People > Meno



Meno of Thessaly was a notable figure during the early 4th century BCE, primarily known for his involvement in the Persian campaign of Cyrus the Younger and his appearance in Xenophon's "Anabasis." He was a Thessalian general who played a significant role in the events leading up to and following the famous march of the Ten Thousand. Meno hailed from Thessaly, a region in northern Greece known for its powerful aristocracy and skilled cavalry. He was likely a member of the Thessalian elite, which allowed him to gain a position of military leadership.

Meno was one of the many Greek mercenary leaders who joined Cyrus the Younger in his attempt to seize the Persian throne from his brother, Artaxerxes II.He commanded a contingent of around 1,500 mercenaries, a substantial force that contributed to Cyrus's army. In 401 BCE, Cyrus the Younger launched his campaign against his brother, Artaxerxes II, hoping to claim the throne of the Persian Empire. Meno and his troops joined this campaign, participating in the famous march to Cunaxa, where the decisive battle took place.

Battle of Cunaxa:

During the Battle of Cunaxa, Meno and his contingent fought alongside other Greek mercenaries. Despite their efforts and initial success on the battlefield, Cyrus was killed, leading to the collapse of his rebellion. After the death of Cyrus, the Greek mercenaries found themselves deep in Persian territory without a clear leader or plan for escape. The mercenary leaders, including Meno, attempted to negotiate with the Persian commander Tissaphernes for safe passage home. During these negotiations, Meno and other Greek generals were invited to a meeting with Tissaphernes under the pretense of further negotiations. They were betrayed, arrested, and executed, except for Meno, who was initially spared but later executed or died in captivity under unclear circumstances.

In Xenophon’s "Anabasis," Meno is depicted as an ambitious and unscrupulous figure, willing to manipulate and betray others to advance his own position.Xenophon portrays Meno as a contrast to more honorable leaders like Clearchus and himself. Meno's reputation is mixed; some view him as a capable but ultimately flawed leader who made critical errors in judgment. His role in the campaign highlights the complexities and dangers of mercenary life in the ancient world.

The campaign and subsequent retreat of the Ten Thousand had significant implications for Greek-Persian relations, showcasing both the strengths and vulnerabilities of Persian power. The experiences of Meno and his fellow mercenaries provided valuable military insights that would influence Greek tactics and strategy in future conflicts with Persia.

Meno’s involvement in Cyrus’s campaign underscores the prevalence and importance of mercenary forces in ancient warfare. The adventures of the Ten Thousand became legendary, inspiring future generations of soldiers and commanders.

In summary, Meno of Thessaly was a prominent mercenary leader whose actions during the campaign of Cyrus the Younger and the subsequent retreat of the Ten Thousand left a lasting mark on Greek military history. His complex character and the dramatic events of his life are vividly captured in Xenophon's "Anabasis," contributing to his enduring legacy in the annals of ancient history.

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