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The Shorter Writings$
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Xenophon and Gregory A. McBrayer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781501718496

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501718496.001.0001

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An Introduction to the Hiero

An Introduction to the Hiero

(p.29) An Introduction to the Hiero
The Shorter Writings

David Levy

Cornell University Press

As the complexity of its title suggests, Xenophon’s Hiero, or the Skilled Tyrant focuses on two questions: whether tyrannical life is preferable to private life, and how a tyrant should rule. The course of the dialogue, in which Simonides offers his account of how a tyrant should rule in response to Hiero’s criticisms of the tyrannical life, suggests that the latter question is subordinate to the former. The question of how a tyrant should rule is ostensibly taken up to show Hiero how, by ruling differently, he would find tyrannical life more choiceworthy. Insofar as the implementation of Simonides’ proposals would remove Hiero’s dissatisfactions with tyranny, that advice shows how the tyrant can have a good life. It appears that a full evaluation of tyrannical life requires consideration of that life at its best, when the tyrant rules most effectively. Indeed, Simonides seems to show not merely how to improve tyrannical life, but that it is through well-run tyranny—through the intelligent use of absolute power to promote the happiness of one’s city—that a man can obtain the love of his citizens and the admiration of all human beings; this beneficent ruler, it seems, will reach the peak of virtue and human happiness (11.7–15)....

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