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Cyropaedia of Xenophon

The Life of Cyrus The Great



Cyropaedia is a partly fictional biography of Cyrus the Great, written by the Athenian soldier and writer Xenophon (b. ca. 430­-25 BCE – d. after 356), who served as a Greek mercenary in the expedition of Cyrus the Younger against his brother Artaxerxes II in 401 BCE.


The work narrates, in its entirety, the life of Cyrus. Like Xenophon's other works, it was intended as history, although some critics have questioned and debated whether parts of the account are fictional.

Postmodern critics may see a dual sense in the phrase "education of Cyrus", which could mean the education he received or the one he gave, especially since Cyrus' preferred verb seems to teach and Xenophon seems concerned primarily with the alterations Cyrus made to Persian society in order to make it fit for empire, which could be described as an education.


Prior to Cyrus, the Persians had been interested only in virtue and justice; he persuaded them to turn their virtue to the task of conquest which led to the accumulation of vast territories but also had enduring negative effects on Persian society, as can be seen in the turmoil following Cyrus' death. After his conquests, Cyrus declared the abolishment of slavery and the first charter of human rights.

The Cyropaedia is less an historical work and more a practical treatise on political virtue and social organization. The ancients believed that Xenophon composed it in response to the Republic of Plato, or vice versa, and Plato's Laws seems to allude to the Cyropaedia.



Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Book 6

Book 7

Book 8


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