Anabasis (Xenophon)

Author Xenophon
Country Greece
Language Ancient Greek

Anabasis (/əˈnæbəsɪs/; Greek: Ἀνάβασις Greek pronunciation: [anábasis] (literally an "expedition up from")[1] is the most famous work, published in seven books, of the Greek professional soldier and writer Xenophon. The text was composed around the year 370 BC, and in translations, Anabasis is rendered The March of the Ten Thousand or The March Up Country. The journey it narrates is his best known accomplishment and "one of the great adventures in human history", as Will Durant expressed it.[2]



Xenophon accompanied the Ten Thousand, a large army of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger, who intended to seize the throne of Persia from his brother, Artaxerxes II. Though Cyrus' mixed army fought to a tactical victory at Cunaxa in Babylon (401 BC), Cyrus was killed, rendering the actions of the Greeks irrelevant and the expedition a failure.

Stranded deep in Persia, the Spartan general Clearchus and the other Greek senior officers were then killed or captured by treachery on the part of the Persian satrap Tissaphernes. Xenophon, one of three remaining leaders elected by the soldiers, played an instrumental role in encouraging the 10,000 to march north across foodless deserts and snow-filled mountain passes, towards the Black Sea and the comparative security of its Greek shoreline cities. Now abandoned in northern Mesopotamia, without supplies other than what they could obtain by force or diplomacy, the 10,000 had to fight their way northwards through Corduene and Armenia, making ad hoc decisions about their leadership, tactics, provender and destiny, while the King's army and hostile natives barred their way and attacked their flanks.

Ultimately this "marching republic" managed to reach the shores of the Black Sea at Trabzon (Trebizond), a destination they greeted with their famous cry of exultation on the mountain of Theches (now Madur) in Sürmene: "Thálatta, thálatta", "The sea, the sea!".[3] "The sea" meant that they were at last among Greek cities but it was not the end of their journey, which included a period fighting for Seuthes II of Thrace and ended with their recruitment into the army of the Spartan general Thibron. Xenophon related this story in Anabasis in a simple and direct manner.

The Greek term anabasis referred to an expedition from a coastline into the interior of a country. The term katabasis referred to a trip from the interior to the coast. While the journey of Cyrus is an anabasis from Ionia on the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea, to the interior of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, most of Xenophon's narrative is taken up with the return march of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand, from the interior of Babylon to the coast of the Black Sea. Socrates makes a cameo appearance, when Xenophon asks whether he ought to accompany the expedition. The short episode demonstrates the reverence of Socrates for the Oracle of Delphi.

Xenophon's account of the exploit resounded through Greece, where, two generations later, some surmise, it may have inspired Philip of Macedon to believe that a lean and disciplined Hellene army might be relied upon to defeat a Persian army many times its size.[4]

Besides military history, the Anabasis has found use as a tool for the teaching of classical philosophy; the principles of leadership and government exhibited by the army can be seen as exemplifying Socratic philosophy.


Book 1

Chapter 1

Darius: King/Father of Artaxerxes and Cyrus.

Parysatis: Mother of Artaxerxes and Cyrus.

Artaxerxes: First son of Darius who takes over as king after his father’s death.

Cyrus (the Younger): Second son of Darius who plots to take the throne from his brother.

Tissaphernes: Initially friends with Cyrus, he betrays Cyrus to gain favor from the king and later becomes a general of the king’s forces.

Xenias the Parrhasian: Commander of the Hellenes who accompany Cyrus to see his dying father and who later deserts Cyrus to the king.

Clearachus the Laconian: A Lacedaemonian exile with whom Cyrus befriends.

Aristippus the Thessalian: Asks Cyrus for funding to get the upper hand on Aristippus’s antagonists.

Proxenus the Boeotian: Friend of Cyrus who becomes a general in Cyrus’s army.

Sophaenetus the Stymphalian: Friend of Cyrus who becomes a general in Cyrus’s army.

Socrates the Achaean: Friend of Cyrus who becomes a general in Cyrus’s army.

Pasion the Megarian: Friend of Cyrus who later deserts to the king.

Chapter 2

Menon the Thessalian: Sent in Aristippus’s stead to aid Cyrus and who becomes a general in Cyrus’s army.

