Xenophon—Œconomick: I

Western Thought

Xenophon—a student of Socrates—writes the first work on the study of economics.

We agreed in the first Place, said Socrates, that Oeconomy is the Name of a Science; and we defined it to be that Science, which teaches Men to increase their Houses; and by Houses we agreed is meant whatever a Man possesses and enjoys; that is to say, his whole Estate.



A Treatise
On The
Management of an Estate and a Household.

I. Critobulus—Science of Oeconomy.


I have likewise heard Socrates discoursing to the following Purpose, concerning the Management of an Estate, and of Houshold Affairs.


TELL me, said he, Critobulus, is Oeconomy the Name of any Art or Science, as Physick is, or as the Trade of a Brasier, or a Carpenter?

In my Opinion it is, said Critobulus.

And as we say of any one of those Arts, said Socrates, that such or such a Thing is a Work which properly belongs to it, may we affirm likewise what is the particular Business of an Oeconomist?

Critobulus answered: The proper Office of an Oeconomist seems to me to consist in the well-managing of his Estate, and Family.

And cannot such a Man, continued Socrates, manage well the Estate and Family of another, if they are committed to his Care, as well as his own: for he that follows the Trade of a Carpenter, can work in the same Manner for others, as he does for himself: And can a Man, who is skillful in Oeconomy, do so too?

I am of Opinion that he may, answered Critobulus.

According to what you say, continued Socrates, a Man who is knowing in this Art, though he have no Estate, no House of his own, may hire himself out to manage the Estate and domestick Affairs of others, even as Carpenters agree with other Men to build Houses for them at a certain Price?

Most certainly he may, answered Critobulus, and will deserve the larger Reward, the better and the more frugally he governs the House and Family committed to his Charge.

Socrates asked him farther. What do you mean by a House and Family? Only the Place where a Man dwells; or do you include under that Denomination all his Goods and Possessions wherever they are?

I think, answered Critobulus, that under the Word House, is comprehended, not only the Dwelling-House, in which a Man and his Family inhabit, but likewise all the Estates, Goods, Possessions and Effects, in short whatever a Man hath, even though it do not lie in the same City and Country where the Owner himself lives.

But have not some Men Enemies?

Indeed have they, and a great many, answered Critobulus.

And are their Enemies to be reckoned as Part of their Goods and Possessions?

It would be ridiculous in any Man, said Critobulus, to ask a Reward of me for increasing the Number of my Enemies.

But yet we agreed but now, that whatever a Man hath, is included under the Name of his House or Possessions.

That is to say, said Critobulus, what good Thing soever a Man possesses; for I do not call any Thing he has, that is hurtful to him, Part of his Estate.

You seem, said Socrates, to allow that only which is useful to a Man, to be his Estate?

Certainly, answered Critobulus: For whatever is hurtful, is rather a Detriment, than an Estate.

Socrates went on: If a Man buys a Horse, and knows not how to ride him; but is thrown by him, and hurts himself, is that Horse Part of his Estate?

No: For a Man’s Estate must be something that is Good, and of use to him.

At this Rate, said Socrates, even Land is not an Estate to a Man, who Tills it to his own Loss?

Indeed, said Critobulus, I cannot think that even our Land can justly be esteemed Part of our Estate, if, since it ought to be the Means of our Support, it be the Cause that we want Bread.

And shall we say the same of Sheep, continued Socrates; and that if any Man, not knowing how to manage his Flock, lose by it, neither his Sheep ought to be reckoned as Part of his Estate?

Critobulus answered: They would in that case seem to me not to be Part of it.

You are then of Opinion, said Socrates, that what brings any Profit, is an Estate; and that what is prejudicial is not?

I am.

The same Things therefore are an Estate to a Man who knows how to use them, continued Socrates, and not an Estate to him, who is ignorant what Use to put them to? And thus a Parcel of Flutes are Part of an Estate to a Man who knows how to play upon them: But to him who cannot, they are of no more use than so many worthless Stones, unless he sells them.

I think so, answered Critobulus: For of what Profit are a Parcel of Pipes to him who keeps them by him, and knows not how to play upon them? But if such a Man sells them, they are then Part of his Estate: And thus we both of us agree in this; that only what is useful is an Estate; for if the Pipes are not sold, they are not any Part of an Estate, being of no Use whatever: But when they are sold, they become a Possession.

To which Socrates replied: Provided a Man knows how to sell them: For if he sell them to one who knows not how to use them, even when they are sold, according to what you say, they are not an Estate.

You seem to say, Socrates, that Money itself is not an Estate unless a Man knows how who makes to use it.

