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Political Thought in Xenophon: Straussian Readings of the Anabasis

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
Author: Tim Rood1
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The main aim of this paper is to discuss some influential approaches to political thought in Xenophon’s Anabasis within the field of Political Science, especially within the United States, where the influence of Leo Strauss’ writings on Xenophon has been powerful. It starts by discussing a number of features shared by these discussions, notably a strong idealisation of Xenophon’s wisdom and accuracy; a lack of interest in the conditions under which Xenophon wrote; a pro-Hellenic perspective; and a tendency to innovative (and often allegorical) literary explication. It then discusses the two most important themes treated by Strauss and his followers, Xenophon’s piety and philosophy and politics. It argues that Straussian exegesis introduces anachronistic conceptions while neglecting the narrative dynamics of the text. The final section sets out briefly some ways of exploring Xenophon’s relationship to other currents in Greek political thought.

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