Friday, August 27, 2010

Fullbore Friday

I just finished with Xenophon's
Anabasis on audio.

Wow ... just wow. Almost 2,400 years old and its lessons on leadership are timeless. There is really nothing new under the sun.

This book is a perfect example of the critical importance of a classical education. We wouldn't have to learn the hardway if we realized the truth that has been there from the dawn of history ... not to mention the lessons of 20 years ago ... move the decimal place two spots over.

Here is just one bit.
Rely upon this then, all you who are here assembled, now is your great opportunity. The soldiers outside have their eyes fixed upon you; if they think that you are faint-hearted, they will turn cowards; but if you show them that you are making your own preparations to attack the enemy, and setting an example to the rest--follow you, be assured, they will: imitate you they will. May be, it is but right and fair that you should somewhat excel them, for you are generals, you are commanders of brigades or regiments; and if, while it was peace, you had the advantage in wealth and position, so now, when it is war, you are expected to rise superior to the common herd--to think for them, to toil for them, whenever there be need.

"At this very moment you would confer a great boon on the army, if you made it your business to appoint generals and officers to fill the places of those that are lost. For without leaders nothing good or noble, to put it concisely, was ever wrought anywhere; and in military matters this is absolutely true; for if discipline is held to be of saving virtue, the want of it has been the ruin of many ere now.
Well, then! when you have appointed all the commanders necessary, it would only be opportune, I take it, if you were to summon the rest of the soldiers and speak some words of encouragement. Even now, I daresay you noticed yourselves the crestfallen air with which they came into camp, the despondency with which they fell to picket duty, so that, unless there is a change for the better, I do not know for what service they will be fit; whether by night, if need were, or even by day.
The thing is to get them to turn their thoughts to what they mean to do, instead of to what they are likely to suffer. Do that, and their spirits will soon revive wonderfully. You know, I need hardly remind you, it is not numbers or strength that gives victory in war; but, heaven helping them, to one or other of two combatants it is 42 given to dash with stouter hearts to meet the foe, and such onset, in nine cases out of ten, those others refuse to meet.
This observation, also, I have laid to heart, that they, who in matters of war seek in all ways to save their lives, are just they who, as a rule, die dishonourably; whereas they who, recognising that death is the common lot and destiny of all men, strive hard to die nobly: these more frequently, as I observe, do after all attain to old age, or, at any rate, while life lasts, they spend their days more happily.
This lesson let all lay to heart this day, for we are just at such a crisis of our fate. Now is the season to be brave ourselves, and to stimulate the rest by our example."
The March of the 10,000, or if you wish - Anabasis: The March Up Country. Nothing but hardcore. If you don't know the story - buy the book or read it online here.


GIMP said...

Where the hell are my sword and spear when I need them?  After reading that I'm ready to go to war.  Alas, my lot is to return to home base after a week TAD.  Times change, not people.  Thanks.

Grandpa Bluewater. said...

Everything changes but the human condition.

Byron said...

Xenophon was a combat commander par excellance...and made the Persians sorry, tired and sore for trying to screw him over.

AW1 Tim said...

 Yup. Xenophon spoke true. So did Theucydides when he argues for a strong Navy as the sheild of Athens. So did Marcus Aurelius when he wrote of how you should live your life and comport yourself as a leader.  It's all there for anyone to read, if they would care to.

   I agree, CDR, that an education, begun at an early age, and based upon the classics is immeasureable in it's value to both the individual and the nation.  We can do better. We must fo better.

ewok40k said...

Those who fail to learn lessons of history are doomed to repeat its failures.

YNSN said...

One of the best stories ever told.

virgil xenophon said...

There is A REASON I chose the call-sign/nom de plume I did. (aside from the fact my middle name is Virgil and the original a far better poet than this academic refugee) One of the great combos of a man of action and a man of letters of all time...

Curtis said...

Not all that sure that he did that.  Sparta was a land army kind of place.  A navy in Athens would exactly oppose Sparta how?  By going to Sicily with a navy and marine force?  Let's see, Sparta on same land peninsula as Athens, Athens, with a navy, attacks Sicily instead of Sparta.  Reading the same book it was the downfall of Athens.

Continental powers do not do anything but burn assets when they use the navy to attack appendages of the enemy vice the enemy.

ewok40k said...

ahem, most of the Peloponesian war consisted of Athens being besieged, getting supplies by sea and raiding from the sea Spartan holdings, which annoyed Spartans to no end. Spartans were great warriors, but they could not man entire Pelopones peninsula... Sea power was playing to strengths of the Athens instead of trying to beat land power at their own game.

Pogue said...

As it turns out, Amazon has a Kindle version of Anabasis available for free.  Thanks CDR, I'm always looking for good reading material.

Dave Navarre said...

Great read. It's at least as inspiring as Henry V.

I tell all the young men that I teach leadership to, "Don't just watch war movies for the 'glory', but pay attention to the good leaders in those movies, and learn from them." Always good to be reminded that I need to put a book in their hands to learn from the classics.