And you too, said Socrates, seem to confess with me that those Things only are an Estate, by which a Man can reap any Profit: Now if any Man imploys his Money, for Example, to purchase himself a Harlot, and by that Means both his Body and Soul are prejudiced, and his Estate worse managed and impaired; how can it be said that Money is of any Use to such a Man? It may with equal Reason be said, that we ought to reckon as Part of our Estate the Herb Henbane, of which whoever eats, is sure in some Measure to lose his Senses.

Most certainly, Critobulus, the Money a Man hath, unless he knows how to make a right use of it, ought not to be deemed among his Goods and Possessions.

But what shall we say Friends are to a Man who knows how to manage them so, as to make them of Advantage to him?

Friends, said Critobulus, are indeed an Estate, a more valuable possession than Herds and Flocks; for a greater Advantage may be gained by them.

Socrates replied: Then it seems you believe even Enemies to be an Estate to him, who knows to make his Profit of them?

Critobulus answered, I do. It is then the Duty of a good economist, to know how to manage his Enemies in such a Manner, as to reap some Profit by them?

No doubt of it. And you see too, Critobulus, how many private Families are raised, how many Estates are got by War, how many by the Favour of Tyrants?

All these Things seem to me to be most true, said Critobulus; but what shall we say to this, that we see some Men, who are versed in the Sciences, and have it in their Power to increase their Estates by making Profession to instruct others, and yet refuse to do so; and thus all their Knowledge is of no Use to them? Can it be said that the Sciences are to them a Possession or Estate?

You speak, said Socrates, of Men who are not born free?

Not in the least, answered Critobulus: But there are Men, who are descended of very good Families, some of whom are skilled in the Affairs of War, others in the Arts of Peace, and yet will practise none of them; in my Opinion for this Reason, that they may not subject themselves to Masters, and be under the Command of others.

How can they, said Socrates, be esteemed to be without Masters, since desiring to acquire Happiness, and being able to do such Things as would be profitable to them, they are hindered from that Attempt by those who command them?

And who are they, said Critobulus, who though they cannot be seen, have any Command over them?

On the contrary, replied Socrates, they are not invisible, but manifestly apparent, nay, and very ill Masters too, as you yourself must own, if you will allow Sloth, Idleness, and Effeminacy to be Evils: And there are certain Tyrants to whom some Men are in perpetual Slavery, as Gaming, idle and unprofitable Conversations, and the like: These boast themselves to be real Pleasures; when even they who are deceived by their counterfeit Allurements, at length discover the Cheat, and find them to be real Mischiefs. Some Men indeed there are, who suffer not themselves to be seduced by them; but earnestly apply themselves to Things that are profitable and capable of increaseing their Fortunes; yet even these sometimes waste their Estates, and are oppressed with Indigence and Want: Some of them are Slaves to Luxury, others to Lust; some to Drunkenness, others to certain vain and expensive Ambitions; all which exercise so cruel a Tyranny over those they hold in Subjection, that while they find them to be young and able to increase their Store, they compel them to bring all their Gains to them, and to lavish it away on their sinful and restless Desires: But when they perceive that Age comes on, and renders them incapable of getting any more, they abandon them to pass their old Age in Misery and unavailing Sorrow, and procure themselves other Slaves: But if Men were wise, Critobulus, they would struggle and contend against them to preserve their Liberty, no less than against those open Enemies, who by Force of Arms endeavour to reduce them into Slavery. For brave and generous Enemies, though all they subdue become their Slaves, yet make many of them better Men by correcting them, and are often the cause that they live more easily afterwards: But those other imperious Masters never cease cruelly to destroy and ruin the Bodies, Minds, and Estates, of all Men as long as they have the Command over them.

Here Critobulus interrupting Socrates, said: You have sufficiently forewarned me of suffering myself to fall into the Hands of such Masters; And indeed, when I reflect on my own Inclinations, I hope there is no Danger of my being seduced by them, and I believe I have so much the Command of myself as not to fall into such ill Hands: Therefore if you will teach me how to augment my Estate, I dare promise you that those Masters shall never hinder me in the Pursuit of the Instructions you shall think fit to give me: I intreat you therefore to impart to me what you know of this Matter; or do you think that we are rich enough not to need any Addition to what we have?

Indeed, said Socrates, if you speak of me as well as of yourself, I take myself to be rich enough, and to need no more than what I have: But you, Critobulus, seem to me to be extremely poor, and believe me, I sometimes pity you very much.

Critobulus, smiling, asked him this Question: How much do you think you could have for all you are worth in the World, and how much I, for what I have?

