Xenophon

Xenophon (zĕnˈəfən) [key], c.430 B.C.–c.355 B.C., Greek historian, b. Athens. He was one of the well-to-do young disciples of Socrates before leaving Athens to join the Greek force (the Ten Thousand) that was in the service of Cyrus the Younger of Persia. These troops served Cyrus at the disastrous battle of Cunaxa (401 B.C.). When Cyrus was killed, the Ten Thousand were forced to flee or surrender to the Persians. They retreated by fighting their way through an unknown and hostile land, harried by Tissaphernes. After the Greek generals had been treacherously killed by the Persians, Xenophon was chosen as one of the leaders of the heroic retreat. He tells the story in the most celebrated of his works, the Anabasis (see tr. by W. H. D. Rouse, 1947). After his return Xenophon, a great admirer of the military, disciplined, and aristocratic life of the Spartans, was in the service of Sparta. He accompanied Agesilaus II on the campaign that ended (394 B.C.) in victory over the Athenians and Thebans at Coronea. The Athenians passed a sentence of banishment on him. Sparta gave him an estate at Scillus in the region of Elis, where he spent years in writing. Among his works other than the Anabasis are the Hellenica, a continuation of the history of Thucydides to 362 B.C.; works on Socrates ( Memorabilia, Oeconomicus, a dialogue between Socrates and Critobulus on managing a household and a farm; the Apology, on the death of Socrates; and the Symposium ) presenting a prudent and practical picture of Socrates in contrast to Plato's philosophical portrait; a eulogy of Agesilaus; the Hieron, a dialogue on despotism, named after Hiero I of Syracuse; the Cyropaedia, a romantic and didactic account of the education of Cyrus the Great; and essays on hunting, horsemanship, the ideal cavalry officer, and the constitutional practices of Sparta.

See study by J. K. Anderson (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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