Xenophon’s Cyropaedia: The Limits of Political Excellence
Audio recording of a lecture given by tutor Janet Dougherty on November 4, 2022 as part of the Dean's Lecture & Concert Series. The Dean's Office has provided this description of the event: "Cyrus, Xenophon tells us in the first chapter of the Cyropaedia (The Education of Cyrus), knew how to rule humans, animals who are notoriously difficult to govern. In his manner of ruling Cyrus seems to combine the just with the fitting – he alone is fit to rule, and his subjects willingly obey. His rule extends over all the inhabitable world and leaves no room for dissent. Unlike his subjects, Cyrus reveres neither god nor country. He loves no one. For him the political horizon is complete. But Cyrus’s conquest of Croesus, his final great victory, points to the limitations of Cyrus’s government. When Croesus claims to have learned self-knowledge in his conquest by Cyrus and to look forward to being “blessedly happy” under Cyrus’s rule, he dissembles, displaying his prudence. He is so careful that Cyrus is “amazed at his good spirits” after his defeat. But, Xenophon observes, Cyrus took the defeated Croesus wherever he went “…either because he believed that he was somehow useful or because he held it to be safer in this way”. Cyrus’s distrust of Croesus indicates that within the horizon of politics there is no room for individual virtue. While Cyrus exhorts others to be “noble and good,” it is obedience that he rewards. Xenophon’s study of politics points beyond Cyrus and beyond politics, to a study of the human soul that politics cannot comprehend.
Santa Fe, NM
Meem Library has been given permission to make this item available online.