Xenophon: History of My Times (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 22 Feb 1979
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About the Author
Xenophon was an Athenian gentleman born in the early 420s BC. He was a fine officer and leader for Athens, but his support of Socrates led to his banishment. He lived under the protection of Sparta on an estate near Olympia, where he began to write his histories and memoirs.
Rex Warner was a Professor at the University of Connecticut. He taught in Egypt and England and was Director of the British Institute in Athens. He died in 1986.
George Cawkwell is a Fellow Emeritus of University College, Oxford. He has specialised in the history of Greece from the sixth to the fourth century BC.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Peloponnesian war began as the struggle between two of the greatest cities of the ancient Greek civilisation - Athens and Sparta. After both cities had been weakened by costly victories and even more costly defeats, they were both attacked by Sparta's former ally, Thebes. Eventually this series of wars, one of the most catastrophic of ancient times, devastated much of Greece. All the participants suffered greatly, weakening themselves sufficiently that they were to fall first to Alexander the Great, and after his death to Rome.
Thucydides' history of the first 21 years of this war was one of the very earliest and most brilliant pieces of true historical writing.
However, Thucydides' account ends suddenly in the middle of a sentence while describing the events of 411 BC. Many years later, Xenophon set out to finish the story, actually beginning with the words "Some days later ..."
Xenophon was born in Athens and was a student of Socrates in his youth. He then served as a soldier, first for Athens, then as a mercenary in one of the most extraordinary adventures in history. He was one of "The Ten Thousand" Greeks who joined an attempt by Prince Cyrus to overthrow his brother the Persian emperor. When Cyrus was killed in battle the Greek mercenaries who had supported him had to march many miles through enemy territory to safety.Read more ›
Xenophon lays bare the essential characteristics of his (and our) time and its crucial kernel, independence.
Inside the Greek cities, independence meant democracy, which was the political regime in Athens. The latter's arch-rival, Sparta, had an oligarchic rule, a government controlled by a king and the aristocracy.
When Sparta defeated Athens, it put immediately a lackey oligarchic government (the Thirty) in place. The oligarchs could `do exactly what they liked with the state.' They went on a killing spree, murdering all democratic opponents, in casu, `more Athenians than all the Peloponnesians did in ten years of war.' They confiscated illegally the property of resident aliens and when people could vote, it was in full view.
Xenophon knows perfectly the importance of education: `For I know that in Persia everybody except one man is educated to be a slave rather than stand up for himself.'
Inside the Peloponnesus, independence meant freedom for every city: `the cities must be independent, which means not to set up your own government ... what you aim at is not that they should govern in accordance with the laws, but that they should be strong enough to hold down the city by force. This makes it look like as though what gives you pleasure is dictatorship and not constitutional government.'
The Greek cities fought against each other to become `like the king of Persia ... the richest man on earth ... he gets his revenue from a continent.' The reward for control was solid tribute, but also the goldmines of Mount Pangaeum.
This continuous infighting and the relentless changes of alliances were a catastrophe for the populations.Read more ›
The introduction by the Oxford scholar George Cawkwell provides an excellent account of the rise and fall of Xenophon's reputation among modern historians. It is essential preliminary reading, warning of the various lacks and silences that unfortunately plague the Hellenica. Cawkwell's notes to the text, though, tend to become annoying after a while as, harping on they do on the same message, they become almost sneering. Cawkwell's view is that Xenophon was a memoirist, not a historian.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The very best short history of the early Classical period!
Written by a man who was active participant; translated by Rex Warner - the most sympathetic and resonant critic of... Read more
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