Sosis the Syracusian: Takes his troops to aid Cyrus during his march who becomes a general in Cyrus’s army.

Sophaenetus the Arcadian: Aids Cyrus with troops on his march and who becomes a general in Cyrus’s army. This could also possibly be Agias the Arcadian.

Epyaxa: Wife of Syennesis, king of the Cilicians, who gives Cyrus a gift of money.

Syennesis: King of the Cilicians.

Pigres: Interpreter for Cyrus and the generals of the Hellenes.

Megaphernes: Convicted as a conspirator by Cyrus in Dana.

Tamos: Admiral of Cyrus’s fleet of ships bound for Cilicia.

Chapter 4

Pythagoras the Lacedaemonian: Admiral of the fleet that joins with Cyrus in Issi.

Cheirisophus the Lacedaemonian: Sent for by Cyrus who becomes the general of seven hundred hoplites in the service of Cyrus.

Abrocomas: Loses four hundred Hellenic mercenaries to Cyrus’s campaign against the king and later becomes a general of the king’s forces.

Glus: Messenger of Cyrus to Menon after Menon sends his troops across the Euphrates. Son of Tamos.

Chapter 6

Orontas: Tries to take some of the soldiers from Cyrus’s army and defect to the king. He is found out and put on trial for treason.

Artapates: The most trusted of Cyrus’s wand-bearers.

Chapter 7

Gaulites: Samian exile who is a trusted friend of Cyrus.

Artagerses: Commander of six thousand cavalry and 200 scythe-chariots under Artaxerxes.

Gobryas: One of the four generals of the king’s royal army.

Arbaces: One of the four generals of the king’s royal army.

Silanus: Cyrus’s Ambraciot soothsayer who correctly foresees no military opposition to Cyrus for ten straight days.

Chapter 8

Pategyas: Persian who relays the information that the king has an army ready to confront Cyrus.

Ariaeus: Cyrus’s second-in-command for the battle.

Xenophon the Athenian: Teller of this story and leader of the Hellenes after Cyrus and Clearchus’s deaths.

Ctesias: Surgeon who treats Artaxerxes’s injury from his brother.

Chapter 10

Episthenes: Commanded the peltasts during the skirmish.

Lycius the Athenian: Sent to check the position of the enemy after their apparent retreat from Cyrus’s army. Son of Polystratus.

Book 2

Chapter 1

Procles: Ruler of Teuthrania who brings the bad news of Cyrus’s death.

Phalinus: Hellene who is from the court of Tissaphernes and considers himself a skilled warrior.

Cleanor the Arcadian: The first to speak in favor of not relinquishing their weapons to the king.

Proxenus the Theban: The second to speak in favor of not relinquishing their weapons to the king.

Theopompus the Athenian: The fourth to speak in favor of not relinquishing their weapons to the king. This could also possibly be Xenophon the Athenian again.

Chapter 2

Miltocythes the Thracian: Takes forty horsemen and three hundred Thracian soldiers when he deserts to the king.

Tolmides the Eleian: Known as the best herald of his time.

Chapter 4

Artaozus: One of Cyrus’s most faithful friends.

Chapter 5

Mithridates: One of Cyrus’s most faithful friends.

Agias the Arcadian: General in Cyrus's army.

Nicarchus the Arcadian: Soldier who warns the rest of the Hellenes of the oncoming assault from Tissaphernes.

Cleanor the Orchomenian: The spokesman of the Hellenes.

Chapter 6

Gorgias of Leontini: Clearchus owes him a fee for being taught by Gorgias.

Tharypas: Has a relationship with Ariaeus.

Book 3

Chapter 1

Apollo: God with whom Xenophon consults to inquire which gods to pray and sacrifice to in order to gain safe journey homeward.

Socrates the oracle: Scolds Xenophon for not asking the gods if Xenophon should go on this journey or not.

Apollonides: Steps forward with the idea to mediate with the king about a way for them to return home safely.

Agasias the Stymhpalian: Points out that Apollonides is connected to neither Boeotia nor Hella.

Hieronymous the Eleian: The eldest of Proxenus's captains.

Timasion the Dardanian: Takes the position of general over Clearchus's troops.

Xanthicles the Achaean: Takes the position of general over Socrates's troops.

