Loving Humanity, Learning, and Being Honored: The Foundations of Leadership in Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus

  Sandridge, Norman B. 2012. Loving Humanity, Learning, and Being Honored: The Foundations of Leadership in Xenophon's Education of Cyrus. Hellenic Studies Series 55. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_SandridgeN.Loving_Humanity_Learning_and_Being_Honored.2012.

Chapter 1. Philanthrôpia and Philotîmia as Reciprocal Fondness

I begin this study of Cyrus’ three superlative character traits with an early and seemingly simple passage in the Cyropaedia. Xenophon describes how the twelve-year-old Cyrus wins over his Medan contemporaries (hêlikotai), then their fathers, and then his grandfather, Astyages. Both the love of humanity (philanthrôpia) and the love of being honored (philotîmia) explain Cyrus’ behavior. As we proceed through this passage piece by piece, we will see how thoroughly interwoven Xenophon’s entire narrative is and how he is either reworking or incorporating aspects of the Cyrus legend from Herodotus and Ctesias. [1] It is also possible that Xenophon is either inventing aspects of Cyrus on his own or that he is drawing from non-extant Persian folklore. Of particular interest for us will be the ways in which Cyrus comes to form intimate relationships. We will examine his fondness for others, his affection, his ways of showing favor, his gentleness, his sense of fairness, his sympathy, his pity, his nurturing attention, his ability to play “matchmaker,” his practice of giving gifts—all of which serve to win honor and a devoted following.

The scene is set by the departure of Cyrus’ mother, Mandane, from the Medan court of Astyages back to Persia. After expressing concern for the kind of education Cyrus would receive in a decadent and despotic Media, she leaves Cyrus behind. He must rely on his own Persian education, which is tested in several ways. Xenophon describes how Cyrus quickly comes to be on familiar terms with his Medan contemporaries and disarms their fathers. He then wins over Astyages and uses his favor to help the fathers.

ταχὺ μὲν τοῖς ἡλικιώταις συνεκέκρατο ὥστε οἰκείως διακεῖσθαι, ταχὺ δὲ τοὺς πατέρας αὐτῶν ἀνήρτητο, προσιὼν καὶ ἔνδηλος ὢν ὅτι ἠσπάζετο αὐτῶν τοὺς υἱεῖς, ὥστε εἴ τι τοῦ βασιλέως δέοιντο, τοὺς {21|22} παῖδας ἐκέλευον τοῦ Κύρου δεῖσθαι διαπράξασθαι σφίσιν, ὁ δὲ Κῦρος, ὅ τι δέοιντο αὐτοῦ οἱ παῖδες, διὰ τὴν φιλανθρωπίαν καὶ φιλοτιμίαν περὶ παντὸς ἐποιεῖτο διαπράττεσθαι, καὶ ὁ Ἀστυάγης δὲ ὅ τι δέοιτο αὐτοῦ ὁ Κῦρος οὐδὲν ἐδύνατο ἀντέχειν μὴ οὐ χαρίζεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ ἀσθενήσαντος αὐτοῦ οὐδέποτε ἀπέλειπε τὸν πάππον οὐδὲ κλαίων ποτὲ ἐπαύετο, ἀλλὰ δῆλος ἦν πᾶσιν ὅτι ὑπερεφοβεῖτο μή οἱ ὁ πάππος ἀποθάνῃ· καὶ γὰρ ἐκ νυκτὸς εἴ τινος δέοιτο Ἀστυάγης, πρῶτος ᾐσθάνετο Κῦρος καὶ πάντων ἀοκνότατα ἀνεπήδα ὑπηρετήσων ὅ τι οἴοιτο χαριεῖσθαι, ὥστε παντάπασιν ἀνεκτήσατο τὸν Ἀστυάγην.

Quickly he had blended in with his age-mates so much that they were like family. Quickly he won over their fathers by approaching them and making it clear that he favored their sons; the result was that if they needed anything from the king, they would tell their sons to ask Cyrus to accomplish it for them. And Cyrus, because of his philanthrôpia and philotîmia , made it a priority to accomplish whatever they asked of him. And Astyages could not resist favoring Cyrus in whatever he asked for. For when he was sick, Cyrus never left his grandfather and never stopped weeping, but made it clear to everyone that he feared his grandfather might die. For if Astyages needed something even at night, Cyrus was first to notice it and with the least hesitation of all would jump up to help in whatever way he thought would be pleasing, so that he won over Astyages entirely.

Cyropaedia 1.4.1–2

As we think about this scene, we should keep in mind how Herodotus’ Cyrus interacts with his Medan contemporaries and their fathers (Histories 1.114–116). Herodotus’ Cyrus is ten years old and, up to this point, raised in the company of herdsmen who have rescued him from exposure (he does not yet know of his royal blood). He plays at being “king” with the Medan youth, but when it is his turn to be king he assigns various tasks, then has one of the boys whipped for refusing to obey. As the boy is seemingly of a higher station than Cyrus, the boy’s father, Artembares, has Cyrus brought before Astyages to be punished for his outrage. Astyages then realizes that Cyrus is the grandson he had tried to have killed as an infant (because he feared his rise to power). Both Xenophon and Herodotus’ Cyrus play at being king but in rather different ways. Xenophon’s Cyrus imagines being ruler (archôn) of Astyages’ wine-pourer Sacas, but in a lighthearted and ultimately harmless manner (Cyropaedia 1.3.11). {22|23}

