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Title: The retreat of the ten thousand

Author: C. Witt


Author of introduction, etc.: Henry Graham Dakyns

Translator: Frances Younghusband

Release date: October 17, 2023 [eBook #71894]

Language: English

Original publication: London: Longmans, Green, and Co, 1896

Credits: Turgut Dincer and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note

Larger versions of most illustrations may be seen by right-clicking them and selecting an option to view them separately, or by double-tapping and/or stretching them. A larger, higher-resolution copy of the map may be seen by clicking (Larger) beneath it.

Additional notes will be found near the end of this ebook.









Translator of ‘Myths of Hellas’

Translator of ‘The Works of Xenophon’



All rights reserved


Miss Younghusband kindly insists that I should write a preface to her new volume, and I cannot refuse. It contains a translation by her hand from the German of Professor C. Witt’s version of the Retreat of the Ten Thousand.

Such a book ought, I think, no less than its predecessors The Myths of Hellas, The Tale of Troy, and The Wanderings of Ulysses, to become a favourite with those youthful readers, to whom it is primarily addressed. Indeed, considering the nature of the history, older persons may perhaps find an interest in it.

The original Greek narrative, on which Professor Witt has based his version, is, of course, the well-known Anabasis of Xenophon, which is one of the most fascinating books in the world. And I agree with the translator in hoping that some of those who read the story for the first time in English will be led to study Greek sufficiently to read it again and again in the language of Xenophon himself.


That remarkable personage, who in spite of his Spartan leanings was a thorough Athenian at heart—found himself on a sudden called upon to play the part of a leader: and played it to perfection. But if he deserved well of his countrymen and fellow soldiers by his service in the field, he has deserved still better of all later generations by the vigour, not of his sword, but of his pen.

Perhaps we owe it to his Socratic training that whilst the memories were still fresh he sat down to describe the exploits of the Ten Thousand in a style admirably suited to the narrative; and produced a masterpiece. I do not think there is a dull page in the book.

The incidents, albeit they took place in the broad noonday of Grecian history, are as thrilling as any tale told by the poets in the divine dawn of the highly gifted Hellenic race. The men themselves who play so noble a part are evidently true descendants of the Homeric heroes. If they have fits of black despondency—the cloud is soon dispelled when there is need for action, and by a sense of their own dignity. The spirit of their forefathers, who fought and won at Marathon and Salamis and Platææ, has entered into them. They enter the lists of battle with the same gaiety. They confront death with similar equanimity. Buoyancy is the distinctive note of the Anabasis.


But there is another side to the matter. These Xenophontine soldiers are also true enfants du siècle. They bear the impress of their own half century markedly: and it was an age not by any means entirely heroic. It had its painful and prosaic side.

‘Nothing,’ a famous Frenchman, M. Henri Taine, has remarked in one of his essays entitled Xénophon, ‘is more singular than this Greek army—which is a kind of roving commonwealth, deliberating and acting, fighting and voting: an epitome of Athens set adrift in the centre of Asia: there are the same sacrifices, the same assemblies, the same party strifes, the same outbursts of violence; to-day at peace and to-morrow at war; now on land and again on shipboard; every successive incident serves but to evoke the energy and awaken the poetry latent in their souls.’

How does this happen? It is due, I think, to the Ten Thousand to admit: It was so, because in spite of personal defects they were true to themselves. ‘The Greeks,’ as the aged Egyptian priest exclaimed to Solon, in another context, ‘are always children.’

This something childlike—this glory had not as yet in the year 400 B.C. faded into the light of common day. But as M. Taine adds concerning the writing itself, ‘The beauty of style transcends even the interest of the story,’ and we may well imagine that a less capableviii writer than Xenophon (Sophænetus for instance) would have robbed the narrative and the actors alike of half their splendour.

And what of Xenophon himself? There is much to be said on that topic. But it is ‘another story.’ In this he must speak for himself.

