Anabasis (Xenophon)
Anabasis is the most famous work, in seven books, of the Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 professional soldier and writer Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

. The journey it narrates is his best known accomplishment and "one of the great adventures in human history," as Will Durant
Will Durant
William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975...

 expressed the common assessment.

The account

Xenophon accompanied the Ten Thousand
Ten Thousand (Greek)
The Ten Thousand were a group of mercenary units, mainly Greek, drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II...

, a large army of Greek mercenaries
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

 hired by Cyrus the Younger
Cyrus the Younger
Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis, was a Persian prince and general. The time of his birth is unknown, but he died in 401 B.C. The history of Cyrus and of the retreat of the Greeks is told by Xenophon in his Anabasis. Another account, probably from Sophaenetus of...

, who intended to seize the throne of Persia
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 from his brother, Artaxerxes II. Though Cyrus' mixed army fought to a tactical victory at Cunaxa
Battle of Cunaxa
The Battle of Cunaxa was fought in 401 BC between Cyrus the Younger and his elder brother Arsaces, who had inherited the Persian throne as Artaxerxes II in 404 BC. The great battle of the revolt of Cyrus took place 70 km north of Babylon, at Cunaxa , on the left bank of the Euphrates River...

 in Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 (401 BC), Cyrus himself was killed in the battle, rendering the actions of the Greeks irrelevant and the expedition a failure.

Stranded deep in enemy territory, the Spartan
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 general Clearchus
Clearchus of Sparta
Clearchus or Clearch , the son of Rhamphias, was a Spartan general and mercenary.Born about the middle of the 5th century BC, Clearchus was sent with a fleet to the Hellespont in 411 and became governor of Byzantium, of which town he was proxenus...

 and the other Greek senior officers were subsequently killed or captured by treachery on the part of the Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

Tissaphernes was a Persian soldier and statesman, grandson of Hydarnes.In 413 BC he was satrap of Lydia and Caria, and commander in chief of the Persian army in Asia Minor...

. Xenophon, one of three remaining leaders elected by the soldiers, played an instrumental role in encouraging the Greek army of 10,000 to march north across foodless deserts and snow-filled mountain passes towards the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and the comparative security of its Greek shoreline cities. Now abandoned in northern Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, without supplies other than what they could obtain by force or diplomacy, the 10,000 had to fight their way northwards through Corduene
Corduene was an ancient region located in northern Mesopotamia and modern day Kurdish inhabited south east Turkey. It was a province of the Greater Armenia. It was referred to by the Greeks as Karduchia and by both the Greeks and Romans as Corduene...

 and Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, making ad hoc
Ad hoc
Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning "for this". It generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes. Compare A priori....

 decisions about their leadership, tactics, provender and destiny, while the King's army and hostile natives constantly barred their way and attacked their flanks.

Ultimately this "marching republic" managed to reach the shores of the Black Sea at Trabzon
Trabzon is a city on the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey and the capital of Trabzon Province. Trabzon, located on the historical Silk Road, became a melting pot of religions, languages and culture for centuries and a trade gateway to Iran in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast...

 (Trebizond), a destination they greeted with their famous cry of joyous exultation on the mountain of Madur
Madur is a mountain in Sürmene, Turkey.- See also :*Anabasis *The Ten Thousand: A Novel of Ancient Greece by Michael Curtis Ford. 2001...

 in Surmene
Sürmene is a town and a district of Trabzon Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey. In ancient times it was also known as Hyssus or Hyssos and Issiporto. The mayor is Fikri Usta ....

 : "thálatta, thálatta
Thalatta! Thalatta!
Thálatta! Thálatta! was the shouting of joy when the roaming 10,000 Greeks saw Euxeinos Pontos from Mount Theches in Armenia, after participating in Cyrus the Younger's failed march against the Persian Empire in the year 401 BC. The mountain was only a five-day march away from the friendly...

