Feed on
Posts
Comments

In Book Eight, Chapter One, Xenophon is discussing Cyrus’ ideas towards the influence the ruler should have over his men in order to encourage them towards the good. Here these actions to influence seem to be relative to the ruler’s appearance with virtue, seeing law, and common orders. Machiavelli discusses a similar concept in chapter five of The Prince, entitled How Cities or Principalities Which Lived by Their Own Laws before They were Occupied Should be Administered. His claim in the first paragraph of this chapter concerns three major ideas, “first, ruin them; second, go there to live personally; third, let them live by there laws” (P. 5.20). Therefore, it seems as though Cyrus and Machiavelli see rule in a like manner, but that they perhaps just differ on their understanding of the use of virtue under such circumstances.
In this section the first claim made concerns, to a certain extent, deception. A ruler should “display himself to his subjects as having been most of all adorned with virtue” (EC VIII.1.21). This claim appears to raise ideas concerning deception and the people. The word display gives the connotation that this act was meant to persuade the people towards a certain mode; for Cyrus that mode is the good. Similarly, Machiavelli claims that a prince should understand how men perceive and judge, and then understand that it is best to “appear merciful, faithful, humane, honest, and religious” (P. 18.70). From this understanding he would then be able to persuade men easily, since “he who deceives will always find someone who will let himself be deceived” (P. 18.70), since “men in general judge more by their eyes than by their hands…everyone sees how you appear” (P. 18.71). Whether Machiavelli’s deception works towards virtue as Xenophon’s does is another matter, but both discuss the need for a ruler to know how to use deception and manipulate peoples. Machiavelli emphasizes the need to understand the mode of the people being ruled as being virtuous (P. 19. 78).
Secondly, Xenophon claims that “the good ruler was a seeing law for human beings” (EC VIII.1.22). By this, it seems as though Cyrus means that it is paramount for the ruler to either be present or provide a presence in the state which he is ruling. Xenophon argues that seeing law is a necessary action in rule. In this practice, “he [the ruler] is sufficient to put into order, to see who is out of order, and to punish” (EC VIII.1.22). Similarly, Machiavelli explores this idea in his work, he argues that a ruler should live with his subjects at several points  in The Prince. When he is discussing a principality attained through crimes, Machiavelli says that “above all, a prince should live with his subjects” (P. 8.38). His reasoning concerned the idea that a prince is better able to manage men towards the good when he is directly present. Similar to Cyrus’ understanding in Xenophon’s work, Machiavelli argues for this practice based on the idea that the prince can then monitor the progression of either the bad or the good. (P 8.38). Additionally, Machiavelli asserts that in seeking to rule republics it is best to either, “eliminate them or live in them” (P. 5.21). Therefore, this seems to be a claim that both works fundamentally agree on; the ruler, that seeks to order any state successfully, should ideally be present to create that effective rule.
The next concept that is brought up in this passage from The Education of Cyrus, concerns religion and the use of the gods and Magi to the prince. Here, instead of attempting to discard the ancient order, Xenophon argues that the more prudent idea is one that observes the current orders and adapts to the them. Cyrus “sacrificed everyday to the gods the Magi named” (EC VIII.1.23). Cyrus has already shown how important the gods are to ruling men (EC I.5.44), so here his claim is simply to follow in the tradition of those ruled in order to rule them successfully. “Cyrus believed that the piety of those with him was also good for himself” (EC VIII.1.25). Therefore, Cyrus understood that keeping the previous orders consistent under his rule was prudent for himself so that the people would not rebel. Machiavelli believes in a similar philosophy under certain circumstances in various regime types. Again Machiavelli stresses the necessity that a prince “appear all mercy, all faith, all honesty, all humanity, all religion,” and he even goes so far as to claim that “nothing is more necessary to appear to have than this last quality” (P. 18.70). For Machiavelli then even religion is considered an appearance in seeking to rule effectively. Machiavelli treats religion as another law, or established order, that should be maintained or appear to be maintained under new rulers of a state such that the people do nor resist the rule.
Both The Education of Cyrus and The Prince have a complete understanding of what a good ruler must do in order to maintain a state; since peoples will always turn out “bad” unless they have been made good by a necessity (P. 23.95). For Cyrus, the practice of good rule seemed was valued as important as the appearance of it. Therefore his ideas of virtue, seeing laws, and common religion were all observed by him in order to influence the mode of the state towards the good. Machiavelli understood similar ideals, however he instead stressed the necessity for appearance over direct action. Therefore, his ideal prince would simply need to appear to have whatever qualities the people needed him to have so that the state could move towards the best mode.

22 Responses to “Xenophon and Machiavelli on Rulers”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    Brieanah,

    I think you are right to highlight two key similarities between Xenophon and Machiavelli: the need for the prince to display himself to his subjects; and the need for the appearance of religion.

    The line about the good ruler being a “seeing law” for human beings is important. Cyrus understands that he is an example to his men and takes great pains to appear a certain way. I think a lot hinges on what “good ruler” means here. Is he more like what Machiavelli says of Hannibal–that he kept military order due to his “inhuman cruelty?” Or is he more like a benign, noble figure (which is how he is often interpreted)? As we have discussed before, a lot also hinges on whether a prince needs to appear one way to his soldiers and another way to his subjects.

    The stuff about religion is crucial. Cyrus makes sacrifices to the gods a huge priority. Whatever he believes about the gods, public religion is absolutely vital in terms of preserving the image that he has cultivated. An interesting Machiavellian parallel might be Ferdinand the Catholic, who made “use” of religion, especially via his “pious cruelty.”

    All of this likely suggests how much Machiavelli learned from Xenophon!

    KH

  2. Superb website

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[…]…

  3. Websites we think you should visit

    […]although websites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we feel they are actually worth a go through, so have a look[…]…

  4. POLANDFE.PL says:

    Sources

    […]check below, are some totally unrelated websites to ours, however, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]…

  5. Awesome website

    […]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]…

  6. Read was interesting, stay in touch…

    […]please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web[…]…

  7. Recommeneded websites

    […]Here are some of the sites we recommend for our visitors[…]…

  8. Sites we Like…

    […] Every once in a while we choose blogs that we read. Listed below are the latest sites that we choose […]…

  9. Links

    […]Sites of interest we have a link to[…]…

  10. Superb website

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[…]…

  11. Sources

    […]check below, are some totally unrelated websites to ours, however, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]…

  12. Sites we Like…

    […] Every once in a while we choose blogs that we read. Listed below are the latest sites that we choose […]…

  13. Websites you should visit

    […]below you’ll find the link to some sites that we think you should visit[…]…

  14. halodoktorze says:

    Cool sites

    […]we came across a cool site that you might enjoy. Take a look if you want[…]…

  15. click here says:

    Great website

    […]we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[…]…

  16. Related…

    […]just beneath, are numerous totally not related sites to ours, however, they are surely worth going over[…]…

  17. You should check this out

    […] Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a few unrelated data, nevertheless really worth taking a look, whoa did one learn about Mid East has got more problerms as well […]…

  18. Related…

    […]just beneath, are numerous totally not related sites to ours, however, they are surely worth going over[…]…

  19. subsidie nam says:

    Websites we think you should visit

    […]although websites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we feel they are actually worth a go through, so have a look[…]…

  20. You should check this out

    […] Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a few unrelated data, nevertheless really worth taking a look, whoa did one learn about Mid East has got more problerms as well […]…

  21. Visitor recommendations

    […]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[…]…