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Seminar Greek: 'For the Form': A Comparison of Xenophon’s Anabasis and Cyropaedia


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (track Classics), with differential requirements.

Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.


Xenophon is one of the great literary experimenters of antiquity. This seminar focuses on a comparison of two of his pioneering narratives, Anabasis, often called the first war memoir, and Cyropaedia, often called the first historical or biographical novel (none of these terms fits particularly well). On the face of it, these works are actually rather similar, in that both focus on the exemplary leadership of a single character (Xenophon in Anabasis, the elder Cyrus in Cyropaedia) and are set in Persia. Yet, the differences between them in style, tone and outlook could not be more different. The question we will address in this seminar is exactly what these broadly stylistic differences are and how they relate to the wider themes of each work.

Over the course of the seminar we will read selected passages of Anabasis and Cyropaedia in Greek against the background of various narratological and linguistic approaches. We will cover both high-level structural themes (e.g. episodic structure and ‘schemata’) and more fine-grained themes (e.g. speech representation and tense usage). We will thus gradually develop a sense of Xenophon’s ‘styles’ and ideas about what modern approaches we find useful in dealing with these texts and which are less helpful. We will also consider possible sources of Xenophon’s techniques, examining how he adopts, modifies or rejects the narrative and linguistic choices of his predecessors and contemporaries. Finally, the application of modern narratological and linguistic approaches to ancient texts raises questions about historical specificities. We will therefore compare the findings of our seminar with the ancient reception of Xenophon in ancient criticism and rhetoric.

The seminar is intended to provide a solid foundation in Xenophon’s language and themes and a range of narratological and linguistic approaches. But it will also have an open and exploratory character, with ample room for discussion. After a few introductory sessions, participants are expected to introduce the various topics in brief oral presentations.

Course objectives


  • of the main aspects of Xenophon’s thought and place in Greek literary history;

  • of Xenophon’s language and narrative techniques;

  • of various paradigms of cognitive narratology and linguistics;

  • of stylistic classifications in ancient rhetoric.


  • Research: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials, analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • Critical assessment of secondary literature;

  • Oral presentation: the oral presentation will give a clear and well-argued interpretation of a specific text passage, making effective use of a handout and/or PowerPoint;

  • Written presentation: the paper will offer a clear and well-structured presentation of original research. The student must demonstrate his grasp of critical issues in recent scholarship, and assess recent scholarly contributions by confronting them with the original source material;

  • This course aims at active participation and preparation: the student demonstrates involvement in the topic by asking well-informed and constructive questions and making contributions to the collective progress, on the basis of antecedent independent preparation.


The timetable is available on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Students are required to attend the classes, to be fully prepared and to join the discussions. Students who fail more than one session without valid reason will be excluded from the course.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Contact hours 13 × 2 = 26 hours;

  • Reading of Greek text (ca. 65 pp OCT) = 50 hours;

  • Secondary Literature = 30 hours;

  • Preparation Oral Presentation = 20 hours;

  • Preparation Oral Examination = 14 hours;

  • Written Paper (about 5000 words) = 140 hours.

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours= 140 hours

  • Contact hours = 26 hours;

  • Reading of Greek text (ca. 65 pp OCT) = 50 hours;

  • Secondary Literature = 30 hours;

  • Preparation Oral Presentation = 20 hours;

  • Preparation Oral Examination = 14 hours.

Assessment method

  • Oral examination on the Greek text and topics discussed in class (30%);

  • Oral presentation (30%);

  • Paper (30%);

  • Participation (10%).

    In case of 5 EC: - Oral examination on the Greek text and topics discussed in class (50%);

  • Oral presentation (30%);

  • Participation (20%).


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, the student can either revise the paper or retake the oral examination (after consultation with the teacher). There is no resit for the oral presentation and participation. If the final mark is sufficient, the examination and paper cannot be retaken.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • the distribution of hand-outs and secondary literature.

Reading list

Students should acquire:

a critical edition of Anabasis and Cyropaedia, e.g.:

  • E.C. Marchant, Xenophontis Expeditio Cyri (OCT 1904, often reprinted)

  • C. Hude & J. Peters, Xenophontis Expeditio Cyri (Teubner 1972)

  • E.C. Marchan, Xenophontis Institutio Cyri (OCT 1910, often reprinted)

a translation of both works, e.g.:

  • Xenophon, The Expedition of Cyrus, trans. R. Waterfield (Oxford World Classics, 2005)

  • Xenophon, Anabasis, trans. C. L. Brownson & J. Dillery (Loeb, 1998)

  • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, trans. W. Miller (Loeb, 2 Vols, 1914)

  • Xenophon, The Education of Cyrus, trans. W. Ambler (Cornell, 2001)

Recommended introductory reading:

  • M.A. Flower, _Xenophon’s Anabasis or The Expedition of Cyrus _(Oxford, 2012).

  • N.B. Sandridge, Loving Humanity, Learning and Being Honored: The Foundations of Leadership in Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus (Cambridge, Mass., 2012)

  • V.J. Gray (ed.), Oxford Readings in Classical Studies: Xenophon (Oxford, 2010)

  • Relevant articles in The Living Handbook of Narratology (, e.g. ‘Cognitive Narratology’, ‘Experientiality’, Focalization’, ‘Multiperspectivity’, ‘Schemata’


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


This class is taught in English or Dutch, depending on the first language of the participants.


Dhr. Dr. L. (Luuk) Huitink: tba