Xenophon: memorabilia, oeconomicus, etc

Xenophon’s skill is in military history.  While he is good in Socratic dialogue, he never approaches Plato’s depth and power of analysis.  He is still a very good writer, though.


Xenophon’s Socrates doesn’t have the depth of Plato’s, but there are some similarities.  Both are skilled interrogators and Xenophon does write with an easy style. His argument is that Socrates could not have been guilty of corrupting the youth or denying the gods.  He shows that the corrupt followers became corrupt after leaving Socrates’s company.

Given the Greeks’ reputation for sensual license, Socrates appears as the epitome of restraint.  He rebukes Critobulus’s advances towards Alcibiades’s slave boy, warning that it will unleash a danger Critobulus cannot control (I.3.8ff).

Xenophon also breaks with the Greek disdain over commerce.  He explains to Nicomachides, who wants to be a good general but was not chosen, that every quality a merchant has, a general must have.  He even tells him (in what can only be a break with the entire tradition), “Don’t look down on businessmen: (III.iv.12). There is a similar moving passage in the Oec.

While Xenophon largely exonerates Socrates on the point of morals, he almost paints him as a pick up artist at one point.  He goes to visit Theodote and asks her how she plans to make a living since men’s love is fickle. She doesn’t know, so he basically teaches her “Game Theory.”

The Oeconomicus

This is Xenophon’s agrarian treatise.  Mostly pretty good.  


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