The Anabasis of Cyrus could also be titled “The Long Retreat” because it best describes the result of a failed campaign. The army made up of mercenaries had been strategically defeated when Cyrus followed by their generals, were killed by the Persians. Their story evolved from being a trapped army, to one that mounted a successful fighting retreat north to the Black Sea, where finding themselves among Greek colonies they began to fracture and lose the cohesiveness that had been their hallmark up to that point. Xenophon’s speech at the confluence of the Tigris and Zapatas Rivers had been the catalyst that launched and sustained their march. Later, as they began to bicker, it was again Xenophon who would call on his Socratic reasoning to cement the fractures and sooth the wounded pride in a final effort to gain their homeland.
The theme of this story continues to reappear down through history when circumstance has found a sizable military force faced with the decision to surrender, or make a fighting retreat, against man and nature.
Earlier, the names of Epaminondas, Sherman and Patton were advanced to show how the rhythm of Xenophon’s Anabasis had resonated with these generals as they prepared, and led their armies in successful campaigns. There are other generals in history whose leadership and tasks more closely mirrored the march of the Ten Thousand. Men like Moore, Slim, Stillwell and Alessandri, are less known because their achievements have faded in the passage of time and still carry the faint stench of defeat.
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