A Comparison Of Cyrus The Great And Socrates

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Despite the fact that Cyrus the Great and Socrates led exceedingly different lives in

different areas of the world, both of these men were very much free thinkers and prospered in

their respective endeavors as a result of the extraordinary knowledge they possessed. In

particular, to better understand Cyrus’s ascension to and maintaining of the throne, it’s useful to

draw parallels between his knowledge and the knowledge of Socrates presented via Plato’s

Gorgias. I will argue that Cyrus’s success as leader of the world’s most powerful empire could

not have come to fruition without his utilization of the Socratic method of thought and

questioning throughout his development as a boy, youth, and mature man. Specifically, I will

connect
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As Socrates and Callicles go back and forth regarding the satisfying of

one’s appetite, Socrates points out, “He should not allow his appetites to be undisciplined or

undertake to fill them up—that’s interminably bad—and live the life of a marauder. Such a man

could not be dear to another man or to a god, for he cannot be a partner, and where there’s no

partnership there’s no friendship” (88). In this excerpt, Socrates is essentially highlighting the

fact that a man who gives into his pleasurable appetites is no longer capable of maintaining a

close connection or friendship with those around him. Applying this same framework to the way

in which Cyrus rules, it becomes clear that by not giving way to his appetites and instead

exercising self-control, Cyrus is able to create these “partnerships” and “friendships” that

comprise a vital component of his excellence in ruling. As Chapter III of Book VIII begins,

Cyrus is observed bestowing beautifully ornate cloaks upon the leaders of his army, “…he

distributed the most beautiful robes to those who were superior, he brought out still other Median

robes, for he had prepared very many…he bade them adorn their own friends with them…”

Nowrouzi
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Notice how in this instance once again the Socratic idea

of self-restraint predicating a true friendship is presented. Cyrus intentionally calls his army

leaders “friends” and places no importance on himself as to what he is wearing in a

demonstration of self-restraint to win over the favor of his army. Cyrus evidently understands the

link between self-restraint and friendship and time and time again takes advantage of it in order

to grow the Persian Empire in ways that are simply unmatched throughout history.

All in all, Cyrus the Great’s successful reign over the Persian Empire can in many ways

be attributed to the means in which he developed as a boy, youth, and mature man. In fact, the

unique development encountered by Cyrus was by no means ordinary and likely will not be

replicated by another being, let alone ruler. By following core Socratic principles including

questioning as a boy, early acquiring of wisdom as a youth, and self-restraint as a mature

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