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The Absent Landscape in Xenophon’s Hiero

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image of Mnemosyne

The treatment of space and place, a key issue in recent classical scholarship, has been neglected in previous discussions of Xenophon’s Hiero. While the setting of the dialogue between Simonides and Hiero receives little comment in the text, I argue that the absent landscape is essential to Xenophon’s conception of tyranny. Hiero’s efforts to sate his desires and to protect himself have obliterated the landscape of Sicily. As the tyrant devours and does violence to the landscape, he alienates his community and leaves himself vulnerable and exposed. When Simonides advises Hiero to preserve and beautify the city, he shows the tyrant how to gain his subjects’ devotion and thus how to securely place himself in the world he rules. By teaching the tyrant to rebuild his landscape, however, Simonides establishes an inescapable alternation between the tyrant’s violence and self-defeat and the ultimate restoration of tyrannical power.

Affiliations: 1: University of New Hampshire, Dept. of Classics, Humanities & Italian Studies


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