Skip to comments.Xenophon's Retreat
Posted on 08/04/2004 12:51:05 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
British scholar Timothy Mitford believes he has found the spot from which a Greek army first sighted the Black Sea during its flight from the forces of the Persian king Artaxerxes II in 401 B.C. Earlier that year Artaxerxes had defeated his brother Cyrus at Cunaxa on the Euphrates, crushing the latter's bid for the throne. Among Cyrus' forces was a contingent of Greek mercenaries known as the Ten Thousand, led by the Athenian general and historian Xenophon, who recounts the event in his Anabasis. After the battle Xenophon led his troops through the Tigris and upper Euphrates valleys, then across the mountains toward Trapezus (now Trabzon) on the Black Sea coast, fighting their way through various hostile lands. When they finally saw the sea, from the summit of a mountain about 30 miles inland which Xenophon calls Theches, a great cry went up, "Thalassa! Thalassa!"--"The sea! The sea!" In their joy the Greeks built a great stone cairn. Mitford has identified Xenophon's Theches as Deveboynu Tepe, 30 miles south of Trabzon. From the mountaintop Mitford found "no fleeting glimpse between mountains, no view snatched from a precipitous track, but a stupendous vantage point where perhaps 400 men could stand and gaze down on the distant sea." Set back from the rim of the mountain spur was the circular base of a huge stone cairn, 40 feet in diameter.
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This was a case not so much of flight, but of advancing to the rear.
Just updating the GGG information.
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An army of 10,000 could pretty much go where it wanted even with appointing a journalist as general.
Xenophon (431-350 bc) succeeded in his return to Greece. Still a young man, he wrote of his experiences in Anabasis (upcountry march), sometimes also known as Anabasis Kyrou (upcountry march of Cyrus), one of the great adventure tales of all time. The work resonates to this day and has many lessons to teach about fortitude and improvisation. The volume brought Xenophon considerable fame and money. He then soldiered in Greece for Sparta (earning temporary exile from Athens) and wrote books on horsemanship and cavalry. He also penned memoirs of his studies with Socrates, highly valued along with Platos works in giving a portrait of the renowned philosopher.
Referring to the retreat from the Inchon reservoir during the Korean war, Marine General Oliver Smith went into Marine history with the comment:
Retreat Hell, we’re attacking in another direction
General Chesty Puller went one better: “We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them. Now we can fire in any direction, those bastards won’t get away this time!
When the Communist Chinese threw 270,000 troops into the Korean War, numerous U.N. divisions were overrun. Eight Chinese divisions engaged the 1st Marine Division. In the face of “General Winter” and overwhelming numerical superiority, the division concentrated promptly, rescued and evacuated surviving remnants of adjacent, less ready Army formations, and commenced one of the greatest marches of American history, from Chosin Reservoir to the sea.
Sixteen days later, having brought down its dead, saved its equipment, and rescued three Army battalions, the 1st Marine Division - supported by the 1st Marine Wing - reached the sea with high morale and in fighting order. The division had shattered the Chinese Communist Forces 9th Army Group, killed at least 25,000 Chinese, and wounded more than 12,500.
The generals were right after all.
They were screwed, the Greeks were, a post-Peloponnesian-War mercenary army hired by one Persian faction and very nearly winning the day until their Persian boss got himself killed. Their generals and senior officers were lured into a banquet by the victor and murdered. The army elected new officers - Xenophon was one - and began their trek to the sea. And frankly, if the culmination of the Anabasis, where they cry "The sea! The sea!" isn't among the most stirring moments in any literature, anywhere, then the reader has no soul.
It didn't end there. The army embarked and was used in different ways on its long journey back to Greece. That's an afterthought, though. What matters for students of military history is the solidarity, the unit cohesion, and the sheer determination of this group of foreigners to cut their way through a strange and hostile land. Great stuff.
It is a highly interesting note that the march route was so very similar to the one made by the forces of the United States Army in the second Gulf War. Bing West and "E-tool" Smith have a wonderfully entertaining book about it entitled The March Up. Which translates to "Anabasis".
Don’t forget the USAF air dropped TWO complete sets of bridges so that the 1st Marine Division could cross a deep gourge. Without that bit of logistics that successful withdrawal under fire might have been in vain.
Thanks, great post. BTW, this is an old topic, I just updated the list message.
BTW, this is a topic from 2004, so...
Someone I used to know online (different forum) told me how his father, who’d served in Korea, was among those walking out on that long retreat south. At some point the company encountered a barbed wire barrier stretching out of sight in each direction, and had no way to cut it, so his dad and one or two others laid down across it, everyone else walked to safety, then pulled their “gangplank” out of the wire and continued south. No Bactine, nothin’. ;’)
The final toll for the 2 million or Chinese “volunteers” was something like a quarter mil; each was sent with a ten pound bag of rice, and when that ran out, they scavanged the unused portion from a dead comrade. Besides not being bulletproof, they were also not immune to the cold or to starvation, and had no med evac or anything common to most western armies since the late 19th c, or really, since Napoleon.
Oh, btw, I think that’s all a good thing. Good riddance.
Marines never begrudge any sister service the honors they earn in support of Marines. And the fly boys gave more than logistics support.
And there is no question that great things were done by the Air Force to bomb the NVA into smithereens at Khe San and lift the siege.
However, Marines adapt and use what they can find. Without those bridges, They just might have filled up that gorge with Chinese bodies and marched across.
His story was after WW2 he was working as a bartender in Las Vegas and a couple of his WW2 buds talked him into joining the Marine Reserves. Off to Korea.
He was a Platoon Sgt and he got into a pissing match with the SGTMAJ of the Marine Corps over something so he Enlisted in the Army to preserve his time. Off to VN.
He was riding in a M151 on MSR 1 during TET and the gooks popped a claymore at him and blew out his hearing and gave him a few minor wounds, home made claymore no doubt.
He went out disabled with eight Purple Hearts from his military time and more got shot at medals than most generals. Great guy.
ah, but the point is that usually people would surrender. Especially the armies of the East, whose soldiers were trained to obey their officers. The Persians killed their officers and expected the men to just to lay down their arms and give in.
Lots of armies in ancient times did this, and were made slaves or slaughtered.
Instead, the Greeks were independent thinkers, so they appointed leaders and marched out. The Persians didn’t want to fight them so some scholars deny the story of their bravery, but the point is that they fought running battles along the way...
The original “you can have my gun when you take it from my cold dead hand” men.
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