At the suggestion of Socrates, Xenophon went to Delphi to consult the oracle; but his mind was already made up, and he at once proceeded to Sardis, the place of rendezvous. The army was now in the heart of an unknown country, more than a thousand miles from home and in the presence of a troublesome enemy. It was decided to march northwards up the Tigris valley and make for the shores of the Euxine, on which there were several Greek colonies. Xenophon became the leading spirit of the army; he was elected an officer, and he it was who mainly directed the retreat.
Part of the way lay through the wilds of Kurdistan, where they had to encounter the harassing guerrilla attacks of savage mountain tribes, and part through the highlands of Armenia and Georgia. After a five months' march they reached Trapezus [Trebizond] on the Euxine February , where a tendency to demoralization began to show itself, and even Xenophon almost lost his control over the soldiery.
At Cotyora he aspired to found a new colony; but the idea, not being unanimously accepted, was abandoned, and ultimately Xenophon with his Greeks arrived at Chrysopolis [Scutari] on the Bosporus, opposite Byzantium. Xenophon, who accompanied them, captured a wealthy Persian nobleman, with his family, near Pergamum, and the ransom paid for his recovery, secured Xenophon a competency for life.
On his return to Greece Xenophon served under Agesilaus, king of Sparta, at that time the chief power in the Greek world. With his native Athens and its general policy and institutions he was not in sympathy. At Coroneia he fought with the Spartans against the Athenians and Thebans, for which his fellow-citizens decreed his banishment. The Spartans provided a home for him at Scillus in Elis, about two miles from Olympia; there he settled down to indulge his tastes for sport and literature.
After Sparta's crushing defeat at Leuctra , Xenophon was driven from his home by the people of Elis. Meantime Sparta and Athens had become allies, and the Athenians repealed the decree which had condemned him to exile. There is, however, no evidence that he ever returned to his native city. The year of his death is not known; all that can be said is that it was later than , the date of his work on the Revenues of Athens. The Anabasis composed at Scillus between and is a work of singular interest, and is brightly and pleasantly written. Xenophon, like Caesar, tells the story in the third person, and there is a straightforward manliness about the style, with a distinct flavour of a cheerful lightheartedness, which at once enlists our sympathies.
Sparta: The Fall of the Empire
His description of places and of relative distances is very minute and painstaking. The researches of modern travellers attest his general accuracy. The allusion Hellenica , iii. The Cyropaedia , a political and philosophical romance, which describes the boyhood and training of Cyrus, hardly answers to its name, being for the most part an account of the beginnings of the Persian empire and of the victorious career of Cyrus its founder. The Cyropaedia contains in fact the author's own ideas of training and education, as derived conjointly from the teachings of Socrates and his favourite Spartan institutions.
It was said to have been written in opposition to the Republic of Plato.
A distinct moral purpose, to which literal truth is sacrificed, runs through the work. For instance, Cyrus is represented as dying peacefully in his bed, whereas, according to Herodotus, he fell in a campaign against the Massagetae. The Hellenica written at Corinth, after , is the only contemporary account of the period covered by it thathas come down to us. It consists of two distinct parts; books i. There is, however, no ground for the view that these two parts were written and published as separate works.
There is probably no justification for the charge of deliberate falsification. It must be admitted, however, that he had strong political prejudices, and that these prejudices have influenced his narrative. He was a partisan of the reactionary movement which triumphed after the fall of Athens; Sparta is his ideal, and Agesilaus his hero.
At the same time, he was a believer in a divine overruling providence. He is compelled, therefore, to see in the fall of Sparta the punishment inflicted by heaven on the treacherous policy which had prompted the seizure of the Cadmea and the raid of Sphodrias.
Hardly less serious defects than his political bias are his omissions, his want of the sense of proportion and his failure to grasp the meaning of historical criticism. The most that can be said in his favour is that as a witness he is at once honest and well informed. For this period of Greek history he is, at any rate, an indispensable witness. The work is not a literary masterpiece; it lacks coherence and unity, and the picture it gives of Socrates fails to do him justice. Still, as far as it goes, it no doubt faithfully describes the philosopher's manner of life and style of conversation.
