Saturday, December 03, 2016


Xenophon's Anabasis

Hartmut Erbse (1915-2004), "Xenophon's Anabasis," in Vivienne J. Gray, ed., Xenophon: Oxford Readings in Classical Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 476-501 (at 476-477):
Whoever sets out to speak about Xenophon's Anabasis runs the risk of arousing unpleasant memories in the audience. The very fact that each of them had to cover every parasang of Cyrus the Younger's march through the rocky mountain ranges and desert plains of the Near East as a student in high school means that they do not think back with fondness on the prosaic chronicle of an unsuccessful incident of minor historical importance. The stereotypical sentence beginning ἐντεῦθεν ἐξελαύνει ['thence he marched'], which is engraved on every reader's memory, appropriately heralds the dryness of an account which may well be conducive to the acquisition of Greek syntax, but which excludes from the outset any of the stirring of enthusiasm or feelings of engagement that are aroused through contact with the great works of world literature in a receptive heart. This disfavour also predominates in academia: Xenophon's works, and not least the Anabasis, are believed to have been well enough studied in one's school years and so, being apparently unproblematic and unimaginative, are left, without reluctance, to the care of school-teachers. Those who discard this learned view however, and reread the short work in their later years will be somewhat surprised. As long as the old prejudices have been shed, they will immediately realize that a rather special side of the Greek character is being revealed here, an aspect that should seize our interest due to its very one-sidedness.
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