Xenophon Hellenika conference call tonight

Hi fellow Hellenika readers–

A gentle reminder about our call tonight for Books I – II.3.10, at 8pm EST, 7pm Central. You have the dial-in information. Get in touch with me if you still need it. I look forward to our conversation!



22. February 2010 by Arrian
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  1. <p>MY QUICK summary:<br>Not much known about his early life. A real son of Sparta. Family was not wealthy; he needed financial aid and sponsorship to enter elite military training. Sent to sea as commander of Spartan navy in 407 to replace Kratesippidas. Funded (&amp; always would be) by Cyrus. Wins first sea battle of Notion. Hands over Spartan navy command to Kallikritidas. Comes back in 406 after Greeks beat Spartans at Arginousae. Battle, battle, battle and Lysander destroys Athenian navy once and for all at Aigospotomoi (I Go Spot A Moyle), credited by many as the end of the Peloponnesian War.</p><p><br>Is there a character there? Xenophon is very factual in the early going of Book 2, and each fact points to picture of Lysander as invincible, achieving every goal and conquering each obstacle to Spartan victory. And from then on as a character he never takes on detail, becoming only a metonym for Spartan decision: merciless, political and stubborn. Let’s talk about that.</p><p>Wit vs circumstance<br>Andre asks how much of Lysander’s success comes from wits or circumstance. I would say it’s 50-50. His first battle (Notion) was a lucky break. At the sea skirmish at Notion, Lysander was able to take advantage of Alcibiades’ lieutenant Antiochos who disobeyed a command to stay clear of Lysander’s ships. Lysander was, however, a master tactician and good at the element of surprise, a tried and true Spartan military strategy (see Aigo). I also liked his shrewd way of punishing Athens, by agreeing to provide safe-conduct to Athens for all Athenians captured after the war. This way the whole place would run out of food.</p><p>Lysander would not be who he is without his special relationship with Cyrus. In both of his tours of duty he received all the money he needed from Cyrus. They both wanted Athens destroyed. Lysander wins Cyrus over by reminding him of betrayal by Tissaphernes, and it appears that he returned unused funds to Cyrus when he was sent back to Sparta. Later on his successor Kallikritidas blames Lysander for his lack of money, since Lysander gave the extra back.</p><p><br>Spartan strategy<br>Lysander is the one who imposes oligarchy in Athens (with The Thirty, at first). This is what Lysander does wherever he goes, implants oligarchy backed up with garrisons. Xenophon makes it seem like Athens switched over quickly under gun point, but the introduction points out (page L) that it took months for that to happen, with Lysander coming back to force it on Athens. With Athens that turned deadly fast. Is the fact that it went badly the fault of Sparta or Lysander? Consider the alternative. Cartledge points out that Lysander (and Sparta) were opposed in their decision to include the new demilitarized Athens in the Peloponnesian League. Nearby Corinth and Thebes wanted Athens destroyed but Sparta rejected them in deference to Athenian’s past greatness. </p><p>Lysander is seen as the catalyst for Athens turn from democracy to oligarchic tyranny. None of that influence was political or a mandate from Athenian people.</p><p>Later on Lysander:<br>I particularly liked the acrimonious exchange between Lysander’s friends and Kallikratidas, the Spartan general who relieved him across the Aegean at Ephesus in 406. (p27) Xenophon might be focusing on it to show the internal squabbling within Spartan military politics.<br></p>