Xenophon’s Hellenika Book 7 Study Guide Questions
I hope your reading of Xenophon’s Hellenika is fruitful. Here are some questions to guide you through the last book of Hellenika. We’ve spent almost half a year journeying through this important document together. Now, it is time for us to come to some conclusions about Xenophon’s aims and the lessons that can help us understand his time period as well as our own much better. Keep your questions coming via e-mail, and I look forward to our last group discussion on Monday, July 12.
1. Athens & Sparta vs. Thebes
Book VII opens in the year 369 B.C. with Athens and Sparta negotiating an alliance against Thebes, now the preeminent power in Greece. In sections 7.1-7.14, speeches are given by two men on this topic. What does Prokles of Phleious advocate vis-à-vis Athens and Sparta? Why would an alliance between Athens and Sparta be so advantageous to the city-state of Phleious? Looking back at Prokles’ speech in Book VI.5.38-48 just a year before, what, if anything, is different in what he had proposed to the Athenians at that time? What does Kephisodotos propose to his fellow Athenians concerning this alliance with Sparta? What is he most concerned about? Why does Xenophon begin Book VII with these particular speeches coming from these two delegates? How do these issues have any bearing on how Book VII ends?
2. Theban invasion of Peloponnese ‘redux’
As a new campaign season gets underway in 369, Theban fortunes seem to fluctuate (VII.1.15-24). What is the reason for Thebes’ renewed intervention in the Peloponnese? How do events unfold regarding the allies for each side (i.e. Thebes and Sparta)? What is the main reason for Thebes stopping only as far as Corinth in this campaign season? How well are Athens and Sparta working together at this point to check Theban hegemony?
3. Allies, allies, allies
The year 368 begins with tensions between Sparta and Thebes still high (VII.1.25-32). As Arcadia begins military operations independent of its ally Thebes, Sparta moves to block Arcadia’s threat in the northern Peloponnese. At the same time, Philiskos, a Persian representative, arrives at Delphi to help make some peace between the rival Greek city-states. While Greek armies maneuver and engage with each other, what is happening within the Theban alliance? What is Arcadia’s overall strategy vis-à-vis Sparta? How do Arcadia’s military operations against Sparta have an impact on the ‘peace talks’ at Delphi? How does Messenia’s (see pictures on p. 277) independence figure in the balance of power? How decisive was the “tearless battle” for either Sparta or the Theban alliance? How is change measured in political terms after this battle? What is Xenophon trying to emphasize in this section concerning Greek allies in general on either side?
4. Theban-Persian treaty?
In the years 367-366 B.C., Theban strategy leads them to actively seek support from the Persian king. In VII.1.33-VII.1.46, we see Thebes try to gain an advantage over its Greek neighbors by soliciting Persian backing. What elements does Thebes have on its side in gaining preferential treatment over other Greek city-states from Persia? What are the most important proposals made by the Theban envoy Pelopidas in negotiating a treaty with Persia? Which Greek city-state or federation is the first to refuse the terms of this Theban-Persian treaty? Why? Why does this treaty fail with respect even to Thebes’ own allies? What kind of tension is replacing Greek national interests? How is this illustrated by the story of Euphron of Sicyon?
5. Heroic deeds of Phleious
As VII.2 digresses from the wider events unfolding in Greece, Xenophon describes the deeds of the city-state of Phleious in glowing terms. What is his reasoning for noting the accomplishments of a “small city” rather than larger Greek city-states? What characteristics of Phleious are noted and why? How do these characteristics relate to the overall subject matter in Book VII?
6. Euphron the tyrant
In VII.3, Xenophon slowly brings us back from the microcosmic example of Phleious to events in Sicyon and how they relate to Thebes in 366 B.C. How does Euphron’s tyranny over Sicyon compare with the previous story of Phleiasian loyalty to Sparta? Why would Xenophon juxtapose these two anecdotes here in Book VII? What point is he trying to make? Why is Euphron’s death so significant that it be mentioned here? What does it have to do with Thebes? Is Thebes shown as being weakened by these disturbances?
7. Peace for Corinth and a truly ‘Olympian’ battle?
During the years 366-363 B.C., the interests of Athens and Thebes begin to clash more and more. Caught in between (VII.4.1-10), Corinth negotiates for peace, neutrality, and independence. Given Corinth’s geographical location and its neighbors, which city-state (i.e. Thebes, Athens, or Sparta) is most threatening to it and why? What does this say about the state of political affairs across Greece? Further on in VII.4, more conflict erupts between Arcadia and Elis over the seizure of Lasion (VII.4.12), which initiates further intra-city strife between democratic and oligarchic factions w
ithin Elis (VII.4.13-27). How does Sparta attempt to re-impose its authority on this situation involving northern Peloponnesian city-states? Who or what is Sparta’s main concern? Events come to a head and armies converge at the sanctuary of Olympia (VII.4.28-32) of all places. Who participates in this battle? What is the result of this conflict for the Greek balance of power?
8. Greeks battle near Sparta and at Mantineia
During 364-363 B.C., Arcadia and its hitherto ally Thebes find themselves needing to settle their differences. As 362 B.C. opens (VII.5), the absence of Spartan influence seems to be the most noteworthy element as events around Mantineia draw forces from all over Greece: “the Mantineians and all the rest of the Arcadians who cared for the Peloponnese, and likewise the Eleians and the Achaeans, concluded that the Thebans clearly wanted the Peloponnese be in the very weakest state, so that its enslavement would be as easy as possible” (VII.5.1). The intervention of both Thebes and Athens at Mantineia forces a potential showdown between many Greek city-states. How does Xenophon describe Epaminondas’ initial moves into the Peloponnese against the Spartans? What role does Agesilaos play in these maneuvers? How does Archidamos lead the Spartans against Epaminondas? Why does Xenophon praise the Athenians as troops gather around Mantineia. Why does he not mention his son Gryllos? How does Xenophon characterize Epaminondas at this point? How does this compare with his previous description of Epaminondas? What is Xenophon’s final point about Hellenika (i.e. “Greek affairs”) at the end of this Book? What are we to understand about affairs between Greek city-states over the course of this whole book, Hellenika? How does the balance of power in Greece stand at this point? How does this last chapter address what the first chapter in Book VII began?