Socrates answered; If I were to sell what I have, House and All, I believe, if I met with a good Chapman, I might have five Minas for it. But I know well enough that you may have a hundred Times as much for your Estate.

And if you know this, said Critobulus, how can you think your self rich enough, and at the same Time pity Me because I am poor?

Because, said Socrates, what I have is sufficient to supply me plentifully with all I have Need of: But to make the Appearance and live at the Rate you do, I should not think you had enough, even though you had thrice as much as you have.

Why so? said Critobulus:

Socrates answered: In the first Place, I see you under a Necessity of offering many and rich Sacrifices? otherwise you would be neither acceptable to the Gods, nor beloved of Men: Then you cannot avoid receiving into your Family many Foreign Guests, and entertaining them magnificently: And you must frequently give Treats to your Fellow-Citizens, otherwise they will not assist you in your Designs, nor promote your Interests. Besides, I understand that our Government obliges you now to a great Expence, by commanding you to keep Horses, to give publick Concerts of Musick, to preside in the Games and Exercises, to take into your Protection those that are destitute of Friends, and if a War should break out, I know you would be obliged to furnish a certain Number of Galleys at your own Expence, and to pay such Taxes besides, that you would find it very difficult to subsist: And I know that if you behaved yourself in any thing otherwise than you ought to do, the Athenians would shew you no more Mercy, than if they had convicted you of robbing the publick Treasure. I further see that you take yourself to be rich, and therefore neglect the Opportunities of increasing your Wealth; and that you indulge yourself a Liberty in your Amours, that ought not to be taken: For these Reasons I pity you, and fear some irretrievable Misfortune will happen to you, and that you will be reduced to great Want. As for me, if I were in Need of any Thing, you cannot but be satisfied, that I should not fail to find Friends, who would abundantly supply my Necessities, since so little is needful to support me in my Way of Life: But your Friends, even though they are richer than yourself, look upon you, nevertheless, as a Man by whom they expect to be Gainers.

To this Critobulus made the following Answer: I have nothing to object against what you say, Socrates, and that I may not at length be indeed miserable, I desire you to take Care of my Affairs.

Which when Socrates heard, he said: Is it not strange, Critobulus, that you so soon change your Opinion, and own your self in the Wrong; you, who but a Moment ago, laughed at me for saying I was richer than you are, as if I had been a Man who knew not wherein Riches consist; nay, and would not give over till you had compelled me to own, that I have not the Hundredth Part of your Income; is it not strange, I say, that you now desire me to take Care of your Affairs, that you may not indeed fall into Poverty?

Critobulus answered: I see, Socrates, that you perfectly understand how to get an Estate, since you can make so little go so far: And have I not Reason then to believe, that if you had a considerable Revenue to manage, you would easily procure an Abundance of all Things?

But have you forgot, said Socrates, what we agreed but just now to be true, that neither Horses, nor Land, nor Money, nor Sheep, nor any Thing else ought to be deemed as an Estate in the Hands of him who knows not how to use them? Now there is some Profit to be made of all these Things: And how can you think that I should know what Use to put them to, who never in all my Life enjoyed any of them?

But we agreed likewise, said Critobulus, that though a Man has no Estate of his own, yet he may be knowing in Oeconomy, and in the Management of the private Affairs of others: What hinders then, but that you likewise may be skilled in this Matter?

The same Thing, said Socrates, that hinders a Man from knowing how to play upon the Flute; the never having had any of his own, and no Man having ever lent him one to learn to play upon it: The same Reason will hold good why I should not be skilled in the Management of an Estate, and in the Conduct of a Family. For Riches which are the instruments, I never had, to teach me that Art; nor did any Man ever trust me with the Management of his Estate, though you now offer to put yours into my Care: But they who first learn to play upon the Harp, often put it out of Tune, and sometimes spoil the Instrument; and I in like Manner, if I should take upon me the Conduct of your Affairs, should perhaps not only put them out of Order, but intirely ruin them.

Then Critobulus: Methinks, Socrates, you seem desirous to decline giving me your Assistance, that I may the more easily support my necessary Expences.

Indeed I do not, said Socrates, but will willingly impart to you what I know of the Matter. Now I suppose, that if you came to me for Fire, and I had none; you would not blame me, if I showed you to the Place where you might have some: In like Manner, if you asked me for Water, and there happened to be none in my House; but I led you where you might get some; I should think you ought not to take it amiss of me: Again; If you desired to learn Musick of me, and I should recommend you to Masters, who were much more skilful in that Art than I am, and who would take in good Part your Desire, that they should instruct you, what could you find Fault with in this my Conduct?

