Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Voilà mes fleurs!

Jeter des fleurs
by Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux

Air : Oui, je le crois, elle est immaculée.

Jésus, mon seul amour, au pied de ton calvaire,
Que j'aime, chaque soir, à te jeter des fleurs!
En effeuillant pour toi la rose printanière,
Je voudrais essuyer tes pleurs!

Jeter des fleurs!... c'est t'offrir en prémices
Les plus légers soupirs, les plus grandes douleurs.
Mes peines, mon bonheur, mes petits sacrifices
Voilà mes fleurs!

Seigneur, de ta beauté mon âme s'est éprise;
Je veux te prodiguer mes parfums et mes fleurs.
En les jetant pour toi sur l'aile de la brise,
Je voudrais enflammer les coeurs!

Jeter des fleurs! Jésus, voilà mon arme
Lorsque je veux lutter pour sauver les pécheurs.
La victoire est à moi: toujours je te désarme
Avec mes fleurs!

Les pétales des fleurs caressant ton Visage
Te disent que mon coeur est à toi sans retour.
De ma rose effeuillée, ah! tu sais le langage,
Et tu souris à mon amour...

Jeter des fleurs! redire tes louanges,
Voilà mon seul plaisir sur la rive des pleurs.
Au ciel j'irai bientôt avec les petits anges
Jeter des fleurs.

28 juin 1896.

From here. It is, of course, Saint Thérè's feast day today; known as the Little Flower, she is also a Doctor of the Church.

Plato and Xenophon

So Plato's all done, and as to what's left, it's mostly a question of how much of Xenophon to do. I definitely want to do Hiero. It would be nice to do Anabasis and Hellenica, but they make a fairly massive task; since Socrates appears briefly in both, I might just do something on Socrates' appearance in each, and leave tackling them in full to another time. I also want to get in Plutarch's dialogue on Socrates' daimonion, and I would like to do Aristophanes' The Clouds, which made fun of Socrates and would be the only source actually contemporary with Socrates, to top it all off. I might leave Apuleius and Libanius for another time, although the latter might be interesting to compare to Xenophon.

Plato: Widely Recognized as Authentic

Phaedrus: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Hippias Minor
Gorgias: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Timaeus: Part I, Part II
Menexenus: Part I, Part II
Phaedo: Part I, Part II
Republic: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Protagoras: Part I, Part II
Laws: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Plato: Heavily Disputed

Alcibiades Major
The Platonic Letters: 7,8
Hippias Major

Plato: Usually Regarded as Spurious

The Platonic Definitions
Rival Lovers
De Justo
De Virtute
Alcibiades Minor
The Platonic Letters: 1,5,9,12 ; 2,4,10,13 ; 3,6,11
The Platonic Epigrams

Memorabilia: Book I, Book II, Book III, Book IV
Cyropaedia: Part I, Part II

Related Posts

Some Thoughts Toward Reading Plato's Dialogues
The Golden Villain of Athens
Sydenham's Scheme for the Platonic Dialogues
Hermocrates: A Non-Reading
The Last Days of Socrates
Philosophos: A Non-Reading
A Philosophical Bendideia
Life in This Present Hades

Still to do

Xenophon: Hiero, Cynegeticus (possibly), Anabasis (probably only in part), Agesilaus (possibly), Constitution of Sparta (probably not), Hellenica (probably only in part), Hipparchikos (possibly), Hippike (possibly), Poroi (possibly)

Aristophanes: The Clouds (possibly)

Plutarch: Socrates' Daimonion, Life of Socrates (possibly)

Apuleius: The God of Socrates (possibly)

Libanius: Defense of Socrates (possibly)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Xenophon's Cyropaedia (Books V-VIII)

Book V

Cyrus calls Araspas, an old Mede friend of his, to take care of the Lady of Susa, who has been captured and given to Cyrus. Araspas, after beginning his duty, asks Cyrus if he has ever seen her; Cyrus has not (well, he has seen her, but she was veiled). Araspas points out that she is stunningly beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful woman in that whole part of the world, and says that Cyrus must see for himself. Cyrus refuses, since if she is really beautiful, he might fall in love and neglect his duties. This leads to a long philosophical discussion between them about whether falling in love is voluntary or not, with Araspas arguing that it is voluntary and Cyrus pointing out problems with this. Unfortunately, in taking care of the beautiful woman for Cyrus, who is graceful and courteous and grateful for his assistance, Araspas falls in love with her.

In the meantime Cyrus gets confirmation of the continuance of several of the alliances he has made, then sets off with his cavalry to visit Gobryas. Gobryas is hospitable and Cyrus confirms his promise. Gobryas is surprised at how plain the food the Persians set for themselves is, but he quickly comes to realize that their temperance is part of their excellence as soldiers. Gobryas joins formally into the alliance, and they all march away.

Cyrus, however, is reflecting on how he can make his enemy weaker, and consults with Gobryas and the Hyrcanian king about who else might join their alliance. The Hyrcanian mentions the Cadusians and Sacians. Gobryas mentions that he knows of a man, of a small but important kingdom, whom the current king, while still a prince, castrated out of jealousy. However, to get to him in order to join forces, they would have to march by the walls of Babylon, a vast city in Assyrian hands which can field an army even larger than that of Cyrus. Nonetheless, Cyrus decides that this is what they must do. However, they must not do it in secret; they must do it in a way that makes the enemy afraid.

At Babylon, the Assyrians are disinclined to do battle, because they are still in the midst of preparations. So Cyrus has Gobryas, whose change in loyalties has not yet gotten abroad, ride up to the city and ask the king to fight Cyrus and protect his country. The Assyrian king gives a rude answer. When Gobryas returns, Cyrus tells him to go to the eunuch king, whose name is Gadatas, when he can, but to keep any alliance secret. They arrange to have Gadatas reinforce one of the key Assyrian forts, so as to deliver it into Cyrus's hands, which he does. Having the fort makes it possible to unite forces with the Cadusians and the Sacians. This touches off several small chain reactions: the Hyrcanians, impressed at the swift success of Cyrus, send more troops, and a number of smaller, more local, Assyrian garrisons surrender.

