What is Anabasis

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The march of “The Ten Thousand” has become famous in history. In those days Persia was one of the great empires of the world. It controlled a huge territory in western Asia, including the countries that are now called Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Persia itself. The king of Persia, Artaxerxes II, was fighting for his throne against his brother, Cyrus the Younger. Cyrus had hired 10,000 Greek soldiers, commanded by a Greek general called Clearchus, to fight for him. Xenophon, who wrote the Anabasis, was one of these soldiers. The army of Cyrus marched 1,300 miles into the heart of the Persian Empire, to Cunaxa, a small town south of Baghdad, the present capital of Iraq. Here the armies of Artaxerxes and Cyrus fought a fierce battle. Just at the moment when Cyrus was winning the battle he was killed. With their leader dead, the army of Cyrus gave up the fight, knowing they could not win. Clearchus and his 10,000 Greeks, who had fought successfully during the battle, now wanted to go home to Greece. They were such good soldiers that Artaxerxes feared to attack them. But Tissaphernes, a lieutenant of Artaxerxes, tricked Clearchus and his officers. He got them to visit him, to talk about peace. Then he captured them and killed them. Xenophon now took command of the Greeks and led them on their famous march. They marched along the Tigris River out of Iraq, and through the Armenian mountains in what is now eastern Turkey. It was the winter of the year 400 B.C. The Greeks had very little food and almost no supplies as they struggled through the freezing mountains. Savage tribes often attacked them. It took five months of desperate fighting and weary marching for Xenophon and his men to reach Trapezus, a small Greek city on the south shore of-the Black Sea, in February. From here they marched another 800 miles westward along the Black Sea, until they reached home. Anabasis means “the going up” in the Greek language. Xenophon’s book is famous not only for the story it tells but also because for many years schoolboys had to study it.

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