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Xenophon

cyrus, socrates, athenian, history, greek, spartan, persian, phon, chief and xeno

XENOPHON, zi;n't,-fon ( Lat.. from Gk..

Zepo06rv) (c.434-c.355 n.c.). An Athenian torian, soldier and philosophical writer, the son of Gryllus, born near Athens. His own writings and the account in Diogenes LtMrtius are the chief sources for his biography. The legend that Socrates saved his life at Helium in B.C. 424 is incompatible with his representation of himself as quite a young man in 401. Our first authentic glimpse of him is as a disciple of Socrates, at the end of the Peloponnesian War. An opportunity presented itself through his friend Proxenos, a captain of Greek mercenaries, to join or rather accompany the military expedition which Cyrus the Younger was organizing against his brother, Artaxerxes, King of Persia, and Xenophon accepted the invitation. The historic significance of the expedition lies in the exploits of the ten thousand Greek mercenaries of Cyrus's army, who, encompassed by foes and betrayed by friends, after the assassination by Persian treachery of all their chief officers, made their way from the heart of a hostile empire to the shores of the Black Sea and so back to the Bos porus, thus• demonstrating the weakness of the Persian colossus and preparing Greek public opinion for the conquests of Alexander. The history of the expedition is given in detail by Xenophon in his Anabasis (q.v.) or march up of Cyrus, which in its last six books is rather a Catahasis or march down of the ten thou sand. Xenophon takes virtual command and throughout plays the leading ride, but the work was published some thirty years after the events, and we have no means of verifying his state ments. On reaching the Hellespont (399) Xeno phon and the Cyrenians, after some more nr less creditable adventures, entered the service of the Spartan Thibron and his successor Dercyllidas against the Persian satraps of Asia Minor. Be cause of this or his partieipation in the expedi tion of Cyrus the Athenians passed a decree of banishment against him. We next find Xeno phon in the camp of the Spartan King Agesilaus, who in 396 went out to infuse new vigor into the war against the satraps. When the Corinthian War summoned Agesilaus back to Greece Xeno phon accompanied him and was present as an eye witness, if not as a participant, at the battle of Coronea, in which the Spartan King defeated the allied Theban and Athenian forces (394). After a few years' residence at Sparta the Spartans be stowed upon him an estate on the road to Olym pia in territory taken from Ells. Here he spent the next sixteen years in the pursuits of litera ture and the chase. Here his two sons grew to manhood, and here his chief works were written.

The defeat of the Spartans by the Thebans at Leuctra in 371 emboldened the Eleians to repel the Spartan protege; but though the Athenians, now friendly to Sparta, repealed the decree of banishment, and though he sent his son Gryllus with the Athenian cavalry at Mantinea, Xeno phon did not himself return to Athens, but made his home at Corinth, where he died about the year 355.

Besides the Anabasis. Xenophon's chief works are: (1) The so-called Memorabilia, or recollec tions of Socrates and Socratic conversations. This was probably called forth by the declama tion against Socrates of the Sophist Polycrates (about 394). After ten years of campaigning and adventure Xenophon cold not possibly have remembered the details which he professes to give, and a comparison with his other writings shows that much of the material of the book is Xenophontic rather than Socratic. Especially famous are the chapters on the evidences of de sign in nature, and the apologue of the choice of flunkies, borrowed, so Xenophon tells us, from the Sophist Prodieus. Complementary to the Memorabilia are the representation of Socrates's table talk in the Symposium or Banquet, the relation of which to Plato's Symposium is much debated, and the CEconomieus or dialogue on the management of a house and family, often quoted for its pleasing picture of the young Greek wife and her education by her husband. (2) The Hellenica begins abruptly in 411, as a continuation of Thueydides's unfinished history of the Peloponnesian War. The first two books bring the story to the overthrow of the `thirty' in 403. The last five hooks, composed later, are a general sketch of the history of Greece to the battle of .11antinea in 362. An al lusion to the death of Alexander of Pherw dates the publication after 357. The work suffers by contrast with the philosophic history of Thucy dides and has been severely censured for lack of just proportion. particularly to Sparta, and fail ure to appreciate the greatness of the Theban Epaminondas. (3) The Cyroptedia, or education of Cyrus. is a philosophical romance embodying in the person of Cyrus the Elder, the founder of the Persian Empire. Xenophon's favorite notions of the sound training of mind and body and the art of commanding men and winning willing obedience. It is quite unreadable as a whole. but the love story of the wedded pair Abradates and Pauthea and the speech of Cyrus on the immortality of the soul are often Minor works are the Laredo-monion Po/ity, the laudatory biography of Agcsila us, the tract on the R'un's of Athens, the Mem. or dialogue on Tyranny, the (probably spurious) Apology of Socrat(s, and the special treatises on Horseman ship, The chase, and the Duties of a Cavalry Of Xunoplion is the perfect amateur. As soldier, orator, philosopher, essayist, historian. he rives 11. the ineasnre of the ability and versatility of an Athenian gentleman of extraordinary talent, but not of genius. Ile writes a simple unaf fected style, but is not nicely scrupulous for the purity of Attic idiom or vocabulary.

Xenophon may be read in Teuhner texts, or in the edition of Sauppe (Leipzig, 1867-70). School editions abound, especially of the Aim basis and the Memorabilia. There is a good transla tion by Dakyns (London, 1390 et seq.).