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 4. Six Problemswith Loving Humanity

It is one thing to observe how a leader is portrayed with fundamental and derivative traits; it is still more important to determine how well these traits actually translate into effective leadership. In the next three chapters we consider the implications of Cyrus’ philanthrôpia, philomatheia, and philotîmia and their fundamentality for fourteen problems inherent in these characteristics. In doing so, we wrestle with some of the universal problems of leadership, ones that are tied to the problem of how to secure the willing obedience of followers, a central feature of Xenophon’s Theory of Leadership (see Introduction, p. 3). Unlike the so-called Classical virtues of wisdom (sophia), justice (dikaiosunê), self-restraint (sôphrosunê), and courage (aretê), which are often regarded as unequivocally good, [1] the love of humanity, the love of learning, and the love of being honored can in fact be as much of a liability to a leader as an asset.

In what follows, I do not mean to assert that the specific terms, philanthrôpia, philomatheia, and philotîmia, were always or even usually used in an ambivalent way. What I am asserting is that the underlying ideas that these terms captured were highly problematic for leaders and that Xenophon’s predecessors and contemporaries were well aware of this. The terms in question were more often than not used to capture the positive, unproblematic side of these concepts. It is this positive side, and the extent to which Xenophon’s Cyrus avoids the negative sides, that I am trying to understand in this chapter and the following two. I will attempt to contextualize each of the problems I identify with examples from Xenophon and his contemporaries. In some cases, for the purpose of clarity, I will use examples that come after Xenophon or that otherwise likely had no {79|80} direct influence on him. They nonetheless depict circumstances similar to what we see Cyrus facing in his leadership and they help to illustrate the pervasiveness of these problems in the ancient (and modern) world. Additionally, given their extent, these problems may be studied in greater detail in future work on ancient leadership.

Thus far into our study, we have seen places where it would be inaccurate to say that Xenophon pursues an absolutist notion of what it means to be a good leader, but rather a more relativistic or situational one. For example, the boy Cyrus evinces a situational view of beauty when he declares both his father, the king of the Persians, and his grandfather, the king of the Medes to be “most beautiful” (kallistos). The former is the perfect example of the modest style of Persian dress and the latter excels more luxuriously “in processions and at the Medan court” (1.3.2). We saw in Chapter One (pp. 28–29, 33) that Cyrus is good at forging relationships between others (“match-making”), but that he also tries to weaken the bonds even among family members in order to diminish the likelihood that anyone might plot against him. It is thus not always necessary for a leader to “bring people together” or to “divide them,” but to perform each of these tasks to the extent that it preserves the security and reputation of the leader as well as the prosperity of the followers—a delicate balancing act, to be sure.

Cyrus also seems to take a morally relativistic stance on the emotion of envy. He tells Tigranes to forgive his father for executing his tutor (3.1.40) and he weeps for his uncle when Cyaxares admits to envying the affection Cyrus receives from the Medes (5.5.35). Nevertheless, Cyrus pursues the Assyrian king with a vengeance for his actions committed out of envy against Gadatas and the son of Gobryas (, 5.2.7–8, 5.3.19). Though morally similar, these acts have vastly different political significance and, accordingly, Cyrus as a leader forgives the envy in the former cases but not in the latter.

Xenophon expands on the relativistic nature of leadership in a passage in the Memorabilia where he has Socrates explain generalship to a young man intent on becoming a general:

καὶ γὰρ παρασκευαστικὸν τῶν εἰς τὸν πόλεμον τὸν στρατηγὸν εἶναι χρή, καὶ ποριστικὸν τῶν ἐπιτηδείων τοῖς στρατιώταις, καὶ μηχανικὸν καὶ ἐργαστικὸν καὶ ἐπιμελῆ καὶ καρτερικὸν καὶ ἀγχίνουν, καὶ φιλόφρονά τε καὶ ὠμόν, καὶ ἁπλοῦν τε καὶ ἐπίβουλον, καὶ φυλακτικόν τε καὶ κλέπτην, καὶ προετικὸν καὶ ἅρπαγα καὶ φιλόδωρον καὶ πλεονέκτην καὶ ἀσφαλῆ καὶ ἐπιθετικόν, καὶ ἄλλα πολλὰ καὶ φύσει καὶ ἐπιστήμῃ δεῖ τὸν εὖ στρατηγήσοντα ἔχειν. {80|81}

Memorabilia 3.1.6

In examining the fourteen problems before us, we will see how well Cyrus balances the contradictory roles of leadership. We begin with six problems associated with philanthrôpia.