H. G. Dakyns.



In translating Professor Witt’s version of the Retreat of the Ten Thousand, I have ventured to divide the chapters, and also to re-arrange in some cases the grouping of sentences and paragraphs, for the sake of greater clearness. The figures given for numbers, distances and sums of money, are the same as in Mr. Dakyns’ translation of the works of Xenophon. Here and there too I have modified or omitted or added a phrase, as for instance in substituting, on the first page, Alfred the Great for Karl der Grosse, as an example more familiar to English readers; and in adding to the description of Persepolis one or two details to explain the illustrations. But in the main I have endeavoured to reproduce accurately Professor Witt’s text in simple English, without either addition or omission.

The illustrations are mostly taken (by permission) from MM. Perrot and Chipiez’s ‘Histoire de l’Art dans l’Antiquité.’ Some few are from Baumeister’s Dictionary.x The two views are from photographs kindly lent for the purpose by Mr. Cecil Smith, of the British Museum.

I am glad to take the opportunity of expressing my very grateful thanks to Mr. Dakyns for his kindness in forwarding this attempt to interest English children in the writings of an author to whom he has himself given so many hours of sympathetic study. And I hope that many readers of this little book may be stimulated to the effort of studying for themselves the works of the great historian in the original Greek.

Frances Younghusband.



I. The Great King 1
II. The Persian Empire 7
III. Hellas 13
IV. The Rival Brothers 15
V. Preparations 21
VI. On the March 27
VII. The Princess Epyaxa 32
VIII. Clearchus 38
IX. Negotiations at Tarsus 42
X. From Tarsus to Myriandus 49
XI. The Crossing of the Euphrates 53
XII. In the Desert 57
XIII. The Treachery of Orontes 62
XIV. The King approaches 65
XV. Before the Battle 71
XVI. The Battle of Cunaxa 75
XVII. The Treaty with Ariæus 81
XVIII. The Treaty with the Great King 86
XIX. The Defection of Ariæus 93xii
XX. A Conference with Tissaphernes 96
XXI. The Treachery of Tissaphernes 100
XXII. Xenophon 105
XXIII. Election of Officers 110
XXIV. Xenophon addresses the Troops 114
XXV. Annoyed by Mithridates 119
XXVI. Harassed by Tissaphernes 124
XXVII. The last of Tissaphernes 129
XXVIII. The River or the Mountains? 134
XXIX. The Carduchians 137
XXX. Seizing a Pass 141
XXXI. A long Day’s Fighting 147
XXXII. The Crossing of the Kentrites 151
XXXIII. The Satrap Tiribazus 157
XXXIV. An Armenian Winter 162
XXXV. Armenian Villages 167
XXXVI. The Taochians 171
XXXVII. The Sea! the Sea! 177
XXXVIII. The Macronians and the Colchians 181
XXXIX. The Games at Trebizond 185
XL. The After-life of Xenophon 189



Route of the Ten Thousand Frontispiece
To face page
Ruins of the Palace of Persepolis 2
Ruins of Persepolis: Balustrade of Great Staircase 26
Hall of the Hundred Columns at Persepolis—Restored 38
Pillar from Hall of the Hundred Columns 62
Tomb of Darius I. near Persepolis 80
The Great King fighting with a Monster 88
Zeus 114
The Hill Country East of the Tigris 126
Among the Carduchian Mountains 142
Ruins of Persepolis: Gate of Xerxes 168
Ruins of Persepolis: Gateway with Winged Bulls 180
Artemis 190xiv
The Great King in Gala Dress 4
Front of the Palace of Persepolis 14
Bringing Presents to a Satrap 16
A Bear Hunt 17
A Gold Daric 24
Athenian Helmets 28, 34
Persian Galley 36
Ruins of Persepolis: Hall of the Hundred Columns 47
The Great King hunting 66
The Great King on his Throne, supported by the Subject Nations 73
A Fight between Hellenes and Barbarians 77
Coin of a Satrap, probably Tissaphernes 90
Archers of the Royal Body-guard 103
Hellene Horseman: Coin of Alexander of Pheræ 122
Hoplite singing the Pæan 155
A Satrap receiving Deputies 158



From time to time, in the course of the world’s history, the title of Great has been given to some monarch who has distinguished himself, either by the splendour of his victories, or by the value of his services to his fellowmen. We speak, for example, of Alexander the Great, and amongst English kings, of Alfred the Great.

