Essay by the late Professor Neal Wood, who gave me the manuscript in
1963. As far as I have found it was never published. I am typing it into the
web site in honor of his many significant contributions to the history of
political theory and his strong influence on my development of Machiavelli's
conception of the relationship between the art of war and the army; and the
political art and civic society. I was fortunate to participate in the
year-long seminar on Machiavelli that Professor Wood conducted at Columbia
University and comment for him (from my professional military perspective) on
his preparation of a new edition of Machiavelli's Art of War in which his
introduction is very important. Unfortunately, the last page of this
manuscript, on which Dr. Wood elaborates on the parallels between Xenophon and
Machiavelli, was lost. Please also refer to the essays on Machiavelli and on
Xenophon in the Xenophon web site index.
- Xenophon deserves to be better known and more widely appreciated by students,
scholars, and the reading public. The purpose of the following essay and
selections is to indicate something of the intellectual originality of this
ancient Greek soldier and country squire. (1) His importance in founding the
theory of the art of war, often forgotten by laymen, is generally acknowledged
by military specialists. But scholars have curiously neglected his pioneer
achievement in the realm of political thought, and achievement arising from his
military interests. He was the first western thinker to be deeply
concerned with both military and political theory. One result of the
dual concern was a momentous intellectual discovery: the idea of an army as a
community to be founded and maintained by the general. Another closely related
result was a unique preoccupation with leadership and the central political
problem. Despite the radicalness of the approach, Xenophon remained faithful to
the classical outlook of his contemporaries, Isocrates, Plato, Aristwotle, and
Demonsthenes. In the future, however, thinkers like Machiavelli, by following
the new direction suggested by Xenophon, were to create modern political
- My interest in Xenophon was first aroused while working on a forthcoming book
on Machiavelli's political thought, research for which has been subsidized in
part by a grant from Columbia University. I became convinced of the necessity
of compiling such a volume as this after a stimulating discussion of
Machiavelli at a dinner of the "Political Theorists" at Columbia
University on June 24, 1962. The final form of the introductory essay owes much
to the helpful criticism and comment of Herbert Deane of Columbia University
and David Rapoport of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Time, as if unsatisfied by the perpetual destruction of all men, must even
obscure the records of the most fascinating among them. Such has been the fate
of Xenophon, whose long life of over three score and ten years under three
flags on two continents is largely a matter of informed conjecture and
scholarly disputation. (2) What is known of his outlook and conduct has become
practically synonymous with the highest Hellenic ideal of the gentleman. He was
that rare combination of thought and action; warrior, sportsman, and farmer,
who was able to write superbly on such of these activities. He was less
successful in the Hellenica in recounting the history of his age, to
which he made more than a minor contribution and in providing posterity in the
Memorabilia with a portrait of Socrates. But these efforts in history
and philosophy suffered not so much from his own intellectual mediocrity as
from the fact that they were overshadowed by the incomparable work of
Thucydides and Plato. Xenophon's life was a full one, touched briefly but with
lasting affect by the inspiration of Socrates, a life that had triumphed
heroically over man and nature in the epic trek through Asia Minor, that knew
the passion of the chase, the peace of the countryside and the quiet
contemplation of studious hours.
2 - The following biographical summary relies to a great extent upon
Eduard Delebecq, Essai sur la vie da Xenophon (Paris: Klincksieck,
1957), 532 pp.; and Werner Jaeger, Paidaia: The Ideals of Greek Culture,
translated by Gilbert Highet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1943), Vol.
III, pp. 156-181. The introductions to the various volumes of the Loeb Library
edition of Xenophon's works are useful, but tend to be outdated in the light of
subsequent scholarship. There is little that is now of value in the more
readily accessible articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Encyclopedia
of the Social Sciences.
And his was a full life in the sense that he had experienced personal
tragedy as well as triumph, for his career was that of the wanderer, the exile,
the bearer of arms against his patria, and his last graying years were
spent in fruitlessly exhorting his countrymen to arise from their slough of
Xenophon like Plato was born of an aristocratic Athenian family, at about the
same time as Plato, 427 or 426 B.C. Their famous contemporary, Isocrates, was
somewhat older, and outlived both. Between Xenophon's birth and the beginning
of his immortal journey in Asia (401 B.C.), he became acquainted with Socrates,
although never one of his regular students, and undoubtly saw active military
service as a cavalryman in the defense of his city during the last years of the
Peloponnesian War. In early 401 B.C. an old family friend, the Boeotian soldier
of fortune, Proxenus, who commanded a contingent of Greek mercenaries, invited
Xenophon to be his companion and aide on the military expedition that Cyrus the
Younger, Satrap of Asia Minor and brother of King Artaxerxes II of Persia, was
organizing at Sardis, nominally for the purpose of conquering the long
unsubdued Pisidians. Cyrus, very favorably impressed by the fighting ability of
Greek infantry, was forming the largest army of Greek mercenaries ever before
assembled, about 12,900, and 30,000 of his own native troops, largely cavalry
and archers. Xenophon writes that he consulted Socrates, (3. Anabasis,
III, i, 5-7) who cautioned him to seek the advice of Apollo at Delphi, fully
realizing that it might be extremely imprudent for an Athenian to become too
closely associated with Cyrus whose support of Sparta had contributed to
ultimate Athenian defeat in the recent titanic thirty year struggle between the
two cities. By nature, an adventurer impatient for action and youthfully
unmindful of the future, Xenophon instead of asking Apollo whether he should go
or not, simply inquired what gods he should worship in order that his journey
might be successful.
Joining Proxenus at Sardis, Xenophon marched for six months with the army 1,500
miles to the Euphrates, where the real purpose of the campaign was revealed to
be part of a carefully contrived plot of Cyrus to wrest the Persian throne from
Artaxerxes. Too deeply involved to turn back, the Greeks took part in the
battle against the monarch's forces at Cunaxa, sixty miles north of Babylon.
With victory all but in his grasp, "Cyrus was killed, while rashly
pressing forward to slay his brother. The Greeks, stranded in hostile territory
without patron or guardian, and deserted by the rapidly disintegrating forces
of their Persian allies, elected a seasoned Clearchus veteran, the Spartan
Clearchus, to be their commander. however, Clearchus, Proxenus and the other
Greek captains were treacherously murdered by the royal general, Tissaphernes,
with whom they were negotiating. The Anabasis is the saga of the
subsequent retreat homeward of "The Ten Thousand" under the
leadership of the young, untried Xenophon, selected to replace Clearchus.
(4, A lucid and detailed account of The Ten Thousand is in H. W. Parks, Greek
Greek Mercenary Soldiers: From the Earliest Times to the Battle of
Ipsus, Clarendon Press, 1933, pp. 23-42.)
It was a trip of well over 2,000 miles by land and sea, accomplished in
eighteen months northwards from Mesopotamia, through the alpine fastness of the
fierce Kurdish tribesmen, to the eastern frontier of Armenia, across the river
Araxes flowing into the Caspian Sea, and eventually westward to the modern
Black Sea port of Trabson, from where they were able to proceed mainly by ship.
Xenophon's baptism of command consisted of persistent harassment by marauding
bands, first of Persians and then of Kurds, of the trials of arduous terrain,
of the climatic extremes of desert and highland, of sickness, frost-bite, and
snow-blindness, of the never ending problems of supply, of quarrel and
conspiracy. Not least among Xenophon's achievements of generalship was the
transformation of the inflexible Greek phalanx into a highly adaptable military
instrument, employing such innovations as a reserve, light infantry tactics
suitable for mountain warfare, and infantry approach formations anticipating
After the return of the "Ten Thousand" in the early part of 399,
Xenophon, banished by Athens as Socrates had feared, evidently remained in Asia
,where he married Philesia, sired two sons, Diodorus and Gryllus, and served
Sparta in various military capacities. When in 396, to defend Spartan interests
against the Persians under Tissaphernes, Agesilaus II, King of Sparta,
personally led a large task force to Lydias, he was probably assisted by
Xenophon, who became his close friend and great admirer, writing the well-known
eulogy after his death in 360. Agesilaus, so we learn from the
Hellenica, (5) decided to create large cavalry units in order to contend
with the Persian horse on the great open plains to the east of the major
Spartan base of Ephesus.
(5. Hellenica, III, iv, 15.).
It seems likely, although positive evidence is lacking, that Xenophon, because
of his interest in cavalry and his experience in fending off the Persian
attacks upon the rear-guard of "The Ten Thousand" retreating from
Cunaxa, was involved in the training of the troops and the devising of tactics
for the new enterprise. At any rate we do know that the Spartan cavalry proved
itself in meeting the Persians, and won a substantial victory against the
Thessalians in 394, under Agesilaus, (6) who was then back in Greece on his way
to attack the Athenians and their allies at Corenea. Never before had a battle
taken place between massed Greek cavalry formations (7), and for Agesilaus to
defeat experienced masters of the craft like the Thessalians is tribute not
only to his generalship, but also, if our speculation is correct, to the
military prowess of Xenophon.
