Xenophon. Cyropaedia

Translated by H. G. Dakyns

Revised By F. M. Stawell DEDICATION To Clifton College


A very few words may suffice by way of introduction to this translation of the /Cyropaedia/.

Professor Jowett, whose Plato represents the high-water mark of classical translation, has given us the following reminders: 'An English translation ought to be idiomatic and interesting, not only to the scholar, but also to the unlearned reader. It should read as an original work, and should also be the most faithful transcript which can be made of the language from which the translation is taken, consistently with the first requirement of all, that it be English. The excellence of a translation will consist, not merely in the faithful rendering of words, or in the composition of a sentence only, or yet of a single paragraph, but in the colour and style of the whole work.'

These tests may be safely applied to the work of Mr. Dakyns. An accomplished Greek scholar, for many years a careful and sympathetic student of Xenophon, and possessing a rare mastery of English idiom, he was unusually well equipped for the work of a translator. And his version will, as I venture to think, be found to satisfy those requirements of an effective translation which Professor Jowett laid down. It is faithful to the tone and spirit of the original, and it has the literary quality of a good piece of original English writing. For these and other reasons it should prove attractive and interesting reading for the average Englishman.

Xenophon, it must be admitted, is not, like Plato, Thucydides, or Demosthenes, one of the greatest of Greek writers, but there are several considerations which should commend him to the general reader. He is more representative of the type of man whom the ordinary Englishman specially admires and respects, than any other of the Greek authors usually read.

An Athenian of good social position, endowed with a gift of eloquence and of literary style, a pupil of Socrates, a distinguished soldier, an historian, an essayist, a sportsman, and a lover of the country, he represents a type of country gentleman greatly honoured in English life, and this should ensure a favourable reception for one of his chief works admirably rendered into idiomatic English. And the substance of the /Cyropaedia/, which is in fact a political romance, describing the education of the ideal ruler, trained to rule as a benevolent despot over his admiring and willing subjects, should add a further element of enjoyment for the reader of this famous book in its English garb.



In preparing this work for the press, I came upon some notes made by Mr. Dakyns on the margin of his Xenophon. These were evidently for his own private use, and are full of scholarly colloquialisms, impromptu words humorously invented for the need of the moment, and individual turns of phrase, such as the references to himself under his initials in small letters, 'hgd.' Though plainly not intended for publication, the notes are so vivid and illuminating as they stand that I have shrunk from putting them into a more formal dress, believing that here, as in the best letters, the personal element is bound up with what is most fresh and living in the comment, most characteristic of the writer, and most delightful both to those who knew him and to those who will wish they had. I have, therefore, only altered a word here and there, and added a note or two of my own (always in square brackets), where it seemed necessary for the sake of clearness.

F. M. S.




[C.1] We have had occasion before now to reflect how often democracies have been overthrown by the desire for some other type of government, how often monarchies and oligarchies have been swept away by movements of the people, how often would-be despots have fallen in their turn, some at the outset by one stroke, while whose who have maintained their rule for ever so brief a season are looked upon with wonder as marvels of sagacity and success.

The same lesson, we had little doubt, was to be learnt from the family: the household might be great or small--even the master of few could hardly count on the obedience of his little flock. [2] And so, one idea leading to another, we came to shape our reflexions thus: Drovers may certainly be called the rulers of their cattle and horse- breeders the rulers of their studs--all herdsmen, in short, may reasonably be considered the governors of the animals they guard. If, then, we were to believe the evidence of our senses, was it not obvious that flocks and herds were more ready to obey their keepers than men their rulers? Watch the cattle wending their way wherever their herdsmen guide them, see them grazing in the pastures where they are sent and abstaining from forbidden grounds, the fruit of their own bodies they yield to their master to use as he thinks best; nor have we ever seen one flock among them all combining against their guardian, either to disobey him or to refuse him the absolute control of their produce. On the contrary, they are more apt to show hostility against other animals than against the owner who derives advantage from them. But with man the rule is converse; men unite against none so readily as against those whom they see attempting to rule over them. [3] As long, therefore, as we followed these reflexions, we could not but conclude that man is by nature fitted to govern all creatures, except his fellow-man. But when we came to realise the character of Cyrus the Persian, we were led to a change of mind: here is a man, we said, who won for himself obedience from thousands of his fellows, from cities and tribes innumerable: we must ask ourselves whether the government of men is after all an impossible or even a difficult task, provided one set about it in the right way. Cyrus, we know, found the readiest obedience in his subjects, though some of them dwelt at a distance which it would take days and months to traverse, and among them were men who had never set eyes on him, and for the matter of that could never hope to do so, and yet they were willing to obey him. [4] Cyrus did indeed eclipse all other monarchs, before or since, and I include not only those who have inherited their power, but those who have won empire by their own exertions. How far he surpassed them all may be felt if we remember that no Scythian, although the Scythians are reckoned by their myriads, has ever succeeded in dominating a foreign nation; indeed the Scythian would be well content could he but keep his government unbroken over his own tribe and people. The same is true of the Thracians and the Illyrians, and indeed of all other nations within our ken; in Europe, at any rate, their condition is even now one of independence, and of such separation as would seem to be permanent. Now this was the state in which Cyrus found the tribes and peoples of Asia when, at the head of a small Persian force, he started on his career. The Medes and the Hyrcanians accepted his leadership willingly, but it was through conquest that he won Syria, Assyria, Arabia, Cappadocia, the two Phrygias, Lydia, Caria, Phoenicia, and Babylonia. Then he established his rule over the Bactrians, Indians, and Cilicians, over the Sakians, Paphlagonians, and Magadidians, over a host of other tribes the very names of which defy the memory of the chronicler; and last of all he brought the Hellenes in Asia beneath his sway, and by a descent on the seaboard Cyprus and Egypt also.

[5] It is obvious that among this congeries of nations few, if any, could have spoken the same language as himself, or understood one another, but none the less Cyrus was able so to penetrate that vast extent of country by the sheer terror of his personality that the inhabitants were prostrate before him: not one of them dared lift hand against him. And yet he was able, at the same time, to inspire them all with so deep a desire to please him and win his favour that all they asked was to be guided by his judgment and his alone. Thus he knit to himself a complex of nationalities so vast that it would have taxed a man's endurance merely to traverse his empire in any one direction, east or west or south or north, from the palace which was its centre. For ourselves, considering his title to our admiration proved, we set ourselves to inquire what his parentage might have been and his natural parts, and how he was trained and brought up to attain so high a pitch of excellence in the government of men. And all we could learn from others about him or felt we might infer for ourselves we will here endeavour to set forth.

[C.2] The father of Cyrus, so runs the story, was Cambyses, a king of the Persians, and one of the Perseidae, who look to Perseus as the founder of their race. His mother, it is agreed, was Mandane, the daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes. Of Cyrus himself, even now in the songs and stories of the East the record lives that nature made him most fair to look upon, and set in his heart the threefold love of man, of knowledge, and of honour. He

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