|The Story of the Greeks|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Greece, made up principally of stories about persons, giving at the same time a clear idea of the most important events in the ancient world and calculated to enforce the lessons of perseverance, courage, patriotism, and virtue that are taught by the noble lives described. Beginning with the legends of Jason, Theseus, and events surrounding the Trojan War, the narrative moves on to present the contrasting city-states of Sparta and Athens, the war against Persia, their conflicts with each other, the feats of Alexander the Great, and annexation by Rome. Ages 10-14 |
THE RETREAT OF THE TEN THOUSAND
XENOPHON'S advice pleased the Greeks. It was far
better, they thought, to make the glorious attempt to
return home, than basely to surrender their arms, and
become the subjects of a foreign king.
They therefore said they would elect a leader, and all
chose Xenophon to fill this difficult office. He,
however, consented to accept it only upon condition
that each soldier would pledge his word of honor to
obey him; for he knew that the least disobedience would
hinder success, and that in union alone lay strength.
 soldiers understood this too, and not only swore to
obey him, but even promised not to quarrel among
So the little army began its homeward march, tramping
bravely over sandy wastes and along rocky pathways.
When they came to a river too deep to be crossed by
fording, they followed it up toward its source until
they could find a suitable place to get over it; and,
as they had neither money nor provisions, they were
obliged to seize all their food on the way.
The Greeks not only had to overcome countless natural
obstacles, but were also compelled to keep up a
continual warfare with the Persians who pursued them.
Every morning Xenophon had to draw up his little army
in the form of a square, to keep the enemy at bay.
They would fight thus until nearly nightfall, when the
Persians always retreated, to camp at a distance from
the men they feared. Instead of allowing his weary
soldiers to sit down and rest, Xenophon would then give
orders to march onward. So they tramped in the twilight
until it was too dark or they were too tired to proceed
After a hasty supper, the Greeks flung themselves down
to rest on the hard ground, under the light of the
stars; but even these slumbers were cut short by
Xenophon's call at early dawn. Long before the lazy
Persians were awake, these men were again marching
onward; and when the mounted enemy overtook them once
more, and compelled them to halt and fight, they were
several miles nearer home.
As the Greeks passed though the wild mountain gorges
they were further hindered by the neighboring
who tried to stop them by rolling trunks of trees and
rocks down upon them. Although some were wounded and
others killed, the little army pressed forward, and,
after a march of about a thousand miles, they came at
last within sight of the sea.
You may imagine what a joyful shout arose, and how
lovingly they gazed upon the blue waters which washed
the shores of their native land also.
But although Xenophon and his men had come to the sea,
their troubles were not yet ended; for, as they had no
money to pay their passage, none of the captains would
take them on board.
Instead of embarking, therefore, and resting their
weary limbs while the wind wafted them home, they were
forced to tramp along the seashore. They were no longer
in great danger, but were tired and discontented, and
now for the first time they began to forget their
promise to obey Xenophon.
To obtain money enough to pay their passage to Greece,
they took several small towns along their way, and
robbed them. Then, hearing that there was a new
expedition on foot to free the Ionian cities from the
Persian yoke, they suddenly decided not to return home,
but to go and help them.
Xenophon therefore led them to Pergamus, where he
gave them over to their new leader. There were still
ten thousand left out of the eleven thousand men that
Cyrus had hired, and Xenophon had cause to feel proud
of having brought them across the enemy's territory
with so little loss.
After bidding them farewell, Xenophon returned home,
 and wrote down an account of this famous Retreat of the
Ten Thousand in a book called the Anabasis. This
account is so interesting that people begin to read it
as soon as they know a little Greek, and thus learn all
about the fighting and marching of those brave men.
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