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."