Pseudo-Xenophon, an «Old Oligarch» or a Democrat?

Tumans Harris

In the author's opinion, the main paradox of the «Athenian Politeia» consists in the fact that its author endeavoured to combine two opposite positions: those of a critic and apologist of the Athenian democracy. Firstly, not only the structure of the text is aimed to make an apology of democracy, but the greatest part of the argument is devoted to justifying the most criticised aspects of democratic rule. Consequently, in spite of the apparent ideological ambiguity, the author's main ideological trend is quite evident in the «Athenian Politeia». Secondly, this work matches well the context of contemporary sophistic rhetorics and sympotic literature, for in these genres the author was expected to take opposite positions alternately. Thirdly, it is quite possible that at that period two ideologies could have coexisted in the same mind: old aristocratic values, based upon ethical postulates, and a new democratic ideology, based upon pragmatic principles. In such a situation political thinking and patriotism could naturally lead to the victory of the new ideology, as it is attested in the «Athenian Politeia». The author concludes that Pseudo-Xenophon should be regarded as neither «young», nor «old» oligarch, but rather a democrat of aristocratic or oligarchic origin.