6. Hellenica, IV, iii, 3-9
7. J. F. C. Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great, (New
Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1950), p. 42.)
Sometime following the Battle of Corenea in which Xenophon (at least
according to Plutarch) fought under Agesilaus against his own city, he was
honored by Sparta with the gift of an estate at Scillus in Elis, in the
northwestern corner of the Peloponnesus. But it is improbable that Xenophon,
undoubtedly engaged in military missions for his foster city over the next six
or seven years, was able to enjoy immediately the life of a country squire.
Nearly two decades of retirement at Scillus were spent in supervising the
estate, for Xenophon was keenly interested in agriculture and farm management
as we know from the Oeconomicus, and, of course, there were his other
two loves, riding and hunting. Here also he had ample leisure to reflect upon
things past, to read and to write. Since the chronology of his writings is a
matter of lively debate among scholars the best that can be done is to list the
works that must have been commenced durig this period, if not before, mindful
that very few, if any, were completed at this time: Cynegeticus (On
Hunting): Constitution of the Lacedaemonians: Anabasis;
Apology of Socrates; the first two books of the Memorabilia, a
defense written to counter the anti-Socratic pamplet of the sophist,
Polycrates, which appeared between 393 and 390; Oeconomicus (Estate
Management); On Horsemanship; and Hellenica, a continuation of
Thucydides' history down to the Battle of Mantinea (362 B. C.). War between
Sparta and Elis in 371 necessitated Xenophon's giving up the idyllic life of
Scillus. He moved to Corinth were he remained until permitted to return to his
native city, between 365 and 360, a reconciliation facilitated by the alliance
signed by a Athens and Sparta in 369. Reunion with Athens after an exile of
over thirty five years seemed to release within Xenophon a reserve of creative
energy enabling him to complete the works already begun and several important
new ones: Symposium, Cyropaedia, Hiero, Agesilaus,
Hipparchicus (On the Cavalry Commander), and Ways and Means. The last
two were patriotic addresses to his fellow citizens urging particular reforms
of the military and economy for a decaying city that was never able to approach
her former greatness. Of the final days of Xenophon there is no trace. His
epitaph and that of other great men of his city and his century might read:
"To Athens he owed everything as he owed nothing."
Xenophon's reputation has suffered a very obvious decline since the last
century. Although by the time Milton was guiding his nephews through the pages
of the Anabasis and the Cyropaedia, Xenophon was becoming staple
English schoolboy fare, today few Americans, except for college Greek students,
trouble to read him. Even the Anabasis seems to have lost its former literary
appeal. Primarily because of the meticulous researching of German scholarship,
Xenophon is no longer considered a creditable source for the character or the
intellect of Socrates. Upon scientific scrutiny the Hellenica has failed
to pass muster as either good history or chronology. Sophisticates since the
Abbe Fenelon generally apply the somewhat condescending descriptions
"historical novel' or 'philosophical romance' to the Cyropaedia. In
sum, the all too apparent contemporary verdict is one of a lack of intellectual
profundity and creative invention.
Nowhere is the neglect of Xenophon more noticeable than in the history of
political thought. This is not so much a matter of a decline of prestige as the
fact that recognition has never been accorded. However high his reputation was
until recent years, Xenophon was never ranked among the great political
thinkers. Two widely read textbooks, Raymond G. Gettell's History of
Political Thought (1924) and George H. Sabine's A History of Political
Theory (1937), pay no heed to Xenophon. A more specialized volume, long
judged something of a classic, Sir Ernest Barker's Greek Political Theory:
Plato and His Predecessors (1918) attests to little of significance in
Xenophon, allotting less than two pages to a discussion of his political
thought (half the space given to Isocrates). Professor T. A. Sinclair, in A
History of Greek Political Thought (1951), dismisses the Memorabilia
as "not of much importance in political thought" and criticizes the
Cyropaedia for being "so barren of thought and lacking in
coherence." About the only recent sympathetic studies of Xenophon
available to the English reader and relevant to the history of political
thought are the opuscula of Professor Leo Strauss on the Hiero, and the
late Werner Jaeger's valuable essay, "Xenophon; The Ideal Squire and
Soldier", in the third volume of his Paidaia: The Ideals of Greek
Culture. To the French we are greatly indebted for a recent revival of
interest in Xenophon as a political thinker, in particular two excellent works;
Les Idees politiques et sociales de Xenophon (1947) of M. Jean Luccioni,
and the exhaustive and imaginative reconstruction by Professor Edouard
Delabecque in his Erssi sur la via der Xenophon (1957).
Students and practitioners of military science, however, have always held
Xenophon in high esteem. Ancient military writers refer to him with respect.
Arrian, who called himself Xenophon and came to be known as "Xenophon the
Younger" entitled his important history of Alexander, the Anabasis.
The first modern military writer, Machiavelli, does not hesitate to acknowledge
his debt to the Greek. The great reformation of the western European army in
the seventeenth century was in no small part due to the revival of interest in
the classical military writers, Xenophon, Polybius, Aelian Tacticus, Frontinus,
and Vegetius. (8). Justus Lipsius, a profound influence upon the two European
innovators, Maurice of Nassau, and Gustavus Adolphus was a translator of
8. See the provacative essay by David Rapoport, "The Soldier and
the Civilian: Neo-Classical Theory," mimeographed paper presented at the
Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, St. Louis, Mo.,
September 6-9, 1961, p. 11.
9. Ibid, p.6
In our own age Colonel Theodore A. Dodge writes:
Xenophon is the father of the system of retreat, the originator of all that
appertains to the science of rear-guard fighting. He reduced its management to
a perfect method. More originality in tactics has come from the Anabasis that
from any other book. Every system of war looks to this as to the fountain-head
when it comes to rearward movements. (10) The conclusion of Colonel J. M.
Scannell's interesting article in The Army Quarterly is: "He proved
himself great soldier and a consummate leader of men. He was the pupil of a
great philosopher, and the master who taught our forefathers the Art of
War." (11) These opinions are seconded by Colonel Oliver Lyman Spaulding
who terms the Anabasis the earliest work on military history, (12) and
concedes Xenophon to be the founder of military science. (13). The Cambridge
historian, Mr. G. T. Griffith, suggests that "More signs of the inventive
spirit were shown during the one year of the adventures of the Ten Thousand
than in ten years of manoevers and fighting by the standing army of Jason or of
the Phocians, (14) and M. Luccioni describes the Anabasis as a
"kind of breviary of command." (15)
10. Theodore A. Dodge, Alexander (Boston and New York: Houghton
Mifflin, 1890) Vol. I, p. 105. Non-military men who write on the ancient art of
war seem less favorably inclined toward Xenophon than do professional soldiers
who are students of military history. For example, compare the works cited
below by Scannell, by Spaulding, and by Fuller with the following; F. E.
"Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian art of War (Berkeley and Los
Angeles; University of California Press, 1962); H. W. Parke, op., cit.,
pp. 23-42; W. W. Tarn, Hellenistic Military and Naval Developments
(Cambridge: University Press, 1930).
11. J. M. Scannell, "The Art of Command According to Xenophon."
The Army Quarterly (Vol, IX, January, 1925), p. 365.
12. Oliver Lyman Spaulding, Pen and Sword in Greece and Rome (Princeton;
Princeton University Press, 1937, p. 18.
13. Ibid., p. 14, and Spaulding, "Ancient Warfare; To the Death of
Julius Caesar", Part I of Military Methods from the Earliest Times,
edited by Oliver Lyman Spaulding, Hoffman Nickerson, and John Womack Wright
with a Preface by General Tasker H. Bliss (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925), p.
14. G. T. Griffith, The Mercenaries of the Hellenistic World (Cambridge:
University Press, 1935), p. 5.
15. Jean Luccioni, Les Idees politiques et sociales de Xenophon (Paris,
Ophrys, 1947). p. 47.
Major General J. F. C Fuller refers to Xenophon as a "noted
cavalry tactician" (16) and an expert on mountain warfare, (17) and gives
the Cyropaedia its due by calling it "largely a text book on
generalship." (18). Xenophon, according to Professor Delebecque's final
evaluation, is " The ancestor of modern cavalry, the first theoretician of
encircling tactics; he foresaw the advantages of the surprise attack like Pearl
harbor, and the perils of gigantic expeditions like the campaigns in
Russia." (19) Obviously Xenophon was not the only military commentator of
his age. However, technical manuals, a fairly common genre by the late fifth
century, if any were written on military subjects, have not survived. But
Xenophon, perhaps, must still share honors as the founder of the theory of the
art of war with Aeneas Tacticus, whose On the Defense of Fortified
Positions, (ca. 357-356 B. C.) is the only extant military writing of his
large corpus. Even if certain of the details of Book VII of the
Hellenica, Book III of the Memorabilia, and the
Hipparchicus are indebted to Aeneas, as suggested by Professor
Delebecque, (20) one may still argue that Xenophon's most fundamental military
ideas were conceived long before the publication of the treatise of Aeneas.
