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Thread: As Xenophon saw it

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    Default As Xenophon saw it

    Brilliant leader, kind horseman and friend of Socrates: Xenophon’s writings inspire a humane, practical approach to life.

    The band of mercenary soldiers had been on the move through hostile territory for several months when they were told they had enlisted under a lie. They weren’t marching to put down a rebellion; they were instead marching in rebellion. Offers of special duty pay from their leader, Cyrus the Younger, however, calmed their anger and doubt, and on they advanced, dusty boots through the desert, as the heat of late-summer Persia rose around them in shimmering waves. The villages they passed by were hostile and strange: alien languages, customs, religions. There was little fresh water.

    They has assembled under Cyrus in order to overthrow his brother and rival, Artaxerxes II, king of Persia. Before they reached his defensive line, they were harried on their flanks and from behind, depleting morale and using up their supplies. At a small village named Canaxa 50 miles north of Baghdad, they finally met the Persian king’s forces, on a day when the noon temperature could have fried a pork chop. As the battle began, Cyrus rashly charged Artaxerxes himself. He was pierced through by a javelin thrown by one of Artaxerxes’ guards, and died on the spot.

    With heavy casualties and no reason to continue fighting, the mercenaries fell back. They were bleeding deserters. Those who had been recruited near Sardis and Smyrna, and who spoke some of the local languages, melted away. The remainders built camp and waited, parlayed, moved camp, skirmished, and waited some more. In the pitiless heat, now without communication or direction, they discussed their next moves with no particular conviction. After nearly a month of this, an envoy came: would their unit leaders please come to Artaxerxes’ tent and converse about their plans? The leaders agreed. The encamped troops waited for word on the parley. It was not until they saw Artaxerxes’ riders carrying the heads of their former leaders that the truth dawned on them. The campaign was lost. In order to survive, they must disperse.

    So began this band of about 10,000 mercenaries’ two-year journey out of hostile country, from the heart of Persia to the shores of the Black Sea. Among the most important of the new leaders was a youngish Greek named Xenophon. By journey’s end, when he finally returned to Athens, Xenophon would have served the equivalent of six consecutive modern deployments and, like any modern soldier sent repeatedly into combat zones, he would be marked for life by what he experienced on that doomed expedition and the subsequent long march through winter mountains to the sea.

    The Anabasis is the first military memoir in the history of Western literature, and it recounts Xenophon’s experiences in the Persian campaign of Cyrus against his brother King Artaxerxes, and the long march ‘up country’.
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    As Xenophon saw it (LINK)


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    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Sweet.

    Lately my Greek studies have been much more modern, as I’ve been enthralled by the Cretan Resisitance, but dang this makes me want to go back. How far back? WAAAAAY back.


    Peace,
    Agrophenomenon

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Sweet.

    Lately my Greek studies have been much more modern, as I’ve been enthralled by the Cretan Resisitance, but dang this makes me want to go back. How far back? WAAAAAY back.


    Peace,
    Agrophenomenon
    Do you know "Barefoot in Athens"? The award-winning Hallmark production is my favorite Ustinov performance.



    Full text of "Barefoot in Athens" (LINK)

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    I've always liked Xenophon's depiction of a very witty and funny Socrates with wine.

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    Do you know "Barefoot in Athens"? The award-winning Hallmark production is my favorite Ustinov performance.



    Full text of "Barefoot in Athens" (LINK)
    Do I know it? Aye.

    I meant more reading books, though. I really do have a hard time watching plays and movies. It is almost impossible for me to suspend disbelief, as I know the tricks, and bad work glares at me.

    Still. Something about a really grounded performance. When acting ends and living begins, eh?

    Peace,
    Stan E. Slavsky

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Do I know it? Aye.

    I meant more reading books, though. I really do have a hard time watching plays and movies. It is almost impossible for me to suspend disbelief, as I know the tricks, and bad work glares at me.

    Still. Something about a really grounded performance. When acting ends and living begins, eh?

    Peace,
    Stan E. Slavsky
    Sounds like Sam Clemens Syndrome™; once he learned how pilot a steamer on Big Muddy, he lost all joy in being on the river because he habitually watched for hazards to the boat, and could no longer just enjoy the scenery.

    I like the sparse, you might say 'minimalist', sets of "Barefoot" -- a wall here, a bench there -- nothing to distract attention from the characters.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    Sounds like Sam Clemens Syndrome™; once he learned how pilot a steamer on Big Muddy, he lost all joy in being on the river because he habitually watched for hazards to the boat, and could no longer just enjoy the scenery.

