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Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans, and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land and property in Scillus, where he lived for many years before having to move once more, to settle in Corinth. He died in 354 B.C.

The Anabasis is his story of the march to Persia to aid Cyrus, who enlisted Greek help to try and take the throne from Artaxerxes, and the ensuing return of the Greeks, in which Xenophon played a leading role. This occurred between 401 B.C. and March 399 B.C.

516 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 401

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676 books365 followers
Xenophon (Ancient Greek Ξενοφῶν, Modern Greek Ξενοφώντας; ca. 431 – 355 BC), son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, was a soldier, mercenary and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates. He is known for his writings on the history of his own times, preserving the sayings of Socrates, and the life of ancient Greece.

Historical and biographical works
Anabasis (or The Persian Expedition)

Socratic works and dialogues

Short treatises
On Horsemanship
The Cavalry General
Hunting with Dogs
Ways and Means
Constitution of Sparta

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 518 reviews
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
447 reviews3,218 followers
May 18, 2022
Xenophon is an ambitious 20ish man from a prominent family in Athens that doesn't have money anymore because of the war with Sparta, which they lost. He agrees to his friend's Proxenus plee , urging him to fight for the treacherous Prince Cyrus, younger brother of Artaxerxes II , the Persian king in 401 B.C. With the end of the Peloponnesian War and Sparta's victory over dejected Athens, the glory has vanished . The impoverished Greeks look to the Persian Empire for any loot they can get there hands on. Cyrus doesn't tell his foreign mercenaries, the 10,000 that he wants to replace his brother as king.
The Greeks were ostensibly recruited to defeat local enemies and receive coins. When Cyrus is slain at the battle of Cunaxa, the foreigners have lost their reason for being in Persia, in a hostile nation which despises the invaders. After the Greek generals are killed by treachery, a meeting that was a bloodbath , no leaders either. Can they survive unfriendly tribes , get passed wide rivers , over high mountains, overcome snowy weather and get back to their native, wonderful Greece alive? New leaders are chosen and Xenophon becomes a general, a dubious honor in these bleak conditions. The long march continues, day after endless day, week after week , month after month, step after tired step always forward never looking back until they reach their native land with 6,000 left. But having little plunder , the mercenaries return to the Persian Empire, get rich they hope and fight in a local war, after all they're soldiers! A tremendous book that tells not only about brutal battles but even better the way the ancients lived , worked, and hated, a little love too, fought wars, not a pleasant subject yet necessary for our understanding of them, culture changes, however the human spirit remains the same...that is the problem...For those interested in history this can't be beat, written by a man who experience the horrific adventure and lived...
Profile Image for Mike.
475 reviews367 followers
December 23, 2016
The Persian Expedition (or The Anabasis, or The March Up Country) tells the story of an army of Greek mercenaries who ended up fighting for the losing side of a Persian civil war and must travel through hostile territory to return home. And this isn't a metter of just dialing up 10,000 Uber rides (besides, the surge fee would be enormous), they have to march through hundreds of miles of hostile territory with both natives and the Persian army seeking to block their way. They are completely on their own with no help on the way. It is, at the very least, a compelling story and has the benefit of actually happening.

This was certainly an interesting reading experience. The writing style was definitely not of the modern world. A good chunk of it was devoted to explaining the movements of the Greek forces through hostile territory. As in They marched X leagues to this new area and chilled for a bit. then marched another Y leagues to a new area. There was much food and supplies to be acquired. There were also some extended paragraphs of people (not characters mind you, all these people actually existed) giving speeches, there was little to no dialogue and everything was stated in a very matter of fact manner. While similar to other period books I read in terms of the structure, however I thought the prose didn't reach the same elevated level History of the Peloponnesian War reached.

One must keep in mind that this account comes to us from Xenophon, a Greek and eventual leader of the expedition. So we run the risk of leaning on this account too much since the source is rather biased. Xenophon comes off as a perfectly selfless and noble leader among men, almost too perfect. Everyone who opposes him is often shown as conniving and devious. Clearly salt should be taken when reading this account.

It is also important to remember the people on the other side of the story. Here is this 10,000 man strong mercenary force traveling through a hostile land and basically living off of it and any stored supplies they can capture. They are basically heavily armed locusts with a lot of military experience and no compunction against harming "barbarian" people. I imagine the story from their victims gives a very different account.

All in all this was an interesting read in so far as it gives a contemporary account of Greek culture and world view (for instance: the Greeks love sacrificing stuff to figure out the best course of action. there are even professional seers that travel with the army to interpret the results of the sacrifice. IT was like every other page it was time for another sacrifice). It was also a good illustration of just how decentralized everything was compared to modern nation states. Greek cities basically did their own thing even if they were bound (loosely) by a common culture. The Persian Empire was more a collection of kingdoms held in line by the central Persian authority's ability to punish or reward them, much different from even the Roman Empire. The past truly is a foreign country in many respects.

