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Xenophon’s Virtue Personified

Nili Alon Amit
p. 137-150

Résumés

Comment la vertu est-elle décrite dans les écrits de Xénophon ? L’étude de L.-A. Dorion sur l’enkrateia comme base de la vertu de Xénophon, ainsi que d’autres recherches récentes sur son éthique, afférentes à l’utilité et à l’usage, semblent avoir établi l’opinion générale qu’elle fait partie de l’une de ces deux catégories ou des deux. Ce que j’aimerais démontrer se trouve dans un passage important sur la vertu, Mémorables 2. 1. 22-33, où Socrate raconte une anecdote sur la vertu et le vice et où la vertu est personnifiée comme une dame mythologique, qui décrit ses propres traits elle-même. Malgré le fait que l’enkrateia est examinée et louée par la vertu personnifiée, il paraît qu’une importance similaire est accordée à la sophrosune, à l’epimeleia et à la propension au travail et à la piété, comme étant les premiers constituants de la vertu qui sont récompensés par l’eudaimonia. Vient alors l’analyse de l’Arété personnifiée de Mém. 2. 1 comme une entité séparée, composée de plusieurs constituants nécessaires et de certains optionnels ; ils seront comparés à d’autres occurrences du terme dans les écrits de Xénophon pour établir s’ils appartiennent à cette catégorie. De là, il apparaîtra clairement que la vertu est un groupe de perfections visant principalement la force intérieure et la préservation de soi, qui se compose de l’enkrateia, de la sophrosune et de l’epimeleia et, dans une moindre mesure, du courage et de la sagesse. Ces constituants créent et maintiennent la vertu dans son ensemble et ils doivent être exercés constamment par la pratique physique de l’endurance et du labeur et par la pratique mentale de l’exaltation dans l’endurance et le labeur. La récompense de cette pratique sera le bonheur.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 All the English translations of Xenophon’s works are due to E.C. Marchant (Agesilaus, Const (...)

Some elements in man’s nature make for friendship. […] For thanks to their virtue (διὰ γὰρ τὴν ἀρετήν) these prize the untroubled security of moderate possessions above sovereignty won by war; despite hunger and thirst, they can share their food and drink without a pang; and although they delight in the charms of beauty they can resist the lure and avoid offending those whom they should respect (Xenophon, Mem. 2.6.21-22, Socrates on friendship)1.

1In the above quotation Socrates explains to Critobulus that friendship is created and sustained through the virtues of friends. Virtue (arete) is said to enable friendship; but it is described in terms that, as we shall see, are not case-specific but common to all instances of arete in Xenophon’s writings: in other places it is security or self-preservation which is gained through virtue, which is described as moderation, endurance, and self restraint. This paper explores these constituents of virtue as leading to specific excellences (in this case, to excellence in friendship), and in a wider perspective, to happiness.

  • 2 We do find instances where Xenophon is exploring the special virtues that mark grea (...)
  • 3 Ages. 5.1-3 resembles Mem. 2.1.1-6 in praising the good ruler’s temperance in the m (...)
  • 4 Of special interest is the heroic portrait of the hunter in Cynegeticus who is neither (...)

2A very noticeable difference between Plato and Xenophon is that while Plato is constantly deliberating the essence of virtue, Xenophon provides several lists of virtues but does not ponder the essence of virtue as such2. These lists exist, e.g. in Agesilaus 5, 6 and 103, Memorabilia 1.2, 4.2, 4.5, 4.7 and 4.8, Cyropaedia 7.5 and Cynegeticus 12-13, and consist in the virtues of: self-rule (enkrateia), temperance (sophrosune), persistent care (epimeleia), willingness to toil, and also piety, courage and wisdom. While these lists are not identical, they do contain a common core of the above three elements. From comparing these lists it will transpire that they are usually intended to show the good traits of a leader (Cyrus, Agesilaus) or philosopher (Socrates) and that the virtues listed slightly vary with the subject matter (e. g. friendship, warfare or leadership)4.

  • 5 E. g. “The Nature and Status of Sophia in the Memorabilia”, Dorion 2012, 474-5: “[…] self m (...)
  • 6 E. g. Danzig 2012, 508: “In the rest of Xenophon’s writings there are numerous sign (...)
  • 7 Prodicus’ tale; on the authenticity of the tale see p. 140 below. For a short descr (...)
  • 8 In Mem. 2.1.18 Socrates claims that those who endure willingly enjoy ponos through the comf (...)
  • 9 I agree with O. Chernyakhovskaya’s general definition of Xenophon’s virtue as the knowledge (...)