At this time, however, Gadatas learns that the Assyrians are marching in retaliation against his kingdom. This creates a problem -- Gadatas can get there in a day and a half, although perhaps not before the Assyrians, but Cyrus's army, which is really needed, is now so large that it will move much more slowly, and will take about a week. Gadatas heads out and Cyrus summons his men to organize the march. The men are impressed, since it turns out that Cyrus remembers their names, and Xenophon notes that Cyrus regards it as a tool of his trade: if you want to honor a man, you must remember his name, and if you know someone's name, he will strive harder not to let you down.

Due to the treachery of one of his officers, Gadatas is ambushed by the Assyrians; Gadatas and his men flee, but as Cyrus has been marching quickly and with good organization, they soon run into Cyrus. Cyrus is a bit surprised at finding Gadatas going the wrong direction, but on understanding the situation, he destroys the ambushing army.

The Cadusians, meanwhile, have been at the rear of the march and are starting to be restless. The Cadusian prince takes it into his head to do some raiding without letting anyone else know. They run into the army of the Assyrian king, so that many Cadusians are destroyed before they can get back to Cyrus's army. Cyrus helps the Cadusians to return to bury their dead and they ravage the country in retaliation for the losses. At this point, Cyrus sends a message the Assyrian king, saying that if the Assyrian will let farmers who have supported Cyrus continue to work their farms, he, Cyrus, will treat laborers for the Assyrian in the same way. The Assyrian king's advisors beg him to take the offer, so both sides agree that the farmers will have peace, and that war will only be between the soldiers.

Cyrus returns to the border of Assyria and Media and captures three forts -- one by assault, one by intimidation, and one, through Gadatas, by persuasion. He then sends to Cyaxares to arrange a war council. Cyaxares is jealous of the huge alliance that Cyrus has pulled together in so little time. Cyrus, however, reassures him that his honor is not injured by the success of Cyrus, and that all that Cyrus has done is for his uncle's benefit. So they reconcile.

Book VI

A major question now arises as to whether the alliance army should be disbanded. Gadatas is a vehement supporter of the importance of continuing. There's a general sense among the captains, especially the Hyrcanian and Cadusian leaders, that continuing is essential. Cyrus assures them he has no actual intention of disbanding, but there are serious problems on the horizon: winter is coming, rivals are gathering, provisions are mostly exhausted. So his proposal is that they need simultaneously to cut off the enemy's ability to hole up in strongholds while establishing strongholds themselves. Thus the first step in planning is to procure siege engines and builders.

Meanwhile, Araspas, in love with the Lady of Susa (whose name, we learn a little later, is Pantheia), has been proposing a union with her. She, however, deeply in love with her husband, consistently refused to move one step in that direction. In anger, he threatened her; and at this she appealed to Cyrus. Caught doing something he should not have been doing, Araspas was ashamed and afraid. But Cyrus had use for him; he sent Araspas to Lydia to spy on the Assyrian king, who was building forces there. They decide to arrange a cover story, in which word will be let around that Araspas deserted Cyrus. When word gets out that Araspas has deserted and fled, Pantheia sees an opportunity, and sends to Cyrus, saying that even though Araspas was unfaithful, she can vouch for the loyalty of her husband, Abradatas, especially since he also has reasons to hate the current Assyrian king. He lets her send a message, and Abradatas joins the alliance.

At this time, emissaries come from India with monetary support for Cyrus. He convinces them to send three people to the Assyrian king under the pretence of beginning an alliance. They return with information that the Assyrian's allies, under Croesus, are forming a vast army. Cyrus rallies the morale of his men and determines to move quickly to avoid fear spreading in his ranks. He finishes preparations and organizes the march. As they approach Croesus's army, Araspas returns, and Cyrus clears his name in public. Araspas provides precise information about the disposition of the enemy, allowing Cyrus to plan his countertactics. Abradatas takes a key position in the lines, although he has to draw lots to beat the Persians to it. Pantheia helps him with his armor, weeping. She follows behind his chariot for a while, but eventually he must tell her to take heart and fare well.

Book VII

The battle proceeds. Cyrus's counterplan works, although there are a few hitches (including his horse being killed), requiring him to make swift adjustments. Croesus flees to Sardis. Cyrus follows, taking Sardis and capturing Croesus. During the capture of Sardis, the Chaldaeans abandoned their posts to raid the houses. He calls their leaders and tells them to leave; when they beg to stay, he allows it only on the condition that they give what they took to those who kept their station.

Cyrus then meets with Croesus and works out a deal in which the army will not plunder the city or carry off prisoners of war as long as the Lydians give generously from their treasuries. Croesus tells his story. He sent to the Oracle at Delphi, but failing to ask the god if he needed anything, he tested the god by asking if he would have children. The god, but only after many gifts, said there were; the children were indeed born but one was mute and the other died early in life. Croesus sent to the gods again and asked how to live a happy life. The god replied, "Knowing yourself, Croesus, you will pass through it happily" (7.2.20). Croesus took this as a claim that he would be happy, since, he thought, there is nothing easier than knowing oneself. Croesus blames his loss on his taking the generalship, thus showing that he did not, in fact, know himself, since if he had, he would have had the sense to recognize that he was not one who could outmaneuver Cyrus. Cyrus promises protection for his family.

The next morning, Cyrus asks why he hasn't seen Abradatas, and receives the news that Abradatas died in battle. Cyrus immediately goes to the place Abradatas lies dead, where his wife is weeping beside him. Cyrus tries to comfort her and then leaves. Then Pantheia takes out a dagger and stabs herself in the chest, placing her head on her husband's chest as she died. The eunuchs attending her stab themselves and die with her. Cyrus makes sure the sacrifices and funeral are appropriate to their stature.