There was however one empire, that of Persia, in which the title of Great carried with it no distinction, for in this country every king was called the Great King, not because it was supposed that his nature was more noble or his actions more splendid than those of other men, but because he was lord of a vast empire, greater than had ever yet been seen upon the face of the earth.

The Persian empire had been founded about a hundred and fifty years before the time of this story, by Cyrus the Great, who, having succeeded by inheritance2 to the double throne of Persia and Media, had conquered many of the surrounding nations. The kings who came after him extended their sway farther and farther, until at last, in the time of Darius I., there were no less than fifty-six countries subject to the Great King of Persia.

The Great King was looked upon as little less than a god. Every one who entered his presence threw himself flat upon the ground, as if in the presence of a divine being. It was supposed that a mere subject must of necessity be struck to the earth with sudden blindness on meeting the dazzling rays of such exalted majesty.

The court of the Great King was on a scale of the utmost splendour. His chief residence was the city of Susa, but in the hot season he preferred the city of Ecbatana, which was higher and cooler, and he also stayed occasionally at Babylon and at Persepolis. At each of these places there was an immense palace, adorned with every conceivable magnificence, and from the discoveries recently made among the ruins of Persepolis we can form some idea of what the palace of the Great King of Persia must have been like.

The palace of Persepolis stood upon a terrace above the rest of the city, and all round it were houses of a simpler kind, used for lodging the soldiers and the civil and military officers who were attached to the King’s person, and who ate daily at his expense. There must, in all, have been about fifteen thousand of them, including the ten thousand soldiers of the royal body-guard.1

1 See illustration, p. 103.


The gate of the palace was approached by two superb3 flights of marble stairs, which joined in front of the entrance, and were so wide that ten horsemen could ride abreast up each side.2 Within the gate was a square building with a front of more than two hundred feet.3 The entrance-hall was a magnificent room, with a roof supported by a hundred pillars of richly carved stone,4 and on either side of it were other rooms with beautiful pillars. In all directions lovely colours and ornaments of gold and silver met the eye. The walls were covered with gigantic sculptures, representing the Great Kings Darius I. and Xerxes, who had built the palace, with attendants, both in time of peace, and at war with monsters and wild beasts.5 Together with the sculptures were inscriptions which can be read even now. This is a translation of the beginning of one of them: ‘I am Darius, the Great King, the King of kings, the King of these many countries.’ Among the sculptures is one that represents Darius seated on his throne, with a slave standing behind him, holding in his hand a fan with which to keep off the flies. The mouth of the slave is covered with a bandage, for it would have been considered a profanation to allow the air breathed by so august a sovereign to be polluted by the breath of a slave.6 Another sculpture represents an audience given to an ambassador, who, for the same reason, holds his hand before his mouth in the presence of the King.

2 See illustration facing p. 26.

3 Ibid. p. 14.

4 Ibid. pp. 38, 47, 62.

5 Ibid. p. 88.

6 Ibid. p. 72.


(From the Darius Vase at Naples.)

When the Great King gave an audience he sat upon a golden throne with a canopy above him which was held in its place by four slender pillars of gold4 adorned with precious stones. The whole effect was so dazzling that it would be hard to imagine anything more splendid, even in a fairy tale. On these occasions, and on all feast days, the King appeared in a purple robe, with a magnificent mantle of the same purple colour, richly embroidered. Round his waist was a golden girdle, and from it there hung a golden sabre, glittering with precious stones. On his head was the5 tiara, a sort of pointed cap worn by the Persians. Only the King might wear his tiara standing upright, all subjects were obliged to press down the point, or arrange the cap in some other way. The colour of the royal tiara was blue and white, and it was encircled with a golden crown. The full value of the gala costume was reckoned at nearly 300,000l. of our money.

It was only on rare occasions that the King walked, and then only within the precincts of the palace; on these occasions carpets were spread before him, on which no foot but his might tread. When he rode beyond the palace, the right of helping him into his saddle was bestowed as a mark of great distinction upon one of the most highly-favoured lords of the empire. More frequently, however, the King preferred to drive in his chariot, and at these times the road he intended to take was specially cleansed, and strewn with myrtle as if for a festival, and filled with clouds of incense. It was lined, moreover, with armed men on both sides; and guards with whips prevented any approach to the royal chariot. If a distant journey had to be undertaken, no less than twelve hundred camels and a whole multitude of chariots, waggons and other means of transport were required to convey the Great King, his countless attendants, and his endless baggage.