I should have no Reason, Socrates, to blame any Thing in it.

Therefore, Critobulus, I will bring you to Men, who are far more knowing than myself, in what you so earnestly desire to learn. I have carefully applied myself to know, who in this City are the most skilful in every Thing: For haveing observed, That Men, who followed the same Trade and Imploymenr, were some of them very poor, some rich: This seemed strange to me, and I thought it worth my While to inquire into the cause of it; and upon Inquiry, I found that it could not well be otherwise: For I observed that some of them worked negligently, and with an Ill-will, and that the Labour of these often turned to their Prejudice; while others, who wrought carefully, and with a contented Mind, dispatched their Work the sooner, the more easily, and to their greater Profit. The Example of these last may, if you yourself will, and God do not refute his Assistance, be an Instruction to you, and help to teach you how to improve your Estate.

Critobulus hearing this, cried out: Now, Socrates, I will not leave you, till in the Presence of these Friends of ours, you have instructed me in what you promised.

Suppose, said Socrates, I should first let you see that some Men build themselves spacious, but ill-contrived Houses, which cost them a great deal of Money: While others for a much smaller Expence, build themselves less, that have all the Conveniencies they ought to have; will you not then confess that I have taught you one of the Ways that may conduce to the good Management of an Estate?

Indeed I will, said Critobulus.

What if I should teach you in the next Place something that is the consequence of what I last mentioned? I mean, that there are some, who have a great Quantity of all Sorts of Household Goods, and yet are at a Loss to find what they want, when they have occasion to use it; and do not so much as know whether all Things be save in their Possession or not; and for these Reasons create much uneasiness both to themselves and their Families: while others, who are not near so well stocked as they, have every Thing in the Way, and ready for use when they want it.

What can be the Reason of this, Socrates, but that the first throw their Goods carelesly up and down; while the others are careful to keep every Thing in its proper Place?

You are in the right, said Socrates.

Then Critobulus added; You seem to mention this as one of the Things that ought to be observed in order to the good conduct of a Family?

I do so, said Socrates: But what will you say, if I shew you in one Family, Servants kept as it were in Chains, and nevertheless frequently running away: And in another, all of them left at their own Liberty, and yet willing to stay, and doing their Work with Chearfulness, do you not think this a Matter that deserves Consideration in the Conduct of domestick Affairs?

Most certainly it does, said Critobulus.

What if I let you see several Persons Tilling their Land in the same Manner, some of whom are undone by their Agriculture, and fall into Poverty; while others by the same Method plentifully supply themselves with all they want?

This may happen, answered Critobulus: For perhaps the first of them lavish away what they get; and that too not only on Things that are useful, but on such as are of no Service, and even hurtful to themselves and their Families.

I believe there are some who do so, said Socrates, but it is not of them that I am speaking; but of such as make Profession of Husbandry, and yet get not enough to buy themselves Necessaries.

And what can be the Reason of this, Socrates?

I will bring you to them, said Socrates, and then yourself shall judge.

If I am able, said Critobulus, to discover the cause of it.

You must therefore go along with me, and see whether you are or no. But I remember you used to rise very early in a Morning, and go a great Way to see a Comedy; nay, you have even prevailed with me to go, and be a spectator with you: But you were never the Man to advise me to go and be a witness of any of those Things that I have been proposing to you.

In which I suppose, Socrates, you take me to have been much to blame?

I believe you think so as well as I, said Socrates: But what if I should show you some, who have reduced themselves to Poverty by dealing in Horses; and others who live in Plenty of all Things by Means of that Traffick; and moreover take great Delight in it?

I too, said Critobulus, have both seen and known some of either of these Sorts of Men; but have not therefore been ever the more in the Number of those, who have got any Thing by Horses.

The Reason of which, said Socrates, has been, because you have seen them with no other Design, than you go to see the Actors of Tragedies and Comedies; which I do not think you do, that you may learn to be a Poet; but only to divert yourself, and because you take Delight in seeing them, and in hearing what they say: And in this I do not blame you: For it is not your Business to become a Poet. But since you are under a Necessity of keeping Horses, is it not a Folly in you, to take no Care to become skillful in them, especially since if you were so, you would not only have the Advantage of using them in your own Service, but might make a Profit likewise by selling them?

Would you have me learn to break Colts, Socrates?

I would have you, said he, buy them, when they are Colts, and train them up to Till your Land, and for your other Uses: For in my Opinion there is a certain Age when Horses as well as Men become fit for Business, and improve and grow better upon our Hands. But farther: I can shew you likewise some Men, who govern their Wives in such a Manner, that by their Assistance they increase their Riches; and others so, that they are ruined by them.