Getting Close but Not Too Close

Cyrus’ philanthrôpia involves a fondness for the company of others, benefaction, and expressions of sympathy and encouragement. But how well does Cyrus resist the ways in which these feelings may be manipulated? A fable has come down to us from Aesop in which a farmer happens upon a frozen viper (Fabulae 62). As a gesture of philanthrôpia, he places the viper inside his shirt to warm it, only to be bitten and killed when the viper thaws. The moral of the story, says Aesop, is that one should not show pity to the irredeemably wicked. The Spartan Clearchus, though not known for his fondness for others, makes a similar mistake by allowing himself to be charmed by the friendly gestures (philophrosunê) of the treacherous satrap Tissaphernes (Anabasis 2.5.27–34). We have also seen how Astyages in Ctesias’ Persica shows kindness to Cyrus, only to lament that he has been betrayed by him in the end (p. 26). During the Peloponnesian War the Athenians debate whether to spare or put to death the Mytilenians who have revolted from the Delian League. The statesman Cleon argues famously that they must not spare the Mytilenians because “pity, pleasure in speeches, and indulgence” are most detrimental to their empire (Thucydides Histories 3.40.2). To grant them this indulgence, he says, would invite further rebellion because no city would fear Athenian reprisal. In perhaps the most famous example from ancient literature of how feelings of kindness may be manipulated, Sinon in Virgil’s Aeneid persuades the Trojans to wheel the Trojan Horse inside their walls. He treacherously wins their trust and pity by describing the many ways that his kinsmen, the Argives, have betrayed him (2.195–198). {81|82}

Xenophon’s Cyrus is more cautious than Virgil’s Trojans, despite his philanthrôpia. Cyrus treats his enemies with a careful blend of friendship and caution—even ruthlessness. When the Hyrcanians intimate their desire to defect to Cyrus from the Assyrian army, he offers to welcome them as friends; but if they show any signs of hostility, he instructs his men “to leave no one alive” (Cyropaedia 4.2.18). Cyrus forms a friendship with the Assyrian nobleman Gobryas, who had defected from the Assyrian king because the king had treacherously killed Gobryas’ son. Cyrus is invited to win honor by avenging the son and to join Gobryas inside his castle. He proceeds more cautiously than Clearchus in the Anabasis. Rather than march directly into the castle and risk his entire army, Cyrus surveys the area and tests it for a possible ambush, a precaution Gobryas invites him to engage in:

When all of his men were outside, Gobryas told Cyrus to enter however he thought was safest. So Cyrus sent in some scouts and his forces and, accordingly, went in himself. When he had entered, keeping the gates wide open, he summoned all his friends and the officers of those with him.

Cyropaedia 5.2.6

Cyrus checks his natural impulse to treat Gobryas as a friend by being attentive to his own self-interest and the well-being of his army. Furthermore, Cyrus turns down Gobryas’ offers of abundant wealth—and his daughter—showing not only that he practices philanthrôpia with restraint but that he practices restraint against the temptations of royal sovereignty, grand fortresses, and even women “worthy of erotic love” (cf. ἀξιέραστα,

In fact, whereas romance abounds in the Cyropaedia (e.g. between Tigranes and his wife, Croesus and his wife, and especially Pantheia and Abradatas), Cyrus does not take a wife until the very end of his adventures. For Tatum, Cyrus’ detachment from others has seemed problematic:

Although the broad divisions of family, friends, and enemies are real enough, we shall find it hard to see any difference in Cyrus’ treatment of his family, friends, or enemies. At every stage of his career, and at every level of involvement with others, he has a curious detachment about other people, even as he makes himself famous throughout the world for his kindness and his generosity, through calculated shows of philanthropy.