At a distance of about two miles from Persepolis was a great pile of marble rock, and here Darius I. caused his tomb to be made whilst he was yet alive. So steep and inaccessible was the cliff that the only way of placing the body in the tomb prepared for it was by raising it from below with ropes. Afterwards three other royal6 tombs were hewn out of the same rock, and three more in another, not far off.7

7 See illustration facing p. 80.

All Persians were allowed to have many wives, and the Great King had often a very large number; Darius, for example, had three hundred and sixty—almost as many as there are days in the year. Yet only one of these was the Queen; all the rest were so far beneath her that, when she approached, they had to bow themselves to the ground before her.

Like all Persians, the King only ate once a day, but the meal lasted a very long time. He sat at the centre of the table, upon a divan framed in gold and covered with rich hangings. At his right hand was the Queen-Mother; at his left, the Queen-Consort. The princes and intimate friends of the King, who were called his ‘table-companions,’ usually took their meal in an adjoining room. On feast days, however, they were permitted to dine in the royal presence, and on these occasions, seats made of cushions or carpets were placed for them upon the floor.

The power of the Great King was bounded by no law; from his will there was no appeal. He was a despot in the strictest sense of the word, and his subjects were all alike his slaves, from the lowest to the highest, not even excepting his nearest relations. In the whole world there was only one person whom he was required to treat with any kind of respect; this was his mother.


Under the vigorous rule of Darius I. the empire of Persia had attained its utmost limits; at that time fifty-six subject countries offered tribute to the Great King. But from this moment it gradually declined in power and in extent. For the wisest head and the strongest arm it would have been no easy task to govern such a dominion, and the successors of Darius were neither wise nor strong.

Neither was the Persian nation what it had been in the time of the great Cyrus, when even the nobles were simple in their habits, and when every Persian made it his pride to ride well, to shoot well, and always to speak the truth. Now, nobles and people alike had become luxurious and pleasure-loving, caring for nothing but to increase their own power and wealth, no matter at what cost to the subject nations.

The empire was unwieldy in size, and moreover it lacked any real bond of union. The various nations of which it was composed differed in language, in manners, and in habits of life. Each province was interested in its own local affairs, but was profoundly indifferent to the fate of the empire at large; and in time of war the soldiers were so little inclined to risk their lives for a8 monarch of whom they knew nothing that they only fought under compulsion, and often had to be driven with whips to face the enemy.

In order to provide for the government of the empire, it was subdivided into provinces, and each province, or group of two or more provinces, was placed under the charge of one of the great lords. It was the duty of these governors—or Satraps, as they were called—to act as the representative of the sovereign, to maintain law and order, and to take care that the people had no opportunity of revolting from their subjection to the Great King.

The power of the satraps was practically absolute, and a thoroughly disloyal Satrap could even go so far as to seize some favourable opportunity to detach his province from the empire and make himself an independent sovereign. The King was, indeed, accustomed to make a journey of inspection every year into one or other of his provinces, but in each province such visits were of rare occurrence, and a Satrap who wished to seek his own advantage, instead of studying the interests of the King and of the empire, had every opportunity of doing so. ‘The empire is large,’ he might well say to himself, ‘and the King is far away.’

With a view to checking such tendencies on the part of the Satraps, the Persian nobles were trained in habits of implicit obedience and subjection to the sovereign, and were kept in constant fear of being ruined by some report of treason or misgovernment on their part which should reach the ears of the King. Upon the smallest suspicion, and without any sort of trial, a man who was accused of plotting treason against the9 King might be removed from his post, and either openly or secretly put to death. A story is told of Darius I., who was one of the best of the Great Kings, that once, when he was about to engage in an expedition against the Scythians, a Persian noble prostrated himself before him, and craved as a boon that of his three sons he might be allowed to keep one at home with him. The King answered that he should keep them all at home, and gave command to put them to death immediately.