    I like the sparse, you might say 'minimalist', sets of "Barefoot" -- a wall here, a bench there -- nothing to distract attention from the characters.
    Would it surprise you to know I’m a minimalist designer? I designed a show where the entire set was composed of light pools. Including stairs... Just a bare stage.

    Also, maybe not so much the Clemens deal as curiosity not allowing me to suspend? Maybe. I’m always looking for the techniques and methods rather than the action.

    Which. Bad acting will stop me cold. Done. Not that “Barefoot” exhibits that. Just, in general.

    I won’t argue about Barefoot. It IS good.

    Peace,
    Robert

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    In an interview with Lowell Thomas, T.E. Lawrence said that his study of Xenophon's mobile tactics had been of great value to him in his desert campaign.
    Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. H. G. Wells

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Maybe multiple viewings? The first couple/few to tease out the technical tricks, then a final, sit-back-and-enjoy-the-ride watch.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    Maybe multiple viewings? The first couple/few to tease out the technical tricks, then a final, sit-back-and-enjoy-the-ride watch.
    Nope. I am always Tom Servo.

    Peace,
    Robert

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    I've always liked Xenophon's depiction of a very witty and funny Socrates with wine.
    It's hard to believe he and Plato were writing about the same man.
    Plato wrote magnificently and, of course, his Socrates was a mouthpiece for Plato's agenda, but he couldn't be too egregiously unlike the real Socrates, or Plato would have caught flak from Socrates' admirers.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    It's hard to believe he and Plato were writing about the same man.
    Plato wrote magnificently and, of course, his Socrates was a mouthpiece for Plato's agenda, but he couldn't be too egregiously unlike the real Socrates, or Plato would have caught flak from Socrates' admirers.

    Yeah. They get credit for so much, but we imagine they didn’t talk out of both sides of their mouths?

    Shoot.

    Peace,
    Look! Over There! A Baby Wolf! (Exit, Stage Left, Even...)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    So began this band of about 10,000 mercenaries’ two-year journey out of hostile country, from the heart of Persia to the shores of the Black Sea. Among the most important of the new leaders was a youngish Greek named Xenophon.

    Compassionate take on a killer of men, raper of women and the slaver of children.
    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 01-12-2019 at 02:19 PM.
    A pictures is worth a thousand words but a challenging meme stumps the ignorant.

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    So began this band of about 10,000 mercenaries’ two-year journey out of hostile country, from the heart of Persia to the shores of the Black Sea. Among the most important of the new leaders was a youngish Greek named Xenophon.

    Compassionate take on a killer of men, raper of women and the slaver of children.
    Harsh.
    He was a soldier, not a philosopher, 2,500 years ago. It is wrong to judge him,or anyone of that time, by your 21st-century sensitivities.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    I was lucky to study under Vitorino Tejera at the time he was working on his "Plato's Dialogues One by One: A Dialogical Interpretation". He had us all pun-hunting in the text - Plato had a sense of humor as, of course, did Socrates. We acted the dialogues to really bring out the exploratory wit. In that light, we got to understand the several (some others besides just Plato and Xenophon) portraits of Socrates that are not so much contradictory as they are complimentary.

    Even to today, too many students of Plato take him as a dogmatist, even drift off into neo-platonism, rather than as a true student to Socrates.

    There's a series of entertaining 'philosophy for everyone' anthology books that in a different way get at the whole exploratory dialog point. Just one example is "Sailing - Philosophy For Everyone: Catching the Drift of Why We Sail" by Patrick Goold (Editor), John Rousmaniere.

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    Harsh.
    He was a soldier, not a philosopher, 2,500 years ago. It is wrong to judge him,or anyone of that time, by your 21st-century sensitivities.
    You obviously have no idea what the meaning of mercenary is and their role in human history.

    I have a degree in the classics with an emphasis on Greek and Roman studies. Athenians were monsters to others.

    Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Pythagoras taught compassion all roughly before and slightly after this mercenary.

    “As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”


    Pythagoras
    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 01-12-2019 at 03:17 PM.
    A pictures is worth a thousand words but a challenging meme stumps the ignorant.

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Watch this video: it is the best of comparison and contrasting of modern and ancient times based on Thucydides writings.

    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 01-12-2019 at 03:06 PM.
    A pictures is worth a thousand words but a challenging meme stumps the ignorant.

