1st Edition

Xenophon’s Socratic Works

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after April 26, 2021
ISBN 9780367472047
April 26, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
376 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Xenophon’s Socratic Works demonstrates that Xenophon, a student of Socrates, military man, and man of letters, is an indispensable source for our understanding of the life and philosophy of Socrates.

David M. Johnson restores Xenophon’s most ambitious Socratic work, the Memorabilia ("Socratic Recollections"), to its original literary context, enabling readers to experience it as Xenophon’s original audience would have, rather than as a pale imitation of Platonic dialogue. He shows that the Memorabilia, together with Xenophon’s Apology, provides us with our best evidence for the trial of Socrates, and a comprehensive and convincing refutation of the historical charges against Socrates. Johnson’s account of Socrates’ moral psychology shows how Xenophon’s emphasis on control of the passions can be reconciled with the intellectualism normally attributed to Socrates. Chapters on Xenophon’s Symposium and Oeconomicus ("Estate Manager") reveal how Xenophon used all the literary tools of Socratic dialogue to defend Socratic sexual morality (Symposium) and debate the merits and limits of conventional elite values (Oeconomicus). Throughout the book, Johnson argues that Xenophon’s portrait of Socrates is rich and coherent, and largely compatible with the better-known portrait of Socrates in Plato. Xenophon aimed not to provide a rival portrait of Socrates, Johnson shows, but to supplement and clarify what others had said about Socrates. Xenophon’s Socratic Works thus provides readers with a far firmer basis for reconstruction of the trial of Socrates, a key moment in the history of Athenian democracy, and for our understanding of Socrates’ seminal impact on Greek philosophy.

This volume introduces Xenophon’s Socratic works to a wide range of readers, from undergraduate students encountering Socrates or ancient philosophy for the first time to scholars with interests in Socrates or ancient philosophy more broadly. It is also an important resource for readers interested in Socratic dialogue as a literary form, the trial of Socrates, Greek sexual morality (the central topic of Xenophon’s Symposium), or Greek social history (for which the Oeconomicus is a key text).

Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations


From Xenophon or Plato to Xenophon and Plato

An intertextual Socrates

The life of Xenophon


1. Approaching the Memorabilia

Building for variety and range

The literary context for the Memorabilia

-Courtroom oratory

-Ion of Chios


-Wisdom literature

-Developments within the Socratic circle

-Isocrates’ Antidosis

-Old and new

Xenophon’s narrator

-Xenophon’s narrators and other narrators

-Xenophon’s half-credible narrator

-Putting the narrator to work

The structure of the Memorabilia

-From defense to recollection

-Not just repetition, but amplification

Outlining the Memorabilia


2. Defending Socrates

Starting with Xenophon

Starting with the Memorabilia

Xenophon’s wonder at the charges (Mem. 1.1.1)

Impiety (Mem. 1.1.2-20)

-Socratic orthopraxy (Mem. 1.1.2)

-The daimonion (Mem. 1.1.2-1.1.5)

-Divination and human knowledge (Mem. 1.1.6-9)

-The public man (Mem. 1.1.10)

-Presocratic madness (Mem. 1.1.11-16)

-Open evidence about Socrates’ piety (Mem. 1.1.17-19)

Corruption (Mem. 1.2)

-Character as a defense against corruption (Mem. 1.2.1-8)

-Xenophon vs. Plato on corruption

-Socrates’ way of life (Mem. 1.2.4-8)

-Polycrates and Xenophon’s accuser

--Reconstructing Polycrates

--From rhetorical accusers to the historical Meletus

-Condemning the laws and the lot (Mem. 1.2.9-11)

-Alcibiades and Critias (Mem. 1.2.12-48)

--Pairing off Alcibiades and Critias

--What Alcibiades and Critias wanted and what they got

--Socrates’ success and its limits

--Teaching skill in speech

--Critias, lust, and the art of words (Mem. 1.2.29-39)

--Alcibiades, Pericles, and the legitimacy of law (Mem. 1.2.39-47)

--Socrates’ true associates (1.2.48)

-Mad relatives, and the value of expertise (Mem. 1.2.49-55)

-Poetry and the common man (Mem. 1.2.56-61)

Concluding the defense (Mem. 1.2.62)

3. Xenophon’s Apology

Reading Xenophon’s Apology

-From suicide by jury to martyrdom

-What Socrates avoids

-What Socrates gains

Apology and Memorabilia

-Memorabilia 4.8 and the Apology

-Memorabilia 1.1.-2 and the Apology

Xenophon and Plato

-Targeting Plato

-Religious orthopraxy and the daimonion

-The oracle stories and Socrates’ mission

-The interrogation of Meletus

-The counter-penalty

-Five comparative claims


4. The moral psychology of Xenophon’s Socrates

Enkrateia as a guarantee against wrongdoing (Mem. 1.2.1-8)

Hunger is the best sauce (Mem. 1.3.5-8)

Enkrateia, the foundation of virtue (Mem. 1.5)

The greatest pleasures (Mem. 1.6)

Aristippus at the crossroads (Mem. 2.1)

The return of Aristippus (Mem. 3.8)

Akrasia, sophrosunē, and wisdom (Mem. 3.9)

Enkrateia, akrasia, and dialectic (Mem. 4.5)

-Enkrateia and freedom

-Weakness of will?

-Dialectic to the rescue

-Aristotle on Socrates and weakness of will

-Enkrateia, sophrosunē, and wisdom

-Socrates, moderate hedonist?

Xenophon’s Socrates on moral psychology: conclusion

Xenophon and Plato

-Non-rational desires

-The role of knowledge

5. Xenophon’s Symposium

Character, sexual morality, and irony


Socrates vs. Antisthenes

Xenophon’s sympotic defense of Socrates

-Socrates vs. the Syracusan

-Socrates vs. Lycon


-Callias and Autolycus

-Symposium 8

-From Pausanias to Callias

--Socratic erotics in Symposium 8

--Sex and Socrates

The irony of Xenophon’s Symposium

6. Xenophon’s Oeconomicus

Approaching the Oeconomicus

From oikonomia to the Socratic secret to success (Oec. 1-3)

Socrates on farming (Oec. 4-5)

Introducing Ischomachus (Oec. 6 and 7)

Ischomachus and wife (Oeconomicus 7-10)

Aspasia and Ischomachus

Socrates and Ischomachus (Oeconomicus 11)

The overseer (Oeconomicus 12-14)

Farming (Oeconomicus 15-20)

Divine leadership (Oeconomicus 21)

History and the Oeconomicus

-Ischomachus and Chrysilla: the historical evidence

-The historical evidence and the dialogue

Reading as Critobulus


Xenophon and Plato

Reading Xenophon

Xenophon at Scillus



View More



David M. Johnson is an Associate Professor of Classics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, USA. He is the author of Socrates and Alcibiades: Four Texts and Socrates and Athens; co-editor of Plato and Xenophon: Comparative Studies; and author of numerous articles on Xenophon’s Socrates.