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Xenophon, Greek historian

Xenophon (Ancient Greek Ξενοφῶν, Xenophōn; Modern Greek Ξενοφών, Ksenofon; Ξενοφώντας, Ksenofontas; ca. 430 - 354 BC), son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a soldier, mercenary, and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates. He is known for his writings on the history of his own times, the 4th century BC, preserving the sayings of Socrates, and the life of ancient Greece.

Contents

Life and writings

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Soldier of fortune

Xenophon's birth date is uncertain, but most scholars agree that he was born around 431 BC near the city of Athens[1]. Xenophon was born into the ranks of the upper classes, thus granting him access to certain privileges of the aristocracy of ancient Attica. While a young man, Xenophon participated in the expedition led by Cyrus the Younger against his older brother, the emperor Artaxerxes II of Persia, in 401 BC. Xenophon writes that he had asked the veteran Socrates for advice on whether to go with Cyrus, and that Socrates referred him to the divinely inspired Delphic oracle. Xenophon's query to the oracle, however, was not whether or not to accept Cyrus' invitation, but "to which of the gods he must pray and do sacrifice, so that he might best accomplish his intended journey and return in safety, with good fortune." The oracle answered his question and told him to which gods to pray and sacrifice. When Xenophon returned to Athens and told Socrates of the oracle's advice, Socrates chastised him. Socrates did not approve of Xenophon's decision and responded to him by giving his love to Plato and his other students who did not disrespect him.

Route of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand

Under the pretext of fighting Tissaphernes, Cyrus assembled a massive army composed of native Persian soldiers, but also a large number of Greeks. Prior to waging war against the emperor, Cyrus proposed that the enemy was the Pisidians, and so the Greeks were unaware that they were to battle against the larger army of King Artaxerxes II. At Tarsus the soldiers became aware of Cyrus' plans to dispose of the king, and as a result refused to continue. Clearchus, however, convinced the Greeks to continue with the expedition. The army of Cyrus met the army of Artaxerxes II in the Battle of Cunaxa. Despite effective fighting by the Greeks, Cyrus was killed in the battle. Shortly thereafter, the Greek general Clearchus of Sparta was invited to a peace conference, where, alongside four other generals and many captains, he was betrayed and executed. The mercenaries, known as the Ten Thousand, found themselves without leadership far from the sea, deep in hostile territory near the heart of Mesopotamia. They elected new leaders, including Xenophon himself, and fought their way north through hostile Persians, Armenians, and Kurds to Trapezus on the coast of the Black Sea. They then made their way westward back to Greece. Once there, they helped Seuthes II make himself king of Thrace, before being recruited into the army of the Spartan general Thibron.

Xenophon's book Anabasis ("The Expedition" or "The March Up Country") is his record of the entire expedition against the Persians and the journey home. It is worth noting that the Anabasis was used as a field guide by Alexander the Great during the early phases of his expedition into Persia.

Exile and death

Xenophon was later exiled from Athens, most likely because he fought under the Spartan king Agesilaus II against Athens at Coronea. (However, there may have been contributory causes, such as his support for Socrates, as well as the fact that he had taken service with the Persians.) The Spartans gave him property at Scillus, near Olympia in Elis, where he composed the Anabasis. However, because his son Gryllus fought and died for Athens at the Battle of Mantinea while Xenophon was still alive, Xenophon's banishment may have been revoked. Xenophon died in either Corinth or Athens. His date of death is uncertain; historians only know that he survived his patron Agesilaus II, for whom he wrote an encomium. Xenophon had a fond love of Athens but didn't believe in its political morals, which leads us to believe that he was an oligarch.

Legacy

Diogenes Laertius states that Xenophon was sometimes known as the "Attic Muse" for the sweetness of his diction; very few poets wrote in the Attic dialect. Xenophon is often cited as being the original "horse whisperer", having advocated sympathetic horsemanship in his "On Horsemanship".

Xenophon's standing as a political philosopher has been defended in recent times by Leo Strauss, who devoted a considerable part of his philosophic analysis to the works of Xenophon, returning to the high judgment of Xenophon as a thinker expressed by Shaftesbury, Winckelmann, and Machiavelli.

Ponting (1991) cites Xenophon as one of the first thinkers to argue that the ordered world must have been conceived by a God or gods.[2] Xenophon's Memorabilia poses the argument that all animals are "only produced and nourished for the sake of humans" (Ponting, 1991 p. 142[2]) and Ponting argues that this reasoning is not undermined until the emergence of scientific thought and Darwinian evolution in the nineteenth century.[2] Though he spent much of his life in Athens, Xenophon's involvement in Spartan politics (he was a close associate of King Agesilaus II) has led to him being closely associated with the city.

