Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 489
The Leader, the central character, an unidentified man. He is the speaker who recites in epic fashion the entirety of Anabasis. He is a nomad who symbolizes the legendary and frequent migratory movements on horseback westward from Asia, heroic travels that bring discovery and adventure and that culminate in the foundation of new civilizations. The Leader is an introspective man whose ancestry, physical traits, and age are not described. He is, in this way, the incarnation of humankind in action, struggling between the desire to create an organized society and the wish to depart in search of new lands. Ultimately, in canto 8, the Leader heeds the call to depart, yielding thus to the anabasis, humankind’s march, and to the deep-rooted restlessness of which he is a living example. At times, the Leader becomes preoccupied with the oppressive influences of death, but because of the somewhat mystical inspiration he receives in dreams and that encourages him to pursue adventure, his spiritual dimension leads him to affirm the power of life, and, consequently, the importance of not becoming immobile through the contemplation of death. This spiritual aspect of the Leader is the sole characteristic that is evoked. In essence, he reveals himself through his interior existence, his thoughts, and, especially, through the sometimes felt conflict between sedentary and nomadic ways of life. The Leader is an exceptional individual who at times scorns the men who follow him blindly but who, ultimately, feels an abiding camaraderie with them.
The Stranger, a wanderer and unidentified man who appears in the first song of Anabasis and who offers bitter-tasting berries, which produce euphoria, to the Leader. He speaks of far-off provinces and instills in the Leader the desire to depart on a quest for conquest and discovery. His presence in canto 5 reawakens in the Leader the need to pursue further conquests. Enigmatic and ambiguous, the Stranger is symbolic of humanity’s nomadic spirit.
The Women, a group of young women, representative of a people without men, who greet the Leader and his horsemen as the latter travel westward. These women embody the sensuality desired by men and offer them physical pleasure. Such a union is capable of producing a new society, for it brings completeness to the women as well as to the men.
The Men, a variety of men serving to represent the diversity of individuals who form a complex society. They are described by the Leader at the end of Anabasis. Among this group are insect eaters, vendors of sugar and cinnamon, craftsmen of leather goods, the juggler, the man who gathers pollen in a wooden jar, he who sees his soul reflected in a sword blade, the man with the falcon, the lustful, the man learned in sciences, the storyteller, and horsemen bearing letters of alliance. Such a diversity of human activity forms the mosaic of life’s experiences in a collectivity.