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Though Cyrus admits he shares the common insatiable desire for money (8.2.20), Xenophon tells us that Cyrus did everything for the sake of being praised (1.2.1).  Are these claims compatible?

I think we are able to see from these two chapters, let alone the remainder of the book, that money to Cyrus, especially the desire for it is much different than what we know today. Today the desire for money is usually associated with greed, an unhealthy and negative feeling or description of a person’s actions. However, Cyrus’ desire for money stems from a much different place. Of course this assimilation of desire for money and greed was taught to us through our culture and the same goes for Cyrus his desire for money was taught to him through the laws and society of the Persians. They lived a more communal lifestyle where having money was not the end goal but instead a building block on the way to the end goal of communal success, security, and stability (1.2.2).

For the Persians the only way to secure this end goal is if each citizen is treated in the same regard no matter the issue, for example the Persian king because he is the leader must participate in war and on hunts because these are “a matter of public concern” (1.2.10). By doing so their cultural instills in its citizens that no one man can prosper if others in his society are suffering and that they all must contribute to the success of their people. This kind of equality is why “no one of them is barred by law from honors or political office” (1.2.15). The only qualification for holding office is that the citizen be a male who has attended the school of justice. Any citizen is welcome to send their child to school but they must be able to afford it. That is how money becomes a building block to the end goal for the Persians instead of the end goal its self. If a family can afford for their child to not work and help provide for the family then they can go to school, so the goal of the Persian culture would be to make everyone wealthy so they can send the children away to be properly educated.

Cyrus’ desire for money is not a personal matter but instead a communal desire, if he can acquire money than he can better the lives of those citizens he is fighting for.  This is why I believe that the claim that Cyrus does everything to be praised and the fact that he is “insatiable for money” are not competing claims (8.2.20). Cyrus’ desire for praise also stems from this communal success that he learned as a child growing up in the Persian society. Everything Cyrus gains in his conquests, labor, or risks taken he does not see as his own. The money, land, slaves, or anything else that Cyrus collects in his fighting belongs to his community, because war for the Persians isn’t for the sole purpose of the leader it is a public matter because it effects everyone. Praise for Cyrus is the one thing that he can keep for himself, if he were to keep anything else for his own it would be like stealing for the community and “if someone transgresses one of these strictures, they punish him” (1.2.2).

Praise for the Persian’s is its own kind of reward it is not like being handed money or a wife in exchange for your good deeds, being paid in riches is not as great as being rewarded praise. Praise is very rarely given to people throughout the text, it is more commonly given to the gods, for example “Persian men, first I praise the gods as much as is in my power” (4.1.2). It seems that praise is reserved for higher powers and those actions by men, which are equal to the actions of the gods. I think this is why Cyrus is mostly motivated by the possibility of being praised for his deeds, because to the Persians receiving praise from others is more rewarding and respected than receiving money or any other material reward. Praise is a personal desire for the Persians and money is a communal desire, the want for either of these things I don’t believe stems from the same place for Cyrus which is why I believe the don’t compete against one another.

19 Responses to “Praise or Money for the Persian”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    Amber,

    This is an interesting attempt to tie Cyrus’ desire for money and goods to his original Persian sentiments. I like how you suggest that Cyrus is not departing from his previous sentiments when he pursues wealth, as Persian education is impossible without wealth. So is Cyrus conquering in order to make the Persian education more widespread? That is an intriguing thesis.

    What is happening by the end of the book, though? Has Cyrus changed his intentions? Or does he still maintain the same interest in education? As I have stressed before, it is worth pondering why the book is called “The Education of Cyrus” rather than something like “The Life of Cyrus.”

    I like how you attempt to resolve Cyrus’ desire for praise and his desire for money in terms of the Persian ethic. That makes a certain amount of sense to me. But in the end is money just another means to praise for him? Would he not be praised for providing a widespread Persian education?

    Of course, another thing to think about is what happens to the Persian education once everyone becomes wealthy. It seems to fall apart. So has Cyrus failed?

    KH

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