So while I wouldn't recommend this book in terms a pure entertainment, it was an illuminating look into the time and is worthwhile on that account.
Profile Image for William2.
729 reviews2,828 followers
November 28, 2011
The book is an account of Prince Cyrus's attempt in 401 BCE to replace his brother Ataxerxes II on the Persian throne. The narrative moves at a nice clip though at the expense of detail. The Ten Thousand, as the Greek mercenaries are known, advance a thousand miles from Greek Sardis in Asia Minor to Babylon only to have Cyrus die in battle and leave them stranded. I am not a big reader of military histories. This subject interested me because I had liked Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War so much. This account is not as good as that. Thucydides sought something like journalistic objectivity in his account and he had a gift for detail. Xenophon lacks any such narrative balance or descriptive acumen. In fact, much of the last half of the book might be regarded as auto-hagiography (if there is such a thing) since Xenophon was (or considered himself to be) a major player in the action. After Cyrus's death the Greeks have to fight their way back home along a much longer route. Understandably, very few native peoples are happy to let an army of this size pass unmolested through their lands, especially when plunder is a necessary means of survival for the Greeks. Xenophon proceeds by way of travelogue interrupted now and then by biographies of those significant persons, usually generals, who are killed in action. Here you will find all the elements of a spirited adventure narrative: heroism, military battle, treachery, megalomania, sacking of villages, taking of prisoners, sacrifices to the gods and so on. Especially interesting too is the soothsaying by way of animal entrails. Chapter 1 Book 6 of this translation features a fascinating account of the various dances done during a respite by the soldiers who represent all regions of Greece. My favorite passage however comes late in the book when Xenophon has to control his unruly soldiers at Byzantium. The way he assuages their anger and then talks them out of sacking the Spartan-run city is a joy to read. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Doug.
83 reviews53 followers
April 5, 2022
A bit dry in parts perhaps but a necessary read for any student or aficionado of Greek history. The story of Xenophon and his march with his fellow Greeks across the deserts and wilderness of places like modern day Iraq and Turkey is a fascinating and timeless one.

I think my biggest takeaway in reading this book was just how alien the ancient world really is to us. For all the ways we like to compare ourselves to the Ancient Greeks - their ideals of freedom of thought, democratic principles, and philosophies - the ancient world would be a completely foreign and crazy world to any modern person.

Take the amount of times the Greeks have to make a sacrifice to the gods, for instance, before a major or even minor decision. If I had played a drinking game and taken a shot every time the Greeks sacrificed to the gods in this book, I would have been dead by page 10.
Profile Image for Becky.
827 reviews157 followers
April 12, 2012
If I could have lunch with any person from history I think that Xenophon would be in my top five. He was so amazing, his spirit so impressive, his writing so eloquent, his actions so monumental. This account is beautiful. The rhetoric is stunning. It is so informative about ancient Greek military tactics, about the importance of omens (down to a sneeze during a speech), and the general disposition of ancient man, that it is an absolute must read for anyone interested in classical antiquity or military history. My favorite parts are the long speeches, they are so emotional and raw, and just breathtaking.
January 7, 2022
“Thálassa! Thálassa!”
Qualche anno fa è uscita la serie tv The Terror, che narrava della Spedizione perduta del Capitano John Franklin, che nel 1845, con le due navi della marina britannica HMS Erebus e HMS Terror, partì dall’Inghilterra alla ricerca del mitico Passaggio a Nord-Ovest.
Nel sesto episodio, le due navi sono irreparabilmente bloccate nel ghiaccio e una parte dell’equipaggio si appresta a partire per una disperata spedizione alla ricerca di aiuto. Tra questi, ci sarà tra il giovane capo coffa di trinchetto Henry Peglar. Nel corso dei preparativi, lo steward degli ufficiali, John Bridgens gli regalerà.... Xenophon’s Anabasis a.k.a The March of the Ten Thousand, e ne riassumerà mirabilmente il suo contenuto...

Nella raccolta di saggi di Italo Calvino Perché leggere i classici, pubblicata postuma nel 1991, troviamo anche il testo che costituisce l’illuminante introduzione di questo libro. Calvino racconterà dell’ansia del ritorno, dello sgomento del paese straniero, dello sforzo di non disperdersi, del concetto di patria, e naturalmente, citerà i libri della ritirata degli alpini dalla Russia durante la seconda guerra mondiale, primo tra tutti, il capolavoro di Mario Rigoni Stern.
Quando finalmente ho deciso di ‘affrontare’ questo testo, ero afflitto dalla sindrome del mattone e già mi preparavo ad accogliere la raccomandazione di Stendhal «Quelle patience il vous faudra, ô mon lecteur!».
Mi sbagliavo. E di molto.

È stata un’avventura avvincente.
Nel 401 A.C., insieme a Senofonte, Ciro e... qualche amico, opliti, peltasti, frombolieri, cavalieri, siamo partiti per questa spedizione verso l'interno dell’Impero persiano, per combattere una guerra che, in fondo, on ci apparteneva.
Abbiamo percorso oltre millecentocinquanta parasanghe, superato fiumi larghi tre pletri, ci siamo accampati a molti stadi dal nemico e abbiamo guadagnato e perso drame, darici, oboli, sigli. Offerto sacrifici agli dèi, combattuto mille battaglie, superato ostacoli imprevisti e seppellito tanti amici e compagni. E poi un giorno, Trapezunte e la vista delle acque del Mar Nero... The sea! the sea! the open sea! The blue, the fresh, the ever free! (1)
Come si può intuire... non perdemmo quindi la Trebisonda...

(1) da The sea di Barry Cornwall
Profile Image for Alp Turgut.
396 reviews122 followers
May 19, 2018
Kyros'un ağabeyi II. Artakserkes'le olan savaşında arkasına takılarak ona eşlik eden kitabın yazarı Xenophon ve önderliğindeki on binin (Hellen ordusu) geri dönüşünü sürükleyici ve destansı bir dille okuyucuya sunan "Anabasis: On Binler'in Dönüşü"nün (yaklaşık M.Ö. 370) Herodotus'un "Tarih"ine (yaklaşık M.Ö. 440) kıyasla daha az detay barındırması ve dilinin daha sade oluşu sebebiyle rahat okunabilen oldukça değerli bir tarihi eser olduğunu söylemeliyim. Özellikle Antik Yunan edebiyatını tamamlamak isteyenler için okunması gereken bir eser olan kitabın ilk iki bölümünün "Game of Thrones" serisine ilham kaynağı olduğu açıkça görülüyor. Her bölümü ayrı bir heyecan barındıran "Anabasis"in ikinci yarısı ise liderlik dersi niteliğinde. Xenophon'un tarih anlatırken bir yandan da felsefeye yer verdiği eserin okuyucuya tarihten daha fazlasını sunduğuna şüphe yok.

