Xenophon’s The Education of Cyrus

The earliest example of a mirror for princes (speculum principum) is Xenophon’s The Education of Cyrus (Cyropaedia). Xenophon was born in 430 BC in the Athenian deme of Erchia. A historian, soldier, and student of Socrates, he wrote of historical events contemporary to him. He also wrote a number of Socratic dialogues. His work, Hellenica, reports the last seven years and aftermath of the Peloponnesian War. It is considered a continuation of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War since Thucydides did not live to write the end of his history. In the Persian Expedition (Anabasis) Xenophon records the campaign in which he participated as a mercenary with Cyrus the Younger in the latter’s failed attempt to wrest the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes II. In the Apology of Socrates, Xenophon records he trial and defense of his former teacher, though he was not actually present at the trial. Xenophon’s The Education of Cyrus (Cyropaedia) contains timeless lessons on leadership and civic virtue and links morality with education. It was a favorite of “the Father of Modern Management,” Peter Drucker, who hailed it as “the first systematic book on leadership” and “still the best book on the subject.”

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