Your Latin & Greek should be kept up assiduously by reading at spare hours … I would advise you to undertake a regular course of history & poetry in both languages, in Greek, go first thro’ the Cyropaedia, and then read Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon's Hellenics & Anabasis, Arrian's Alexander, & Plutarch's lives … Thomas Jefferson to his grandson Francis Eppes, October 6, 1820 It may seem surprising to most readers of this book, including professional classicists, that Xenophon's Cyropaedia (or Education of Cyrus) is at the top of President Jefferson's “must read” list of ancient Greek prose literature. Perhaps even more surprising is Jefferson's recommendation in a letter to his nephew Peter Carr that for moral instruction he read Xenophon's Memorabilia as well as the Socratic dialogues of Plato. But to the educated Europeans and Americans of Jefferson's own time, this was, if anything, very conventional advice. And this advice was not restricted to a white upper-class elite. When the coeducational Institute for Colored Youth was established in Philadelphia in 1837, one of its purposes was to provide a classical education to African-American students; the two Greek texts selected for study were the New Testament and Xenophon's Anabasis. The Cyropaedia, Memorabilia, and Anabasis, along with Xenophon's many other works in various genres, were standard reading and were thought to impart moral and political lessons of considerable value. If this were true today as well, it would be to our profit, as I hope the present volume will go some way towards demonstrating. In his autobiography, The Life of Henry Brulard, Stendhal (whose real name was Marie-Henri Beyle) informs us: “My moral life has been instinctively spent paying close attention to five or six main ideas, and attempting to see the truth about them.” The same might be said of Xenophon, and that would not be a criticism in the case of either author. Like Stendhal, Xenophon wrote in an array of different genres and paid close attention to some half dozen “main ideas” that engaged him over the span of his long life (ca. 430–350 BC).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Arts and Humanities