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    Harsh.
    He was a soldier, not a philosopher, 2,500 years ago. It is wrong to judge him,or anyone of that time, by your 21st-century sensitivities.
    Yeah, it was fine to do all that stuff then.

    Rick

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    You obviously have no idea what the meaning of mercenary is and their role in human history.
    Not correct. One reason this country exists is the crimes committed against the colonists by Hessian mercenaries forcibly quartered upon them by the British. The British made it practically impossible for victims to get justice or recompense.

    I have a degree in the classics with an emphasis on Greek and Roman studies.
    With what bias were you taught? It sounds as though you studied under one of the politically-correct, postmodern, anti-classics schools.

    Athenians were monsters to others.
    No more than Spartans, Syracusians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Indians, Chinese, Anatolians, Persians -- Persian torturers were a byword in the ancient world.

    Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Pythagoras taught compassion all roughly before and slightly after this mercenary.
    So did Epikouros -- he accepted everyone, including women and slaves, into his Garden.

    How long has it been, and their messages have yet to spread to general acceptance? Some were heads of cults, and their teachings not meant to be shared with hoi polloi. There's some Pythagoras in Plato, and there's the (probably apocryphal) story that over the door to his Academy was written, "Let no non-geometer enter here".

    “As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”


    Pythagoras[/QUOTE]

    I wish we had Pythagoras' writings first hand, instead of the stew of centuries-post-Pythagoras attributions we now have. No one knows where he traveled, who he studied with, what he learned from others, what he discovered himself, or what he really said. The same is true of your other sages.

    Your video looks interesting. I'll give it a watch. Thanks.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    Not correct. One reason this country exists is the crimes committed against the colonists by Hessian mercenaries forcibly quartered upon them by the British. The British made it practically impossible for victims to get justice or recompense.



    With what bias were you taught? It sounds as though you studied under one of the politically-correct, postmodern, anti-classics schools.



    No more than Spartans, Syracusians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Indians, Chinese, Anatolians, Persians -- Persian torturers were a byword in the ancient world.



    So did Epikouros -- he accepted everyone, including women and slaves, into his Garden.

    How long has it been, and their messages have yet to spread to general acceptance? Some were heads of cults, and their teachings not meant to be shared with hoi polloi. There's some Pythagoras in Plato, and there's the (probably apocryphal) story that over the door to his Academy was written, "Let no non-geometer enter here".

    “As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”


    Pythagoras
    I had some schooling. I started college at William and Mary, then the University of Florida, then UC Berkeley, then USC, then San Francisco State and finally Northwestern for post graduate work which was left undone. I have come around after thinking like you. As i get older, I have learned another way to see the world other than the one written by some old European elites a long time ago.

    Nevertheless the universal human compassion we all feel regardless of community and society as written in those long ago writings. It is actually Homer who challenges his readers about the destruction of other peoples, immorality of war and the abandoning of family for profit. Odysseus in the Odyssey finds his salvation with strangers who show compassion and give him back life and on the other hand kills those who try to enslave him or take from him what actually abandoned. The Ten Commandments appear twice in the Hebrew Bible, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Modern scholarship has found likely influences in Hittite and Mesopotamian laws and treaties, but is divided over exactly when the Ten Commandments were written and who wrote them and yet they are universal.

    More importantly defending and praising a mercenary who killed for profit and had no honor and dismissing the horror he delivered suggests something of your own character. Is it that you believe that the ends to personal profit and glory should be taken over the respected laws of the very nature of human kind? Every human era has men like you who ask us to look beyond the acts of murder, greed, uncontrolled lust and hubris because they come from a fine family.

    The video added to the thread directly addresses these topics plus puts it in a context of personal human understanding and geopolitics. The description of Athenians in Sicily fighting the Peloponnesian league where the battle is lost, they are enslaved and die by the scores is one of regret and sorrow - it is terribly moving realizations.
    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 01-12-2019 at 08:39 PM.
    A pictures is worth a thousand words but a challenging meme stumps the ignorant.

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    I had some schooling. I started college at William and Mary, then the University of Florida, then UC Berkeley, then USC, then San Francisco State and finally Northwestern for post graduate work which was left undone. I have come around after thinking like you. As i get older, I have learned another way to see the world other than the one written by some old European elites a long time ago.

    That's a lot of moving. Military family, or just itchy feet?
    If you don't like the "way to see the world... written by some old European elites a long time ago.", whose vision do you like?

