Anabasis Themes
by Xenophon

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Anabasis Themes

Loyalty and Treachery in War

Though they are initially opposed to fighting Artaxerxes, the soldiers and generals of the Ten Thousand demonstrate loyalty to Cyrus after his death. Remaining devoted to Cyrus’s cause, the generals refuse to surrender to Artaxerxes and offer to make Ariaeus, Cyrus’s second-in-command, king in his stead. The generals also display their loyalty to their soldiers when they work alongside them, humbling themselves, and discipline them for their own good, as Xenophon does when he strikes his men to keep them moving and prevent their freezing to death. 

Despite the loyalty they demonstrate, the leaders and soldiers of the Greek army are deceived and betrayed many times throughout their journey, battle, and retreat. Though he doesn’t necessarily betray his soldiers, Cyrus leads them through deception: he only succeeds in gathering an army by lying that they will be fighting Tissaphernes, not Artaxerxes. Additionally, Clearchus’s loyalty to Cyrus is questionable—while he doesn’t blatantly turn against Cyrus, Clearchus disobeys his command to charge at Artaxerxes in battle. 

The most prominent traitorous figure in Anabasis is Tissaphernes, who offers to escort the Ten Thousand home, only to massacre their officers at a meeting and send their generals to Artaxerxes for execution. After this treachery, two other generals betray the army: Ariaeus, whom the army had hoped to make king of Persia after Cyrus dies, is found to have been in league with Tissaphernes, and Mithridates, an ally of Tissaphernes, pretends to wish to retreat with them but later attacks them. Finally, they learn that the ruler of West Armenia, who had promised them safe passage, planned to attack them, and they are forced to launch a preemptive attack against him.

The Nature of Good Leadership

Xenophon displays the great value the Greek soldiers place on good leadership in his eulogies to Cyrus and the generals killed by Tissaphernes in the chapters after their deaths. The characteristics the Greeks value in great leaders are evident in these chapters: Xenophon praises, for...

(The entire section is 507 words.)