Anabasis (Xenophon)

Anabasis (Xenophon)

:"This article is about the written work by Xenophon; for other uses see Anabasis"

"Anabasis" (Ἀνάβασις) is the most famous work of the Greek writer Xenophon. [In some translations, Anabasis is known as "The March of the Ten Thousand" or "The March Up Country".] The journey it narrates is his best known accomplishment.

The account

Xenophon accompanied the Ten Thousand, a large army of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger, who intended to seize the throne of Persia from his brother, Artaxerxes II. Though Cyrus's army was victorious at Cunaxa in Babylon (401 BC), Cyrus himself was killed in the battle, rendering the victory irrelevant and the expedition a failure.

Stranded deep in enemy territory, the Spartan general Clearchus and the other Greek senior officers were subsequently killed or captured by treachery on the part of the Persian satrap Tissaphernes. Xenophon played an instrumental role in encouraging the Greek army of 10,000 to march north to the Black Sea. Now abandoned in Mesopotamia, without supplies other than what they could obtain by force, the 10,000 had to fight their way northwards through Kurdistan and Armenia, making ad hoc decisions about their leadership, tactics, and destiny.

Ultimately this "marching republic" managed to reach the shores of the Black Sea, a destination they greeted with their famous cry of joyous exultation on the mountain of Madur in Surmene : "thalatta, thalatta" (Greek: the sea, the sea! The cry, written in Greek as "θαλασσα, θαλασσα", is conventionally rendered "thalassa, thalassa!" in English. "Thalatta" was the Attic pronunciation, which substituted -tt- where the written language, as well as spoken Ionic, Doric, and Greek, has -ss-). "The sea" meant Greek cities, but was not the end of their journey, which included a period fighting for Seuthes II of Thrace, and ended with their recruitment into the army of the Spartan general Thibron. This is the story Xenophon relates in this book.
Xenophon and the Ten Thousand.] The Greek term "" 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. Since most of Xenophon's narrative is taken up with the march from the interior of Babylon to the Black Sea, the title is something of a misnomer. Socrates 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.

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's "Commentarii de Bello Gallico" for Latin students.

The cry of Xenophon's soldiers when they meet the sea is mentioned by the narrator of Jules Verne's "Journey to 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, "The Sea, the Sea".

The cry of Xenophon's soldiers is also mentioned by Buck Mulligan in James Joyce's novel Ulysses, "Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks! I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother."

The "Anabasis" was the (loosely-adapted) basis for Sol Yurick's novel "The Warriors", which was later adapted into a 1979 cult movie of the same name. Both versions relocate Xenophon's narrative to the gang scene of New York. After a gang meet ends with an assassination, the falsely accused Warriors gang have to get home to Coney Island by travelling through territory controlled by hostile gangs who include The Lizzies (Sirens), The Baseball Furies, The Orphans and The Turnbul A.C.s.

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

Harold Coyle'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 when the Germans stole nuclear weapons that were being removed from Ukraine. The operational concept for their move was based on Xenophon's Ten Thousand.

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.

Paul Kearney'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's 2008 novel "The Lost Army" is a fictional account of Xenophon's march with the Ten Thousand.

John Ringo's 2008 novel "The Last Centurion" involves a similar anabasis from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea, by US Army troops abandoned in Iran during a global catastrophe.

Editions and translations

"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.

Further reading

* [ The Project Gutenberg EText]
* [ Anabasis] at The University of Adelaide


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  • Anabasis — (v. griech. ἀνάβασις „Hinaufmarsch“ [von der Küste ins Landesinnere]) ist der Titel mehrerer aus der griechischen Antike überlieferter Schriften. Die bekannteste ist die Beschreibung des Feldzuges des jüngeren Kyros gegen Artaxerxes II. durch den …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Anabasis — The Greek term anabasis referred to an expedition from a coastline up into the interior of a country. The term katabasis referred to a trip from the interior down to the coast. So anabasis means Expedition or The March Up Country and carries the… …   Wikipedia

  • Anábasis — Anabasis (v. griech. ἀνάβασις „Hinaufmarsch“ [von der Küste ins Landesinnere]) ist der Titel mehrerer aus der griechischen Antike überlieferter Schriften. Die bekannteste ist die Beschreibung des Feldzuges des jüngeren Kyros gegen Artaxerxes II.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Xenophon — (links) im Disput mit Sokrates. Detail aus der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Xenophon — Xenophon,   griechisch Xenophon, griechischer Geschichtsschreiber und Schriftsteller, * Athen um 430 v. Chr., ✝ Korinth (oder Athen ?) nach 355 v. Chr.; schloss sich nach 410 v. Chr. Sokrates an. 401 nahm er als Zivilist am Zug Kyros des Jüngeren …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Xenophon — Xénophon Pour les articles homonymes, voir Xénophon (homonymie). Xénophon Xénophon, en grec ancien Ξενοφῶν …   Wikipédia en Français

  • XÉNOPHON — peut être considéré comme l’écrivain classique par excellence. Il a beaucoup écrit, avec bon sens et clarté, sur toutes sortes de sujets. Philosophe, sans doute, il pâlit près de Platon; historien, il continue Thucydide sans l’égaler. Mais, mieux …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Anabasis — A*nab a*sis, n. [Gr. ?, fr. ? to go up; ? up + ? to go.] 1. A journey or expedition up from the coast, like that of the younger Cyrus into Central Asia, described by Xenophon in his work called The Anabasis. [1913 Webster] The anabasis of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Xenŏphon — Xenŏphon, 1) griechischer Philosoph u. Historiker, Sohn des Gryllos, geb. um 444 v. Chr. in Athen (im Demos Ercheia), Schüler u. Freund des Sokrates, welcher ihn im Peloponnesischen Kriege in der Schlacht bei Delion (424), wo er vom Pferd… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Anabăsis [1] — Anabăsis (gr., das Aufsteigen), Feldzug aus Küstenländern in das höher liegende Binnenland; daher besonders der von Xenophon (s.d.) beschriebene Feldzug des jüngern Kyros nach Asien gegen seinen Bruder Artaxerxes, u. der von Arrian (s.d.)… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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