and Chaldaeans in Book Three. Such a treat seems to require a careful application of justice (see the Two Coats Story at the end of
Cyropaedia 1.3) and matchmaking.
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?
This is an important question to continue to think about, but I think that here Xenophon is focused not so much on humans as followers (somewhat analogous to domestic animals) but humans as leaders; and so while their is perhaps an implicit characterization of humans as flawed (e.g., lawless, wild animals), the focus seems to be more on the fact that humans as leaders have a harder time leading humans than domestic animals. The question for Xenophon, then, seems to be not “What’s wrong with humans as followers?” so much as “What is lacking in the human as leader?” (note his comment at
Cyropaedia 1.1.3 that humans “by nature” (πεφυκότι) have a hard time ruling other humans). The answer to this question for Xenophon seems to be, more or less, “Cyrus.”
Having said this, I wouldn’t discourage you from thinking further about how Xenophon regards humans more generally. I could be wrong, I don’t think he would say that that humans are naturally wild or lawless, so much as needing a more thorough system of education and more sophisticated leadership than is required of domestic animals. Xenophon is a big proponent of philanthropia (a “love” or “fondness” for humans), in his portraits of Cyrus, Agesilaus, and Socrates, and so I don’t think he would advocate such a concept if he didn’t think humans, for all their flaws, were on some level “lovable”.
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 don’t think it helps him become a great leader but is rather a testament to his great leadership, it being hard enough to get those who speak the same language to be on the same page. This may also be a slight dig at
Plato Republic, which proscribes a single, ideal city-state consisting of about 10,000 Greeks only.
Xenophon and his audience would probably think of the Athenian Empire/Athenian Alliance/Delian League which had collapsed so messily at the end of the Ionian War. The Athenians had made much of pan-Ionianism based on common language and rituals, but at least some insisted that in the end the Ionians had been eager to leave. Depending on his date of writing the Spartan and Theban hegemonies would also come to mind as less-than-appetizing attempts to rule those who spoke a single language. I think it’s
Cyropaedia 1.1.5 where Xenophon specifically mentions Cyrus’ subjects not speaking the same language to one another (ὁμογλώττων ὄντων οὔτε ἀλλήλοις) .
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?
Both love riding horses (see
Cyropaedia 1.3.15), rely on a carefully staged self-presentation (including make-up and platform shoes), and have an easy way of relating to the common man, in Cyrus’ case Pheraulas (see
Cyropaedia 8.3). On Cyrus as a “communicator” check out David Carlisle’s recent questions and upcoming blog-posts.
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?
Much of the rest of the Cyropaedia tells this story, though it is interesting to see how many ways Cyrus is able to bring other nations into his empire, some by conquest, to be sure, but more often by forging alliances that are at least on the surface mutually beneficial.
Why does Xenophon choose Cyrus as the topic of his work, as opposed to any other (Greek) leader?
See Tuplin 2013:73-75 for a summary of potential Greek and other leaders and why they would not be sufficient for the scope of a work on ideal leadership. See also Sandridge 2012:Introduction: Interest in Xenophon’s Cyrus.
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)?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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’?
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?
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)?
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.
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 184.108.40.206). 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.
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?
πατρὸς: What is Xenophon’s source for the attribution of Cyrus’ paternity to Cambyses? How likely is it that Cambyses was his father (and that the historical Cyrus was descended from royalty)?
Herodotus Histories Cyrus’ father is Cambyses. In
Ctesias F8d*3 he is Atradates. See Drews 1974 for the folk tradition of the “king from humble origins” dating back to Sargon of Akkad.
Moreover, (also in Ctesias) Cyrus’ mother is called Argoste in formulaic language that resembles Xenophon’s here (cf. Ἦν δὲ ὁ Κῦρος του Ἀτραδάτου παῖς, ὅστις ἐλῄστευεν ὑπὸ πενίας.
Ἡ δὲ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ, Ἀργόστη ὄνομα, ἡ Κύρου μήτηρ, αἰπολοῦσα ἔζη,
Nicolaus of Damascus/
Ctesias F*8.3). Why does Xenophon assert that there is agreement (ὁμολογεῖται) as to who Cyrus’ mother is?
Also an Old Persian inscription from Pasargadae (
CMb) says that Cyrus is the son of king Cambyses. I believe there is controversy about whether Cyrus or Darius is responsible for this, but either way it reflects a contemporary or near-contemporary Persian tradition.
Do you have a guess as to why Xenophon would claim here that there is “agreement” about Cyrus’ descent from Mandane? Presumably he has read
This is a small point, but I think the word choice may be important. Although both ὁμολογεῖται and λέγεται are ways to cite authorities without naming them, ὁμολογεῖται is highly marked. (ὁμολογεῖται is used in this sense only here in the Cyropaedia and rarely elsewhere in Xenophon, but λέγεται is quite common). Presuming that Xenophon had read
Ctesias‘ account, do you think that he could be correcting him?
Good distinction between legetai and homologeitai. There is reason for believing that part of what Xenophon means to do with his account of Cyrus is to “correct” or “explain” other versions. Gera 1993:156-157 suggests that the Sacas-story in
Cyropaedia 1.3 and
Cyropaedia 1.4 may be correcting
Ctesias Persica account of Cyrus-as-cupbearer. Similarly, we could see Xenophon as correcting Herodotus’ account of Cyrus among the Medes (especially what it means to “play at king” from an early age) with his much more cooperative account of Cyrus with his age-mates and Cyaxares in Cyropaedia 1.4 (I talk about this much more in my forthcoming book (Sandridge 2012), out this September, Loving Humanity, Learning, and Being Honored).
While I certainly see some validity to this approach, I have my doubts that that’s what Xenophon is trying to do. For one, I’m not really convinced that he expected his audience to know their Ctesias or even their Herodotus in great detail (though some readers surely would have). That of course doesn’t preclude him from trying to prevent any previous accounts from ever gaining reception. Because Xenophon seems so uninterested in getting a true historical account of Cyrus elsewhere in his work (which is not to say that he wasn’t using any sources for Cyrus), it seems likelier to me that he is just trying to give his story the veneer of historical accuracy, especially given the fact that he concludes the previous sub-chapter (
Cyropaedia 1.1.6) by claiming to have done lots of research on Cyrus.
Cyrus Cylinder, line 21 – an Akkadian document presumably drafted on Cyrus’s orders and recounting the conquest of Babylon – says that Cyrus was the son of Cambyses, the king of Anshan.
κάλλιστος: What did Xenophon think Cyrus looked like? What did the historical Cyrus look like?
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.
At least in Plutarch there is a tendency to see a person’s character in their appearance (cf. Alexander).
Xenophon says at one point that Cyrus had a large build (megethos), but as well as I can recall, that’s it. The most we can ascertain of his beauty is that it can make people fall in love with him (Artabazus) and make people jealous (cf. Tigranes’ jealous question to his wife in
Cyropaedia 3.1). It is as if Xenophon is more interested in characterizing his beauty like Helen’s in Book Three of the Iliad, namely by the effect it has on others. I am forgetting at the moment if Xenophon says anything more about Cyrus’ appearance when he takes on the Medan style of dress (I think he says the takes the high-heel shoes to make himself appear taller).
Cyrus does notice the beauty of others. When asked in <
em>Cyropaedia 1.3 who is more beautiful his Persian father Cambyses or his Medan grandfather Astyages, he claims that they both are, in their own ways.
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.
Could one assume that the ancient Persians look like their modern equivalents, or has there been a significant migration of peoples in the area?
Kuhrt 2007:247n1: “Several Persian kings appear in classical writers as exceptionally handsome, tall and just. This seems to reflect the typical attributes ascribed to kings, also found in royal inscriptions and echoed by classical writers.” As examples she gives
Herodotus Histories 7.187.2 on Xerxes as well as (at Kuhrt 2007:508)
Strabo 15.3.21 on Darius, Cornelius
Nepos Artaxerxes Lives of the Great Generals 21, and
Plutarch Life of Alexander 21.6 on the wife of Darius III.
Plutarch says that Cyrus was hawk-nosed: “The Persians affect such as are hawk-nosed and think them most beautiful, because Cyrus, the most beloved of their kings, had a nose of that shape” (Πέρσαι τῶν γρυπῶν ἐρῶσι καὶ καλλίστους ὑπολαμβάνουσι διὰ τὸ Κῦρον ἀγαπηθέντα μάλιστα τῶν βασιλέων γεγονέναι γρυπὸν τὸ εἶδος, Plutarch Moralia, Remarkable Sayings of Kings and Great Commanders 172E4-6, translation Goodwin; cf. also Πέρσαι δ’, ὅτιγρυπὸς ἦν ὁ Κῦρος, ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐρῶσι τῶν γρυπῶν καὶ καλλίστους ὑπολαμβάνουσιν,
Plutarch Moralia, Political Precepts 821F1-2). Perhaps coincidentally, Cyrus himself describes Chrysantas as having this type of nose (the only such mention of a hook-nose in all of Xenophon), offering to pair him with a snub-nosed woman so that they complement one another (
Cyropaedia 8.4.21; cf.
Plutarch Moralia 633B11-C1, What, as Xenophon Intimates, are the most agreeable questions and most pleasant raillery at entertainment?).
φιλανθρωπότατος: What does Xenophon mean by this term?
φιλομαθέστατος: What does Xenophon mean by this term?
Is the character of Zal in the
Shahnameh (p. 68 in Dick Davis’ translation) a possible cognate with Cyrus as a leader who loves to learn?
Note that Ctesias’ Cyrus (
Ctesias F8d*1–7) has something of an “aptitude for learning” in that he progresses from gardener to lamp-bearer to Astyages’ personal cup-bearer.
φιλοτιμότατος: What does Xenophon mean by this term?
πάντα μὲν πόνον … πάντα δὲ κίνδυνον: What is this significance of a willingness to do all labors and take all risks for Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership?
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?
Both of those anecdotes come from Plutarch, I believe. There is a similar contemporary instance of Isocrates’ Evagoras leading the charge in his home-city of Salamis to reclaim his throne. As well as I can tell Cyrus’ philokindunia does not seem to be of this kind except in his youth (rushing into the hunt or the skirmish against the Assyrians). At the onset of one of the battles, he does get a little ahead of himself, but nothing comes of it. It is the recklessly bold prince of the Cadusians who pursues the fleeing Armenians or Abradatas charging his chariot into the Egyptians who exhibit this kind of all-out risk-taking (and they both die; the Hyrcanian is even a “lesson” in cutting out ahead of the pack).
It is worth thinking more carefully about what Cyrus’ “risking it all” actually means. He seems willing at least to “risk” all of his personal resources to pursue his ambitions.
In general it is a real dilemma for a leader to be “first” in battle and yet live long enough to manage the safety of the followers. Isocrates counsels Philip of Macedon against an “unseasonable philotimia” in risking himself too much in battle. I don’t know how far back this dilemma goes. No one in the Iliad (that I can recall) seems to worry what the ramifications would be if Agamemnon or Menelaus were killed in battle. Accordingly to Achilles’ criticism of him in
Iliad 1, Agamemnon hangs back and hoards prizes whereas he should be fighting (as he does in
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.
For Xenophon, the premier example of (reckless) daring in a leader would have been the younger Cyrus at the battle of Cunaxa, as recounted in the Anabasis, which got the Greeks into a heap of trouble. This gets us into the question of whether Xenophon at least partly modeled his depiction of Cyrus the Great on his namesake, the prince whom Xenophon followed into the heart of the Empire. A long time ago I made the case for that (Hirsch 1985:72-75, The Friendship of the Barbarians), and further argued that the younger Cyrus created a propaganda campaign to justify his attempt to seize the throne, in which he equated himself with the founder of the Empire, and that this colored Xenophon’s representation of Cyrus the Great in the Cyropaedia.
On this point about what it means exactly for Cyrus to “risk it all”, I think you are right that Cyrus the Younger certainly goes beyond the sensible limit of this Xenophon’s proscription. As far as I can tell, Cyrus the Elder does not show much of a tendency toward reckless daring beyond his youth, both in the hunt (
Cyropaedia 1.4.8) and in the first skirmish with the Assyrians (
Cyropaedia 1.4.24). He once later advances impulsively in battle, to no consequence (
Cyropaedia 3.3.62), but otherwise reckless (and we might say “heroic”) daring is assigned to Cyrus’ followers, e.g., Abradatas (
Cyropaedia 7.3.14-16) and the prince of the Cadusians (
Cyropaedia 5.4.16). Farber 1979:505 notes that in Hellenistic inscriptions it is more often the followers than kings themselves that are praised for having philotimia. If philotimia does encourage risky behavior, Xenophon and later theorists of Hellenistic kingship may have downplayed it for this reason.
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).
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.
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.
