Ancient Warfare Vol VII, Issue 5: Trapped Behind Enemy Line - The March of the Ten Thousand

Ancient Warfare Vol Vol VII, Issue 5: Trapped Behind Enemy Line - The March of the Ten Thousand

Ancient Warfare Vol VII, Issue 5: Trapped Behind Enemy Line - The March of the Ten Thousand

The focus of this issue of Ancient Warfare magazine is the escape of a force of Greek mercenaries from the heart of the Persian Empire, as described in Xenophon's Anabasis. This is quite a tightly focused topic - just a single campaign - but the articles cover a wide range of related topics, from the training and raising of the armies to the details of the retreat itself.

I didn't realised that Xenophon claimed that the Greeks didn’t know they were getting into a civil war when they took service with Cyrus, a young Persian prince and the brother of the new Emperor Artaxerxes. Given that Cyrus was the ruler of Anatolia this is quite believable, as he would have hired mercenaries for his own local army. I was also interested to follow the fate of the band after they reached the Black Sea - our sources do eventually run out, but we can trace them for some time.

We start with a look at hoplite training during this period. I was aware of the famous Spartan system, but the systems in other states was new to me. The re-enactor shows a Greek cavalryman - something Xenophon's force was very short of. We then move on to look at how Cyrus was able to raise an army in Anatolia, a difficult area with many different local powers, and how limited his resources were compared to Artaxerxes.

Next is a look at the sling armed troops who formed a key part of the Greek column during its retreat, and how they compared in combat to the Persian archers who had been harassing the retreat.

There is a good account of the retreat itself, looking at the key decisions made on the way and some of the lesser known battles found before the Greeks reached the Black Sea. Finally there is a biography of Clearchus, a Spartan general who took command of the unit after the battle of Cunaxa, but was soon murdered by the Persians. He is one of those tantalising figures who appear briefly in other sources, but about whom we have more gaps than knowledge.

Away from the theme there is a look at the Roman presence in the Red Sea, where Roman forts guarded southern Arabia and the sea routes to India for 500 years, a presence that finally ended at the hands of the Sassanid Persians in 575 AD, an attempt to reconstruct the movements of the Ala Britannica, an auxiliary cavalry unit in the Roman army, and a look at the period between the death of Alexander and the capture of his body by Ptolemy, examining where Alexander was originally going to be buried, why that plan was changed, and why Ptolemy intervened to secure the body of his former leader.

March of the Ten Thousand - Historical Introduction
With spear and shield - Hoplite training in the Age of Xenophon
The reenactor - Improvised horsemen of the Ten Thousand
Preparing for War - Raising Cyrus's army
Rhodian slingers amongst the Ten Thousand
Katabasis - the fighting retreat begins
Brutality and discipline - Clearchus the war-lover
The find - Legionaries in the Sea of Hercules
Far-travelled horsemen II - The ala Britannica in peace and war
Death and succession - A war for Alexander's body?

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