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It is 401 BC. After an epic battle in Persia, Xenophon is elected general of the defeated Greek army and must lead the men on a fraught journey back home - a journey of hundreds of miles, north from modern-day Iraq into the mountains of Kurdistan and Armenia, and down to the coast of the Black Sea, fighting all the way, harried on all sides by Persian forces, wild mountain tribesmen, and a bitter winter.This book presents a gripping adventure full of drama, human interest, strong characters, pathos and triumph.


‘Robin Waterfield's Xenophon's Retreat ... is, simply put, a spectacular achievement. ... What W. achieves here is nothing short of a cultural history of Persian/Greek relations, as well as a social history of Greek warfare, and an intellectual historical treatment of Xenophon and his period--all seen through the lens of Xenophon's Anabasis. W. writes extremely well; his narrative is clear and lively, and punctuated by observations based on his own experiences of travelling in the area traversed by Xenophon and the Ten Thousand ... The general background and the specific treatment of Xenophon come together in a wonderful fusion that carries the book to its conclusion. The early background chapters are excellent; also noteworthy is Chapter 8, where W. extracts political theory from the Anabasis in a truly insightful and stimulating way; and Chapter 9, where W. deals eloquently with the 'failure' of Xenophon's dreams. It is a truly staggering work--intelligent, scholarly, and yet well written. With a deft hand W. manages to streamline technical matters without "dumbing them down" ... W. brings the world of the Anabasis alive for the reader, and makes the reader ponder larger issues. I congratulate W. on his remarkable achievement’ – anonymous reader for Harvard University Press 

‘Robin Waterfield has written a very good book. Greek historical prose is his forte, and he is especially insightful about Xenophon as an author, but here he demonstrates the mastery of a wide variety of subjects. I admire the way in which the author blends classical scholarship, Assyriology, literary criticism, military history, and travel writing. He has done a great deal of research but he wears his learning lightly. He offers the reader an authoritative, engaging, and inquisitive guide. ... Throughout, Waterfield does a very good job of explaining Xenophon’s story and putting it in context. He leaves the reader in no doubt of both the importance and fascination of the subject. The work is full of insights that are result of both erudition as well as autopsy. It is also an appealing narrative, written by a fine storyteller. ... Waterfield ... writes very well, at times beautifully, and in a style that is as accessible as it sophisticated. The book should also be commended for its length; Waterfield knows the soul of wit. Xenophon’s Retreat is an impressive and enjoyable work. It represents a genuine achievement as a readable, scholarly synthesis’ – second anonymous reader for Harvard University Press  

‘I found your book excellent ... the conception, arrangement and telling modern parallels/implications all worked brilliantly’ – Paul Cartledge

‘It might seem strange to describe a book on ancient history as timely - but here, in an account of the first expedition by Western soldiers to Iraq, is a book that deserves to be read far beyond the purlieus of classics departments. Robin Waterfield has written a book that is scholarly and gripping in equal measure’ – Tom Holland, author of Rubicon, etc.

'Superb ... His accounts of warfare in the 4th century B.C. raise the hair and turn the stomach. He explores the staggering logistics of moving thousands of men, slaves, concubines and animals, tons of supplies, armor and weapons, over alien territories. His hunches are reasonable and his storytelling gripping' - John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Waterfield deals not just with the heroics but the bloody business of war: the booty, the gore, the peddling of “battle-lit” for profit and propaganda. Xenophon’s Retreat demonstrates that taste for war stories is still keen … An accomplished translator, the author understands the original texts sufficiently to read between the lines … This is a timeless story as well as a vivid tale of its times’ – Bettany Hughes, BBC History Magazine

‘Excellent … Waterfield has opened the door for others to reflect on Xenophon’s efforts to transcend history in search of philosophy, which is no small accomplishment’ – Karl Walling, The Review of Politics

‘Waterfield organizes material and writes lucidly ... Readers will enjoy Waterfield’s breezy style and occasional puns ... His erudition and enthusiasm ... are impressive’ – Donald Lateiner, Michigan War Studies Review     

‘An excellent study … that succeeds admirably and will add much to our understanding and appreciation of both Xenophon and his Anabasis … [which] emerges as a rich and nuanced text. … an interesting and informative look at the Anabasis and its place in Greek historiography. Written in a lively, readable, and accessible style’ – Kelly MacFarlane, Classical World

‘Readable, accurate … accessible … a first-rate introduction to the Anabasis’ – Lee T. Pearcy, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

'Intelligent ... engaging' - Donald Lateiner, Michigan War Studies Review

'Essential. Belongs in the libraries of all colleges and universities' - Stanley Burstein, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

'Stimulating reading for scholars and the general public alike' - Noreen Humble, International History Review

'A sensible, elegantly told account' - Thomas Harrison, Greece and Rome

‘The author … demonstrates a deep knowledge of the period, while a dry sense of humour enlivens the facts. This is an absorbing introduction to Greek history as well as a good adventure story’ – Virginia Clark, Daily Telegraph

‘A fine example of popular classical history’ – Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times

‘Thrilling … Waterfield … has an assured command of his terrain … He tells his story confidently and orders his material well’ – Justin Marozzi, Sunday Telegraph

‘Waterfield tells the story briskly and vividly’ – Brendan Boyle, New York Sun

‘Crisp and clear … well worth the read’ – Kevin Winter, Sacramento Book Review

‘Worthy of attention by both Xenophon students and philhellenes of all stripes’ – The University Bookman

One of John Crossland’s ‘best books about war’ of 2006 – timesonline.co.uk, 3 December 2006


Rights Sold

UK: Faber and Faber

US: Harvard University Press

Greece: Psichogios

Spain: Gredos

Italy: Guinti