    Nevertheless the universal human compassion we all feel regardless of community and society as written in those long ago writings. It is actually Homer who challenges his readers about the destruction of other peoples, immorality of war and the abandoning of family for profit. Odysseus in the Odyssey finds his salvation with strangers who show compassion and give him back life and on the other hand kills those who try to enslave him or take from him what actually abandoned.
    But only if you're of his social class. He beats to tears Thersites, a foot soldier, when he speaks in a supposedly free assembly of free men.
    When they leave Troy, Odysseus and his men raid a town, kill the men, take their wives, and plunder the town; thus violating the sacred laws of hospitality. To the people of Troy and surrounding regions, the Greek fleet must have seemed the largest gang of pirates and bandits ever assembled.

    The Ten Commandments appear twice in the Hebrew Bible, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Modern scholarship has found likely influences in Hittite and Mesopotamian laws and treaties, but is divided over exactly when the Ten Commandments were written and who wrote them and yet they are universal.
    And are most honored in the breach.
    "Don't kill." How many people does God kill?
    "Don't covet" God covets worship above all.

    More importantly defending and praising a mercenary who killed for profit and had no honor and dismissing the horror he delivered suggests something of your own character. I suggests you believe that the ends to personal profit and glory should be taken over the respected laws of the very nature of human kind. Every human era has men like you who ask us to look beyond the acts of murder, greed, uncontrolled lust and hubris because they come from a fine family.
    Imputing to me the actions and character of Xenophon is quite a stretch, don't you think?
    Profit and glory are meaningless unless they are the result of creative, productive work. Anything else is fraud and theft.
    I wish we did have rule of law, instead of rule of cash. I don't care what "fine family" produced the perpetrator of your "acts of murder, greed, uncontrolled lust and hubris", the perpetrator should be held accountable, instead of having Daddy's deep pockets and crooked lawyer shyster him out of jail.
    The video added to the thread directly addresses these topics plus puts it in a context of personal human understanding and geopolitics. The description of Athenians in Sicily fighting the Peloponnesian league where the battle is lost, they are enslaved and die by the scores is one of regret and sorrow - it is terribly moving realizations.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    That's a lot of moving. Military family, or just itchy feet?
    If you don't like the "way to see the world... written by some old European elites a long time ago.", whose vision do you like?

    But only if you're of his social class. He beats to tears Thersites, a foot soldier, when he speaks in a supposedly free assembly of free men.
    When they leave Troy, Odysseus and his men raid a town, kill the men, take their wives, and plunder the town; thus violating the sacred laws of hospitality. To the people of Troy and surrounding regions, the Greek fleet must have seemed the largest gang of pirates and bandits ever assembled.


    And are most honored in the breach.
    "Don't kill." How many people does God kill?
    "Don't covet" God covets worship above all.


    Imputing to me the actions and character of Xenophon is quite a stretch, don't you think?
    Profit and glory are meaningless unless they are the result of creative, productive work. Anything else is fraud and theft.
    I wish we did have rule of law, instead of rule of cash. I don't care what "fine family" produced the perpetrator of your "acts of murder, greed, uncontrolled lust and hubris", the perpetrator should be held accountable, instead of having Daddy's deep pockets and crooked lawyer shyster him out of jail.
    I have been many places as a child and a man. I grew up in and around military families around the world and I also served in the military; worked along side CIA officers, military men and soldiers of fortune. Once I was out of the military i was able to study as i chose or fancied.

    What is clear to me is that men and women who serve with great honor and purpose deserve respect. The ones who seek to profit themselves and while inflicting undo hurt on to others, their families and turning the world to chaos don't deserve hero worship. I have been lucky to study this topic and then speak to folks like Joseph Campbell as a way to shape my own order of things and manage the demons I have met and carry.


    I urge you to reread and consider the Odyssey now that you are older and placing it in your wiser context. Its meaning does change from the days you read it as a boy.

    As for everything else you wrote - your ability to defend and glorify a mercenary who lived for selfishness and greed is quite evident. Mercenaries are not heroes regardless of how hard you try to twist them to be. Xenophon admitted he was a killer, plunderer, a rapist, a scoundrel, a failure and most importantly to you, a survivor. In our life time we have met a few true war and business mercenaries even who lived as he did - i do not honor them as well.

    Daddy's issues and personal baggage aside, the end of a heroes journey is in the redemption. Xenophon remains nonredeemable both in his times and in ours despite his hardships returning after years of inflicting carnage. Sorry you don't like that part.
    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 01-13-2019 at 04:04 AM.
    A pictures is worth a thousand words but a challenging meme stumps the ignorant.