Cyrus gives a similar formulation of how the love of praise can lead to great toil and risk-taking in a speech to his Persian peers as they set out to join the Medan campaign against the Assyrians (cf. ἐπαινούμενοι γὰρ μᾶλλον ἢ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἅπασι χαίρετε. τοὺς δ᾽ ἐπαίνου ἐραστὰς ἀνάγκη διὰ τοῦτο πάντα μὲν πόνον, πάντα δὲ κίνδυνον ἡδέως ὑποδύεσθαι,
Cyropaedia 1.5.12). Thus loving praise is not only a desirable quality in leaders but also followers.
τοῦ ἐπαινεῖσθαι ἕνεκα: What is the significance of praise in Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership? To what extent does Xenophon distinguish it from flattery?
ἐπαιδεύθη γε μὴν ἐν Περσῶν νόμοις: From what sources is Xenophon’s presentation of Persian law and education drawn? How accurately does it reflect what we know of Persian law and custom?
Xenophon’s treatment of the Persian educational system (agoge) has long been thought to be based on the Spartan system. Xenophon describes this system in the
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians.
Xenophon discusses this educational system also at
ἔστιν αὐτοῖς ἐλευθέρα ἀγορὰ καλουμένη: How much does this environment resemble (and how much is it meant to resemble) the sheltered world of the kallipolis in
How much is this system a historical reality?
Cyropaedia 1.6 Cambyses explains that youths are sheltered from education in matters of sex and warfare (particularly in using trickery to defeat an enemy).
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.
αἱ μὲν γὰρ πλεῖσται: Which city-states does Xenophon have in mind here?
Bizos (ad loc.) sees a criticism of the Spartan system of education whereby youths are encouraged to steal for their food and then punished for being caught (
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 2.6.8).
ἔστιν αὐτοῖς ἐλευθέρα ἀγορὰ καλουμένη: What is the archaeological evidence for such a public place?
τούτων δ᾽ ἔστιν ἓν μὲν παισίν … γεγονόσι: What is the history of dividing males into these four age groups?
δώδεκα γὰρ καὶ Περσῶν φυλαὶ διῄρηνται: What are the twelve Persian tribes?
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).
ὅπως τὴν ἀρχὴν μὴ τοιοῦτοι ἔσονται οἱ πολῖται οἷοι πονηροῦ τινος ἢ αἰσχροῦ ἔργου ἐφίεσθαι: To what extent is the Persian education necessary for creating the proper kinds of followers for Cyrus’ leadership? Is that one of the reasons why Xenophon treats it here (in addition to explaining how Cyrus was educated)?
Is Xenophon taking up the chicken-egg question of which comes first the good leader or the good society (as Plato Republic does)?
Since a great part of Cyrus’ leadership consists of doing favors for others, it would seem to be necessary for his followers to know how to show gratitude, which perhaps explains the importance of this virtue in the Persian educational system (cf.
τοξεύειν καὶ ἀκοντίζειν: What did the Persian bow and spear look like? Why were these weapons so important for elite Persian warfare?
κώθωνα: What did this drinking cup look like?
Here is a Corinthian Kothon from the Louvre.
ἄρτον: What do we know about Persian bread-making?
ὄψον: Why does this term mean both “meat” and “relish” or “sauce”?
See Davidson’s Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens for lots on the meaning of ὄψον.
τῇ τῶν πεπαιδευμένων εὐκοσμίᾳ: What are the nature and role of arrangement or order in Xenophon’s conception of leadership and government?
See Dillery 1995 (Xenophon and the History of His Times).
ὁ Κῦρος: Why is Cyrus referred to here with a definite article, whereas there was no definite article in the previous chapter (where he is mentioned three times)?
What is the history of kardamon (cardamom) in Greek and Near Eastern culture? Is Xenophon tapping into an actual Persian practice of using this plant?
kardamon is mentioned on
Linear B tablets.
According to Sancisi-Weerdenburg 1995:289–291 kardamon “quite clearly belonged to the staple foods of the Near East.” It is a cress with seeds that can be made into a mustard. It is to be identified with Babylonian sahlu (Assyrian kuddimmu and perh. zali on the Persian Fortification Texts). Sancisi-Weerdenburg notes that Hesychios claims that cardamon serves to keep moisture in the body (cf.
Aristophanes Themophoriazousai 616) and that the Persians ate it to help them refrain from spitting, urinating, or wiping their noses in public.
Some websites on the supposed health benefits of cardamom seeds and leaves may be found here and here.
What is the significance of Cyrus’ beauty? What are its erotic implications? Does it signify noble birth? What role does it play in Cyrus’ leadership, for better or worse?
Xenophon Symposium 1.9 and
Isocrates Evagoras 22. One assumption seems to be that beautiful leaders inspire their followers with a feeling of eros, and an attendant desire to please the leader, which may be seen as a good thing; but that eros can compel a follower to flatter or otherwise corrupt a leader, who thus needs self-restraint (sophrosune) as a safeguard.
Xenophon Symposium 4.15–18.
Cyropaedia 1.4.27–28 a Medan man, later identified as Artabazus, falls in love with Cyrus. At
Cyropaedia 4.1.22-23 Artabazus affirms his devotion to Cyrus and vows to help him enlist other Medes in the continuing campaign against the Assyrians. At
Cyropaedia 3.1.41 Tigranes is envious of Cyrus’ beauty, fearing that he may have caught the attention of Tigranes’ new wife.
When Xenophon says “among us,” is he referring to the Athenians or Greeks in general? Thus, is this reference an indication of who Xenophon’s audience is?
λέγεται καὶ ᾁδεται: What is the tradition of celebrating the Persian king in song? #folklore
Athenaeus 14.633d–e and
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.
What is a sagaris?
What is a gerron?
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?
I think it is important to Xenophon’s case for Cyrus’ worthiness as a leader to show that Cyrus participated in, and excelled at, the same sorts of moral, physical, and martial trials as his Persian and then Medan comrades. The type of leader he seems to be arguing against is the privileged king who did not have to face the same rigors as his followers. Nevertheless it may be the case that Xenophon had no real material to work with for Cyrus’ youth before he goes to Media. The same seems true for both Ctesias and Herodotus. Herodotus tells only of Cyrus’ birth and rescue by herdsmen and Ctesias tells of Cyrus’ ascent (starting as a slave) through Astyages’ court. Perhaps the reason for this imbalance in sources (to say nothing of true history) is that there were competing accounts of how Cyrus came to rule the Medes, either as a liberator of the Persians or a charming and legitimate grandson, as Xenophon presents him. But perhaps there was no record, or no need for a record of Cyrus in the Persian educational system.
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.
Most traditions claim that Cyrus was of “mixed race,” half Persian (father’s side) and half Mede (mother’s side). And he seems to employ both Persians and Medes pretty evenhandedly as generals, administrators etc. My sense is that Cyrus’s takeover of the Median Empire was not so much a conquest of one people by another as an adjustment of power relations between two relatively closely related Iranian groups (from a Greek perspective they looked similar enough that the terms Persian and Mede could be used interchangeably, although I don’t doubt that Persians and Medes were more acutely aware of the differences). Indeed, the Cyropaedia represents it as a quiet coup against Cyaxares, rather than the battle with Astyages found in Herodotus. One interpretation of the later coup of Darius and the six other elite Persian conspirators, as known from the
Behistun inscription and
Herodotus Histories, is that it was an assertion of the dominance of the Persians within the Persian-Mede partnership – note that, according to Herodotus, the conspirators targeted the median Magi. Darius as king tends to appoint Persians to high positions and military commands. Xenophon is, then, portraying Cyrus as both Persian and Mede, and he is educated within both systems. Here, as so often, Xenophon appears to be aware of something about the Persians not so well known to most Greeks.
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?
Is the gratitude (charis) described here more of a Greek or Persian value?
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.
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?
That’s an interesting question. I think that Xenophon, like his predecessors Hedodotus and Ctesias, had a challenge of linking events in the distant past to his own day, and in convincing their audience to believe them. But then again, its not clear how much of Cyropaedia Xenophon intended to be read as historical fact. A TLG search reveals some examples like
Herodotus Histories 2.135 οἳ καὶ νῦν ἔτι συννενέαται ὄπισθε μὲν τοῦ βωμοῦ τὸν Χῖοι ἀνέθεσαν, ἀντίον δὲ αὐτοῦ τοῦ νηοῦ. (I think this is the story of Rhodopis the Egyptian courtesan who donated iron spits to Delphi “and even now they are piled there”) and Herodotus Histories 2.99 (where Min built a dam to divert the Nile from Memphis, and even now the Persians watch this dam) and Herodotus Histories 1.185 (queen Nitocris made the Euphrates wind, and even now a traveller will notice this) and
Herodotus Histories 4.166 (Aryandas, Darius’ satrap of Egypt, issued pure silver “and today the purest silver is Aryandic”).
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.
One way of tackling this question would be to ask what scenarios Xenophon describes in which sôphrosunê is of value. It would be interesting to know more about what Xenophon means when he says in
Cyropaedia 1.2.9 that the boys spend the night in the royal precinct in order to learn sôphrosunê (is this like a high-stakes sleepover?). At
Anabasis 1.9.3–4, too, Xenophon notes that young boys learn sôphrosunê by observing and hearing about how men are honored and dishonored by the king. In several places elsewhere in the Cyropaedia Xenophon illustrates how kings and princes without sôphrosunê can harm themselves and their people. The prince of the Cadusians impulsively pursues the fleeing Assyrians on horseback (“wishing to do something brilliant”), only to get himself and his comrades killed (
Cyropaedia 5.4.15–16). Croesus, the king of the Lydians, admits too late that he had been spoiled by his wealth and then convinced by the bribes and flattery of others to make a reckless war on Cyrus (
Cyropaedia 7.2.23). Out of envy, the king of the Assyrians impulsively kills the son of Gobryas on a hunt; later he has the Assyrian nobleman, Gadatas, made into a eunuch because one of his harem women had taken an interest in Gadatas (
Cyropaedia 5.2.28). Cyrus seems to show restraint against a range of impulses, e.g., the impulse to pity his friend, the Armenian prince, Tigranes (
Cyropaedia 3.1.8). Perhaps most importantly, Cyrus shows sôphrosunê against erotic love when his Medan comrade, Araspas, tries to make him gaze upon the noblewoman from Susa, Pantheia (
Cyropaedia 5.1.8). It is important to note that in this instance Cyrus shows sôphrosunê against his very real impulse to fall in love with beautiful women. He acknowledges a similar impulse toward greed, but, as he explains to Croesus, he does his best to curb this impulse by sharing his wealth with his friends (
Cyropaedia 8.2.20). (By contrast, Plato’s Philosopher King is expected to love wisdom to such a degree that all other typical inducements to lust or greed are completely eradicated from the soul (
Plato Republic 485d–487a). At the end of his life, Cyrus explains that he had an abiding fear of misfortune which kept him from “excessively proud thoughts” or “reckless delight” (
The significance of sôphrosunê for a leader may have to do with how the leadership role is conceived. If, for example, the leader is primarily the leader of a roving band of pillagers on horseback, it would seem that sôphrosunê is of less value. You want the leader to lead the charge and take the greatest risks; if he dies, then he may be easily replaced by the next courageous leader. Hence the case of the Hyrcanian king, who is presented in tragic, but heroic light; the same might be said for Abradatas who rushes headlong into the Egyptians on chariot (
Cyropaedia 7.1.29–32). Even Cyrus shows a seemingly admirable (if concerning) impulsiveness on the hunt and later in battle (cf.
Cyropaedia 3.3.62). Yet when such a leader is also expected to govern, i.e., serve as a judge, law-giver, diplomat, or figurehead, you probably want that leader to check the impulses to heed the encouraging speeches of anyone and everyone, to rush recklessly into battle, to rape the captive women, or to take reckless delight in victory. Hence you see Isocrates trying to caution Philip of Macedon against pursuing an “unseasonable philotîmia,” rather than lead the Macedonians in every charge (Cf. φιλοτιμίας ἀκαίρου,
Isocrates To Philip 9.1–2. Isocrates’ hope, of course, is that Philip will take a more long-term view of his role as leader of Greece by undertaking a large-scale campaign against the Persians. It is interesting to note that Xenophon has several discussions of how someone comes to possess sôphrosunê. In the Persian educational system, youths learn sôphrosunê by observing their elders behave moderately (and, somehow, by sleeping in the royal precincts). The Persian peer, Aglaïtadas, argues that fathers teach their sons sôphrosunê by making them cry (
Cyropaedia 2.2.14). Tigranes argues that his father has learned sôphrosunê by being defeated by Cyrus in battle (
Cyropaedia 3.1.18). As we noted above, Cyrus seems to possess his restraint as a function of his attentiveness, or fear of misfortune; he is, generally speaking, the kind of leader who is aware of the consequences of his actions. This awareness may itself be something innate. Or it may be a function of Cyrus’ love of being honored (philotîmia); because he loves being honored so much, he is able to focus on how to win the highest honors (cf. Ischomachus’ explanation to Socrates on how he trains his slaves to pay attention,
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?
