In The Persian Expedition, Xenophon, a young Athenian noble who sought his destiny abroad, provides an enthralling eyewitness account of the attempt by a Greek mercenary army - the Ten Thousand - to help Prince Cyrus overthrow his brother and take the Persian throne. When the Greeks were then betrayed by their Persian employers, they were forced to march home through hundreds of miles of difficult terrain - adrift in a hostile country and under constant attack from the unforgiving Persians and warlike tribes. In this outstanding description of endurance and individual bravery, Xenophon, one of those chosen to lead retreating army, provides a vivid narrative of the campaign and its aftermath, and his account remains one of the best pictures we have of Greeks confronting a 'barbarian' world. Rex Warner's distinguished translation captures the epic quality of the Greek original, and George Cawkwell's introduction sets the story of the expedition in the context of its author's life and tumultuous times.
Xenophons epic march into the heart of Persia has stirred the imagination of free men for centuries. Possibly written from diaries compiled at the time, there is no doubt that The Persian Expedition is one of the best pictures we have of Greeks confronting the barbarian world. We see the soldiers debate leaders and strategy in open assembly; we see them falling on their knees in superstitious fear; we see them planning a piratical colony on barbarian land. And at the same time we share the rigors of the march to Babylon, the dismay of unexpected defeat, the uncertainty of the long road home through wild Armenia, and the relief at last when the Ten Thousand reach the sea, the sea!.
Xenophon was an Athenian country gentleman born about 430 BC. He may have helped to publish Thucydides History, and certainly wrote his own Hellenica as a continuation of it. By his own (probably reliable) account he was a fine officer and outstanding leader, but his admiration for Sparta and devotion to Socrates, among other causes, led to his banishment. He was given an estate at Scillus and settled down to enjoy the life of a landed aristocrat, and it was during this period that he began to write histories, biographies, memoirs and specialist treatises. The defeat of Sparta in 371 forced him to move to Corinth where he probably lived for the rest of his life.
Rex Warner was a Professor of the University of Connecticut from 1964 until his retirement in He was born in 1905 and went to Wadham College, Oxford, where he gained a first in Classical Moderations, and took a degree in English Literature. He taught in Egypt and England, and was Director of the British Institute, Athens, from 1945 to 1947. He has written poems, novels and critical essays, has worked on films and broadcasting, and has translated many works, of which Xenophons History of My Time and The Persian Expedition, Thucydides The Peloponnesian War, and Plutarchs Lives (under the title Fall of the Roman Republic) and Moral Essays have been published in Penguin Classics.
George Cawkwell is a Fellow and Praelector in Ancient History of University College, Oxford. He has specialized in the history of the fourth century B.C.