A Greek mercenary army was paid by Cyrus, son of the late Xerxes, to campaign against provincial enemies. Once the army found out they were actually hired to fight against Cyrus’ brother for control of the Persian empire, while already deep in Persian territory, they thought best to bail and go home. Eventually they were convinced to stay and fight when Cryus promised extra payment and they realized that getting home on their own, without trustful guides, would be nearly impossible.
The day of the battle came and the Greeks fought valiantly, defeating the Persians on their quadrant, but Cyrus was slain. Armies dispersed. The Greek general went to make diplomacy with the Persians but was slaughtered instead.
Here were they at the king’s gates, and on every side environing them were many hostile cities and tribes of men. Who was there now to furnish them with a market? Separated from Hellas by more than a thousand miles, they had not even a guide to point the way. Impassable rivers lay athwart their homeward route, and hemmed them in. Betrayed even by the Asiatics, at whose side they had marched with Cyrus to the attack, they were left in isolation.
When all hope was lost, Xenophon, a professional soldier from Athens, rose up and inspired the men to fight and make their way home. And so the book Anabasis begins in earnest.
The Greeks had to adapt on-the-fly to defend themselves against Persian military superiority and feed themselves in unknown territory while making their way back to Greece. They experienced a nonstop barrage of problems, difficulties, and enemies, with treachery and deceit every way they turn, but with wise leadership from Xenophon they marched, fought, and refused to give up. This is a story of adventure and war, a story that only men can enjoy to hopefully feel just 1% of what ancient soldiers must have felt along this incredible journey.
“Surely it is better to fight today after a good breakfast than tomorrow on an empty stomach.”
For such an ancient work, the writing was simple and clear. It was relatively easy to follow and I never had to look up online annotations like with The Landmark Thucydides. I recommend it.
Read More: “Anabasis” on Amazon (free Kindle edition)