Tatum 71 (my italics) {82|83}

For all his affection for others, Cyrus does not allow love to compromise with his goals as a leader. Yet Xenophon seems to endorse this position, as we have seen (p. 70), when he has Ischomachus explain that romantic love is one of the greatest obstacles to a person learning to be attentive (Oeconomicus 12.5). And ancient literature abounds with accounts of leaders who were, or appeared to be, tragically distracted by love for another: Paris, Agamemnon, Mark Antony, Aeneas.

Nor do preexisting friendships cloud Cyrus’ judgment or distract him from his ambitions. When Cyrus subdues the Armenians (they owed tribute to the Medes and were planning to revolt), he must decide whether to put them to death, which the Armenian king himself admits would be just. This occasion is ripe for the pity that Cyrus shows elsewhere: the king’s son, Tigranes, is a childhood friend and hunting-companion of Cyrus; he is newly married; he appears suddenly to plead for his family and weeps at the sight of their captivity (3.1.7). Cyrus gazes upon Tigranes in this condition but withholds any gesture of friendliness toward him (cf. οὐδὲν ἐφιλοφρονήσατο αὐτῷ, This scene might have aroused Cyrus’ pity, but Xenophon highlights Cyrus’ self-restraint, a trait central to the Persian educational system (1.2.6–8). After showing restraint, Cyrus invites everyone to attend the trial of the king, including the women, and then allows Tigranes to plead his father’s case. Consistent with Cyrus’ lack of friendly gesture, Tigranes makes no appeals to pity (or justice), but rather argues that it is in Cyrus’ self-interest to spare the royal family (3.1.14). Their friendship is renewed only after Cyrus has established that he can again trust Tigranes and his father. In other words, Cyrus makes sure that the “viper” is in fact not irredeemably wicked, a task that requires him to be an extraordinary judge of character, both his own and that of others.

Being Friendly but Not Permissive

Sometimes it is difficult for the “philanthropic” leader to take an interest in discipline. In his eulogy to the Boeotian general Proxenus in the Anabasis, Xenophon captures well how leadership may suffer when a leader tries too hard to be a “nice guy”:

He [Proxenus] was capable of leading gentlemen, yet he could not fashion any fear or reverence for himself in the soldiers, but he was more diffident toward them than his subordinates were toward himself. And he was more afraid to appear to be disliked by his soldiers than his soldiers were of disobeying him. And he believed that in order {83|84} to be and to seem to be a general it was enough to praise those who behaved properly and to withhold praise from those who misbehaved. As a result the gentlemen in his company were kindly disposed toward him, but the unjust plotted against him as someone easy to manipulate.

Anabasis 2.6.19–20

The Roman general and triumvir, Mark Antony, had no trouble being friends with his soldiers and he had a legacy of philanthrôpia that he inherited from his father (Plutarch Life of Antony 1.2–3, 4.4). Like Cyrus, he was merciful to the conquered, fond of hosting banquets, and even a helpful facilitator of his friends’ love affairs. Yet Plutarch says Antony was reluctant to hear complaints or issue judgments. He was moreover prone to manipulation by flatterers. As a result he was an embarrassment to his friend, Julius Caesar, and lost the respect of the leading men in Rome (6.5–6, 24.6–8). This kind of permissiveness is not only bad for the leader, however. Alexander the Great is said to have been so generous that his followers grew luxurious and slothful (Plutarch Life of Alexander 40, 41). The tendency for “soft countries to breed soft men” is of course thematic of Herodotus’ Histories, with the Persians being the prime example, and we see the same effects of spoils on Cyaxares and other Medes in the Cyropaedia (4.1.13–14, 4.2.11).

