Xenophon. On Revenues

Translation by H. G. Dakyns

This etext was prepared by John Bickers, jbickers@templar.actrix.gen.nz

Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans, and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land and property in Scillus, where he lived for many years before having to move once more, to settle in Corinth. He died in 354 B.C.

Revenues describes Xenophon's ideas to solve the problem of poverty in Athens, and thus remove an excuse to mistreat the Athenian allies.

WAYS AND MEANS A Pamphlet On Revenues


For myself I hold to the opinion that the qualities of the leading statesmen in a state, whatever they be, are reproduced in the character of the constitution itself.[1]

[1] 'Like minister, like government.' For the same idea more fully

expressed, see 'Cyrop.' VIII. i. 8; viii. 5.

As, however, it has been maintained by certain leading statesmen in Athens that the recognised standard of right and wrong is as high at Athens as elsewhere, but that, owing to the pressure of poverty on the masses, a certain measure of injustice in their dealing with the allied states[2] could not be avoided; I set myself to discover whether by any manner of means it were possible for the citizens of Athens to be supported solely from the soil of Attica itself, which was obviously the most equitable solution. For if so, herein lay, as I believed, the antidote at once to their own poverty and to the feeling of suspicion with which they are regarded by the rest of Hellas.

[2] Lit. 'the cities,' i.e. of the alliance, {tas summakhidas}.

I had no sooner begun my investigation than one fact presented itself clearly to my mind, which is that the country itself is made by nature to provide the amplest resources. And with a view to establishing the truth of this initial proposition I will describe the physical features of Attica.

In the first place, the extraordinary mildness of the climate is proved by the actual products of the soil. Numerous plants which in many parts of the world appear as stunted leafless growths are here fruit-bearing. And as with the soil so with the sea indenting our coasts, the varied productivity of which is exceptionally great. Again with regard to those kindly fruits of earth[3] which Providence bestows on man season by season, one and all they commence earlier and end later in this land. Nor is the supremacy of Attica shown only in those products which year after year flourish and grow old, but the land contains treasures of a more perennial kind. Within its folds lies imbedded by nature an unstinted store of marble, out of which are chiselled[4] temples and altars of rarest beauty and the glittering splendour of images sacred to the gods. This marble, moreover, is an obejct of desire to many foreigners, Hellenes and barbarians alike. Then there is land which, although it yields no fruit to the sower, needs only to be quarried in order to feed many times more mouths than it could as corn-land. Doubtless we owe it to a divine dispensation that our land is veined with silver; if we consider how many neighbouring states lie round us by land and sea and yet into none of them does a single thinnest vein of silver penetrate.

[3] Lit. 'those good things which the gods afford in their seasons.'

[4] Or, 'arise,' or 'are fashioned.'

Indeed it would be scarcely irrational to maintain that the city of Athens lies at the navel, not of Hellas merely, but of the habitable world. So true is it, that the farther we remove from Athens the greater the extreme of heat or cold to be encountered; or to use another illustration, the traveller who desires to traverse the confines of Hellas from end to end will find that, whether he voyages by sea or by land, he is describing a circle, the centre of which is Athens.[5]

[5] See 'Geog. of Brit. Isles.' J. R. and S. A. Green, ch. i. p. 7:

'London, in fact, is placed at what is very nearly the geometrical

centre of those masses of land which make up the earth surface of

the globe, and is thus more than any city of the world the natural

point of convergence for its different lines of navigation,' etc.

The natural advantages of Boeotia are similarly set forth by

Ephorus. Cf. Strab. ix. 2, p. 400.

Once more, this land though not literally sea-girt has all the advantages of an island, being accessible to every wind that blows, and can invite to its bosom or waft from its shore all products, since it is peninsular; whilst by land it is the emporium of many markets, as being a portion of the continent.

Lastly, while the majority of states have barbarian neighbours, the source of many troubles, Athens has as her next-door neighbours civilised states which are themselves far remote from the barbarians.


All these advantages, to repeat what I have said, may, I believe, be traced primarily to the soil and position of Attica itself. But these natural blessings may be added to: in the first place, by a careful handling of our resident alien[1] population. And, for my part, I can hardly conceive of a more splendid source of revenue than lies open in this direction. Here you have a self-supporting class of residents confering large benefits upon the state, and instead of receiving payment[2] themselves, contributing on the contrary to the gain of the exchequer by the sojourners' tax.[3] Nor, under the term careful handling, do I demand more than the removal of obligations which, whilst they confer no benefit on the state, have an air of inflicting various disabilities on the resident aliens.[4] And I would further relieve them from the obligation of serving as hoplites side by side with the citizen proper; since, beside the personal risk, which is great, the trouble of quitting trades and homesteads is no trifle.[5] Incidentally the state itself would benefit by this exemption, if the citizens were more in the habit of campaigning with one another, rather than[6] shoulder to shoulder with Lydians, Phrygians, Syrians, and barbarians from all quarters of the world, who form the staple of our resident alien class. Besides the advantage [of so weeding the ranks],[7] it would add a positive lustre to our city, were it admitted that the men of Athens, her sons, have reliance on themselves rather than on foreigners to fight her battles. And further, supposing we offered our resident aliens a share in various other honourable duties, including the cavalry service,[8] I shall be surprised if we do not increase the goodwill of the aliens themselves, whilst at the same time we add distinctly to the strength and grandeur of our city.

[1] Lit. 'metics' or 'metoecs.'

[2] {misthos}, e.g. of the assembly, the senate, and the dicasts.

[3] The {metoikion}. See Plat. 'Laws,' 850 B; according to Isaeus, ap.

Harpocr. s.v., it was 12 drachmae per annum for a male and 6

drachmae for a female.

[4] Or, 'the class in question.' According to Schneider (who cites the

{atimetos metanastes} of Homer, 'Il.' ix. 648), the reference is

not to disabilities in the technical sense, but to humiliating

duties, such as the {skaphephoria} imposed on the men, or the

{udriaphoria} and {skiadephoria} imposed on their wives and

daughters in attendance on the {kanephoroi} at the Panathenaic and

other festival processions. See Arist. 'Eccles.' 730 foll.;

Boeckh, 'P. E. A.' IV. x. (Eng. tr. G. Cornewall Lewis, p. 538).

[5] Or, reading {megas men gar o agon, mega de kai to apo ton tekhnon

kai ton oikeion apienai}, after Zurborg ('Xen. de Reditibus

Libellus,' Berolini, MDCCCLXXVI.), transl. 'since it is severe

enough to enter the arena of war, but all the worse when that

implies the abandonment of your trade and your domestic concerns.'

[6] Or, 'instead of finding themselves brigaded as nowadays with a

motley crew of Lydians,' etc.

[7] Zurborg, after Cobet, omits the words so rendered.

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