To which Critobulus: But in that case, Socrates, is the Fault to be laid on the Husband, or on the Wife?

Socrates answered, If our Flocks be in an ill condition, we generally blame the Shepherd: If any Man receive Any Hurt from a vicious Horse, we commonly accuse the Rider who first broke him: If a Wife, who is well instructed by her Husband, behave herself amiss, she deservedly incurs the Blame: But if her Husband have not taught her what she ought to do, and she sails in the Duty of a good Wife, may not the Fault be justly laid at his Door?

Certainly it ought, Critobulus: But we are none here but Friends, therefore pray answer me truly: Is there any one to, whom you would rather chuse to trust your chief Concernments, than to your Wife?

To none, said he.

Is there any one, with whom you converse less than with her?

If less, said he, with none at all, at least with not many.

Did you marry her very young, and before she had had some Experience in the World, or had been told how to behave herself?

Yes, I did.

It is then a greater Wonder if she knows what she ought to say or do, than if she fails both in her Words or Actions.

But, Socrates; Did they, who you say have good Wives, instruct them how to behave themselves?

This deserves to be considered, said Socrates: But I cannot do better than recommend you to one who knows these Matters much better than I do: Yet my Opinion is, that a Wife, who is a good Companion in a Family, ought to be as careful for their mutual Advantage, as the Husband himself. For generally the Man takes Care that the House be supplied with Provisions and other Necessaries, and the greatest Part of them is consumed at the Discretion of the Wife; and if they are frugally managed, the Family thrives in the World; if otherwise, it falls to decay. But I believe I can show you some excellent Workmen in every Trade, if you desire that I should do so.

What need of that, Socrates, said Critobulus? For besides, that it will be very difficult to find those that excel in every Art, I cannot see the Necessity of it, since no one Man can pretend to learn them all. If you think fit therefore, tell me only which of them you think most honourable, and will best suit with my Condition, in Case I should think fit to follow them; and afterwards you may carry me to those who prosess those Occupations.

Socrates answered: You are in the right, Critobulus; for the mean Trades and Imployments, that are called sordid, are looked upon as dishonourable; and deservedly not much valued in Cities and Commonwealths: Because they ruin their Constitution who make Profession of them, by obliging them to be always sitting, and to live within Doors; and some Tradesmen must be all Day long by a Fire Side. Now is their Bodies become effeminate and tender, their Minds likewise will grow weak and infirm: Besides, those illiberal Arts have so many Occupations, such constant Imployment; that such as follow them, can neither be serviceable to their Friends, nor to the Republick, but are useless to the one, nor can they defend the other. Therefore in some Cities, especially in those that are engaged in War, it is not permitted to any of the Citizens to follow these sordid Imployments:

But which, Socrates, do you think most proper for us to follow?

Let us not be ashamed, nor think it a Disgrace to follow the Example of the King of the Persians: For it is reported of him, that believing Agriculture and the Art of War to be very honourable and most necessary, he applies himself with great Diligence to both of them.

Critobulus hearing this, said: And do you believe, Socrates, that the King of the Persians troubles himself with the Affairs of Agriculture?