I think Hippolytus is a good figure with which to think about sôphrosunê as it pertains to leadership, though Xenophon does not expound on what I am about to say of him in the Cynegeticus (I think the reference you want is
Cynegeticus 1.11.3). In Euripides Hippolytus is a prince who is loved madly by Phaedra, but through his sôphrosunê and chaste devotion to Artemis, he resists her advances, prompting her famously to vow to teach him how to restrain his self-restraint (cf.
Euripides Hippolytus 1034–1035).
Isocrates Evagoras 22 says of Evagoras, king of the Cyprians, that as a youth he possessed sôphrosunê, rhomê, and kallos. I have the sense that at least part of the function of sôphrosunê here is to protect Evagoras from the flattering advances of his amorous citizens; Isocrates says that “everyone who looked at Evagoras” could attest to his physical beauty. Similarly, Alcibiades was courted by many lovers who were struck by his beauty. On occasion Alcibiades gave in to their flattery and even took advantage of some of his lovers (see the case of Anytus and the precious dinner-ware). Yet Alcibiades was made to restrain himself by the strict guidance of Socrates (see
Plutarch Life of Alcibiades 4). Xenophon’s Cyrus also has a good-looking body (cf. εἶδος … κάλλιστος,
Cyropaedia 1.2.1). He, too, catches the erotic attention of a Medan man named Artabazus (
Cyropaedia 1.4.27-28). Cyrus does not behave inappropriately, however, but kisses Artabazus in a manner consistent with Persian custom. Later in the work Cyrus is able to enlist Artabazus’ help in gathering more Medes for his pursuit of the Assyrians (
Cyropaedia 4.1.22–24). It seems from these examples that the lesson in leadership is that the leader is supposed to show restraint not only against the impulses to feel love but also against the flattery of those in love with them. Additionally, in the case of Cyrus, the leader should resist the temptation to mistreat those who are in love with them, but rather to use this love to some mutually beneficial end. Though the role of beauty in leadership should be discussed more fully elsewhere, I point out here that Critobulus in Xenophon’s Symposium argues that people should elect beautiful generals because their beauty can impel their amorous followers to work harder, take more risks, and behave with more modesty and self-mastery (
Xenophon Symposium 4.15–16. We should see if Beneker 2012 (The Passionate Statesman: Erõs and Politics in Plutarch’s Lives) can shed some further light on the question of why a (beautiful) leader needs sôphrosunê.
On the question of self-mastery over food and drink (enkrateia) in Xenophon’s Cyrus and Hieron, cf. modern psychology’s Marshmallow Test, given in early childhood, as a predictor of the capacity for delayed gratification later in life.
δημοσίᾳ: What is the significance of a publicly funded hunt?
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.
“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?”
Xenophon alludes to the Persians having a tradition of oral poetry (
Cyropaedia 1.2.1; the Persians were not widely literate during Cyrus’ reign), and
Strabo 15.3.18 says that this poetry is used to educate the Persians with the noblest examples of gods and men. As with the virtues the Persians learn in their educational system by watching their elders perform them, this seems to be another example of education through emulation. Plato sees poetry as having the same function in
Plato Republic, which is why he bans Homer and all tragic poetry from the kallipolis (for they don’t provide us with examples of the best behavior). The Persians in Xenophon do enjoy music in their symposia, but I can’t think of any examples where they study/practice it. It may have been regarded as too effeminate; see the Medan “music lover” at
Cyropaedia 5.1.1 (the Athenian Alcibiades hated the diaulos because to play it distorted the face, Plutarch Life of Alcibiades 2.4). See also
Cyropaedia 2.1.11-16 for an mini-discussion of the value of tragedy vs. comedy. It would be difficult to say how much of this discussion (if any) is Persian rather than late-fifth/early fourth-century Athenian philosophy.
μᾶζα καὶ ἄρτος: What is the difference between maza and artos?
See Cyrus’ remarks on the proper nutrition for a long campaign on
Cyropaedia 6.2.28 contains the only other mention of maza in Xenophon.
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 find this passage to be such a revealing comment about the different attitudes toward meat in the ancient world (when it was common only on festal days) and now. ὄψον (anything boiled, like a meat or a sauce) is “relish” in the sense that it serves to make other foods more palatable; it stimulates the appetite (see
LSJ A2). By contrast, when we go to a steak restaurant today, we expect the meat, usually 12 oz. or more, to be the centerpiece of the meal and for the vegetables to frame and highlight it (we may not even eat them). What is a means to an end for the Persians here is now an end in itself for us.
I’m not sure about the parts of the animal–and I’m not much of a chef :-). For another interesting take on how tasty food works to bring delight (or does not), cf.
Xenophon Hieron 1.17 ff.
ἀνδρικώτατοι: What does “manliest” mean in this context?
This is the only occurrence of andrikos in the Cyropaedia. At
Oeconomicus 5.13.3 it refers to the kind of education that farmers receive, which (like hunting in the Cyropaedia) can prepare people for warfare (καὶ σφοδρῶς καὶ ἀνδρικῶς παιδευόμενοι). This would suggest that Xenophon means to highlight physical toughness or hardiness, though elsewhere the term points to courage (cf.
Plato Theaetetus 177b3).
εὐπιστότατοι: Why would it be important for a great leader to be obedient?
οἷόνπερ γράφονται οἱ Πέρσαι ἔχοντες: What Persian paintings might Xenophon have had in mind?
See A. Bovon 1963, D. Head 1992:39-44, and N. Sekunda:18-19.
μάχαιραν: What is a machaira?
καλουμένους: How likely is it that Xenophon uses this verb to refer to actual terms in Old Persian?
From where is Xenophon deriving his belief that the Persian mode of living cuts down on all unwanted discharges of fluid and air? Is there any influence from Hippocrates’ humoral theory here?
ἡ πολιτεία: Do any other constitutions have such a system of prerequisites?
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.
ἐλευθέρα ἀγορὰ καλουμένη: Is Xenophon translating Old Persian here?
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?
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?
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”.
λέγονται μὲν γὰρ Πέρσαι ἀμφὶ τὰς δώδεκα μυριάδας εἶναι: What does Xenophon mean when he says “they say there are about 12 myriads of Persians”?
Sekunda 1992:5 suggests that there could be the number of nobles or the number of soldiers of all classes. Tuplin 1990 argues that it is simply the twelve tribes of
Cyropaedia 1.2.5 times “countless.”
οἱ δὲ Περσεῖδαι ἀπὸ Περσέως κλῄζονται: What is the history of the “Perseidai from Perseus” etymology? Does his choice of verb suggest anything about his source?
That should be “Perseidai from Perseus” sorry (although I think the Persai/Perseus connection is attested elsewhere). While this etymology is obvious, Scott Noegel has pointed out that the idea that similar words are fundamentally linked is first attested in Bronze Age Southwest Asia.
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.
εἰς ἄλλον τόπον: Does Xenophon mean to imply that the Persians actually had a designated space for merchants?
λέγουσιν: Is Xenophon reporting a conversation he had with Persian youths (or a report he had from someone about how Persian youths conceive of their education)? Where else do we see Xenophon reporting what the Persians “say” about themselves?
διδάσκουσι δὲ τοὺς παῖδας καὶ σωφροσύνην:What would Xenophon’s audience of mid-fourth-century Greeks have understood by sophrosune? How is this virtue best translated into English (“prudence”? “self-discipline”? “moderation”? Miller picked “self-control” in the Loeb)
My sense from reviewing the use of this term in the Cyropaedia is that sophrosune (perhaps not surprisingly) is something like “the ability to check (though not necessarily eliminate) irrational/destructive/antisocial/immoral impulses by a careful or thorough consideration of the consequences,” the most common of these impulses being fear, greed, love, excessive joy, enthusiasm (especially in battle), anger, and pity. To the extent that words like “moderation”, “self-restraint”, or “sobriety”, capture this meaning, I think they are fine translations, but it’s probably best to think about such an important word in context whenever it comes up. Xenophon seems most interested in sophrosune as a virtue that checks the impulses of young people (as here and in Cyropaedia 2.2.14, where he has the Persian Aglaitadas explain that fathers teach their children sophrosune by making them cry). It can also be a check against the impulse to rebel from one’s master (cf. the question of whether the Armenian king can learn sophrosune after rebelling from the Medes,
Cyropaedia 3.1.16ff.). In this context sophrosune could easily be associated with wisdom (sophia), attentiveness (epimeleia), or a “healthy fear”. Compare Cyrus’ admission at the end of his life that he always had a fear of misfortune that prevented him from committing hubris or being excessively joyous in his success (
Cyropaedia 8.7.7). Dover has a sporadic discussion of sophrosune, with further bibliography, that fleshes out many of the uses of the term (and of the adjective sophron) in the fourth century (Dover 1974:57 GPM, and Dover 1974:59, Dover 1974:66-69, Dover 1974:103, Dover 1974:116, Dover 1974:119, Dover 1974:225).
ἐλευθέρα: Is the gathering place called “free” because (1) it is free from noise and distraction (as Gleason ad loc. says), (2) open to those who are “non-slaves,” or (3) open to those who are “free” from the economic necessity of performing menial labor and could thus avail themselves of the opportunity (cf.
Why does Zonaras (fl. 12th cent. CE) translate Cyrus’ three superlative traits as ἀνδρειότατός τε καὶ σωφρονέστατος νουνεχής τε καὶ δικαιότατος (<
em>Epitome Historiarum 1.224.28-29)? #reception
The context of the passage in Zonaras clearly demonstrates that he is reading the Cyropaedia (and he alludes to Xenophon). The rest of the passage is a fairly faithful summary or translation, but he does not seem to have made much of an effort to capture κάλλιστος…φιλανθρωπότατος… φιλομαθέστατος…φιλοτιμότατος.
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?
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?
Xenophon says in
Cyropaedia 1.2.15 that the Persians do have to succeed at each level in order to make it to the next stage; failure to do so means being kicked out of the school. The Persians also seem to keep track of who is best in the various excellences (cf.
Cyropaedia 1.5.1, and
Anabasis 1.9 on Cyrus the Younger).
I’m not sure if we can answer your other two questions; perhaps someone with greater expertise in Achaemenid Persia than I. Unfortunately Xenophon is one of our primary sources for the Persian education (see Kuhrt 2007:629-632‘s wonderful book, The Persian Empire, for other sources, including
Strabo XV, 3.18-19). It is often thought that Xenophon was heavily influenced by his understanding of the Spartan educational system. Cf.
Plutarch Customs of the Spartans and
Plutarch Lycurgus and
Xenophon Constitution of the Lacedaemonians.
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.
διῄρηται δὲ αὕτη ἡ ἀγορὰ ἡ περὶ τὰ ἀρχεῖα τέτταρα μέρη: what is the history of such sentences in Greek and Latin prose? Cf. Julius
Caesar De Bello Gallico 1.1 (Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres).
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).
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.
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?
How does this passage relate to
Cyropaedia 1.2.13? Why does one relate this practice to the present and the other not?
Does the epilogue (
Cyropaedia 8.8) undercut or subvert the content of the rest of the Cyropaedia? Do we have reasons to doubt whether Xenophon wrote this? If it is by Xenophon, how does it alter our perceptions of the rest of the work? If it is by someone else and has somehow become attached to the text, what was it about the text that bothered the author of the epilogue?
The authenticity of this chapter, the so-called epilogue, has long been the subject of scholarly dispute. I wrote about this in The Friendship of the Barbarians, Hirsch 1985:91-96, and I must say that, upon rereading it after a long time away from this material, my argument still seems persuasive to me, but then what do you expect! While most 19th-century scholars denied that it could have been written by Xenophon, the majority of 20th century scholars accepted its authenticity. I felt strongly that it could not have been part of the original text. It blatantly contradicts many of Xenophon’s assertions earlier in the text, most particularly those places where Xenophon claimed that some Persian practice was still being maintained in his time (eti kai nun…), and virtually all the loci that contradict material elsewhere in the work are clustered in the epilogue. Some scholars claim that the style of the epilogue is consistent with that of Xenophon. “Style” is, of course, a slippery beast, prone to much subjectivity. Perhaps someone skilled in computer analysis will be able to pose a set of concrete questions about countable linguistic phenomena and compare it to other patches of Xenophon. In any case, the tone of the epilogue – “sarcastic, abusive, sometimes even vulgar” – does not feel like Xenophon to me. Finally, I argued that if, as many believe,
Plato Laws book 3 is reacting to Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, then his text of the Cyropaedia did not contain the epilogue, for it would have already done his work for him in showing how far Persia had declined from the virtues of the past.I have not been working on this material or keeping up with the scholarship for quite a while, so I would be glad to hear from others about more recent discussions of this problem.