Blending In

Unlike Herodotus’ Cyrus, Xenophon says that Cyrus “blended in” so well with his Medan contemporaries that he comes to be on “familiar terms” with them. Other uses of the expression oikeiôs diakeisthai refer to those whose interests and routines are thoroughly intertwined, e.g. by dining together, traveling together, or sharing in any activity with a member of a household (oikos) without technically belonging to it. [2] Cyrus is especially good at forming these kinds of relationships. When he is introduced to his grandfather, he kisses him as one “naturally loving of affection” (philostorgos), as though Astyages were a long-lost friend (1.3.2). Though literally a son, grandson, and nephew, Cyrus assumes the role of family member to others. He is the avenging “son” to the Assyrians, Gobryas and Gatadas. [3] Cyrus plays the “brother” to Abradatas by protecting and caring for his wife Pantheia ( Ultimately he is a “father” to the citizens of his many nations, and they are his children. [4] Cyrus shows sympathy for Croesus by emphasizing their common humanity. [5] He also wins over the wine-pourer Sacas by becoming “his own Sacas,” by which Xenophon means that, in enlisting the cupbearer’s guidance, Cyrus develops an intuitive sense for when to visit his grandfather (1.4.6). This friendship between Cyrus and Sacas may be a reworking of Ctesias’ account of how the low-born Cyrus insinuates his way into the inner court of the Medan king by becoming his cupbearer. [6]

Showing Favor

“I Want You to Want Me”

By contrast, Ctesias’ Cyrus, though certainly a lover of honor, pursues it in a less personal fashion. He forms one close friendship with the Persian Oebaras, who continually plies him with fantasies of winning glory among the Persians by liberating them from Media, even to the point of sacrificing other friends who are an obstacle to the overall mission (F8d*14–19). Yet, Cyrus’ pursuit of glory takes place independently of a desire for the respect and approval of others. Though Astyages is not Cyrus’ grandfather in Ctesias’ version, he shows several signs of feeling affection for the young man (F8d*6–7, 22); he is not the murderously cruel or duplicitous Astyages we see in Herodotus. In fact he feels personally betrayed when Cyrus revolts:

Alas! I resolved often enough not to treat bad men well, but I have been ensnared by fine words all the same: I took on Cyrus, a wicked goatherd, a Mard by birth, and produced such utter destruction for myself.

Ctesias F8d*30

High Honors

Yet, although wanting acceptance, Xenophon’s Cyrus sometimes keeps to his own standards of what honors he should pursue and accept, despite the commands and censure of others. As we noted above (p. 24), Cyrus shows some initiative in his approach to the fathers of his Medan friends. Xenophon says that he undertakes all labors and all risks to win praise; this principle seems to apply even to the point of disobedience. [17] We see this risk-taking in his first hunting expedition with his uncle, Cyaxares (also in 1.4). Here, Cyrus eagerly {26|27} learns all that he needs to know about which animals he may hunt and which he must avoid. Nevertheless, at the first sight of a deer, Cyrus gives chase and is almost thrown from his horse. He hits the deer with a spear and is subsequently chastised by his elders. Though he is vexed by the criticism, he still darts off in pursuit of a wild boar “like someone possessed” (enthusiôn); Cyrus’ pursuit of honor is not altogether rational. Accordingly, Cyrus is again chastised by his uncle for his boldness (thrasutês). Yet, he begs for the opportunity to give the kill to his grandfather even if he is whipped for it. Cyaxares reluctantly relents, saying, “for you are now our king” (1.4.9). For his part, Astyages is grateful for Cyrus’ gift but does not see that it was worth the risk. In his first battle with the Assyrians, Cyrus is victorious but also a source of concern because he becomes “mad with daring” (cf. τῇ τόλμῃ, Here, all three Cyruses (Xenophon’s, Ctesias’, Herodotus’) share a sense of extraordinarily daring ambition. In Herodotus, Cyrus is also willing to be punished for his treatment of Artembares’ son because the son, after all, had disobeyed a “king” (1.115). In Ctesias, Cyrus is willing to risk even death to liberate the Persians.

Like the other two Cyruses, Xenophon’s subject does not pursue just any honor, but the highest honor. He has a passion for work (cf. He is willing to take risks and endure censure—even corporal punishment—to achieve this honor (1.4.13). He is, we could say, a great-souled man, megalopsychos (or megalophrôn), even though this term is uncommon in Xenophon. [18] Iscocrates says of Evagoras, king of Cyprus, in his encomium to him:

We will find that humans who love to be honored and are great-souled (μεγαλοψύχους) not only prefer praise to lavish funeral services [which are proof only of wealth], but gladly choose to die rather than live, striving for a good reputation more than a livelihood and doing everything possible to leave behind an immortal memory of themselves.

Evagoras 3

Isocrates reports that Evagoras’ own great soul was enough to instill in the Persian king, Artaxerxes II, the fear that he might be overthrown (59). Plutarch reports that Alexander takes a mortal risk to tame the mighty Bucephalus and in doing so wins praise from his father, who says that he should “seek a kingdom greater than Macedonia” (Life of Alexander 6). Not only does Xenophon’s Cyrus show a similar passion for horses, but he has an outsized appetite for hunting, quickly bringing down all the creatures in his grandfather’s zoo and appealing for the opportunity to hunt all the animals in existence, as though they were {27|28} “bred for him” (Cyropaedia 1.4.5). Both Cyrus and Alexander are portrayed as young and future conquerors who pursue the highest honor by taking greater risks than those around them think prudent or necessary. This level of successful risk-taking forms the basis of their claim to greater sovereignty. Both flirt with kingship from a very young age.


