|Old Khndzoresk, Armenia (Photo by Mher Ishkhanyan). Xenophon mentions seeing troglodytic villages like this.|
[Image source: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/70883746
Xenophon wrote the Anabasis
some time around 370 BCE. The narrative covers spring 401 - spring 399.
The book I read was a Penguin Classic (The Persian Expedition
) containing Rex Warner's translation of 1949 along with George Cawkwell's 1972 introduction.
Some readers have found George Cawkwell's introduction to The Persian Expedition
too captious, because it's primarily concerned with weighing the accuracy of Xenophon's account; but after all that's the proper thing for a historian to do, rather than spend time eulogising the lucid prose. We do like, I know, a eulogistic introduction; it reassures us we are reading something great, and are spending our time wisely. (Just as, so I've heard, the main audience for car adverts on the TV is people who have just bought
the model being advertised.)
Not everything Cawkwell says has the weight of consensus behind it, for instance his account of the battle of Cunaxa. He asks the right question, though: how on earth did Cyrus expect to win it? Once asked, Xenophon's account is plainly unsatisfying. And Cawkwell's scepticism about the young Xenophon keeping a travel-journal is persuasive.
I don't think it's a firm conclusion, either, that the Anabasis
has a Panhellenic agenda. Still, few works of canonical literature are as straightforwardly militaristic. The book's former prominence in the education of our male elite is something to ponder.
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