All of this, nevertheless, is a matter of speculation not central to our view
that Xenophon was the first Greek to write extensively on both military and
political theory. In view of the very basic role of war in the life of
classical antiquity, (21) it is surprising to note that of the Hellenic
"political thinkers" of the fifth and fourth centuries whose works
have come down to us (Herodotus, Thucydides, Isocrates, Plato, Xenophon,
Aristotle, and Demosthenes), Xenophon was alone in writing on military science
and generalship. Herodotus, and Thucydides, of course, described in detail
conspiracies, military expeditions and battles. From Thucydides, especially, a
great deal can be learned about the ancient art of war, (22) yet his brilliance
is not that of a military analyst. Despite Thucydides' incomparable superiority
as a historian, Xenophon's description of military formations and operations is
generally more detailed, more accurate and more lucid. (23)
16. Fuller, op., cit., p. 57.
17. Ibid., p. 241.
18. Ibid., p. 53. Spaulding in Pen and Sword also thinks that the
Cyropaedia is more than a historical romance. He maintains; "So, to
get the opportunity to discuss his military theories, he had to invent a new
form of writings the result was the Cyropaedia. This is neither history
nor biography, nor yet a historical novel; but shares in the characteristics of
all, and it gives the writer the chance he sought." (p[. 34) And again in
regard to the description of the battle plans of Cyrus against Croesus in
Cyropaedia, VII, "Xenophon here is far ahead of his times. No Greek
general before Alexander ever attempted such broadly planned maneuvers, or
succeeded in getting such cooperation out of his various arms." (pp.
19. Delebecque, op., cit., p. 504
20. Ibid., p. 430.
21. On the importance of war in Greek civilization see Adcock, op.,
cit., pp. 1-13; Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A
study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome (New York:
Doubleday Anchor, n.d), pp. 205-210; Viktor Ehrenberg, The Greek State
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1960), pp. 80-82; Fuller, op., cit., pp. 16-18. The
role of military training in Greek life is particularly emphasized by David
Rapoport, "A Comparative Theory of Military and Political Types," in
Changing Patterns of Military Politics, edited by Samuel P. Huntington (New
York; The Free Press of Glencoe, 1962), pp. 80-82.
22. Thucydides' value in this respect is stressed by Adcock, op., cit.,
23. Dodge, op., cit., Vol I, p. 137; Francis R. B. Godolphin in the
introduction to his anthology, The Greek Historians: The Complete and
unabridged Historical Works of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Arrian (New
York; Random House, 1941). Vol I, p xxxii; Spaulding, Pen and Sword, pp.
13,18. Major General J. F. C. Fuller, op., cit., relies much more upon
Xenophon than upon Thucydides (contrary to Adcock) for the details of the
ancient military art. His references to the former are pp. 18, 19,42, 44-45,
50n, 53, 57, 75,709, 148n, 241; to the later, pp. 18, 43, 47, 57. In this
connection fn. 10, above.
Nor does Thucydides ever discuss the theory of the art of war and its
implications for life as a whole. In Plato and Aristotle we discover little
systematic discussion of the art of war, except qualified praise of the
military virtues and extensive prescriptions for the military training of
youth. The student invariably comes away from reading Plato with only a rather
meager impression of the vital part played by war in the ancient world.
Considering that Aristotle devoted the first of eight books of the
Politics to economics (estate management), and wrote a treatise on
rhetoric, two arts absolutely indispensable in the eyes of the educated Greek
to the political art, his lack of attention to military science is puzzling,
all the more so since he tutored the young warrior-prince destined to be one of
the great masters of warfare. Admittedly specialists wrote on and taught the
subject, like Xenophon and Aeneas Tacticus, and the sophists, Euthydamus and
Dionysodous of Chios, (24) were also experts on rhetoric and economics. A lack
of personal knowledge of war cannot excuse the neglect of military science
because most of these men of letters, like all Greek citizens of the age, had
born arms for their polis. One need only recall Alcibiades' eloquent
description of the valorous behavior of his mess-mate, Socrates, on the
campaign in Potidea, (25) or Laches' praise of Socrates' example in the retreat
from Delium, (26) or Socrates' obvious pride in his own military conduct. (27)
Therefore, although fused in classical practice, political and military
considerations tended to be separated in classical theory, forming as it were
'two cultures' to use Sir Charles Snow's felicitous expression, with the
political theorists from Plato to Cicero forming one culture, and the military
writers from Aeneas Tacticus to Vegetius forming the other. Only Xenophon and
perhaps Polybius, whose military treatises are unfortunately lost, participated
in both cultures. To do justice to Xenophon's unique contribution to classical
intellectual history the nature of the relationship between his military and
his political ideas must be analyzed. The obvious place to begin is with what
he knew best and excelled in, the military art. The distinctiveness of his
thought upon the subject can be appreciated most adequately by comparison with
the views of Plato and Aristotle.
24. Plato in Euthydemus, 271-273, mentions that Euthydamus and
Dionysodous are skilled in the art of armored combat; Xenophon in
Memorabilia,III, , refers to Dionysodorus as a teacher of generalship,
and discusses the lessons he has given a young student, perhaps himself.
25 Plato, Symposium, 220-221.
26. Plato, Laches, 181.
27. Plato, Apology, 28,
28. G. P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, the Rede
lectures, 1959, (Cambridge: University Press, 1959). Sir Charles is referring
not to classical times, but to the "gulf of mutual incomprehension' p. 4)
existing between literary and scientific worlds today.
The attitude of Plato and Aristotle toward war may be summarized in terms of
their idealistic moral condemnation of war, realistic acceptance of war as a
necessary means of realizing a higher good, and their misleading classification
of war as an acquisitive art. Plato's rejection of war on moral grounds is best
illustrated by his remarks upon the causes of war. War, he affirms, results
from all that is irrational in life. Men may quarrel because they differ as to
what is just and unjust, (29) or because of the lusts of body and the need for
money to satisfy these lusts. (30) With the growth of a luxurious society, the
appetites increase and are contained only with the greatest difficulty. (31).
The original territory of the polis will prove too small for the new demands
for luxury, for the insatiable appetite for wealth, and for the unrestrained
growth of population. Wars of an imperialistic nature seem to be the only means
of satisfying the expanding demands of a luxurious society. And, naturally, a
luxurious society will be threatened by internal strife arising from the
concentration of excessive wealth in the hands of a few and the wide spread
poverty of the many. (32). The consequence will be a condition in which tyrants
attempt to seize power and foment war with neighboring cities in order to
externalize domestic discontents and to create continual demand for their
29. Euthyphro 7, I Alcibidades, 111,112.
30. Phaedo, 66.
31. The Republic, II, 373.
32. The Republic IV, 421-422.
33. The Republic, VIII, 567
War then is an important symptom of deep-rooted social malignancy.
(34). Moreover, it is an activity as irrational as the matrix from which it
springs, for the outcome of armed conflict is subject to the whims of fortune,
and is never precisely calculable. (35). Plato renounces the extremely
pessimistic view that all men live and must live in a state of perpetual war.
(36). Peace is far superior to military victory just as a sound body is to be
preferred to one that has been brought back to health by the purging of the
physician. The glorification of war by the Spartan poet, Tyrtaeus, and of the
military virtue of courage by Theognis are not acceptable to Plato. Courage is
obviously important, although only as part of virtue, and not as the sole or
highest virtue. Neither amusement nor learning of any value can be gained from
waging of war. (37). Aristotle generally agrees with Plato in regard to the
irrationality of the origins and nature of war. (38). Perhaps because warfare
was so much a part of their lives, the Greek contemporaries of Plato and
Aristotle shared their aversion to it, particularly after the thirty years
holocaust between Athens and Sparta. (39). No longer individual sportive duels
between antagonists, war had become a grim, organized, and ruinous affair.
34. All of Book VIII of The Republic can be considered an
illustration of this precept.
35. The Republic, V 467.
36. Laws, I, 626-630. |
37. Laws, VIi, 803.
38. Politics, 1256b, 1334a.
39. Adcock, op., cit., 102, 9-11.
Even Isocrates, who called upon his fellow Greeks to unite behind the
banner of Philip of Macedon for an invasion of Persia, advised that sovereign
in 342 B. C. to conquer the good will and friendship of a people instead of
their cities. (40)
However, Plato and Aristotle realistically accept war as a necessary evil that
can be ignored only at the peril of extinction. In condemning cities whose sole
purpose is war, (41) Sparta and Crete, for example, they nevertheless uphold
preparations for defense and wars of defense and in their prescriptions for the
rational organization of society they gave ample attention to military
arrangements. Aristotle expresses the attitude of Plato when he maintains that
training in war is of the utmost importance for the prevention of enslavement,
(42) believing that an essential qualification of the political orator is a
sound knowledge of war and national defense. (43). In their recommendations,
both thinkers stipulate that war should always remain instrumental and never be
an end in itself. Plato reasons that the art of war is a ministerial art, along
with rhetoric and the administration of justice, all properly subordinated to
and serving the sovereign art of politics (44). The political art determines
what should and should not be done. Is force or persuasion to be used against a
people? Is war or peace to be declared? Policy formulations, direction, and
coordination are the functions of the royal art, while the ministerial arts are
to execute its orders.