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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    I have been many places as a child and a man. I grew up in and around military families around the world and I also served in the military; worked along side CIA officers, military men and soldiers of fortune. Once I was out of the military i was able to study as i chose or fancied.

    What is clear to me is that men and women who serve with great honor and purpose deserve respect. The ones who seek to profit themselves and while inflicting undo hurt on to others, their families and turning the world to chaos don't deserve hero worship. I have been lucky to study this topic and then speak to folks like Joseph Campbell as a way to shape my own order of things and manage the demons I have met and carry.


    I urge you to reread and consider the Odyssey now that you are older and placing it in your wiser context. Its meaning does change from the days you read it as a boy.

    As for everything else you wrote - your ability to defend and glorify a mercenary who lived for selfishness and greed is quite evident. Mercenaries are not heroes regardless of how hard you try to twist them to be. Xenophon admitted he was a killer, plunderer, a rapist, a scoundrel, a failure and most importantly to you, a survivor. In our life time we have met a few true war and business mercenaries even who lived as he did - i do not honor them as well.

    Daddy's issues and personal baggage aside, the end of a heroes journey is in the redemption. Xenophon remains nonredeemable both in his times and in ours despite his hardships returning after years of inflicting carnage. Sorry you don't like that part.
    [I'm enjoying our conversation, thanks for keeping it going.]

    What I don't understand and don't like is that you are blaming Xenophon for not being Christ, four hundred years before Christ was born. He wasn't only a mercenary; after his return he became a politician, statesman, and historian. Some of his books are invaluable sources of information about his times and the people shaping them. He also contributed to the support of Xanthippe, Socrates' widow.

    In your eyes, what would his redemption look like?

    I think you are so tightly focussed on what you consider his crimes that you have lost sight of the big picture. He was fighting Persians, a people who, fifty years earlier, had invaded Hellas, razed his hometown of Athens, inflicted who-knows-what damage on his family, and come within a hair's-breadth of conquering and enslaving his homeland. He was fighting for a Persian, against other Persians. I can see a quiet irony in the fact that he's getting paid Persian gold for fighting Persians and getting a little back for Grandma and Grandpa.
    When he was elected to be one of the army's leaders, after their generals were betrayed and killed by the Persians at the peace talks, he became responsible for helping the army get back home.
    Surrounded by hostile people and pursued by a large army, they did what they had to do to survive. Necessity is master of us all. If you and I had been there at the time, would we have done any differently? I doubt it. I do not 'glorify' how they did it, but I respect what they did in escaping.
    War is horrible, we all know that. I've never understood how authors like Homer and Hemingway could write so.....enthusiastically... about it. It's like Plato's Republic, beautifully writen, but about abhorrent things.

    Just last year, I had to replace my copy of Odyssey; I prefer the Richmond Lattimore translation, who do you like? A couple of my favorite bits are the feast and games the Phaeacians put on for Odysseus, and where Odysseus tells Polyphemus the cyclops that his name is 'Nobody'. If I remember correctly, Agatha Christie used that gag in one of her books. Iliad has never been one of my favorites; it has some good moments, like old Nestor schooling the leaders of the invading Greeks, but overall, it's pretty grim reading.

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

  24. #24
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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    [I'm enjoying our conversation, thanks for keeping it going.]

    What I don't understand and don't like is that you are blaming Xenophon for not being Christ, four hundred years before Christ was born. He wasn't only a mercenary; after his return he became a politician, statesman, and historian. Some of his books are invaluable sources of information about his times and the people shaping them. He also contributed to the support of Xanthippe, Socrates' widow.

    In your eyes, what would his redemption look like?

    I think you are so tightly focussed on what you consider his crimes that you have lost sight of the big picture. He was fighting Persians, a people who, fifty years earlier, had invaded Hellas, razed his hometown of Athens, inflicted who-knows-what damage on his family, and come within a hair's-breadth of conquering and enslaving his homeland. He was fighting for a Persian, against other Persians. I can see a quiet irony in the fact that he's getting paid Persian gold for fighting Persians and getting a little back for Grandma and Grandpa.
    When he was elected to be one of the army's leaders, after their generals were betrayed and killed by the Persians at the peace talks, he became responsible for helping the army get back home.
    Surrounded by hostile people and pursued by a large army, they did what they had to do to survive. Necessity is master of us all. If you and I had been there at the time, would we have done any differently? I doubt it. I do not 'glorify' how they did it, but I respect what they did in escaping.
    War is horrible, we all know that. I've never understood how authors like Homer and Hemingway could write so.....enthusiastically... about it. It's like Plato's Republic, beautifully writen, but about abhorrent things.

