From Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898) By Harry Thurston Peck
An Athenian, the son of one Gryllus, born about B.C. 444. In his early life he was a pupil of Socrates; but the turningpoint in his career came when he decided to serve in the Greek contingent raised by Cyrus against Artaxerxes in 401. Xenophon himself mentions ( Anab.iii. 1) the circumstances under which he joined this army. Proxenus, a friend of Xenophon, was already with Cyrus, and he invited Xenophon to come to Sardis, and promised to introduce him to the Persian prince. Xenophon consulted his master, Socrates, who advised him to consult the oracle of Delphi, as it was a hazardous matter for him to enter the service of Cyrus, who was considered to be the friend of the Lacedaemonians and the enemy of Athens.
Xenophon went to Delphi, but he did not ask the god whether he should go or not: he probably had made up his mind. He merely inquired to what gods he should sacrifice in order that he might be successful in his intended enterprise. Socrates was not satisfied with his pupil's mode of consulting the oracle, but as he had got an answer, he told him to go; and Xenophon went to Sardis, which Cyrus was just about to leave. He accompanied Cyrus into Upper Asia. In the battle of Cunaxa (B.C. 401) Cyrus lost his life, his barbarian troops were dispersed, and the Greeks were left alone on the wide plains between the Tigris and the Euphrates.
It was after the treacherous massacre of Clearchus and others of the Greek commanders by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes that Xenophon came forward. He had held no command in the army of Cyrus, nor had he, in fact, served as a soldier, yet he was elected one of the generals, and took the principal part in conducting the Greeks in their memorable retreat along the Tigris over the high table-lands of Armenia to Trapezus (Trebizond) on the Black Sea. From Trapezus the troops were conducted to Chrysopolis, which is opposite to Byzantium. The Greeks were in great distress, and some of them under Xenophon entered the service of Seuthes, king of Thrace.
As the Lacedaemonians under Thimbron, or Thibron, were now at war with Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus, Xenophon and his troops were invited to join the army of Thimbron, and Xenophon led them back out of Asia to join Thimbron. Xenophon, who was very poor, made an expedition into the plain of the Cacus with his troops before they joined Thimbron, to plunder the house and property of a Persian named Asidates. The Persian, with his women, children, and all his movables, was seized, and Xenophon, by this robbery, replenished his empty pockets ( Anab.vii. 8 Anab., 23). He tells the story himself, and is evidently not at all ashamed of it.
In other ways also he showed himself the prototype of an adventurous leader of condottieri, with no ties of country or preference of nationality. He formed a scheme for establishing a town with the Ten Thousand on the shores of the Euxine; but it fell through. He joined the Spartans, as has been seen, and he continued in their service even when they were at war with Athens. Agesilas, the Spartan, was commanding the Lacedaemonian forces in Asia against the Persians in 396, and Xenophon was with him at least during part of the campaign.
When Agesilas was recalled (394), Xenophon accompanied him, and he was on the side of the Lacedaemonians in the battle which they fought at Coronea (394) against the Athenians. As a natural consequence a decree of exile was passed against him at Athens. It seems that he went to Sparta with Agesilas after the battle of Coronea, and soon after he settled at Scillus in Elis, not far from Olympia, a spot of which he has given a description in the Anabasis (v. 3, 7). Here he was joined by his wife, Philesia, and his children. His children were educated in Sparta.
Xenophon was now a Lacedaemonian so far as he could become one. His time during his long residence at Scillus was employed in hunting, writing, and entertaining his friends; and perhaps the Anabasis and part of the Hellenica were composed here. The treatise on hunting and that on the horse were probably also written during this time, when amusement and exercise of this kind formed part of his occupation. On the downfall of the Spartan supremacy, at Leuctra in 371, Xenophon was at last expelled from his quiet retreat at Scillus by the Eleans, after remaining there about twenty years.
The sentence of banishment from Athens was repealed on the motion of Eubulus, but it is uncertain in what year. There is no evidence that Xenophon ever returned to Athens. He is said to have retired to Corinth after his expulsion from Scillus, and as we know nothing more, we assume that he died there.