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.
Although we should keep in mind that Artaxerxes I fought the Athenians to a draw, and that Darius II and Artaxerxes II both won their respective Ionian Wars decisively. Like the Hundred Years’ War, we tend to remember a few battles more than the general course of events. It is very likely that our sources are biased towards anti-Persian and Panhellenic sentiments, because after Alexander those seemed like the ‘right’ ones. The frequent references to Xenophon’s experiences in
Cyropaedia 8.8 could mean Xenophon was the writer, or that the interpolator was familiar with his works. I wonder if the papyri are any help?
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.
I agree with Sean. The Persians were successful most of the time, from the late fifth century on, in keeping the Greeks weak, divided, and demoralized, largely through a simple combination of money, threats, and strategic alliances. They decided the outcome of the Peloponnesian War, thereby destroying their nemesis, the Athenian Empire, and recouping (through their treaties with Sparta) their former territories in Asia. They used money in the war of the 390s to force Sparta to withdraw its troops from Ionia and bog it down in a trench war around Corinth, and the naval victory over the Spartans at Cnidus made them masters of Aegean waters. The King’s Peace was a dictate, with the autonomy clause keeping the Greeks fragmented, and Sparta serving as their enforcer through the 380s and 370s, and Thebes taking over that role in the 360s. If Persia didn’t have internal troubles of its own (secession of Egypt, various revolts), they might well have contemplated another invasion of Greece. At mid-century, after the Egyptian revolt had been crushed and Ochus was on the throne – arguably the most formidable military commander since Darius I – Persia looked as strong as ever. No wonder Philip got so much mileage out of the Persian threat, getting himself appointed hegemon of the Greeks – the Greeks were scared. Nobody could have foreseen Alexander, but our views, and those of Greeks in later times, tend to be colored by our knowledge of his success. The Greeks may have regarded Persian tactics as dirty pool, but by any objective standards it was successful – Greece was weak, and Persia appeared to be as formidable and threatening as ever. Indeed, worldly Greeks like Xenophon, who chronicled all this in the Hellenica, must have been ashamed of how easily the Greeks had been played. I suppose you could use this history to argue that the Greeks were bitter about the way the Persians dealt with them, and that we’re seeing that bitterness in the accusations in the epilogue. But Xenophon could never say, as Isocrates did, that Persia was weak and the proof was that the Ten Thousand had a cakewalk on their way home.
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.
In the day of Artaxerxes I, the Athenians and their allies were thrown out of Egypt and had to agree to withdraw from Cyprus in exchange for peace along the Aegean coast. They got to keep the coast, but they had controlled that when Artaxerxes took the throne. Given that Athens had dreamed of taking Cyprus and putting a friendly king in Egypt, I would call that a draw. I certainly think that from the 470s to 394, whichever Greek power was strongest could hold the ports and march around the coast of Anatolia enslaving farmers and burning villages, but they found it very hard to do more than that. Xenophon actually admits the limitations of being able to march where you like but not take walled places when when he compares an army moving through enemy territory without taking cities to a ship sailing the sea (
Much of your argument seems to depend on accepting the authenticity of the Peace of Kallias – do you?
While it is always fun to discuss essentially irresolvable (with our current evidence) problems like the Peace of Callias, my own take on it is that it’s not that significant – whether or not there was a formal treaty, there was clearly some sort of understanding between Athens and Persia that prevailed from midcentury till the last phase of the Peloponnesian war. The Athenian Empire was strong enough to keep the Persians out of the Aegean, and fourth century Greeks looked back on Greece’s relative strength at that time longingly. But what is more relevant to this enterprise – the circumstances in which the Cyropaedia, and more specifically the epilogue, was written – is the situation in the fourth century and the Greeks’ perception of it, which I tried to address in my previous comment. You and the Greeks may not like the way the Persians operated, but the reality was that they were largely successful and that they did not appear to be weak. To the extent that the epilogue stresses Persian weakness, I have difficulty believing Xenophon saw it that way. Isocrates and a few others may have claimed that in order to advance their agenda, and the composer of the epilogue may have been one of these, or someone, like Plato, who objected to Xenophon’s moral idealization of the Persians, or someone writing after Alexander’s conquest, when the weakness of the Persians was apparent in retrospect.
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.
I’m not sure it does depend. It seems to me that the evidence is reasonably clear that fighting between the Delian League and Artaxerxes ended around 450 with the Greek withdrawal from Cyprus, and that whether you believe there was a treaty, an informal agreement, or just mutual exhaustion there still was peace. For my thesis I am provisionally accepting a treaty around 448 (the “Peace of Callias”). My views are similar to David Lewis CAH 2nd Ed. Vol. 5 pp. 121-127.
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.
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…
I have just a few thoughts here on what is, as Allen says, a fascinating (and complex) question. By my count using the Bude editions, Book Eight is considerably longer than any other book in the Cyropaedia at 67 pages, nearly seven of which are devoted to Cyropaedia 8.8. It is nearly twice as long as the shortest book, Book Two at 36 pages, and 20% longer than the second longest book, Book One at 56 pages. If we remove the seven pages of 8.8, then Book Eight is only 7% longer than Book One. This is by no means a proof of inauthenticity, but I think it’s worth considering.
On Allen’s question on how readers in antiquity would have read
Cyropaedia 8.8, I am puzzled: would the “forger” not have known Greek better than perhaps any modern reader and not have expected to pass off his writing as Xenophontic to readers who also knew Greek better than modern readers? Similarly, where 8.8 conflicts with claims about the Persians in Book One, who is more likely to have engaged in a contradiction, Xenophon (who wrote Book One) or the “forger”, who had read Book One presumably a bunch of times and would have hoped to remain consistent with what Xenophon says throughout the work. If we as 20th and 21st century readers can detect such contradictions fairly easily, why would a “forger” have been so careless? I agree with Hirsch 1985:94 that it is very disturbing to see Xenophon making disparaging remarks about all Persians, rather than a degenerate few. Nevertheless, Xenophon may be buying into the Herodotean idea that all groups of people decline over time. I don’t have strong views about the authenticity of Cyropaedia 8.8, but I have always found them to be consistent with the pessimistic tone of the first sentence of the work and with Cambyses’ remarks at
Cyropaedia 1.6.45. In any case, pace Plato and others, I don’t see Persian degeneracy in Cyropaedia 8.8 as necessarily a strike against Cyrus.
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?
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?
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?
Does the turn Xenophon takes in
Cyropaedia 8.8 cast doubts upon the authenticity of the epilogue?
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.”
Can the epilogue be reconciled with the main body of Cyropaedia?
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?
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.
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.
ἢ ὀλίγῳ πλέον: What is the point of being vague about the age at which Cyrus left the Persian educational system for his grandfather’s court in Media? #narratology
Is Xenophon alluding to more than one account for this story or is he merely trying to give the impression of a historical (as opposed to a fictional) account by claiming not to know a detail exactly?
Xenophon is also vague about the number of years that the Persians spend in the first stage of their education (paides), whether 11 or 12 years (
Cf. a similar vagueness about Cyrus’ age when the Assyrian king makes his first incursion into Medan territory, prompting the onset of Cyrus’ military career (ἀμφὶ δὲ τὰ πέντε ἢ ἑκκαίδεκα ἔτη γενομένου αὐτοῦ,
By contrast the
Alexander Romance 1.14-1-2, having treated Alexander’s conception and birth, begins the narrative of his youth precisely at the age of twelve (Ὁ δὲ Ἀλέξανδρος προέκοπτε τῇ ἡλικίᾳ καὶ γενόμενος ἐτῶν δώδεκα). #reception
ταύτῃ τῇ παιδείᾳ ἐπαιδεύθη: To what extent does an education among his fellow Persians (rather than some kind of privileged education) mark Cyrus out as a “man of the people” (dêmotikos)?
Cyropaedia 1.5.1 Cyrus’ Persian age-mates worry that his time among the Medes has taught him a life of luxury (hêdupathein), but it has not.
τὴν … δικαιοσύνην: To what extent does the description of justice here contrast (and to what extent is it mean to contrast) with the definition of justice in the Republic, where justice is “each person doing his part for the city according to his natural ability”?
To what extent is this story about the two coats a complement to the treaty that Cyrus forges in in
Cyropaedia 3.2.19ff. between the Armenians and Chaldaeans where they engage in land-sharing and intermarriage?
Both works seem to involve an act of doing what is fitting (Plato would seem to agree that it would be “just” for the leader to give the coats to the boys that they are naturally suited to own) but Xenophon seems to be arguing that for the act to be truly just it must also be lawful and done without force (see Danzig on this scene).
μέτρον δὲ αὐτῷ οὐχ ἡ ψυχὴ ἀλλ᾽ ὁ νόμος ἐστίν: What is the history of the debate over whether the law or the leader is supreme in the state? To what extent is Cyrus guided by the principle set forth for the Persian king?
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.
στολὴν καλὴν: What did this robe look like?
ἐτίμα καὶ ἐκόσμει: What is the relationship between honor and adornment for Xenophon and the Persians?
Note that at
Cyropaedia 220.127.116.11 Cyrus is described both as a lover of being honored and a lover of beauty (παῖς ὢν καὶ φιλόκαλος καὶ φιλότιμος).
Briant 1996:306 notes, “In Persian eyes … robes and jewels were not baubles; they were resplendent marks of the king’s favor granted to them in return for services rendered. Wearing these ornaments meant accession to the rank of Persians most esteemed by the king.”
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.
ἥδετο τῇ στολῇ: To what extent does Xenophon feminize Cyrus by having him delight in his robe?
Euripides Medea 1155-1166 the daughter of Creon and princess of Corinth delights in the robe and crown that Medea sends to her (δώροις ὑπερχαίρουσα).
Note that this is the same verb that Xenophon uses to describe Cyrus’ delight in learning to ride a horse (ὑπερέχαιρεν,
Yet the fact that Xenophon calls Cyrus a “lover of being honored” suggests that any weakness evinced by liking this robe is counteracted a desire to be recognized for distinction. Cf. the quote from Briant 1996:306 above. Cf. also Pericles’ famous description of the Athenians (Φιλοκαλοῦμέν … μετ’ εὐτελείας,
Thucydides Histories 2.40.1).
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.
The two words translated as “effeminate” and “effeminacy” in
Cyropaedia 8.8.15 are θρυπτικώτεροι (“more fragile, delicate”) and μαλακίαν (“softness”), respectively. They are rendered without any gendered language in Doty 2010. The adjective, thruptikos, appears once elsewhere in Xenophon (and nowhere else in extant 4th century prose) to describe the kind of person Socrates was not: ἀλλ’ οὐ μὴν θρυπτικ ός γε οὐδὲ ἀλαζονικὸς ἦν οὔτ’ ἀμπεχόνῃ οὔθ’ ὑποδέσει οὔτε τῇ ἄλλῃ διαίτῃ (
Memorabilia 18.104.22.168). This may or may not point to a contrast with Cyrus, who likes fancy things but probably would not have been called thruptikos because he isn’t seemingly “broken” by them. The verb forms of thrupto (to break, enfeeble) do appear in Xenophon in discussion of the corrupting power of luxury, wealth, or in the case of the Spartans the corrupting power of changing clothes (Cf.
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 2.1.9,
Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 2.1.4). The point about Cyrus’ relation to wealth and fancy clothes (and loving beauty in general) is that he seems to be trained to wear or use these “corrupting” things because, as you say, of his Persian excellence and hardiness. Maybe it is accurate to describe Cyrus as hermaphroditic or metro-sexual in his ability to move comfortably between these two worlds. It’s also possible that I’m introducing gendered language that isn’t really in Xenophon. Yet I’ve long thought that Jason in
Apollonius Argonautica has a kind of hermaphroditic leadership as well. And even in Homer’s
Iliad we find Achilles playing the mother bird and Menelaus the mother cow.
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?
I agree; they are certainly not seen as feminine in the same way.
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.
Reminding us of the surprising ending to
Herodotus Histories, in which Cyrus warns the Persians that they can either be masters of others if they continue their rough lifestyle in their rocky homeland, or the slaves of others if they give in to the pleasures and easiness of the soft plain. Here Herodotus seems to anticipate the claim of the author of the epilogue to the Cyropaedia, that the Persians of his day are not what they used to be.
στρεπτοῖς καὶ ψελίοις: What did Xenophon think this jewelry looked like? What did Persian jewelry look like in the time of Cyrus?
How does Cyrus’ animosity toward Sacas compare to other instances of envy in the Education of Cyrus, including the Armenian king’s envy of Tigranes’ tutor, Tigranes’ envy of Cyrus (in front of his wife), Cyaxares’ envy of Cyrus, Cyrus’ followers envy of one another, Hystaspas’ envy of Chrysantas, and the Assyrian king’s envy of Gadatas and the son of Gobryas?
