For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Memorabilia. Oeconomicus. Symposium. Apology

by Xenophon (1997)

Key Passage

(Memorabilia) “And which do you think are the better, his slaves or your free folk?”“My free folk, I think.”“Then isn’t disgraceful that he does well by his lower types while you with your better types are in difficulty?”“Of course his dependants are skilled workers while mine have had a liberal education.”“What is a skilled worker? one who knows how to produce something useful?”“Certainly.”“Are groats useful?”“Yes, very.”“And bread?”“No less so.”“What about men’s and women’s coats, shirts, jackets, tunics?”“Yes, all these things too are very useful.”“Then don’t the members of your household know how to make any of these?”“I believe they can make all of them.”“Then aren’t you aware that by manufacturing one of these commodities, namely groats, Nausicydes supports not only himself and his family but large herds of pigs and cattle as well, and has so much to spare that he often undertakes costly public works; that Cyrebus feeds his whole family well and lives in luxury by baking bread, Demeas of Collytus by making jackets, Menon by making cloaks; and that most of the Megarians make a good living out of tunics?” “Yes, of course; they buy foreign slaves and can force them to make what does well, but my household is free folk and relatives.”  (p.161)


Xenophon, Ancient Greece, Slavery, Freedom, Family, Household


Ancient Greece

Links to Reference


E. C. Marchant and O. J. Todd



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