Philesius the Achaean: Takes the position of general over Agias's troops.

Chapter 3

Mithridates: Asks the Hellenes what they are going to do after the defeat of their generals.

Book 3

Chapter 1

Cloenymus the Laconian: Shot in the ribs by the Carduchians.

Basias the Arcadian: Shot through the head by the Carduchians.

Aristonymus of Methydrium: One of the volunteers to take a different route to surprise the Carduchians.

Callimachus of Parrhasia: One of the volunteers to take a different route to surprise the Carduchians.

Aristeas the Chian: One of the volunteers to take a different route to surprise the Carduchians.

Chapter 2

Cephisodorus the Athenian: Put in charge to hold the ridge after the Hellenes capture it from the Carduchians.

Amphicrates the Athenian: Put in charge to hold the ridge after the Hellenes capture it from the Carduchians.

Archagoras the Argive exile: Put in charge to hold the ridge after the Hellenes capture it from the Carduchians.

Eurylochus of Lusia: Shields Xenophon as they retreat from the Carduchians.

Stratocles the Cretan: Commander of the Cretan archers.

Chapter 3

Artuchas: Sends troops to meet the Hellenes when they come down from the mountains and try to cross into Armenia.

Aeschines the Arcarnanian: Commander of a light infantry division under Cheirisophus.

Chapter 4

Tiribazus: Lieutenant-governor of Western Armenia and friend of the king.

Democrates the Temenite: Leader of the party that captures the soldier of Tirbazus’s army.

Chapter 5

Polycrates the Athenian: Asks for a leave of absence and stumbles upon the headman of the village and his tribute to the king.

Chapter 6

Episthenes of Amphipolis: He is entrusted with the son of the headman and becomes good friends with the child.

Nicomachus the Oetean: Commander of a division of light infantry who goes up to take control of a mountain held by the enemy.

Chapter 7

Aenaes the Stymphalian: Killed by a Taochian who was throwing himself off the crags and takes Aeneas with him when Aeneas tries to stop him.

Chapter 8

Dracontius the Spartan: He is banished from his home for unintentionally slaying another boy with his dagger.

Book 5

Chapter 1

Antileon of Thurii: The first speaker at the consul about the last part of the march.

Dexippes the Laconian: Commander of the fifty-oared galley that steals away from the rest of the troops.

Nicander the Laconian: Puts Dexippes to death in Thrace.

Cleanetus: Dies while commanding a foray with two companies of troops.

Chapter 2

Philoxenus of Pellene: Goes with Agasias the Stymphalian to jump over the fortifications of the Drilae fortress.

Chapter 3

Agesilaus: Leaves with Xenophon on the march into Boeotia.

Megabyzus: The sacristan of the goddess Artemis.

Chapter 4

Timesitheus the Trapezuntine: The Consul to the Mossynoecians.

Chapter 5

Hecatonymus: Acts as the spokesman for the ambassadors from Sinope

Chapter 6

Ariston the Athenian: Part of the embassy sent by Xenophon with the ambassadors of Sinope.

Samolas the Achaean: Part of the embassy sent by Xenophon with the ambassadors of Sinope.

Thorax the Boeotian: Tells Sinopean traders that if they do not furnish the army well, the army will be forced to stay in Pontus.

Eurymachus: Sent by Timasion to spread the rumor of the Hellenes staying in Pontus.

Lycon the Achaean: Stands up with Philesius and contests the idea of stopping short of returning to Hella.

Chapter 7

Clearetus: He learns of where the Cerasuntines sell large cattle and goods to the Hellenes.

Book 6

Chapter 1

Corylas: The chief of the Paphlagonians

Anaxibius the Spartan: The high admiral of the Hellenic fleet of ships.

Chapter 3

Smicres the Arcadian: One of the ten generals appointed to command the faction that went to Calpe Haven.

Hegesander: One of the ten generals appointed to command the faction that went to Calpe Haven.

Chapter 4

Arexion the Arcadian: The Seer whom Xenophon consults after Silanus the Ambraciot left.

Cleander the Lacedaemonian: The governor of Byzantium.

Pharnabazus: Commander of the cavalry who comes to the aid of the Bithynians.

