Sophronein in Xenophon's Spartan Constitution (Lakedaimonion Politeia)

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Xenophon's Spartan Constitution mentions the virtue sophrosune only once, indicating that Spartan teenage boys, in the Lycurgan constitution, have more of it than women (Lac. Pol. 3.4-5). This is despite its being a watchword for Sparta; a common term of praise for Xenophon, for instance in his biography of the Spartan king Agesilaus and his apologetic writings on Socrates; and its serving as organizing virtue in other instances or developments of the "Spartan constitutions" genre: the fragments of Critias' earlier Lakedaimonion Politeia; the much later Life of Lycurgus of Plutarch, and the nearly contemporaneous Politeia of Plato. I show that Xenophon uses the term sophrosune in two principal ways: it is the broad virtue of being norm- guided, and it is also the "modesty" or "quietness" of boys and women following the subset of norms connected to the avoidance of self- assertion. The questionable value of the latter way, what we find in this work, depends on the obvious value of the former. In this chapter, I argue that Xenophon's Spartan Constitution contains, even if not intentionally, helpful reflections on sophrosune, as a virtue constitutive of selfhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationXenophon, the Philosopher
Subtitle of host publicationArgumentation and Ethics
PublisherPeter Lang AG
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783631891773
ISBN (Print)9783631890059
StatePublished - Feb 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities

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