3How is virtue described in Xenophon’s writings ? L.A. Dorion’s work on Xenophon’s enkrateia as a foundational Xenophonic virtue5 and recent research on Xenophon’s ethics as pertaining to utility and usefulness6, seems to have set the general opinion on Xenophon’s virtues as belonging in one or both of these categories. What I would like to show here is that in an important passage on virtue, Memorabilia 2.1.22-33, where Socrates tells a tale on virtue and vice7, Virtue is personified as a mythological lady who lists her own traits; even though enkrateia is discussed and praised by the personified Virtue, there seems to be equal emphasis on sophrosune, epimeleia, propensity to toil and piety as primary constituents of virtue, which are rewarded by eudaimonia. I shall henceforth examine the personified Arete in Mem. 2.1 as a single whole made up of several necessary and some optional constituents; these constituents of arete will be compared with other instances of the term in Xenophon’s writings to see if they fit in this category. From this examination it will become clear that virtue is a group of excellences aimed mainly at inner strength and self preservation and consisting of enkrateia, sophrosune and epimeleia, and to a lesser degree – courage and wisdom. These constituents both create and maintain virtue as a whole, and should be exercised persistently through the physical practice of endurance and toil and the mental practice of exaltation in endurance and toil8. The reward of this practice is happiness9.

  • 10 In a more extreme example (Cyn. 12.21) virtue becomes a deity with the powers to punish and (...)
  • 11 Some lists of virtues begin with piety, e. g. the description of Socrates’ virtues (...)

4Virtue, as we shall see, is created and maintained through effort and a positive attitude to effort. It has divine connotations as the mythic Virtue in Mem. 2.1.32 proclaims herself as being in “company with gods and good men” and has the power to give happiness10. In almost all cases observed, piety is a precondition to virtuous conduct11 – this may be connected with the commitment one must assume when following in the path of virtue. This sense of commitment will be shown to be central in the mythic Virtue tale in Mem. 2.1 and in the poetic quotations preceding it.

  • 12 Mem. 2, 1, 1: ἐδόκει δέ μοι καὶ τοιαῦτα λέγων προτρέπειν τοὺς συνόντας ἀσκεῖν ἐγκράτειαν [π (...)
  • 13 Mem. 2.1.12: “If only that path can avoid the world as well as rule and slavery, there may (...)
  • 14 Mem. 2.1.4: “Don’t you think that with this education he will be less likely to be caught b (...)
  • 15 E. g. Socrates’ words in Phaedo 82a-84b: “Then, said he, the happiest of those, and those w (...)

5The central motivation in Mem. 2.1 is Socrates’ exhortation of his followers to the practice of enkrateia in bodily pleasures, endurance, and toil12. Aristippus is chosen as an interlocutor as he is undisciplined in these efforts. After discussing the nature of proper education for leadership (archein), Socrates and Aristippus agree that leadership is essentially connected with endurance and temperance in regard to basic needs. When Socrates asks Aristippus to choose between the life of rulers or slaves, Aristippus proposes a third path – not of ruling or being ruled, but a kind of freedom which leads to eudaimonia (Mem. 2.1.11). As we shall see later in the section – the road to be taken for reaching happiness will be that of virtue, and it will achieve a kind of freedom – not the freedom from effort and from society which Aristippus seeks, but freedom from destructive desires and idleness. Socrates replies to Aristippus’ third path by arguing for its implausibility – living in the world means living in society, and society means rulers and slaves or stronger and weaker13; this is another proof that for Xenophon’s Socrates, by contrast to Plato’s in Phaedo, virtue and happiness are connected with life within society14. It seems that for Xenophon’s Socrates virtue is mandatory for self preservation of the individual in society (for example, in Mem. 2.1.4 those who are not educated in enkrateia are compared to animals falling for bait and being caught), while for the Socrates of Phaedo virtue facilitates a better life after death15.

  • 16 Sansone 2004 argues that Xenophon’s Socrates was accurate in quoting from Prodicus’ source. (...)
  • 17 Smith 2001, basing on Adkins 1960, e. g. 30-46, traces the development of Greek virtue in a (...)
  • 18 On the visual depiction of Prodicus’ Arete as a modest maiden and its parallel in Aristotle (...)