Socrates answered: If we consider this as we ought, we shall perhaps be able to judge, whether he concern himself with that Business, or not. Now we own him to be very diligent and active in the Affairs relating to War, because in all the Countries and Provinces that are tributary to him, the Satraps or Chief Governors are ordered to keep in Pay such a certain Number of Cavalry, Archers, Slingers, and Targeteers, as are sufficient to keep his Subjects within the Bounds of their Duty, and to defend his Dominions from the insults of his Enemies: Besides these, he maintains Garisons in his Fortresses and Castles, that are supplied with provisions by officers appointed for that Purpose: The King himself once a Year visits the Garisons and reviews the other Troops; who all of them, except some that are left to defend the fortified Towns and Castles, assemble at certain Places, where their Rendezvous is appointed; and he himself inspects such of them as are not far distant from the Places of his Residence, and sends some trusty persons to review the others. Such Governors of the Garisons, as well as Tribunes and other Officers, as muster their full complement of Men, and whose Troops are well appointed with Horses and Arms, he takes Care to reward with Gifts and Honours: But such Governors of his Provinces as are found to neglect the Garisons, and to be intent only on their own private Profit, he severely punishes, takes their Commands from them, and appoints others in their Places. Now in observing this Method, does he not show himself to be diligent and knowing in the Affairs of War? Moreover; he takes particular Notice in what Condition every Thing is, in those Parts of his Dominions which he travels through himself; and takes Care to have an Account of the others, from persons whom he sends, on purpose, and in whom he can confide: And whatever Provinces he finds to be populous, and the Land well cultivated and improved; and planted with proper Fruits and Trees, according to the Nature of each Soil, he Rewards the Governors of those Provinces by enlarging the Extents of their Governments, by Presents that he bestows upon them, and by allowing them the most honourable Places in the Assemblies of the States: But those Governors whose Countries he finds untilled and thin of Inhabitants, either by Reason of the Severity of their Government, or thro’ their Remissness and Neglect, he discards with Ignominy, lays Fines upon them, and appoints other Governors in their Room. Now behaving himself in this Manner, is it not evident, that he makes it his Business to have his Dominions cultivated by the Inhabitants, and well guarded by his Troops: And he has different Governors for each of those purposes; some who preside over the Inhabitants, whose Business it is to Labour and Till the Ground; and who collect the Subsidies from them: Others whose sole Office is to preside over the Troops: And if any one of these neglect his Duty in the Defence of the Country, the Governor of the Peasants complains of him, that for want of being protected from the Insults of Enemies, they could not continue their Labours: But if the Governor of the Troops take Care so to defend the Country, that the Peasants may go on with their Works quiet, and undisturbed, and the Country be nevertheless untilled and thinly inhabited, he too in his Turn accuses the other Governor. For generally they who neglect the Tillage of their Land, can neither supply the Troops with Provisions, nor pay the Tributes to their Prince. But whenever a Governor is appointed with the Character of Satrapa, or Lord Lieutenant, he has the Care and Command both of the one and the other.

In my Opinion, said Critobulus, if the King observe this Method, he is equally careful of the Agriculture of his Dominions, and of his Troops and Affairs of War.

Besides, says Socrates, in all the Places where he resides himself, and wherever he goes in person, he takes Care that there be those Sorts of Gardens, that they call Paradises, and that are stocked with all the delightful Things that the Earth can produce, either for ornament or Use: And in this Imployment he spends much of his Time, when the Season of the Year is proper, and the Weather will permit.

Certainly, said Critobulus, the Inhabitants of those Countries, which the King himself inspects, will strive to out-do one another in keeping their Paradises in good Order, and planted with the best of Fruits. Socrates continued. It is reported too, Critobulus, that when the King intends to give Rewards, he causes to be brought into his presence, first those who have signalized themselves in War; because it would be to no Purpose to have the Land well tilled, if there were none to defend the Tillers, and protect the Fruits of their Labours. And the King himself often says, That even the Brave cannot subsist, unless there be Peasants to Till the Ground. And it is reported that Cyrus, that most glorious Prince, said once to those whom he had sent for, to receive these Rewards; that they were justly due to himself on both Accounts; because he could not only put a Country into good Order, and render it Fruitful, but keep it so, and defend it too, when he had done.

Upon which Critobulus said, By this Expression Cyrus shewed, That he valued himself no less for his Skill in Agriculture, than sot his Knowledge in the Art of War.

Socrates added: Indeed if Cyrus had lived, it is likely he would have surpassed all his Predecessors: One Proof of this among many others is, That during the whole Expedition, while he was contending with his Brother for the Kingdom; not a Man forsook him to go over to the King, though many Thousands deserted from the King to him. And I take it to be a convincing Argument of the Merit and Capacity of a General, when his. Troops chearfully follow him, and stand by him in the greatest Dangers. And while Cyrus was alive, his Friends never abandoned him; and when he was slain, they were all killed fighting round his dead Body; all, I say, except only Ariœus, who was posted in the Left Wing of the Army: And Lysander himself assured a certain Person at Megara, that when he was sent with Presents to this Cyrus, among other Tokens of Civility, which he received from him, that Prince was pleased to shew him himself the Gardens he had at Sardis: And thatLysander admiring the Beauty of the Trees and Plants, the exact Order in which they were planted, the Regularity of the Walks and Parterres, and the delightful Variety of the Whole, together with the many and fragrant Odours, that breathed their delicious Sweets upon them, as they walked along;Lysander, I say, surprized at all this, said to the Prince: Indeed,Cyrus, I am astonished at the beauty of all I see; but much more at him, who could contrive and dispose all these Things in this beautiful Method. At which,Cyrus, well pleased, replied: I myself,Lysander, designed and measured out the whole Garden; nay, many of the Plants I planted with my own Hands, ThenLysander, casting his Eyes onCyrus, and regarding the Gorgeousness of his Robes, the Richness and Elegancy of his Collars, Bracelets, and other Ornaments, cried out: What is it you tell me,Cyrus? Did you with your own Hands plant any of these Things? To which Cyrus answered: Be not surprised at this,Lysander; for I protest to you by the great God Mithra, that when I am in Health, I never take any Manner of Food, till I have first made myself Sweat at some warlike or rural Exercise.Lysander, as he himself related it, hearing these Words, tookCyrus by the Hand, and said: You are certainly,Cyrus, the most happy of all Men. And this, said Socrates, I tell you, Critobulus, to let you see, that the greatest and most happy of Men have taken Delight in the Exercise of rural Affairs.

