Leadership in Xenophon's Anabasis

Research Cluster

Speaker:Shane Brennan, University of Exeter
Date: Monday 28 February 2011
Time: 1600-1730
Location: Xfi Conference room 2

Further details

Leadership is a prominent theme in the writings of Xenophon the Athenian. In different works he engages with the subject in contexts ranging from empires (Cyropaedia) to the household (Oikonomikos). In the Anabasis, his account of the expedition of Cyrus the Younger to Babylonia and the retreat homewards of his Greek mercenaries, a major concern is the leadership of armies. By showing us the responses of different leaders as they encounter challenges on the march, he implicitly invites consideration of which are more or less effective. In this paper I argue that he is, additionally, showcasing fundamentally different styles of leadership: Cyrus is royalty and rules along an oriental model, Klearchos and Kheirisophos are products of the Spartan militaristic tradition, while Xenophon himself is a pupil of Socrates and is influenced by tenets of moral philosophy. A conclusion of the talk is that Xenophon's treatment of leadership in the Anabasis is intended to be a commentary on leadership styles as well as a series of practical lessons in learning from the successes and failures of outstanding men.


NOTE: Xenophon (c. 430-355 BC) was an Athenian writer, philosopher, and general. His Anabasis is regarded as one of the more remarkable pieces of narrative to survive from classical Greek antiquity. Beginning with the story of how a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, marched from Anatolia to Babylonia with an army of Greek mercenaries to challenge for the royal throne (Book 1), it goes on to recount the arduous retreat homewards of the Greeks following the prince's death (Books 2-7). In his version of the expedition, Xenophon's leadership is a major factor in the success of the retreat, and it is evident from the narrative that leadership is a major concern in the book. Other prominent concerns include personal apologia, Socrates, and Spartan hegemony of Greece following the Peloponnesian War.




BIOGRAPHY: Shane Brennan has recently completed a PhD in Ancient History at Exeter. His research interests are the political philosophy of the fourth century BC writer Xenophon the Athenian, mercenary soldiers in the ancient world, and minor Anatolian cultures in the Achaemenid (Persian) period. From the 2011-12 academic year he will begin work at Mardin Artuklu University in Turkey. He is currently editing a new edition of the Anabasis for Random House in New York, and co-editing a conference volume on contemporary Turkey.