6Socrates now turns to examples from old, quoting from Hesiod, Epicharmus and Prodicus on the path of virtue toward happiness. The quotation from Hesiod provides an example on the divine role of toil as a main constituent of virtue: “[…] in front of virtue the gods immortal have put sweat: long and steep is the path to her and rough at first; but when you reach the top, then at length the road is easy, hard though it was” (Mem. 2.1.20, quoting form Works and Days 290). Two themes here are of interest: there is a steep road leading to virtue, meaning one has to commit oneself to hardship in order to become virtuous; when reaching virtue, the road becomes easy – this may not only mean that after accomplishing a task the efforts seem easier than they seemed to be while taken, but that these efforts become easier when the road to virtue is taken again. In other words, the road to virtue is not one single path with a prize at its end, it is an ongoing commitment one must take and the same efforts should be taken over and over again, only that they become easier with the practice of body and mind. Prodicus’ tale16 which follows describes the youthful Heracles (a symbol of external arete)17 sitting in a quiet place and pondering his ways in life, suddenly approached by two lady personifications of Virtue and Vice, each presenting her qualities and inviting him to follow in her path. Virtue exudes nobility, purity and modesty: “fair to see and of high bearing; and her limbs were adorned with purity, her eyes with modesty; sober was her figure, and her robe was white” (Mem. 2.1.22). From their first encounter it is evident that Vice is interested in self indulging and external beauty: “plump and soft […] dressed so as to disclose all her charms”. Her eyes are “wide open” to the world, while Virtue’s are “modest”, probably gazing inward18. When seeing Heracles, Virtue waits patiently for Vice to finish her eager speech, walks steadily to him, and says (among other things): “I hope that, if you take the road that leads to me, you will turn out a right good doer of high and noble deeds, and I shall be yet more highly honoured and more illustrious for the blessings I bestow. […] For of all things good and fair, the gods give nothing to man without toil and effort” (Mem. 2.1.27-28). Interestingly, Virtue talks about a reflexive effect in which she herself will benefit if Heracles follows her road. Virtue seems in this respect to have the divine dimension of thriving on human commitment and piety.

  • 19 Eudaimonia is described by Virtue as the prized happiness of the virtuous individua (...)

7Virtue finishes this speech with the victory she provides – that of mind over body: “if you want your body to be strong, you must accustom your body to be the servant of your mind, and train it with toil and sweat” (Mem. 2.1.28). Again, this victory is achieved with hard effort, and has a continuous character – the training is unceasing, there is no real rest from virtue. After a short response by Vice, Virtue continues with describing her engagement in the good deeds of men: “But I company with gods and good men, and no fair deed of god or man is done without my aid. I am first in honour among the gods and among men that are akin to me […]” (Mem. 2.1.32). She ends her speech with the joyous reward of virtue, not only in the physical products of toil, but in rejoicing the practice of virtue itself: “The young rejoice to win the praise of the old; the elders are glad to be honoured by the young; with joy they recall their deeds past, and their present well-doing is joy to them, for through me they are dear to the gods, lovely to friends, precious to their native land” (Mem. 2.1.33). Her last words to Heracles are a promise for eudaimonia: “if thou wilt labour earnestly on this wise, thou mayest have for your own the most blessed happiness” (Mem. 2.1.33)19.

8The personified Virtue in Mem. 2.1 gives several instructions for following in her path: the willingness to toil and effort as means to achieve physical rewards and the controlling of mind over body (2.1.28), the shunning of idleness and gluttony (2.1.29-31), the awareness to her essence as a mediator between gods and men (2.1.32) and the enjoyment of simple joys and the joy gained by living a life of virtue (2.1.33). In order to classify Memorabilia’s Arete as a Xenophontic category for virtues, we shall now look for other instances of aretai in the Xenophontic corpus, and see if they are compatible with this category.

  • 20 For general survey of classical treatments of friendship as connected with selflessness (...)

9The plural aretai appears once in Mem. 2.6.39, continuing the line quoted at the outset of this paper in discussing virtue in the context of friendship: “[…] and you have made up your mind that a man’s virtue (ἀνδρὸς ἀρετήν) consists in outdoing his friends in kindness and his enemies in mischief” (2.6.35); “you will find on reflection that every kind of virtue named among men (ὅσαι δ᾽ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἀρεταί) is increased by study and practise” (2.6.39). Here we find arete in the context of friendship and utility20, and aretai as a category of excellences which should be trained and practiced (μαθήσει τε καὶ μελέτῃ), very much in agreement with the words of Virtue on practice, e. g. Mem. 2.1.28: “[…] if you essay to grow great through war and want power to liberate your friends and subdue your foes, you must learn the arts of war from those who know them and must practise their right use (παρὰ τῶν ἐπισταμένων μαθητέον καὶ ὅπως αὐταῖς δεῖ χρῆσθαι ἀσκητέον)”. Through this example we see that the essence of virtue does not change when it regards different arts, e. g. friendship or war. It is the continuous study and practice that characterizes virtue, and not the designated goal in the different arts (a good friend, victory in war, etc.).

10Another instance of arete in the plural appears in Constitution of the Lacedaemonians:

  • 21 Lac. 10.4.

Again, the following surely entitles the work of Lycurgus to high admiration. He observed that where the cult of virtue is left to voluntary effort, the virtuous are not strong enough to increase the fame of their fatherland. So he compelled all men at Sparta to practise all the virtues (πάσας ἀσκεῖν τὰς ἀρετάς) in public life. And therefore, just as private individuals differ from one another in virtue according as they practise or neglect it, so Sparta, as a matter of course, surpasses all other states in virtue, because she alone makes a public duty of gentlemanly conduct”21.

11Here again we see a clear statement that virtue is essentially connected with practice – Sparta surpasses other states in virtue because of its extreme disciplinary education and military systems which are based on hard training. Since all virtues are united in hard work and continual practice, we may safely regard hard work and practice as the essence of all the virtues.

12We shall now examine the appearances of “arete” in singular, in the following works: Mem. 1.2, 3.2, Ages. 3, 10, Cyr. 1.5, 2.2, 7.5 and Cyn. 12.

Memorabilia

13Mem. 1.2 describes Socrates’ virtues against the accusations that he was corrupting the youth; Xenophon explains that Socrates’ aim was taking care of virtue (1.2.8: τῆς ἀρετῆς ἐπιμέλεια). Virtue in lines 19-20 of this section is described as a quality to be trained and worked upon (askein):

I notice that as those who do not train (ἀσκοῦντας) the body cannot perform the functions proper to the body, so those who do not train the soul cannot perform the functions of the soul […]. For this cause fathers try to keep their sons, even if they are prudent (σώφρονες) lads, out of bad company: for the society of honest men is a training in virtue (ἄσκησιν οὖσαν τῆς ἀρετῆς), but the society of the bad is virtue’s undoing.

14Virtue is treated here as an acquired rather than inherent quality; while the children may be sophrones by nature, they can be corrupted if their society does not exhibit virtue. The preceding line discusses askein as essential for the well being of body and soul – probably facilitating virtue.

  • 22 Mem. 3.2.4: “Καὶ οὕτως ἐπισκοπῶν τίς εἴη ἀγαθοῦ ἡγεμόνος ἀρετὴ, τὰ μὲν ἄλλα περιῄρει, κατ (...)
  • 23 This is in accord with the view that virtue for Xenophon is the knowledge of best means o (...)

15In Mem. 3.2, Socrates discusses the greatness of leaders in their attentive care (epimeleia) for their people. First of all, there should care for basic needs (3.2.1): “a general must see that his men are safe and are fed (τοῦτο ἔσται, οὕτω καὶ τὸν στρατηγὸν ἐπιμελεῖσθαι δεῖ)”. In 3.2.3-4, the best leadership is performed in giving the right service to their voters’ best interests: “and all men fight in order that they may get the best life possible, and choose generals to guide them to it”; and arete is the essence of this right leadership, described as leading people to happiness: “By these reflections on what constitutes a good leader he stripped away all other virtues, and left just the power to make his followers happy”22. The general characteristics of virtue here discussed resemble those in Virtue’s speech in Mem. 2.1.20-33: virtue is essentially connected with epimeleia and leads to happiness. What is new here is the element of fine attunement to the needs of the people, as the good leader should understand what his people’s needs are in order to fulfill them to the best of his ability and hence lead them to happiness23.

Agesilaus

16Like Cyropaedia, Agesilaus presents Xenophon’s opinion on praise-worthy traits in kings. In Ages 3.1-2, 5, we see a glorification of the king for piety – a trait that makes him both honourable and trustworthy:

  • 24 On Agesilaus’ friendship and xenia see Herman 1987, 1-3.

But now I will attempt to show the virtue that was in his soul (τὴν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτοῦ ἀρετήν), the virtue through which he wrought those deeds and loved all that is honourable and put away all that is base… Agesilaus had such reverence for religion, that even his enemies considered his oaths and his treaties more to be relied on than their own friendship with one another […]24.

17This description emphasized the king’s loyalty to treaties and oaths. This is important, since it elaborates on the role of commitment as the great virtue in the king’s soul. As we have previously noted, commitment and persistence are main characteristics in Xenophon’s descriptions of virtue. This section concludes with the words: “So much, then, for piety” (καὶ περὶ μὲν εὐσεβείας ταῦτα). Xenophon seems to have felt obliged to describe the king’s piety first, before describing his other virtues. This could be either because it was common to praise piety, or, more reasonably in the light of previous examples, because he saw piety as a foundational trait of virtue.

18In Ages. 10.1-2, we are provided with a list of the king’s traits which Xenophon states to be praise-worthy:

Such, then, are the qualities for which I praise Agesilaus. […] The man who is foremost in endurance when the hour comes for toil, in valour when the contest calls for courage, in wisdom when the need is for counsel – he is the man, I think, who may fairly be regarded as the perfect embodiment of goodness. […] For who that imitates a pious, a just, a sober, a self-controlled man, can come to be unrighteous, unjust, violent, wanton? In point of fact, Agesilaus prided himself less on reigning over others than on ruling himself, less on leading the people against their enemies than on guiding them to all virtue (ἐπὶ τῷ πρὸς πᾶσαν ἀρετὴν ἡγεῖσθαι).

  • 25 Line 7 in Mem. 2.1 describes the self controlled person as “ikanos archein”; in (...)