In the battle of Mantinea (B.C. 362) the Spartans and the Athenians were opposed to the Thebans, and Xenophon's two sons, Gryllus and Diodorus, fought on the side of the allies. Gryllus fell in the same battle in which Epaminondas lost his life. The events alluded to in the epilogue to the Cyropaedia (viii. 8, 4) show that the epilogue at least was written after 362. The time of his death, for reasons given above, seems to have been later than 357.
The following is a list of Xenophon's works: (1) The Anabasis, a history of the expedition of the Younger Cyrus, and of the retreat of the Greeks who formed part of his army. It is divided into seven books. As regards the title it will be noticed that under the name The March Up (i. e. inland from the coast of Cunaxa) is included also the much longer account of the return march down to the Euxine. This work has immortalized Xenophon's name. It is a clear and fascinating narrative, written in a simple style, free from affectation, and giving a great deal of curious information on the country which was traversed by the retreating Greeks, and on the manners of the people.
It was the first work which made the Greeks acquainted with some portions of the Persian Empire, and it showed the weakness of that extensive monarchy. The skirmishes of the retreating Greeks with their enemies, and the battles with some of the barbarian tribes, are not such events as elevate the work to the character of a military history, nor can it as such be compared with Caesar's Commentarii.
There is no weight whatever in the argument that, because Xenophon (Hellen. iii. 1, 2) speaks of the expedition of Cyrus as having been related by Themistogenes, the Anabasis is therefore not Xenophon's work. The statement can be explained either on the theory that Xenophon speaks of his own work under a fictitious name (which was possibly the case also with the Oeconomicus), or, more simply, by supposing that another account was actually written by Themistogenes. It is known that a separate account was written by Sophaenetus, and there may have been others. If the latter theory be correct, it would be a natural inference that Xenophon's Anabasis was written after the third book of the Hellenica.
(2) The Hellenica of Xenophon is divided into seven books, and covers the forty-eight years from the time when the History of Thucydides ends to the battle of Mantinea (B.C. 362).
The Hellenica is generally a dry narrative of events, and there is nothing in the treatment of them which gives a special interest to the work. Some events of importance are briefly treated, but a few striking incidents are presented with some particularity. The Hellenica was not written at one time. Differences are traced between the first two and the later books as regards the arrangement, which in the earlier books is year by year, while, in the later, events growing out of one another are grouped together; and, as regards political sentiment, in the diminished admiration for Sparta which appears in the last three books. It is clear that book vi. was written after 357, since it mentions the death of Alexander of Pherae (vi. 4, 35); but the first four books were probably written a good deal earlier.
(3) The Cyropaedia, in eight books, is a kind of political romance, the basis of which is the history of the Elder Cyrus, the founder of the Persian monarchy. It shows how citizens are to be made virtuous and brave; and Cyrus is the model of a wise and good ruler. As a history it has no authority at all. Xenophon adopted the current stories as to Cyrus and the chief events of his reign, without any intention of subjecting them to a critical examination; nor have we any reason to suppose that his picture of Persian morals and Persian discipline is anything more than a fiction. Xenophon's object was to represent what a State might be, and he placed the scene of his fiction far enough off to give it the colour of possibility. His own philosophical notions and the usages of Sparta were the real materials out of which he constructed his political system. The Cyropaedia is evidence enough that Xenophon did not like the political constitution of his own country, and that a wellordered monarchy or kingdom appeared to him preferable to a democracy like Athens.
(4) The Agesilas is a panegyric on Agesilas II., king of Sparta, the friend of Xenophon. The genuineness is disputed, not without reason, and a recent critic holds it to be the work of a young rhetorician of the school of Isocrates.
(5) The Hipparchicus is a treatise on the duties of a commander of cavalry, and it contains many military precepts.
(6) The De Re Equestri, a treatise on the horse, was written after the Hipparchicus, to which treatise he refers at the end of the treatise on the horse. This essay is not limited to horsemanship as regards the rider: it shows how a man is to avoid being cheated in buying a horse, how a horse is to be trained, and the like.
