For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Memorabilia. Oeconomicus. Symposium. Apology

by Xenophon (1997)

Key Passage

(Oeconomicus)“I’m telling you this,” continued Socrates, “because not even the wealthiest can do without farming. For the pursuit of it is in some sense a luxury as well as a means of increasing one’s estate and of training the body in all that a free man should be able to do. In the first place, the earth yields to cultivators the food by which people live; she yields besides the luxuries they enjoy. Secondly, she supplies what they use to decorate altars and statues and themselves, along with most pleasant sights and scents. Thirdly, she produces or feeds the ingredients of many delicate dishes; for the art of breeding stock is closely linked with farming; so that men have victims for propitiating the gods with sacrifice and cattle for their own use. And though she supplies good things in abundance, she does not allow them to be won without work, but she accustoms men to endure winter’s cold and summer’s heat. She gives increased strength through exercise to those who labor with their own hands, and hardens the overseers of the work by rousing them early and forcing them to move about briskly. For on a farm no less than in the city the most important operations have their fixed times. Again, if a man wants to defend his city by serving in the cavalry, farming is his most efficient partner in furnishing upkeep for his horse; if in the infantry, it energizes his body. (p.427)


Xenophon, Ancient Greece, Knowledge, Education, Learning, Wealth, Agriculture, Farming


Xenophon Citations, Ancient Greece

Links to Reference


E. C. Marchant and O. J. Todd



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