For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Memorabilia. Oeconomicus. Symposium. Apology

by Xenophon (1997)

Key Passage

(Oeconomicus)“Yet again, because the earth is a goddess she also teaches righteousness to those who can learn; for the better she is served, the greater the benefits she gives in return. So if at any time those who are occupied in farming and are receiving a rigorous and manly teaching are forced by great armies to quit their lands, because they are men well prepared in mind and body, they can invade the country of those who keep them out of their own and take what they need to support themselves. Often in time of war it is safer to go armed in search of food than to gather it with farm implements. “Furthermore, farming helps to train men for collaborative effort. For men are essential to an expedition against an enemy, and the cultivation of the soil demands the aid of men. Therefore nobody can be a good farmer unless he makes his laborers both eager and obedient; and the man who leads men against an enemy must contrive to secure the same results by rewarding those who act as brave men should and punishing the disobedient. And often it is no less necessary for a farmer to encourage his laborers than for a general to encourage his men. Slaves too need the stimulus of good hopes no less, indeed even more than free men, to make them willing to stay. It has been well said that farming is the mother and nurse of the other arts. For when farming flourishes, all the other arts prosper, but whenever the land is compelled to lie barren, the other arts of landsmen and seamen alike virtually perish.” (p.429)


Xenophon, Ancient Greece, Knowledge, Education, Learning, Virtue, Farming, Agriculture, Art


Xenophon Citations, Ancient Greece

Links to Reference


E. C. Marchant and O. J. Todd



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