While other works of Xenophon's have taken me a week or even longer to get through, I finished this one in just a night, and it wasn't even the only thing that I read that evening. Agesilaus is a biography of the titular Spartan king, and unlike Xenophon's "biography" of Cyrus the Great, is thought to be fairly accurate historically, if very brief, and somewhat biased. Where a modern biographer often goes out of his or her way to find "dirt" on their subject, highlighting their shortcomings and failures no matter how respected and revered a figure they might be, or how significant of feats they might have accomplished, it has been more common in history to write biographies that are meant to praise a figure and elucidate the person's admirable traits, that others might follow suit. Xenophon certainly falls into the latter category, and his effusive praise for Agesilaus renders him as a veritable paragon of virtue, representative of every admirable characteristic and quite devoid of any flaws of blemishes.
Literally, the title of this piece translates to "the education of Cyrus," though in truth only about the first book or two cover Cyrus's "education," while the others describe the rest of his life. This is meant as a sort of "how to" book on how to rule well, in the form of a biographical treatment of Cyrus, but unlike in The Ten Thousand, Xenophon is not here describing contemporary events, and many historians doubt that this is in more than the most general of ways an accurate depiction of Cyrus's life. Note: by "how to," I mean a book on how to rule as a semi-benevolent authoritarian dictator who is loved and feared by his subjects.
I've actually read this part before, but decided to re-read it in light of my recent reading of Herodotus's Histories, which covered the period about a hundred years or so before the events in The Ten Thousand, and provided a lot of valuable context for understanding what was happening in Xenophon's story. Unlike Herodotus, Xenophon is not writing about history in The Ten Thousand; he is writing a semi-autobiographical account of what happened to him and his companions during a campaign as mercenaries in a decidedly short-lived Persian civil war. Like Caesar in his Commentaries, Xenophon refers to himself in the third person, and the result is perhaps the most story-like and modern-seeming of all the ancient works that I've been reading recently. In fact, Conn Iggulden wrote a historical fiction novella primarily based upon the events in The Ten Thousand, and it was a very interesting experience to read that having already read its primary source.
The title translates from Sanskrit to mean The Song Celestial, and the original was a poem or song featuring a discussion between Prince Arjun and an entity called Krishna, which is a deific being. It has been cited as influential and/or inspirational by many who study or come from India, so I decided a few years ago to add it to my reading list, and am finally getting around to it. One of my goals for some time now has been to familiarize myself more with the culture and history of this region, as it is not something I have previously studied extensively, and reading this poem seemed a better place to start than with the entirety of the Mahabharata.
For me, minimalism has always been a complicated topic. On the one hand, I'm drawn to the flexibility inherent to such a lifestyle, and especially to its efficiency. It's probably the engineer in my talking, but I hate to see things go to waste, whether that's food, money, time, or "stuff." Minimalism would, it seem, logically result in a highly efficient lifestyle. On the other hand, that same desire not to see things go to waste means that I am often disinclined to throw things away.
Yes, one statement of Justice as Fairness apparently didn't gather the attention that John Rawls desired, so he wrote a second book in which he presented the same content and spent half of his time referencing his first book. The other half of the time he spent laboriously explaining and redefining basic concepts for the questionable benefit of the reader. My impression while reading this book was that the whole assembly is a sort of Locke wannabe that never actually manages to come up with anything original to say.
Have we written a philosophy book review before? I know that we've talked about philosophy on the site in previous posts, but this might be the first time that I'm actually reviewing a philosophy book here at IGC. That's a little ironic, because this series of essays is probably not the first work of philosophy that comes to mind - I think most people probably would come up with Plato's dialogues as the most popularly known (though not necessarily read) piece of philosophy.
That being said, this book does have its place. The synthesis it provides is thorough and insightful, and it provides a robust terminology with which to simplify the approach to what is really an incredibly complex concept - the concept, in fact, that Adam Smith attempted to communicate in Wealth of Nations and never quite managed to clarify. The concept of the infinite game is really a question of taking a long view or a short view. Finite games are about short views, infinite games are about long views.
Though my writing is almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy, I do like to read in a wide variety of genres and fields. In this case, I was gifted a copy of this book by my best friend, who seemed a little surprised that I'd never heard of it before, since it's apparently somewhat famous. Of course, since I live under a space rock, there are all sorts of things that are apparently common knowledge of which I'm totally oblivious. Did you know that spending your free time writing hundred-thousand word novels isn't normal?