In addition to this desire for popularity through the pursuit of the highest honors, Cyrus’ other path to sovereignty is paved with the favors he does for his friends. To return to the central passage of our discussion, Xenophon says that the Medan fathers used Cyrus to deliver petitions to Astyages. This facet of Cyrus’ behavior is interesting for two reasons. First is what it reveals about Astyages’ court: the fact that Cyrus is required to bring petitions from the Medan noble fathers implies a measure of distance between the king and his most prominent subjects. As Azoulay has shown, Cyrus’ court eventually displays the right combination of both distance and intimacy between the leader and his followers, a Medan and Persian blend. [19] Second and more importantly, Cyrus’ practice of serving as an ambassador becomes habitual. On three separate occasions, he reunites Tigranes, Abradatas, and Croesus with their captive wives. [20] He marries the daughter of Gobryas to the Persian Hystaspas and offers to find another wife for Chrysantas, calling himself an accomplice (sunergos) and expert at matching people (5.2.12, 8.4.13–22). Cyrus awards a music-girl to a Medan who is a “lover of music” (5.1.1). Guided by luck or fate, he even pairs the Persian commoner Pheraulas in lasting friendship with a Sacian horseman (8.3.26–50). Cyrus reconciles Tigranes with his father, the king of Armenia, after the king had killed Tigranes’ mentor out of envy (3.1.38–40). He plays the peacemaker between Chaldaeans and Armenians by uniting them through intermarriage and land-sharing. Xenophon concludes his account of their treaty by noting that it continues to this day, underscoring the prudent nature of Cyrus’ arrangement. [21] He says that Cyrus received from the people throughout his empire whatever they had in excess and then returned to them whatever they needed (8.6.23).

The political advantages of Cyrus’ successful pairings are obvious, and Xenophon typically makes them explicit. When Cyrus mounts a campaign against the Assyrians, many Medes follow him because of the service he had done for them in their youth on behalf of their fathers out of philanthrôpia (–9). In return for Cyrus’ protection of Pantheia, Abradatas gives his life in service to Cyrus’ army. In the union between Gobryas’ daughter and Hystaspas, the Persian and Assyrian nations are also united. In all of these scenes, Cyrus is instrumental in establishing strong romantic or friendly bonds that, in other contexts, he will take pains to weaken (as I discuss below, p. 33).

Attentive Care

Both Socrates and Cyrus are adept at pairing the interests of others. In order to secure favors for the fathers of his Medan contemporaries, however, Cyrus works another aspect of philanthrôpia with his grandfather and does it so well that Astyages cannot resist any request from him. Xenophon says that Cyrus surpasses all others in tending to Astyages’ needs when he is sick and in showing his sympathy by weeping constantly for him. By contrast, Ctesias’ Cyrus uses the pretense of being an attentive healer, not to Astyages but to his own father. By claiming to want to nurse his father back to health, Cyrus plays on Astyages’ affection to secure leave from his court so that he may plot an attack on the Medes and liberate the Persians (F8d*22).

As part of his expressions of therapeia, Cyrus visits the injured Gadatas, who marvels that Cyrus should care for him without any obligation to do so (5.4.10–11). In the same battle-scene, a “clearly distressed” Cyrus tends to the wounded Cadusians so diligently that he skips dinner either to look after them in person or to send someone to care for them (5.4.17). On another occasion at a dinner, Cyrus notices the bandages of his wounded soldiers and asks about the cause (2.3.19–20). In pursuit of the Assyrians, Cyrus captures some of the Chaldaeans but has their shackles removed and orders surgeons to tend to their wounds ( Cyrus wins over the Chaldaeans in much the same way as Xenophon’s other great king, Agesilaus:

Understanding that while a country that had been plundered and depopulated could not support an army for a long time but that one that was inhabited and cultivated could offer everlasting sustenance, he [Agesilaus] prepared not only to master the enemy with force but also to reconcile them with gentleness. Often he told his soldiers not to punish prisoners of war as wrong-doers but to guard over them as human beings. Often, whenever he changed camp, if he saw the children of merchants left behind … he took care that they be brought along, too. He ordered that those prisoners left behind because of old age be taken care of lest they be mangled by dogs and wolves. The result was that not only did those who learned about these things come to have good will for him, but even the prisoners themselves. And whatever cities he reconciled he removed from them the services that slaves perform for their masters and ordered them to obey in whatever ways freemen obey their leaders. And by philanthrôpia he gained control of fortresses that could not be taken by force.

Agesilaus 1.20–22

As king of Babylon, Cyrus gathers the best physicians, equipment, and supplies at his palace. When someone is sick and requires attention, Cyrus watches over him and provides whatever he needs, not failing to show gratitude to the physicians (8.2.24–25). He even challenges his closest followers to compete with him in therapeia toward others (8.2.13–14). In performing the role of physician, Cyrus {31|32} conforms to the education he receives from his father, Cambyses, who insists that a leader must ensure that his followers do not become sick at all. [