40. Isocrates, To Philip, 21.
41. Plato, Laws, I, 626; Aristotle, Politics, 1333b.
42. Politics, 1333b.
43. Rhetoric, 1359b-1360a.
44. Statesman, 304-305.
From a somewhat different perspective the art of war may be said to be
a cooperative art in relation to the causal art of politics, in much the same
way as the art of making spindles and combs is related to the actual
fabrication of cloth. (45) Or the royal art vis-a-vis the art of war may be
designated the art that uses what another art makes or acquires. (46). Finally,
Plato insists that the royal art is qualitatively distinct from and higher than
the practical and manual arts, such as the art of war, because of its
intellectual nature. (47) At the very beginning of the Nicomachean
Ethics, (48) Aristotle distinguishes between the purposes of various arts,
suggesting a hierarchy of ends. The arts he mentions are medicine,
shipbuilding, victory, and wealth. If each of these is a master art, then
subordinate to each are lesser arts with lesser ends. For example we can start
at the bottom of such a hierarchy as he indicates and ascend to the top: from
bridle-making, to riding, to warfare, to the political art at the apex. As an
end the military art is only a qualified good, a means to the good life which
results from the happiness of living in association with friends. (49). The art
of war, part of the vita activa, must be pursued in order to secure
peace: without peace there can be no leisure so necessary for the supreme end.
the vita contemplativa. (50)
45. Statesman, 281-282.
46. Euthydamus, 289-291.
47. Statesman, 258.
48. Nicomachean Ethics, 1094a-1094b; 1097b.
49. Politics, 13215a.
50. Politics, 1333a-1333b.
Because Plato and Aristotle misconstrue the art of war as an
acquisitive art they seem to overlook one of its cardinal features. Plato
identifies generalship with the art of hunting man. (51) Like the hunter the
general captures the prey to be used by a superior art; in the one case,
economics, in the other, politics. This major characteristic of the art of war
is made quite explicit in a lengthy disquisition in the Sophist on the
distinction between the acquisitive and the creative arts. (52). All the
acquisitive arts are concerned with conquest by word or deed, or the prevention
of such conquest, and not with the production of anything new, the field of the
creative arts. Among the acquisitive arts are learning and congnition, trade,
fighting, and hunting. Creative arts include agriculture, politics,
shipbuilding, painting, sculpture, and poetry. Two kinds of acquisitive art are
exchange and conquest by force of deed or word. In turn, conquest by force is
accomplished by fighting or by hunting. Hunting of tame animals, i.e. man, is
either by violence or persuasion. Piracy, kidnapping, tyranny and the art of
war are violent types of hunting man; while the arts of the lawyer, the
conversationalist, the sophist and the lover are the persuasive kinds of
hunting man. Aristotle develops this idea of war as an acquisitive art by
comparing it to economics (estate management).
50. Politics, 1333a-1333b.
51. Euthydamus, 289-291; also Laws, VII, 823-824.
52. Sophist, 219-223.
The acquisition of property differs from the management of property by
providing what the other is to use. (53). Hence hunting, must be separated from
economics, because the huntsman furnishes the estate manager with food and is
subordinate to his supervision. In a comparable fashion the soldier supplies
the polis with slaves; featherless bipeds are his prey. Economics and politics
are moral arts because they deal with human relationships which should be
rendered as excellent as possible. (54). The connection between economics and
politics is concisely made by Plato in the Statesman when he draws the
analogy between a small polis and a large estate, between king and estate
manager. (55). Plato and Aristotle see no similarity between the art of war on
the one hand, and politics and economics on the other. Neither hunting nor war
is a moral art; they are not concerned with right or wrong, simply with mastery
of violence, an activity that can never characterize the essence of
statesmanship or stewardship. (56) The short coming of the approach of Plato
and Aristotle to the art of war is their identification of it too closely with
the huntsman's tracking and capture of his prey. By so doing the crucial
managerial function of the general is completely neglected. If the hunting
metaphor is to be used, then the general must be considered as a master
huntsman leading a large party in the chase. He is the center of a friend-foe
relationship. Against the foe, his prey, he must employ all the skills of
deceit and violence.
53. Politics, 1256a-1256b.
54. Politics, 1359b.
55. Statesman, 259.
56. Politics, 1325b.
Toward the friend, the members of his hunting party, he must exert all
the arts of persuasion and direction, if the foe is to be captured. Plato
admits that war is a highly skilled art. (57) much more advanced than that of
architecture, or that of making clothing and household furnishings. (58).
Generalship is an empirical art dependent upon long experience and infinite
attention to detail, (59) requiring the practical use of arithmetic and
geometry, (60 and calling for great courage. (61). But Plato and Aristotle fail
to examine the general's skill in commanding his troops, a skill comparable to
the economic and political art.
Xenophon concurs with Plato and Aristotle that peace is preferable to war, and
that military science is an instrument to be used by the royal art. Naturally,
as a professional soldier, and one long associated with Sparta, he tends to
give greater emphasis to the military virtues and to technical military maters,
than his two contemporaries. In addition and more importantly he views all
things from a military perspective. When it comes to the relationship between
the art of war and the other arts, he repeats some of the ideas of Plato and
Aristotle. The difference between the art if war and the art of politics is the
difference between dealing with friend and foe. (62).
57. The Republic, XX, 374.
58. Protagoras, 322.
59. Philebus, 55-56.
60. The Republic, VII, 522.
61. Laws, I, 639-640.
62. Cyropaedia, I, vi, 26-41.
Life in the polis is concerned with friends and fellow-citizens; it
calls for uprightness, honesty and justice in all human relationships, virtues
that should be stressed in civic education. War on the contrary is a
relationship between foes. Victory against the foe is the end. In such an
activity one should never by choice meet the foe in equal terms, but always
attempt to gain every advantage over him by using every kind of craft and
stratagem. (63). An adversary in war is to be trusted like a beast of prey
tracked by the huntsman. Consequently civic education should be supplemented by
hunting, for although youth must not be taught to be deceitful toward their
neighbors, they can certainly utilize in wartime what they learn from long
training and experience in the chase. (64).
It is in Xenophon's lengthy descriptions of the ideal general and the nature of
his art, the first in classical literature, that we find him radically
departing from the views of Plato and Aristotle, and herein is his genius.
Three such quotations are given below, each from a different work, (65) that
illustrates his originality as a thinker:
63. Also see Hipparchicus, V.
64. For the civic value of hunting see Cynegeticus, XII-XIII, and Plato,
Laws, VI, 763.
65. The quotations are from works in the chronological order suggested by
Delebecque, op., cit., Chs 10-12. They span last years, from 365 to
355/54 B. C.
But your true cheat and prince of swindlers is he who can lure the enemy on and
throw him off his guard, suffer himself to be pursued and get the pursuers into
disorder, lead the foe into difficult ground and then attack him there. Indeed
as an ardent student, you most not confine yourself to the lessons you have
learned; you must show yourself a creator and discoverer, you must invent
strategems against the foe; just as a real musician is not content with the
mere elements of his art, but sets himself to compose new themes. and if in
music it is the novel melody, the flower-like freshness, that wins popularity,
still more in military matters it is the newest contrivance that stands the
highest, for the simple reason that such will give you the best chance of
outwitting your opponent. (66)
66. Cyropaedia, I, vi, 37-38 (Dakyns' translation).
But, after all, no man, however great his plastic skill, can hope to mould and
shape a work of art to suit his fancy, unless the stuff on which he works be
first prepared and made ready to obey the craftsman's will. Nor certainly where
the raw material consists of men, will you succeed, unless, under God's
blessing, these same men have been prepared and made ready to meet their
officer in a friendly spirit. (67)
67. Hipparchicus, VI, 1 (Dakyns' translation).
Quotation: A general must be ready in furnishing the material of war:
in providing the commissariat for his troops; quick in devices, he must be full
of practical resource; nothing must escape his eye or tax his endurance; he
must be shrewd and ready of wit, a combination at once of clemency and
fierceness, of simplicity and of insidious craft; he must play the part of
watchman, of robber; now prodigal as a spendthrift, and again close-fisted as a
miser, the bounty of his munificence must be equalled by the narrowness of his
greed; impregnable in defense, a very dare-devil in attack, these and many
other qualities must he possess who is to make a good general and minister of
war; they must come to him by gift of nature or through science. No doubt it is
a grand thing also to be a tactician, since there is all the difference in the
world between an army properly handled in the field and the same in disorder;
