See study by J. K. Anderson (1974).
(born 431, Attica, Greece—died shortly before 350 BC, Attica) Greek historian. Born of a well-to-do Athenian family, Xenophon was critical of extreme democracy and for a time was exiled as a traitor. He served with the Greek mercenaries of the Persian prince Cyrus, an experience on which he based his best-known work, the Anabasis. Its prose was highly regarded in antiquity and exerted a strong influence on Latin literature. His other works include On Horsemanship; On Hunting; Cyropaedia, a historical novel about Cyrus II; Oeconomicus, a treatise on estate management; and his completion of a work by the historian Thucydides.
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Xenophon (Ancient Greek Ξενοφῶν, Modern Greek "Ξενοφών", "Ξενοφώντας"; ca. 431 – 355 BC), son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia 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, preserving the sayings of Socrates, and the life of Greece.
Under the pretext of fighting Tissaphernes, Cyrus assembled a massive army composed of native Persian soldiers, but also a large number of Greeks, whom he viewed as superior fighters. 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 sailed westward back to Greece. On the way back, they helped Seuthes II make himself king of Thrace. Xenophon's record of the entire expedition against the Persians and the journey home was titled Anabasis ("The Expedition" or "The March Up Country"). 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.
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.
Diogenes Laertius says 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. Strauss's reading has been heavily criticized, notably by classicist Myles Burnyeat, as attempting to force Socrates into the mould of Strauss's own philosophical views.
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. Xenophon's Memorabilia poses the argument that all animals are "only produced and nourished for the sake of humans" (Ponting, 1991 p.142) and Ponting argues that this reasoning is not undermined until the emergence of scientific thought and Darwinian evolution in the nineteenth century.
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.