Hiero the Tyrant and Other Treatises (Penguin Classics)

BOOK: Hiero the Tyrant and Other Treatises (Penguin Classics)
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was an Athenian country gentleman born in the early 420s
. He may have helped to publish Thucydides’
and certainly wrote his own
, also known as
A History of My Times
, as a continuation of it. By his own (probably reliable) account he was a fine officer and outstanding leader, but his admiration for Sparta and devotion to Socrates led to his banishment. He was given an estate at Scillous, near Olympia, and settled down to enjoy the life of a landed aristocrat under Spartan protection, and it was during this period that he began to write histories, biographies, memoirs and specialist treatises. Events forced him to move to Corinth in 371, but he was allowed to return to Athens in 365, where he lived until his death in the late 350s.

was born in 1952. He graduated from Manchester University in 1974 and went on to research ancient Greek philosophy at King’s College, Cambridge. He has been a university lecturer (at Newcastle upon Tyne and St Andrews) and both copy-editor and commissioning editor for Penguin Books. He now makes a living as a self-employed writer and consultant editor. His publications range from academic articles to children’s fiction, and he has translated various Greek philosophical texts, including (for Penguin Classics) Xenophon’s
Conversations of Socrates
, Plutarch’s
, Plato’s
and (in Plato’s
Early Socratic Dialogues
Hippias Major, Hippias Minor
. He also edited
The Voice of Kahlil Gibran
for Penguin.

was born in 1947. He was an undergraduate and junior research fellow at Oxford, where he took his D.Phil. in early Spartan archaeology and history under Sir John Boardman. He has taught since 1979 at the University of Cambridge, where he is
ad hominem
Professor of Greek History and a Professorial Fellow of Clare College and a Life Fellow of Clare Hall. His publications include
Agesilaos and the Crisis of Sparta
(Duckworth and Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987),
Nomos: Essays in Athenian Law, Politics and Society
(Cambridge University Press, 1990),
The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece
(Cambridge University Press, 1997, revised paperback edition, 2002),
The Spartans: An Epic History
(Pan Macmillan and Overlook Press/ Vintage, 2nd edn 2003), and
Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past
(Pan Macmillan and Overlook Press/Vintage, 2nd edn, 2005).


Hiero The Tyrant And Other Treatises


With introductions and notes by



Published by the Penguin Group

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, England

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London
, England


Published in Penguin Classics 1997

Reissued with a new Chronology and additional material 2006


This selection, translations and textual notes copyright © Robin Waterfield, 1997

Introductions and notes copyright © Paul Cartledge, 1997

All rights reserved

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Maps and figure by Nigel Andrews

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

ISBN: 978-0-14-195962-7



Further Reading

A Note on the Texts





Hiero the Tyrant







How to Be a Good Cavalry Commander


De Re Equestri


On Horsemanship




On Hunting




Ways and Means


Textual Notes


A brief life

Xenophon of Athens is an elusive and seemingly self-effacing writer. Unlike his historian predecessors, Herodotus and Thucydides, he does not begin his most general Greek history, the
(in Penguin
A History of My Times
), with a formal autobiographical preface. Unlike Plato, he does not include members of his own family as characters in his philosophical recollections of their common mentor Socrates, the
Memoirs of Socrates
). Xenophon’s only explicitly autobiographical work is the
The Persian Expedition
), an account chiefly of his experiences as a mercenary commander between 401 and 399; yet at
History of My Times
3.1.2 he states poker-faced that ‘the story of that campaign’ has been recorded, not by ‘Xenophon of Athens’, but by the otherwise unknown ‘Themistogenes of Syracuse’, who is generally presumed to be an autobiographical pseudonym of Xenophon himself. This reticence should not necessarily be confused with modesty. Xenophon was surely as self-consciously proud of his authorial skills, and as competitively present in his multifarious and often innovatory works, as any of his contemporaries – and rivals. For example, the Penguin title ‘A History of My Times’ catches very well the personalized, memoirist and apologetic character of that supposedly general history of Greek affairs between 411 and 362.

A significant proportion of the
that has been transmitted to us under Xenophon’s name is bedevilled by the problem of authenticity. In the six treatises translated here there is just one extended authorial self-reference, in the final chapter of
On Hunting (Cynegeticus)
. But that chapter, if not the whole treatise, is widely believed to be by another hand. Straightforwardly inauthentic is the political
pamphlet formally entitled
Athenaion Politeia
, or
Athenian Constitution
, often familiarly referred to in the English-speaking world as ‘The Old Oligarch’. This was composed probably in the third quarter of the fifth century, possibly even before Xenophon was born, and is very likely therefore to be the earliest extant piece of Attic (Athenian) prose writing. The misattribution was due to carelessness on the part of some ancient copyist or librarian; and Xenophon himself, although he was also firmly of an oligarchic persuasion, would doubtless have been mortified at being credited with a work suffused with the sophistry that both he himself in the
Memoirs of Socrates
and the author of chapter 13 of
On Hunting
(if that was not also Xenophon) likewise roundly condemned.
All or parts of several other works in the attributed Xenophontic corpus, including some in the present selection, are of either disputed or disputable authenticity: for example,
Spartan Society
(which the editor of the Penguin
Plutarch on Sparta
would condemn
in toto
) and the treatise
On Horsemanship
, which – despite a cross reference to the less contentiously authentic
How to Be a Good Cavalry Commander –
has often been judged on linguistic grounds to have been composed much later. The editors of the present volume, however, would robustly defend its (and the other treatises’) presence here on the grounds of intrinsic interest as well as authentically Xenophontic allure.
Resolving problems of authenticity is not aided by our desperate dearth of reliable biographical information on Xenophon, which is due in part to the fact that biography itself was not yet an established literary genre in his day (see further the Introduction to
). The following ‘brief life’ aims therefore to err severely on the side of caution.