Ankara Yolu, Türkiye

Alp Turgut

Profile Image for Trevor.
1,279 reviews21.3k followers
July 31, 2008
Xenophon has become a bit of a fascination of mine at the moment. I’ve started reading his Socratic Conversations – which I’ll review when I finish, but am finding remarkable – and then I found this as a talking book under the title The March of the Ten Thousand. I’ve just finished listening to this. Amazing story. A group of Greek mercenaries go off to raid, rape and pillage their way through Persia, when things go awry – seriously awry. All of the leaders are killed – one after being tortured for a year – and the army of ten thousand are left with the Euphrates on one side and the king’s army on the other – and a very long way from home.

This is in part a tale of privations – but only in part. There are interesting bits where he discusses the local customs of the peoples he comes across. Also interesting were the bits where he discusses, in a remarkably off-hand manner, torturing prisoners. The homosexuality of some of the soldiers made me think of all that trouble there was in the US army a while ago over just this issue. There is a point in this book where they decide they have to get rid of all superfluous baggage, but Xenophon notes that some soldiers still hid away some pretty boys and even some women. Even women? Who'd have thought!

What I found most interesting though, was the discussions of sacrifices to see if the time was auspicious to take a particular action. It would be good to be able to think that people really didn’t believe in this nonsense, but it is utterly clear that people did believe. At the start he goes over to see his good friend Socrates to find out if he ought to go off to war and Socrates advises him to consult the Delphic Oracle – I mean, imagine! Socrates then criticises him for not asking the right question of the Oracle – and if anyone knows anything about questions, it is Socrates.

What was perhaps most human about this was that the army was united under attack throughout its journey, but became fragmented once back on Greek soil (I mean territory). And the cause of the fragmentation? Well, naturally that other great divider of humanity – Nationality. If only one could wrap all of the world's holy books in all of the world's flags and drop them somewhere out of harms way – imagine!

This was quite a boy’s own romp – not at all what I was expecting from a mate of Socrates’s. It perhaps suffers a little by being written by Xenophon and so he tends to give himself a remarkably good rap – but there are times when he goes on about his men only remembering the beatings and not remembering the praise … you know, it is funny how people are like that, totally lacking in gratitude.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,649 followers
February 27, 2013
Herodotus might have been the Father of History, but Xenophon was the cool, older brother. This one-time pupil of Socrates is one of those soldier/scholars who makes both intellectuals and warriors feel inadequate. 'The Persian Expedition' or 'March of the Ten Thousand' or 'Anabasis' (all depending on your version or translation) relates the story told by Xenophon of his experiences fighting with and leading the 10,000 Hellene mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger and the army's 3000+ mile march into Persian.

This experience, which Will Durrant once called "one of the great adventures in human history," can be read as history, adventure story, leadership manual, or a real-life application of Socratic philosophy.
Profile Image for Irena Pasvinter.
278 reviews47 followers
December 30, 2021
"The Persian Expedition" aka "Anabasis" aka "The March of Ten Thousands" is a bestselling 2400 year old military travelogue in which Xenophon described the long and dangerous journey of -- surprise, surprise -- Xenophon and the army of Greek mercenaries to Persia and back.

It feels a bit funny at first when Xenophon refers to himself in the third person, but it must have been the thing to do in his time and age, considering that Julius Caesar referred to himself as Caesar in "Bellum Gallicum".

Now there was in that host a certain man, an Athenian, Xenophon, who had accompanied Cyrus, neither as a general, nor as an officer, nor yet as a private soldier, but simply on the invitation of an old friend, Proxenus. This old friend had sent to fetch him from home, promising, if he would come, to introduce him to Cyrus, "whom," said Proxenus, "I consider to be worth my fatherland and more to me."

So Xenophon began the journey without any official position, just tagging along with his mate in hope of gaining some riches and honors. Unfortunately for the Greeks, their employer Cyrus was killed in a battle with his brother the Persian king. Pretty soon the leading Greek commanders including Xenophon's mate were lured into a trap and treacherously killed by Persians.

That's when, in truly Homeric fashion, Xenophon was prompted into action by a momentous dream sent him by Zeus himself (obviously). Xenophon took the initiative and became a central figure among those who eventually led the Greek army out of Persia back to Greece, after much fighting and plundering.

Xenophon states in no uncertain terms that the reason Greek mercenaries went with Cyrus in the first place was money and riches. He specifically mentions that most of them didn't go to war because they were really poor and had nothing to eat, but because they thought with Cyrus they could "do well for themselves". Of course, a few just loved war for the war's sake (like Clearchus the Spartan), and a few were also interested in honor and reputation (including Xenophon himself), but in general money ruled supreme.

Actually, the algorithm of the march of the ten thousands can be described in a simple flowchart:
Start going -->
Are we in the enemy territory?
--> If YES (enemy territory), fight the enemy; plunder to get supplies, capture slaves, cattle etc; if the enemy asks for truce, make them give you supplies, slaves, cattle etc. --> Nothing left to plunder anymore. --> Advance-->Repeat.
--> If NO (friendly territory), buy supplies. -->After a while, no money left. --> Sell your services to plunder surrounding enemies on behalf of your friends. Demand payment from your friends for your services in plunder, money, slaves, cattle etc.
--> Friends pay. --> Advance --> Repeat. Advance. Repeat.
--> Friends don't pay. --> Friends=enemies.-->Repeat. Advance. Repeat.