19This list fits well with our categorical Virtue in Mem. 2.1: it mentions the king’s excellence in endurance, piety, self control and self rule, with the addition of: courage, wisdom, justice and soberness. Virtue is connected with leadership – in both cases, the leadership of people is essentially connected with the leader’s ability to rule himself25.

Cyropaedia

20After Cyrus is appointed to command the Persian army upon Cyaxares’ request, his first deed is consulting the gods (Cyr. 1.5.6). In 1.5.7-9 Cyrus makes his first speech to his men, referring to virtue in the following words:

And yet I think that no virtue is practised by men except with the aim that the good, by being such, may have something more than the bad; and I believe that those who abstain from present pleasures do this not that they may never enjoy themselves, but by this self-restraint they prepare themselves to have many times greater enjoyment in time to come (1.5.9).

21Virtue is clearly expressed here through the practice of enkrateia, and bears a promise for happiness. Now Cyrus sets to give examples of different technai that are practiced by men: if the practice is for a good cause – their practice is virtuous:

And those who are eager to become able speakers study oratory, not that they may never cease from speaking eloquently, but in the hope that by their eloquence they may persuade men and accomplish great good. And those also who practise military science undergo this labour, not that they may never cease from fighting, but because they think that by gaining proficiency in the arts of war they will secure great wealth and happiness and honour both for themselves and for their country (1.5.9).

22Cyrus’ words to his peers in Cyr. 2.2.24 encourage excellence in them, through a description similar to that in Mem. 2.1.22-33:

And therefore the base oftentimes find a larger following of congenial spirits than the noble. For since vice makes her appeal through the pleasures of the moment, she has their assistance to persuade many to accept her views; but virtue, leading up hill (ἡ δ᾽ ἀρετὴ πρὸς ὄρθιον ἄγουσα), is not at all clever at attracting men at first sight and without reflection; and especially is this true, when there are others who call in the opposite direction, to what is downhill and easy (Cyr. 2.2.24).

23The same ideas remain: virtue is maintained through hard work, is making less attractive promises than vice, but leads uphill or elevates man in different respects.

24After placing a guard around Babylon in Cyr. 7.5.70, Cyrus ponders different ways of preserving and enlarging his empire. He comes to realize that his strength lies in his men’s virtue – their practice of virtue safeguard his empire: “and he realized that the brave men, who with the aid of the gods had brought him victory, must be kept together and that care must be exercised that they should not abandon their practice of virtue”. Here again – brave men are first aided by the gods (probably through their piety) and then practice virtue. What is this virtue which they practice? This is answered by Cyrus’ words to his men in the following lines (7.5.74-76):

As for the future, however, it is my judgment that if we turn to idleness and the luxurious self-indulgence of men of coarse natures, who count toil misery and living without toil happiness, we shall soon be of little account in our own eyes and shall soon lose all the blessings that we have. […] but, just as skill in other arts retrogrades if neglected, and as bodies, too, that were once in good condition change and deteriorate as soon as the owners relax into idleness, so also self-control and temperance and strength (οὕτω καὶ ἡ σωφροσύνη καὶ ἡ ἐγκράτεια καὶ ἡ ἀλκή) will take a backward turn to vice as soon as one ceases to cultivate them. Therefore, we dare not become careless nor give ourselves up to the enjoyment of the present moment; for, while I think it is a great thing to have won an empire, it is a still greater thing to preserve it after it has been won. For to win falls often to the lot of one who has shown nothing but daring; but to win and hold – that is no longer a possibility without the exercise of self-control, temperance, and unflagging care (οὐκέτι τοῦτο ἄνευ σωφροσύνης οὐδ᾽ ἄνευ ἐγφρατείας οὐδ᾽ ἄνευ πολλῆς ἐπιμελείας γίγνεται).

25The threefold virtue: enkrateia, sophrosune and epimeleia repeats twice as virtues to be practiced; note the parallel between “strength” (ἀλκή) and “care” (ἐπιμελεία) in the lines marked in bold – it is evident that for Cyrus strength lies in the careful practice of virtue.

  • 26 Cyr. 7.5.79-80: “But the science and practice of war we need not share at all with those (...)

26Cyrus continues his speech (7.5.78) with the importance of temperance and endurance in toil, in a similar manner to Socrates’ words to Aristippus in the beginning of Mem. 2.1: “Now the conditions of heat and cold, food and drink, toil and rest, we must share even with our slaves. But though we share with them, we must above all try to show ourselves their betters in such matters”. This practice, lastly, leads to happiness through freedom from appetite and laziness26.

Cynegeticus

  • 27 Cf. Gray 2011, 5.

27Cynegeticus, as previously mentioned, is an interesting case where the virtue of hunters is praised, which may show that Xenophon was interested in the general practice of virtue and not merely in glorifying the virtue of great men27. Cyn. 12.15 makes the following distinction between two classes of men:

  • 28 Cyn. 12.15;17. See note 21.

