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The Anabasis (also called The Anabasis of Cyrus, The March Up Country, The March of the Ten Thousand, and The Persian Expedition) is a work by the ancient Greek writer Xenophon. It details the journey of 10,000 Greek mercenaries in the army of Cyrus the Younger as he seeks to overthrow his older brother, the King of Persia Artaxerxes II. They fight Artaxerxes' army at Cunaxa, defeating it, and all seems well...

Until they realize that Cyrus had been killed in battle, leaving the Ten Thousand deep in the Persian Empire--whose king they had just fought to overthrow--with few or no friends and a long way to go before they could find anything even remotely resembling safety.

Well, crap.

There begins the real story, as the Ten Thousand battle the elements, Persian treachery, and their own fears--encountering some interesting people along the way--as they try to make their way back to Greece.

A classic of Western literature, and frequently the first full original text a student of Ancient Greek will read, on account of the exciting, action-packed plot and Xenophon's clear, energetic writing style (rather like Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic Wars for Latin students). Classics professors often joke (or half-joke) that this is the book that Hollywood should make a movie of. And they have--sort of: The Warriors is a Setting Update of the Anabasis, with numerous embellishments and edits.

You can read the original work here. If that's all Greek to you[1], you might want to check out this English translation instead.

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Tropes found in the Anabasis include:

  • Badass Army: The Ten Thousand.
  • The Cameo: Socrates, of whom Xenophon was a student, makes a brief appearance at the beginning, trying to persuade Xenophon not to join the Ten Thousand.
  • Decapitated Army:
  • The Empire: The Persian Empire, to be exact.
  • Hired Guns: The Ten Thousand, again.
  • The Homeward Journey: Most of the Anabasis is taken up with this.
  • Name's the Same: One of the Ten Thousand is named Socrates. He is not the philosopher of Athens.
  • Nasty Party: After Cyrus' death, the Persian governor Tissaphernes invited the Greek officer corps over to his camp for negotiations. They were relieved of their troubles once and for all.
  • Ocean Awe: One of the more famous passages of the Anabasis is the Greek army shouting "thalatta, thalatta!" ("the sea, the sea!") from joy when they first got sight of the Black Sea (as there were Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast, "the sea" meant that their worst troubles were over).
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Cyrus' army, and particularly the Ten Thousand, would unquestionably have bested Artaxerxes' at Cunaxa. However, Cyrus was killed in the fight, making the whole exercise pointless. As a result, most of his army fled the field for fear of being discovered by the king--except for the Greeks, who didn't hear of Cyrus' death and still stood firm, bringing the battle to a draw. As a result, they get singled out for bad treatment at the hands of the Shah.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Just after the Ten Thousand's original leaders are captured and killed by the Persians, they decide to hold a meeting to decide what to do. After some panicking, somebody sneezes. Everyone immediately drops to the ground in supplication (the Greeks considered a sneeze to be a sign from the gods). They then got up, elected new officers, and decided to march back to Greece. Because of a sneeze.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: More or less why the Ten Thousand have to get back to Greece. Anywhere else, they're in Persia, with an angry Emperor looking for them.
  • Untranslated Title: Except when it's published as The March Up Country, The Persian Expedition, The March of the Ten Thousand, or some variation on that.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Ten Thousand often run into these guys. Sometimes they're helpful, sometimes they aren't.
  • Word Salad Title: Well, not exactly. Anabasis in Greek means a journey from the sea to the interior, which the first bit of the book is. However, that bit is done early, and the rest is actually a katabasis: a journey from the interior to the sea.


  1. Sorry.
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