We have looked at several ways in which Cyrus expresses his fondness for others and wins them over, for example by being gentle, encouraging, sympathetic, and attentive. Yet, we have only taken a cursory glance at perhaps the most obvious method: giving gifts. This, too, is a practice Cyrus partakes of in his youth and develops over time. At the table of Astyages, Cyrus portions out pieces of meat to various servants as tokens of gratitude (1.3.7). Such a gesture also has the effect of winning distinction for Cyrus because it displays his capacity for self-mastery over food and drink (enkrateia). There is evidence to suggest that the practice of distributing food was common among Persian kings as a thoughtful way of compensating the servant staff. [32] Xenophon may be casting the young Cyrus as the inventor of this practice. Interestingly, Xenophon also advocates a similar practice in his dialogue between Simonides and the tyrant Hieron (Hieron). After Hieron has complained of the financial burden of main- {32|33} taining a standing army, Simonides points out to him that it is less expensive for a monarch to give friendly greetings and to dole out prizes: “Don’t you see how in horse races and gymnastic and choral competitions small prizes produce great expenditure, many labors, and many cares in humans?” (Hieron 9.11). Here it seems that Cyrus is engaging in a practice that has precedence in a Greek understanding of Persian history as well as in Xenophon’s own opinions on how to practice efficient leadership through thoughtful gift-giving.

These practices not only have the predictable effect of winning honor for Cyrus but also the less obvious effect of minimizing the extent to which others may plot against him. Xenophon explains that Cyrus practiced philanthrôpia as a way of winning the good will of his followers but also of improving his own security (8.1.48–8.2.1). Because they were so thoughtful and so unique to the king, Cyrus’ gifts rendered his followers more loyal to him than they were even to their own families (8.2.9). We see now that for Xenophon philanthrôpia does not have an absolute form of expression: sometimes it may involve bringing his followers closer together by matching their interests (e.g. reuniting Abradatas, Tigranes, and Croesus with their wives) or keeping them apart. What matters is whether the gesture brings honor (and security) to Cyrus.

Loving Humanity as a Means or an End?

Nor does Cyrus seem to exhibit quite the helping behavior of Jason, leader of the Argonauts and also an aspiring king. On one famous occasion Jason {34|35} encounters Hera disguised as an old woman at the flood of the River Anaurus. Hera explains why she helps him win the Golden Fleece:

Apollonius Argonautica 3.66–74, translation Race

Here Jason takes pity on an old woman and helps her cross the flooding river, apparently at some risk to himself. Cyrus, by contrast, is seldom shown risking himself for the unfortunate or those of a lower class, unless it is a gesture of gratitude, whereby he hopes to ensure their future services. Instead he competes to help his uncle, Cyaxares, and his grandfather, Astyages, the two most powerful men in Media, and feels especial delight in winning their favor (1.3.12). The closest comparison between his and Jason’s behavior is in Cyrus’ treatment of Pantheia after she commits suicide over the body of her husband, Abradatas, though this treatment involves no personal risk. Cyrus pities Pantheia, sheds copious tears, and honors both her and her husband with a lavish funeral (7.3.15–16). In fact, the Greek words describing Jason’s feeling for Hera and Cyrus’ for Pantheia are similar (cf. ὀλοφύρατο, κατολοφυράμενος). We could imagine that Cyrus honors Pantheia for his own political advantage; perhaps he wanted a reputation as someone who took care of his friends. Xenophon does not make any effort to suggest this, however. His Cyrus sheds real tears.

We might also think that Cyrus merely displays pleasure in helping others in order to charm his followers. [51] Xenophon and his contemporaries were well aware of how a leader might give off an air of friendliness simply to advance his own interests. In the Memorabilia the painter, Parrhasius, admits that it is possible to capture a subject’s soul by an imitation of their facial expressions, both friendly (philphronôs) and hateful (3.10.4). In a climactic scene in the Anabasis , the treacherous Persian satrap, Tissaphernes, wins over the Spartan general Clearchus by showing a friendly disposition (philophronoumenos). [52] Despite the misgivings of others in the Greek army, Tissaphernes lures Clearchus into a meeting and has him killed along with many others (Anabasis 2.5.27–34). According to Demosthenes, Philip of Macedon once drank with Theban ambassadors at a sacrificial banquet, treating them “philanthropically” with money and gifts, so that he might convince them to betray their fellow citizens (cf. φιλανθρωπευόμενος, On the False Embassy 139.6; cf. 140.4). In the same speech, Demosthenes criticizes Aeschines for seeking a self-interested peace with Philip under the pretense of the name of philanthrôpia (99.1). Aeschines himself says that feelings of philanthrôpia are easily aroused by the actor’s art (On the False Embassy 15.8–9). In an especially indignant tone, Isocrates rails against the masses for their vulnerability to flattery and displays of good will and kindness. He thus cynically advises Timotheus:

You see the nature of the masses, how they are disposed to various pleasures and therefore feel greater fondness for those who try to gratify them than those who benefit them, and for those who trick them with a smile and gestures of philanthrôpia more than those who serve them with cautiousness and dignity … If you please them, they will judge whatever you do not by a standard of truth, but give you the benefit of the doubt, and they will overlook your mistakes and elevate what you do right to the stars. For that’s how good will affects everyone.

Antidosis 133–134 {39|40}

It is thus conceivable that Xenophon meant to fashion his Cyrus with similar gestures, making him into someone who succeeds at winning over others by pretending sympathy and rehearsing all the smiles, handshakes, toasts, and benefactions that can charm others without any sincere good will on the part of the performer. It is unlikely, however, given our direct window into Cyrus’ emotional states, that Xenophon means to portray him with such pretenses.

