Xenophon’s Hellenika. Not such a Landmark but a flawed interpretation..

The Landmark Xenophon’s Hellenika
Edited by Robert B. Strassler and Translated by John Marincola. 7 3/8 x 9 1/4, Hardcover, Pantheon and Anchor Book, 2009.


Xenophon’s Hellenika, the primary source for the events of the final seven years and aftermath of the Peloponnesian War, covers the period between 411 and 362 B.C.E.. It was a particularly dramatic period during which the alliances among Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Persia were shifting. Together with the volumes of Herodotus and Thucydides, it completes an ancient narrative of the military and political history of classical Greece.

Xenophon was an Athenian citizen who participated in the expedition of Cyrus the Younger against Cyrus’ brother the Persian King Artaxerxes II. Later he joined the Spartan army and hence was exiled from Athens. In addition to the Hellenika, a number of his essays have survived, including one on his memories of his teacher, Socrates.
This rich book is beautifully illustrated, heavily annotated and filled with detailed, clear maps.

According to the editors this edition gives us a new, authoritative, and completely accessible translation – carried out by John Marincola with a comprehensive introduction by David Thomas- with sixteen appendixes written by leading classics scholars (all British and Americans!) and an extensive timeline/chronology to clarify this otherwise confusing period. Unlike other editions of the Hellenika, it also includes the relevant texts of Diodorus Siculus and the Oxyrhynchus Historian, with explanatory footnotes and a table that correlates passages of the three works, which is perhaps crucial to an assessment of Xenophon’s and quality as a historian.

This is indeed a lavish edition but it is a pity that such a great occasion has been wasted making it not such a ‘Landmark’ as it is claimed, for there are two big flaws in it.

-The first is that there are no bibliographic notes about past editions; about the origins of the manuscripts, their collation and where and when they first went into print as incunables.

-The second is that Xenophon was not a Kentucky citizen but he was rather a classical Athenians positively biased towards Sparta. Fact is that this book is totally devoid of textual interpretations coming from French, Germans, Italians and Greeks historians.

This is evident looking at page 521 with the ‘Bibliography for the General Reader’. Where we find 2 and half pages long list of essays and books divided into 6 sub-sections. All the quoted works are British and American, save for a French essay on Diodorus Siculus by M. Bonnet, translated into English.


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