List of works

Xenophon's writings, especially the Anabasis, are often read by beginning students of the Greek language. His Hellenica is a major primary source for events in Greece from 411 to 362 BC, and is considered to be the continuation of The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, going so far as to begin with the phrase "Following these events...". The Hellenica recounts the last seven years of the Peloponnesian war, as well as its aftermath. His Socratic writings, preserved complete, along with the dialogues of Plato, are the only surviving representatives of the genre of Sokratikoi logoi.

Historical and biographical works

Socratic works and dialogues

Short treatises

In addition, a short treatise on the Constitution of Athens exists that was once thought to be by Xenophon, but which was probably written when Xenophon was about five years old. This is found in manuscripts among the short works of Xenophon, as though he had written it also. The author, often called in English the "Old Oligarch", detests the democracy of Athens and the poorer classes, but he argues that the Periclean institutions are well designed for their deplorable purposes. Leo Strauss has argued that this work is in fact by Xenophon, whose ironic posing he believes has been utterly missed by contemporary scholarship.

In popular culture

Anabasis was the (loosely-adapted) basis for Sol Yurick's novel The Warriors, which was later adapted into a 1979 cult movie of the same name, and finally a Rockstar Games video game in 2005. Each re-imagining relocates Xenophon's narrative to the gang scene of New York. After a gang meeting ends with a murder, the falsely accused Warriors gang have to get home to Coney Island by traveling through territory controlled by hostile gangs who include The Lizzies (Sirens), The Baseball (Furies), The Orphans and The Turnbull A.C.s.[3]

Michael Curtis Ford's first novel, The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece, follows Xenophon's doomed march with Cyrus and also narrates the beginning of his life as an Athenian.

Notes

  1. ^ "Xenophon". Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/650658/Xenophon. Retrieved 21 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Ponting, C. A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilisations, Penguin: New York
  3. ^ Xenophon, Hellenica - A History of My Times: Books I-VII Complete, El Paso Norte Press, 2009 ISBN 1-93-4255-14-9.

References and further reading

  • Bradley, Patrick J. "Irony and the Narrator in Xenophon's Anabasis", in Xenophon. Ed. Vivienne J. Gray. Oxford University Press, 2010 (ISBN13: 978-0-19-921618-5; ISBN10: 0-19-921618-5).
  • Anderson, J.K. Xenophon. London: Duckworth, 2001 (paperback, ISBN 1-85399-619-X).
  • Xénophon et Socrate: actes du colloque d'Aix-en-Provence (6-9 novembre 2003). Ed. par Narcy, Michel and Alonso Tordesillas. Paris: J. Vrin, 2008. 322 p. (Bibliothèque d'histoire de la philosophie. Nouvelle série, ISBN 9782711619870.
  • Dillery, John. Xenophon and the History of His Times. London; New York: Routledge, 1995 (hardcover, ISBN 0-415-09139-X).
  • Evans, R.L.S. "Xenophon" in The Dictionary of Literary Biography: Greek Writers. Ed.Ward Briggs. Vol. 176, 1997.
  • Gray, V.J. "The Years 375 to 371 BC: A Case Study in the Reliability of Diodorus Siculus and Xenophon, The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2. (1980), pp. 306–326.
  • Higgins, William Edward. Xenophon the Athenian: The Problem of the Individual and the Society of the "Polis". Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977 (hardcover, ISBN 0-87395-369-X).
  • Hirsch, Steven W. The Friendship of the Barbarians: Xenophon and the Persian Empire. Hanover; London: University Press of New England, 1985 (hardcover, ISBN 0-87451-322-7).
  • Hutchinson, Godfrey. Xenophon and the Art of Command. London: Greenhill Books, 2000 (hardcover, ISBN 1-85367-417-6).
  • The Long March: Xenophon and the Ten Thousand, edited by Robin Lane Fox. New Heaven, Connecticut; London: Yale University Press, 2004 (hardcover, ISBN 0-300-10403-0).
  • Moles, J.L. "Xenophon and Callicratidas", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 114. (1994), pp. 70–84.
  • Nadon, Christopher. Xenophon's Prince: Republic and Empire in the "Cyropaedia". Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 2001 (hardcover, ISBN 0-520-22404-3).
  • Nussbaum, G.B. The Ten Thousand: A Study in Social Organization and Action in Xenophon's "Anabasis". (Social and Economic Commentaries on Classical Texts; 4). Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1967.
  • Phillips, A.A & Willcock M.M. Xenophon & Arrian On Hunting With Hounds, contains Cynegeticus original texts, translations & commentary. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd., 1999 (paperback ISBN 0-85668-706-5).
  • Rahn, Peter J. "Xenophon's Developing Historiography", Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 102. (1971), pp. 497–508.
  • Rood, Tim. The Sea! The Sea!: The Shout of the Ten Thousand in the Modern Imagination. London: Duckworth Publishing, 2004 (paperback, ISBN 0-7156-3308-2); Woodstock, New York; New York: The Overlook Press, (hardcover, ISBN 1-58567-664-0); 2006 (paperback, ISBN 1-58567-824-4).
  • Strauss, Leo. Xenophon's Socrates. Ithaca, New York; London: Cornell University Press, 1972 (hardcover, ISBN 0-8014-0712-5); South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustines Press, 2004 (paperback, ISBN 1-58731-966-7).
  • Stronk, J.P. The Ten Thousand in Thrace: An Archaeological and Historical Commenary on Xenophon's Anabasis, Books VI, iii–vi – VIII (Amsterdam Classical Monographs; 2). Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1995 (hardcover, ISBN 90-5063-396-X).
  • Usher, S. "Xenophon, Critias and Theramenes", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 88. (1968), pp. 128–135.
  • Waterfield, Robin. Xenophon's Retreat: Greece, Persia and the End of the Golden Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-674-02356-0); London: Faber and Faber, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 978-0571223831).
  • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, translated by Walter Miller. Harvard University Press, 1914, ISBN 978-0-674-99057-9, ISBN 0-674-99057-9 (books 1-5) and ISBN 978-0-674-99058-6, ISBN 0-674-99058-7 (books 5-8).