Cyrus’ “philanthropic” death in Xenophon is much different from the one Herodotus gives him on the eastern extremes of the Persian Empire, battling queen Tomyris of the Massegetae, his head soaked in blood. [57] In fact, in both Herodotus and Ctesias, Cyrus’ benefactions, such as they are, are limited to the Persian people (he is their liberator and as such their benefactor), whereas it is clear that Xenophon’s Cyrus is beneficial to many nations. The barbaroi (not the Persians specifically) hail him as “philanthrôpotatos,” and he is the “father” to many nations. [58] Sancisi-Weerdenburg has observed that Cyrus’ deathbed speech has many elements common to the speech of Darius’ tomb inscriptions at Naqš-i Rustam, so much so as to suggest that Xenophon had become familiar with them through oral tradition. The elements include divine help in the king’s success as well as his physical prowess, justice, and self-restraint. [59] Ctesias, too, preserves a much less-detailed final speech for his Cyrus (F9.8). But one of the elements missing from both of these accounts is this mention of the king as a benevolent benefactor; missing, too, is the specific association of Cyrus’ philanthrôpia with the philanthrôpia of the earth. This association seems to be largely Xenophontic, or at least preserved by Xenophon independent of known sources. In the Oeconomicus, Ischomachus explains that farming is a “philanthropic” craft, dear to gods and men who are willing to study it. [60] Cyrus the Younger is praised for practicing the art of farming and for taking pride in it even more than in war. [61] {41|42} In the Cyropaedia, the Persian Pheraulas praises the earth’s generosity and then amplifies that of Cyrus himself by comparison (8.3.38).

Philanthrôpia and Divinity

There is a further tendency elsewhere in Greek literature to associate philanthrôpia with divinity and then with leaders who are in a position to benefit others in grand ways. In the first extant use of superlative philanthrôpia (421 BCE), a Chorus in Aristophanes asks Hermes to help rescue the goddess Peace, praying to him as most generous and most “philanthropic.” [62] As we noted above, it is also Aristophanes who in Plato’s Symposium describes Eros as the “most philanthropic” of gods for being a physician to the ills brought on by erotic love (189d1). Not only does philanthrôpia in superlative form have divine connotations, but the earliest extant use of the philanthrôp– stem describes the god Prometheus when he gives fire to mortals (c. 430 BCE). [63] Whereas gods typically deal with mortals contractually, [64] Prometheus does so because of his “philanthropic” tendency (cf. φιλανθρώπου … τρόπου, Prometheus Bound 11). The idea behind this tendency is captured earlier by Pindar (c. 470 BCE), who describes the divine centaur Cheiron as a wild creature “with a mind that is loving of men.” [65] Isocrates explains how a mortal leader’s philanthrôpia may be analogous to the divine when he encourages Philip of Macedon to emulate his ancestor Heracles’ philanthrôpia toward the Greeks (To Philip 114.4). [66] He gives Philip further invitation to this divine pretension by explaining that good deeds, gentleness, and philanthrôpia win glory and reverence:

Gods who are the source of good things for us are hailed as “Olympian,” but those who are appointed for punishments and misfortunes receive rather unfriendly epithets. Private citizens and cities build temples and altars for the former, but the latter are honored neither in prayers nor in sacrifices, but we perform rites to banish them. You should condition {42|43} yourself with these things in mind and try to get everyone to have an even better opinion about you than they already do.

To Philip 117.1–118.3

Isocrates flatters the fourteen-year-old Alexander in a similar way when he praises him as “philanthropic” and a lover of Athens (To Alexander 2.1). Cyrus seems to be assuming the analogy between divine and leaderly philanthrôpia when he surrounds himself with pious friends (theosebeis), thinking that they would be less likely to commit crimes against one another or against him, “for he considered himself their benefactor” (; cf. The reasoning seems to be that just as Cyrus sees himself as a benefactor like the gods, he seeks to surround himself with those who knew how to revere such munificence.

Cyrus’ philanthrôpia and philotîmia converge at the point of grandeur.

We conclude that while it is correct to see Cyrus’ as highly motivated to win honor when he engages in helping others, it is incorrect to assume that loving honor (or some other manifestation of personal advantage) must necessarily taint, or even undermine, Cyrus’ desire to help others—or that loving honor {43|44} is Cyrus’ only motive or even his strongest motive. He is not like Achilles, for example, who seems to see his contributions to the Achaean army at Troy, at least at times, as primarily contractual: honor and glory in return for service in reclaiming Helen for Menelaus (Iliad 1.149–171, though cf. 9.323–327). By contrast, Xenophon presents philanthrôpia and philotîmia as distinct though concurrent expressions of Cyrus’ soul (1.2.1). He affirms their distinctiveness when he says that Cyrus helped his age-mates secure favors for their fathers from Astyages, both out of a love of being honored and a fondness for others. This foregoing discussion of philanthrôpia challenges the view that Cyrus is primarily selfish or that he manipulates others for his own ends. One might still argue that Cyrus’ love for others is somehow eclipsed by his love for honor, but it is difficult to dispute the claim that a love for others, in and of itself, is a large part of Cyrus’ character and thus a large part of Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership.


We have sought to identify a number of features to Cyrus’ philanthrôpia and philotîmia, both of which are rich, multi-faceted concepts. Philanthrôpia is for Xenophon a fondness for humans that involves feelings of pity, sympathy, affection, and care. It entails gift-giving, tokens of honor, matchmaking, and attention to illness. It may be grand, civilizing, and long-lasting, coming as it does with associations of divinity. Philotîmia is a love of being honored, but more than just a desire for tokens of distinction. It is often a love of being praised, approved of, or appreciated. Cyrus wants others to feel the fondness for him that he feels for others. Additionally, the love of being honored is a love for the highest honors (megalopsychia) in every important agonistic theater.

