Xenophon’s Hipparchikos and the Athenian Embrace of Citizen Philotimia

in Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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Abstract

Although negotiations over the competing claims of honour (timê) and awards of instantiated honours (timai) were central features of Athenian democracy, the dangerous ambiguities of philotimia meant that only from the 340s BC were the Athenians explicitly embracing this love of honour and celebrating its display by citizens and non-citizens alike. Here I argue that a close reading of Xenophon’s treatise on cavalry command, Hipparchikos, advances our understanding of this embrace of public-spirited honour in three ways. First, Xenophon founds the success of the cavalry on the training of knowledgeable officers who are able to harness the Athenians’ extraordinary love of honour, on display and on campaign. Second, he reveals the diverse roles played by timê and philotimia throughout the entire institution of the Athenian cavalry, fostering competitive excellence as well as community amongst cavalry, polis, and gods. Third, Xenophon’s arguments about the nature and negotiation of Athenian honour anticipate the ideological and institutional embrace of citizen honour that, amply attested by epigraphic and literary records, was central to Athenian flourishing during the Lycurgan and Hellenistic eras.

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