In a similar manner the people were crushed by severe and cruel laws, just as wild animals are cowed by ill-treatment and want of food. As conquered nations they were not expected to have any attachment to the King, or any interest in the welfare of the empire, and although now and again services rendered to the King would be rewarded by overwhelming favours, yet the means chiefly relied upon for securing good behaviour was the certainty that every offence would meet with prompt and barbarous punishment. Not only criminals, but even persons merely suspected of having committed crimes, were put to death in the most horrible manner. Some were crushed between stones, others were torn limb from limb, and others, again, suffered painful imprisonment in troughs. For merely trifling offences they were cruelly mutilated.

There is a Persian proverb that ‘the King has many eyes and ears.’ In every state the king must have means of knowing through his trusted officers, who see and hear for him, what is going on among the people. But in Persia the arrangements for obtaining information of this kind were reduced to a science. Satraps10 and people alike were constantly watched by a body of spies, and so secretly was this done that it was not even known who were the officers employed. A favourite device of the spies was to feign a friendship for the person whose actions they wished to report, and a man might be arrested and executed without once suspecting the false friend who had given information of his real or imaginary guilt. Sometimes the spy would denounce an innocent man for no other reason than to bring himself into notice as active in the King’s service.

Another plan was to take note of every one who passed along the roads which led from the various Residences of the Great King to the other principal towns of the empire. These roads were commanded by fortresses where officers were stationed whose duty it was to enquire of every wayfarer whither he was going and on what errand, and any messenger carrying a letter was obliged to give it up for inspection. This was intended to check the free passage of suspicious persons, and to prevent the sending of letters not approved by the government; but it must often have been easy to find means of evading the King’s officers.

In order that the King might be informed as quickly as possible of any risings or disturbances in the provinces, a very complete system of postal communication had been arranged. Besides the fortresses, there were stations all along the roads, at intervals of about fifteen miles apart, where the traveller could find shelter for the night. Here the swiftest horses and horsemen were always waiting in readiness to carry on the post at full gallop without a moment’s delay, whether in burning11 sun or blinding snow: and thus there came to be a saying that ‘the Persian post-riders fly faster than the cranes.’ A messenger sent from Susa to Sardis, traveling at the ordinary speed, would take a hundred days to reach his destination; but by means of the King’s posts a letter could be conveyed in six or seven days and nights. It must not be supposed, however, that ordinary letters were carried so fast. The King’s posts were entirely reserved for the King’s business, and by this means he had the advantage of getting news from the provinces and sending back his commands before any one else knew what was going on.

But, in spite of all these precautions, the King, like his subjects, lived in constant fear. He never showed himself to the people, except surrounded by his ten thousand guards. If he gave an audience, the person admitted to the royal presence was compelled, on pain of death, to present himself dressed in a robe with long sleeves falling over the hands, so that he should not be able to use his hands against his sovereign. If he entertained guests at his table, those among them who were considered the most faithful were placed at his right hand, and the less trusted at his left, because, in case of need, he would be better able to defend himself with the right hand than with the left. Each dish that was set before him was first tasted by an officer in the royal presence, lest there should be poison in the food, and in like manner, the cup-bearer always drank first from the cup that he handed.

Under such a system of mutual fear and distrust, the seeds of ruin and decay were sown throughout the Persian empire, and each succeeding century saw it12 tottering more helplessly towards its final overthrow. But from without everything appeared fair and prosperous, and up to the very last, the Great Kings were careful to maintain all the pomp and splendour of imperial power.


Beyond the great Persian Empire, on the other side of the Hellespont, was the little country of Hellas, or Greece. The Hellenes, or Greeks, as they are often called, were a race of men who had for centuries trained themselves in the art of noble thinking and noble living, and they looked down with some scorn on their less cultivated neighbours, to whom they gave, one and all, the name of Barbarians.

In many respects Hellas was a complete contrast to Persia. The country was a very small one, and it was further divided into a number of tiny states, each with a free government of its own, and independent of all the rest. To the Hellene citizen, the one supreme necessity of life was freedom, and consequently in almost all the states the government was in the hands of men chosen by the people. Now and again a monarchy would be established in one or other of the states, but it never lasted long, and in their horror of tyrants, the Hellenes were apt to overlook the advantages of a firm, stable government.

