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Xenophon

Birthdate: 430 BC
Date of death: 354 BC
Other names: Xenofon

Xenophon of Athens was an ancient Greek philosopher, historian, soldier, mercenary, and student of Socrates. As an historian, Xenophon is known for recording the history of his contemporary time, the late-5th and early-4th centuries BC, in such works as the Hellenica, about the final seven years and the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War ; as such, the Hellenica is a thematic continuation of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. As one of the Ten Thousand , he also participated in Cyrus the Younger's failed campaign to claim the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes II of Persia and recounted the events in Anabasis, his most notable history. Like Plato , Xenophon is an authority on Socrates, about whom he wrote several books of dialogues and an Apology of Socrates to the Jury, which recounts the philosopher's trial in 399 BC.

Despite being an Athenian citizen, born to Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, Xenophon was also associated with the city-state of Sparta, the traditional enemy of Athens'. His pro-oligarchic politics, military service under Spartan generals, in the Persian campaign and elsewhere, and his friendship with King Agesilaus II endeared Xenophon to the Spartans; some of his works have an admiring pro–Spartan bias, especially the royal biography Agesilaus and the Constitution of the Spartans.

Xenophon's works span several genres and are written in plain-language Attic Greek, for which reason they serve as translation exercises for contemporary students of the Ancient Greek language. In the Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laërtius observed that, as a writer, Xenophon of Athens was known as the “Attic Muse”, for the sweetness of his diction .

Works

Cyropaedia
Xenophon
Anabasis
Anabasis
Xenophon
Symposium
Xenophon
Hiero
Hiero
Xenophon

„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.“

—  Xenophon, book Cyropaedia

Bk. 1, ch. 6; as translated by Henry Graham Dakyns in Cyropaedia (2004) p. 29.
Cyropaedia, 4th Century BC
Context: 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.

„Anything forced is not beautiful“

—  Xenophon

Source: The Art of Horsemanship

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„The most delightful of all music, that of your own praises.“

—  Xenophon, book Hiero

Hiero, ch. 3, as translated by Richard Graves in The Whole Works of Xenophon (1832) p. 626).

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

—  Xenophon

Memorabilia of Socrates Bk. 1, ch. 2, as translated by Sarah Fielding in The Whole Works of Xenophon (1840), p. 523.
Context: 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?

„On making prisoners of our generals, they expected that we should perish from want of direction and order.“

—  Xenophon, book Anabasis

Bk. 3, ch. 2; pp. 88-89.
Anabasis
Context: 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.

„On the very day that such resolution is passed, they will see before them ten thousand Clearchuses instead of one.“

—  Xenophon, book Anabasis

Bk. 3, ch. 2; pp. 88-89.
Anabasis
Context: 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.

„Every one of you is the leader.“

—  Xenophon

Quoted in Edith Hamilton The Greek Way ([1930] 1993) p. 134.

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