CUP (2019) p/b 219pp £22.99 (ISBN 9781107437432)
‘Anabasis is now widely regarded as Xenophon’s masterpiece’ H./R. tell us, but ‘in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries … suffered from its use as a school text (even if that use contributed greatly to Xenophon’s fame).’ H./R.’s new contribution to the ‘Green and Yellows’ is a more comprehensive edition, more suitable for undergraduate level and beyond than for school use, and should further the recognition of Xenophon’s qualities (and idiosyncrasies) as a writer.
The situation at the beginning of Anabasis 3 is critical. The (mostly) Greek army of 12,900 (the ‘Ten Thousand’) had followed Cyrus deep into the Persian Empire, but on his death at the battle of Cunaxa, they were stranded in a hostile land. Book 2 ended with Tissaphernes treacherously murdering many of their generals and captains, and the army left without some of its best leaders. At the opening of Book 3 Xenophon sets out the aporia of the army in detail: surrounded by hostiles, no market, no guides, 10,000 stades from Greece, cut off by rivers, no cavalry. No wonder the soldiers were despondent.
But Book 3 also brings Xenophon himself into prominence, first when he addresses the army and then is chosen as a general himself, although he had not joined the expedition of Cyrus in a military capacity. H./R. have a substantial introduction (44 pages) in which they set out the historical context, the nature of the ‘Ten Thousand’, the life of Xenophon, the literary reputation of Anabasis, its genre, methods, purpose, textual tradition, but most of all its diction and style. More specifically H./R. declare, ‘It is one of the chief aims of this commentary to offer an alternative view of Xenophon’s lexical choices’ (p.24). X’s diction is addressed in section 5 of the introduction, while pertinent notes in the commentary refer back to this. In what has to be the most topical section of the introduction, H./R. discuss the Ten Thousand as ‘a model political unit’ in which, once in full assembly at the beginning of Book 3 it had voted on issues, it was then left to the leadership to take the decisions, not an assembly (or ‘people’s vote’?).
H./R. often give help with translation (e.g. at 3.2.2. ‘πρὸς δ᾽ ἔτι and moreover, with adverbial πρός’), some relatively basic (οἱ ἀμφὶ Ἀριαῖον ‘Ariaeus and his men’). One particularly difficult passage (3.4.16-18) is divided into 5 sections each with a translation as well as elucidation of the compressed, abrupt or repetitive language and with speculation about potential MSS confusion. The reader’s attention is regularly drawn to some common idioms, and more often to accidence and syntax, the grammar frequently accompanied by reference to Smyth and especially the new Cambridge Grammar of Classical Greek (CGCG) of which H. is one of the authors.
And there are grammatical observations that may surprise some. Commenting on δεῖ ἐπισάξαι τὸν ἵππον Πέρσῃ ἀνδρὶ (3.4.35) H./R. state that here we have a dative of advantage and refer to CGCG 30.49, observing that LSJ ‘needlessly assume that δεῖ in Xenophon is sometimes construed with a dative instead of an accusative.’ Some may occasionally find unfamiliar grammatical terminology (an ‘immediative imperfect’ for example).
The commentary of course covers much more than the language. Introductions are provided for individual sections and explain details of the march at each stage. Information is not gratuitously presented, so we are not treated to a full-scale discussion of Assyrians despite the army passing through their former territory. In short, the commentary and introduction are very helpful and informative, lucidly expressed and clearly presented. One of H./R.’s aims is to ‘help students to read Greek better’ and in this they surely succeed.