Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Persian Expedition

I recently finished reading this; I find I manage one or two classic histories every year.

The book is of course, as you must all know, Xenophon's personal account of his experience as part of Prince Cyrus' attempt on the throne of the Persian Empire.  The book is often known as the Ten Thousand, for the number of Greek troops involved.  Xenophon's history has been criticised for potentially over egging his involvement in the campaign to extricate the Greeks from their predicament after the Battle of Cunaxa; but I felt that in any considered reading of the volume the fact that Xenophon was not in sole command was clear enough.  Of course he writes himself well, that is the nature of a personal account, and clearly he did have the odd axe to grind.  But I think in the context these can be overlooked.

Taking the time to read the introduction rather than just diving in will reward you, but for the wargamer the details of Greek military tactics, and the accounts of numerous small and large engagements are the items that will appeal; and will probably result in a number of bookmarked passages.

Overall, it's easy to see why this is seen as a favourite read for schoolboys of a certain generation (presumably the generation that wore well pressed shorts and learnt Latin still, the age of the George Cawkwell - who wrote the introduction - would suggest he has in mind the 1950's, or earlier still!).  Unlike many history books it is not dry, and positively jogs along with plenty of action and the odd stirring (surprisingly well 'recalled') speech.

If you fancy taking your warring Greeks to face the Persians, Thracians or other assembled tribal masses on the their own turf, or have more than just a passing interest in classical history; this really should be on your reading list.

1 comment:

  1. I've never read this book, although its been on my shelf for around 10 years, I must get around to reading it!!