Those, then, who have given themselves up to continual toil and learning hold for their own portion laborious lessons and exercises, but they hold safety for their cities. But if any decline to receive instruction because of the labour and prefer to live among untimely pleasures, they are by nature utterly evil. […] Now the better sort are those who are willing to toil28.

28After this prologue, Xenophon identifies hunters as members of the noble class who are characterized by virtue (12.18-19): “For among the ancients the companions of Cheiron to whom I referred learnt many noble lessons in their youth, beginning with hunting; from these lessons there sprang in them great virtue, for which they are admired even today”. Here again virtue is described as a willful object of pursuit, essentially connected with toil: “That all desire Virtue is obvious, but because they must toil if they are to gain her, the many fall away. For the achievement of her is hidden in obscurity, whereas the toils inseparable from her are manifest”.

29Further in section 21 virtue seems to be personified again, or rather deified:

But in the presence of Virtue men do many evil and ugly things, supposing that they are not regarded by her because they do not see her. Yet she is present everywhere because she is immortal, and she honours those who are good to her, but casts off the bad. Therefore, if men knew that she is watching them, they would be impatient to undergo the toils and the discipline by which she is hardly to be captured, and would achieve her (12, 21-22).

  • 29 The treatment of sophrosune as cardinal virtue goes back to Heraclitus, e. g. f (...)

30This deification goes far beyond the basic constituents of virtue which we encountered in this present analysis: virtue in this instance is attributed with the godly powers of providence, punishment and reward. Other elements associated with virtue exceeding our basic category, which we encountered in our reading, are wisdom, courage, justice and soberness (Ages. 10.1-2). There may be a Platonic influence in this mention of the cardinal virtues of Republic IV29.

  • 30 See p. 140 above.
  • 31 Hesiod, Works and Days, 303-304 (trans. Evelyn-White 1914 as for the following lines).
  • 32 Hesiod, Works and Days, 308-309.
  • 33 Hesiod, Works and Days, 311.
  • 34 Hesiod, Works and Days, 381-382.

31Preceding Virtue’s personification in Mem. 2.1, Socrates quotes from Hesiod’s Works and Days (286) on the arduous human path to the divine summit of virtue30. The connection to Xenophon’s main constituents of virtue here discussed is evident. Lines 293-380 in Works and Days, directly following those quoted by Xenophon’s Socrates, parallel Socrates’ aim in shaking Aristippus out of his indulgent and lazy life; Hesiod is trying his best to show his brother Perses that piety, epimeleia and effort are the divine order for man’s well being: “Both gods and men are angry with a man who lives idle”31; “Through work men grow rich in flocks and substance, and working they are much better loved by the immortals”32; “Work is no disgrace: it is idleness which is a disgrace”33; “If your heart within you desires wealth, do these things and work with work upon work”34.

  • 35 Mem. 4.8.11: “To me then he seemed to be all that a truly good and happy man must be (ἐδό (...)

32Hesiod’s “work” has a value in itself, not merely by its product but generally by its essence. This idea is engrained in Xenophon’s category of virtue: virtue has to do with work and effort, and its product is in its practice. It seems fair to conclude, all in all, that the elements described by the mythic Virtue in Mem. 2.1 generally encompass Xenophon’s conception of virtue: it is a category constituting self rule, temperance and attentive care; it is trained physically by endurance and toil, and mentally by gaining a positive attitude toward endurance and toil; and it leads to happiness, not as an end goal but as a product of positive attitude during the process itself. The final lines of Memorabilia are a summary of Socrates’ virtues, ending with the fact that he was truly good – and truly happy35.

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Bibliographie

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Azoulay V. (2004), Xénophon et les grâces du pouvoir: de la charis au charisme, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne (Histoire ancienne et médiévale; 77).

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Notes

1 All the English translations of Xenophon’s works are due to E.C. Marchant (Agesilaus, Constitution of Lacedaemonians, Cynegeticus, Memorabilia): cf. Marchant 1923 and Marchant 1925, except Cyropaedia, cf. Miller 1914.

2 We do find instances where Xenophon is exploring the special virtues that mark great leaders, e. g. in Ages. a similar trend appears in Xenophon’s treatment of charis – cf. Azoulay 2004, 10. Xen., Ages. 3.1: “But now I will attempt to show the virtue that was in his soul (τὴν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτοῦ ἀρετήν), the virtue through which he wrought those deeds and loved all that is honourable and put away all that is base”. See pp. 144-145 below.

3 Ages. 5.1-3 resembles Mem. 2.1.1-6 in praising the good ruler’s temperance in the matters of food, drink, sexual desire, bearing heat and cold, rejection of idleness and propensity to – and even enjoyment of – ponos; in Ages. 6.1-4 other qualities of the good ruler are described, especially courage and wisdom.

