Monday, August 6, 2012

Xenophon: In Praise of Tyranny

The philosopher Xenophon  is a gateway or bridge between the Persian and Greco-Roman world.  

He was an essential political philosopher for ambitious empire building warlords going back to Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar and was required reading for the political elite until the obvious influence of the aristocracy fell out of favor about 100 years ago.  

If you ever wanted insight into the motivations of kings or emperors, or wondered why western civilization is built on a foundation of aggressive exploitation and criminality, follow the below linkz.  (You may also want to read Xenophon's works on Hunting and the Spartan Constitution - I haven't read them yet so I can't recommend them)

Cyropaedia :

"Cowherds are the rulers of their cattle, ...  They allow their keeper, moreover, to enjoy, just as he will, the profits that accrue from them. And then again, we have never known of a herd conspiring against its keeper, either to refuse obedience to him or to deny him the privilege of enjoying the profits that accrue. At the same time, herds are more intractable to strangers than to their rulers and those who derive profit from them.  

"But, father, what would be the best way to gain an advantage over the enemy?""By Zeus," said he, "this is no easy or simple question that you ask now, my son; but, let me tell you, the man who proposes to do that must be designing and cunning, wily and deceitful, a thief and a robber"

"...Shall we say that a man's enemies form part of his possessions?"

"Take my word for it; the fact is rather that the pleasures of the despot are far fewer than those of people in a humbler condition, and his pains not only far more numerous, but more intense."

"I highly approve of secret pickets and outposts… the holder of a concealed outpost can always place a few exposed vedettes beyond his hidden pickets, and so endeavour to decoy the enemy into an ambuscade. Or he may play the part of trapper with effect by placing a second exposed outpost in rear of the other; a device which may serve to take in the unwary foeman quite as well as that before named."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


The Gallic Wars (51 BC),  By Julius Caesar

So, what is there to learn from Julius Caesar?  Take Hostages!  Lot's of hostages.

"Caesar, though he discerned from what motive these things were said, and what circumstances deterred him from his meditated plan, still, in order that he might not be compelled to waste the summer among the Treviri, while all things were prepared for the war with Britain, ordered Indutiomarus to come to him with 200 hostages. When they were brought, [and] among them his son and near relations, whom he had demanded by name..."

The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (1568) ,  by Bernal Díaz del Castillo

So, what is there to learn from Díaz?  The secret coup d'etat.  

-And sometimes true lies make amazing adventure stories.

We staid four days in this place, and I shall never forget it on account of the immense sized locusts which we saw here. It was a stony spot on which the battle took place, and these creatures, while it lasted, kept continually flying in our faces; and as at the same moment we were greeted by a shower of arrows from the enemy, we also mistook these locusts for arrows. But, as soon as we had discovered our mistake, we deceived ourselves in another more direful way, for we now mistook arrows for locusts, and discontinued to shield ourselves against them. In this way we mistook locusts and arrows to our great sorrow, were severely wounded in consequence, and otherwise found ourselves in a very awkward predicament.” 

Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (1884), Complete by Ulysses S. Grant

So, what is there to learn from Grant?  Hire Mark Twain as a ghost writer.  

"My exploit was equal to that of the soldier who boasted that he had cut off the leg of one of the enemy. When asked why he did not cut off his head, he replied: "Some one had done that before.""

"ATTACKS!" (1937) Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel

So, what is there to learn from Rommel?  "Any offensive should combine much speed and violence."

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