It is true that in Hellas there were many slaves, but they formed a class apart and were in no sense citizens. The citizens themselves were free, and the Hellenes were convinced that honour, courage, and high-mindedness can only flourish among free men. It was14 their greatest pride to recall the battles fought by their countrymen in former days against the Barbarians of Persia, when, although outnumbered by ten to one, a handful of free men had put to flight a host of slaves.


See p. 3.


About the year 423 before Christ, the throne of Persia was occupied by a King, named Darius II. His Queen, the beautiful Parysatis, had borne him thirteen children, but most of them had died young, and only two sons were now alive, between whose ages there was a difference of no less than thirty years. The elder was called Artaxerxes; the younger, Cyrus. Parysatis was not an impartial mother. She loved Cyrus far better than Artaxerxes, and desired nothing more ardently than that he should succeed to the throne after the death of Darius, rather than his elder brother.

The Queen was beautiful, and wise and clever, and she had great influence over her husband, and seldom failed in persuading him to do as she wished. She hoped therefore to induce the King to name Cyrus as his successor, especially as there was much that could be urged in favour of her plan.

It was certainly true that the throne of Persia descended, as a rule, from the father to his first-born son, but there was nothing to prevent an elder son being passed over in favour of a younger, and such a course was not without precedent. In the present case, an excuse might be found in the fact that the birth of16 Artaxerxes had taken place before his father came to the throne, whereas Cyrus had been ‘born in the purple,’ and moreover bore the honoured name of the greatest of Persian sovereigns.

But a much stronger argument was the difference in character between the two men. Artaxerxes was weak and indolent, and lived constantly at the King’s court, hating exertion of any kind. Cyrus, on the contrary, was active and energetic, and had already given striking proofs of ability, both as a soldier and ruler of men, for at the age of eighteen, he had been appointed satrap of the provinces of Lydia, Greater Phrygia and Cappadocia.


Cyrus had many friends. He was a man just after the Persian heart,—a bold rider, an unrivalled archer and spear-thrower, and a passionate lover of the chase, especially when it was dangerous. He also excited the admiration of the Persians by his power of drinking an enormous quantity of wine without becoming intoxicated. This was looked upon as a sign of manliness, and a great distinction.

In the pleasant and peaceful occupation of gardening,17 Cyrus also took great delight. This charming pursuit had been raised almost to the rank of a religious duty by Zoroaster, the founder of the Persian religion, who had taught his disciples that when occupied in the planting and tending of trees useful to man, they were engaged in a good action, well-pleasing to God; and in consequence of this precept, almost every palace stood in the centre of a large park or tract of enclosed land, covered with beautiful old trees.


The palace of Cyrus stood in such a park, called by the Persians a ‘paradise.’ Here he might often be seen, attending to the trees with the utmost diligence. Here too was a convenient hunting-ground, ready to his hand, for the forest was full of wild animals who found abundant pasture in its pleasant glades. One day when Cyrus was out hunting he was attacked by a she-bear, who dragged him from his horse, and gave him several wounds before he could kill her. One of his companions came to his help, and for this service Cyrus rewarded him in so princely a manner as to make him an envied man.

As a friend, Cyrus was always generous and open-handed, and he delighted in making small presents as well as great. According to an old custom, every18 subject who came to his court brought with him gifts, and these Cyrus always accepted, but not for himself; he took them in order that he might divide them among his friends.

Sometimes, at a banquet, if he observed that the wine set before him was better than usual, he would send away part of it to one of his friends with some such message as this: ‘Drink this good wine to-day with your dearest friend.’ Or perhaps the gift would consist of half a goose or part of a loaf of bread, which would be taken to the friend with the message, ‘Cyrus has enjoyed this, and desires that you should taste it also.’

If he gave a promise, or entered into an agreement, it was certain that he would keep his word. A friendship once formed he ever afterwards regarded as sacred. Any one who did him a service, whether in war or in peace, was rewarded tenfold. At the same time, any one who offended or injured him might expect the most savage retaliation. He is said to have once prayed to the gods to grant that he might live until he had repaid all his friends and all his enemies.

As a governor, Cyrus was strictly and sternly just. Well-doers were encouraged and rewarded, but evil-doers met with immediate punishment; and as a warning to others, criminals who had been deprived of hands, legs or eyes, were exposed to view in the most frequented streets. In the whole empire there were no provinces in which natives and strangers alike were so secure from robbery and murder as in those governed by Cyrus.

