One of Socrates' Athenian disciples in his youth, Xenophon (c. 498-354 bc) fought as a mercenary commander in Cyrus the Younger's campaign to seize the Persian throne, and later wrote a wide range of works on history, politics and philosophy. These six treatises offer his informed insights into the nature of leadership. In the dialogue between the poet Simonides and Hiero, tyrant of Syracuse, Xenophon provides a consummate consideration of the burdens of being an absolute dictator and the superior happiness of the private man. Elsewhere, his biography of King Agesilaus II of Sparta depicts the author's patron as a model of piety, justice, courage and wisdom, while other texts consider the essential qualities of the cavalry commander, analyse the skills of the horseman and the hunter, and advance a bold economic plan for democratic Athens.
Xenophon's History recounts nearly fifty turbulent years of warfare in Greece between 411 and 362 BC. Continuing the story of the Peloponnesian War at the point where Thucydides finished his magisterial history, this is a fascinating chronicle of the conflicts that ultimately led to the decline of Greece, and the wars with both Thebes and the might of Persia. An Athenian by birth, Xenophon became a firm supporter of the Spartan cause, and fought against the Athenians in the battle of Coronea. Combining history and memoir, this is a brilliant account of the triumphs and failures of city-states, and a portrait of Greece at a time of crisis.
After the execution of Socrates in 399 BC, a number of his followers wrote dialogues featuring him as the protagonist and, in so doing, transformed the great philosopher into a legendary figure. Xenophon's portrait is the only one other than Plato's to survive, and while it offers a very personal interpretation of Socratic thought, it also reveals much about the man and his philosophical views. In 'Socrates' Defence' Xenophon defends his mentor against charges of arrogance made at his trial, while the 'Memoirs of Socrates' also starts with an impassioned plea for the rehabilitation of a wronged reputation. Along with 'The Estate-Manager', a practical economic treatise, and 'The Dinner-Party', a sparkling exploration of love, Xenophon's dialogues offer fascinating insights into the Socratic world and into the intellectual atmosphere and daily life of ancient Greece.
In The Persian Expedition, Xenophon, a young Athenian noble who sought his destiny abroad, provides an enthralling eyewitness account of the attempt by a Greek mercenary army - the Ten Thousand - to help Prince Cyrus overthrow his brother and take the Persian throne. When the Greeks were then betrayed by their Persian employers, they were forced to march home through hundreds of miles of difficult terrain - adrift in a hostile country and under constant attack from the unforgiving Persians and warlike tribes. In this outstanding description of endurance and individual bravery, Xenophon, one of those chosen to lead the retreating army, provides a vivid narrative of the campaign and its aftermath, and his account remains one of the best pictures we have of Greeks confronting a 'barbarian' world.