Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Anabasis, The: March of the Ten Thousand (400 B.C.E.)

Anabasis, The: March of the Ten
Thousand (400 B.C.E.)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Greek mercenaries vs. Armenian
hill tribes

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): The route between Babylon and
the Greek Black Sea colony of Trapezus, about 1,000 miles


MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Return from the campaign
of Cyrus the Younger against his brother, Artaxerxes II,
for control of the Persian throne

OUTCOME: After an epic five-month journey, some 6,000
mercenaries returned to safety.

Greek mercenaries, 12,000 to 13,000

CASUALTIES: About half (6,000) died on the trek.


Xenophon’s Anabasis includes an account of the march of
the Greek mercenaries, known as “The Ten Thousand,”
although most historians believe the army consisted of
13,000, from a location near Babylon following the Battle of
Cunaxa in 401 B.C.E. (see ANABASIS, THE: REVOLT OF CYRUS)
to the Euxine (the Black Sea). The Greek mercenaries had
supported Cyrus the Younger (424–401 B.C.E) in his attempt
to seize the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes II (d.
359 B.C.E.). The march took place after the Persians had
treacherously murdered the Greek general Clearchus (d.
401 B.C.E.) and all the senior mercenary officers. The surviving
junior officers, mostly Spartans and Athenians,
assumed leadership of the mercenaries and undertook a
1,000-mile march to the nearest friendly territory, Trapezus,
a Greek colony on the Euxine. The epic journey traversed
the forbidding mountains of Armenia and required foraging
for survival and fighting off assaults by wild hill people.
Xenophon, who traveled with the mercenaries in a private
capacity, was one of the principal leaders of the trek.
By the time the mercenaries reached Trapezus, they
had been fighting their way through the mountains for
five months. A total of 6,000 survived the journey.

Further reading: J. K. Anderson, Military Theory and
Practice in the Age of Xenophon (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1970); Christopher Nadon, Xenophon’s
Prince: Republic and Empire in the Cyropaedia (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2001).

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