Meanwhile the Great King Darius II. felt his end approaching, and as he wished to have both his sons19 beside his death-bed, he sent for Cyrus to come to Susa. On receiving the message, the young prince set out at once for the King’s court, accompanied by Tissaphernes, the satrap of a neighbouring province, whom he looked upon as one of his friends. He took with him also a body-guard of three hundred Hellenes, who had entered his service.

Cyrus was full of hope that the influence of his mother, and the favour with which he was regarded by the Persians generally, would cause his father to bequeath the throne to him, and not to Artaxerxes. If the choice of their future sovereign had been left to the people, they would probably have chosen Cyrus. But in Persia, the naming of the successor was the right of the reigning king, and the hopes of Cyrus were doomed to disappointment. On his death-bed, Darius named, not his younger, but his elder son; and the upright tiara, encircled with the golden crown, passed to Artaxerxes.

Cyrus was vexed and angry at the failure of his hopes, and probably took little pains to conceal his feelings, for he was of a very passionate nature. However this may have been, Tissaphernes, whose friendship for him had been merely feigned, went to the new King and told him that his brother had made up his mind to have him murdered.

The beginning of a new reign had often in Persia been signalled by bloody deeds, and the murder of a brother was by no means an unheard-of crime. Artaxerxes was therefore ready enough to believe the accusation, and immediately gave orders for his brother’s arrest, for he was resolved to defeat his ambitious20 schemes by the most effectual of all methods, namely by putting him to death.

Cyrus had many friends at the court, but there was not one who dared to come forward in his behalf, except his mother, Queen Parysatis. She indeed was ready to risk everything in order to save her favourite son, and being also the mother of the Great King, with a sacred claim upon his love and respect, she succeeded at last, after endless entreaties, in shaking his resolution and inducing him to pardon Cyrus.

Artaxerxes was far from being a great man, but he was at least easy-going and good-natured, and now his mother so far prevailed upon him, that he not only set Cyrus at liberty, but also reinstated him in his former dignities, and allowed him to depart to his own province.

Cyrus returned therefore to his Residence at Sardis, full of bitterness and disappointment. It is not known whether or not he had really plotted the murder of his brother. The story may very possibly have been invented by Tissaphernes through envy of Cyrus, and in the hope of succeeding to the government of his provinces.

This much however is at least certain, that after having been treated as guilty of high treason, and condemned to death in consequence, Cyrus had but one object in life, and that to further this object, he did not hesitate to employ the power entrusted to him for a very different purpose. From this time forward his whole mind was set upon obtaining by conquest the throne of Persia.


It was no small enterprise upon which the mind of Cyrus was now bent, and at first sight it might well have been pronounced altogether hopeless. How could a mere governor of a province hope to unseat from his throne the Great King with all the resources of the empire at his command? At the most, Cyrus could only reckon upon some 100,000 soldiers, whereas Artaxerxes was able to bring more than a million of men into the field.

On the other hand however, it might be urged that the Great King could not at once assemble his whole force. So immense were the distances in this huge empire, that a whole year of preparation would be required, in order to bring up the army to its full strength. And Cyrus intended, if possible, to take his brother by surprise. He believed moreover that his disadvantage in point of numbers would be more than counterbalanced by the infinitely superior quality of at least a part of his army.

It was from among the Hellenes that he hoped to enlist such troops as could not fail to ensure his success. Some years before this, he had visited Hellas as his father’s ambassador at the time of the Peloponnesian22 war, and had observed the unusual talent displayed by the Hellenes for military enterprise. He had made many friends among them, whose friendship he still retained, and he was anxious to induce as many Hellene soldiers as possible to enter his service.

The Hellenes had always been fond of adventure, and just at this time there were numbers of them willing and eager to engage themselves to a foreign master who promised good wages, especially when this master was a prince well known to be generous and open-handed, and above all, a lover of Hellas and the Hellenes. During the long Peloponnesian war they had become accustomed to an unsettled, adventurous camp-life, and now that the war was over, they did not care to return to peaceful pursuits.