Chapter 5

Pyrrhias the Arcadian: Commander of the second rear-rank companies during the battle with Pharnabazus.

Phrasias the Athenian: Commander of the second rear-rank companies during the battle with Pharnabazus.

Book 7

Chapter 1

Seuthes the Thracian: Begs for Xenophon to mobilize his army into his territory.

Medosades: Messenger of Seuthes the Thracian

Eteonicus: Gatekeeper in the city of Byzantium

Cyniscus: The commander whom the soldiers would be sent to once they reached Chersonese after Xenophon leaves for home.

Coeratadas the Theban: Wanted to lend his services as general to the Hellenes. Offered the soldiers meat and drink and victim animals.

Chapter 2

Aristarchus: The new governor who succeeded Cleander in governing Byzantium.

Polus: The new high admiral who succeeded Anaxibius.

Phryniscus: One of Xenophon’s colleagues.

Maesades: Father of Seuthes the Thracian. Driven to exile from the Odrysians.

Medocus: The king of the Odrysians.

Chapter 3

Heracleides: Solicits from the Hellenes presents for Seuthes the Thracian.

Arystas the Arcadian: A large eater in the Hellenes army.

Gnesippus the Athenian: Makes a speech about being given wealth to later give away gifts since some people did not have the ability to give a present to Seuthes the Thracian.

Chapter 4

Episthenes the Olynthian: Saved a youth from being slain by Seuthes the Thracian.

Hieronymus the Euodean: Wounded by a volley of javelins loosed by a party of Thynians.

Theogenes the Locrian: Wounded by a volley of javelins loosed by a party of Thynians.

Chapter 5

Teres the Odrysian: Ruler of the Delta.

Chapter 6

Thibron: The Commander of the new offensive against Tissaphernes.

Charminus the Lacedaemonian: One of the Lacedaemonian agents sent to recruit soldiers to help fight Tissaphernes.

Polynicus the Lacedaemonian: One of the Lacedaemonian agents sent to recruit soldiers to help fight Tissaphernes.

Abrozelmes: Seuthes’s private interpreter.

Chapter 8

Eucleides the Phliasian: A soothsayer who congratulates Xenophon on his safe return home.

Bion: Arrives with gifts for the army after they return home.

Nausicleides: Arrives with gifts for the army after they return home.

The wife of Gongylus the Eretian: Entertained Xenophon at her house after his return. Mother of Gorgion and Gongylus.

Asidates: A Persian notable who Xenophon is sent to take prisoner after his return home.

Daphneaoras: Sent to guide Xenophon to where Asidates held his treasures.

Basias the Eleian: A soothsayer who tells of a favorable outcome from the capture of Asidates.

Itabelius: Leader of the forces under Asidates.

Gongylus: Joined in the battle between Xenophon and Asidates to help Xenophon.

Procles: Joined in the battle between Xenophon and Asidates to help Xenophon.

Chapter summaries

Book I

Cyrus makes preparations in order to take the throne from his brother.
Cyrus marches to take out the Pisidians and gains troops as he progresses through the provinces.
Word spreads that Cyrus might be moving against the king and the soldiers begin to question continuing onward.
Cyrus and his generals continue marching onward, now towards Babylon. Xenias and Pasion are seen as cowards for deserting Cyrus.
The soldiers face hardship with few provisions other than meat. Dissention arises after Clearchus has one of Menos’s men flogged, which leads to escalating retaliation.
Orontas is put on trial for a treasonous plot against Cyrus.
Cyrus sizes up the situation for the coming battle against the king. Cyrus and his army pass safely through a trench constructed by the king.
The battle between Artaxerxes’s royal army and Cyrus’s army commences.
Xenophon describes a sort of eulogy after the passing of Cyrus.
The king rallies his forces and attacks Cyrus’s army again. Then Artaxerxes retreats to a mound where upon being confronted again by the Hellenes, he and his men retreat for the day.

