Plot: Xenophon delivers a written eulogy on King Agesilaus II of Sparta.
My version is taken from Xenophon’s Minor works, translated by the Reverend J S Watson and published in 1888 by George Bell and Sons, London.
My thoughts: Fulsome praise is heaped on the memory of Agesilaus, a warrior king whose word was iron-clad, his needs simple and his successes as general and king apparently limitless. Able to trace his lineage back to Heracles (!), yet modest and ever helpful to his friends, but a clever strategist in the field who nevertheless kept treaties and respected enemies seeking protection in sanctuaries.
Xenophon was apparently banished from Athens for his support of this Spartan ruler, although one of Agesilaus’ virtues was his loyalty to the broader Greek cause even when fighting other Greek cities.
“But when the Corinthian exiles said that the city would be surrendered to them, and showed him the machines with which they all expected to take the walls, he refused to make an attack upon it, saying that it was proper to reduce the cities of Greece, not to slavery, but to their senses.” (page 33)
Apparently Plutarch wrote of Agesilaus II as well in his Lives, so we will see him again.
Favourite lines/passages: An affecting piece of war description ; a strongly written piece which depicts the horrors of the battlefield at day’s end:
“But when the fight was over, a spectator might have seen, where they engaged with one another, the ground crimsoned with blood, the dead bodies of friends and enemies lying close to one another, shields broken to pieces, spears snapped asunder, daggers without their sheaths, some on the ground, others sticking in bodies, and others still in the hands of the dead.” (page 19)
Personal rating: The heaped praise becomes a little excessive although it would be nice to think at least some of it was deserved as ardently as Xenophon imagined. 4.
Next : One of the biggies : Plato’s Republic.