", "the sea, the sea!" "The sea" meant that they were at last among Greek cities, but it was not the end of their journey, which included a period fighting for Seuthes II
Seuthes II
Seuthes II was a king of the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace from about 405 to 391 BC. His rule was contemporary with that of Amadocus I, who at the beginning of his own reign made him ruler of the kingdom's Aegean shore territory. Later Seuthes apparently revolted; Aristotle mentions a King Amadocus...

 of Thrace, and ended with their recruitment into the army of the Spartan general Thibron. Xenophon related this story in Anabasis in a simple and direct manner.

The Greek term anabasis referred to an expedition from a coastline into the interior of a country. The term katabasis referred to a trip from the interior to the coast. While the journey of Cyrus himself is indeed an anabasis from Ionia on the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea to the interior of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, most of Xenophon's narrative is taken up with the return march of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand from the interior of Babylon to the coast of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

. Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 makes a cameo appearance when Xenophon asks whether he ought to accompany the expedition. The short episode demonstrates the reverence of Socrates for the Oracle of Delphi.

Xenophon's account of the exploit resounded through Greece, where, two generations later, some surmise, it may have inspired Philip of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

 to believe that a lean and disciplined Hellene army might be relied upon to defeat a Persian army many times its size.

Besides military history, the Anabasis has found use as a tool for the teaching of classical philosophy
Ancient philosophy
This page lists some links to ancient philosophy. In Western philosophy, the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire marked the ending of Hellenistic philosophy and ushered in the beginnings of Medieval philosophy, whereas in Eastern philosophy, the spread of Islam through the Arab Empire...

; the principles of leadership and government exhibited by the army can be seen as exemplifying Socratic philosophy.

Cultural influences

Traditionally Anabasis is one of the first unabridged texts studied by students of classical Greek due to its clear and unadorned style; similar to Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

's Commentarii de Bello Gallico
Commentarii de Bello Gallico
Commentarii de Bello Gallico is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Caesar describes the battles and intrigues that took place in the nine years he spent fighting local armies in Gaul that opposed Roman domination.The "Gaul" that Caesar...

for Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 students. Coincidentally, they are both autobiographical tales of military adventure told in the third person.

The cry of Xenophon's soldiers when they meet the sea is mentioned by the narrator of Jules Verne
Jules Verne
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , A Journey to the Center of the Earth , and Around the World in Eighty Days...

's Journey to the Center of the Earth
Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Journey to the Center of the Earth is a classic 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne. The story involves a German professor who believes there are volcanic tubes going toward the center of the Earth...

, when their expedition discovers an underground ocean. It is also the basis for the title of the Booker Prize-winning novel by Iris Murdoch
Iris Murdoch
Dame Iris Murdoch DBE was an Irish-born British author and philosopher, best known for her novels about political and social questions of good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious...

, The Sea, the Sea
The Sea, the Sea
The Sea, the Sea is the 19th novel by Iris Murdoch. It won the Booker Prize in 1978.-Plot summary:The Sea, the Sea is a tale of the strange obsessions that haunt a self-satisfied playwright and director as he begins to write his memoirs...


The cry of Xenophon's soldiers is also mentioned by Buck Mulligan
Buck Mulligan
Malachi "Buck" Mulligan is a fictional character in James Joyce's novel Ulysses. He appears most prominently in episode 1 , and is the subject of the novel's famous first sentence:...

 in James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's novel Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

, "Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks! I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta!
Thalatta! Thalatta!
Thálatta! Thálatta! was the shouting of joy when the roaming 10,000 Greeks saw Euxeinos Pontos from Mount Theches in Armenia, after participating in Cyrus the Younger's failed march against the Persian Empire in the year 401 BC. The mountain was only a five-day march away from the friendly...

 She is our great sweet mother."

Andre Norton
Andre Norton
Andre Alice Norton, née Alice Mary Norton was an American science fiction and fantasy author under the noms de plume Andre Norton, Andrew North and Allen Weston...

