Xenophon Reading Group 2010
Book I – II.3.10 Study Guide Questions
1. Alcibiades – You’ve got to either love him or hate him…or both. Xenophon tells of his role in the latter years of the Pelopponesian War throughout our reading assignment for this discussion. As in Thucydides, we see Alcibiades’ career ebb and flow. In our reading of Book I, how does Xenophon portray this ‘renegade’ Athenian? How responsible is Alcibiades for Athens’ fortunes at the end of the war? According to Xenophon, how much blame or praise should he get? [For readers of Thucydides, how does Alcibiades compare in both authors?]
2. Hellespont – A critical region as the Pelopponesian War draws to a close. According to Xenophon, how important is control of the Hellespont in terms of winning the war? Why? What are the most important bases/allies in the Eastern Mediterranean mentioned by Xenophon for the Spartans? Athenians?
3. Doreius – Xenophon’s overall style is pretty straightforward, so when he digresses, it is somewhat noticeable and sometimes abrupt. The Doreius digression is one which stood out to me. Why does Xenophon take the time to mention Doreius’ story in I.5.18-19? What is so important about Doreius’ example in terms of Xenophon’s narration of the end of this war?
4. Kallikratides – The arrival of this Spartan admiral seems to shake up the narrative a bit in Book I.6. At this point, I started getting flashbacks of Thucydides! How does Xenophon portray the Spartan Naval Command through the central figure of Kallikratides in I.6? For example, is there a unified approach in the Spartan Naval Command or is there unnecessary dissension?
5. Trial of the Generals – Xenophon gives us a very important account of a trial in Athens following the Athenian naval victory at Arginousai. As a matter of fact, the battle is scantily described in comparison to the trial that followed. Euryptolemos’ interesting speech (I.7) presents important elements related to the defense of the accused Athenian generals. What are these key elements and how do they represent the state of Athenian politics at this time? What might Xenophon be implying about Athenian democracy and its ability to wage a major war?
6. Lysander – Although he was mentioned in Book I, Book II opens with momentous events involving Lysander. How much of Lysander’s success is due to circumstance? his own cleverness? Spartan strategy as a whole? Which does Xenophon emphasize? What do you think?
7. Theramenes – In II.2.16-19, why would Theramenes allow the Athenians to languish and suffer in this most critical time? Why would the Athenians send him off again to Sparta to make peace?? Who is Theramenes and what else did he do for or against Athens that we know of?
8. News from Sicily – In Book II and elsewhere, what do the Sicilian updates (example in II.2.24) really have to do with the events narrated concerning Athens and Sparta? Do you consider them ‘interpolations’ or not? Why?