While Cyrus is making siege machines at Sardis, the Carians have a civil war, and both sides appeal to Cyrus. He sends an army with one of his captains, Adousius, to handle the matter. To each side Adousios says that their side was more just and that it was important to keep their alliance secret. He gets permissions to fortify the fortresses of each side with Persians -- then takes them over. He pressures the leaders to make peace under the Persian cloak. At the same time, Cyrus sends another army under Hystaspas against the Phrygians; Hystaspas is successful. Cyrus returns to Babylon, conquering people here and there as the opportunity arises.

Babylon's walls are very impressive, and not certainly breachable by the siege engines they have, so Cyrus proposes that hunger may be a better way to get past it. Chrysantas proposes the river flowing through the city, but it is too deep. Cyrus starts building massive trenches. The people inside are not worthy; they are very well provisioned, and can last for years and years if they absolutely have to do so. Using the trenches, he draws water off from the river so that it becomes traversable. They then march up the river into the city and take it. Gobryas and Gadatas kill the Assyrian king. Cyrus establishes himself as king in the city. This is a new kind of problem for him, since Babylon is a huge city, but he immediately sets about handling things in his customary way.


Cyrus sets his kingdom in good working order, and even throws in a bit of showmanship:

We think we learned of Cyrus that he did not believe that rulers must differ from their subjects by this alone, by being better, but he also thought they must bewitch them. (8.1.40)

He even makes use of things like platform shoes and cosmetics to make a good impression.

The biggest challenge, though, is what to do with stronger subjects who might take it into their heads to rule. So he handles it the Cyrus way:

In the first place, he continually made his benevolence of soul every bit as visible as he could, for he believed that just as it is not easy to love those who seem to hate you, or to be well disposed toward those who are ill disposed toward you, so also those known as loving and as being well disposed could not be hated by those who held that they were love. (8.2.1)

He also gives gifts freely and sets up contests among potential rivals for achieving great deeds, thus making them rivals with each other, not him, and getting praise for encouraging virtue. He has the Pheraulas the commoner organize a great procession and rewards him greatly for his success; and, indeed, had a general policy of honoring most those who did the best, regardless of what else might be said about them.

Once things are established in Babylon, he takes a trip back home, visiting Cyaxares in Media and Cambyses in Persia. Cambyses names Cyrus his heir and Cyrus marries Cyaxares's daughter. Then he returned to Babylon, where he prospered:

Human beings were so disposed to him that every nation though they got less if they did not send to Cyrus whatever fine thing either naturally grew in their land, was raised there, or was made by art; and so too with every city, and every private person thought that he would become wealthy if he could gratify Cyrus in something. For Cyrus, taking from each whatever the givers had in abudance, gave in return what he perceived them to be lacking. (8.6.23)

Xenophon then tells of his death, when he was very old, and very powerful. After Cyrus's death, however, the empire fell apart, for it was Cyrus alone who held it together. And thus Xenophon ends the book by summarizing the deterioration of the Persians.

Additional Comments on the Work

* Cyrus definitely made an impact on the world;

Median Empire

Achaemenid Empire 559 - 330 (BC)

* While Cyrus is obviously the main character of the work, the Assyrian king plays an important role. The Assyrian king falls so completely to Cyrus not just because he is unjust (although he is), but because he does the opposite of what Cyrus does: he rules people in such a way that they hate him. Gobryas lost a son to him; Gadatas was castrated; he attempted to take Pantheia from Abradatas; and the Hyrcanians, Cadusians, and Sacians are all badly used by the Assyrians. Cyrus, on the other side, does everything right to make people want to be ruled by him.

* There are many, many different stories about the Fall of Babylon. Xenophon seems to be following Herodotus in at least broad outlines. The Cyrus Cylinder commissioned by Cyrus claims that the Babylonians opened their gates to him freely. Most sources that give a name take the Assyrian king to be Nabonidus, although sometimes they take him to be captured in Babylon, sometimes in a battle after Babylon, and sometimes killed and sometimes not; the Biblical book of Daniel says it was Belshazzar (Belsharusar), who was Nabonidus's son and not actually the king (although it's very possible he was co-regent by that point). What seems to be the one common thread in it all is that Cyrus captured Babylon suddenly, unexpectedly, and definitively, so that no one knew exactly what happened.

* One of the notable themes throughout (and which would make it a good basis for a movie!) is that Cyrus will set something up that will come to fruition considerably later. To take just one example, he gets the Armenians and Chaldaeans to send messengers to India in Book III, then proceeds through a considerable part of a military campaign before the Indians finally come back with monetary support in Book VI. He is also very good at taking advantage of whatever happens to be at hand and setting it in motion for his ends. But, of course, the major key to his success is that he repeatedly treats people so that they know that being in his good graces is a very good place to be. He dominates because, when he does, everyone benefits.


Quotations are from Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus, Wayne Ambler, tr., Cornell UP (Ithaca, NY: 2001).

Music on My Mind

Dion, "The Thunderer". Feast of St. Jerome, of course.

Bentham and Mill on Judging One's Own Happiness

I have seen recently an upsurge in people exalting Bentham at the expense of Mill; I'm not sure the reason. Certainly it is a matter that is generally of little significance. Mill is so much the superior of Bentham on nearly every count that no one could seriously begrudge Bentham a count or two in which he overtops Mill. But there is a real danger in such cases of not capturing Mill's view fairly in an attempt to improve Bentham in the comparison. An example of this, I think, is a claim in Robert Wolff's recent eulogy of Bentham:

Indeed, Bentham's principle, as he quite well intended, constituted a very powerful argument for democratic government resting on universal suffrage. [Strictly speaking, to get to that conclusion required adding the lemma that each person is the best judge of his or her own pain and pleasure, an assumption with which Bentham was comfortable but that proved a bridge too far for his godson John Stuart Mill.]