Many of the instances of envy are closely tied to feelings of love and erotic attraction. Note especially how the Armenian king likens his envy of Tigranes tutor to that of a husband whose wife has had an affair; or how Tigranes himself worries that his wife may be attracted to Cyrus; or how Cyaxares makes the same analogy in describing his envy of Cyrus; or how the Assyrian king envies Gadatas when one of his harem women is attracted to him. Does this suggest that Xenophon’s treatment of envy is primarily of a Near Eastern origin (even if we can understand it to some extent in Greek terms; cf.
Lysias On the Murder of Eratosthenes 33)?
What is the history of the Persian/Medan practice of giving/liking robes?
Cyropaedia 5.1.2, and
The gardener Cyrus in
Ctesias F*8d.4 is also given a nicer robe as part of a promotion to indoor servant.
Is the reference to the difficulty of rearing horses in Persia derived from the passage in the Odyssey where Telemachus rejects Menelaus’ offer of horses (
Odyssey 4.600-608)? Does that make Cyrus in Medea a Telemachus (“coming of age”) figure?
Hard to reconcile Xenophon’s claim that horses were rare in Persia with other evidence for the importance of horses in the Achaemenid period. See the Encyclopedia Iranica online article ASB (“horse”). Yet Xenophon knows a lot about horses, and he must have heard something about this (of course, he had never been to the Persian homeland).
I think there is some evidence in Herodotus of a tradition that the Persians were originally infantry who learned to fight on horseback from the Medes. Certainly, the Persians always relied on their infantry in battle. Herodotus’ story of the battle of Sardis (
Herodotus Histories 1.80) has the Persian be uncertain about their ability to face Median cavalry, as does the form of Persian dress (if that is ethnic Persian clothing and not, for example, a “royal” “Elamite” or “heroic” garment). Duncan Head (Head 1992:31) is skeptical of Cyropaedia here but notes that Persis is poor country for horses. Paul Christensen (Christensen 2006) suggests that this is background to a proposal that the Spartiates become cavalry, and let the other classes be hoplites and psiloi, therefore giving Sparta a numerous infantry and effective cavalry to resist the Boeoetians. Since at Sparta the Peers fought as infantry, in his Persia the Peers had to do the same in order to give him an excuse to show how noble infantry could learn to be cavalry in a short time.
It may be that the Persians learned about horse riding from the Medes. I believe horses came to Western Asia around 2000 B.C.E. from the Caucasus region, not that far from Persia. Perhaps their homeland was not that favorable for horse-raising, as Xenophon suggests here, but nearby places like Media were, and wouldn’t the pre-imperial Persians have needed horses to contend with Medes, Assyrians and other potential threats? So I’m still a bit puzzled by Xenophon’s claim. They certainly were using horses by Darius’s time – how else could he have dealt with the Scythians, and cavalry certainly play a role in Herodotus’s account of the Scythian expedition, the expeditionary force that failed at Marathon in 490, and the great army of invasion in 480, and, as you point out, Cyrus used cavalry at Sardis in 546 (are horses really freaked out by the smell of camels?). Darius’s co-conspirator, Aspathines, who must have been born in Cyrus’s time, has a name formed from the Persian root for horse (but not many Persians do, in contrast to Greek and other horse-loving elites). And, of course, Xenophon and the 10,000 had to deal with Persian cavalry on the Anabasis (
Anabasis). Persians may have relied to a large extent on allied cavalry, but wouldn’t most Greeks of the fourth century have thought of the Persians as possessing cavalry capability? What interests me about this (and many similar things in the Cyropaedia) is not the factual accuracy of the statement, but rather the way in which Xenophon likes to prove his expertise about Persian things and surprise his Greek readers by contradicting one of their assumptions. This item just strikes me as one of those things that Xenophon, who is knowledgeable about equine matters, had heard something about but that might have surprised most Greeks of his day.
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.
οἷα δὴ παῖς φύσει φιλόστοργος: What is the significance of Cyrus’ “affection”? Is φιλοστοργία an emotion, or tied to the emotion of love somehow?
Cf. Cyrus’ similar behavior at
What is the significance of Astyages’ beauty and Cyrus’ appreciation of his beauty with respect to his father’s?
ὡς δὲ ἀφίκετο τάχιστα καὶ ἔγνω ὁ Κῦρος τὸν Ἀστυάγην τῆς μητρὸς πατέρα ὄντα: Is Xenophon rewriting a happier “recognition scene” to
Herdototus Histories 1.115–116, where it is Astyages who recognizes Cyrus as a portentous threat (cf. especially Ταῦτα λέγοντος τοῦ παιδὸς τὸν Ἀστυάγεα ἐσήιε ἀνάγνωσις αὐτοῦ?
Here Cyrus takes in the physical features of his grandfather rather than vice-versa in
Cyrus also exhibits the same freedom of speaking that he shows in
Herodotus Histories, but here (cf.
Cyropaedia 1.4.3) his chattiness seems to charm.
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 (
Thanks for these references, esp. to the
Hieron (I had missed that fascinating point). It reminds me of Cambyses’ lesson to Cyrus that leaders are actually better at toiling than their followers, “even though they have the same kinds of bodies” (
Cyropaedia 1.6.25). Let it not be doubted that Xenophon was a realist (and a keen observer of the human psyche) when it came to the transformative power of the leadership role, both for the followers (as in your Hieron example) and the leader (as in the Cambyses’ lesson). As to Cyrus’ awareness of the relationship between power and beauty, he seems to know what’s going on between himself and Artabazus at
Cyropaedia 1.4.27-28; at least he’s figured it out by
μυσαττόμενον: What do we know of a Persian tradition of regarding certain foods as polluting?
This is the only instance of this verb in Xenophon. There is only one other usage in the fourth century, by
Antisthenes Fr. 109b.4, who regards not food but pleasure with disgust.
What do we know of Medan eating practices? How likely is it that Xenophon has any valid knowledge of these practices?
Is Xenophon portraying Cyrus as the founder of the Persian practice of using the lavish banquet as a means of showing gratitude and winning the loyalty of followers (as opposed to an indulgence in luxury)?
See Llewellyn-Jones 2010:53–55.
See the fragment of
Heracleides of Cyme Persica (in
Athenaeus 4.145b–146a). Here Heracleides describes the Persian banquet as an opportunity for the king to indulge but to reward his followers in a non-monetary fashion.
What is the relationship between good horsemanship and good leadership?
See Cyrus’ proposal that the Persians become horsemen at
What do horses symbolize for Xenophon and Cyrus?
See the story of the horse race and the Sacian horseman at
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).
What is the relationship between this scene (
Cyropaedia 1.3.8–12) and Ctesias’ presentation of Cyrus as actual wine-pourer (
Ctesias F*8d4–7)? #historigraphy
In both versions the author makes reference to the elegance with which the wine is poured, and Astyages’ observance of this (Gera 1993:157 compares οὐχ ὁρᾷς, φάναι, ὡς καλῶς οἰνοχοεῖ καὶ εὐσχημόνως to ἐπεὶ ἑώρα αὐτὸν Ἀρτεμβάρης εὖ καὶ ἐπιστρεφῶς διακονοῦντα καὶ τὴν φιάλην ἐπιδιδόντα, πυνθάνεται βασιλεὺς Ἀρτεμβάρεω ὁπόθεν εἴη ὁ νεανίσκος.) And in both scenes Cyrus is portrayed as observant (ὥσπερ τὸν Σάκαν ἑώρα) and attentive (καὶ ἦν ἐπιμελής). And in both instances it is by being wine-pourer that Cyrus achieves (or hopes to achieve) greater access to Astyages. By
Cyropaedia 1.4.1 Cyrus seems to have taken over some of Sacas’ role of mediator to the king (cf.
Gera 1993:156–157 notes that Xenophon’s presentation of the Sacas scene, among other things, might be an attempt to “correct” Ctesias’ account, as though to say the legend of the commoner Cyrus playing the role of actual wine-pourer is a mischaracterization of the true Cyrus’ rivalry with the wine-pourer Sacas.
In Xenophon the wine-pourer Sacas seems to perform the double role of pouring the wine and serving as something of a secretary to Astyages by mediating access to him. In Ctesias eunuchs seems to perform some of the latter role. Though a wine-pourer, Cyrus asks a eunuch to tell him the “right time” to ask permission to leave (cf. ὅταν ᾖ καιρὸς,
Why does Xenophon choose this moment as the first to narrate in singulative fashion (the first narrative “scene”)?
This is an excellent question (born from an interesting observation), to which I can only pose a guess: it may be that Xenophon’s source material began with his time among the Medes but contained no accounts of his prior childhood. It is noteworthy, I think, that the Persian education is described without any mention of Cyrus participating in it until he returns from Media. Much of what follows
Cyropaedia 1.3.2 has at least some parallel to what we find in
Herodotus Histories and
Ctesias Persica: e.g., Cyrus being “recognized” by Astyages, Cyrus interacting with his Medan contemporaries, and Cyrus playing the “cupbearer”. If this is what’s going on here, we might begin to induce a general rule that Xenophon’s scenes are not (ever?) fabricated out of nothing but reworking earlier source material.
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.
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)?
φασι … λέγεται: Are these verbs for introducing indirect discourse meant to reflect an actual source for this scene (none are extant), a distinction between appearance and reality, or simply a stylistic device for good story-telling?
παλτὸν: Was there a servant in Medan/Persian culture whose job it was to distribute javelins?
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
μισῶ αὐτόν: Does Xenophon’s diction (and pithy formulation) for Cyrus here (as opposed to the verb phthoneo) suggest an attempt to characterize Cyrus more childishly?
ἄκοντα: Does Mandane exhibit the same leadership principles (here, the willing obedience of the followers) that Xenophon portrays in others?
Note her concern that Cyrus will not learn proper notions of justice by remaining in Media (
συμπαίστορας: This is one of only three instances of this word until the 2nd century CE (according to the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae). Why did Xenophon use it here?
Xenophon has Astyages employing a number of rhetorical strategies seemingly aimed at pleasing the mind of a child. Note the many indefinite adjectives designed to emphasize the grandfather’s desire to satisfy Cyrus’ every wish. And note the term, ὥσπερ οἱ μεγάλοι ἄνδρες, “just like the big boys,” calculated to appeal to Cyrus’ aspirations to adulthood. Perhaps συμπαίστορας is also part of this strategy in that it suggests Astyages is choosing his words very carefully. συμπαίστορας might also remind us of Cyrus’ playmates in
Herodotus Histories 1.114. There the playmates are not the provision of his grandfather, but rather boys of apparently higher station (Cyrus does not know at this point of his royal lineage).
Why does Xenophon neglect to give Cyaxares’ name here?
Discuss this question in a blog post here.
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?
I wonder if there is any tradition in Greek thought that one’s character could sufficiently be established by age 12 or 13, such that the likelihood that the child could resist any form of corruption is significantly greater. Perhaps not, since Xenophon seems to think that the teenage years require the greatest attention (cf. δοκεῖ γὰρ αὕτη ἡ ἡλικία μάλιστα ἐπιμελείας δεῖσθαι,
Cyropaedia 1.2.9). Maybe instead Xenophon is making the a foritiori argument that if Cyrus can resist Medan temptation at the most vulnerable age, then he has proven himself a worthy leader under any circumstance.
See my comment on
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.
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?
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?
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.
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 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.
His reply to the question about who’s the fairest shows considerable charm & finesse. One wonders what his mother was thinking!
γευόμενος δὲ καὶ σύ: How does this “testing scene” relate to Araspas’ later attempts to convince Cyrus to gaze upon Pantheia?
Is Xenophon incorporating the Persian tradition recorded by Herodotus, whereby Persians deliberate while intoxicated and revisit their resolution when sober (
Herodotus Histories 1.133)?
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.
ὥσπερ καὶ αὐτὸς εἰώθει πορεύεσθαι: Is the reference to Astyages’ riding in the pluperfect tense significant?
Liddell and Scott have a note under the word ἔθω “plpf. εἰώθειν, Ion. ἐώθεα, as impf.” but it would be interesting to know how often the pluperfect form has an imperfect sense.
Goodwin 1263 is the best help I can find on this. My first guess was to say that Xenophon, who uses this form most often in the Cyropaedia, by the way, didn’t realize that he was using a pluperfect form and just thought it was the imperfect. My second guess (still a guess, but I think more likely) is in line with Goodwin: in the present ἔθω means something like I am engaged in acting according to one of my habits. As the LSJ points out, it is only used in the present as a participle, i.e., I perform X action in conformity to a prior established habit. The perfect form would mean I have come to have a certain habit. And thus the pluperfect would mean, I have established myself as having a certain habit sometime in the past, and as such, I was regularly/continually behaving with this fixed character in the past (imperfect). As I say, that’s my best guess. I’m sure there are more elegant ways of explaining it.
