In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Xenophon

  • Introduction
  • Surveys of Life and Works
  • Collections of Articles
  • Bibliographies
  • Manuscripts, Papyri, Scholia
  • Language and Style
  • Narrative Art
  • Literary Influences on Xenophon
  • Political Thought
  • Military Studies
  • Gender
  • Receptions

Classics Xenophon
Vivienne Gray
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0111


Xenophon (c. 430 to post-355 BCE) wrote fourteen works of varied content and style. His interest in leadership gives them some unity, and they can be grouped into philosophic, historical, biographical, and technical writings; but they have separate manuscript traditions and bibliographies. The works are known by Greek or Latin or translated titles. Anabasis is the account of Xenophon’s march with Cyrus the Younger of Persia to challenge Artaxerxes for the Persian kingdom and his march back after Cyrus’s death (401–400 BCE). Hellenica is a history of events from where Thucydides left his history unfinished down to the battle of Mantinea (411–362 BCE). Cyropaedia describes how Cyrus the Great of Persia secured and maintained his empire. Among the Socratic works, Memorabilia defends Socrates, Xenophon’s teacher, against the charges of impiety and corruption for which he was executed by the Athenians, and then demonstrates through largely conversational vignettes that he helped people rather than harmed them as the charges alleged; Oeconomicus has Socrates teach Critobulus how to manage an estate and reports to him the conversation he once had with the master economist, Ischomachus; Symposium has Socrates and companions discuss their virtues at a party; Apologia Socratis explains why Socrates was so brazen at his trial. Xenophon’s minor works (opuscula) include a dialogue between Simonides and Hiero of Syracuse (Hiero), an encomium for Agesilaus of Sparta (Agesilaus), an account of the laws of Lycurgus that secured Spartan success (Lacedaemoniorum Politeia, LP), two works on horses and their management (De re equestri On Horsemanship and Hipparchicus Cavalry Commander), one on hunting with dogs (Cynegeticus), and the essay on how to improve the Athenian economy (Poroi). Athenian Constitution is included among his minor works, but it is not treated here as his work. Xenophon was a pioneer of new literary forms, but there is no complete study of this. Anabasis combines autobiographical history and travel book. Cyropaedia pioneers historical biography and contains early novellas. His Socratic works are new forms of dialogue and economic treatise. Hiero comes from the traditions of meetings of the wise and powerful, now lost in a stand-alone form. Agesilaus rivals Isocrates’s Evagoras as the first extant encomium. His technical treatises are the first extant.

Surveys of Life and Works

The principal ancient source for Xenophon’s life is Diogenes Laertius 1925. Breitenbach 1967 is the standard encyclopedic authority for the life and works. Delebecque 1957, Nickel 1979, and Anderson 1974 survey his works as a reflection of his life experiences. Higgins 1977 surveys most of the works in accordance with the belief of Leo Strauss that Xenophon is a subtle writer with hidden agendas. Texts and Commentaries also has accounts of Xenophon’s life and works. The contested biographical detail is the cause of his exile: Tuplin 1987. The Athenians exiled him either for joining Cyrus, their enemy, or for his subsequent service under the Spartans, also enemies, who took the Ten Thousand into their service against other Greeks.

  • Anderson, J. K. 1974. Xenophon. London: Duckworth.

    Introduces the works as reflections of phases of his life experience. A standard reference.

  • Breitenbach, H. R. 1967. Xenophon von Athen. In Pauly-Wissova. Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft IXA.2. Edited by August Pauly, Georg Wissowa, Wilhelm Kroll, Kurt Witte, Karl Mittelhaus, and Konrat Ziegler, cols. 1571–1578. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler.

    The encyclopedic authority, giving all the evidence for his life and works in German.

  • Delebecque, É. 1957. Essai sur la vie de Xénophon. Paris: Klincksieck.

    In French. Referred to for the dating of the works, but subjective in its arguments. Influenced by the various compositional theories about the works, e.g., dates Hellenica 1–2 to the times when Xenophon was still a youth in Athens, earlier than the rest (see Interpretation).

  • Diogenes Laertius. 1925. Philosophorum Vitae. Edited and translated by R. D. Hicks. Cambridge, MA: Heinemann.

    Book 2, sections 48–59 gives the ancient account of the life, using Xenophon’s own Anabasis and other ancient sources now lost.

  • Higgins, W. E. 1977. Xenophon the Athenian: The problem of the individual and the society of the polis. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

    Takes its inspiration from Leo Strauss and has become influential.

  • Nickel, R. 1979. Xenophon. Erträge der Forschung, 111. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

    In German. Basic introduction to all the works.

  • Tuplin, C. J. 1987. Xenophon’s exile again. In Homo Viator: Classical essays for John Bramble. Edited by Michael Whitby, Philip Hardie, and Mary Whitby, 59–69. Bristol, UK: Bristol Classical.

    Continues the debate about Xenophon’s exile, arguing that the Athenians exiled him for service under their enemies, the Spartans.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.