This 2,400-year-old true story inspired a ’70s action classic

Sometimes the most effective adjustments are the most transformative. It sounds absurd considering that a film about gang warfare could be based not just on a 2,400 year old story, but on actual history. Still Walter Hills the Warriors – which is based on Sol Yurick Roman of the same name, which itself is based on Xenophon anabasis – turns the story of a Greek army’s retreat after the death of its leader into a cult classic about a gang framed for the murder of a powerful gang leader and fighting their way back to the safety of Coney Island.

Anabasis is the story of a real journey

Cowboy, Rembrandt, Swan, Cochise, Vermin, Snow & Mercy in The Warriors
Image via Paramount Pictures

anabasis is the story of an army of Greek mercenaries in the service of Cyrus the Younger, who is attempting to seize the Achaemenid throne (perhaps better known as the Persian Empire) from his older brother Artaxerxes II. It is the most famous work by Xenophon, who acts not only as an author but also as a character, since he was a soldier in the mercenary army before rising to the ranks of their senior officers. The term anabasis in this context essentially means a journey inland (ironically the least notable part of the story), while katabasis denotes a journey to the coast. Their use here also reverses the structure of many Greek mythological texts, with a katabasis (referring in this context to a descent into the underworld) preceding the anabasis (an ascent). In many ways, thematically if not geographically, Xenophon’s narrative does just that.

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The events of anabasis were created by the Persian king Darius II when he installed his son Cyrus as satrap (provincial governor) in Asia Minor to support the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War against Athens. When Darius II died and his eldest son Artaxerxes II ascended the throne, Cyrus raised an army of experienced and battle-hardened Greek warriors who had fought in the Peloponnesian War to conquer the empire. When his mercenary army in 401 B.C. fought his brother’s Persian army at the Battle of Cunaxa, they won a significant victory, but Cyrus himself was speared. With their cause now empty, the 10,000 Greeks have no choice but to retreat from the heart of Persian territory and fight all the way. Everyone who saw it the Warriors I can probably spot some similarities at the moment.

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How The Warriors adapts Anabasis

The cast of the Warriors
Image via Paramount Pictures

The best thing about the Warriors than adjustment is how loose it is. While it’s far more common in contemporary works with large, integrated audiences, all too often adaptations come too close to the source material to avoid alienating existing fan bases. However, many great adaptations take the structure and themes of a book or mythology and twist them into something new. Of course, this approach is no guarantee of success, but the Warriors is an example of doing it right. Shifting what is essentially a historical epic to 1970s New York gang warfare (sort of) is creatively involved Coen brothers turn The Odyssey into a rural Mississippi folk satire of the 1930s Oh brother where are you?

The film uses the gangs alternately as representations of the mercenary army and the Persians, with the collective force behind the leader of the Gramercy Riffs, Cyrus (Roger Hill), analogous to Cyrus the Younger’s army, before being flipped so that only the warriors themselves are representative of the 10,000 after they are credited with killing Cyrus. The opening montage of the various gangs making their way to the meeting is a testament to this, while also being an incredibly effective build that introduces the various factions the warriors must fight. The subway map shows the length of the journey to both the meeting and home, helping viewers unfamiliar with New York boroughs understand the distance from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to Coney Island. As well as being an incredible costume design, the various gangs and their respective turfs are proxies for the various satrapies that the 10,000 players navigate.

The structure of the gangs is also reminiscent of a military structure with a warlord at the top and a warchief below him. In the case of the warriors themselves, their leader was Cleon (Dorsey Wright) was killed in retaliation for the death of Cyrus is an analogue of the senior officers of the Anabasis mercenary army being tricked into attending a feast thrown by one of Artaxerxes II’s leading satraps, Tissaphernes. This shouldn’t come as a shock, but all the officers were executed. What follows Cleon’s death in the Warriors is swan (Michael Beck) took the lead, apparently a proxy for Xenophon himself, who played a prominent role in guiding the 10,000 on their journey home. The plot device of killing the leader of a group at the beginning of the film would be used again by Hill in both instances Southern comfort And aliens, which he wrote down. The last moments of the Warriors Also make a final connection anabasis As Swan says, “When we see the sea, we think we’re home. We’re safe’, aptly reflecting the jubilant 10,000 crowd shouting ‘To the sea!’ To the sea!” when their journey is almost over.

“The Warriors” added more connections in a director’s cut

In the year 2005, the Warriors got an updated release that Paramount dubbed the ultimate director’s cut — though the variance is probably not great enough for that designation — that reintroduced an opening narration by Hill originally wanted Orson Welles to express. Unfortunately, Paramount didn’t want to cut that check, so Hill voiced it himself in the re-release via comic panels linking the film more directly to the Battle of Cunaxa and March of the 10,000. Also, the hint that the movie is set to take place in the near future (relative to 1979 at least) has been reinserted, which is an interesting throwback to the context. The additional comic-style transitions between some scenes are an unwise choice.

John Wick: Chapter 4 includes an extended tribute

Keanu Reeves in John Wick Chapter 4
Image via Lionsgate

The John Wick Series had a connection to the Warriors since the first movie that featured the earlier movie’s antagonist, David Patrick Kelly (with whom director Chad Stahelski had previously worked as a stunt person The crow), as head of a corpse clean-up team. John Wick: Chapter 4 made the connection even clearer in the third act when John Wick (Keanu Reeves) must fight through Paris to reach Sacré-Cœur before sunrise. Stahelski highlights the homage with the DJane (Marie Pierra Kakoma), indicating Wick’s position on the plethora of assassins looking for a salary if they take him down, which is an extremely clear reference to the DJ woman (Lynne Thigpen), who informs the gangs of where the Warriors are in New York. Both DJs address their audience almost identically, from labeling “Bopper” and “Street People” to playing covers of “Nowhere to Run.” It’s a fitting tribute for a franchise with deeply rooted mythology to one of its ancestors.

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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