Loving Everyone to the Proper Degree

As we have already seen, Xenophon and Isocrates see divine and mortal philanthrôpia as somewhat analogous, at least in powerful leaders (Chapter One, pp. 42–43). We might say that wanting to benefit one’s followers is a leader’s primary motive or goal and thus that philanthrôpia is crucial. Few people would follow a leader who did not take into account their wellbeing at least part of the time. Agamemnon seems to assume that his good will toward his men is crucial for their allegiance, for he tells the Achaeans at Troy that he will give back Chryseis to her father in order to stop Apollo’s plague because he wants the army “to be safe rather than perish” (Iliad 1.116). Similarly, Socrates argues to Thrasymachus that “all forms of rule, in so far as it is rule, look out for what is best for no one other than that person who is being ruled and tended to, both in civic and private rule” (Republic 345d). Xenophon’s Socrates says of Agamemnon that “a king is chosen not so that he may take beneficial thought for himself, but so that he may benefit those who chose him” (Memorabilia 3.2.2; cf. Agesilaus 7.1). Yet leaders, unlike gods, are not immortal and they do not have a fixed or permanent sovereignty. Thus, despite the connotations of the term, philanthrôpia for mortals is not, in practice, indiscriminate. This is to say that philanthrôpia cannot involve loving all of humanity, all of the time, in the same ways, and to the same degree. Leaders must regularly balance the more immediate interests, claims, and merits of family, friends, lovers, and fellow-citizens against those of another city-state, another country, or even strangers who have virtually no affiliation with anyone. [5]

This dilemma is at the forefront of the dramatic conflict for many kings in Greek Tragedy. In several plots (what Burian has called “Suppliant Plays”) the king of a city-state is asked to receive refugees that are being pursued by {85|86} someone from another city-state who threatens to reclaim them by force. [6] The question for the king then becomes should he care more for the suppliants or for his own city, which will come under attack for harboring fugitives? Theseus, the king of Athens in Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, is one such example. He must decide whether to receive Oedipus and his daughter, Antigone, as suppliants into his city, risking a war with Creon, king of Thebes, who has learned from an oracle that Oedipus’ body may be used to ensure victory in war. Often there is encouragement from the gods to receive the suppliant; or the suppliant may have familial ties to the petitioned king. Oedipus, however, has no familial tie to Theseus or to Athens; moreover, he is blind, aged, and rather disagreeable. So, there are many reasons not to want to help him. Nevertheless, Theseus risks his city’s safety to help Oedipus out of what we might call philanthrôpia (though Sophocles does not use this term). He is motivated partly by piety and partly because Oedipus’ tomb will be a blessing to Athens. Perhaps most importantly, however, Theseus acts because, as a fellow human being, he knows what it is like to suffer the misfortunes of an exile (551–568). [7] Other kings in these “Suppliant Plays” face this same dilemma. [8]

Cyrus confronts this question of balance throughout the Cyropaedia. He must manage his ties to family (especially Cyaxares), friends (both upper-class Medan and Persian), fellow-citizens, and the members of the many other nations that he conquers and incorporates (Armenians, Chaldaeans, Hyrcanians, Sacians, Assyrians, Egyptians). As a rule, Cyrus seems to eschew any more personal ties and loyalties over considerations of fairness and also self-interest. We noted above that Cyrus has no time for love until the end of his campaigns. Moreover, the relationship he forms with his wife, the daughter of Cyaxares, though affectionate, is largely political (it unites the Persian and Medan nations). In other instances of justice and politics over personal preference, Cyrus invites the “uneducated” Persian commoners to join the Persian army and thereby gives them an opportunity to distinguish themselves according to their virtue (2.2.21). He incorporates numerous kings and peoples from other nations into his empire and awards them places of prominence. We have also seen where he expands the language of family to include even non-Persians (Chapter One, p. 41).

Cyrus does not submit to feelings of sympathy even among his closest friends, especially when it would be unfair to do so. In Book Eight, his devoted Persian comrade Hystaspas approaches him at a banquet to ask why Cyrus has shown greater honor to Chrysantas (8.4.9–12). Again, as in the Tigranes episode, this appeal might have elicited Cyrus’ pity or special fondness for a friend who sees himself as overlooked by his commanding officer. Instead, Cyrus registers no sympathy but gives Hystaspas a precise explanation for his preference for Chrysantas: Chrysantas is not only the more obedient follower but he also modifies Cyrus’ commands in order to accomplish what is best for Cyrus and everyone else. Hystaspas, for his part, wants to be rewarded for his true virtues and thus accepts Cyrus’ explanation, apparently inspired by the guidance it provides him. Perhaps to soften the blow, Cyrus soon arranges for a marriage between Hystaspas and the daughter of Gobryas, again on the basis of Hystaspas’ worthiness (8.4.26). By managing even his closest friendships according to merit, Cyrus discourages his friends from rivaling one another on the extraneous grounds of personal fondness, childhood or familial ties, or shared personal interests. Additionally, Cyrus ensures that his comrades continue to rival one another in obedience and thoughtfulness, lest they ever band together against their leader (8.2.28).

