Political ambition and piety in Xenophon's Memorabilia



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This thesis analyzes Books III and IV of Xenophon’s Memorabilia. The Memorabilia is Xenophon’s defense of Socrates or the philosophic life against Athens or the political community as such. In Book III, Xenophon presents six portraits of ambitious young men. These portraits, read closely, unveil the psychological nature of ambition and convey important lessons about the Socratic understanding of healthy politics, as a realm that is necessarily pious. Book IV’s four Socratic conversations with a dim-witted youth named Euthydemus both underscore the lessons of Book III and explore piety itself, as a phenomenon that is necessarily political. These sections of the Memorabilia may be read as an argument for the necessity of a fissure between healthy politics and philosophy – and as a bridge from the one to the other.