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

It is only for those to employ force who possess strength without judgment; but the well advised will have recourse to other means.

Xenophon (c. 431 BC – c. 355 BC) was an Athenian author, historian and mercenary, who led the epic retreat of the Ten Thousand from Mesopotamia to the Black Sea coast. He knew Socrates, Cyrus the Younger and Agesilaus II of Sparta, and wrote about all of them.

Sourced

  • It is only for those to employ force who possess strength without judgment; but the well advised will have recourse to other means. Besides, he who pretends to carry his point by force hath need of many associates; but the man who can persuade knows that he is himself sufficient for the purpose; neither can such a one be supposed forward to shed blood; for, who is there would choose to destroy a fellow citizen rather than make a friend of him by mildness and persuasion?
  • The most delightful of all music, that of your own praises.
  • There is small risk a general will be regarded with contempt by those he leads, if, whatever he may have to preach, he shows himself best able to perform.
    • The Cavalry General, ch. 6, trans. Henry Graham Dakyns (The Cavalry General (2004) p. 26).
  • As to what happened next, it is possible to maintain that the hand of heaven was involved, and also possible to say that when men are desperate no one can stand up to them.
  • That…is the road to the obedience of compulsion. But there is a shorter way to a nobler goal, the obedience of the will. When the interests of mankind are at stake, they will obey with joy the man whom they believe to be wiser than themselves. You may prove this on all sides: you may see how the sick man will beg the doctor to tell him what he ought to do, how a whole ship’s company will listen to the pilot.
    • Cyropaedia, Bk. 1, ch. 6; trans. Henry Graham Dakyns (Cyropaedia (2004) p. 29).
  • If the campaign is in summer the general must show himself greedy for his share of the sun and the heat, and in winter for the cold and the frost, and in all labours for toil and fatigue. This will help to make him beloved of his followers.
    • Cyropaedia, Bk. 1, ch. 6; trans. Henry Graham Dakyns (Cyropaedia (2004) p. 31).
  • Every one of you is the leader.

Anabasis

Quotations are cited from the 1854 translation of Anabasis by John Selby Watson
  • On making prisoners of our generals, they expected that we should perish from want of direction and order. It is incumbent, therefore, on our present commanders to be far more vigilant than our former ones, and on those under command to be far more orderly, and more obedient to their officers, at present than they were before…On the very day that such resolution is passed, they will see before them ten thousand Clearchuses instead of one.
    • Bk. 3, ch. 2; pp. 88-89.
  • But if any other course, in any one's opinion, be better than this, let him, even though he be a private soldier, boldly give us his sentiments; for the safety, which we all seek, is a general concern.
    • Bk. 3, ch. 2; p. 89.
  • Yet is it more honourable, and just, and upright, and pleasing, to treasure in the memory good acts than bad.
    • Bk. 5, ch. 8; p. 179.

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Wiktionary

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

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Etymology

From Ancient Greek Ξενοφῶν (Ksenophōn).

Proper noun

Singular
Xenophon

Plural
-

Xenophon

  1. Athenian historian and philosopher born 427 BCE and author of the Anabasis and Memorabilia. He was a pupil of Socrates and became a general during the Persian wars.

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