CM: Xenophon (ca. 430 - 354 BC), son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates. He is known for his writings on the history of his own times, the 4 th century BC, preserving the sayings of Socrates, and descriptions of life in ancient Greece and the Persian Empire.
The Anabasis of Cyrus is Xenophon's most famous work, in seven books. Will Durant thought the journey it narrates is "one of the great adventures in human history" [Durant, The Life of Greece, 1939:460-461]. Xenophon accompanied the 'Ten Thousand', a large army of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger (d. 401 BC), who intended to seize the throne of Persia from his brother, Artaxerxes II. Though his mixed army fought to a tactical victory at Cunaxa in Babylon in 401 BC, Cyrus himself was killed in the battle, rendering the actions of the Greeks irrelevant and the expedition a failure. Stranded deep in enemy territory, the Spartan general Clearchus and the other Greek senior officers were subsequently 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 Greek army of 10,000 to an 'anabasis' - a northward march 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 in the north through Corduene and Armenia, making ad hoc decisions about their leadership, tactics, provender and destiny, while the King's army and hostile natives constantly barred their way and attacked their flanks. Ultimately this "marching republic" managed to reach the shores of the Black Sea at Trebizond, a destination they greeted with their famous cry of joyous exultation on the mountain of Madur in Surmene: "thálatta, thálatta" (the sea, the sea!) meaning 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. 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.
Tassos represented Xenophon as frontispiece for The Anabasis of Cyrus published in 1969 by Aspioti-Elka Graphic Arts Inc. for the members of the Limited Editions Club.
[Megakles Rogakos 12/2008]
ROBERT PAYNE (introduction); HENRY G. DAKYNS (translation); TASSOS (illustration) The Anabasis of Cyrus 1969 Aspioti-Elka Graphic Arts Inc., Athens
DIMITRIS PAPASTAMOS / IRENE ORATI / ANGELA TAMVAKI A. Tassos: Printmaking 1987 National Gallery, Athens [Greek]