Yet, this principle of justice is applied by Xenophon’s Cyrus only so far. At the end of the narrative, the empire he governs still privileges the Persians, {87|88} and the highest honor in the land, kingship itself, is a hereditary one. Much as Cyrus’ fondness for competitions moves the empire in the direction of a pure meritocracy, he does not achieve one. Had Xenophon tried to portray a meritocracy, he might have portrayed Cyrus engaged in some kind of selection process through the Persian educational system he brings to Babylon. But there is no indication that his son, Cambyses, had to succeed in any trial to inherit his father’s kingdom. On his deathbed, Cyrus appoints Cambyses to the throne over his younger son on three grounds: that he has more experience (being older), that Persians believe in respecting their elders on all fronts, and that the succession of the eldest son is both the legal and the time-tested procedure (8.7.9–11). Moreover, Cyrus claims that forming ties on the basis of blood relation is most preferable (8.7.14–15).

After Cyrus dies, Xenophon is quick to point out the destructive rivalry that emerges between his sons and the precipitous decline of the Persian Empire. There are of course two ways to interpret this decline: Cyrus is such a great leader that the Persians are nothing without him; or Cyrus is a good leader but ultimately flawed for not establishing a succession of leaders, or a system of government, as virtuous as himself. Plato blames Cyrus specifically for not overseeing his children’s education, allowing them instead to be raised by women and eunuchs in the Medan style (Laws 695a–b). It is certainly worth asking why Xenophon does not present a Cyrus who could leave behind a better institution.

We may give several, perhaps not entirely satisfactory answers. First is an argument from the “nature of things.” Xenophon asserts at the beginning of the Cyropaedia that all forms of government eventually deteriorate even over a short period of time, though he does not explain why this happens of necessity. He suggests that humans simply cannot lead other humans as well as animals. At the end of Book One, he has Cambyses explain that many states have fallen because of ill-advised attacks against others and the mistreatment of their friends (1.6.45). Second, Xenophon suggests that a government, regardless of the quality of its laws, is only as good as the character of its leaders. “Whenever the person in charge is better,” he says, “the laws are implemented more purely; but whenever the person is worse, their implementation is sloppy” (8.1.8). A few pages later, Xenophon says that Cyrus regards the good ruler as a “seeing law,” who not only gives instructions but also observes and punishes the one who fails to carry them out (8.1.22). In the absence of Cyrus, then, it seems no institution is invulnerable. Third, Xenophon gives little reason to assume that a son will have the same character as his ancestors. Even though Cyrus agrees with his father, Cambyses, on the precepts of leadership, he still requires training from him to develop into the leader that he becomes (there is no indication that Cyrus educates his own son, Cambyses). Yet Cyrus does not resemble Astyages {88|89} much at all, nor does Tigranes particularly resemble his father, nor the Assyrian king his father. [10]

Proper Rivalries

For his part, Cyrus rivals his uncle and the king of the Medes, Cyaxares. This rivalry has several sources beyond Cyrus’ philanthrôpia and builds over time. The boy Cyrus succeeds at hunting, for which Cyaxares dubs him already a “king” (1.4.9). When Cyrus pursues some Assyrians in a skirmish, Cyaxares joins the chase out of shame (1.4.22). On campaign against the Assyrians, Cyrus regularly contradicts Cyaxares’ orders and proposals (2.4.5, 3.3.31, 3.3.47, 3.3.56). Cyaxares envies Cyrus’ eagerness to wage war on the Assyrians but is too timid, as well as too drawn to luxury, to campaign with him (4.1.13). As this rivalry comes to a head, Cyaxares rationalizes his anger toward Cyrus, complaining that Cyrus had left him in a vulnerable position while pursuing personal glory. The more accurate explanation, however, seems to be that Cyrus has outdone Cyaxares in showing philanthrôpia. By doing so many good deeds for the Medes, he has stolen their affection from Cyaxeres, as one might steal the affection of someone’s most beloved companion. Cyaxares says:

What if someone were to show so much attention to your wife so as to make her love him more than yourself, would you then delight in this {90|91} benefaction? Far from it, I think. But I think that in treating you this way he would be doing the greatest injustice of all.