just as stones and bricks, woodwork and tiles, tumbled together in a heap are
of no use at all, but arrange them in a certain order - at bottom and atop
materials which will not crumble or rot, such as stones and earthen tiles, and
in the middle between the two put bricks and woodwork, with eye to
architectural principle, and finally you get a valuable possession - to wit a
68. Memorabilia, III, i, 6-7 (Dakyns' translation).
These three passages comprise a mile stone in the history of social and
political thought because each compares some aspect of the art of war to the
creative activity of the three supreme fine arts of ancient Greece: the
devising of new strategems against the enemy, to musical composition; the
disciplining of an army, to the imposition of the sculptor's will upon his
material; the tactical training of an army (ordering of troops in camp, in
march, and in battle), to architecture. Together, the statements are an
argument by a soldier against the commonly held "layman's" view,
articulated by Plato and Aristotle, that military science is solely an
acquisitive art, quite distinct from the creative or productive arts. Xenophon
contends that the acquisitive aspect of war entails and innovating activity,
and even more significantly that the vital role of the general is the creation
and maintenance of an army that will be able to execute his commands. (69) With
this discovery Xenophon can proceed to make comparisons between a military
community and other forms of human association. (70). Perhaps his most
interesting analogy, unheard of in contemporary literature, is that between the
estate manager and the general. (71) Both are concerned with providing their
subordinates with supplies, with the selection of the right man for the right
job, with the safety and welfare of their charges, with winning their
affection, gaining their obedience, and punishing and rewarding evil-doers and
good-doers as the case may be.
69. A recent highly regarded practitioner of the art of war, Field
Marshal the Viscount Slim of Burma, might be taking a leaf from Xenophon when
he writes: "To watch a highly skilled, experienced, and resolute commander
controlling a hard-fought battle is to see, not only a man triumphing over the
highest mental and physical stresses, but an artist producing his effects in
the most complicated and difficult of all the arts. See William J. Slim,
Defeat Into Victory (New York: McKay, 1961), p. 371.
70. For a present-day discussion of the similarities between civil and military
society see Rapoport, "The Soldier and the Civilian: Neo-Classical Themes,
" pp. 1-2.
71. Memorabilia, III,iv.
Both must win friends and supporters, go about their business in an
industrious and meticulous fashion, prudently planning their future course of
action. While Plato and Aristotle compare estate management and statecraft,
Xenophon dwells upon the similarity of generalship to both economics and
politics, (72) reasoning that the chief difference between private and public
affairs is one of quantity, not of kind. The ship, the estate, the army, and
the polity, Xenophon fully realizes, are social organizations which are alike
in that they are dependent upon the proper ordering of the relationships among
the individuals who compose them for the sake of achieving specific ends. One
essential factor, however, separates the activity of directing sailors,
farmers, and soldiers from civil rule. In the first three the end of management
can be easily defined and readily agreed upon: a safe voyage to the
destination; agriculture productive of wealth; victory over the enemy. A
theoretical treatment of these arts will center upon the means of gaining these
ends. Not so is the theory of politics which in the ancient world concentrates
upon the question of defining the ends of human activity. The great political
debates of the philosophers of antiquity, the Sophists, Academics,
Peripatetics, Cynics, Epicureans, and Stoics were over the nature of the
highest human end: "justice," "happiness," the "good
72. M. Luccioni in his penetrating analysis, op., cit., pp.
44-46, stresses the importance of Xenophon's military experience on his general
outlook. On p. 102 he refers to the assimilation of politics, economics and the
art of war in Xenophon's thought, and on p. 103 to the fact that the
identification of economics and politics is found in Plato, reflecting a common
classical proclivity. But Luccioni fails to note that Xenophon was the first to
extend this identification to include the art of war. Xenophon's
"discovery" of the military community and the intellectual
consequences of the discovery never seem to have been recognized before.
Any comment upon means was only incidental to and contingent upon the
values of the philosopher. Given, for example, the description of ends and
means in The Republic, the reader is never told except in the broadest
outline how he as a man confronting other men can effect Plato's
recommendations. Now if someone approaches political theory from an intensely
practical interest in how to command an army and lead it to victory, or in how
to manage a country estate and make it pay off, he may well tend to emphasize
means rather than ends, to think of politics in terms of administration, the
management of men, the struggle to achieve and secure power. (73) Xenophon does
exactly this, approaching all fields of human endeavor from the standpoint of a
soldier, a commander of men. Regardless of wether he is speaking of an estate
or a polity, he thinks as a general of an army. To him the squire is
essentially a general, the king is a general, and the central problem of each
is that of the general, recruiting, training, marching his army and engaging
the enemy in battle. (74) It is the problem of the techniques to be used to get
men to do one's bidding, of exercising one's will over others, in short the
problem of command and obedience. Each action and utterance of the leader is
judged by the criterion of its usefulness in solving this problem. (75). Of
course, Xenophon does not disregard values; from our knowledge of him he is the
model of Greek gentleman.
73. Ibid., pp. 53-54, for a similar discussion of Xenophon's
74, Ibid., esp, pp. 53-59, 87, 104, for Luccioni's idea of Xenophon's
general theory of the 'chief:"
75. Ibid, p. 49.,
But he accepts these values uncritically and focuses his intellectual
talents upon what he deems to be the secret of success in public and private
affairs, the knowledge of handling men or the art of command, necessary for
success in polity, army, farm, household, even in love. (76) With Xenophon,
then, begins what in modern jargon might be called the psychology of human
76. Memorabilia, III, iv, 12, Oeconomicus, XXI, 2.
77. Luccione, op., cit., p. 55, the "Chief" as psychologist.
According to Xenophon the foundations of obedience are compulsion,
self-interest, and rational organization. Rules of behavior must be established
and compliance to them expected of all. The leader exacts obedience in his
followers through instilling fear among them by threat of punishment for
incompetent and disloyal service and through rewarding good behavior. Animals
are trained by punishment and reward, (78) an indispensable means also of
exerting command among humans, whether by estate managers, military commanders,
or civic rulers. (79) He who aspires to leadership, however, must employ the
compulsion of punishment and reward in a discriminating fashion if he is to
avoid the hatred and contempt of his associates. Clearchus, the Spartan
commander serving Cyrus the Younger, who took pride in his severity, believing
that soldiers should fear their superiors more than the enemy, lost a great
many men through desertion. (80)
78. Oeconomicus, XIII,6.8.
79. Oeconomicus, IV, 7-11, IX, 14-15, XIV, 3-7; Memorabilia, III,
iv, 8; Hiero, IX, 1-2; Cyropaedia, I, vi, 1-2, VIII, i, 16-20, 29.
80. Anabasis, II, vi, 9-14.
In contrast, Xenophon's friend, the Boeotian Proxenus, strove to win
the love of his subordinates, and ended by being an object of contempt because
instead of punishing wrongdoers, he merely withheld praise from them (81). Even
if punishment and reward are applied circumspectly they certainly do not
constitute a sufficient means of instituting and maintaining a discipline that
is characterized by a spirited and determined loyalty. To achieve this,
obedience must be given voluntarily rather than under compulsion, as Cambyses
explains to his son. (82). Those who obey voluntarily do so because they
realize that it is in their positive interest to do so.
The true test of the leader is whether his followers will adhere to his cause
from own volition, enduring the most arduous hardships without being forced to
do so, and remaining steadfast in the moments of greatest peril (83) They will
so act if their leader by his kindness and thoughtfulness, by his superior
example, and by the incentives he provides, becomes an object of affection and
admiration, and establishes a lasting conviction that it is to their advantage
to obey. (84)
81. Anabasis, II, i, 20.
83. Oeconomicus, IV, 18-19; XXI, 7.
84 Memorabilia, III, iii, 11-15.
In his all-important efforts to win the affection of his men, the
leader of whatever kind, must treat them as friends, (86) a precept relevant,
as Xenophon believes, even to the art of the courtesan who by adopting the
manner of friendship can be assured of an ardent and idolizing clientele,
continually contending for her favors. (87). All that the leader does must be a
demonstration to his subordinates that he consistently is thinking of their
welfare and working for their benefit. (88). The safety and security of his
charges should be a matter of continual concern to the farmer, and to the
cavalry commander directing an attack or retreat, superintending a camp or a
march. (89). Good food and adequate housing are of supreme importance in the
exercise of command. (90). Xenophon is the first to stress the crucial
logistical role of supplying an army. (91) Highest priority must be given by
the general to his soldiers' rations. No leader can afford to neglect the
health and physical well being of his wards, seeing that they receive proper
medical attention when needed. (92). Every dealing with his men must be marked
by justice (93) and generosity. (94).
85. Memorabilia, III, iv, 9; Oeconomicus, XII, 5-7;
Hipparchicus, VI, 1.
86. Hiero, I, 33; III.
87. Memorabilia, III, xi, 11-13.
88. Cyropaedia, VIII, ii, 2; Hipparchicus, VI, 2. ;
89. Memorabilia, III, ii, 2-4; Hipparchicus, VI, 2.
90. Memorabilia, III, ii, 1-4; Hipparchicus, VI, 3.
91. Cyropaedia, I, vi, 9, 12. Note the commend of Major-General Fuller,
op., cit., p. 53.
