‘The 10,000’ were an army of Greek mercenaries, headed by the Spartan, Clearchus. Their story was immortalized in the Anabasis, Xenophon’s first-hand account of their hazardous journey homeward from Babylonia to the Black Sea. Their adventure had begun in central coastal Anatolia, where Clearchus, expelled as tyrant from Byzantium, allied himself and his soldiers to Cyrus, the local Persian governor. Cyrus was also younger brother of the Persian emperor, Artaxerxes II, and enlisted their help in his plot to usurp the throne. When the opposing forces met at Cunaxa (401 BCE) Cyrus’s forces, with their Greek allies, prevailed. Cyrus was killed, leaving the Greeks without protection, deep in enemy territory. Clearchus, and many of his senior officers, were soon killed by the treachery of Tissaphernes, a Persian governor who had vouched them safe passage. Xenophon then became one of their leaders and vividly describes their many adventures before reaching safety.
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