Anabasis, The: Revolt of Cyrus (401 B.C.E.)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Cyrus, the Younger (backed by
Greek mercenaries) vs. Artaxerxes II
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Cunaxa (near Babylon), Persia
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Cyrus the Younger
sought to seize the Persian throne from his brother,
OUTCOME: Thanks to the Greek mercenaries, Artaxerxes
was defeated. However, Cyrus was killed in battle.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Cyrus’s army, 50,000, including 13,000 Greek
mercenaries; Artaxerxes’ forces, 100,000
CASUALTIES: In battle, Greek casualties were reported as
one wounded; other casualties unknown.
The Anabasis or, in full, the Anabasis Kyrou, in Greek,
“Upcountry march,” was a narrative written by Xenophon
(c. 430–353 B.C.E.), the scion of a wealthy Athenian family,
author, and philosopher. One of the upper-class youths
and soldiers who made up the Socratic circle, Xenophon,
on the dare of a friend, joined the 13,000 or so Greek mercenaries
who fought for Cyrus the Younger (424–401
B.C.E.) in his attempt to usurp the Persian throne from his
brother Artaxerxes II (d. 359 B.C.E.). Xenophon wrote the
first part of the Anabasis, relating the revolt of Cyrus at
Scillus, in the Greek Pelopponese, shortly after 386 B.C.E.
The second part he composed about 377 B.C.E.
With the typical disregard of the ancient historians for
statistical precision, Xenophon calls the Greek mercenaries,
most of them veterans of the Second (Great) PELOPONNESIANWAR,
“The Ten Thousand.” Whatever their number,
they continued to serve under their Spartan general
Clearchus (d. 401 B.C.E.) even as they marched with Cyrus’s
The great battle of the revolt of Cyrus took place near
Babylon, at Cunaxa. The Greeks, deployed on Cyrus’s
right and vastly outnumbered, defeated the left flank of
Artaxerxes’ army. However, on the Persian right the fight
between Artaxerxes’ army and Cyrus was far more difficult
and protracted. Cyrus was killed, which sent the panicstricken
rebels into retreat. Only the Greek mercenaries
stood firm. With supple brilliance, Clearchus advanced
against the much larger right wing of Artaxerxes’ army
and dealt it a decisive defeat.
According to Xenophon, only a single Greek hoplite
became a casualty, and he was only wounded. However,
after the victory the Greek senior officers foolishly
accepted the invitation of defeated Persian commander
Tissaphernes to a feast. There they were made prisoner.
Clearchus was executed on the spot, while the others were
transported to Artaxerxes, who ordered them beheaded.
See also ANABASIS, THE: MARCH OF THE TEN THOUSAND.
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).