's 1955 science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 novel Star Guard
Star Guard
Star Guard is an early science fiction novel by Andre Norton, published in 1955.In 3956, young Kana Karr is about to go on his first mission as an Arch, or archaic mercenary, one of a company of mercenaries hired out by Terra to fight on primitive worlds with primitive weapons: small arms, but no...

appears to have been the first speculative fiction
Speculative fiction
Speculative fiction is an umbrella term encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history in literature as well as...

 transliteration of the Anabasis theme, in which a body of human mercenaries hired out of a future Terra to fight in a dynastic war among autochthon
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

s on a distant planet are betrayed in much the same way as were the Hellenic mercenaries of Xenophon's account, and left leaderless to negotiate and battle their way across hostile country to safety.

Themes from the Anabasis were used in Sol Yurick
Sol Yurick
-Biography:He was born in 1925 to a working class family of politically active Jewish immigrants. At the age of 14, Yurick became disillusioned with politics after the Hitler-Stalin pact. He enlisted during World War II, where he trained as a surgical technician. He studied at New York University...

's novel The Warriors
The Warriors (novel)
The Warriors is a novel written by Sol Yurick in 1965. It became the inspiration for the cult classic movie The Warriors. Compared to the movie, the novel takes a closer look at the concepts of sexuality, reputation, family, and survival...

, which was later adapted into a 1979 cult movie of the same name, and finally a Rockstar Games
Rockstar Games
Rockstar Games is a major video game developer and publisher based in New York City, owned by Take-Two Interactive following its purchase of UK video game publisher BMG Interactive. The brand is mostly known for Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, L.A...

 video game
The Warriors (video game)
The Warriors is a beat 'em up video game published by Rockstar Games. It was released on October 17, 2005 for PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and February 12, 2007 for PlayStation Portable. The game is based on the 1979 film, The Warriors...

 in 2005. Each re-imagining relocates Xenophon's narrative to the gang scene of New York. In 2010, Tony Scott
Tony Scott
Anthony D. L. "Tony" Scott is an English film director. His films include Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Man on Fire, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Unstoppable...

 announced a remake of The Warriors, this time to be set in Los Angeles. The movie is scheduled for a 2011 release.

Paul Davies' novella Grace: A Story (Toronto: ECW Press, 1996) is a fantasy that details the progress of Xenophon's army through Armenia to Trabzon.

Michael Curtis Ford
Michael Curtis Ford
Michael Curtis Ford is an American historical novelist, writing novels about Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. He has worked variously as a laborer, a ski patrolman, a musician, a consultant, a banker, a Latin teacher, and a translator. He holds degrees in Economics and Linguistics and lives in...

's 2001 novel The Ten Thousand is a fictional account of this group's exploits.

Harold Coyle
Harold Coyle
For the Irish architect, see Harold Edgar Coyle.Harold Coyle is an American author of historical, speculative fiction and war novels including Team Yankee, a New York Times best-seller. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1974 and spent seventeen years on active duty with the U.S...

's 1993 novel The Ten Thousand shows the bulk of the US Forces in modern Europe fighting their way across and out of Germany, instead of laying down their weapons, after the Germans steal nuclear weapons that are being removed from Ukraine. The operational concept for the novel was based on Xenophon's account of the Ten Thousand
Ten Thousand (Greek)
The Ten Thousand were a group of mercenary units, mainly Greek, drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II...


Shane Brennan's In the Tracks of the Ten Thousand: A Journey on Foot through Turkey, Syria and Iraq (London: Robert Hale, 2005) is an account of his 2000 journey to re-trace the steps of the Ten Thousand
Ten Thousand (Greek)
The Ten Thousand were a group of mercenary units, mainly Greek, drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II...


Paul Kearney
Paul Kearney
Paul Kearney is a Northern Irish fantasy author. He is noted for his work in the epic fantasy subgenre and his work has been compared to that of David Gemmell.-Life:...

's 2008 novel The Ten Thousand is directly based on the historical events but transplants the action to a fictional fantasy world named Kuf, where ten thousand Macht mercenaries are hired to fight on the behalf of a prince trying to usurp the throne of the Assurian Empire. When he dies in battle, the Macht have to march home overland through hostile territory.

Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Valerio Massimo Manfredi is an Italian historian, writer, archaeologist and journalist.-Biography:He was born in Piumazzo di Castelfranco Emilia, province of Modena and is married to Christine Fedderson Manfredi, who translates his published works from Italian to English...

