I am currently reading through the complete works of Xenophon, the ancient greek historian. My thoughts:
1. The Anabasis is a highly over-rated work. The story of the 10,000 Greek mercenaries trudging back from Persia after their employer dies (does a Leeroy Jenkins) in battle is an interesting premise for a story that is told in a very uninteresting way.
2. It is interesting that for several hundred years, the greek phalanx was undefeatable in battle against the same enemy. In most cultures, the losers would have watched and adapted the practices of the victors. But 100 years after the Persians lost to Cyrus’s Greek mercenaries, Alexander would do it again. Small numbers of highly skilled warriors, willing to stand and fight totally dominate levies of peasants many times their number. This lesson is learned over and over again throughout history.
3. It is interesting that in 2300 years, the “Persian/Arab/Islamic” way of fighting hasn’t changed. They still fight like bandits, as long as things are going in their favor. When the tide changes, they change with it. The concept of standing to fighting is not in them and apparently never was.
4. The tactic of inviting all of your enemies and their senior officers to a peace conference and then killing them is an old enough tactic that no one should ever fall for it again. But some people still do. This is why the common practice today is to send an envoy.
5. The Cyropaedia, his lavish biography of Cyrus the Great (not the same one who hired the Greek 10,000) is not worthy reading. The historical and logical errors are too many to recount. Even as a work of fiction, it is just too uninteresting and fanciful to be of any use. There are detailed accounts of events for which the author was not present and did not speak to anyone who was present.
6. The accounts of the Peloponnesian wars reads more like a list of supplies than an actual account of important people, issues, and events. but there are a few nuggets hiding in the mud. For one, at the end of 28 years of war, the Democracy of Athens is brought down as they lose their war against the Lacedaemonians.
- Democracy was replaced by oligarchy, with no legitimacy among the populace.
- Oligarchy immediately disarms the general population
- Then the oligarchy sets about killing their political enemies, including anyone who may try to become a member of the oligarchy.
- Then they set about killing anyone who has anything they want, in this case, foreign residents. The Oligarchy “suggested” that the Athenian citizens each kill a foreigner for the purpose of robbing him (and splitting the gain with the state).
See any patterns in that? Any pearls of wisdom? Something that seems to happen over and over in history? Maybe even a prescription for mitigation?
I am still reading it, even though it is quite dry. I’ll let you know if I see anything else of value.