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Ambition and Corruption isn Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

What knowledge enables Cyrus to rule easily over multitudes? Why does Xenophon convey it in a novel? Cyrus possesses knowledge of ambition’s effects in the honour-loving soul. He perceives that honour-loving men can be ensnared into abject dependence if they can be made to accept any one individual’s will as the sole source of honour; easier still is the task of ruling those far more numerous men whose love of honour is infused with or subordinated to the love of the material rewards that accompany victory. Cyrus creates a hierarchy of dependence, with himself at the apex, and he rules his honour-loving followers easily, creating the institutions of an empire that endured to Xenophon’s own day. Xenophon depicts this arrangement in a historical romance, rather than describe it in a treatise, in ordermore effectively to inspire the love of virtue in his readers.


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