92. Oeconomicus, VII, 37; Hipparchicus, VI, 3; Cyropaedia,
I, vi, 15; Vi, i, 23-25; VIII, ii, 24-25.
93. Oeconomicus, IX, 13-15, Cyropaedia, VIII, ii, 27.
94. Cyropaedia, VIII, ii, 7-23; Hiero, XX.
But affection for the leader will not be enough to strengthen
discipline and morale unless his ability is acknowledged. Xenophon's "good
leader" excels his men in their tasks. (95) By personal example he must
convince them of his superiority. If he fully succeeds, his men, with love in
their hearts, will follow him through thick and thin to the ends of the earth.
Contempt and disrespect will be the penalty of his failure, especially if his
excellence proves to be fraudulent. (96) The squire must set an example of
painstaking and preserving care. 97) The cavalry commander must distinguish
himself by his skill in riding and in arms, by his tactical mastery, by his
courage and physical endurance. (98) Personal qualities of conduct and
character are as necessary as expertise. King Agesilaus XX of Sparta was a
model of industry and law abidingness, cheerful and dignified, leading a simple
life of moderation. (99) Cyrus the Great, outstanding in his piety and justice,
his honoring of obedience, and his temperance, was like a "living
law" to his subjects. (100) He would always lead his nobles in the chase,
offering them a high standard of the gentlemanly attainments to emulate. (101)
95. Cyropaedia, X, vi, 6.
96. Cyropaedia, X, vi, 22-25.
97. Oeconomicus, XII, 18-20.
98. Memorabilia, XXX, ii, 9-10; Hipparchicus, VI, 4-6; VIII,
99. Agesilaus, V, 3; VII, 2.
100. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 22-23.
101. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 34-37.
Words without deeds to substantiate them are disastrous, but the powers
of oratory and persuasion are extremely helpful to the leader when they serve
as the proper setting for his acts. Oratory, used sparingly and at the right
moment by the general or the statesman, will quiet the discontented and subdue
the mutinous, lift men's flagging spirits, rally them in defeat, spur them to
attack, dramatize their leader's prowess, and inspire them anew with the
confidence that under his guidance everything is to be gained and little it to
be lost. The willingness to obey and to do one's best can be effectively
bolstered if the leader deliberately provokes the spirit of competition among
his followers by a planned program of incentives offering suitable prizes for
the winners. The farmer will see to it that his worthiest hired hands will
receive clothing of finer quality then those whose work is not up to par. (103)
In periods of preparation before extensive military campaigns while an army is
being trained, new divisions are being formed and new tactics are being
contrived, competitions can be held among the soldiers to increase their
proficiency and morale. (104) A similar scheme may be employed to good purpose
with a peacetime civilian population. Simonides urges Hiero to organize
contests of all sorts between the different districts within his kingdom. (105)
These rivalries would be designed not only to stimulate the military virtues,
but also to promote fairness and industry in businesses and commerce, and to
advance agricultural pursuits.
102. Memorabilia, XXX, iii, 11-15; Oeconomicus, XIII,
9-10; Hipparchicus, I, 24; VIII, 22.
103. Oeconomicus, XIII, 19-12.
104. Hellenica, XXX, iv, 16; Cyropaedia, XX, i, 22-24;
Hipparchicus, I, 25-26.
105. Hiero, IX, 4-21.
Moreover, suggestions for civic improvement would be welcomed and
rewarded according to their usefulness. Cyrus, realizing that to a great extent
the military power of his empire rested upon a thriving populace living in
economic abundance, takes pains to adopt comparable methods to raise
agricultural production and the elan of his subjects. (106)
The main function of the rational organization of society as conceived by
Xenophon is to facilitate good discipline and strong purposeful leadership. In
a rational society the individual has no difficulty in recognizing the center
of authority and his immediate superiors in the chain of command. He knows that
the hierarchy of which he is a part and his particular station in it depends
upon the principle of ability. The exact nature of his duties are privileges,
what he can and cannot do with impunity, is quite clear to him. Hence, fact
that he lives in such an orderly, stable, and predictable world gives him a
sense of serenity and well-being resulting in a greater willingness to comply
with the directives of the leader. From the standpoint of the leader, the more
rationally organized the society over which he presides, the more effective his
control and the more efficiently he is able to utilize the resources of the
society for winning his goals. Xenophon exhibits a decided penchant for order
and efficiency. He dearly loves the beauty and harmony of rational
organization. (107). An untidy household in which implements and goods are
stored in a haphazard fashion, and activities are conducted without attention
to routine and exactness can be compared to a chorus whose singers and dancers
lack well-drilled precision.
106. Cyropaedia, VIII, ii, 26.
107 Oeconomicus, VIII.
Likewise to be condemned are an unruly mob supposed to function as an
army, or an ill-managed ship. Everything and everybody must be in their place
according to their function and that if needed they can be located readily and
used without difficulty. System, method, and regularity are the premier
qualities that the leader should give to the society he is molding.
If the ultimate of rational communities is the well-organized and
well-commanded army, its form most nearly resembling the polity is the
encampment. In his recommendations for a military encampment Xenophon begins a
long tradition that includes Polybius, Vegetius, and Machiavelli, a tradition,
inspired, perhaps, as much by the rational city planning of Hippodamus as the
classical ideal of a harmonious urban order. (108). as by actual military
practice. No matter where the camp is established its plan must be the same so
that each soldier knows his place. (109) Encamping and decamping must always
proceed in the same regular way. Orderliness is even more important in military
society than in the household because war always brings the need to seize and
capitalize upon unexpected opportunities as they arise. The rationale of the
plan is based on defensive considerations. In case of attack the most easily
mobilized troops are always on the outside creating a protective shield for
types of troops taking longer to prepare for combat. In the center is the tent
of the commander facing east, with the tents of his most trusted immediate
associates, the accommodation for his body guard, servants, cooks, bakers, and
108. Aristotle, Politics, 1330b-1331b.
109 The detailed description of the camp of Cyrus is in Cyropaedia,
VIII, v, 2-16.
(The description of the Roman camp by Polybius was real, based on standard
practice which continued throughout the centuries and became the basis for many
Surrounding this central compound is the area for the cavalry and
charioteers. To the north and south are the billets of the targeteers, and to
the east and west those of the bowmen. The hoplites constitute the encircling
outer wall, ready on instant notice to fend off any surprise attack. All
officers fly distinctive banners so that they and their units may be easily
located by the commanding officer. Each company of one hundred men lives and
messes in a single tent, (110) an arrangement possessing several advantages for
the maintenance of discipline and morale. No longer is there any excuse for
inequality of performance in battle on the grounds that some are treated better
in camp than others, for all men now see that they are treated alike. From this
close association a real comradeship is likely to arise among the members of
the company, substantially increasing their effectiveness as a combat unit.
More considerate and mutually helpful behavior become the rule, a fraternal
atmosphere in which desertions are less likely. Finally, each soldier grows
more familiar with his fighting position in the field because the same order is
kept in the tent, squads and platoons eating and sleeping together.
To Cyrus the Great, Xenophon ascribes the creation of an ideal civic community,
one consciously patterned after the military model, (111) with authority
centralized in the hands of the king, and a hierarchial chain of command.
Unless excused by the crown, the nobles are required to be in attendance at
court where they are always available for the performance of particular
services, and can be kept under the watchful eye of the sovereign, (112)
110. Cyropaedia, II, i, 25-28.
111. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 13.
112. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 6.
State bureaucrats like tax collectors and paymasters, and the heads of
household departments such as the royal estate keepers, superintendents of
horses and hounds are select by the king. (113) More important is his
responsibility of choosing the close associates and advisers upon whom he will
depend in the future; the commanding officers of the armed forces, royal
governors, and ambassadors. (114). Extreme care must be taken to appoint the
most qualified man to each of the posts, a point stressed by Xenophon in his
discussion of the general and the estate manager, (115) as well as the civic
Throughout the realm, greater excellence of work is assured because of the
increasing specialization of function made possible by a highly developed urban
life. In a remarkable passage that may be compared justifiably to Adam Smith's
famous description of the division of labor in the manufacture of pins,
Xenophon refers to the breakdown of operations in the fabrication of shoes, one
man cutting out the parts, another assembling them and still another doing the
stitching. (116) Even chefs, specializing in the various modes of preparing
food, replace generalists in the royal kitchens. So as to be free from the
petty details of administration and to enjoy the necessary leisure to devote to
broad policies for the general welfare, Cyrus institutes a hierarchical civil
service, each level with clearly defined functions and responsibility for the
level immediately below, as in a military system of organization. (117)
113. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 9.
114. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 10-11.
115. Memorabilia, XXX, iv, 8; Cyropaedia, X, vi, 20.
116. Cyropaedia, VIII, ii, 5-6.
117. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 13.
