Anabasis — De Tocht van de Tienduizend

By Ξενοφον

It is seldom that I read a classic work from beginning to end, every page without skipping. The Anabasis is one such work. It’s the story of how the author, Xenophon, managed to get command of ten thousand Greek soldiers (and their slaves, wives, boyfriends and cattle) and lead them around Anatolia back to Greece.

  • Author: Ξενοφον
  • Title: Anabasis — De Tocht van de Tienduizend
  • Pages: 218
  • Published: 1988
  • Publisher: Ambo Klassiek
  • ISBN: 90 263 0808 6

I have little Latin, just enough to read the easier Medieval Latin texts on our shelves, but even less Greek. So I have to depend on translations when I want to read in the classics. Fortunately, the Dutch publisher of translations from the Classics, Ambo, had a sale a few years ago, and I bought a shelf of the nice red hardcovers. I think Ambo has gone belly-up since then, which is quite understandable. Most of the translations they published were by grammar-school teachers who were only interested in accuracy and pedantry.

That didn’t hold for the translators of the Anabasis, Gerard Koolschijn and Nicolaas Matsier. They have produced a very readable translation that, if it errs, errs on the side of excessive colloquialism. It’s hard to give a concrete example, but when reading the text, you have very hard to look for the pride Xenophon must have felt when writing down his memoirs. It’s all so very casual, a matter of standing up, giving a little speech. Just marching through mountains, perhaps being bombarded with babies by mothers who then throw themselves at the Greeks. Rather horrible, that event, but that’s life. That’s the tone.

Xenophon’s army was a democracy, and a rabble of plundering bandits, who’d happily steal a village’s food, a village head’s son, and make a bum-boy of him. (And he had a very loyal friend of the boy, Xenophon notes.) So it was excellent source material for the novel I’m currently working on.

The edition I review is the Dutch translation by Gerard Koolschijn and Nicolaas Matsier. Loeb has a parallel Greek-English edition. Of course, the Anabasis is also available online, both in Greek and English, with annotations and from Gutenberg.