4 Of special interest is the heroic portrait of the hunter in Cynegeticus who is neither leader nor philosopher; this is an exception to a common conception of Xenophon’s writing as aimed at glorification of individual heroes, and may indicate that Xenophon was more concerned with the substance of virtue than with the particular people displaying it. An example for this common conception in Gray 2011, 5: “Xenophon’s works offer us ’mirrors of princes’ that seem to reflect positive images of the relations between leaders and followers that he presents as the secret to success in any community”. The book’s main motivation, however, as stated in the introduction (p. 1) and exemplified in chapter 4 (pp. 179-245) is to present Xenophon’s praise of leadership in various forms, and not that of individual heroes.

5 E. g. “The Nature and Status of Sophia in the Memorabilia”, Dorion 2012, 474-5: “[…] self mastery is the fundamental basis of virtue […]. In this one sees again that enkrateia takes precedence over sophia in the moral thinking of Xenophon’s Socrates”.

6 E. g. Danzig 2012, 508: “In the rest of Xenophon’s writings there are numerous signs that he approves wholeheartedly of the pursuit of self-interest. Xenophon frequently praises Socrates for benefiting his friends. […] If that is worthy of praise, then the successful pursuit of self-interest must be a good thing”.

7 Prodicus’ tale; on the authenticity of the tale see p. 140 below. For a short description of the history of personifications of virtue from Hesiod to Aristotle, see Bowra 1938, 187-188.

8 In Mem. 2.1.18 Socrates claims that those who endure willingly enjoy ponos through the comfort of hope: “Besides, he who endures willingly enjoys his work because he is comforted by hope”; in Ages. 5.3 the virtuous king is described as exalting in ponos: “Agesilaus gloried in hard work”.

9 I agree with O. Chernyakhovskaya’s general definition of Xenophon’s virtue as the knowledge of useful means to arrive at happiness. See Chernyakhovskaya 2014, 105: “Protoutilitaristische und eudämonistische Merkmale der Ethik des Xenophontischen Sokrates zeigen sich in seinen Urteilen, dass jeder Mensch nach seinem Glück strebt und dass die Tugend als Wissen vom Nützlichen ein Mittel zur Erreichung des Glückes ist”.

10 In a more extreme example (Cyn. 12.21) virtue becomes a deity with the powers to punish and reward. See Cygeneticus, p. 147 below.

11 Some lists of virtues begin with piety, e. g. the description of Socrates’ virtues in the ending lines of Memorabilia (4.8.11): “So religious (eusebes) that he did nothing without counsel from the gods; so just (dikaios) that he did no injury, however small, to any man, but conferred the greatest benefits on all who dealt with him; so self-controlled (enkrates) that he never chose the pleasanter rather than the better course; so wise (phronimos) that he was unerring in his judgment of the better and the worse, and needed no counsellor, but relied on himself for his knowledge of them”.

12 Mem. 2, 1, 1: ἐδόκει δέ μοι καὶ τοιαῦτα λέγων προτρέπειν τοὺς συνόντας ἀσκεῖν ἐγκράτειαν [πρὸς ἐπιθυμίαν] βρωτοῦ καὶ ποτοῦ καὶ λαγνείας καὶ ὕπνου καὶ ῥίγους καὶ θάλπους καὶ πόνου.

13 Mem. 2.1.12: “If only that path can avoid the world as well as rule and slavery, there may be something in what you say. But, since you are in the world, if you intend neither to rule nor to be ruled, and do not choose to truckle to the rulers – I think you must see that the stronger have a way of making the weaker rue their lot both in public and in private life, and treating them like slaves”.

14 Mem. 2.1.4: “Don’t you think that with this education he will be less likely to be caught by his enemy than other creatures ? Some of them, you know, are so greedy that in spite of extreme timidity in some cases, they are drawn irresistibly to the bait to get food, and are caught; and others are snared by drink”.

15 E. g. Socrates’ words in Phaedo 82a-84b: “Then, said he, the happiest of those, and those who go to the best place, are those who have practised, by nature and habit, without philosophy or reason, the social and civil virtues which are called moderation and justice ? […] those who truly love wisdom refrain from all bodily desires and resist them firmly and do not give themselves up to them, […] for the soul of the philosopher would not reason as others do, […] and in this way it believes it must live, while life endures, and then at death pass on to that which is akin to itself and of like nature, and be free from human ills” (English translation by Fowler 1914).

16 Sansone 2004 argues that Xenophon’s Socrates was accurate in quoting from Prodicus’ source. I agree with L.A. Dorion who opposes this view by showing that the virtues listed by the personified Virtue are typically Xenophontic (Dorion 2008); furthermore, a similar reference to the contents of the tale is given in the words of Cyrus to his people in Cyr. 2.2.24 (see p. 145 below), without mentioning Prodicus as a source. I find it most probable that a tale of this sort did exist by the authorship of Prodicus, but it was revised by Xenophon to fit Socrates’ intentions in Mem. 2.1.

