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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 Agesilaus

An Introduction to the Agesilaus

(p.79) An Introduction to the Agesilaus
The Shorter Writings

Robert C. Bartlett

Cornell University Press

The purpose of the Agesilaus is clear. Xenophon wishes to write an “encomium” (10.3) of the Spartan king because he regards him as a “perfectly good man” (1.1; 10.1).84 As such, Agesilaus is deserving of praise, even if it is “not easy” to do justice to anyone of such high quality. Xenophon clearly feels an obligation to pay tribute, within the limits of his abilities, to Agesilaus: the perfection of a man is hardly a fine reason to prefer silence to such (insufficient) praise as one is capable of giving. The avowed inadequacy of Xenophon’s encomium is especially striking once one sees the extraordinary qualities it succeeds in attributing to Agesilaus. He was, for example, a man unimpeachable in point of ancestry and virtue according to the leading city of Greece; an outstanding general, combining jaw-dropping physical courage with cagey prudence; generous to friends, harsh toward enemies, but noble in victory; devoted in all things to the good of Sparta and always obedient to her laws, whatever the cost to himself, and capable of leading his fellow citizens to “every virtue” (10.2 end). Yet he was concerned for the well-being of all of Greece too, and he exhibited an attractive “philanthropy” or love of human beings (1.22). Accordingly, Agesilaus was “much beloved and much praised by all human beings” (6.8)....

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