It was the moral and practical side of Socrates's teaching which most interested Xenophon; into his abstruse metaphysical speculations he seems to have made no attempt to enter: for these indeed he had neither taste nor genius. Xenophon has left several minor works, some of which are very interesting and give an insight into the home life of the Greeks. Youth were often the products of selective breeding, and it was demanded that all people be fit and vital. The greatest and most noble sentiments and characteristics available to man were attainable only through physical exertion and warlike action.
Beauty was reserved for the worthy and actively denied the unworthy. In sum, it was demanded that men and women be as noble as was physically and conceptually possible. Oddly enough, postmodern science agrees, even if it would use this knowledge to promote a global bourgeois community devoid of strife. Marchant Cambridge: Harvard University Press, , Richard T.
Gray Stanford: Stanford University Press, , Jeffrey T. Schnapp, trans. Sparta provides two other models for us to take heed from. Their men spent virtually all of their time drilling for war and had a very low birthrate. Their elite hoplites were rightly feared everywhere but because they rarely numbered more than 10, or so the loss of even a small number of them was unthinkable — which impacted their own military decisions during the Peloponnesian war and other conflicts.
Even sending them outside their territory risked catastrophic revolt and disaster see below. Lesson: must have high birthrate to survive. Additionally, they had a huge serf- or slave-like population of helots in and around their state, vastly outnumbering the Spartans, and hating Sparta and chafing for a takeover. THEY had a normal birthrate btw. Sound familiar? Lesson: the obvious. However this same Sparta ended up with the problem of an ever shrinking citizenry outnumbered by all the non-citizens.
This Utopia is unsustainable and once the Spartan society ran out of enemies they could only then fight among themselves or no longer train for war. The man said, all Greeks know what is right, but Spartans actually do it. Plato deeply admired Sparta and its virtues, seeing them as the Wisdom of Socrates made manifest.
But no matter how exalted, the physical must fall short of the Ideal Form. But there is no contradiction — only yearning to towards the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. And the Body, a Tomb of the Spirit as well as its well crafted vehicle until the release of death. And for the true Philosopher, that Death is sweet indeed, a birth into a the True World that he contemplated through the glass darkly, the bodily tomb.
A man may call upon his courage only one way, in the ranks with his brothers-in-arms, the line of his tribe and his city. Most piteous of all states under heaven is that of a man alone, bereft of the gods of his home and his polis. A man without a city is not a man. He is a shadow, a shell, a joke, and a mockery. No one may expect valor from one cast out alone, cut off from the gods of his home. He can no longer feel himself as part of those, which surround him; he has lost the sense that his nation, his very birthplace, is himself, multiplied as it were, a hundred million fold.
Skip to content. As Plutarch explains, the mess ensured more than social cohesion, providing a forum for the maintenance of the warrior himself: With a view to attack luxury, [Lycurgus]. Notes  Plutarch, Lives Volume One , trans. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
Posted October 27, at pm Permalink. Posted October 26, at pm Permalink. A fascinating article, I also look forward to the next installment. Posted October 26, at am Permalink. Posted October 25, at pm Permalink. Kindle Subscription. Donate Today! Editor-in-Chief Greg Johnson. Main feed Comments feed Podcast feed. Ludovici Trevor Lynch J. Nicholl Andy Nowicki James J. Jack Donovan Anthony M. Because of the Nazis' rise to power, he chose not to return to his native country. Strauss found shelter, after some vicissitudes, in England, where in he gained temporary employment at University of Cambridge , with the help of his in-law, David Daube , who was affiliated with Gonville and Caius College.
While in England, he became a close friend of R. Tawney , and was on less friendly terms with Isaiah Berlin. Unable to find permanent employment in England, Strauss moved in to the United States, under the patronage of Harold Laski , who made introductions and helped him obtain a brief lectureship.
After a short stint as Research Fellow in the Department of History at Columbia University , Strauss secured a position at The New School , where, between and , he worked the political science faculty and also took on adjunct jobs. He became a U. In , Strauss coined the phrase " reductio ad Hitlerum ". He had received a call for a temporary lectureship in Hamburg in which he declined for health reasons and received and accepted an honorary doctorate from Hamburg University and the Bundesverdienstkreuz German Order of Merit via the German representative in Chicago.
