Xenophon left behind a set of historical and literary works. Among them the “Greek history” in seven books containing the description of Peloponnesian War from 411 to 362 year BC, “Anabasis” where it is told about a campaign of the Greek mercenaries deep into Persia and a way back home have the greatest value.
In “Cyropaedia” Xenophon developed a view of education of the ideal governor, and in “A Lacedaemon polity” described a state system of Sparta and Lycurgus’s constitution. Xenophon is the author of several philosophical compositions devoted to life and activity of the teacher Socrates — “Memories of Socrates” and “Socrates’ Apologia”. Except the listed works he wrote some more compositions concerning economy, military art, on the structure of economy and life.
All works of Xenophon in a classical antiquity enjoyed wide popularity, and for historians they have paramount value for studying of history of the Greek policy of the second half of V – the first half of the VI centuries BC.
Data on Xenophon’s life need to be looked for in his own compositions and though there is his biography made by Diogenes, it gives only the few and often improbable facts. Scantiness and brevity of data doesn’t allow to restore the real biography of Xenophon, but the main events of his life and activity can be quite established.
Diogenes begins Xenophon’s biography with words:
“Xenophon was Grill’s son, the Athenian, on business — an erkhiyets”
And it everything about its origin. A number of later historians on the basis of indirect sources on a social origin point out Xenophon to the second Athenian estate — estate of riders.
But sources also confirm that Xenophon got a traditional aristocratic education and education that he entered Socrates’s circle. This circle was known that united the most famous representatives of oligarchical youth. For this reason Xenophon remained the adherent of Sparta. If take all this into account, with a bigger share of probability it is possible to claim that Xenophon on the origin belonged to the aristocracy.
Many young aristocrats of that time were Socrates’s disciples.
Peaceful life of Xenophon
His course of life can be divided into three periods conditionally. Time from the birth before participation in a military campaign of Cyrus Young belongs to the first period.
In the time relation the first period was the longest, but the least known. Xenophon was born in Athens. In the hometown Xenophon got a brilliant aristocratic education and was brought up in the spirit of hatred to democracy and worship for the oligarchic mode of Sparta. Acquaintance to Socrates had a great influence on it.
The history kept the story how Xenophon met with the future teacher. Once, having a met in narrow Xenophon Lane, Socrates blocked the path by the stick, and then asked where it is possible to buy edibles. Xenophon answered and decided to go further. But Socrates again blocked his way and asked where people become the virtuous. Xenophon couldn’t answer this question. Then Socrates told it:
“In that case follow me and study”.
Soon Xenophon entered Socrates’ circle and, having become his listener, kept literary records of conversations of the teacher which later he used whenhe wrote the works.
During long conversations with the pupils Socrates tried to impart first of all wisdom and ability to find the truth on their own.
Xenophon’s youth fell on years of Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta for domination in Greece. In this war almost whole world of the Greek policies was involved. Many years later Xenophon continued the description of further events of this war in “The Greek history”. It described events as the eyewitness, taking part in military operations, but not on command posts. War helped it to gain fighting experience which was useful further.
In Athens during war there was a fierce internal political fight, and victories of this or that party were closely connected with military successes or defeats. At this time there was a formation of outlook of Xenophon.
The origin, Socrates’ influence and his mug, participation in war and political events — all this made Xenophon the ardent opponent of democracy. Including a Spartan social system perfect, he attributed to it a victory of Sparta in war.
It is impossible to tell that Xenophon didn’t love the homeland, Athens, but he could never forgive to the Athenian democracy, her leaders of defeat in war and death of the teacher Socrates who taught him to think and to make the weighed decisions.
The rough handling of the won Spartans over Athenians compelled Xenophon to begin military activity.
Political and military activity of the writer
Vigorous military and political activity, participation in a campaign of the Greek mercenaries to Persia, and also staying on Spartan service.
In 401 BC Xenophon left Athens and never came back there. He received the letter from Proksen who served the king Cyrus. It was the cause to leave the city. Proksen gathered army for military expedition. He promised Xenophon to promote in case of his arrival to his friendship with Cyrus.
Xenophon with pleasure accepted the offer, hoping on service of Cyrus that he will get an important experience which could be useful further in career of the writer and historian. During a campaign the writer starts keeping records which became an important source of information for historians about military operations of Cyrus subsequently.
Records were called “Cyrus’s Anabasis”. They tell about unsuccessful expedition of Cyrus and retreat of 10 000 Greeks. The story is kept from the third party, one of characters is Xenophon. Obviously, he published this composition under a pseudonym.