The Lost Army

Written by Valerio Massimo Manfredi (trans. Christine Feddersen-Manfredi)
Review by Mike Ashworth

The Lost Army is the story of 10,000 Greek soldiers who are spearheading an attack on the Persian king, Artaxerxes, by his brother, Cyrus, who wishes to usurp his brother’s throne. Ostensibly mercenaries, the soldiers are actually recruited and unofficially supported by the Spartan government who, although supposedly allies of Ataxerxes, are looking to promote their own strategic agenda by backing both sides. Unfortunately, the plan goes awry and Cyrus is defeated and killed. Although the battle is lost, the Spartan army is still a cohesive force, and their commanders decide to fight their way through Persian lands back to Greece.

The story is told from the point of view of Abira, a young woman, and is based on one of the most famous works of Greek literature, the Anabasis. The research and attention to detail are faultless. The principal characters spring from the pages with vigour and life while the reality of life for the Greek soldiers as they struggle to survive against all the odds makes for breathtaking reading. Fans of Valerio Manfredi will already have devoured this book. If you are not familiar with his work then this is the book for you. Highly recommended.