But it is certainly a bridge Mill himself passes over. Mill gives exactly this argument in the first chapter of The Subjection of Women, which is, notably, an argument for universal suffrage:

I have dwelt so much on the difficulties which at present obstruct any real knowledge by men of the true nature of women, because in this as in so many other things "opinio copiae inter maximas causas inopiae est"; and there is little chance of reasonable thinking on the matter while people flatter themselves that they perfectly understand a subject of which most men know absolutely nothing, and of which it is at present impossible that any man, or all men taken together, should have knowledge which can qualify them to lay down the law to women as to what is, or is not, their vocation. Happily, no such knowledge is necessary for any practical purpose connected with the position of women is relation to society and life. For, according to all the principles involved in modern society, the question rests with women themselves — to be decided by their own experience, and by the use of their own faculties. There are no means of finding what either one person or many can do, but by trying — and no means by which anyone else can discover for them what it is for their happiness to do or leave undone.

To a very great degree, what separates Bentham and Mill is not so much the radicalness of their views at the individual level but the differences in the way they think we should assess happiness from the impartial point of view. This is as one might expect given that the real importance in utilitarianism is placed not on who is the best judge of an individual's happiness but in how one makes the judgment of what contributes to, or is required for, the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Mill puts a considerable emphasis on the need for utilitarian judgments to go beyond what must or ought to be done (in Mill's account our assessment of good advice and of good art are also to be utilitarian) and also to take into account connoisseurship of pleasure. This does give Mill's account a less democratic 'feel' than Bentham's -- but it's not, I think, because Mill is less of a democrat at the individual level than Bentham.

Monday, September 29, 2014

D. G. Myers

I was saddened to learn that D. G. Myers has recently died. He wrote at "A Commonplace Blog" and has an excellent book on the history of creative writing programs (which I have on my shelves and have read more than once), The Elephants Teach.

You can listen to David talk about dealing with cancer at EconTalk:

D.G. Myers, literary critic and cancer patient, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the lessons he has learned from receiving a cancer diagnosis six years ago. Myers emphasizes the importance of dealing with cancer honestly and using it as a way to focus attention on what matters in life. The conversation illuminates the essence of opportunity cost and the importance of allocating our time, perhaps our scarcest resource, wisely. The last part of the conversation discusses a number of literary issues including the role of English literature and creative writing in American universities.

And you can also read a reflection on the subject from June of this year, The Mercy of Sickness Before Dying.

David had a knack for finding the complacent certainties people had about literature and pressing on them -- sometimes hard -- with a bit of critical thought. I've linked to a number of his discussions over the years. Some of my favorites:

Plot and Thought
Influence and Literary History
On Satire
Jewish sin and repentance
Literary Fiction: An Autopsy
Reading the Holocaust

Xenophon's Cyropaedia (Books I-IV)

The Cyropaedia is probably the non-Socratic Xenophontic work that has been most popular through the ages. It asks the question: What must a ruler do to make the ruled want to be ruled? It answers the question by purporting to give an account of the education and rise to power of Cyrus the Great, king of the Medes and Persians. Significant parts of the work are highly fictionalized, and fictionalized in a way that Xenophon must surely have done deliberately, so the work seems not to be intended as a historical work. It is a matter of considerable dispute, however, whether it fits any other genre or is sui generis. This has made interpretation of the work somewhat difficult. It seems clear that he used no documentary sources, but we don't know how much of this is Xenophon giving us oral legends about Cyrus and how much of it is Xenophon making up Cyrus in the form suitable to the question. We don't even know for sure what the title of the book would have been originally; it is given several different names in antiquity (Life of Cyrus, and so forth). The title it is usually known by today, Kyrou paideia (Cyrus's Education), seems to be due to Aulus Gellius. (Cyropaedia is the latinization.) Another puzzle people have had is the fact that most of the book lauds Cyrus in the highest terms, but the book ends in a way that raises questions about Cyrus's achievement. Some people have even suggested that the last book may not be by Xenophon, although this is the only serious argument for such a conclusion. My suspicion, though, is that many of the puzzles of interpretation can be resolved by keeping clear about what Xenophon's question is. It is not, "How does one make a just society?" nor even (contrary to the way it is often stated) "How does one make a stable society?" The question is, "How does one make a society in which people don't want to change the government?" And Cyrus shows us, roughly, that the key is for the ruler to seem unquestionably powerful and be good at giving benefits to people that they cannot otherwise get. Nothing about this requires that Xenophon admire everything about such a ruler, even if he does admire the excellence with which Cyrus meets these goals of appearing powerful and beneficial.

Even though this work is a non-Socratic work, it seems everywhere to suggest the influence of Socrates: everyone talks in a Socratic way, and some of Cyrus's excellences are clearly understood in Socratic terms. And there seem to be a number of ways in which Xenophon deliberately adjusts Cyrus to give him a Socratic hue.

You can read the Cyropaedia online in English at the Perseus Project. There is an online collaborative commentary on the work called Cyrus' Paradise, which has a number of interesting discussions.

Book I

Book I sets the theme of the work and gives us the first basic education of Cyrus. Xenophon begins by noting that all sorts of governments are often overthrown by the people who are ruled by them, so that it seems that human beings have no art by which to rule other human beings. However, having thought of this, he also thought of Cyrus the Great, "who acquired very many people, very many cities, and very many nations, all obedient to himself" (1.1), and that the obedience was given despite vast distances and differences in language and culture. So what is the secret to a Cyrus? This is what the rest of the work will discuss.