We have seen further that in his philanthrôpia and philotîmia Cyrus plays at being a king from a very young age. He imagines himself as the “ruler” of Sacas, the Medan king’s closest companion, granting or denying access to all who would see him. He disperses prizes at the dinner table to worthy servants and may be seen as the “founder” of this practice among the Persians. He gives a cloak to one of his contemporaries to mark him out as his favorite, just as his grandfather had honored Cyrus himself. He takes greater risks than those around him think appropriate. He aims for the highest honors, like hunting all the animals of the world, regardless of censure and punishment. Contrary to the accounts of the young Cyrus in Herodotus and Ctesias, these flirtations with kingship do not involve taking advantage of others, conquering, or humiliating them. Instead, others win honor and distinction along with Cyrus and are encouraged to do as he does. In the following Chapter we will explore the ways in which Cyrus’ love of learning (philomatheia) fits into this picture. {44|}


[ back ] 1. Since my primary focus is on Cyrus’ leadership, I do not make generalizations about Xenophon’s reworking of Herodotus and Ctesias, but I suggest where I believe this reworking may occur.

[ back ] 2. Cf. Isocrates Trapeziticus 3.4–5, To Philip 20.3, Lysias 1.39.1, and Aeschines Against Ctesiphon 138.3.

[ back ] 3. Cyropaedia, 5.2.7–8, 5.3.19.

[ back ] 4. Cyropaedia 8.1.1, 8.1.44, 8.8.1. For Cyrus’ subjects as “sons” or “brothers,” cf. 8.6.16.

[ back ] 5. Cyropaedia 7.2.10. On Cyrus’ humane treatment of Croesus in Herodotus, see Lefèvre 1971: 403–404.

[ back ] 6. Cook 1983:26 on Ctesias F8d*5–7. All fragments of Ctesias are taken from the edition of Llewellyn-Jones (2010).

[ back ] 7. This trait, and its relation to philanthrôpia, is discussed in Chapter Three, pp. 66–69.

[ back ] 8. Cyropaedia 4.6.4, 5.2.28. This is the second, unnamed, Assyrian king, son of the first king, who is killed by Cyrus’ army. Historically, this king was Nabonidus (556–539 BCE).

[ back ] 9. F14.43; cf. Llewellyn-Jones 2010:60.

[ back ] 10. Cf. F8d*14–19.

[ back ] 11. This is the first appearance of this term in extant Greek literature and is perhaps invented to capture a particular Persian mode of greeting.

[ back ] 12. Cf. ἠσπάζετο, There are several variations of the text here, which suggest that Cyrus either gave the robe to the one he favored most or gave the robe to show whom he favored most. I have used the reading in Bizos’s edition.

[ back ] 13. Cf. Dover 1974:201.

[ back ] 14. Ctesias also presents Cyrus as someone who is able to win over others (though he does not explain how), particularly his mentor Artembares and Astyages himself, though this affection seems one-sided. Cyrus, in fact, manipulates Astyages’ fondness for him in order to secure leave to plot the liberation of the Persians from the Medes.

[ back ] 15. In the Hieron, Simonides calls praise the sweetest of all sounds. Hieron in turn distinguishes true praise from flattery, of which he says tyrants must always be suspicious (1.14–15).

[ back ] 16. Cyropaedia 1.2.7, 1.4.25, 1.5.1, 1.6.20. Cyrus the Younger is “most obedient” (Anabasis 1.9.5).

[ back ] 17. Cf. the similar relationship between the love of honor and risk-taking at Memorabilia 3.1.10.

[ back ] 18. Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 1123b–1125a, Eudemian Ethics 1232a19–1233a30) has a fuller description of the great-souled, “small-souled,” and vain man.

[ back ] 19. Azoulay 2004a:168–169.

[ back ] 20. Cyropaedia 3.1.36–37, 6.4.7–9, 7.2.26–28.

[ back ] 21. Cyropaedia 3.2.17–24. Cyrus is the indirect peace-maker for the Carians in their civil war (7.4.1–6). Cf. Gera 1993:281. Cyrus the Younger reconciles Clearchus, Menon, and Proxenus (Anabasis 1.5.15–17).

[ back ] 22. Cyropaedia 1.3.17. The significance of Cyrus’ approval of this transaction, and his misapplication of justice, is discussed further below (pp. 64–65).

[ back ] 23. Cyropaedia 8.7.13–18. Cf. Gera 1993:122–123.

[ back ] 24. In the Hebrew tradition, for example, Yaweh plays the matchmaker (Cf. Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 68:3–4).

[ back ] 25. Memorabilia 4.7.1. Cambyses gives the same advice to Cyrus (Cyropaedia 1.6.14) and Cyrus tells his sons to learn from history if they cannot learn from him (8.7.24). On the theme of multiple sources of education, see Gray 2011:19–20.