And this way you trod from one enemy/friendly territory towards the other. The algorithm is simple, but the journey is anything but dull. Besides fighting all kinds of exotic fierce tribes and equally exotic and fierce meteorological and geographical conditions, there is plenty of intrigue and powerplay between army commanders for control over the army and money and cattle and slaves.

But most importantly, every time you have to make an important decision, you sacrifice (animals, of course, or victims, as Xenophon calls them). The soothsayer examines the entrails of the sacrificed animals and declares if the conditions are favorable or not. He might also spot additional omens while he is at it -- some eagles flying around in meaningful ways etc. By the way, Xenophon claims he has also become rather adapt at the art of entrails analysis due to "experience".

Anyway, if your brain tells you the best way of action is Alpha, but your sacrifice tells you the gods are not un favor of Alpha today, you don't do the Alpha. Forget the Alpha! What you do is you sit around till tomorrow and then sacrifice again. Oops, again no luck with the plan Alpha, judging by the sacrifice. Well, let's sacrifice once again. Three times -- still no luck? Wait another day. And so it goes on, until either the sacrifice becomes favorable or you decide on the plan Beta and give up on Alpha altogether. No kidding! That's exactly how you do it. There is more than one example of the proper sacrifice-driven behavior in "Anabasis".

One can't help but wonder about the potential for manipulative power of soothsayers over the army. Still, being the mouthpiece of the gods probably wasn't the easiest of professions when things were not looking up.

To summarize: it's a fact universally acknowledged that "Anabasis" is a perfect manual on how to conquer the Persian empire. Later it would be put to a good usage by Alexander the Great. And some 2400 years after Xenophon had scribbled it down, "Anabasis" still makes for an interesting read. I wonder what Xenophon would have thought about his literary fame. He impressed me as rather full of himself, so I doubt he would have been surprised.

Profile Image for Todd N.
334 reviews231 followers
July 16, 2014
Picked up at Moe’s on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley and read as a little break from Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century and as a diversion from last week's various news stories that were bumming me out. Them nutty ancient Greeks have a way of cheering me up.

Xenophon’s Anabasis was supposed to be one of the upcoming editions in the excellent Landmark Ancient Histories series, but there hasn’t been a new one of those in years.

So when I saw a used Penguin edition for $6 I figured I could probably slum my way through with only one janky map, some footnotes, and an introduction written in stilted prose with dumb Penguin-edition-introduction-esque words like ‘otiose.’

The Anabasis is sort like Kurdistan On Five Staters A Day mixed with Pulp Fiction. The plot is pretty simple, and I’m not going to consider these spoilers since they happened 2,000 years ago: Cyrus wants to kill his brother, the King of Persia, so he raises a secret army, including about 10,000 Greek mercenaries. Cyrus leads his army deep into Persia and manages to get himself killed in the first battle. After that the Persian part of the army sort of melts away, and the Greeks are left stranded deep in the heart of hostile Persian territory.

This all happens fairly quickly, so most of the book is about The Ten Thousand (as they are called, even though that number starts to go down pretty quickly) hacking their way back to Greece, even though none are actually “home” by the time the book ends. In fact, the majority of the remaining part of the army are preparing to set sail to go fight the Persians again at the end.

Because it's the Greeks, there is lots of warring followed by plenty of speechifying. Occasionally there is diplomacy. It's always interesting when Greeks meet up with non-Greeks, because you always learn something new about the Greeks, even if it's that they feel that some boys are just too darn pretty to put to death or that they don't care for dolphin fat unless it's mixed with water.

When the Ten Thousand finally reach the Hellespont, things get a little confusing (at least for me they did).

Sparta -- recently having won the Peloponnesian Wars -- was in control of the area, and wasn't super thrilled about having thousands upon thousands of hungry, horny, and battle-hardened troops idling around near an important city and port. Also, these same soldiers just tried to overthrow a huge, powerful Empire right next door, so even receiving them caused all kinds of diplomatic problems for Sparta.

So the Ten Thousand, led by Xenophon, hang out in Thrace and spend the winter propping up a two-bit King. More warring; more speechifying.

Finally Sparta decided (and I can't imagine it turned out well for them) to re-attack Persia. Xenophon wisely sells what meager possessions he has and scoots off to Greece.

The book works on so many levels. I'm always up for a good battle description, and the sly Greeks and Persian tricks are always interesting to me. The way Xenophon maintains command and slips his way out of various situations is amusing, but one has to remember that he's the one telling the tale (and about 30 years after it happened I'm guessing).

Xenophon is praised for his "unadorned style," but it is a bit jarring to read stuff like "some Greeks lost their noses and toes from frostbite" tossed off like an aside. That might be just a little too unadorned.
Profile Image for Palmyrah.
254 reviews57 followers
February 10, 2016
The marched and fought their way right round Turkey! And a good chunk of Iraq, too! All the way from the Ionian coast to Mesopotamia — they got within fighting distance of Babylon – and then all the way back to the Bosporus (here's a map). They fought the Persians, the Kurds, the Armenians, the Thracians and anyone else who got in their way. And all they were doing was trying to get home.

It took them fifteen months. There were ten thousand of them to begin with and eight thousand left at the end. Some were killed in battle, some perished from cold in the high mountain passes, some died of treachery. And when they reached the relative safety of the Black Sea coast, they took to quarrelling amongst themselves.