Xenophon was born if not quite into the purple at any rate into an elite and propertied Athenian family in the early 420s. His unusual name – a compound of the Greek words for foreigner or special foreign friend (
) and voice (
) – was intended to call attention to his family’s foreign connections, a sure mark of aristocratic pedigree. By economic circumstance and military choice Xenophon was a Hippeus, or Cavalryman. He belonged, that is, to the highest but one of the four official Athenian census- or property-classes, membership of which conferred distinctive political entitlements. On coming of
age, he chose to serve with the Athenian cavalry – militarily speaking, a largely ineffectual body of a few hundred men with strongly marked social overtones of old-fashioned exclusivity in a professedly egalitarian political community. Here was suitable grist for Aristophanes’ comic mil in the play he named after them, the
, which was produced at the lesser of the two annual Athenian play-festivals in 424, just a few years after Xenophon’s birth.

To Xenophon’s elite birth and exceptional wealth was added an inegalitarian, oligarchic political disposition, which will not have been softened by his encounter with the teaching of Socrates. The master’s own political outlook has been the subject of much dispute among modern scholars, but most of his Athenian contemporaries were in little doubt that Socrates’ ideological sympathies did not lie primarily with Athens’ form of democratic self-government, and it was largely because of this that a democratic jury condemned him to death in 399. That verdict (which Socrates’ conduct at his trial did nothing to avert or mitigate) engendered a furious pamphleteering war among the philosophically minded literati of Athens. Xenophon contributed both a reconstruction of Socrates’ defence speech, the
(far more intrinsically plausible as a reconstruction than the more famous
of his fellow former pupil Plato),
and a set of moral-philosophical homilies featuring Socrates as principal interlocutor, the
Memoirs of Socrates

At the time of the trial, however, in 399, Xenophon had other things on his mind, and was anyway far from Athens, campaigning in Asia Minor as a mercenary captain. His presence there can be traced ultimately to the circumstances in which Athens had finally been defeated by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, thanks crucially to massive foreign aid from Persia, in 404. The peace terms enforced on Athens by Sparta included not merely military and economic sanctions, but what the majority of the defeated considered to be their political ‘enslavement’, a term that carried a specially emotive charge in a society with thousands of actual slaves. Instead of rule by the People, there was now for Athens rule by a
or junta of thirty extreme oligarchs, abetted by the ten adjutant governors, placed in charge of the economically as well as militarily vital Athenian port city of
Peiraeus. But those forty Athenians could hardly have ruled alone. Lacking the consent of the now even more fiercely democratic majority of Athenian citizens, they secured the services of a Spartan garrison of 700. But it was the use they made of the doubtless not unwilling Athenian cavalry in order to police the resistant masses that was to seal Xenophon’s fate when the restoration of independence and democracy came – as it did, unexpectedly quickly and relatively smoothly, in 403. Tainted by his oligarchic past, Xenophon was only too glad to escape Athens – with the blessing of the Delphic oracle, as recommended to him by Socrates, allegedly – in 401.

Together with a Theban family friend (
) called Proxenus, Xenophon signed up as a mercenary officer under the banner of the Persian pretender, Cyrus the Younger, who eventually raised a huge force of some 13,000 Greek mercenaries. Here was practical soldiering with a vengeance, but far more than that, it provided for the adult Xenophon (by then in his late twenties) a properly political education, a sort of finishing school. Despite the prowess of his mercenaries, Cyrus lost the decisive pitched battle of Cunaxa against the reigning Great King, his elder brother Artaxerxes II (reigned
404–359). The Greeks now found themselves thrown back on their own resources, marooned far inland at the heart of the Persian empire and immensely vulnerable to attack from both Artaxerxes’ chief lieutenant, the satrap (viceroy) Tissaphernes, and the variety of native peoples who stood between the Greeks and their much desired return to their Mediterranean homelands.