Cyropaedia 5.5.30

Even if Cyaxares seems ungrateful, envious, and petty here, his perspective is morally defensible according to one of Cyrus’ own prior judgments. When Cyrus attempts to reconcile Tigranes with his father, the Armenian king, over the execution of Tigranes’ tutor, the king explains that he had killed the tutor out of envy, in the spirit of a man who discovers that his wife has been seduced by an adulterer. Cyrus instructs Tigranes to forgive his father because he did not act out of malice toward him; it was, he says, a “human mistake” (3.1.39–40). Moreover, as we have seen, Cyrus himself uses philanthrôpia (in the form of specialized gift-giving) to prevent his followers from forming intimate attachments with one another that could divide their loyalty to him.

For a long time many scholars have been troubled by the level of manipulation in Cyrus’ “philanthropic” ability to play up to others and anticipate their feelings. [20] Cyaxares has received special sympathy from commentators dating back to Machiavelli, who saw Cyrus’ deception of Cyaxares as an unfortunate prerequisite to empire (Discourses 2.13.1). More recently, Rasmussen has sympathized with Cyaxares, calling him “disgraced and emasculated” and “reduced to little more than a pampered houseguest.” [21] Stripped of its evaluative language Rasmussen’s portrayal of Cyaxares’ situation is more or less true: Cyrus does deceive him more than once, and Cyaxares does become marginalized in so many ways well before Cyrus undertakes the bulk of his campaign against the Assyrians. What Rasmussen’s portrayal leaves out, and what makes the evaluative language so inappropriate, is the literary and historical context that Xenophon inherited. In all other versions of Cyrus’ rise to power, Cyrus becomes king of the Medes by {92|93} force and by design. He feels that they do not deserve to rule over the Persians and thus conquers them in battle, relying on much more deception, betrayal, and cruelty than Xenophon’s Cyrus. Nowhere does Xenophon portray Cyrus as intending to become king of the Medes. Instead he portrays Cyrus as seeking the highest honors in whatever venue he can; empire, in Xenophon’s conception, is for Cyrus more or less an accident of circumstance (unless pursuing the highest honors is always tantamount to pursuing an empire).

Yet, Xenophon does not sidestep a central problem of leadership, namely, what an aspiring leader should do when subordinate to a less competent one. In an ideal picture, Cyaxares would recognize and admit his inferiority to Cyrus and simply allow him to take over. But Xenophon seems to believe that this is not how the real world works, that even the less competent need to feel important (in fact they may not even be aware of their incompetence). Thus Xenophon portrays Cyrus as “manipulating” Cyaxares in such a way as to avoid open hostility but still achieve his ambitions and what is ultimately beneficial for all parties—even for Cyaxares. By the end of the work, he is still in the magnanimous position to bequeath his daughter and his empire to Cyrus.

What Xenophon does seem to sidestep, however, is what we might think of as the ultimate rivalry between Cyrus and Cyaxares, the question of whose “house” will stand atop the Medan Empire. As Xenophon narrates it, Cyaxares has no male heirs and thus may bequeath his empire and his daughter to Cyrus without offending his (hypothetical) son. It is not clear at all how Cyrus could have remained “most philanthropic” and taken over the Medan throne from a legitimate male heir if Cyaxares had wanted to appoint his son and the son desired the position.