Book II

The army finds out about Cyrus’s death and heralds are sent to meet the army and ask for them to relinquish their weapons to the king.
The generals of Cyrus’s army and the officers of the Hellenes join forces to better their chances for returning home. The Hellenes are frightened by something in the night, which turns out to be nothing at all.
The king asks for a truce and Clearchus asks for breakfast after establishing one. Clearchus says to Tissaphernes that the Hellenes only followed Cyrus’s orders when they were attacking the king’s authority.
The Hellenes wait for Tissaphernes to return so they can leave. Tissaphernes comes with his troops and the Hellenes suspect they will be betrayed as they progress homeward.
Clearchus trusts Tissaphernes enough to send generals, captains and some soldiers to his camp. This turns out to be a trap and Clearchus is killed and the generals do not return to the Hellenes’s camp.
All of the captured generals are decapitated and Xenophon describes their pasts and personalities.

Book III

None of the Hellenes can sleep for fear of not returning home alive. Apollonides tries to persuade the Hellenes to go to the king to ask for a pardon.
Xenophon tells the Hellenes to get rid of all but the necessities in order to travel homeward more efficiently.
After crossing the river Zapatas, the Hellenes are attacked by Mithridates and find that they need better long-range weaponry.
Tissaphernes comes after the Hellenes with a large contingent of troops. The Hellenes succeed in securing the summit first.
The generals question their prisoners about the surrounding area and decide which direction to go after having reached the Tigris.

Book IV

The Hellenes travel through the land of the Carduchians and lose two warriors when Cheirisophus does not slow for Xenophon on rearguard.
The Hellenes progress slowly through the mountains with the Carduchians making it difficult to pass through the area. There is a struggle to gain control of the knolls and hilltops.
Despairing, the Hellenes do not know what to do with the Carduchians closing in from behind and a deep river with a new enemy lying ahead of them until Xenophon has a dream.
There is a heavy snowfall in Armenia and Tiribazus is following the Hellenes through his territory with a formidable army.
The Hellenes face hardships in the snow. They are later overjoyed by the hospitality received in a village.
The Hellenes confront an enemy in a mountain pass and Xenophon suggests taking control of the mountain before traveling up the pass.
The Hellenes have a hard time overtaking the Taochian fortress. The soldiers finally catch a glimpse of the sea.
Reaching a populous Hellenic city, the soldiers take a long rest and compete against each other in games.

Book V

The soldiers decide to send Cheirisophus back to Hella to return with ships to take them back home.
The Hellenes are guided by the Trapezuntines to gain provisions from the Drilae.
Those sick and over the age of forty are sent back on ships to Hella. Xenophon speaks of the temple he constructed to Artemis in Scillus.
The Hellenes become allies with the Mossynoecians and agree to fight their foes together in order to pass through the territory.
Xenophon persuades the ambassadors of Sinope into having good relations with the Hellenes.
Taking the advice of Hecatonymus, the Hellenes take the sea route to reach Hella.
Slander is spread about Xenophon and his speech in defense of his honesty to the soldiers results in prosecutions of certain soldiers.
Xenophon talks his way out of receiving punishment for beating a soldier.

Book VI

The Hellenes make a deal with the Paphlagonians to cease fighting. Xenophon feels he should not be the leader on the last part of the trip.
The army breaks up into three factions and Xenophon leads his troops back to Hella.
Xenophon hears of the situation the Arcadians and Achaeans are in and rushes with his troops to their aid.
The Hellenes do not find the victims in their favor and cannot proceed nor find provisions until the signs change in their favor.
Xenophon advises the troops to attack their enemies now instead of waiting for the enemy to pursue them when they retreat to camp.
Agasias is to be put on trial before Cleander for ordering Dexippus to be stoned after Agasias rescues one of his own from false accusation.

Book VII

The Hellenes muscle their way back into the city after learning of their planned expedition to Chersonese. Coeratadas’ leadership falls through when he fails to give out enough rations for one day.
Xenophon returns at the request of Anaxibius to the army after taking leave from the Hellenes for home.
Xenophon works together with Seuthes to gain provisions for the Hellenes while Seuthes pays them for gaining land for his control.
Seuthes travels through the countryside burning villages and taking more territory with the Hellenes.
Heracleides fails to come up with the full month’s pay for the work done by the Hellenes. The blame is put on Xenophon.
Xenophon speaks on the charges brought against him about not giving sufficient pay to the soldiers.
Medosades gains control of the land the Hellenes helped to conquer and he threatens violence if the Hellenes don’t cease pillaging his lands.
Xenophon finally returns home only to find he is wanted to help capture Asidates, which according to the soothsayer, Basias, should be easy.