An absolutely amazing story—a combination of traveller's tale, adventure story, manual of military tactics and meditation on man's ingratitude. One of the great literary works of civilisation, the Anabasis is also a rattling good read.
Profile Image for Michael Kotsarinis.
450 reviews122 followers
August 4, 2018
Η πρώτη στρατιωτική ιστορία, δεν χρειάζονται δικαιολογίες για να διαβάσει κανείς αρχαία ελληνική γραμματεία.

World's first military history work, no excuses needed to read the ancient classics.
Profile Image for Nemo.
73 reviews39 followers
October 9, 2021
Anabasis (also rendered as The March of the Ten Thousand or The Persian Expedition) is a firsthand account of the Greeks' participation in Cyrus the Younger's revolt against his brother King Artaxerxes II, and their perilous return journey to the Black Sea after Cyrus' death in the Battle of Cunaxa.

Xenophon highlights the myriads of challenges a general faces in leading an army and carrying out a successful campaign. In addition to providing for a large army, commanding their respect and obedience despite his own shortcomings, and motivating them for a common purpose, he has to contend against nature, such as inclement weather and unfamiliar terrain; against his enemies, their guerrilla and attrition warfare; against his own comrades, who attempt to usurp leadership for their own gain to the detriment of the army.

As Xenophon has stated elsewhere, a statesman faces the same type of challenges in governing a nation. Ironically, just as a statesman would be maligned by the fickle public especially during national crisis, Xenophon was persecuted by his soldiers twice, almost to the point of death, after being praised by them for his selfless service and leadership.

Ultimately, I think of Anabasis as an allegory of the journey of life, and the triumphant joy with which the Greeks cry out, "The Sea, The Sea!" awaits us all.
Profile Image for Shyam.
225 reviews156 followers
August 3, 2017
The story Xenophon tells has been called the world's first great novel...a gripping narrative that builds up a single episode from the past into an exploration of the struggles and the values that shape human destiny." —Preface by Theodore K. Rabb

I really enjoyed this. Exciting, suspenseful, lots of action, an undertone of seriousness with examples of Socratic Reasoning from Xenophon. A great story.

I think it would be a great for anyone who is looking for an entry into Greek History or before diving into Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon's Hellenica.

Thanks Mark for getting me to read this much, much sooner than I would have otherwise.
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,774 reviews299 followers
March 31, 2021
Behind Enemy Lines
30 March 2021

This is one of those books that if you end up studying Ancient Greek, you will read, and in the original language as well. The reason being is that it happens to be written in quite easy Greek, and at least for the first half, it is a rip-roaring adventure about an army of ten thousand Greeks trapped thousands of miles behind enemy lines, and must somehow make their way out again while dealing with tribal warriors, and of course the Persians who are in hot pursuit. The problem is that Xenophon doesn’t seem to know how to end a story, and after they finally return to Greece, he just waffles on, and on, and on, and it does get rather dull. Yeah, he did that with his history of the Peloponesian war as well.

The story, as historical as a text written back in Ancient Greece can be, is about how the king of Persia died, and because of that a dispute arose between his sons, Cyrus the Younger and Artaxerxes III, as to who was the rightful heir to the throne. Artaxerxes took the throne, so Cyrus went to Anatolia, raised an army, which included a contingent of Greeks of which Xenephon was a part of, and then marched on the capital. The two forces met at Cunaxa where they engaged in battle, and in all intents and purposes Cyrus won – except for one problem – he was killed.

Sure, while Artaxerxes technically lost the battle, considering that he was alive, and Cyrus wasn’t, you could say that he became the winner by default – it is sort of like if you come in second, and the guy in front is disqualified so you end up winning. Or it could even by like the guy from Equatorial Guinea during a swimming event at the 2000 Olympics, where he was coming dead last, but everybody else in the race was disqualified, so despite the fact that it took him ages to actually finish, because he ended up being the only one competing, he still won.

The problem for the Greeks is that Cunaxa is sort of like in the middle of modern day Iraq, or to be more specific, it is pretty much where Basra happens to be located, so yeah, they are sort of a really, really long way from home, and because they happened to turn up with the guy that ended up losing by default, you could sort of say that they really don’t have all that many friends. As such, they need to make their way out of their pretty fast, and the route between Cunaxa and the Black Sea isn’t all that easy either (which is probably a good thing since it means that they aren’t going to be harassed by the Persian cavalry). Remember also that they didn’t have GPS either, which meant that in many cases they were wandering about blindly, and it was probably a stroke of luck that they actually stumbled upon the Black Sea. Sure, they probably knew how to figure out where North was, but that was probably the extent of their navigational abilities.

Anyway, here is a map from Wikipedia to show you the route that they took:

The Persian Expedition

One of the interesting things in this book is the introduction, something that I generally like reading because, well, it gives you a lot of background. For instance, we tend to view the Persians as bad guys, but that is probably because we take a Greco-Roman view of the world (and it is interesting that this dislike of the Middle-East seems to linger even to this day). However, the translator’s suggestion is that Persia was the fore-runner to the Roman Empire, and apparently ruled over the largest percentage of the world’s population of any empire ever. Another interesting thing is that while we mark out the empire on the map, it wasn’t that they controlled all of that area – that would have been impossible to do – rather they controlled the trade routes and the major cities. Okay, many of the tribes paid them tribute, but that was because the Persians have a principle of live and let live (something that the Greeks didn’t have – they were a pretty snobbish, and intolerant lot to be honest with you).

