Ancient thoughts on tyranny: A reading of Xenophon's “Hiero”

Mango M Meier, Purdue University


This dissertation is above all else a close textual commentary on Xenophon's Hiero, one of very few works in ancient philosophy devoted exclusively to a discussion of tyranny. A drama akin to Plato's dialogues, the meaning of the Hiero is far from unambiguous, and this fact warrants a fastidious approach to the text. I argue that Xenophon composed the dialogue to show how the wise man (Simonides of Ceos here) makes use of his wisdom, of his ability quickly to penetrate other men's souls, in order to bring about ends desired by him and those like him. Simonides, I argue, manipulates the tyrant Hiero of Syracuse by exploiting his love of victory and gain, and he does so in order to induce Hiero to modify his tyrannical regime in such a way as to allow free inquiry to survive while not disturbing the general integrity of the regime. I end my thesis by arguing that Xenophon intended his dialogue to display in microcosmic form the perennial rivalry between the wise and rulers of the Earth as well as the sort of strategy this struggle forces upon philosophers who perennially fight for favorable conditions in which to seek truth.




McBride, Purdue University.

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