AGRICULTURE is an Imployment not only attended with pleasure, but Profit too; and the Practice of it procures us a robust Constitution of Body; which capacitates us to perform great Actions: The Earth supplies those that till it with Things necessary for Life, and with those also that conduce to Pleasure: It furnishes the sweetest of Odours; and the most beautiful Decorations with which we adorn the Altars and Statues of the Gods, and our own Persons. Besides, it partly produces, partly nourishes most of our Food: For Pasturage is a part of Agriculture: And by breeding Cattle we are enabled to appease the Gods with, Sacrifices, and to relieve the Necessities of Nature. And while it supplies us abundantly with good Things, it suffers us not to obtain them by Sloth and Laziness, but enures us to indure the Inclemencies of, the Seasons, the Colds of Winter, and the Heats of Summer: It encreases the Strength of those, who labour with their Hands, and renders more robust those who take Cart of the Pillage of the Ground, by obliging them to rise early in the Morning, and keeping them always employed: For both in City and Country there are at all Seasons of the Year some Actions that are most proper to be done. If a Man be desirous to serve his Country on Horseback, Agriculture teaches him how to bring up his Horse; if on Foot, it makes his Body strong and hardy. The Earth too is of some Use towards Hunting, and the Sports of the Field, since it helps to feed the Dogs, and nourishes the Beasts. And because Dogs and Horses receive some Advantage from Agriculture, they too are in their Turn useful in a Country Life: The Horse carries abroad in the Morning the Master-Husbandman, and brings him Home late at Night: The Dogs drive away the Wild Beasts, that they may not spoil the Corn, nor devour the Cattle: and thus they procure Safety in the Midst of Solitude.

The Earth too in some Measure excites its Tillers to defend their Land by Arms, since it produces Corn in the open Fields, that must yield to the Victor. And what Art renders Men more fit to contend in Running, in Leaping, and in throwing the Dart, than Agriculture? Which of the Arts bestows more good Things on those that follow it? Which of them rewards their Labours more delightfully, offering them at all Times whatever they can desire? Which of them enables us to treat our Friends with greater Plenty of all Things? Where can I’ve more easily have good Fires and warm Baths in the Winter, than in the Country? Where can any Man pass the Summer more pleasantly, in the Midst of refreshing Springs, gentle Breezes and cool Shades, than there? What other Art than Agriculture furnishes us with First-Fruits and Offerings, more acceptable to the Gods, or supplies our Festivals with greater Abundance? What other Art is more grateful to Servants, more delightful to a Wife, more pleasant to Children, more civil and hearty to Friends? It seems strange to me, that a Man of true Honour and Integrity can esteem any Enjoyment more acceptable, any Imployment more delightful, or more useful to Life.

Moreover, the Earth, which is indeed a Goddess, gives Instruction of Justice to those who thoroughly consider her: For He seems studious to make large Returns to such as cultivate her as they ought.

And if at any Time they who have-been used to the Business of Husbandry, and are by Toil and Labour come to be active and strong in Body, should be driven from their Work by the Forces of an Enemy; they will be able, with the Blessing of God, and by their own Strength and Courage, to revenge their quarrel, and by invading the Borders of those who interrupted them in their Business, to take from thence wherewith to nourish and support themselves and their Families: And in War too it is often more expedient to get Provisions by Force of Arms, than by Agriculture; which teaches us likewise mutually to assist one another: For we march against our Enemies with Troops of Men; and the Earth must be tilled by the Labour of Men: He therefore who is desirous to carry on his Agriculture with Success, must take Care that his Labourers be obedient and active: And he, who commands Forces against an Enemy, must endeavour the same Things and reward those who behave themselves as becomes Men of Honour; and punish those who are refractory, or neglect their Duty. ‘Tis likewise no less necessary that a Husbandman should sometimes encourage his Labourers by fair Words and promises, than it is for a General by the same Means to rouze up the Courage of his Troops: Nor have Servants less Need of being buoyed up by Hopes of Profit and Advantage, than Men who are free: Nay, they have more, that they may be encouraged to continue in their Service. Farther; he was much in the Right, who asserted Agriculture to be the Mother and Nurse of the other Arts: For when that is prosperously carried on, all the other Arts flourish likewise: But when through any Necessity the Land lies uncultivated; all the other Arts are at a Stand also both by Sea and Land.