    Just last year, I had to replace my copy of Odyssey; I prefer the Richmond Lattimore translation, who do you like? A couple of my favorite bits are the feast and games the Phaeacians put on for Odysseus, and where Odysseus tells Polyphemus the cyclops that his name is 'Nobody'. If I remember correctly, Agatha Christie used that gag in one of her books. Iliad has never been one of my favorites; it has some good moments, like old Nestor schooling the leaders of the invading Greeks, but overall, it's pretty grim reading.
    I have enjoyed this too. it has been a while to be able to think about such stuff. maybe my time and brain not wasted.

    “If it had not been for the pernicious power of envy, men would not so have exalted vengeance above innocence and profit above justice... in these acts of revenge on others, men take it upon themselves to begin the process of repealing those general laws of humanity which are there to give a hope of salvation to all who are in distress.”
    ― Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

    There are a couple of factors which make Xenophon suspect and complicated. Persians were competitors in the eastern Mediterranean and bottledneck the Greek maritime access to the Black Sea Greeks. With Solonian Constitution and laws, the Athenians draw a huge difference between themselves and other Greeks. The conflicts that arise because of this is played out often throughout the Aegean.
    When Xenophone chose to leave Athens and fight as a soldier of fortune in Persia, it is a big FU to his city state. The Greeks who lived on and near Anatolia saw the world differently than Athenians and often fought as Persian Greeks. There are many examples of famous sons of Athens who go to fight for Persians and with Persians. Every single time the roving mercenary soldier comes back, they are viewed with great skepticism, serious misgivings and ultimately a danger to the city. Moreover being born an Athenian citizen, Xenophon was also associated with Sparta, the traditional enemy of Athens. His pro-oligarchic politics, military service under Spartan generals, in the Persian campaign and elsewhere, and his friendship with King Agesilaus II endeared Xenophon to the Spartans. Some of his works are a pro–Spartan bias. To Athenian Greeks, one of many slap in the face to their democracy.

    There are pieces in the Illad written by a man who changes the narrative after a lifetime of retrospection - Achilles slays Hector, pierces the dead body’s “Achilles’ tendons,” straps the body to the back of his chariot, hauls it back to the Greek camp, and drags it in the dust twelve times around Patroclus’ funeral pyre. Addressing the dead Patroclus, Achilles boasts:
    Hector lies slaughter’d here
    Dragg’d at my chariot, and our dogs shall all in pieces tear
    His hated limbs. Twelve Trojan youths, born of their noblest strains,
    I took alive, and (yet enrag’d) will empty all their veins
    Of vital spirits, sacrific’d before thy heap of fire.

    Then Achilles lays Hector face down in the dust before Patroclus. This, Homer writes , was shameful, “unworthy” of the shiny Achilles.

    Even the gods begin to pity Hector. Apollo denounces Achilles before the other gods as:
    One that hath neither heart
    Nor soul within him that will move or yield to any part
    That fits a man, but lion-like, uplandish, and mere wild,
    Slave to his pride, and all his nerves being naturally compil’d
    Of eminent strength, stalks out and preys upon a silly sheep
    Shame is not known, nor hath the power to be,

    In this; the greatest hero is labeled “vile” and “outrageous". A label Achilles can never escape from.

    The other piece which makes the Illad so wonderful comes from in the lines when Priam comes to Achilles’ tent to ransom his sons Hector’s body and, in scenes of exquisite beauty and pathos. A grieving father, his son hero dead and the other heros soul is dying.

    The Lattimore translation is the standard. I really like Robert Fagles. I picked a very good new one by Peter Green from University of California press which may replace Fagles as my fav.
    Bob Dylan likes Peter Green translated poetry (Ovid) enough to put it in his songs and borrow for inspiration from time to time.



    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 01-13-2019 at 03:04 PM.
    A pictures is worth a thousand words but a challenging meme stumps the ignorant.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    Default Re: As Xenophon saw it

    I wish I could like Fagles more than I do, but something in his work grates against my inner ear. I'll look for the Green, thanks for the tip. I've been buying different translations of Homer since the 1960s, starting with the Butcher & Lang. I've never had a class in mythology or Greek literature; when you say "Lattimore is the standard", does that mean for classroom use, or by which all translations are judged by the folk who judge such things?

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

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