Yeah, this is a pretty entertaining book, or at least the first half is. As I mentioned, Xenophon has an annoying habit of just waffling on after he really should have finished his story, and I personally started losing interest after they reached the Black Sea and made contact with the Greek colonies. Still, I do remember translating this when I studied Ancient Greek back in University (and we didn’t go past the first half either), but as I suggested, pretty much everybody who studies Ancient Greek ends up translating this book.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,603 reviews415 followers
May 3, 2017
-El antecesor, a su manera, de la crónica y el reportaje.-

Género. Historia (sin serlo exactamente, pero sigan leyendo para que me pueda explicar).

Lo que nos cuenta. Crónica del destino de los soldados mercenarios de la Antigua Grecia que, bajo mando del aspirante al trono persa Ciro el Joven e incluyendo a Jenofonte entre los efectivos de unos diez mil hombres, fueron a luchar a Asia contra Artajerjes II y que, tras ganar la batalla decisiva de Cunaxa, se descubren aislados a 4.000 kilómetros de sus hogares y sin demasiadas opciones favorables al morir su líder en el combate.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
451 reviews181 followers
May 25, 2022
2022-05-25 Just finished this early this morning. Had it on my "To read" list since either High School World History class or an ROTC class in college when I first heard of it. Classic Greek work about a mercenary group of 10,000 in Persia and how they fought, marched, cajoled, outthought, outtalked and outfought their incredible number of adversaries, to get out of Persia or Mesopotamia and back to Greece/Hellas, after the Persian leader Cyrus died trying to kill his brother and take over the Persian Empire. It was quite a feat and quite a tale.

I'm not sure how many years it took or men were lost in the journey, but wow, was it a tale of incredible scope and magnitude.

The motivations and circumstances for why this group of about 10K Greek mercenaries happened to go to Persia to fight for Cyrus were not discussed too much in this book. Money, greed, adventure, ostracism from their Greek homeland, proving one's sense of manhood, etc. - all probably played some parts for the members of this group.

I found the narration of the story fascinating, since the book is accredited to Xenophon, but he plays almost no role in the first third or so of the book, just as the narrator, but then he emerges as the leader of the group, but is only acknowledged as a totally separate actor in the story, not as the narrator. Therefore, the motives of Xenophon are suspect, since the story is very, very complimentary (at least to his values) to him.

The values he says are his highest, and he seems to consistently support throughout the book, are:
- valor
- honesty
- justice
These are reasonable, but do not cover things like:
- human thriving
- peaceful dealings with others
and his views of justice were quite constrained by his understanding of the need for force and what is "due" a whole army which just happens to show up on many, many different peoples' lands, with a request for sustenance, shelter and free passage,... and belief in their honesty and true motives - no small requests, those.

I hope to find a little extra time to review some notes and add some quotations and observations on this fascinating work from about 2500 years ago.

My Kindle advertised another book by Xenophon that I had never heard about before, "Cyropaedia: The Education of Cyrus" which I took to delve into more on the "Why" would Greek soldiers be so attracted to this leader in Persia as to stake their lives and reputation to travel all the way there to be in his employ. Maybe someday I might follow-up on it. But for now, it is just beyond me why someone would do that.

Oh, and as to the title of the book: "The meaning of ANABASIS is a going or marching up : advance; especially : a military advance." - Interesting that it says "advance" and not "retreat." Spin, not a new concept at all.
Profile Image for Ivan.
357 reviews51 followers
August 7, 2018
Come cavolo fai a non dare 5 stelle a Senofonte? Se non come scrittore, almeno come guida nella ritirata dei Diecimila. E, soprattutto, come salvatore della gran parte di uomini allo sbando che altrimenti sarebbero tutti dovuti perire durante l'attraversamento di paesi sconosciuti e ostili. Il titolo completo in realtà è "l'Anabasi di Ciro", il giovane rampollo achemenide che raccolse diecimila e passa mercenari greci per usurpare il trono del fratello Artaserse. Ma la parte più avventurosa e tragica del libro, dopo la battaglia vittoriosa dei greci di Cunassa e la morte di Ciro, dopo l'assassinio a tradimento dello stato maggiore ellenico, è la ritirata dell'esercito mercenario. Ritenuto invincibile dai persiani che limitarono ad azioni di disturbo e non attaccarono se non gli sbandati, sperando che morissero tutti di fame, sete e febbre nelle aride pianure della Mesopotamia, l'esercito dei Diecimila, assottigliandosi sempre più, invece risaliva l'Assiria, il Kurdistan, fino ad entrare nell'Armenia, l'antico Urartu, stato vassallo degli Achemenidi. E' una ritirata in pieno inverno tra le montagne e la neve del'Armenia. I greci vestiti alla leggere patirono le pene dell'inferno. Una scia di morte e di sangue li seguiva. Attaccati, rispondevano e trucidavano le popolazioni montanare, procurandosi il vitto con il saccheggio. Infine l'arrivo al mare, il Ponto Eusino, alle colonie greche amiche, prima di tutte Trapezunte. La salvezza.
In uno studio di Valerio Massimo Manfredi, una pubblicazione del 1986 (che si trova in Jaca Book al prezzo di 50 euri) dal titolo "La strada dei Diecimila. Topografia e geografia dell'Oriente di Senofonte", l'autore che per tre volte fece e studiò il percorso della ritirata, afferma che in realtà Senofonte omise deliberatamente la cronaca di due mesi, molto probabilmente perché sbagliò strada e perse per questo molti dei suoi uomini. Il fatto dovette incidere profondamente il suo animo causandogli forti sensi di colpa, per cui preferì rimuovere. Non biasimeremo certo Senofonte per aver sbagliato un tratto di strada. Ringraziamo invece VMM per la colta delucidazione e continuiamo ad ammirare Senofonte per le sue opere (tutte!, l'Anabasi di Ciro in primis), ma soprattutto per la sua riuscita ritirata, che per un pelo non si risolse in una tragica "ritirata di Russia".
Profile Image for İlkim.
1,373 reviews11 followers
June 10, 2020
Zor okudum, bunun nedeni çeviriden mi yazış stilinden mi emin değilim. İş Bankası'ndan da çevirisi olduğunu fark etmeden bu versiyonu almış bulundum. Mitolojikten çok savaş sanatı hakkında bir kitap olduğu için de çok ısınamamış olabilirim. Sefere çıkan büyük ordunun geri dönüşü ve geri dönüşündeki olayları anlatan bir kitap. Ksenophon temel olarak kendini anlatmış sanıyorum, kendisi asker olmasının yanında tarihçi ve felsefeci de.
December 29, 2015
A modern re-titling could be "The Adventures of Xenophon." I've given this 5 stars because the book is unique. It tells the autobiographical tale of Xenophon, then a twenty-something Athenian, student of Socrates, who joined a grand military campaign of Cyrus, son of Darius. Keeping his intentions secret from his ever-growing body of troops, Cyrus's goal is to de-throne his brother, Artaxerxes II, King of Persia. As Cyrus and his army traverse vast territory and engage in various military exploits, the would-be usurper still manages to keep his intentions secret from his troops. Finally, once they're "deep in" over a long haul of marching and pillaging, the true intent of Cyrus becomes clear.