Giving without Losing

Caring without Anxiety

In addition to being a political burden, caring for others can be a psychological one. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus describes this burden in order to reassure the plague-ridden citizens of Thebes that he is taking care of them. He plays up the leader-as-physician metaphor and emphasizes his “wakefulness”:

O pitiable children, you have come desiring things known and not unknown to me, for I fully understand that all of you are sick. Yet though sick, there is not one of you who is as sick as I am. For your pain comes upon each person individually by himself and not another, whereas my soul groans for the city and myself and you equally, to such an extent that you are not rousing me from a sound sleep, but know that I have in fact shed many a tear and have traversed many a path in the wanderings of my mind.

Oedipus the King 58–67

For all of its benefits, material and psychological, striving to help others takes its toll on Cyrus. As we have seen, young Cyrus’ father tells him that as {94|95} a leader he will have to do more than everyone else, which will include losing sleep, while he devises ways to take care of his army:

You must keep it well in mind that all those you expect to obey you will themselves expect you to make plans on their behalf. So never be careless, but during the night plan out what your followers will do for you when the day comes, and during the day take thought for how things will go best at night.

Cyropaedia 1.6.42

Cyrus observes that whereas the Medes surpass others in luxury and sleep, a leader must not win fame for easy living but for forethought and the love of toil (1.6.8). How does Cyrus manage the stress of these responsibilities?

Cyrus first solicits advice from his friends on how to solve this problem, a move which itself begins to relieve him by dividing the mental burden of devising new ideas. Additionally, he devises for himself several prudent remedies to rule his kingdom in ways that remove the psychological burden and keep him safe from what he now acknowledges to be a most bellicose city (7.5.58). He adopts Chrysantas’ proposal to establish a royal palace for himself (7.5.57). He surrounds himself with faithful and brave eunuchs (7.5.61). He appoints numerous overseers to the different functions of government, including tax collectors and superintendents of horses and hounds (8.1.9). As we saw in the discussion of his philokalia (love of beauty), he applies the extensive system of military organization (eutaxis) to the government, whereby he, as king, is responsible only for a few leaders at the top, who are then responsible for {95|96} others, on down the chain of command. With this arrangement Xenophon notes that Cyrus was able to alleviate his anxiety:

It came to be for Cyrus that by communicating with a few people no part of his affairs went uncared for, and from this arrangement he enjoyed more leisure than anyone else who watches over a single household or a single ship.

Cyropaedia 8.1.14–16


From the preceding examples of six problems that may arise from the practice of philanthrôpia, we have seen that it is not a “stand-alone” virtue, but one that needs the support, or constraint, of other character traits: self-restraint, justice, prudence, severity, obedience, organization (eutaxis), and self-mastery. As we saw in Chapter Three, many of these qualities themselves are often the result of the more fundamental traits of philomatheia and philotîmia. We have also seen that though Xenophon’s presentation of philanthrôpia stands up to many tests, it does not survive them all: Cyrus shows undeserved favor to his son and he wins an uncontested favor from Cyaxares (i.e. he does not have to supplant him to become king of the Medes). In the former case, Cyrus shows philanthrôpia without considerations of justice and, in the latter case, Cyrus is allowed to fulfill his ambitions without behaving in an “unphilanthropic” way. We will continue to test the comprehensiveness of Cyrus’ philomatheia and philotîmia in the next two chapters. {96|}


[ back ] 1. There are some rare exceptions to this rule. Xenophon’s Socrates points out that a reputation for wisdom might lead to enslavement at the hands of a king who wished to utilize the person’s wisdom (Memorabilia 4.2.33). Euripides’ Phaedra engages in a verbal war with Hippolytus over the proper meaning of self-restraint. In her death, she vows to teach Hippolytus (who is devoted to chastity) to restrain his self-restraint (Hippolytus 667, 730–731, 1034–1035). The interlocutors in Plato’s Republic entertain the idea that justice might be a disadvantage for those who practice it (cf. Thrasymachus’ remarks at 343d–344c), only to conclude that, along with the other three “Classical” virtues, it is one of the greatest goods.

[ back ] 2. Cf. the discussion of tactics between Cyrus and his father (Cyropaedia 1.6.14).

[ back ] 3. Cyrus the Younger is also known for harsh punishments, despite his good will (Anabasis 1.9.13).

