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The Economist   By: (431 BC - 350? BC)

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By Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns

Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans, and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land and property in Scillus, where he lived for many years before having to move once more, to settle in Corinth. He died in 354 B.C.

The Economist records Socrates and Critobulus in a talk about profitable estate management, and a lengthy recollection by Socrates of Ischomachus' discussion of the same topic.


This was typed from Dakyns' series, "The Works of Xenophon," a four volume set. The complete list of Xenophon's works (though there is doubt about some of these) is:

Work Number of books

The Anabasis 7 The Hellenica 7 The Cyropaedia 8 The Memorabilia 4 The Symposium 1 The Economist 1 On Horsemanship 1 The Sportsman 1 The Cavalry General 1 The Apology 1 On Revenues 1 The Hiero 1 The Agesilaus 1 The Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians 2

Text in brackets "{}" is my transliteration of Greek text into English using an Oxford English Dictionary alphabet table. The diacritical marks have been lost.

The Economist

by Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns


A Treatise on the Science of the Household in the form of a Dialogue


Socrates and Critobulus

At Chapter VII. a prior discussion held between Socrates and Ischomachus is introduced: On the life of a "beautiful and good" man.

In these chapters (vii. xxi.) Socrates is represented by the author as repeating for the benefit of Critobulus and the rest certain conversations which he had once held with the beautiful and good Ischomachus on the essentials of economy. It was a tete a tete discussion, and in the original Greek the remarks of the two speakers are denoted by such phrases as {ephe o 'Iskhomakhos ephen egio} "said (he) Ischomachus," "said I." (Socrates) To save the repetition of expressions tedious in English, I have, whenever it seemed help to do so, ventured to throw parts of the reported conversations into dramatic form, inserting "Isch." "Soc." in the customary way to designate the speakers; but these, it must be borne in mind, are merely "asides" to the reader, who will not forget that Socrates is the narrator throughout speaking of himself as "I," and of Ischomachus as "he," or by his name. Translator's note, addressed to the English reader.


I once heard him [2] discuss the topic of economy [3] after the following manner. Addressing Critobulus, [4] he said: Tell me, Critobulus, is "economy," like the words "medicine," "carpentry," "building," "smithying," "metal working," and so forth, the name of a particular kind of knowledge or science?

[1] By "economist" we now generally understand "political economist," but the use of the word as referring to domestic economy, the subject matter of the treatise, would seem to be legitimate.

[2] "The master."

[3] Lit. "the management of a household and estate." See Plat. "Rep." 407 B; Aristot. "Eth. N." v. 6; "Pol." i. 3.

[4] See "Mem." I. iii. 8; "Symp." p. 292.

Crit. Yes, I think so.

Soc. And as, in the case of the arts just named, we can state the proper work or function of each, can we (similarly) state the proper work and function of economy?

Crit... Continue reading book >>

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