A civilian and military division of function is maintained in each
province, were both the governor and the military commander are directly
appointed by and responsible to Cyrus. If either officer observes any
shortcoming in the behavior of the other he is required to report it
immediately to his royal master. (118) Linking the whole kingdom together are
post stations placed at convenient distances, which allow Cyrus to keep in
constant touch with his subordinates, receiving intelligence and transmitting
All activities in a rational community are carefully prepared and planned, and
their execution meticulously supervised, (120). The leader calculates the
resources and reserves at his disposal and those of the forces opposed to him;
he weighs the alternative courses of action and the consequences of each before
a final choice of policy is made. Although to be successful, statesman, farmer,
and lover must all engage in this kind of rational estimate, the ultimate in
precise and thorough planning is for a well organized military operation.
Through planning is the very essence of military science, (121)
118. Cyropaedia, VIII, vi, 1, 9; Oeconomicus, IV, 9-10.
119. Cyropaedia, VIII, vi, 17.
120. Memorabilia, III, iv, 11; 8; xi, 5-10; Oeconomicus, IX, 14;
X, 10; 16-20; Hipparchicus, XXI, 2.
121. Cyropaedia, X, vi, 27-42; Hipparchicus, IV, 6; V, 9-15; VI,
The commander must spend all his wakeful hours thinking how he will
deceive and over come the enemy. Our first detailed record of the planning of
an extensive military campaign by a master of the art of war is Xenophon's
account, to which the entire sixth book of the Cyropaedia is allotted,
of the preparations of Cyrus for the great battle in which he was to defeat the
army of Croesus. The first thing to be attended to during the readying period
is the security, health and provisioning of the army. Then spies are dispatched
to gather information about the strength, disposition and intentions of the
enemy. Siege engines are constructed for the purpose of destroying hostile
forts. Cavalry units are strengthened and a corps of chariots created.
Intensive training of all troops is begun, aided by contests among the troops
to raise them to peak combat condition. The order of march and the supplying of
the invading army, their food, drink, equipment, together with the nature of
the service corps are worked out. Finally, on the basis of the intelligence
that has been gathered and assessed, the tactics for the coming battle are
discussed and formulated. To ensure a high degree of obedience, morale and
operational efficiency in the preparation and execution of planning and in the
day-to-day functioning of his organization, the leader can never relax and
allow others to run the show. His presence must be felt everywhere, his
vigilance must be never-flagging. Infinite pains and attention to detail
usually make the differences between success and failure in civic affairs, on
the battlefield, and in estate management. (122)
122. Oeconomicus, XX, 1-20.
The able leader examines personally as many arrangements as possible,
and constantly scrutinizes the behavior of his associates and subordinates.
While the most conscientious and energetic leader can himself only check a
small proportion of the affairs of his organization, he can by example instill
in his men a devotion to detail. (123) Cyrus makes frequent inspections and
undertakes periodic progresses through his Kingdom. (124). What he is not able
to investigate he delegates to circuit commissioners, officers who perform a
function similar to the inspectors-general of a modern military establishment.
Hence a community so organized and supervised as to decrease the element of the
unpredictable, the haphazard and the arbitrary ,will measurably increase and
secure the leader's control over his followers.
One can argue that all of Xenophon's precepts regarding the art of leadership
are the result of his own intimate acquaintance with handling men; his march
with The Ten Thousand, his service with the Spartan forces, and his management
of the estate at Scillus. On the other hand many of his emphases have a
definite Socratic flavor. (125) Whatever the source, belief in some of the
Socratic teachings could very well have been reinforced by what Xenophon had
learned from actual military experience. The concepts of rule by men of ability
and of the rationally organized society in which each individual performs the
function for which he is best suited might be lessons that the young Xenophon
had first learned from his one-time teacher.
123. Oeconomicus, XII, 9-20.
124. Cyropaedia, VIII, vi, 16; Oeconomicus, IV, 6-8.
125. The Socratic origin of Xenophon's principles is stressed by Luccioni,
op., cit., esp. pp. 47, 49, 50, 53-56; Scammell, op., cit., pp.
In addition the view that friendship is a much more adequate and
lasting foundation for the exercise of power than mere constraint is
characteristically Socratic. Xenophon concludes the Oeconomicus (126) by
stating that although much about the mastery of others can be taught and
learned, it remains essentially a divine gift to those who have mastered
themselves. Self-knowledge and the consequent self-discipline, at the heart of
the philosophy of Socrates, are also central to Xenophon's conception of
leadership. The leader must have a thorough understanding not only of his own
capacities and how they may best be used to advantage, but also of his
limitations and how they may most suitably be offset, remedied, or disguised.
He must be able to keep under tight rein his sorrows, worries, fears, and
doubts, and know how to feign the disposition which the occasion demands. He
must assume many different roles, (127) and must be capable of estimating the
effects of his acting upon the audience, calculating their mood, knowing when
one role should be abandoned for another, and exactly how the role should be
played at that particular moment.
126. Oeconomicus, XXI, 9-12. For a general discussion of
self-command see Memorabilia, IV, v
127. Memorabilia, III, i, 6-7. So many of these qualities of leadership
are illustrated in the numerous speeches of the Anabasis and
We haver seen that Xenophon is a perceptive and inventive thinker. Although he
has long been recognized by military theoreticians as the father of their
craft, intellectual historians have overlooked his highly original conception
of the social nature of the army. This basic insight led to another, elementary
theory of leadership, perhaps his most significant accomplishment, and one
which surely entitles him to be called an ancestor of modern political science.
Several aspects of the theory remain to be examined; law and society, kingship
and tyranny, and the question of deception in human relationships. It is
tempting to make certain assumptions about Xenophon's views upon the basis of
what we know of the influence of his military experience upon his intellectual
outlook. For instance, we might mistakenly suspect that he believes law to be
the command of the leader, a suspicion seemingly confirmed by the absence of
any comment upon the nature of law in both the Cyropaedia and the
Hiero. Law, as a matter of fact is defined in the Memorabilia by
Pericles as the command of the ruler even a tyrant, but he then immediately
qualifies this definition at Alcibiades' insistence that violence rather than
law exists when one is forced rather than persuaded to act in a particular way.
(128) Xenophon, then, is not a legal positivist. He would define law as the
rightful command of the stateman, the general, the ship's captain, and the
estate manager. "Rightful" ultimately means adherence to commonly
accepted moral principles of divine origin such as the worship and reverence to
gods, honoring one's parents, the prohibition of marriage between parents and
children, and the return of a good for a good. (129). The leader who disregards
these principles is not a true leader.
128. Memorabilia, I, ii, 412-46.
129. Memorabilia, IV, 18-25. See Luccioni, op., cit., p 66.
He is if he heads civic society, a tyrant, not king, and his commands
are not laws in the normative sense employed by Xenophon. (130). Yet if
Xenophon is not a legal positivist, he would certainly never condone civil
disobedience on the grounds that the command of the leader violates the natural
law. Obedience to the law (apparently true of "just law" also) is the
supreme civic virtue, and Sparta is the polity in which it has always been the
most highly esteemed. (131). A major reason for Athens' deplorable civic
condition is the decline in support for law and constituted authority. (132)
That laws are repealed from time to time, Xenophon warns, cannot excuse
disobedience before their repeal just as in the army during war, the fact that
peace will eventually emerge does not excuse insubordination. (133) The law in
the normative sense, therefore, is as just as the good. Conformity to the
prescriptions will benefit the individual by enabling him to realize his
inherent nature. (134) Although again it would be a misinterpretation to label
Xenophon as a utilitarian, (135) as a military commander and country squire, he
seems to identify the good with what is useful in achieving the ends of the
military and the agricultural arts.
130. Memorabilia, III, ix, 10-15a.
131. Memorabilia, XV, iv, 13-17.
132 Memorabilia, XXX, v, 4-24. Compare with Plato, Laws, III,
133. Memorabilia, XV, iv, 14.
134. For the identification of the just, the useful, the good and the legal see
Memorabilia, XXX, ix, 4; XV, iv, 12-13; vi, 8.
135. Barker op., cit., p 107, calls Xenophon "something of a
utilitarian" and the Xenophonic Socrates, "a respectable
If a general consistently defeats the enemy, or the farmer's annual
harvests increase his wealth substantially, the means they employ are good by
their utility. However, the means of greatest utility in leading men are always
inherently good. The successful leader by virtue of his success and the nature
of his craft cannot have employed fundamentally vicious and evil methods in
managing his men, since he must have aroused their enthusiastic support by
winning their affection and respect. Xenophon's distinction between king and
tyrant may best be explained by first recalling Aristotle's view upon the
subject in the Politics. (136) Aristotle maintains the conventional
classical distinction between kingship and tyranny, in respect to intention,
origin, and behavior. Kings are motivated by a desire for the good; tyrants
lust after personal wealth and aggrandizement. Kingship is instituted by
consent;, tyranny, by force and fraud. Once in power the king will act as
guardian and steward of the people; the tyrant will suppress and exploit them
in order to satisfy his insatiable and uncontrollable lust. He will use every
means to sow distrust among his subjects and to sap their strength and spirits;
for example, by forbidding various essential forms of associational life;
education, common meals and clubs. Any possible opposition to his regime will
be prevented by the elimination of all outstanding men in the community, and by
the reliance upon a secret police and a praetorian guard of foreign
mercenaries. To fill his own pockets the people and their country will be
136. Politics, 1914-1915b
As the fancy strikes him he will dishonor his subjects, particularly by
violating the women. Naturally, this systematic despoiling produces the chief
causes of the overthrow of tyrants, the hatred and contempt of the people.
