Thursday, August 14, 2008

Something joyously irrelevant

Troian and others decided to head for Vladivostok, so as to reach Italy by sea, and in an epic Anabasis they crossed Siberia

Claudio Magris

Not knowing the word Anabasis – Magris is a slow read, rich with allusion – I’ve just looked it up, opening myself into the wonders of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand. The Greek term anabasis actually refers to an inland journey from the sea, whereas Xenophon’s Anabasis described a journey the other way round, though towards a semi-internal sea, the Black Sea. Presumably that's why Magris has capitalized it, referring specifically to Xenephon's work. Basically, the Ten Thousand were Greek mercenaries fighting for Cyrus the Younger, who was trying to overthrow his brother, Artaxerxes II. They defeated Artaxerxes at the Battle of Cunaxa, but Cyrus was killed, so it was all for nothing, and the mercenaries were trapped deep in enemy territory. They decided to head northward to the Black Sea, abounding in Greek settlements. It was a huge trek, an odyssey of sorts, and they were hounded, harassed and killed by the Persians along the way. Arriving at the Black Sea hardly brought an end to their troubles, but the cry on sighting the sea – Thalatta, Thalatta [aka Thalassa, Thalassa], has rung through the ages. More gilding to the life.



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