's 2008 novel "The Lost Army" is a fictional account of Xenophon's march with the Ten Thousand
Ten Thousand (Greek)
The Ten Thousand were a group of mercenary units, mainly Greek, drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II...


John Ringo
John Ringo
John Ringo is an American science fiction and military fiction author. He has had several New York Times best sellers. His books range from straightforward science fiction to a mix of military and political thrillers...

's 2008 novel "The Last Centurion
The Last Centurion
The Last Centurion is a 2008 stand-alone novel by John Ringo. It is written in "blog style" from the point of view of a US Army officer known as "Bandit Six"...

" involves a similar anabasis from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea, by US Army troops abandoned in Iran during a global catastrophe.

John Ringo and David Weber
David Weber
David Mark Weber is an American science fiction and fantasy author. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Weber and his wife Sharon live in Greenville, South Carolina with their three children and "a passel of dogs"....

's "March Upcountry
March Upcountry
March Upcountry is the first novel in the science fiction series of the Empire of Man by David Weber and John Ringo. It tells the story of Prince Roger MacClintock and his bodyguards of the Empress' Own Regiment who get marooned on the alien planet of Marduk due to an act of sabotage on their...

" series is a military SF story involving the march of a prince and his bodyguards across a hostile planet in order to return to their home world.

The 2005 Parkway Drive song, "Anasasis (Xenophontis)" from the album Killing with a Smile
Killing with a Smile
Killing with a Smile is the debut album by Australian metalcore band Parkway Drive, released in August, 2005 through Resist Records. A video was produced for "Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em".-Track listing:-In popular culture:...

is a reference to the Anabasis text.

The 2006 Military science fiction
Military science fiction
Military science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction in which the principal characters are members of a military service and an armed conflict is taking place, normally in space, or on a planet other than Earth...

 series The Lost Fleet
The Lost Fleet
The Lost Fleet is a military science fiction series written by John G. Hemry under the pen name Jack Campbell. The series is set one-hundred-plus years into an interstellar war between two different human cultures, the Alliance and the Syndics...

, by John G. Hemry
John G. Hemry
John G. Hemry is an American author of military science fiction novels. Drawing on his experience as a retired United States Navy officer, he has written the Stark's War and Paul Sinclair series. Under the name Jack Campbell, he has written six volumes of the Lost Fleet series...

 (writing as Jack Campbell) combines the structure of the Anabasis with the myth of the King in the mountain
King in the mountain
A king in the mountain, king under the mountain or sleeping hero is a prominent motif in folklore and mythology that is found in many folktales and legends...

. In the series, a space fleet is led home by a commander retrieved from hibernation, a hundred years after a battle that made him a revered historical and mythical figure.

Editions and translations

  • Anabasis, transl. by Edward Spelman
    Edward Spelman
    -Life:He was the son of Charles Yallop of Bowthorp Hall, Norfolk, by his wife Ellen, daughter and heiress of Sir Edward Barkham, bart., of Westacre, Norfolk. Edward's grandfather, Sir Robert Yallop, married Dorothy, daughter of Clement Spelman. Edward, who in later life adopted the surname of...

    , Esq., Harper & Brothers, New York, 1839.
  • Anabasis, transl. by Rev. John Selby Watson, Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, 1854.
  • Anabasis, transl. by C.L. Brownson, Loeb Classical Library, 1922, rev. 1989, ISBN 0-67499101-X
  • Expeditio Cyri, ed. by E.C. Marchant, Oxford Classical Texts, Oxford 1904, ISBN 0-19-814554-3
  • Anabasis: The March Up Country, transl. by H.G. Dakyns, ELPN Press, 2007, ISBN 1934255033
  • The Expedition of Cyrus, transl. by Robin Waterfield, Oxford World's Classics, Oxford, 2005, ISBN 0-19-282430-9
  • The Anabasis of Cyrus, transl. by Wayne Ambler, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8014-8999-0
  • Xenophon's Anabasis, Seven Books, by William Harper & James Wallace, American Book Co. 1893, English with the books in Greek

External links

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