Critobulus hearing this, said: All you tell me, Socrates, is very true: But many Things happen in Husbandry, which no Man can either foresee or prevent: For Hail, Frost, Heat, excessive Rains, Blights, and other Accidents often destroy the careful Peasant’s Labours: Murrains and Rots sometimes seize and carry off his Flocks and Herds of Cattle, though they be ever so carefully tended.

To which Socrates replied: I thought you knew, Critobulus, that the Gods are the supreme Disposers of rural, as well as warlike Affairs: And I suppose you are not ignorant, that Men who follow the Trade of War, endeavour to appease the Gods before they enter upon Action; nor that they inquire by Sacrifices and Auguries what they ought, or ought not to do: And do you think, that in the Affairs of Agriculture, you ought to be less careful to render the Gods propitious, and to implore their Blessings on your Labours: You ought to be thoroughly persuaded, that Men, who are truly wise, worship the Gods for the Sake of their green and their dry Fruits, of their Oxen, their Horses, their Sheep; in a Word, of all their Possessions.

You give me good Advice, Socrates, said Critobulus, not to undertake any thing without first imploring the Assistance of the Gods; since all the Actions and Events of War and of Peace are wholly in their Power; and I will endeavour to follow your Instructions. But now, if you please, resume the discourse you left off, and go on with what you were saying concerning the Management of an Estate, and the ordering of domestick Affairs: For I imagine that by your Counsel and Instructions, I shall be able so to manage my Estate, as to live more at my Ease.

Would you have me, said Socrates, return to those things that we have already mentioned and agreed upon? And then pursue our Subjects to see upon what we can further agree?

I should be glad you would do so, answered Critobulus.

We agreed in the first Place, said Socrates, that Oeconomy is the Name of a Science; and we defined it to be that Science, which teaches Men to increase their Houses; and by Houses we agreed is meant whatever a Man possesses and enjoys; that is to say, his whole Estate: And we allowed that whatever a Man has that is useful to Life, comes under the Denomination of his Estate: But that all Things are useful, that a Man knows how to make use of. We further agreed that all the Arts and Sciences cannot be learnt by any one Man; and that the Precession of such of them as are called sordid; is blamed and disallowed in some Cities; because they are prejudicial to the Body, and enervate the Mind: The Truth of which will evidently appear, if when an Enemy has invaded the Country, the Peasants and the Artisans were separately asked their Opinions, whether it would be best to defend the open Country, or to retire into the Towns that are fortified; for they who are employed in Agriculture; will probably give their Opinions for defending their Lands; while the Artisans will not be for fighting the Enemy; but for sitting still, according to their Way of Life, and not be willing to undertake any Fatigue, or run the least Danger. We agreed likewise that Agriculture, by Means of which Men are supplied with all the Necessaries of Life, is the most commendable Science and Occupation, that a good and honest Man can follow, and the most becoming of a Man of Honour: And we were of Opinion that it may be learnt very easily, and practised with the greatest Delight, that it procures a hale and strong Constitution of Body, and hinders not our Thoughts from employing themselves in the Interest of our Friends, and in the Service of our Country. Lastly, That by Agriculture the Mind is excited to Courage; because out of the fortified Places it produces Things necessary for Life, and with them seeds those who imploy themselves in Tillage and other rural Affairs: And therefore this Sort of Life ought to be held in great Esteem by Republicks, since it furnishes them with the best subjects, and such as are most studious of the Publick Good.

Then Critobulus: I am fully persuaded, Socrates, that the best and most delightful Imployment a Man can betake himself to, is to provide Things necessary for Life by the Means of Agriculture: But you were saying, that you knew how it comes to pass, that some who follow that Occupation, abundantly supply themselves by it with all they have need of; while others manage it so ill, that it is of no Service to them: I should be glad to hear from you the Reasons of this Difference, that I may be instructed how to do what is best to be done, and to avoid what may be prejudicial to me.

Socrates replied: To this Purpose, Critobulus, it will not be amiss to relate to you at large a Conference I once had with a certain person, whom I looked upon to be indeed one of those, to whom we deservedly give the Character of honest and good Men.

I shall be extremely glad to hear it, said Critobulus, there being nothing I more earnestly desire, than to be worthy of that Character myself.

End of Part I.

—Xenophon; Edward Bysshe (translator), 1712.


[ To Part II ]

Courtesy of Democratic Thinker