X is for Xenophon

Round 20 of ABC Wednesday is billed as The Farewell Tour so this may be my last trip through the alphabet of the famous, the infamous and the forgotten.

XenophonAnother repeat of an earlier ABC Wednesday post in the soldier and philosopher, Xenophon, who wrote seven books, the most famous of which is Anabasis which tells the story of one of the great Greek military adventures.

The action took place in 480BC when Xenophon joined the 10,000 strong army of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger who planned to seize the throne of Persia from his brother after the death of their father, Darius II.

The great march began in Sardes in modern day Turkey and took the army south-east through Syria until they met the Persian army at the battle of Cunaxa.


Anabasis from Heritage History

Although the Greeks were victorious, Cyrus himself was killed and so the expedition was ultimately pointless.

Stranded deep in enemy territory, the army was betrayed and the Spartan general, Clearchus, and other leaders of the army were killed. Xenophon was one the three leaders elected by the soldiers to replace them.

The army was abandoned without food and other supplies, but it was Xenophon who encouraged them to march north through the heat of the desert and the cold of the mountains to the relative safety of the Black Sea.

The Greeks formed a ‘marching republic’, making ad hoc decisions about their leadership and tactics. In this way, they fought their way through the natives of Corduene and Armenia, all the time harried on their flanks by the Persian army.

Thálatta! from Wikipedia

Thálatta! from Wikipedia

Finally, they arrived at Mount Madur from where they could see the Black Sea at Trabzon which they greeted with cries of ‘Thálatta, thálatta!’ (The sea, the sea!).

Anabasis is the Greek for ‘going up’ and refers to an expedition from the coast to the interior of a country, while the march to safety is properly called Katabasis, or the return to the coastline.

Xenophon’s work is clear, concise and unambiguous in its style, as you would expect from a soldier, and as such it is used as one of the first standard texts for students of classical Greek. Of which I am not one.

Anabasis and Katabasis of Xenophon's 'Marching Republic'

Anabasis and Katabasis of Xenophon’s ‘Marching Republic’ from Wikipedia

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

5 comments… Add yours
  • zongrik 21st June 2017

    terrible time to be in army

  • Melody Steenkamp 21st June 2017

    Impressive person and historie

    Have a X-traordinary ABC-day / week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)
    Preview Round 21, starting july 12th

  • Roger O Green 21st June 2017

    Those X items ARE tough


  • leslie 21st June 2017

    Another great read!

    abcw team

  • Trevor Rowley 24th June 2017

    If Xenophon didn’t actually get round to inventing the xenophone, would it be to my advantage if I knocked up a prototype during the weekend? I could then contact the Patents Office first thing Monday morning and start thinking about marketing the product by about the end of next week. Perhaps I should learn how to play it first. I’ll keep you posted.


Your email will not be published on this site, but note that this and any other personal data you choose to share is stored here. Please see the Privacy Policy for more information.

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: