The Institution & Life of Cyrus – Xenophon (1632) (1st edition)


The Institution & Life of Cyrus – Xenophon (1632) (1st edition)


Title: Cyrupædia The institution and life of Cyrus, the first of that name, King of Persians.
Author: Xenophon, Philemon Holland (trans)
Publisher: Printed by I L for Robert Allot, and are to be sold at the signe of the Beare in Pauls Church-yard, 1632. London. First edition of this translation, 2nd English translation overall. Impossibly rare.
Condition: Hardcover, leather mini-folio. Re-backed at a later stage, somewhat crudely. Facsimile frontispiece, some inscriptions and underlinings not affecting the text. Otherwise very good. Pages strong, binding firm.


Written about 2500 years ago in Classical Athens, Greence, The Cyrupaedia is one of the most influential political, historical and biographical works of all time. Written by Xenophon, a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, and student of Socrates.

Full title: Cyrupædia The institution and life of Cyrus, the first of that name, King of Persians. Eight bookes. Treating of noble education, of princely exercises, military discipline, vvarlike stratagems, preparations and expeditions: as appeareth by the contents before the beginning of the first booke. Written in Greeke by the sage Xenophon. Translated out of Greeke into English, and conferred with the Latine and French translations, by Philemon Holland of the city of Coventry Doctor in Physick. Dedicated to his most excellent Maiesty.

From wikipedia:

In classical antiquity, the Cyropaedia was considered the masterpiece of a very widely respected and studied author. Polybius, Cicero, Tacitus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Quintilian, Aulus Gellius and Longinus “ranked him among the best philosophers and historians”. Classical authors believed that Xenophon composed it in response to the Republic of Plato, or vice versa, and Plato’s Laws seems to allude to the Cyropaedia. Amongst classical leaders, Scipio Aemilianus is said to have carried a copy with him at all times, and it was also a favourite of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.

The Cyropaedia was rediscovered in Western Europe during the late medieval period as a practical treatise on political virtue and social organization. It became an important influence upon the late medieval and Renaissance genre known as “mirrors of princes”, which attempted to give examples of behavior in order to educate young future rulers. Giovanni Pontano, Bartolomeo Sacchi, Leon Battista Alberti and Baldassare Castiglione all treated Cyrus as an example of virtue.

The work continued to be widely read and respected in the early modern period and during the Enlightenment. Machiavelli’s The Prince, which represented a turning point towards modern political thinking, uses the mirror genre as a model, is particularly heavily influenced by the Cyropaedia, and represented a more sophisticated reading of Xenophon, apparently more critical of the idealistic approach on the surface of Xenophon’s depiction, while also reading Xenophon to be giving other more important messages about Cyrus’s use of deceit, and the danger of such men to republics. Christopher Nadon describes Machiavelli as “Xenophon’s best-known and most devoted reader”. According to Leo Strauss, Machiavelli refers to Xenophon more than the better known authors Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero put together.

Among early modern writers after Machiavelli, Montaigne, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Bacon, Jonathan Swift, Bolingbroke, Shaftesbury, Edward Gibbon, and Benjamin Franklin “all concurred with the classical view” of Xenophon’s merits as a philosopher and historian. John Milton called his works divine, and the equal of Plato. Edmund Spenser in his preface to The Faerie Queene said that “Xenophon preferred before Plato, for that the one, in the exquisite depth of his judgement, formed a Commune welth, such as it should be; but the other in the person of Cyrus, and the Persians, fashioned a government, such as might best be: So much more profitable and gratious is doctrine by example, then by rule.” Among military leaders, Gustavus Adolphus and James Wolfe were influenced by this work.

The work was also frequently taken as a model for correct prose style in classical Attic Greek, mastery of which was part of the cultivation of learning and refinement among gentlemen in eighteenth century Europe and America. For example, Thomas Jefferson had two personal copies of the book in his library, possibly for this reason.