Vol. 21 (2023)

Anger of the masses and anger of individuals: analyzing and comparing Thucydides and Xenophon

Roberto Nicolai
University «La Sapienza», Rome

Published 2024-01-31


  • Thucydides,
  • Xenophon,
  • anger,
  • psychology of the masses,
  • emotions


In Thucydides the angry reaction of collectivities of citizens and soldiers is frequently emphasised and in the speeches characters often argue about the danger of decisions taken under the influence of anger. Thucydides’ attention to the psychology of the masses is also important in relation to his overall plan of analysing events that may occur in compliance to the human nature (1.22.4: κατὰ τὸ ἀνθρώπινον). In Xenophon there is no lack of angry collectivities but the focus is mainly on emotions of the individuals coming to decisions in a state of anger and thus suffering the consequences. An exemplary case is that of Cyaxares in the Cyropaedia, proposed by Xenophon as a negative paradigm and compared with the exemplary behaviour of Cyrus the Great. Rather than the control of the masses – a typical concern of Thucydides – Xenophon focuses on the education, character and behaviour of those in power.