Cyrus is said to have been the son of Cambyses, king of the Persians. He was educated in the laws of the Persians, which are very focused on what is common rather than what is individual. (Xenophon's account of Persian education is very clearly a slightly adapted account of Spartan education.) Cyrus only had this education until he was about twelve; at that age his grandfather on his mother's side, who was king of the Medes, sent for his daughter and grandson. Thus he learns the ways of the Medes, which are rather different. As Cyrus's mother, Mandane, puts it, in Persia being equal is what is accounted just, and the law rules the king, whereas in Media the king is master of all and ruled by no law. Because Cyrus loved to learn, he grew adept in the ways of the Medes. Then he returned, before fully adult, to Persia. Soon his grandfather in Media died, and was succeeded by Cyrus's uncle Cyaxares. At this point, the king of Assyria, seeing a possible opportunity, began to plan to defeat the Medes, and to that end started building an alliance. Cyaxares sent to Persia for help, and so Cyrus found himself in Media again, at the head of an army. After taking thought to the gods and offering sacrifices, he receives some advice from his father about caution and preparation. His father also gives him advice as to how to make soldiers obey. After Cyrus remarks on the importance of praising those who obey and punishing those who disobey, Cambyses says:

"Yes, son, this is indeed the road to their obeying by compulsion, but to what is far superior to this, to their being willing to obey, there is another road that is shorter, for human beings obey with great pleasure whomever they think is more prudent about their own advantage than they are themselves....Yet whenever people think that they will incur any harm by obeying, they are not very willing either to yield to punishments or to be seduced by gifts, for no one is willing to receive even gifts when they bring him harm." (1.6)

Being prudent about advantage, however, can only be learned by actively learning what you can. And while it is true that always doing good for someone will tend to win them over, it is nonetheless difficult to do this. Thus a ruler must rejoice at good given to others, grieve at evils that befall them, be enthusiastic about joining them in solving their difficulties, and carefully plan to avoid failure. The ruler must have more endurance than the ruled. As to enemies, the only way to maintain power over them is to "be a plotter, a dissembler, wily, a cheat, a thief, rapacious, and the sort who takes advantage of his enemies in everything" (1.6). Cyrus notes that this is the opposite of what everyone is taught as a boy, and Cambyses notes that many of the things one learns as a boy has to do with the treatment of friends, not of enemies, for the same reason that we wait to teach boys explicitly about sex rather than doing so immediately (i.e., they do not yet have the restraint required); but in fact, boys are also taught to deal with enemies, just not by practicing on enemies. They learn to hunt, to trap, to outmaneuver, to deceive, in games and sports like the hunting of deer.

Book II

When Cyrus gets to Media he learns that the Assyrian king's alliance has grown considerably, and that the army that is coming against the Medes is huge in comparison with anything they can field. This is a problem, since both sides are heavily stocked with archers and spearmen, which suggests distance-skirmishing. But skirmishing at a distance tends to favor the more numerous army. Thus Cyrus argues that they should armor their Persian Peers, a relatively small but very well trained group, so that they can close the distance and force close quarters. This will put the opposing enemy in a bind by making it in their interest to flee rather than to continue to fight. In addition, Cyrus lets any common soldier who wishes have a chance to receive honors like those of the elite soldiers. They train in fighting at close quarters, and he holds contests for those who fight well and obey orders to receive higher rank. He forces them to bunk together so that they will see that everyone is treated equally and, in addition, will be more likely to be ashamed not to fight if they know who else is fighting. He dines not just with officers, but with anyone whom he sees as doing well what they should be doing.

After discussion with people over dinner, Cyrus decides to put it to the army whether it will be better for everyone to share equally or for those who work hardest to receive the better share. A number of people respond with speeches (including one by Pheraulas, one of the common soldiers), and the general consensus is that it is better for those who work hardest to receive more -- as Cyrus had expected, people are ashamed to suggest that they should receive an equal share even if they do less, or do their work poorly.

Cyrus proposes to Cyaxares that they should secretly go against the king of Armenia. He is not technically part of the Assyrian alliance, but as the alliance has grown he has shown an increasing tendency to show contempt for the Medes, neglecting to provide tribute or support. Under the guise of a big hunt, Cyrus goes forth with his cavalry, and at the border of Armenia he lets his officers in on the plan. He has part of the army go forward dressed as if they were bands of robbers, to reduce the chance of the Armenians having early notice of the full army and hiding away in the mountains. The robber-dressed part of the army is also there to impede the flight to the mountains should it come to that. Cyrus in the meantime will go against the Armenians directly with the main cavalry.

Book III

Cyrus sends to the Armenian king and demands that he do what needs to be done to make up for tribute and lack of military support; the Armenians, caught by surprise, are found running around pell-mell trying to hide away their possessions or get their families to safety; Cyrus promises that those who stay will not be considered enemies, but those who run away will be treated as such. In the meantime, the king's own family is caught in flight to the mountains and the king is besieged; he surrenders and is put on trial by Cyrus. The Armenian king is forced to admit that he would be harsh with any subordinate who did as he had done, but the Armenian king's son, Tigranes, argues that Cyrus should only punish when it is in his interest to punish -- and the Armenian king, having been shown that he can easily be beaten, is now more useful as an ally than as someone to be punished. Cyrus agrees, and asks the Armenian king what he will do to show himself useful. Thus Cyrus comes away with more troops for the fight and also a considerable amount of money, given to ransom the family.

Taking away the Armenian troops, led by Tigranes, Cyrus comes to the mountains on the borders of Armenia, which are controlled by the hostile Chaldaeans. They go against the Chaldaeans. Tigranes warns him that the Armenians will not press the matter all the way, but he incorporates this into his plan by telling the Persians that the Armenians will pretend to flee in order to tempt the Chaldaeans into close-quarters combat. When the Armenians do really flee, as Tigranes had said they would, the Chaldaeans pursue (as they are accustomed to doing with Armenians in the mountains) and the Persians mop them up. Cyrus then uses his leverage with the Chaldaeans, who are now worried about what Cyrus will do, to establish and force a peace treaty between the Chaldaeans and the Armenians, which will be enforced and supervised by the Persians; he is careful to make sure that each side gets something that they need, as a real practical matter, from the peace -- in particular, the Chaldaeans have a labor shortage and the Armenians a labor glut -- and also from the Persian supervision, since if the Persians hold the key points they don't have to worry about the other side using the strategic advantage to retaliate against the other side. He then uses this collaboration between Chaldaeans and Armenians to pull the Indians, who have been temporizing about who to support, on to the Persian side. Cyrus needs money, he tells them, but given that they are new-found friends, he'd rather not have to take theirs. So he recommends that each side send messengers to the Indians playing up the value of supporting the Persians.

