Scholia Reviews ns 16 (2007) 10.

Tim Rood, The Sea! The Sea! The Shout of the Ten Thousand in the Modern Imagination. London: Duckworth, 2004. Pp. 272. ISBN 0-7156-3308-2. UK25.00, US$35.00.

Richard J. Evans
School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University

The author of this volume sets out to examine precisely, as the title suggests, how Xenophons famous (or should that perhaps be notorious?) phrase in his Anabasis (4.7.24) has captured the minds of generations of readers since at least the eighteenth century to the present day, and how this has been transferred, sometimes without alteration, sometimes with poetic or literary license, into modern literature. This book tells the story of Thalatta! Thalatta!, the shout uttered by some Greek soldiers in 400 BC and echoed by numerous others since (p. 2). No less intriguing are the attempts by later writers to tell the remarkable adventures of the Ten Thousand (p. 3). Thus the objectives so concisely put become three-fold: not only to trace as many instances of when modern writers themselves enunciated or imagined Xenophons dramatic phrase, and why they should be influenced in doing so, and to document those works, which retell the Anabasis for a modern readership or reuse the material for a contemporary audience in prose or verse.

With this aim in mind, the work is divided into nine chapters of quite notable erudition, although Rood does admit to that twenty-first century phenomenon of surfing the internet(p. 219). Chapter 1, The Black Sea (pp. 1-13), acts as both an introduction to and a historical sketch of what was really Cyrus rebellion against Artaxerxes II, which culminated ingloriously at the battle of Cunaxa in the summer of 401, followed by the subsequent retreat to the Black Sea of Greek mercenaries, commanded for most of the withdrawal by Xenophon. Chapter 2, Eastern Adventure (pp. 14-41), documents how mainly British experiences in the Middle East during the First World War became identified with those of the Ten Thousand. In Chapter 3, Our Friend of Youth (pp. 42-65), Rood examines the changing engagement with, and perceived relevance of, Xenophons Anabasis as a school text in the original Greek from the start of the 1800s down through the last century, and hence explains the enduring interest of the text, although sadly this is no longer the case. Chapter 4, Image of Eternity (pp. 66-88), consists of a broad survey of the use, reinvention, and abuse of Xenophon (4.7.24) in the literature from 1827 (Heine) to 1971 (Moore). Chapter 5, The Sea is English (pp. 89-108), focuses on how the phrase became incorporated into British heroism in the Second World War, primarily Dunkirk and its associated spirit of defiance, British pride in their resilience (p. 92), although with some inappropriate usage of anabasis, perhaps also a sign of the times educationally. Chapter 6, A Stray Genius (pp. 109-33), marks a change in direction with discussion confined to a single enthusiast, the painter and incessant campaigner (p. 109) B. R. Haydon, who chose to portray Xenophons famous scene on canvass (illustrated as Plate 9, between pp. 86 and 87). In Chapter 7, the focus becomes following in the footsteps of Xenophon (In the Tracks of the Ten Thousand, pp. 134-61) as various intrepid travellers, some with the tourist industry firmly in their minds, followed the route of the Greeks from Mesopotamia to Trebizond -- indeed some in reverse -- and then produced often handy-sized volumes of their own. Chapter 8 returns to the theme of Chapter 4, The Snotgreen Sea (pp. 162-98), and the influence of the seminal phrase on twentieth century writers, including, not unsurprisingly, James Joyce. Chapter 9 is both a conclusion and the first time that Rood discusses the fact that the journey of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand did not conclude with the The Sea! The Sea!, and why that fact should have been overlooked by so many of those supposedly so affected by the phrase. Indeed, what sort of story was Xenophon telling? He was suggesting that the Greek mercenaries moved from relative unity in the face of a common danger to disunity and squabbling when they reached the sea. (p. 208). Rood should have gone one step further and contextualized Xenophons possible message: Greek unity in the face of adversity, but disunity when free of external threat. A select bibliography completes the volume (pp. 247-52).

It is a rare event for this reader to laugh out loud on a crowded commuter train when reading a work devoted to some aspect of the Classics. In particular, the use of Xenophons Anabasis in the English school system (for example, The horror of reading Xenophon at school was particularly associated with a single word -- parasang . . . p. 49), and the adventures of explorers in eastern Turkey (for instance, . . . more and more travellers would feel the urge to add an allusion or two to Xenophon as they wrote up their hefty accounts of their Turkey trips . . . p. 142) are certainly high points in a hugely enjoyable book, which deserves unreserved recommendation. Of course, that does not mean that there is no room for criticism, and these should be duly noted. For the reader less familiar with the Classics, a reference to Plutarchs Moralia (347C) might have been useful for Eucles (p. 116), who is not otherwise indexed. And Eucles (or was it Philippides or Pheidippides?) is not the only absentee from an otherwise replete index (pp. 253-62): Barry, Porthcawl, Muizenberg, Umtata Mouth (pp. 62f.), and Seringapatam (p. 140) all fail to appear. And Rood claims (p. 92) that MacNeice wrote his radio play The March of the Ten Thousand in Oxford, but later more dramatically in the London of the Blitz (p. 168). Also problematic is the point at which Rood changes his discussion from the literary to the geographical: the search for Mt. Theches (pp. 139f.), the location of the mound (p. 145) raised by the Greeks to celebrate their sight of the sea (Anabasis, 4.7.26) and the route down to the Euxine (Chapter 7 passim). A single map of the Greeks route is provided (p. 4) but nothing afterwards where it matters most. More detailed maps and plans would surely have been of benefit for the discussion. And while Mt. Theches may have been roughly seventy-five miles (five stathmoi) from the city of Gymnias (4.7.19), although Xenophon suggests that this was a roundabout route, the way from there to Trebizond was noticeably longer to accomplish (cf. p. 139). Xenophon suggests three days and approximately 36 miles (10 parasangs) to cross the land of the Macronians (4.8.1) and a further 2 days (but only 7 parasangs or 25 miles suggesting difficult terrain) from the Colchians to Trebizond. However, the Greeks appear to have remained in Colchis for a number of days -- mostly eating the local honey and then being ill -- in between these two items of Xenophontic measurement, which is, therefore, rather inconsistent with a hurried march to the sea and its appeal, however, appealing that shout remains in the modern imagination.