Cultural influences

Educational use

Traditionally Anabasis is one of the first unabridged texts studied by students of classical Greek, because of its clear and unadorned style; similar to Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico for Latin students. Perhaps not coincidentally, they are autobiographical tales of military adventure, told in the third person.[5]

Some other works inspired by Anabasis include:

Films and literature

Xenophon's book inspired multiple literary and audio-visual works, both non-fiction and fiction.


Non-fiction books inspired by Anabasis include:

The Anabasis of Alexandri, by the Greek historian Arrian (86 – after 146 AD), is a history of the campaigns of Alexander the Great, specifically his conquest of the Persian Empire between 334 and 323 BC.

Shane Brennan's memoir In the Tracks of the Ten Thousand: A Journey on Foot through Turkey, Syria and Iraq (2005) recounts his 2000 journey to re-trace the steps of the Ten Thousand.[6]


The cry of Xenophon's soldiers when they meet the sea is mentioned by the narrator of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth (1854), when their expedition discovers an underground ocean. The famous cry also provides the title of Iris Murdoch's Booker Prize-winning novel, The Sea, the Sea (1978).

Other fictional works inspired by Anabasis include:

Harold Coyle's novel The Ten Thousand (1993) shows the bulk of the US Forces in modern Europe fighting their way across and out of Germany, instead of laying down their weapons, after the Germans steal nuclear weapons that are being removed from Ukraine. The operational concept for the novel was based on Xenophon's account of the Ten Thousand.

Paul Davies' novella Grace: A Story (1996) is a fantasy that details the progress of Xenophon's army through Armenia to Trabzon.[7]

Michael Curtis Ford's novel The Ten Thousand (2001) is a fictional account of this group's exploits.

Jaroslav Hašek's dark comedy novel, The Good Soldier Švejk (1921–1923), uses the term in describing Švejk's efforts to find his way back to his regiment.

John G. Hemry's The Lost Fleet series is partially inspired by Xenophon's Anabasis.

Paul Kearney's novel The Ten Thousand (2008) is loosely based on the historical events, taking place in a fantasy world named Kuf, where 10,000 Macht mercenaries are hired to fight on the behalf of a prince trying to usurp the throne of the Assurian Empire. When he dies in battle, the Macht have to march home overland through hostile territory.

Valerio Massimo Manfredi's novel The Lost Army (2008) is a fictional account of Xenophon's march with the Ten Thousand.

Michael G. Thomas' series Star Legions is closely based on the work, with the series set far in the future.

Sol Yurick's novel The Warriors (1965) borrows characters and events from Anabasis. It was adapted as an eponymous 1979 cult film, directed by Walter Hill.

The first three novels of David Weber and John Ringo's science fiction series Empire of ManMarch Upcountry (2001), March to the Sea (2001), and March Stars (2003)—are modeled after Anabasis.


Parkway Drive's song "Anasasis (Xenophontis)", from the album Killing with a Smile (2005), is a reference to the Anabasis text.

Editions and translations


  1. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. A Greek-English Lexicon on Perseus.
  2. Durant, Will (1939). The Story of Civilization Volume 2: The Life of Greece. Simon & Schuster. pp. 460–61.
  3. The cry, written in Greek as θαλασσα, θαλασσα, is conventionally rendered "Thalassa, thalassa!" in English. Thalatta was the Attic pronunciation, which substituted -tt- where the written language, as well as spoken Ionic, Doric and Modern Greek, has -ss-.
  4. Jason of Pherae's plans of a "panhellenic conquest of Persia" (following the Anabasis), which both Xenophon, in his Hellenica but also Isocrates, in his speech addressed directly to Phillip, recount, probably had an influence on the Macedonian king.
  5. cf. Albrecht, Michael v.: Geschichte der römischen Literatur Band 1 (History of Roman Literature, Volume 1). Munich 1994, 2nd ed., pp. 332–334.
  6. Brennan, Shane (2005). In the Tracks of the Ten Thousand: A Journey on Foot through Turkey, Syria and Iraq. London: Robert Hale.
  7. Davies, Paul (1996). Grace: A Story. Toronto: ECW Press.

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