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September 14 , 2008

Anabasis - The Original Classic Edition


Xenophon wrote several books that survive: A History of My Times and Cavalry Tactics to name two, but the one hes most famous for, and arguably the best read is Anabasis. A detailed accounting of moving 10,000 troops through hostile country, ulimately extracting them back to Greece. The fact that this is a Classic shouldnt put off any readers whove plodded through ancient literature. Xenophon wrote in an informal style, with much detail about the areas and peoples he encountered. Its almost as much travel story as a study in military leadership; but it IS ultimately a recounting of leadership under the most deadly conditions.

There are some timeless lessons here for military and civilian leaders. Xenophon fully explains his decisions (when he can), and ALWAYS asks for advice from other generals. This was critically important in an army of mercenaries whose loyalty was to themselves. Getting other leaders to buy into his decisions gave them a sense of empowerment (to use TQM jargon) and a stake in the outcome. He tries to be fair and cares for his troops-though he doesnt hesitate to risk lives if the mission calls for it. In battle he uses what might be termed asymmetric warfare: always pitting Greek strengths against enemy weaknesses; avoiding fighting the way his enemy fights best.

This is a great memoir of an amazing feat of arms and personal leadership. Highly recommended.

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