John's College, Annapolis in , where he was the Scott Buchanan Distinguished Scholar in Residence until his death from pneumonia in For Strauss, politics and philosophy were necessarily intertwined. He regarded the trial and death of Socrates as the moment when political philosophy came into existence.
Strauss considered one of the most important moments in the history of philosophy Socrates' argument that philosophers could not study nature without considering their own human nature ,  which, in the words of Aristotle , is that of "a political animal.
CYRUS iiia. Cyrus II as Portrayed by Xenophon and Herodotus
Strauss distinguished "scholars" from "great thinkers", identifying himself as a scholar. He wrote that most self-described philosophers are in actuality scholars, cautious and methodical. Great thinkers, in contrast, boldly and creatively address big problems. Scholars deal with these problems only indirectly by reasoning about the great thinkers' differences.
In Natural Right and History Strauss begins with a critique of Max Weber 's epistemology , briefly engages the relativism of Martin Heidegger who goes unnamed , and continues with a discussion of the evolution of natural rights via an analysis of the thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. At the heart of the book are excerpts from Plato , Aristotle , and Cicero. Much of his philosophy is a reaction to the works of Heidegger. Indeed, Strauss wrote that Heidegger's thinking must be understood and confronted before any complete formulation of modern political theory is possible, and this entails that political thought has to engage with issues of ontology and the history of metaphysics.
Strauss wrote that Friedrich Nietzsche was the first philosopher to properly understand historicism , an idea grounded in a general acceptance of Hegelian philosophy of history. Heidegger, in Strauss' view, sanitized and politicized Nietzsche, whereas Nietzsche believed "our own principles, including the belief in progress, will become as unconvincing and alien as all earlier principles essences had shown themselves to be" and "the only way out seems to be In the late s, Strauss called for the first time for a reconsideration of the "distinction between exoteric or public and esoteric or secret teaching".
Esoteric writing serves several purposes: protecting the philosopher from the retribution of the regime, and protecting the regime from the corrosion of philosophy; it attracts the right kind of reader and repels the wrong kind; and ferreting out the interior message is in itself an exercise of philosophic reasoning.
Thus, Strauss agrees with the Socrates of the Phaedrus , where the Greek indicates that, insofar as writing does not respond when questioned, good writing provokes questions in the reader—questions that orient the reader towards an understanding of problems the author thought about with utmost seriousness. Strauss's hermeneutical argument  —rearticulated throughout his subsequent writings most notably in The City and Man  —is that, prior to the 19th century, Western scholars commonly understood that philosophical writing is not at home in any polity, no matter how liberal.
Insofar as it questions conventional wisdom at its roots, philosophy must guard itself especially against those readers who believe themselves authoritative, wise, and liberal defenders of the status quo. In questioning established opinions, or in investigating the principles of morality, philosophers of old found it necessary to convey their messages in an oblique manner. Their "art of writing" was the art of esoteric communication.
This was especially apparent in medieval times, when heterodox political thinkers wrote under the threat of the Inquisition or comparably obtuse tribunals. Strauss's argument is not that the medieval writers he studies reserved one exoteric meaning for the many hoi polloi and an esoteric, hidden one for the few hoi aristoi , but that, through rhetorical stratagems including self-contradiction and hyperboles, these writers succeeded in conveying their proper meaning at the tacit heart of their writings—a heart or message irreducible to "the letter" or historical dimension of texts.
Explicitly following Gotthold Ephraim Lessing 's lead, Strauss indicates that medieval political philosophers, no less than their ancient counterparts, carefully adapted their wording to the dominant moral views of their time, lest their writings be condemned as heretical or unjust, not by "the many" who did not read , but by those "few" whom the many regarded as the most righteous guardians of morality.
According to his critics, especially Shadia Drury , Strauss wrongly assumes a distinction between an "exoteric" or salutary and an "esoteric" or "true" aspect of the philosophy of pre-modern political philosophers. Furthermore, Strauss is often accused of having himself written esoterically. The accusation would seem to rest upon the belief that in modern-era liberal societies and, especially in the United States, philosophers are not free to voice their philosophical views in public without being accused of impropriety.