What other examples of the wise, or wise-cracking, child are there in ancient literature?
Nothing from pagan Greek or Latin literature comes to mind, except perhaps the anecdote about Alexander and Bucephalus, but I wonder if there might be something in the multi-lingual genre of wisdom literature. Our “from the mouth of babes comes truth” seems to be a reworking of New
Testament Matthew 21:16 with its allusion to
Old Testament Psalms 8:3 (which the Vulgate renders as “ex ore infantium et lactantium perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos ut destruas inimicum et ultore). From much later and far away we also have
the story of the young Merlin and the two dragons.
I can think of two pretty good parallels and two lesser ones. The first is the young Artemis on Zeus’ lap listing all the honors she wants him to give her (
Callimachus Hymn to Artemis). The second is Gorgo, daughter of Cleomenes king of Sparta, warning her father not to let Anaxagoras of Miletus bribe him into joining the Ionian Revolt (
Herodotus Histories Histories 5.51). The other two lesser examples are Achilles on Phoenix’ knee in
Iliad 9; or Cupid in Apollonius’
There is a long tradition in American sitcom of a wise-cracking (if not wise) kid, beginning perhaps with
Dennis the Menace and including
Cousin Oliver (“The Brady Bunch”),
Arnold (“Diff’rent Strokes”),
Punky Brewster, and
Rudy (“The Cosby Show”).
Macaulay Culkin in the “Home Alone” series is perhaps the most famous example, though I don’t recall him serving as much of a moral voice). Accordingly, we might expect such a figure to be somewhere in extant or non-extant Greco-Roman comedy, but I can’t really think of any. Pheidippides in
Aristophanes Clouds seems to have a stronger aversion to sophists than his father, but he is hardly a child. Perhaps the role of moralizing wise-cracker is taken up more by the slave, prostitute, or parasite.
I wonder about this tradition in Iranian folklore.
Gorgo is a very good example, and I’ll have to think about the parallels to those Hellenistic scenes.
Shakespeare Macbeth act 4 scene 2 uses Young Macduff this way, and
Bill Waterson Calvin and Hobbes liked to use it. I agree that the next step would be to look into Iranian (and maybe Mesopotamian and Egyptian?) storytelling to see if they have a tradition of wise children. There must be something in the
Shahnameh but I’ve only read part of an abridged translation …
In an instance of accidental wisdom, Ascanius, son of Aeneas, at
Aeneid 7.116 inadvertently points out that the Trojans have fulfilled the prophesy that they would reach their destined land when they ate their very tables (in this case, the cakes on which their food was served).
Similarly to David’s question, how does this relate to the equivalent story in Nicolas of Damascus, Excerpta de Insidiis? Nicolas was a contemporary of Augustus who wrote very prolifically in Greek. In this story Cyrus comes to court as a poor young man and as time passes he becomes a follower of the king’s cupbearer and pours wine for the king’s companions (homotrapezoi). Astyages sees him pour wine and is impressed, so that when his cupbearer becomes old and sick he picks Cyrus to replace him. This passage is considered to be based on either Ctesias or Dinon, but Lenfant, the latest editor of Ctesias, favours Ctesias; its
FGrH 90 F66 [Dinon] and Lenfant
Ctesias F8d*.5-7). An English translation is available in Llewellyn-Jones and Robson 2010.
See Due 1989:138 for a very brief allusion to this passage. In his account of Cunaxa, Xenophon makes it clear that he is, and his readers are expected to be, familiar with
ἐπεὶ δὲ ἔφη τὸ μὲν νόμιμον δίκαιον εἶναι, τὸ δὲ ἄνομον βίαιον: What else does Xenophon have to say about this definition of justice? What do other Classical Athenians have to say?
An excellent treatment of the Two Coats story may be found in Danzig 2009. I argue (Sandridge 2012:64-66) that this scene teaches Cyrus that justice must also include an element of good will toward, or at least consideration for, those that it is being administered to. One illustration of this would be the covenant that Cyrus facilitates between the Armenians and Chaldaeans where he invites them to participate in intermarriage and land-sharing according to what is fitting for each side (the equivalent of the two coats) (cf.
Cyropaedia 3.2.27-24). At
Cyropaedia 4.2.42 and
Cyropaedia 4.5.44-45 Cyrus insists that the Persians’ allies serve as their own arbiters in the proper distribution of spoils, on the understanding that mutual good will will ensure that the process is fair.
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.
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?
Azoulay 2004a (“The Medo-Persian Ceremonial: Xenophon, Cyrus and the King’s Body”) has a lot to say about Cyrus’ use of cosmetics and luxury (truphe) more generally. I’m not sure that anyone has addressed your particular question about the Persian language, at least as far as Cyrus is concerned (I would expect the female to be marked, but I don’t know for sure). One challenge we face is that we don’t know if/how much Persian Xenophon actually knew. The idea of “arrangement” (kosmos) is one very prevalent in Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership, not just of the face and body: Xenophon likes almost everything to be well-ordered and arranged (see Sandridge 2012:73-76), though the make-up of the wife of Ischomachus is often seen as a counter-example (see
Oeconimicus 10.8, and Azoulay 2004a:155).
From the little bit of Old Persian and linguistics I have done, I think its treatment of gender rather resembles Latin or Classical Greek: a masculine/feminine/neuter system with no gender more marked than another (and unlike for example Modern German with forms like masculine “Professor” but feminine “Professorin“). I suspect that when referring to groups of mixed gender the masculine was preferred, but I’m not sure if our corpus is big enough to tell (maybe some of the Old Persian tablets from the Persepolis Fortification and Persepolis Treasury collections that mention groups of workers?) For Achaemenid Persian women in general see M. Brosius 1998. Regrettably, they don’t appear very often in art from the empire, perhaps because high-status women were cloistered, so I’m not aware of evidence for their dress or cosmetics. Real Persophones or women’s historians feel free to correct me!
On the Old Persian language in general, see R. G. Kent 1953 (the standard English-language reference but 60 years old) or Otto Skjærvø “An Introduction to Old Persian” (free online textbook with a warning not to cite it in print without permission).
Is it a normal custom to show gratitude to servants in this way or is Xenophon stating this to show how generous Cyrus is?
Cf. the fragment of
Heracleides of Cumae F2 (c. 350 BCE) in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophistae (145b). Perhaps Xenophon means to say that Cyrus is the founder of this practice.
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.
An excellent source for all things equine is Glenn Bugh 1988 The Horsemen of Athens. David Johnson 2007:177-207 also has an interesting piece on horses and centaurs in TAPA 135, “Persians as Centaurs in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia“. You might also take a look at
Xenophon Cavalry Commander and
Xenophon The Art of Horsemanship. Please share with us your answers to this great question!
What is the significance of the young man as a wine-pourer/cup-bearer?
The most famous example of this phenomenon is the Trojan prince, Ganymede, becoming the cup-bearer of Zeus. Griffith 2001:51 (“Public and Private in Early Greek Education”) notes that in the Cretan andreion (“men’s hall”) boys began their initiation by being wine-servers. For Cyrus as an ambitious wine-pourer in Ctesias, see Sandridge 2012:49-51.
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.
προσιὼν: How much daring is indicated by the fact that Cyrus makes an approach to the fathers of his contemporaries? Is this an instance of Cyrus’ philokindunia?
τοῖς ἡλικιώταις συνεκέκρατο: How does this interaction with his Medan agemates compare with Cyrus in
Herodotus Histories 1.114 who plays the game of “Kings”?
ὑπηρετήσων ὅ τι οἴοιτο χαριεῖσθαι: How does tending to the sickness and injuries of others figure in to the leadership of Cyrus?
More generally, what is the history of the leader-as-healer/physician metaphor?
More specifically, what is the significance of all these forms of “tending”, e.g., being beside the sick person, weeping continually, fearing for the person’s death, being prompt about pleasing the person at all hours of the night?
What is the significance of the fact that Cyrus is caring for Astyages, whom in other versions of the story Cyrus comes to supplant as king of the Medes (but who will later die in Book One and pass the reign to his son, Cyaxares)?
There is a later tradition (Arab and European), for example, of Alexander the Great mourning the dying/dead Darius III as part of his succession to the Pesian throne.
Alexander is also portrayed as a healer, having learned from Aristotle according to
Plutarch Life of Alexander 8.
For a literary account of this scene see the
Alexander Romance 2.20. #reception
Xenophon may be rewriting the story of Cyrus’ rise to power by giving Astyages a different kind of death, i.e., by natural causes. In
Herodotus Histories 1.127–128 Cyrus defeats Astyages in battle (with the help of Harpagus).
Isocrates Evagoras 38 claims that Cyrus murdered Astyages upon taking the throne (an example of his impiety). In his treatment of Cyrus’ rise to power, Briant (citation needed) argues that Cyrus sought to create the impression of a peaceful (and even hereditary) transition to the throne.
Ctesias F*8d.20–22 Cyrus does not show therapeia to Astyages, but instead uses the pretense of needing to care for his own sick father to raise a Persian army against the Medes.
After capturing Astyages he does honor him as a father (
τέλος δὲ καὶ ἣν εἶχε στολὴν τὴν Μηδικὴν ἐκδύντα δοῦναί τινι: We learn in
Cyropaedia 5.1.2 that the recipient of this robe is Araspas, who will later figure heavily into the narrative, as a foil for Cyrus’ restraint against the temptations of love and as a spy on the Armenians. Why does Xenophon neglect to mention his name here? Is Xenophon splitting up a preexisting story or is this one he intentionally invented for the purpose of splitting up? In general why does Xenophon also engage in this practice of neglecting someone’s name in a scene only to reveal it much later, e.g., Cyaxares, Artabazus, and Pantheia? Is Xenophon adopting a technique of story-telling from Iranian folklore?
διὰ τὸ φιλομαθὴς εἶναι πολλὰ μὲν αὐτὸς ἀεὶ τοὺς παρόντας ἀνηρώτα πῶς ἔχοντα τυγχάνοι: To what extent is Cyrus’ natural curiosity later reflected in
Plutarch Life of Alexander 5.1?
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.
The primary source is Darius’ autobiography at Nasht-i Rustam (
DNb). It expresses ideas such as that the king should speak truth and not lies; that he protects the weak and the strong from each other; that he is wise, calm, and self-restrained; that he carefully investigates the truth and then rewards the good and punishes the bad; and that he is powerful in battle. The “help your friends and harm your enemies” ethic is familiar from the Greco-Roman world, and Xenophon’s Cyrus often advocates it (eg.
Cyropaedia 8.7.28) On Persian royal ideology in general, see Briant 1996, Chapter 6. I unfortunately can’t speak to connections to Platonic philosophy, Mesopotamian kingship, or Iranian kingship in general.
Continuing with the line taken by Sean, I don’t think we can expect to find a Persian concept paralleling that of the Greek philosopher king. Rather, in keeping with the assertions made by Darius in his inscriptions that Sean has pointed to, we can wonder about what a Zoroastrian (by which I mean whatever form of early Zoroastrianism Darius and his successors subscribed to) wise king should look like. Bruce Lincoln, in his recent book “Religion, Empire, and Torture,” endeavors to flesh out the ideology of the Achaemenid Empire. He argues, plausibly to my mind, that Darius and his successors claimed that, by conquering the world, they were restoring the perfect and undivided world that Ahuramazda had originally created. The paradises were miniature models of that perfection. It follows that the kings who are engaged in this divinely mandated enterprise must embody wisdom, justice, fairness, self-restraint, etc. – the virtues that Darius is advertising in his inscriptions. Something like this would have been part of the tradition with which the younger Cyrus was familiar, and (picking up on my note in
Cyropaedia 1.1.3) one can easily imagine him “translating” this into Greek language and concepts, and thereby giving Xenophon the opening to make Cyrus into a Greek style philosopher king. (It doesn’t really matter whether Cyrus was actually a Zoroastrian – from the available evidence it appears that Darius created the ideological linkages between religion and Empire – only that Persian tradition from Darius on would have made him into one.)
I like idea of the Achaemenid pursuit of perfect world order influencing Xenophon, who often celebrates eutaxis and euthemosune as a quality shared by governments, armies, and personal estates alike (Dillery 1995:31-35). I look forward to Lincoln’s book; thanks for mentioning it.
Is Xenophon portraying Cyrus as another Odysseus (on a boar-hunt)?
Odyssey 19.392–466. In
Ctesias F9.7 Cyrus is killed by a javelin in the thigh.
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.
Ctesias F*8d26 Astyages hears a prophetic song from a concubine that identifies himself as a lion and Cyrus as a boar.
Athenaeus 14.633d–e relates a similar story.
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.
