The Persian Expedition by Xenophon
(translated by Rex Warner, with introduction and notes by George Cawkwell, Penguin Books, 1950.)
To encourage fidgety school boys to pay attention to their Greek lessons, English and American headmasters would frequently assign Xenophon’s Anabasis (“The March Up-Country”), usually titled The Persian Expedition. Xenophon told the thrilling story of what became known as the Ten Thousand, a Greek mercenary contingent engaged during the summer of 401 B.C. by a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, to support his campaign to claim the throne from his brother, Artaxerxes II. These events took place shortly after the Spartan-led coalition, with aid from Persia, had defeated Athens and its allies in the decades-long Peloponnesian War. Sparta now quietly supported Cyrus’s ambitions. According to the Anabasis, Cyrus concealed his intentions to attack Artaxerxes; but he eventually persuaded the Greeks, led by the Spartan exile Clearchus, with promises of higher pay. After a march of hundreds of miles from Sardis, the two sides met at Cunaxa, north of Babylon. The Greeks dominated their portion of the battlefield–supposedly only a single Greek hoplite was wounded by an arrow–but Cyrus was killed and his troops routed. Clearchus and four senior commanders of the expedition were lured into negotiations with the Persians, and were then captured and executed. The Greeks elected new generals, including a young Athenian, Xenophon, an acolyte of Socrates, who throughout his life was at odds with his city’s democratic leadership. Xenophon played a key role in persuading the Greeks to stay together and march to safety, despite the apparently desperate situation, rather than surrendering to the Persians.
Xenophon detailed the fighting retreat of the Ten Thousand through northern Mesopotamia and the independent or autonomous lands of the Kurds, Armenians and other peoples. (The original size of the Greek expedition was slightly larger than ten thousand, and that number did not include camp followers and slaves.) The Greeks must overcome the lack of supplies, brutal weather, difficult terrain, sickness, limited and misleading tactical and strategic intelligence, treacherous allies, and resourceful enemies who possessed knowledge of the ground and were highly motivated to fight off the invaders. After weeks on the move Xenophon, in command of the rearguard, heard great shouting from the troops on the high ground ahead of him. Alarmed, he assumed that the Greek vanguard must be under attack. But as the sound made its way through the ranks, he finally distinguished the words: “thalatta, thalatta!” “The sea!” The sea!” The troops on the heights had spotted the Black Sea and the relatively safety of the coast, which was dotted by Greek settlements. Five out of six men have survived the march. Their adventures were not yet over, however. Read More...
An American Classic (New)
Resolutions in Behalf of Hungarian Freedom by Abraham Lincoln (and others)
In the pantheon of significant presidential statements of American foreign policy—such as Washington's Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, Wilson's Fourteen Points, the Truman Doctrine, and the Reagan Doctrine—we lack an equivalent pronouncement by Abraham Lincoln. The Civil War was not without its foreign policy challenges but Lincoln's statecraft was naturally focused on bringing about a new birth of freedom at home. A decade earlier, however, as a private citizen, Lincoln endorsed a set of propositions about the proper American attitude towards the efforts of other peoples to claim their own births, or rebirths, of freedom.
Americans were naturally interested in the course and outcome of the European Revolutions of 1848, which included the overthrow of the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe in France, the deposition of Metternich in Austria, the establishment of the Frankfurt Parliament in Germany, the creation of republics in Venice and Rome, and an uprising in Poland against the Prussian occupation. The American imagination was particularly captivated by the revolution in the Hungarian lands of the Habsburg Empire and the subsequent struggle of the Magyars, the main ethnic group in those lands, to achieve independence from Austria. When Russian forces invaded the newly-constituted Hungarian Republic to assist Austria in suppressing the independence movement, many of the Magyar leaders, including the colorful and controversial Lajos (Louis) Kossuth, fled to Turkey. The administration of Zachary Taylor had already dispatched an envoy to central Europe, with instructions to recognize the Hungarian Republic if it proved to be viable. The envoy never traveled beyond Vienna but when the instructions became known, Secretary of State Daniel Webster engaged in a heated public battle with the Austrian chargé d'affaires, Johann Georg Hülsemann. In 1851, with Congressional authorization, Taylor's successor, Millard Fillmore, offered asylum to Kossuth and his revolutionary colleagues and dispatched the frigate U.S.S. Mississippi to escort them to the United States. Kossuth's American sponsors assumed that he and his followers would take permanent asylum in the United States, as had thousands of other refugees, particularly Germans, from the failed European revolutions. Read More...