[ back ] 26. Cf. τῷ συνηδόμενος μὲν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς φανερὸς εἶναι, συναχθόμενος δ’ ἐπὶ τοῖς κακοῖς,–3. Cf. also 1.6.24. In an instance of Xenophon’s highly-selective diction, these are two of only three places where he pairs the verbs for sharing in the suffering of others (sunaxthomai) and sharing in their joys (sunêdomai), the other being in his discussion of mutual love in the Symposium (8.18). Elsewhere in Xenophon Socrates advises the courtesan Theodote to share in the success and suffering of her lovers (Memorabilia–8), and Ischomachus recommends the sharing of sympathies and interests as a way of securing the loyalty of a maidservant (Oeconomicus 9.12).

[ back ] 27. Cyropaedia,,,,

[ back ] 28. Cf. Cyropaedia 5.4.32, 7.1.41, 6.1.47, 7.3.14, 7.2.26. Other instances of pity include the elder Assyrian King’s pity for Gobryas over the loss of his son (Cyropaedia Cleander pities the wounded soldiers under Cyrus the Younger (Anabasis 3.1.19). Xenophon pities himself and his comrades after they have been abandoned in enemy territory (Anabasis Socrates and Antisthenes pity those who cannot live within their means (Oeconomicus 2.2.4, 2.7.4, 2.9.4, Symposium 4.37.2), though Simonides says this condition is not pitiable (Hieron 4.10.2). Other instances of pity involve unnamed subjects, self-pity, or claims that something is pitiable (Anabasis, Oeconomicus 7.40.4, Apology 4.4, Memorabilia 2.6.21, Hieron 1.37.1).

[ back ] 29. Cyropaedia 1.6.16. On the leader-as-physician metaphor, cf. Patroclus (Iliad 11.837–848) and Alexander the Great (Plutarch Life of Alexander 8). On Xenophon himself as a physician and father, cf. Anabasis 5.8.1; Anderson 1974:122–123.

[ back ] 30. Cf. νόον ἔχοντ’ ἀνδρῶν φίλον, Pythian Odes 3.5. See Gera 1993:50 and Ferguson 1958:109.

[ back ] 31. Cf. Drews 1974:389–390 on the version of Cyrus as a court gardener in Nicolaus of Damascus. In correspondence with me, Claire Taylor has made the plausible suggestion that Cyrus’ therapeia and the servant-like role he plays to others may be carried over and modified from Ctesias’ Cyrus, who is both a slave and then a servant.

[ back ] 32. See Lenfant 2007:207 on a fragment of Heracleides of Cumae (F2) about the Persian king’s dinner. This fragment argues against the belief that Persian banquets were lavish because of decadence.

[ back ] 33. Cyropaedia 8.1.43–44. For the view that Cyrus uses all gift-giving to enslave his honor-loving followers, see Reisert 2009.

[ back ] 34. Cyrus the Younger uses banqueting in a similar way (Anabasis 1.9.26–28).

[ back ] 35. Cf. Azoulay 2004b:323n229, Gray 2011:5–69 et passim, and Danzig (forthcoming):7–9.

[ back ] 36. Danzig (forthcoming):8.

[ back ] 37. A further testament of Jason’s unflinching concern for others is the enthusiasm with which he hopes the blind seer Phineus may regain his sight (Apollonius Argonautica 2.438–442). Jason’s enthusiasm may be characterized as non-self-interested because by this point in the epic he has already received all of Phineus’ prophetic insight.

[ back ] 38. Due 1989:198–203, Gera 1993:26–131, and Rasmussen 2009:81–97 trace the influence of Socrates on the Cyropaedia, though none compare their philanthrôpia. As Gera 1993:27 notes, it is difficult to determine whether Xenophon’s Cyrus derives from Xenophon’s understanding of the historical Socrates or his opinions about leadership influence his portrayal of both figures. Cf. also Higgins 1977:56 on Cyrus’ and Socrates’ incorporation of erotic language to characterize their roles as leaders.

[ back ] 39. Memorabilia 1.2.60–61. This is the first extant coupling of dêmotikos with philanthrôpos. The adjective dêmotikos entails acting in a way agreeable or sympathetic to the people’s wishes and interests, such as being friendly, obeying the laws (contrary to the tyrant’s impulse), and being “non-oligarchic.” Plutarch calls the Spartan king Agesilaus both philanthrôpos and dêmotikos for participating in the Spartan educational system (agôgê) rather than being raised as a privileged king (Life of Agesilaus 1.3.6). Evagoras is dêmotikos for his attentive care (therapeia) to the masses (Isocrates Evagoras 46). Xenophon’s Cyrus, though not described as dêmotikos, may be seen as such for his attentive care to others, his upbringing in the Persian agôgê, his general ability to “blend in” with his fellow-citizens, and his dismissal of royal privileges (1.4.14). Cf. a similar portrayal of Cyrus the Younger’s education (Anabasis 1.9.2). Herodotus’ Cyrus, raised by a common woman, also fits this profile (Histories 113), as does the Argonaut Jason (Apollonius Argonautica 1.7). On Socrates’ philanthrôpia cf. Plato Euthyphro 3d7.

[ back ] 40. Elsewhere Xenophon calls Socrates “useful” (ôphelimos) to his friends: Memorabilia,,,

[ back ] 41. This practice begins in Cyrus’ youth when he refuses to take back the gifts he had given to the Medes on his departure (1.4.26). He also refuses any additional wealth from the Armenian king and he refuses the fortress of Gobryas and the gifts of Gadatas (3.1.42, 5.2.7–11, 5.4.29–32).

[ back ] 42. Cyropaedia 8.3.28. Cf. Gera 1993:173–183 on this scene.

