Essay on Ethnographic Interests of Xenophon

Essay on Ethnographic Interests of Xenophon

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Xenophon, the son of Athenian wealthy family, was exiled because of his assistance for the enemies of Athenians. He claimed that he was yearning for a thrilling adventure; as a result, he decided to join Cyrus’s expedition against his brother Artaxerxes, the Persian King along with the Greek mercenaries. Though Anabasis is more about the record of the Greeks’’ struggle and hardship during their retreat in the hostile territory, Xenophon writes Anabasis as his interest of ethnography. Ethnography is a study of human cultures. It aims to describe the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans. Xenophon has recorded the Greeks and the local customs of the friendly and hostile forces such as dance, food, religious rites, songs, military tactics and leadership. Through Xenophon’s narrative, it offers a valuable insight of the ancient human culture.
The prominent theme of Anabasis is about the journey of the Greek mercenaries confronting the “barbarian” world. Xenophon documented the leadership and military tactics among the Greeks mercenaries during their retreat to their homeland. According to Xenophon, leadership was the important element of success and unification in ancient Greek culture. Xenophon admires Cyrus’s bravery and his leadership to the Greek mercenaries, “most of the troops has set sail and undertaken this mercenary service not because they were hard up, but because they had heard of Cyrus’ magnanimity” (Xenophon 144). Not only did Xenophon think Cyrus is a good leader, but also the Greeks. Xenophon defined Cyrus, a great leader, as being respectful, obedient to the elders, skilled at handling horse and proficient in the military skills of archery and javelin, trustworthy and ...


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... from Greeks’ custom. Furthermore in Book Six, the Greeks were invited by the Paphlagonians to a banquet. In there, Xenophon depicted many different cultures’ dance and song. It is an unusual scene in Anabasis to have all the barbarians zealously sharing their own culture.
In conclusion, Xenophon not only studied the Greeks’ military tactics and leadership, but also closely observed other human cultures while they were marching on their journey. Xenophon is interested in the qualities of a good commander and he realized that having a good leader is the main component for the Greeks to overcome all the hardships. Religious ritual also influenced the Greeks throughout the march. Their generals made sacrifice and decisions depend on the favorable of the omen. Other local customs might seem aberrant from the Greeks’ custom, but Xenophon found them to be intriguing.

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