17 Smith 2001, basing on Adkins 1960, e. g. 30-46, traces the development of Greek virtue in a tension between the Homeric arete as external excellence and justice, and marks Socrates and his followers’ aim at defining arete as an internal rather than external trait bringing excellence about. There is very little mention of Xenophon’s arete in Adkins (e. g. 337-339), and none at all in Smith.

18 On the visual depiction of Prodicus’ Arete as a modest maiden and its parallel in Aristotle’s poem on Areta (Fr. 4 Diehl) see Bowra 1938, 187.

19 Eudaimonia is described by Virtue as the prized happiness of the virtuous individual. V.J. Gray in her recent article Xenophon’s Eudaimonia (Gray 2013, n. 1) lists two meanings in which Xenophon uses the term eudaimonia in Mem. 2.1: 2.1.11 where it is connected with freedom, and 2.1.17 as connected with the art of ruling. Happiness in Virtue’s speech (lines 22-33) would be in line with these two meanings – it is gained by self leadership and freedom from desires. The happiness promised by Virtue contradicts the false eudaimonia as perceived by Vice’s friends in Mem. 2.1.26: “‘My friends call me Happiness,’ she said, ‘but among those that hate me I am nicknamed Vice’”.

20 For general survey of classical treatments of friendship as connected with selflessness or altruism, see Konstan 1998, 282. On the utility of friendship in Mem. see Dorion 2013, 218, for instance.

21 Lac. 10.4.

22 Mem. 3.2.4: “Καὶ οὕτως ἐπισκοπῶν τίς εἴη ἀγαθοῦ ἡγεμόνος ἀρετὴ, τὰ μὲν ἄλλα περιῄρει, κατέλειπε δὲ τὸ εὐδαίμονας ποιεῖν ὧν ἂν ἡγῆται”.

23 This is in accord with the view that virtue for Xenophon is the knowledge of best means of reaching happiness; see Chernyakhovskaya 2014, 105.

24 On Agesilaus’ friendship and xenia see Herman 1987, 1-3.

25 Line 7 in Mem. 2.1 describes the self controlled person as “ikanos archein”; in order to be fit to rule, one must first learn to rule himself. A similar idea appears in Plato’s Republic 9.590d – in a virtuous society people must be governed, preferably by self rule: “[…] it is better for everyone to be governed by the divine and the intelligent, preferably indwelling and his own, but in default of that imposed from without, in order that we all so far as possible may be akin and friendly because our governance and guidance are the same […]” (trans. Shorey 1935).

26 Cyr. 7.5.79-80: “But the science and practice of war we need not share at all with those whom we wish to put in the position of workmen or tributaries to us, but we must maintain our superiority in these accomplishments, as we recognize in these the means to liberty and happiness that the gods have given to men… But if any one is revolving in his mind any such questions as this – ‘of what earthly use it is to us to have attained to the goal of our ambitions if we still have to endure hunger and thirst, toil and care’ – he must take this lesson to heart: that good things bring the greater pleasure, in proportion to the toil one undergoes beforehand to attain them; for toil gives a relish to good things […]”.

27 Cf. Gray 2011, 5.

28 Cyn. 12.15;17. See note 21.

29 The treatment of sophrosune as cardinal virtue goes back to Heraclitus, e. g. fragment 112 (Stobaeus, Anthology, 3, 1, 178): “Temperance is the highest virtue, and wisdom is to speak truth and consciously to act according to nature (σωφρονεῖν ἀρετὴ μεγίστη· καὶ σοφίη ἀληθέα λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν κατὰ φύσιν ἐπαίοντας)”.

30 See p. 140 above.

31 Hesiod, Works and Days, 303-304 (trans. Evelyn-White 1914 as for the following lines).

32 Hesiod, Works and Days, 308-309.

33 Hesiod, Works and Days, 311.

34 Hesiod, Works and Days, 381-382.

35 Mem. 4.8.11: “To me then he seemed to be all that a truly good and happy man must be (ἐδόκει τοιοῦτος εἶναι, οἷος ἂν εἴη ἄριστός τε ἀνὴρ καὶ εὐδαιμονέστατος)”.

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Nili Alon Amit, « Xenophon’s Virtue Personified », Kentron, 32 | 2016, 137-150.

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Nili Alon Amit, « Xenophon’s Virtue Personified », Kentron [En ligne], 32 | 2016, mis en ligne le 10 mai 2017, consulté le 19 janvier 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/kentron/855 ; DOI : 10.4000/kentron.855

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Auteur

Nili Alon Amit

Humanities Department, Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and Arts

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