The Persian satrap Tissaphernes has long suspected Cyrus's intentions and warns Artaxerxes. Accordingly, provisions have been made to thwart Cyrus. The rout is spectacular, Cyrus is killed, the troops are scattered. Leading the Hellenes to safety over many treacherous miles and through remarkably varied territory (snowy mountains, desert plains, etc.) falls in large part to the young Athenian Xenophon. This is the long retreat.

This book is part travelogue: throughout their long trip home they encounter a variety of cultures, including "the most barbaric and outlandish of people" who entertained visitors with exhibitions of their "fatted children" covered in tattoos, "fed up on boiled chestnuts until they were as white as white can be." We read about the food and drink of various peoples: one group keeps "slices of dolphin . . . in narrow-necked jars, all properly salted and pickled." Near the end of the book, Xenophon's soldiers suffer frostbite after encountering a sudden onset of cold and are said to then understand why the Thracian soldiers wore long garments into war and fox fur caps that covered their ears. And so on.

Three-quarters of the way in the book I began to tire of the military strategy details (if you can find a version of this book with maps and diagrams for the battles, I'd recommend that). The biggest takeaway is the wisdom of young Xenophon in successfully meeting incredible challenges, including, towards the end of the book, the attempted mutiny of some of his men who wrongly accuse him and seek his death. Highly observant, Xenophon is always ahead of those scheming against him.

Xenophon finally completes his journey, and is so poor he is forced to sell his prized horse. That's before a dramatic turn of events, which I'll leave to the reader to discover. (Mini-spoiler: Xenophon gets his horse back).
Profile Image for Bernard Norcott-mahany.
200 reviews7 followers
October 29, 2011
I figured it was about time that I finally read Xenophon's "Anabasis." When I was in HS, students studying Greek either learned enough Greek to do some Homer, more challenging, but more fun, or Xenophon, who has a limited vocabulary, focus and a plain style which makes him good for people learing basic Attic Greek.
That said, I would have to class this with Caesar's "Gallic Wars," which do the same for Latin (as a Latin student, I was prepped to read Caesar). For Caesar, the choice of a limited vocabulary and plain style was a rhetorical one. By casting his commentaries on the war in a plain style, he cast himself as a plain, no-nonsense kind of guy, not interested in big words and a florid style, but in stating the facts. Of course, this "no-spin" style of Caesar allowed him to cover up what could be considered in Rome as crimes. Caesar also was a proponent of trimming the Latin language towards plainness, and there was a philosophical debate on rhetoric going on at that time. Ultimately Caesar lost that fight (the middle style of Cicero and the Asiatic style of Seneca and later authors won the day).
I'm not sure what Xenophon's purpose was in using this style. It may hide all sorts of embarrassment -- Xenophon was joining with Athens' traditional enemy, Sparta, in going to help Cyrus usurp the Persian throne (the "anabasis" of the title refers to the march up country to Cunaxa where the big battle was fought and where Cyrus and the Greeks lost), and then, in failing to do so. Taking a neutral style, Xenophon hides his own culpability in the expedition. It also tends to downplay his own heroism in extricating the Greeks from a difficult position (hundreds of miles inside enemy territory).
Though there may have been rhetorical reasons for the very plain style, I think that it ends up turning what could be a ripping good yarn into a rather tedious statement. Think of Steven Wright reading the "Gettysburg Address."
There were some exciting moments -- the battle of Cunaxa, e.g. and there are moments that are rather thoughtful (Xenophon's analysis of what made Cyrus a more suitable ruler than Artaxerxes), but I mainly recall, "then we traveled on foot for 50 miles until we came to the river ..." over and over again. I'm glad I read the book (another book off my bucket list), but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is not interested in military history.
Profile Image for R.M.F. Brown.
Author 5 books13 followers
August 8, 2022
The greatest adventure story in history

Little, if any proof of Socrates' life exists, reliant as we are on the writings of his two famous pupils: Plato and Xenophon, the former being revered as one of humanity's greatest thinkers, the latter remembered for his march home from Persia, the subject of which concerns this book.

