For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Memorabilia. Oeconomicus. Symposium. Apology

by Xenophon (1997)

Key Passage

(Oeconomicus)  We thought that it is impossible to learn all the branches of knowledge, and we agreed with our cities in rejecting the so-called banausic occupations because they seem to spoil the body and enervate the mind. We said that the clearest proof of this would be evident if in the course of a hostile invasion the farmers and craftsmen were made to sit apart, and each group were asked whether they voted for defending the land or withdrawing from the open and guarding the city walls. We thought that in these circumstances the men who are occupied with the land would vote to defend it, the craftsmen not to fight but to sit still, as they have been brought up to do, and to avoid exertion and danger. We came to the conclusion that for a gentleman the best occupation and the best branch of knowledge is farming, from which people obtain what is necessary to them. For this occupation seemed to be the easiest to learn and the most pleasant to practice, to afford the body the greatest measure of strength and beauty, and to afford the mind the greatest amount of spare time for attending to the interests of one’s friends and city. Since farm crops grow and cattle graze outside the city walls, farming seemed to us to help in some measure to make those who work at it brave. And so this way of making a living appeared to be held in the highest esteem by our cities, because it seems to turn out citizens who are the bravest and most loyal to the community.”  (p.435)


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


Xenophon Citations, Ancient Greece

Links to Reference


E. C. Marchant and O. J. Todd



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