Back with the Medians, Cyrus recommends going on the offensive: as long as the armies are in Median territory, there is inevitable damage done to Median territory. There are no real advantages to waiting -- they will still be outnumbered even if they wait -- but by pushing on into enemy territory they will be doing damage to the enemy, even if it is just unsettling them by how ready the Medes and the Persians are to fight. One of the things they do as they advance is only cook during the day; at night no campfires are allowed in camp. They also sometimes burn campfires at night far behind the actual camp. Thus the enemy scouts are in constant confusion about where the army actually is. The Assyrians usually defend their camps by digging trenches around them; thus the Assyrian army made their camp where it would be convenient to dig trenches -- and at this point it just so happened that the best place was in full view. Cyrus, however, deliberately camps his army in the place where the Armenians will be least likely to see what he is doing, so that he could spring something on them suddenly.

Cyaxares and Cyrus, who have largely been in agreement up to this point, disagree about the best tactics for the situation. Cyaxares wants to try to intimidate the enemy by assaulting the fortifications. Cyrus, however, argues that this will not work, for the Assyrians will trust their fortifications and see that they outnumber their enemy. In addition, any failure will give the Assyrians heart. He recommends that they wait until the Assyrians themselves come out. This is agreed upon, and the Assyrians do indeed prefer to come out rather than sit in camp. Cyaxares wants to assault the first group out, but Cyrus insists that it will be as good as a loss if less than half the Assyrians are defeated; if they fight too small a group at first, the Assyrians will get a second chance at coming up with a battle plan and will be able to pursue the second battle on their own terms. Cyaxares is not convinced, and presses Cyrus to move; Cyrus instructs his returning messenger to tell Cyaxares in front of everyone that there are still too few, but he will comply. The Persians rush the Assyrians, who turn to flee to the fortifications. The Medes and Persians press, but Cyrus pulls back the Persian Peers before they get caught inside the fortifications themselves, and the fact that they obeyed Xenophon notes approvingly as a sign that they were properly trained.

Book IV

The Assyrians, having lost the leaders of their army, flee in the night, leaving behind their provisions. He opposes pursuing the Assyrians, saying that they lack the horses required for such a task. At this point there just happens to arrive an embassy from the Hyrcanians, who are subjects of the Assyrians. Because the Hyrcanians are good with horses, the Assyrians use them for hard cavalry work. Hyrcanian cavalry had been guarding the Assyrian retreat. But the Hyrcanians see that this is a possible opportunity for breaking free of the heavy Assyrian yoke, so they offer their services to Cyrus, providing information as a show of good faith. Since the Hyrcanians tell them that the Assyrians can be caught before reaching their strongholds, if only one starts early enough and leaves behind heavy gear, this raises new possibilities. The Hyrcanians offer to bring hostages from stragglers among the Assyrians, to prove that they are right, and Cyrus promises that the Hyrcanians will have equal place with the Medes and the Persians if they give him their support. Cyrus asks for volunteers, and all the Persians and most of the Medes are willing to do so, especially when the latter hear about the Hyrcanians. The Hyrcanians realize that Cyrus is trusting them without requiring that they bring any hostages as proof of their word, as they had said they were willing to do, and are astonished. But Cyrus tells them that they have all the guarantee they need in their souls and in their preparation; although he does happen to mention the fact that if the Hyrcanians were to betray him, the Hyrcanians are the ones who would be at a disadvantage. This is actually the single best reply he could have made -- the Hyrcanians are impressed, even a bit frightened, at the fact that Cyrus is so confident about not needing to worry about the matter, and when the Persians and Medes catch up to the main Hyrcanian forces, they are equally impressed by the ease with which Cyrus treats them as allies worthy of trust, who are to be brought in not out of desperate need or through force, but simply by being asked to do so as allies.

The alliance of Persians, Medes, and Hyrcanians quickly overtakes the alliance armies, putting them into disarray. When Cyrus captures the camp servants, he realizes an opportunity to have appropriate provisions for his men, so he has them set aside provisions, which they are willing to do for the obvious reason that they see it as a way to keep from dying. Cyrus convinces the Persians to let the Medes and Hyrcanians be in charge of distributing the loot, even if they get less by it. The loot ends up being quite considerable, as are the number of female captives, because, says Xenophon they claim that soldiers will fight more fiercely if what they regard as precious is present. Xenophon is skeptical; as he says drily, "Perhaps this is so, but perhaps they also do this because they take delight in the pleasure" (4.3).

Cyrus takes the occasion to argue that the Persians should develop their own cavalry, and Chrysantas, one of his captains, agrees, saying that he has always envied the centaurs. As a result, they all agree that it will be a law among them that whoever is given a horse by Cyrus will regard it as shameful to be seen on foot, until people start to wonder whether the Persians might not actually be centaurs. This starts a custom that Xenophon says has continued until his day. He then turns his attention to the captives who are starting to come in. Cyrus points out that even good land is useless without people working it, and so he proposes that they release the captives , and to the captives says that they will be allowed to go home, on condition that they promise not to fight against the Persians and the Medes again; and in the future, if anyone does something unjust to them, the Persians and the Medes will fight on their side. Obviously the captives promise.