Aristotle suggests a second kind of tyranny by which this result can be
avoided. The unconventional tyrant should appear to be a king, striving
to benefit instead of looting his commonwealth. By acting in a manner exactly
opposite to the ordinary tyrant, he will gain energetic and loyal supporters,
his rule will be more durable, and he himself if not wholly good will neither
be wholly bad. In contract to Aristotle, Xenophon pays no attention to the real
motives of the leader. Whether the ruler has as his goals the general welfare
or personal power is of little concern to him. Indeed, he appears to suggest in
the Hiero that the desires for personal wealth and power can be better
satisfied by being a king than a tyrant. Likewise, the way by which sovereignty
is established is of no relevance go Xenophon. The question of legitimacy is
never considered. To Xenophon the significant difference between king and
tyrant is in their behavior, and the resulting relation with their subjects.
Are we concerned with the underlying intentions of a general or with how he has
secured his position? No, our interest is is in regard to his performance as a
military commander. So Xenophon judges political leadership. Cyrus is a king
because by his activities he has captured the imagination and won the devotion
of his subjects. Hiero is a tyrant because he has alienated his subjects, who
in their hatred and contempt, conspire to overthrow him. But Hiero can become a
king, regardless of his intentions and the illegitimacy of his reign, if he
exerts self-discipline and follows the policy of prudence recommended by
Simonides, a policy, interestingly enough identical to that pursued by Cyrus. A
Hiero can become a Cyrus. We know nothing of the real intentions of Cyrus.
Nevertheless we do know that his empire was founded by military violence and
guile. Who is Aristotle's unconventional tyrant but a reformed Hiero, and who
is a reformed Hiero, but a kingly Cyrus. Xenophon's distinction between king
and tyrant solely upon the basis of performance was one very explicit
formulation of the then very popular idea of the possibility of creating a
well-ordered polity by reforming a tyrant, an idea that had intrigued both
Plato and Aristotle and their followers. The doctrine stated by Xenophon is
potentially revolutionary since by implication it is an attack upon legitimacy
and a defense of political activism. Authority, it radically suggests, need not
rest upon legitimacy, but can be manufactured by an artful leader who seizes
power; and most radical of all, the selfish and not the altruistic intentions
of the leader may in the long run be the best guarantee of the general good.
But these implications were never perceived by Xenophon.
In describing how a leader should act, Xenophon is ever mindful of the
consequences of the action upon the followers. All behavior should be
calculated to encourage them to advance whatever goals he may have in mind.
Despite the insistence that in dealing with friends one must never resort to
the same kind of trickery and deception employed against his enemies, (137)
Xenophon quite clearly thinks that the able leader must often appear to be what
he is not, and devise various artifices order to win and hold friends and
137. Cyropaedia, I, vi, 27-28.
This is the advice that Socrates gives to the courtesan. Theodote.
(138). She must cleverly enmesh her prospective friends by the web of her charm
and personality in much the same way as the hunter's net entangles the prey of
the chase. Ensnarement of the enemy in war and politics depends upon the
ensnarement of friends. Oratory is one of the principal ways by which the
leader ensnares his friends. (139) His words will have the greatest impact if
used sparingly. He should address his followers only when a special effort is
required or in a moment of crisis, as on the eve of battle or in retreat, and
on other occasions the responsibility should be delegated to others. (140) A
number of interesting ruses are suggested by Xenophon. In order to increase the
affection of his followers and to become in their minds a symbol of
benevolence, the ruler himself should confer awards and honors, the duties of
chastisement and punishment being performed by his subordinates. (141) To
insure the good will of his servants, Cyrus has them fed from his own table, as
is the practice of ensuring the loyalty of dogs. (142) The lavishing of gifts
upon his subjects serves the ruler in acquiring countless faithful "eyes
and ears" throughout his realm, who will report any happenings that might
be prejudicial to his interests. (143).
138. Memorabilia, III,xi.
139. Memorabilia, XXI, iii, 11-15.
140. Cyropaedia, I, vi, 19. 1r41. Hiero, IXd, 1-3.
142 Cyropaedia, VIII, ii, 4.
143. Cyropaedia, VIII, ii, 7-23.
By far the most interesting of Xenophon's recommendations are those
concerning the personal appearance and demeanor of the ruler and his entourage.
The figure they present to the populace should be striking and majestic,
calculated to inspire them with awe and devotion. (144). Clothing should be
designed to conceal physical defects and give the impression of tallness and
handsomeness. Additional aids in the creation of this public image are shoes
that will increase one's height, and facial make-up. Cyrus always contrived to
tower above his tall charioteer while riding in public. (145). Crude habits of
deportment should be scrupulously avoided, every act characterized by calm,
poise and dignity. (146) Deceptions of the kind described seem mild and
innocuous enough, when we realize that they are used only to supplement
ability, like a fine setting designed to enhance the affect of an already
lustrous jewel. Yet they are important to note because of what Xenophon says on
the matter in the Oeconomicus. (147) Ischomachus, who is Xenophon
himself speaking, the country gentleman, expert in all the arts of agriculture
and estate management, tells Socrates how one day his young bride attempting to
make herself more attractive, appeared with face powdered and rouged, and
wearing high-heeled shoes. Rather taken aback, he gently suggests that between
husband and wife there is no need to employ deception. Such artifices can be
used to deceive the outside world, but among intimates they serve no purpose
for they are easily recognized for what they are.
144. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 40-41.
145. Cyropaedia, VIII, iii, 14.
146. Cyropaedia, VIII, i, 42.
147. Oeconomicus, X, 2-8.
Moreover, the user under these circumstances will suffer a loss of
respect and esteem. Apparently, Xenophon believes that in regard to the use of
deception and artifice three classes of people exist: intimates, friends
(fellow citizens), and enemies. Toward our intimates no type of deception
ordinarily should be employed; toward our friends, moderate deception for good
purposes is justifiable; (148) toward our enemies any kind of fraud and
trickery is permissible.
Xenophon's genius lies in his having conceived of civic society and the civic
ruler after the model of the army and its general. Consequently, from his
military perspective, he sees the central political problem as one of
leadership, chiefly the exercise of command and in that exercise he emphasizes
the role of force, affection, manipulation, deception, rational calculation and
organization. By so doing Xenophon gives a new direction to political thought,
not to be followed, however, until the modern era. But he is never so daring as
to break with the commonly held classical values of justice, virtue, and
reason. His civic ruler commands a society of friends or fellow-citizens, and
behaves toward them as the enlightened ancient Greek would usually expect one
to treat friends. So bound by the classical ethos, Xenophon could never
envisage the more radical implications of the idea of a military analogy of
society, although his original insight made such a perception possible in the
future. We owe this accomplishment to a long-time student of Xenophon and the
classical art of war, Niccolo Machiavelli. Numerous parallels can be drawn
between the political thought of the two men. Both rely upon a military model,
and both are almost completely concerned with leadership.
148. Cyropaedia, X, vi, 31.
But each conceives civic society in terms of a different dimension of
the military model, although each by no means excludes the other dimension from
his purview. Xenophon tends to see domestic politics in the image of the
relation between the general and an army of friends; Machiavelli's standpoint
is that of the relation between the general and his enemies. The difference
between the two thinkers results from their divergent opinions in regard to
human nature and basic social ties. Xenophon with Socratic optimism believes
that man by nature is rational and good, and that he can realize his being in
the harmony of a well-ordered association of friends. Machiavelli, a sort of
pagan Augustinian, is convinced that man is essentially irrational and selfish,
a power-seeker, who at best can only be restrained temporarily. The fundamental
social condition, consequently is conflict; within the family, between
families; within the city, between cities. Man has always and will always live
in a state of perpetual tension and war with his neighbor. Artifice and
invention (social, political, and legal arrangements) can do much to mitigate
the asocial proclivities of mankind, but eventually the best ordered community,
Rome, for example. will disintegrate under the constant pressure of human
egoism and anarchism. At the most unexpected moment the dangerous "first
nature" of man in destructive rampage may break through his "second
nature", the circumvallation of convention. Civic society, therefore,
according to Machiavelli, is not so much Xenophon' army of friends commanded by
a general as it is a battleground upon which foes are ruthlessly and
relentlessly contending for power. Although the burden of the Florentine's
argument rests upon the idea of men as foes in civil society, he does not
disregard the need for friends. Good friends he believes -------- (remainder