[ back ] 43. Cf. ὁ τρόπος φιλέταιρός, This word occurs once elsewhere in Xenophon, in his encomium to the Agesilaus. Agesilaus would not make peace with Corinth or Thebes until they had restored their Spartan sympathizers. Agesialus also attacked the Phleisians to restore their Spartan sympathizers. Both acts were done out of philetaireia (Agesilaus 2.21.7).

[ back ] 44. Cyropaedia 2.2.1. On the symposium as a type-scene in the Cyropaedia, see Gera 1993:132–191, who notes a “pronounced didactic tendency in all the symposia” (133).

[ back ] 45. For the historical Ugbaru, who seems to be the basis for Xenophon’s Gobryas, see Briant 1996:41–42.

[ back ] 46. Cyrus the Younger prefers the “philanthropic” art of farming to warfare (Oeconomicus 4.4–4.25).

[ back ] 47. Cyropaedia 8.4.7. Cf. διδοὺς … ἥδεται, Cf. Odyssey 10.38–45 on the suspicion that a leader’s greater spoils may arouse. Chrysantas also esteems Cyrus’ good will (8.1.5), and Cyrus esteems Chrysantas’ habit of delighting in helping him (ἐπί τε τοῖς ἐμοῖς καλοῖς πολὺ μᾶλλον ἐμοῦ ἀγάλλεται καὶ ἥδεται,–16). For the pleasure of giving over receiving as an expression of erotic love, cf. Xenophon Symposium 4.14.

[ back ] 48. Cf. φύσει φιλόστοργος,;, 1.4.26–28. The only other “affectionate” figure so described in Xenophon is Agesilaus (cf. τὸ δὲ φιλόστοργον καὶ θεραπευτικὸν τῶν φίλων, 8.1.5).

[ back ] 49. Cf. ὑπερέχαιρεν, Cf. Cyrus the Younger’s exceeding desire to please his friends (Anabasis 1.9.24).

[ back ] 50. Cf. the similar sentiment in Memorabilia 2.6.35.

[ back ] 51. Gray 2011:100–105 has a helpful discussion of seeming versus being in the Cyropaedia. She challenges the assumption that Xenophon means to be ironic when he said that Cyrus “seemed to be” a certain way.

[ back ] 52. Cf. Aristotle On Virtues and Vices 1251b1–3. A host of gestures may express philophrosunê: a handshake, the tone of voice, a smile, a toast, sharing food, or giving a thoughtful gift (Cf. Xenophon Symposium 1.10.5, Sophocles Ajax 751, Xenophon Anabasis, Xenophon Symposium 2.24.4, Xenophon Anabasis

[ back ] 53. Cf. Gray 2011:64–67.

[ back ] 54. We should be clear: to say that Cyrus takes direct pleasure in helping others is not the same as saying that Cyrus takes pleasure that others be helped by anyone. This may not have been a distinction Xenophon thought to make.

[ back ] 55. Cf. Danzig 2009:274–275, and forthcoming.

[ back ] 56. See Bullough 2002:1–17, Llewellyn-Jones 2002:19–49, Azoulay 2004c.

[ back ] 57. Gera 1993:244 points out as well that Xenophon’s attention to Cyrus’ burial is only one of two in the Cyropaedia (the other is the burial of Pantheia and Abradatas). There is no mention of Astyages’, Cambyses’, or Mandane’s burial, whereas it is a regular feature of Ctesias’ Persica to describe burials and monuments.

[ back ] 58. Cyropaedia 1.2.1, 8.8.1. Cyrus is also called “father” in Herodotus, but only by the Persians (Histories 3.89).

[ back ] 59. Sancisi-Weerdenburg 1985:448–453. Sancisi-Weerenburg’s entire article is a good illustration of the challenges we face (as well as the possibilities) in speculating about the uses of Persian history and folklore in the Cyropaedia.

[ back ] 60. Oeconomicus 15.4.2, 19.17.3. For this theme in Roman literature see Powell 1988:208–209.

[ back ] 61. Oeconomicus 4.4–4.25. As we discussed above Cyrus the Elder enjoys practicing the art of philanthrôpia more than of war (Cyropaedia 8.4.6–8). On the broader similarity between the two see Due 1989:187–192.

[ back ] 62. Cf. ὦ φιλανθρωπότατε, Peace 393.

[ back ] 63. Cf. Lorenz 1914:8–9, De Ruiter 1932:272, and Ferguson 1958:102–103. Cf. Nikolaidis 1980:351 on philanthrôpia and divinity.

[ back ] 64. Cf. Chryses’ prayer to Apollo in Iliad 1.37–43.

[ back ] 65. Cf. νόον ἔχοντ’ ἀνδρῶν φίλον, Pythian Odes 3.5. See Gera 1993:50. Cf. Prometheus’ own “excessive love for mortals” (διὰ τὴν λίαν φιλότητα βροτῶν, Prometheus Bound 123). By contrast, philandria is often an erotic love for men (cf. Euripides Andromache 229), though contrast Thebes “man-loving plain” in a patriotic sense (cf. πέδον φίλανδρον, Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 902).

[ back ] 66. On Xenophon and Isocrates as pioneers in transitioning philanthrôpia from the divine to the mortal (leadership) realm, see Azoulay 2004b:319.

[ back ] 67. Xenophon Memorabilia, Cf. Martin 1961:174, Nikolaidis 1980:352n17 on philanthrôpia as a civilizing behavior.

[ back ] 68. Cf. the similar sentiment from Socrates (Memorabilia 3.6.3).