Are there any extant literary predecessors to Xenophon that deal with these aspects of maturation in childhood? If not, how do we account for Xenophon’s description here (other than perhaps personal experience with his own son, Gryllus)?
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.
What is the significance (as a leadership trait) of Cyrus’ willingness to laugh at himself in failure?
Similarly, how does this relate to other Greek depictions of those who lose competitions, and how losers should behave? By Greek heroic standards Cyrus seems remarkably philosophical about losing.
Could one contrast
Herodotus Histories‘ use of laughter, where a leader’s laughter at others is usually a sign of arrogance and overconfidence which will lead to destruction? See Lateiner 1983.
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.
νομιῶ ὅσα ἂν ἴδω θηρία, ἐμοὶ ταῦτα τρέφεσθαι: Does Cyrus’ passion for hunting outside his grandfather’s garden betray a desire for empire (in whatever form), given that hunting in the Cyropaedia is regarded as preparation for warfare/conquest? If so, what is the nature/basis of this desire and does Xenophon cast the desire for empire in a positive or negative light?
On the other hand, does Cyrus’ passion for going outside also suggest a desire for adventure, a longing to discover all of the world’s wonders and furthermost limits, a passion so often depicted in the
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.
αὐτὸς ἤδη Σάκας ἑαυτῷ ἐγίγνετο: Is this Xenophon’s attempt to explain the alternate version in
Ctesias F8d*5–7, where Cyrus is Astyages’ actual cup-bearer?
See Cook 1983:26 and Gera 1993:156–157.
σὺ γὰρ νῦν γε ἡμῶν ἔοικας βασιλεὺς εἶναι: What is “kingly” about Cyrus’ behavior on the hunt?
Cf. the story of Alexander taming Bucephalus in
Plutarch Life of Alexander 6. Both future kings are portrayed as recklessly daring, insightful, and ambitious at a young age.
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 is the significance of the fact that this is the second time Cyrus has asked for his grandfather’s permission to distribute meats to others?
Is Cyrus’ willingness to give into peer pressure here (which we might describe as a manifestation of his philotimia) a good quality or a bad one for a leader to have?
ὁ μέντοι Ἀστυάγης ἐπεὶ ἔγνω αὐτὸν λυπούμενον ἰσχυρῶς: To what extent is sulking an important (passive-aggressive) leadership trait?
Cf. Alexander sulking in his tent to convince his troops to continue his campaign across the Ganges (
Plutarch Life of Alexander 62).
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 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.
παρακαλοῦντι ὀνομαστὶ ἕκαστον: Why is it important for a leader to know the names of the followers?
Cyropaedia 5.3.46-47 and
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?
I think the hunting analogy is quite apt. Both Cyaxares will make a close analogy between his followers and faithful dogs (
Cyropaedia 5.5.28) and
Isocrates To Nicocles 15 does this as well, using the analogy of the love one has for puppies to the love a leader has for his followers (in both instances it is imagined that the leader takes “delight” in their success). It’s interesting to note how often Cyrus is himself likened to a dog or a puppy in this chapter. Those references to the Cynegeticus give me a much better perspective on the relationship between learning names and leadership. I have typically thought that when a leader learns your name, it’s a sign of respect and consideration, which to some extent I’m sure it is. It also, as here, has the effect of encouraging us to do better. As Xenophon makes clear at Cyropaedia there is a practical advantage to knowing each person’s name and their ability, but it is also a means of inducing shame. Coupled with the examples from the
Cynegeticus, we can see that names give the leader power to command the followers. Here in this scene knowing everyone’s name is, I think, a mark of Cyrus’ affection for his comrades and his sincere desire for their success, but at the same time it is an assertion of dominance.
οὐδ᾽ ὁπωστιοῦν φθονερῶς: What is the significance of phthonos (or its absence) in a leadership context?
What is the point of being vague about Cyrus’ age? (cf.
Note that, as best we can calculate, this was the age of the younger Cyrus when he was sent out to command Persian forces on the Western frontier.
ἐπεθύμησε καὶ αὐτὸς θηρᾶσαι: Is this the same hunt on which Gobryas’ son is lured to the Assyrian king’s palace to marry his daughter and then is enviously murdered by the Assyrian prince (
Cyropaedia 4.6.3–4)? Was there some kind of story of a dual marriage between Gobryas’ and the Assyrian king’s daughter, along with the Assyrian prince and his bride? If so, is Xenophon achieving some kind of surprise by revealing it to his audience later? Is Xenophon splitting up a story he has heard from somewhere else; or did he invent this story intentionally to have separate parts? Also, what kind of contrast is achieved by pairing this hunt with the previous hunt conducted by Cyrus and his comrades?
Cyropaedia 3.1.14 Xenophon mentions that Tigranes used to hunt with Cyrus as a boy. Perhaps he, too, is to be thought of as participating in Cyrus’ hunt above.
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.
What is revealed about Astyages and Cyrus’ qualities as a general in this passage?
What is revealed about Cyaxares and Cyrus’ qualities as a general in this passage?
ὥσπερ δὲ κύων γενναῖος ἄπειρος ἀπρονοήτως φέρεται πρὸς κάπρον: What is the significance of the recurrent metaphor of Cyrus as dog/puppy in this chapter (cf. ὥσπερ σκύλακι γενναίῳ ἀνακλάζοντι,
Cyropaedia 1.4.15; καὶ τὸ σκυλακῶδες τὸ πᾶσιν ὁμοίως προσπίπτειν οὐκέθ᾽ ὁμοίως προπετὲς εἶχεν,
ἑώρα τὸ πρόσωπον τοῦ πάππου ἠγριωμένον ἐπὶ τῇ θέᾳ τῇ αὑτοῦ: What does Cyrus’ behavior reveal about his character? Do we see similar behavior in him elsewhere?
Is there any relation between this story and the story of Leontius, son of Aglaion, who cannot keep from looking at bodies that have been executed at the Piraeus (for which he chastises himself), a story designed to illustrate a distinction between the appetitive and spirited parts of the soul (
Plato Republic 439e–440a)?
ἣν εἶχε στολὴν τὴν Μηδικὴν ἐκδύντα δοῦναί τινι: Does giving away this Medan robe (as his grandfather had given it to him; cf.
Cyropaedia 1.3.3) mark Cyrus as a king/royalty?
What knowledge do we have of Persian pederasty? To what extent is this story a Greek/Xenophontic invention?
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).
σκαρδαμύττω … ἀσκαρδαμυκτί: What is the significance of winking here and the apparently slow passage of time when a lover is away from the beloved? Is this a romantic sentiment from Iranian folklore?
The root appears only once elsewhere in Xenophon, also in an erotic context with kissing (
Xenophon Symposium 4.25), and once in
Euripides Cyclops 626 and
Aristophanes Knights 292, but often in
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?
ὦ παῖδες … ἐθηρῶμεν: What is the significance of Cyrus’ criticism of the Medan paradise?
Is it to point up the degeneracy of the Medan empire (picking up Hirsch’s point at
Cyropaedia 1.4.3 that Achaemenid paradises were meant to be miniature empires) and indeed its very people? Is it to show that Cyrus has outgrown Medan culture? Is it to point up Cyrus’ ambition for greater, more dangerous things (cf. the Alexander and Bucephalus story in
Plutarch Life of Alexander 6)? Is it to suggest that all empires eventually deteriorate, “soft countries breeding soft men” and all?
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!
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?
The thea here, I believe, refers to Cyrus’ act of looking at or gazing upon the dead bodies (cf. ἐθεᾶτο in the previous clause). I hadn’t thought about it much before, but Cyrus seems to be in an Achilles-like rage here (maybe we are to imagine him on the verge of mutilating one of the bodies?). It would seem, though, that the sense of shame he feels at his grandfather’s gaze has some effect on him; I don’t think Cyrus shows any behavior like this afterward. I suggest above that this behavior may be an allusion to a similar scene of gazing at dead bodies in
Plato Republic 439e-440a, but there it seems to be more prompted by a lurid or sexual fascination than a victorious rage.
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.
I adopted “gloat” from Miller‘s translation of this passage, but I think you are right to caution against seeing maliciousness or hubris in Cyrus. He is not so much celebrating in the end-zone as he is circling his prey long after there is any real cause to do so. Yet Cyrus’ rage (μαινόμενον … τῇ τόλμῃ) seems more than youthful enthusiasm (perhaps Achillean, as I suggest above), and Astyages’ anger suggests a response to very bad behavior (not just concern), especially considering how indulgent the grandfather has been to Cyrus thus far. Perhaps “ferocious gazing” is a good translation of thea. In any case it is definitely worth considering this scene with care, as many readers have been bothered by Cyrus’ behavior.
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.
The discussion of enedra in this paragraph brings up trhe topic of whether it is the Persians and Assyrians who so frequently stage ambushes, or was it also Greek practice (something many modern commentators deny is an integral part of Greek warfare). Cf.
Cyropaedia 1.6.35 for the same issue.
ὡς δ᾽ οὐκ ἀπεδίδρασκεν ἐκ τοῦ ἡττᾶσθαι εἰς τὸ μὴ ποιεῖν ὃ ἡττῷτο, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκαλινδεῖτο ἐν τῷ πειρᾶσθαι αὖθις βέλτιον ποιεῖν: How does this fit into Classical Greek debates in general, and early-fourth-century debates in particular, about the relationship between education and aristocratic excellence?
Compare the later discussion when Cyrus proposes to train and arm the Persian commoners like the peers.
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.
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?
To what extent is Xenophon closing Book One by giving an explanation for the decline in the various forms of government that he reflected on at the outset of the work (
Is Cambyses saying that piety (eusebeia) is most essential to the success of any state?
When Xenophon discusses Persian decline in
Cyropaedia 8.8.2, he begins by describing their change in attitude toward the gods (specifically, they no longer take their oaths with others seriously).
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.
ὁ πατὴρ: What do we know of Cyrus’ relationship to his father from other sources? To what extent is Cambyses a “Socratic” figure in this scene?
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).
What I am about to say is obviously part of a larger discussion, but it seems to me that “Socratic” features are so prevalent in the Cyropaedia, in Cambyses, Cyrus, the tutor of Tigranes, and Xenophon himself (especially in the opening sections of
Cyropaedia 1.1), that Xenophon seems to be working with a character type that may or may not be derived from the historical Socrates, but is rather a composite of his own creation. Cf. Gera 1993:26–27.
λόγου τοιοῦδε: What is the proper translation of ‘logos’ in this context? Is it some kind of formal lesson or just a simple conversation?
To what extent are these specific explanations here drawn from Herodotus’ Histories?
Ἑστίᾳ πατρῴᾳ καὶ Διὶ πατρῴῳ: Why does Xenophon single out these gods for Cyrus to pray to?
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?
See a related question on
Why is Cambyses (or, as some critics think, Xenophon) hating on manteis here?
With no obvious editorializing Xenophon has Cyrus work with diviners at
Cyropaedia 3.3.34. This is the only other mention of them I can find in the work.
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.
The following dialogue between Cyrus and his father, Cambyses, has many parallels to the Socratic dialogues depicted in the Memorabilia both in form and content. Nevertheless, the dialogue takes place between a king and son. To what extent is Xenophon capturing a Persian tradition of the king as responsible for preparing his son to be the next ruler (perh. with cognate examples in the
Cyrus also attempts to instruct his sons, Cambyses and Tanaoxres, on his deathbed (
Cyropaedia 8.7.11-17), though
Plato Laws 695a-b faults Cyrus (perhaps not Xenophon’s Cyrus) for allowing his sons to be educated by women and eunuchs rather than educating them himself.
This is the first mention of hunting birds in the Cyropaedia. What is the tradition of doing this in Greek and Persian culture?
Shahnameh (pp. 74-75, Dick Davis translation) prince Zal charms the lovely Rudabeh by shooting a duck in flight with an arrow.
What is the significance of attentiveness (epimeleia) to leadership?
To what extent does Cyrus play the role of physician or healer to his followers?
In what ways does Cyrus carry out his father’s advice to set up contests for his troops?
Where else do we see the principle of “willing obedience” in Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership? How clear is his definition of “willing”?
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.
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
I suspect yes. I’m wondering, too, about the Tigranes’ sophist-tutor in
Cyropaedia 3.1. Presumably he was paid somehow but Xenophon/Cyrus seems perfectly fine with that. Actually, we shouldn’t presume he was paid; I just made that assumption because I have adopted Plato’s definition of a sophist as someone who got paid for his knowledge. I suspect that the term did not always imply that.
How does this passage (
Cyropaedia 1.6.12-15) relate to the similar discussion in Xenophon,
Memorabilia 3.1? Both have a wise man teach a youth that generalship requires knowledge of many skills.
ἀστραπαὶ καὶ βρονταὶ: What are some other references to thunder and lightening being auspicious?
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).