[ back ] 4. Plato Laws 713d6; Memorabilia, Cf. Martin 1961:174, Nikolaidis 1980:352n17 on philanthrôpia as a civilizing impulse.

[ back ] 5. That this is a universal challenge may be readily observed in the case of the average American senator who may be expected to care about her constituents, her country, her donors, her friends, her family, and even those who are not citizens of the United States. For philanthrôpia as a concern for those outside a familiar community cf. Azoulay 2004b:319–326.

[ back ] 6. See Burian 1974 on the generic features of a “Suppliant Play.”

[ back ] 7. Cf. Sandridge 436–440.

[ back ] 8. Cf. Pelasgus (Aeschylus Suppliants 474–89), Aegeus (Euripides Medea 689–745), Demophon (Euripides Children of Heracles 236–46), as well as a Euripidean Theseus (Euripides Suppliants 334–45).

[ back ] 9. It is debatable how important it was for kings in the ancient world to enjoy true friendship (philia), whereby we mean such notions as regarding the friend as a “second self” and revealing one’s entire self to the friend. Konstan 1997b argues that friendship was not celebrated as a “royal virtue” until Dio Chrysostom’s Third Kingship Oration (c. 100 CE).

[ back ] 10. The elder Assyrian king feels pity and sympathy for Gobryas when the Assyrian prince kills his son, but not so the prince himself. The elder king is virtuous whereas the son is wicked (4.6.5).

[ back ] 11. Miller 1997 is a valuable source for Athenian perspectives on Persia and its apparent decline.

[ back ] 12. Note the rivalry between Alexander and Philotas, the son of Parmenio (Plutarch Life of Alexander 48).

[ back ] 13. Ferguson 1958:105–106, Gera 1993:106.

[ back ] 14. Cf. φιλανθρώπου … τρόπου, Prometheus Bound 28–30. Prometheus’ friendly feeling toward mortals and the wrath of the gods that it elicits is referenced twice more (119–123, 239–241).

[ back ] 15. Euthyphro 3d7. Ferguson 1958:105–106, incorrectly I believe, sees Socrates’ philanthrôpia in this passage as containing an element of condescension on Socrates’ part, rather than a condescension perceived by the Athenians. The term seems to be used to make the point that Euthyphro has a form of wisdom that cannot be transferred (and thus is less threatening), whereas Socrates, as a generous “philanthropist,” can contaminate the whole city with his wisdom.

[ back ] 16. On Xenophon’s attempt to downplay the treacherousness of this rebellion in the Anabasis, see Due 1989:191–192.

[ back ] 17. Danzig 2009:292–293 calls this episode “the crowning example of the redistribution of offices during peacetime by means of persuasion and threat.” He notes that Cyrus succeeds both in satisfying his own self-interest while justly avoiding violence and harm to Cyaxares.

[ back ] 18. Neither Herodotus (Histories 1.107–130) nor Isocrates (Evagoras 38) portrays a harmonious rise to power for Cyrus.

[ back ] 19. Cf. the exceptional gratitude in Cyrus the Younger (αἰδημονέστατος, Anabasis

[ back ] 20. Tatum 1989:201–204 notes Cyrus’ extension of familial terms to those outside his natural family, but sees it as a primarily self-interested and manipulative move: “Cyrus plays the role of a son without really being a son at all.”

[ back ] 21. Rasmussen 2009:xvii.

[ back ] 22. The leader’s challenge of dividing up spoils fairly is of course at the very foundation of the conflict of Homer’s Iliad 1, when Agamemnon deprives Achilles of the prize of Briseis after she had been awarded to him by merit.

[ back ] 23. Scholars have doubted the sincerity of Jason’s speech here (the narrator even says that Jason is “testing” his comrades at Apollonius Argonautica 2.638). Nevertheless, Jason’s sentiment wins the sympathy and enthusiastic support of his comrades.

[ back ] 24. Cf. Xenophon’s accessibility in the Anabasis (Anderson 126–127) and that of Agesilaus (Due 1989:196).

[ back ] 25. Cf. ὥστε καλῶς ἔχειν τά τε ἡμέτερα καὶ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων ὧν ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐπιμελεῖσθαι,–5.