Cyaxares, somewhat hilariously, has been unaware of what was happening, since he has been partying in his tent after the first victory over the Assyrians. He has quite a surprise when he comes out the next morning, and is not at all happy about it. When he discovers the whole story of the Hyrcanians, he is even more furious, and recalls the Median cavalry by sending a small contingent of what he has left. The Medes are uncertain as to what to do, since he obviously has the right to call them back, but is also famously savage when angry. Cyrus sends a messenger to Persia, asking for reinforcements, and leverages his new alliance with the Hyrcanians by having them keep the contingent of Medes in charge of the recall entertained. He then sends a message to Cyaxares reporting what has happened. Cyrus does as he intended and puts the Hyrcanians and Medes in charge of distribution of loot. They give the horses to Cyrus, and he tells them to give generously to Cyaxares, as well. He then frees anyone who had been enslaved by the Assyrians in exchange for joining the ranks.

At this point, a captured Assyrian named Gobryas is brought in and asks to speak to Cyrus. He was good friends with the old Assyrian king, who had died in the battle at the fortifications, and was not on good terms with his son, the new Assyrian king, since he had caused the death of Gobryas's son. Gobryas asks Cyrus to become his avenger, and Cyrus promises he will, and will let him keep all that was his, if Gobryas can prove he is not lying. They agree, and Gobryas is allowed to return home. In the meantime, the distribution is done; the Medes have given Cyrus the most beautiful tent and the most beautiful woman, the Susan woman. The Hyrcanians gave the extra tents to Cyrus and distributed the coined money fairly.

The saga of Cyrus is, of course, far from over, and we will see both the Susan and Gobryas, as well as the response of Cyaxares, in the next books.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fortnightly Book, September 28

The next fortnightly book is Bret Harte's Tales of the Gold Rush. Harte, born Francis Brett Hart in Albany, New York, went to California at the age of seventeen. There he taught school for a while in Oakland, doing various odd jobs for additional income. In 1868 he became editor for The Overland Monthly, which would change his life. There was a paucity of literature about California life, so Harte wrote up a story, "The Luck of Roaring Camp", to be included in the periodical. By his own story, he got called to the office of the publisher, who was very worried: when the printer received the story, he had returned the proofs not to Harte but to the publisher, insisting that the story was so scurrilous and indecent that his proofreader could hardly read it. Harte was utterly baffled as to what this meant. He read it again, and was convinced that this was wrong. He convinced his publisher at least to let it through as a test of his editorial judgment -- and the story, about a group of miners stuck with an infant after the death of a prostitute, garnered Harte instant acclaim. For a brief period, he made a considerable amount of money as a writer for periodicals, although he spent much of his last years struggling as his popularity waned.

Tales of the Gold Rush is an anthology of thirteen tales from various of Harte's collections of short stories:

The Luck of Roaring Camp
The Outcasts of Poker Flat
Tennessee's Partner
Brown of Calaveras
The Idyl of Bed Gulch
The Iliad of Sandy Bar
The Poet of Sierra Flat
How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar
An Apostle of the Tules
An Ingenue of the Sierras
A Protegee of Jack Hamlin's
Prosper's "Old Mother"

The one I'll be reading is a Heritage Press book illustrated by Fletcher Martin, the American painter. The typeface is a version of Walbaum called 'Waverly', with a fair mix of other typefaces fulfilling other functions. The book has a plain linen spine and marbled gold covers that are quite handsome.

I've been snowed under with grading recently, but even if this continues, this should be a fairly manageable book to handle.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sigrid Undset, Catherine of Siena


Opening Passage:

In the city-states of Tuscany the citizens--Popolani--businessmen, master craftsmen and the professional class had already in the Middle Ages demanded and won the right to take part in the government of the republic side by side with the nobles--the Gentiluomini. In Siena they ahd obtained a third of the seats in the high Council as early as the twelfth century. In spite of the fact that the different parties and rival groups within the parties were in constant and often violent disagreement, and in spite of the frequent wars with Florence, Siena's neighbour and most powerful competitor, prosperity reigned within the city walls.

Summary: Fourteenth-century Italy is a world falling apart, splitting Italian against Italian and both against the French, and, eventually, splitting even the Church against the Church. It is not a period in which one would expect a single woman, neither a queen nor a wealthy woman, to have a profound impact; and yet Catherine Benincasa, neither royal nor wealthy, had just such a profound impact on the day, slowing the decline, moderating the violence, setting up the first definite steps toward peace. Undset's biography gives us this story, heavily saturated with Catherine's own words, but also with a sympathetic sense of her motives and a recognition that a world which had undergone two world wars and myriad smaller ones might perhaps need to learn something from a woman who knew how to face a world falling apart. And this last is true however strange we may find facets of Catherine's life; after all, as Undset notes, her contemporaries found her difficult to understand for many of the same reasons people in our age would say they find her difficult to understand.

Catherine's life essentially consists of four things, the Eucharist, religious experiences, correspondence with others, and the politics of the day, and for her they are all interconnected. Political division arises from a failure to express the love found in the Eucharist; her many religious experiences are all connected to the Eucharist as their root; her correspondence with others, guided by her religious experiences, is an extension of the love and the strength she derives from the Eucharist; and by her correspondence she begins to reknit what politics has torn apart. In all these things she displays a perceptive intelligence and an indomitable will; one of the things I like about the book is that it shows how an extremely stubborn Italian girl could become the saint she became, with the extreme stubbornness not vanishing but being transformed into something different. Grace perfects nature not just in general ways, but by turning our quirks and even in our failings into something beneficial. Outside of occasional exceptions, an excitable sinner becomes an excitable saint, a choleric sinner a choleric saint, a stubborn sinner a stubborn saint, a scheming sinner a scheming saint -- but although we can use the same adjective on both sides, there is something fundamentally different in its meaning, a change in the very structure and form of its expression.

One of the things that is difficult to wrap one's mind around is how much Catherine accomplished in her short life. She died at the age of thirty-three. While there was a great deal to her life before she was twenty-three, for practical purposes this can be seen as the start of her full mission. It is difficult to avoid the impression that from this point onward the clock was ticking. Ten years. But in that period she saved souls gone astray, protected Siena from sack, reconciled warring princes, shifted the views of Popes, and changed countless lives for the better.