The vast majority of mercenaries did, nevertheless, manage to extricate themselves safely. Most conspicuously, Xenophon himself lived to tell the tale – or rather his version of it, since it seems that he was in part writing against an earlier account that gave him less personal credit, at any rate less than he felt was his due. In the early 390s, however, his own personal situation and the general geopolitical situation precluded an immediate return to Athens. Xenophon may indeed have been formally exiled already for having collaborated with Cyrus, an enemy of Athens; but if not, he soon was to be for co-operating with, that is serving under, Sparta. For Xenophon enlisted the remnant of Cyrus’s mercenaries under the Spartans’ banner
in 399 to fight, officially, for the liberation of the Greeks of Asia from Persian rule. To most Athenian eyes, however, that would have looked uncomfortably like supporting Sparta in its imperial and therefore anti-Athenian ambitions, and the implied logic of Xenophon’s position became unambiguously explicit in 394, when with the ‘Cyreians’, as they were still known, he fought on the side of Sparta against his own native Athens at Coroneia in Boeotia.

Key to this unquestionably flagrant act of high treason was the close personal relationship Xenophon had struck up since 396 with Agesilaus, that is King Agesilaus II of Sparta, a remarkable figure whose exceptional character may be gathered initially from the fact that he was the first Spartan king to campaign on the Asiatic mainland. Like many upper-class, anti-democratic Athenians, Xenophon will have been predisposed in his favour because of the Spartans’ traditional policy of supporting conservative oligarchic regimes both within and outside their alliance. But in Agesilaus Xenophon believed he had discovered more than that, indeed an exemplar of ‘perfect goodness’, as he was to put it a touch enthusiastically in the exordium of his laudatory biography (1.1). His Agesilaus was the living embodiment of the sort of moral virtues that Xenophon himself vigorously espoused and through his writings no less vigorously promulgated. It did nothing to diminish the exiled Athenian’s respect, affection and loyalty that from 394 Xenophon was also deeply in Agesilaus’ debt, for his life-style as well as his life.

Barred from Athens, no longer attracted by the notion of founding a new Greek settlement on the southern shore of the Black Sea, in sympathy with the Spartan regime at home and with most of its representatives and supporters abroad, Xenophon – like Cimon, a conservative Athenian of an earlier generation – quickly came to identify himself as ‘Peloponnesian’ in spirit, as one of those Greeks who in his own words ‘had the best interests of the Peloponnese at heart’.
To enable him to live a truly Peloponnesian life-style, Agesilaus was instrumental in securing him a large country estate at Scillous not far from Olympia. Control of this land, however, was fiercely contested by Elis, a volatile and recently disaffected ally of Sparta. Traditionally, Elis ran the Olympic Games, and had flagrantly exploited its position
to ban Spartans from competing there in 420 (there is nothing new in making political capital out of the Olympics…). The final action of Agesilaus’ older half-brother Agis II in the late 400s was a campaign to discipline Elis. A friendly presence at nearby Scillous would therefore suit Agesilaus and Sparta very well. The personal connection between Xenophon and Agesilaus was reportedly reinforced by Xenophon’s agreeing to send his two sons to be educated at Sparta. There they joined other sons of pro-Spartan foreigners who wished their children to experience the noble qualities of the famously rigorous Spartan educational regimen.

In 371, however, Sparta’s foreign policy of supporting friendly oligarchies, with force if necessary, came apart at the seams on the battlefield of Leuctra in Boeotia. Agesilaus, by then a veteran in his mid-70s, was not actually in command of the Spartan and allied force that was routed by the larger and more up-to-date army trained, inspired and led by the Thebans Epameinondas and Pelopidas. But the responsibility for the disaster was squarely his. The knock-on effect of Sparta’s loss of the hegemony of the Peloponnese on Agesilaus’ clients including Xenophon was almost immediate and palpably material. With his Scillous base rendered unviable, Xenophon retired, it is usually thought, to Corinth, where he lived possibly until his death in the late 350s. Or possibly not: another school of thought maintains that after 371, perhaps sooner rather than later since Athens was now allied with the old enemy Sparta against the common threat of a newly surgent Thebes, Xenophon returned as an elder statesman to his native city. Hence, so it is argued, the specifically Athenian character of at least some of his putatively late works, including notably two of those included here,
Cavalry Commander
Ways and Means

That raises, finally, the questions of when and where, rather than why (to which we shall return below), he wrote his various works. Certainty, be it stated straightaway, is impossible; even probability is usually well beyond our grasp. One extreme, ‘unitarian’ view would place all his works – or, to be more specific, the whole of all his works – in the post-Leuctra 360s and 350s. At the other extreme, there are those who argue that at least all
The Persian Expedition
and the relevant
portions of
A History of My Times
, and perhaps also the
Memoirs of Socrates
, were composed at Scillous and also published close to the time of the events and situations they describe or presuppose. Even an extreme ‘analyst’ view, however, would still have to assign a large proportion, if not the bulk, of the
in its final, published form to the post-Leuctra period. My own impression is that Xenophon, like many another ex-politician compelled to fill a vacuum of unwanted and unwonted inactivity, devoted himself to the publication of written work in polished form only in his final decade or decade and a half. It would not surprise me, either, though I could not consider it anything remotely approaching a racing certainty, if their publication had been crucially stimulated by the author’s restoration to the vibrant intellectual atmosphere of Athens, to what Plato (
337d) once styled the ‘city hall’ (
) of

BOOK: Hiero the Tyrant and Other Treatises (Penguin Classics)
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