And yet, the Persian expedition, or The Anabasis to give it its proper title, is no mere tale of adventure, a plethora of such tales was readily available in a country (Greece) that had just emerged from the Peloponnesian war. So what elevates this story above those of Xenophon's peers, some of whom accompanied him on this expedition, penning their own versions at a later date.

The Persian expedition goes deeper than a tale of daring do. This tale, this story of a 'marching Republic,' of ten thousand men, can be seen as a direct response to Plato's Republic.

Unable to match Plato's intellectual prowess, many have long suspected that Xenophon drew on a resource that Plato could never hope to match: his experience of life, and particular, his involvement in warfare and adventure, culminating in Xenophon practically inventing the genre of Biography, which we have long taken for granted.

Cossetted as he was at home, Plato never experienced the heat of battle, the burdens of command, encounters with 'barbarian' peoples, or the sheer exultation of safety, culminating in the famous chant of "The Sea! The Sea!"

It is this edge, this experience, that gives the Persian expedition its rich and vivid account of adventure, of warfare, and shines a light on the Greek themselves: their intrigue, their religious piety. At times, the bias can verge on the ridiculous, the sense of hindsight hanging heavily on the page, and yet, Xenophon asks the question that few of his peers would not or could not do: what is it to be Greek? It is this question on self-examination that weighs heavily through the text, a prose Odyssey.

Part adventure, part philosophical discourse, part anthropology. The Persian Expedition, alongside Caesar's commentaries, have rightly been lauded as the high water marks of classical literature.
Profile Image for Steve.
345 reviews1 follower
May 25, 2019
I've briefly covered my feelings on ancient texts in a prior review of Xenophon's Hellenica. I now most fervidly close the back cover of classics, as goes the histories and biographies, anyway. Maybe I once innocently assumed reading the classics conferred wisdom upon the reader. I certainly no longer feel that way. These texts serve as reminders of the brutality and brevity of human lives in an earlier era. Because of their dubious authenticity, we can't attach much value to their words. In addition, there just ain't much, if any, 'there' there. A shame, for I so, so wished for a large serving of wisdom.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,452 reviews1 follower
February 18, 2020
« L’Anabase » est un des livres incontournables de notre civilisation. C’est un des très rares œuvres qui parle de l’Empire Perse avant l’époque d’Alexandre le Grand. Aussi, il met énormément de lumière sur la manière dont on faisait la guerre et pratiquait la diplomatie avec les villes grecques d’Asie Mineure à l’Époque. Finalement c’est un exposé brillant sur l’art de la retraite militaire qui même à l’époque de la deuxième était toujours pertinent. Donc, « L’Anabase » vaut bien la peine d’être lu pour le lecteur qui s’intéresse aux grands mécanismes historiques. En bonus, il lit comme un bon roman d’aventure.
Profile Image for Andreas.
194 reviews
June 27, 2021
I feel ashamed.

I had originally planned on reading this, actually reading it with my own two eyes. And I tried, I really did. But it was so dry. It wasn't boring or anything, quite the opposite. I quite enjoyed the adventures of Xenophon. I enojyed getting a glimpse into the ancient world of ours. But I didn't enjoy reading it. Good thing audiobooks exists then! I wouldn't have gotten through the book had I not listened to it instead of reading it. It did however come at a cost, as I'm sure that I missed some things during my spells of unfocusedness that I tend to get whilst listening to audiobooks. Therefore I am ashamed of taking this alternate route, however necessary it was.

Perhaps a reread over a longer period of time would be a good idea. But that's something for future me to consider. Current me did enjoy the book tho. The fact that it still exists after 2400 years is beyond incredible. I'm in awe of things like that.
May 6, 2022
My brain is too glossy and petite to fully get into this book, but it's good I guess.
Profile Image for Sotiris Makrygiannis.
498 reviews41 followers
August 28, 2018
This is one of the greatest military books for many reasons. 10k strong Hellens fighting all the way out of Babylon to Trapezounta (Greek Pontians ancestors are great warriors). They went there as mercenaries to help on internal politics, hired guns. Cyrus got killed and the double-crossing started, first they decapitated their generals, then they hunt them until the black sea and beyond. Every km, a battle, every moment a run away from their enemies. Innovations on how to create bridges, democracy among the soldiers, leadership styles, you got them all. My best is that book lists the names of Soldiers that died by mistakes. But the best is that Xenophon was Socrates student, so this story is also a spy story. Greeks learnt the terrain, the style of warfare, the way to survive in different environments, etc. Socrates told to Aristotle and he taught the Alexander the Great.
I liked also the part that the culture and traditions of new tribes are explained. like the dancing style, the Pyrixios dance that has elements of Persian Dance. Is an amazing book that leaves you speechless about the courage, the diplomacy the determination of the soldiers to go back home to their newly elected leadership. We know about Leonidas of Sparta but Xenephon is the first seal ultramarine the world ever know.
Profile Image for Mawson Bear.
Author 3 books55 followers
November 15, 2022
Read this during my Penguin Classics phase. An exciting eye witness account of events so long ago and all the better for Xenophon's flaw of trying to make himself look good. But then, don't we all. There's no doubting the magnitude of the task facing the Hellenes, 8000 or so mercenaries from all over the Hellenic world.(The 'Ten Thousand seems to be the usual exaggeration by the author). What a march! Deserts, river crossings, mountain passes, ambushes. Boys Own stuff, you might say, but real. And the man was actually there and one of the elected leaders. Hard to feel more involved in 'ancient history' than by reading this.
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