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?
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).
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)
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!
Since the ancients often used soothsayers to decide what the gods wanted them to do militarily, there is a double danger here. First of all, doing your own intelligence gathering is much more reliable than relying on diviners. Secondly, diviners will often tell the decision-maker what he wants to hear (I.e. “cooking intelligence” still a modern problem). Cyrus has been taught to take his own readings, as it were, to avoid at least one of these problems. Ancient commanders do not have the option of ruling out such religious rites altogether,[see
Livy Per. 19] but at least they could eliminate the middle man on occasion.
The treatment of deception and trickery here seems negative, but in a military context, saying that the Spartans were good at this sort of thing means that it was considered good military practice. By Xenophon’s time, the use of trickery, ambush and treachery was so common, no commander could operate an army without training his men in such operations, especially if he were commanding light-armed troops. See Sheldon 2012, Ambush.
Cyropaedia 1.6.32. Deception and surprise had become such a regular part of warfare in the 4th century, that Cyrus is being told that his army may be attacked while they march, eat, sleep, or “answer the call of nature”. Not the noble ideal so often presented for the Greeks.
Xenophon may allude to the dangers of being caught with your pants down (or tunic up, for a Greek) in his account of the Athenian Civil War of 404/403 BCE. When the democrats had seized the fort of Phyle, and the pro-Spartan party had tried and failed to throw them out, the Spartophiles settled down to watch Phyle from a distance. The democrats attacked them at dawn, when they were starting to move around and curry their horses, and routed them (
Xenophon Hellenica. 2.4.6). There is also a brief comment in
Xenophon Constitution of the Lacedaemonians 12.4 that the Spartans were careful not to go too far away from camp and their arms to relieve themselves.
The description of luring the enemy into a trap by false flight is one of the oldest stratagems in warfare. [
Plutarch Crassus 25 is one of the most famous exdamples]. Note that Cyrus is told he will have to invent some new ones of his own. There is no feigned morality (ala
Polybius 13.3.2-6) here.
This is a metaphor for an ambush. One must be trained to find a proper location to set up the operation, to lure the enemy into the trap, and to close the trap. People on such operations must usually work alone. they have to keep their wits about them, and they have to spend (sometimes) long hours waiting for their prey. They must not be given over to cowardice or panic (like the hare).
This is an extended paragraph on the art of intelligence gathering for a commmander. Operating by day or night (the latter being particularly tricky). where to station sentinels (installation security), how to gather geographical intelligence (ravines and rivers), how the enemy is armed and how many of them there are(cavakry ir infantry), finding out the enemy’s plans (by spying?), and even what the enemy is doing against you (counterintelligence). This is a very sophisticated breakdown for an ancient text of what still remains modern practice.
This is an extended paragraph on the art of intelligence gathering for a commmander. Operating by day or night (the latter being particularly tricky). where to station sentinels (installation security), how to gather geographical intelligence (ravines and rivers), how the enemy is armed and how many of them there are(cavakry ir infantry), finding out the enemy’s plans (by spying?), and even what the enemy is doing against you (counterintelligence). This is a very sophisticated breakdown for an ancient text of what still remains modern practice.
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 . . .
Actually, remove the previous comment, it was meant for 43. Here is my comment on 44:Here is another comment on taking the auspices. Although leaders like Caesar and Xenophon did not put much stock in bird calls or gut gazing and preferred real intelligence gathered by their men on the ground, it was never wise to refuse to read the signs or do anything publicly against the auspices. Although a commander might be a non-believer personally, his men may very well have bought into the old superstitions and no sensible commander would want his men going in to a battle thinking they were cursed or had offended gods working against them.
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.
ὅτε τὰ ἄριστα πράττοι: Where else is Xenophon/Cyrus concerned with proper behavior during times of prosperity?
Cf. Cyrus’ concern for the Armenian king’s arrogant behavior while in good fortune (
Cyropaedia 3.1.26). At
Cyropaedia 8.4.14 Gobryas admires the Persians for being able to bear their good fortune with self-control (cf. τἀγαθὰ σωφρόνως φέροντας). At
Cyropaedia 8.7.3 Cyrus thanks the gods that he always thought “human thoughts” in times of prosperity. At
Cyropaedia 8.7.7 Cyrus confesses to having a fear that he might suffer some misfortune, which prevented him from becoming proud or excessively happy.
Are there other instances of a father teaching a son divination?
Alexander Romance 1.14 Alexander asks Nectanebo, the former king of Egypt and birth-father of Alexander (though Alexander does not know it), to teach him astrology so that he may predict the future. This request is merely a pretext by which Alexander may lure Nectanebo into a deserted place and murder him for investigating the affairs of heaven rather than those on earth (ὅτι τὰ ἐπὶ γῆς μὴ ἐπιστάμενος τὰ ἐν οὐρανῷ ἐκζητεῖς). Alexander’s preference seems to derive from Xenophon’s description of Socrates’ preference for questions about human affairs over the nature (phusis) of everything (
Memorabilia 1.1.11-13; cf. Socrates’ frustrated attempts to engage in inquiry about nature, historia phuseos,
Plato Phaedo 96Aff.). #reception
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.
καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος θεῶν ἀνεφαίνετο, οὐδενὸς ἠμέλει: Is this more a comment on Cyrus’ religious tolerance or on his thorough attention to the gods in general?
ἡδόμενοι τῇ εἰρήνῃ: Where else do we see the effects of peace in the Cyropaedia?
ἥδεσθαι τῇ ὑπὸ πάντων τιμῇ: What is the significance of Cyrus’ philotimia here?
τὰς θυγατέρας ἔχουσα καὶ τὸν νεώτερον υἱόν: How consistent is Xenophon about the members of the Armenian king’s family? Perhaps more importantly, why should he feel the need to be consistent? (Cf. τὸν νεώτερον υἱὸν Σάβαριν καὶ … τὰς θυγατέρας,
Where else do we see Cyrus denying gifts and money from others?
What is the tradition of the leader putting money to use as opposed to hoarding it in the ground?
κοσμήσεσθε κάλλιον καὶ ἥδιον τὸν αἰῶνα διάξετε: What is the tradition of spending one’s resources to adorn oneself more beautifully and live a more pleasurable life?
τὸν εὐεργέτην, τὸν ἄνδρα τὸν ἀγαθόν: What is the significance of these titles?
ἕως ἐκ τῆς χώρας ἐξέπεμψαν: How does this escort out of the Armenian territory compare to Cyrus’ departure from Media as a boy (
αὐτὸς δὲ σὺν Τιγράνῃ καὶ Περσῶν τοῖς ἀρίστοις ἐθήρα ὅπουπερ ἐπιτυγχάνοιεν θηρίοις καὶ ηὐφραίνετο: What is the significance of this brief mention of a hunting trip, akin to the ones Cyrus is said to have take with Tigranes in his youth?
αὐτὸς κεκοσμῆσθαι: How does this notion of adornment (kosmos) compare with other examples in the Cyropaedia?
πάντως δὴ ἀναμιμνῃσκώμεθα: Where else do we see Cyrus concerned with proper behavior in prosperity (in this case being mindful of the behavior and virtues that led to prosperity)?
See the question and comment on Cyropaedia 1.6.3.
ἡ πειθὼ καὶ ἡ καρτερία καὶ οἱ ἐν τῷ καιρῷ πόνοι καὶ κίνδυνοι: Where else are these qualities discussed in the Cyropaedia (or in Xenophon)?
What are the differences between philotimia and phthonos in this passage?
Does Cyrus actually need to persuade Cyaxares to invade Assyria? If so, what rhetorical devices does he use in his speech?
αἱ μάχαι κρίνονται μᾶλλον ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἢ ταῖς τῶν σωμάτων ῥώμαις: Where else do we see the sentiment that souls more than strong bodies win battles?
Διὶ βασιλεῖ, ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις θεοῖς: Why is Cyrus praying to Zeus “the king” here? What other gods does he have in mind?
ἥρωας γῆς Μηδίας οἰκήτορας καὶ κηδεμόνας: Who are the heroes of the land of Media and why are they referred to in this way? (Cf. Cyrus’ departure from Persia into Media at
Διὶ πατρῴῳ: Why does Cyrus now make offerings to “paternal” Zeus, when he had just sacrificed to Zeus “the king”?
ἥρωας Ἀσσυρίας οἰκήτορας: Who are the heroes of Assyria?
ὅπερ καὶ νῦν ἔτι ποιοῦσιν οἱ βάρβαροι βασιλεῖς: What other sources do we have for barbarian ditch-digging around a camp?
What other sources do we have for this treatment of horses?
ὁ μὲν Ἀσσύριος καὶ ὁ Κροῖσος: Why does Xenophon use the definite article with the Armenian king and Croesus, then not use it for Cyrus and Cyaxares, but then use it the second time he mentions them in this paragraph?
φοβουμένους: Where else does Xenophon/Cyrus show concern that a leader’s fear may adversely affect the followers (cf.
μηδαμῶς: Where else does Cyrus disagree with Cyaxares? Is there a consistent basis for their different views?
Is the point of this paragraph to contrast Cyrus’ cautiousness with his previous emphasis on haste and speed (tachos)?
ἐστεφανωμένος: This is the first mention of crowns and crowning in the Cyropaedia, for religious purposes or otherwise. Why does Xenophon focus on crowns now and in the following paragraphs?
μάντεις: Why is Xenophon interested in diviners here when he hasn’t discussed them since Cambyses’ remarks at
Cyropaedia 1.6.2 that diviners can be deceptive and unavailable?
Cyropaedia 1.6.23 Cambyses tells Cyrus that by knowing the diviner’s art (mantike) he may become wiser than others; but here Cyrus’ goal seems to be to corroborate his own skill as a seer with the common consensus of other manteis.
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)?
How do the views expressed here, and in the following paragraphs, relate to the investigation Cyrus began at a banquet into the educability of the Persian commoners (
Where else does Xenophon/Cyrus discuss the idea that leading can build better character in the leader?
Cyropaedia 8.1.37 Xenophon says that Cyrus trained himself in self-mastery (enkrateia) and the arts and practices of war by training his followers.
To what extent might Cyrus be attempting to make the upper-class Persian peers feel special and important compared to the newly-introduced Persian commoners (who now have the opportunity to win equal honors and spoils of war)? If he is doing this, does it make him “manipulative”?
τῇ δ᾽ ἡλικίᾳ καὶ φρονιμώτεροι: What age are the Persian commoners? How do we know they are older than the peers?
Where else do we see Cyrus’ views on speaking to the troops collectively versus through a chain of command (cf.
καὶ εἴ τις μαλακίζοιτο, καὶ τοῦτον ὁρῶντες οὐκ ἂν ἐπιτρέποιτε αὐτῷ: Where else do we see this (shaming) role for the rearguard spelled out?
ἄνδρες Ἀσσύριοι: How does the (elder) Assyrian king’s speech compare with those of Cyrus? What values does he articulate? How does he compare here with elsewhere (cf.
Cyropaedia 4.6.5)? What, more generally, does the similarity/lack of similarity between the elder and younger Assyrian kings say about the hereditary nature of virtue and vice in Xenophon?
οἱ μὲν νικῶντες τά τε ἑαυτῶν σῴζουσι: Where else do we see the discussion of consequences in war for the victors and the defeated?
Cyropaedia 2.3.2 Cyrus makes this point in order to persuade his comrades to accept a distribution of spoils according to merit (distributive justice), the point being that since the winner takes it all, so to speak, an army must make winning the priority and thus do everything it can to ensure that everyone fights their best.
Κῦρος ἀπεκρίνατο: Where else do we see Cyrus disagreeing with Cyaxares? What does the disagreement reveal about their respective characters?
Where else does Cyrus engage in psychological warfare, or at least show an awareness of the psychological state of his enemy (cf.
Cyropaedia 3.3.32)? What is the tradition of psychological warfare in ancient Greece or Persia?
Χρυσάντας ὁ Πέρσης: Why does Xenophon feel the need to identify Chrysantas as a Persian? He has already named him nine times (as recently as
Cyropaedia 3.1.5), never calling him “Persian”?
σὺ ἀμείνους ποιήσαις τοὺς στρατιώτας: How does the discussion here fit with other discussions about the (drastic) changeability of human character (cf. the Armenian king, the Chaldaeans, the Persian commoners, even Cyrus himself as a young man).
οὐκ ἂν οὖν τοξότας γε: Where else do we see discussions of moral virtue as a physical/intellectual skill, like spear-throwing, horsemanship, and music?
πρῶτον μὲν νόμους ὑπάρξαι δεῖ τοιούτους: How consistent are Cyrus’ views on the necessity of laws and teachers with those of the traditional Persian education (
Cyropaedia 1.2)? Does Cyrus leave room for the kind of education that Pheraulas claims is available to Persian commoners (