Xenophon’s Anabasis, A Classic Text on Mercenary Warfare
Xenophon’s Anabasis – Xenophon (c. 430 – 354 BC), was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary and student of Socrates. His book “Anabasis” is the story of Ten Thousand Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger, who intended to seize the throne of Persia in 401 BC. Xenophon was one of the Greek mercenaries and gives a firsthand account of their expedition. Cyrus was killed, rendering the expedition a failure. Stranded deep in Persia, the 10,000 Greek mercenaries had to march north towards the Black Sea and the security of its Greek shoreline cities without supplies. The mercenaries had to fight their way northwards through Corduene and Armenia, making ad hoc decisions about their leadership, tactics while constantly fighting the Persian army and hostile natives.
Even though this book was written over two thousand years ago there are many lessons on leadership etc. that are still relevant in today’s world. I tell my students the everything has happened before, so we should learn from history and others mistakes. Xenophon’s Anabasis is a classic and must read for anyone interested in mercenary warfare. Since the Greek mercenaries adventure over 2000 years ago many others in this chosen profession have encountered the same problems and challenges as they did and I expect many will in the future!!
Xenophon (ca. 430 to ca. 354 BCE) was a wealthy Athenian and friend of Socrates. He left Athens in 401 and joined an expedition including ten thousand Greeks led by the Persian governor Cyrus against the Persian king. After the defeat of Cyrus, it fell to Xenophon to lead the Greeks from the gates of Babylon back to the coast through inhospitable lands. Later he wrote the famous vivid account of this ‘March Up-Country’ (Anabasis); but meanwhile he entered service under the Spartans against the Persian king, married happily, and joined the staff of the Spartan king, Agesilaus. But Athens was at war with Sparta in 394 and so exiled Xenophon. The Spartans gave him an estate near Elis where he lived for years writing and hunting and educating his sons. Reconciled to Sparta, Athens restored Xenophon to honor but he preferred to retire to Corinth.