(7) The Cynegeticus is a treatise on hunting; and on the dog, and the breeding and training of dogs; on the various kinds of game, and the mode of taking them. It is a treatise written by a genuine sportsman who loved the exercise and excitement of the chase, and it may be read with pleasure by a sportsman of the present day. (8, 9) The Respublica Lacedaemoniorum and Respublica Atheniensium, the two treatises on the Spartan and Athenian States, were both ascribed to Xenophon, but the Respublica Atheniensium is certainly not by his hand. It was written by some one of the oligarchical party, and possibly it is right to date it as early as 420, and therefore to regard it as the earliest Attic prose work. On the other hand, a modern critic of Xenophon (Hartmann) believes it to be by a later writer compiling from Xenophon, Aristophanes, and other sources of information. The same critic denies the genuineness of the Resp. Laced., which is more generally accepted.
(10) The De Vectigalibus, a treatise on the Revenues of Athens, is designed to show how the public revenue of Athens may be improved.
(11) The Memorabilia of Socrates, in four books , was written by Xenophon to defend the memory of his master against the charge of irreligion and of corrupting the Athenian youth. Socrates is represented as holding a series of conversations, in which he develops and inculcates his moral doctrines. It is entirely a practical work, such as we might expect from the practical nature of Xenophon's mind, and it professes to exhibit Socrates as he taught. It is true that it may exhibit only one side of the Socratic argumentation, and that it does not deal in subtleties of philosophy. Xenophon was a hearer of Socrates, an admirer of his master, and anxious to defend his memory. The charges against Socrates for which he suffered were, that Socrates was guilty of not believing in the gods which the State believed in, and introducing other new daemons (da?µ???a): he was also guilty of corrupting the youth.
Xenophon replies to these two charges specifically, and he then goes on to show what Socrates' mode of life was. The whole treatise is intended to be an answer to the charge for which Socrates was executed, and it is therefore, in its nature, not intended to be a complete exhibition of Socrates. That it is a genuine picture of the man is indisputable, and its value therefore is very great.
(12) The Apology of Socrates is a short speech, containing the reasons which induced Socrates to prefer death to life. It is not one of the author's best works, and was possibly a rhetorical exercise much later than Xenophon.
(13) The Symposium, or Banquet of Philosophers, in which Xenophon delineates the character of Socrates. The speakers are supposed to meet at the house of Callias, a rich Athenian, at the celebration of the Great Panathenaea. Socrates and others are the speakers. The piece is interesting as a picture of an Athenian drinking-party, and of the amusement and conversation with which it was diversified. The nature of love and friendship is discussed. It is probable that Plato wrote his Symposium later, to some extent as a corrective.
(14) The Hiero is a dialogue between King Hiero and Simonides, in which the king speaks of the dangers and difficulties incident to an exalted station, and the superior happiness of a private man. The poet, on the other hand, enumerates the advantages which the possession of power gives, and the means which it offers of obliging and doing services.
(15) The Oeconomicus is an excellent treatise in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Critobulus, in which Socrates gives instruction in the art called economic, which relates to the administration of a household and of a man's property.
In language as well as in politics, Xenophon was a cosmopolitan. His long residence in other lands resulted in his losing or abandoning pure Attic: he admits words from all dialects; hence he cannot be adduced as an authority for strict Attic usage, and it has been well shown by abundant instances that his diction is in many respects an anticipation of the common dialect of the Macedonian period.
Of each of Xenophon's treatises there are from thirty to forty manuscripts. Of the Anabasis, the best is a Codex Parisinus (No. 1640), and dating from the fourteenth century. Of the Cyropaedia, the most esteemed is also in Paris (No. 1635), of the fifteenth century, though a copy at Wolfenbttel (Codex Guelferbytanus) of about the twelfth century is also valuable. Of the twenty-one manuscripts of the Hellenica, the best are two Codices Parisini (Nos. 1642 and 1738) of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.