And it did not end there, for she became a teacher for the ages. St. Catherine of Siena was given the title, Doctor of the Church, by Paul VI in 1970, years after the book was written and Undset's death. But it could come as no surprise to anyone who read Undset's account of her life. It is very difficult to write about incalculable good; that is why most hagiographies seem somewhat flat in comparison with other kinds of biographical writing, however good they may be on their own terms. But Undset manages it extraordinarily well. If St. Catherine is a Teacher of the Church, Undset is a worthy teaching assistant.

Giovanni di Paolo The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Siena,

MrsDarwin has a good reflection on the book over at her blog.

Favorite Passage: There are a number that are good. Here is one:

There is nothing in the experience of man which shows that the raw material of human nature has ever changed. It is eternally dragged down by our desire for the things which escape our grasp, or if we manage to grasp some of them we find that we are still not satisfied. Satisfied desire produces new desire until old age puts a stop to the chase, and death ends all. We are shown frequent glimpses of our nature which remind us of our origin, and in whose image we are created. From the image of God in us we have creative energy, the spring of unselfish love--unselfish in spite of the shadow of egoism which is inseparable from all our impulses; the longing to create our world to an ordered pattern, to live according to the law, and to see our ideals of justice realised. (p. 332)

Recommendation: It's a fairly straightfoward biography-hagiography, told well, making St. Catherine, not the most obviously accessible saint, vivid and approachable. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Radio Greats: What the Whiskey Drummer Heard (Gunsmoke)

The original idea for Gunsmoke at CBS was a crossing of mysteries and Westerns: Philip Marlowe in the Old West. The idea morphed a bit in development, but a constant throughout was an insistence on making it an adult Western. Most Westerns on the radio were kids' shows -- along the lines of Hopalong Cassidy or The Lone Ranger. The idea with Gunsmoke was to create a Western series that didn't sugarcoat the Old West. And that was the result. It's never explicit, but there are plenty of clues that Miss Kitty is a prostitute and that Marshal Matt Dillon, while on the side of the law, is very much like some of the men he hunts down. And he is not some white-hat hero always there in the knick of time. Sometimes he fails. The series also regularly handled hard issues: mob violence, domestic abuse, rape. Dangerous territory, but it handled it well: Gunsmoke is easily one of the top shows of the Golden Age.

The radio show ran from 1952 to 1961. Of course, most people today know of Gunsmoke from the television version, which ran from 1955 to 1975 for an astounding 635 episodes. Many of them were original to TV, but quite a few were adaptations of radio scripts, especially in the early years. The TV show had a different cast -- William Conrad, who played Dillon on the radio, to much acclaim, didn't have the look they wanted (it's generally thought that his weight was the factor). James Arness got the part instead. This arguably came near to killing the radio series -- Conrad's Dillon was iconic, and many fans of the radio show refused to watch the television series. But the stories made good TV as well as good radio, and the series survived. It was also the twilight of the age of radio and the dawn of the age of television; it was perhaps inevitable that the television series would outlast its originally more popular radio counterpart and rival.

Of all modern genres, the Western is perhaps the one that is most thoroughly concerned with the concept of Civilization. Most major tropes in the genre are about the building of civilization, or about protecting it from the greed, brutality, and ignorance that constantly threaten to bring it down. One episode of Gunsmoke that is exactly in this line is "What the Whiskey Drummer Heard". Unlike many stories, it doesn't give us any inkling of what to do about the struggle between civilized life and barbarism, but it puts the contrast in perhaps the most stark terms: at its root, it's a struggle between Reason and Unreason. Marshal Dillon has to watch out when a whiskey salesman tells him about overhearing men plotting his death. It has all the trappings of a mystery, but it is handled in a way very different from what you would find in a mystery tale -- and in a way that fits the Western genre to a T.

You can listen to "What the Whiskey Drummer Heard" at Old Time Radio Westerns.

The same script, with minor variation, was used for an episode of the TV series a few years later.

Internal Recollection of Eternal Love

Without supposing that there is, inborn in the human soul, a whole system of notions and forms of thought—a whole world, in short, of all possible ideas—may there not have been imparted to it from above a higher gift, which, naturally, is only called into action simultaneously with the awakening of the rest of the human mind, or of the mind generally? If so, would it not appear to the soul in the form of a memory; and, in a certain sense, be really such, though, indeed, not so much a memory of the past as of eternity? This is a question which, advanced in this sense, can not, I think, be absolutely negatived; not that any essential necessity or actual ground exists for it; but that, carefully guarded by certain limitations, it is an hypothesis that may, without hesitation, be assumed or conceded. Can it, in truth, well be doubted that every spiritual being, created by infinite love, has had imparted to him a share in the source of eternal love, which is to remain his forever, or so long, at least, as the connection with the supreme source of his being is not violently broken and rent asunder?

Friedrich von Schlegel, Philosophy of Language, Morrison, tr., p. 401

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Links for Noting, Notably Noted

* Boswell's Postcards from a Hanging

* Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Philosophers (ht)

* Tasneem Zehra Husain, On Optimal Paths & Minimal Action

* Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists. Strictly speaking, of course, what the study actually does is just collect cases -- albeit a fair number of them -- of people scoring on these traits on a pscyhological trait when they also claim that trolling is their favorite internet activity.

* Gail Presbey, African Sage Philosophy, at the IEP

* Lydia McGrew on William Paley's Horae Paulinae

* Philosophers' Carnival #167

* Teresa Limjoco on Mary, Queen of Scots

* David J. Palm on usury

* Christopher Tollefsen on Incest and Pornography at "Public Discourse"

* MrD on The Tragic Sense of History

* Jennifer Nagel has a good Philosophy Bites podcast on Intuitions about Knowledge