According to Strauss, modern social science is flawed because it assumes the fact—value distinction , a concept which Strauss found dubious. He traced its roots in Enlightenment philosophy to Max Weber , a thinker whom Strauss described as a "serious and noble mind. A political scientist examining politics with a value-free scientific eye, for Strauss, was self-deluded.
Positivism , the heir to both Auguste Comte and Max Weber in the quest to make purportedly value-free judgments, failed to justify its own existence, which would require a value judgment. While modern-era liberalism had stressed the pursuit of individual liberty as its highest goal, Strauss felt that there should be a greater interest in the problem of human excellence and political virtue. Through his writings, Strauss constantly raised the question of how, and to what extent, freedom and excellence can coexist. Strauss refused to make do with any simplistic or one-sided resolutions of the Socratic question: What is the good for the city and man?
Sparta: The Fall of the Empire
Schmitt, who would later become, for a short time, the chief jurist of Nazi Germany, was one of the first important German academics to review Strauss's early work positively. Schmitt's positive reference for, and approval of, Strauss's work on Hobbes was instrumental in winning Strauss the scholarship funding that allowed him to leave Germany. Strauss's critique and clarifications of The Concept of the Political led Schmitt to make significant emendations in its second edition.
Writing to Schmitt in , Strauss summarised Schmitt's political theology that "because man is by nature evil, he therefore needs dominion. But dominion can be established, that is, men can be unified only in a unity against—against other men. Every association of men is necessarily a separation from other men Strauss, however, directly opposed Schmitt's position.
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Xenophon
For Strauss, Schmitt and his return to Thomas Hobbes helpfully clarified the nature of our political existence and our modern self-understanding. Schmitt's position was therefore symptomatic of the modern-era liberal self-understanding. Strauss believed that such an analysis, as in Hobbes's time, served as a useful "preparatory action", revealing our contemporary orientation towards the eternal problems of politics social existence. However, Strauss believed that Schmitt's reification of our modern self-understanding of the problem of politics into a political theology was not an adequate solution.
Strauss instead advocated a return to a broader classical understanding of human nature and a tentative return to political philosophy, in the tradition of the ancient philosophers. They had first met as students in Berlin. The two thinkers shared a boundless philosophical respect for each other. He argued that philosophers should have an active role in shaping political events.
Strauss, on the contrary, believed that philosophers should play a role in politics only to the extent that they can ensure that philosophy, which he saw as mankind's highest activity, can be free from political intervention. Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form which is oriented toward universal freedom as opposed to "ancient liberalism" which is oriented toward human excellence , contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism , which in turn led to two types of nihilism : .
The first was a "brutal" nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Bolshevik regimes. In On Tyranny , he wrote that these ideologies , both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. In the belief that 20th century relativism, scientism , historicism , and nihilism were all implicated in the deterioration of modern society and philosophy, Strauss sought to uncover the philosophical pathways that had led to this situation.
The resultant study led him to advocate a tentative return to classical political philosophy as a starting point for judging political action. Strauss quotes Cicero : " The Republic does not bring to light the best possible regime but rather the nature of political things—the nature of the city. Strauss argued that the city-in-speech was unnatural, precisely because "it is rendered possible by the abstraction from eros ". In fact, he was consistently suspicious of anything claiming to be a solution to an old political or philosophical problem. He spoke of the danger in trying finally to resolve the debate between rationalism and traditionalism in politics.
Strauss actively rejected Karl Popper 's views as illogical.
He agreed with a letter of response to his request of Eric Voegelin to look into the issue. In the response, Voegelin wrote that studying Popper's views was a waste of precious time, and "an annoyance". Popper is philosophically so uncultured, so fully a primitive ideological brawler, that he is not able even approximately to reproduce correctly the contents of one page of Plato.
Reading is of no use to him; he is too lacking in knowledge to understand what the author says. Strauss proceeded to show this letter to Kurt Riezler , who used his influence in order to oppose Popper's appointment at the University of Chicago. Strauss constantly stressed the importance of two dichotomies in political philosophy, namely Athens and Jerusalem reason and revelation and Ancient versus Modern.
The contrast between Ancients and Moderns was understood to be related to the unresolvable tension between Reason and Revelation.