But Cyrus could not, without betraying his plans, begin openly to enlist foreign troops. It was necessary to find a pretext for employing them, and in this he was helped by fortune. For several hundred years there had been established along the west coast of Asia, numerous flourishing colonies of Ionian Hellenes. At first, and for a long time, they were free states, but they had been conquered at last by the Persians, and now they formed part of the Persian empire, and were included in the satrapy of Tissaphernes.

Most fortunately however for Cyrus it happened that just at this time the Ionian cities rebelled, not against the Great King, but against Tissaphernes, and begged Cyrus to take them under his protection. To this he gladly agreed, for it gave him a pretext for declaring war against Tissaphernes, and supplied a cloak with which to cover the preparations he was making23 for his great enterprise. Accordingly he sent word to the Ionian cities that their garrisons should be strengthened by the addition of Hellene soldiers, which he proceeded to levy for the purpose. He also raised troops for the relief of Miletus, one of the largest of the cities, and the only one left in the hands of Tissaphernes, who had received the news of the intended revolt in time to enable him to take prompt measures for suppressing it. He had removed the garrison, put to death the leaders of the opposition, and banished all suspected persons. These banished inhabitants had come to Cyrus, and in answer to their entreaties, he agreed to besiege Miletus both by land and water.

It may seem strange that one satrap should have been able to wage war against another, whilst all the time both continued to be subjects of the Great King. But in point of fact, such rivalries between neighbouring satraps were rather encouraged than otherwise by the Great Kings, who lived in constant fear lest one or other of the great lords should take it into his head to make himself an independent sovereign, and consequently felt more secure when they were occupied in quarrelling among themselves. In this case moreover, the royal revenue suffered no loss through the revolt of the Ionian cities, for Cyrus took care to forward the tribute which they were required to send to Susa, just as regularly as it had before been sent by Tissaphernes.

Other opportunities also offered themselves to Cyrus for increasing the number of Hellene soldiers in his pay. About this time he received a visit from a Spartan named Clearchus, whose acquaintance he had made during the Peloponnesian war, and of whose ability as24 a military commander he had the highest opinion. Clearchus had come to him with a request on behalf of the cities of the Hellespont, who were at war with their barbarous neighbours, the Thracians, and could not hold their own against them without help. He wished to aid his countrymen by raising an army for their defence, and asked Cyrus to grant him for this purpose a sum of 10,000 darics.8 The request was a large one, but it was at once granted by Cyrus.

8 A daric was a gold coin, first issued by King Darius I, and called after him—worth about a guinea.


Shortly afterwards there came to him a Hellene from Thessaly, with a similar request. In his country, the party of which he was leader found itself hard pushed by the opposing faction, and he also desired to raise an army by means of which he and his friends might again have the upper hand. He asked Cyrus to let him have as much money as would enable him to hire 2,000 men for three months. ‘I will give you gold enough,’ said Cyrus, ‘to hire 4,000 men for six months, on condition that you prolong the quarrel with your enemies until I send for you.’

Other requests of a similar kind were also granted by Cyrus, always with an intimation that he might require the troops later on for his own service. And25 thus he secretly collected a force of Hellenes which he kept employed in other undertakings, but ready to come to him when he should want them.

Meanwhile he was careful not to neglect any means of improving the Barbarian soldiers of his provinces, and this could be done openly, for it was part of his duty as satrap to practise the troops in all kinds of military exercises calculated to increase their efficiency.

All this time the Great King was constantly sending spies to Sardis to find out what his brother was doing, but on their return the spies invariably reported that they had seen nothing that could be regarded as suspicious. The fact was that Cyrus knew so well how to make himself agreeable to the spies, that although they reached Sardis as the friends of the King, they always became, before leaving it, the friends of Cyrus.

Every step that he took was weighed by Cyrus with the utmost caution; every difficulty that was likely to present itself on the road to Susa was considered carefully and deliberately, in order to ascertain the best means of overcoming it. No feeling of impatience was allowed to urge him on to any rash or premature action.

At last, three years after his return from the court, he judged that the preparations were sufficiently advanced, and that the time had come when he might venture to call in the companies of Hellene mercenaries from their various services, and also assemble his Persian troops.

Even now however he took care not to disclose the real object of the campaign. For had he announced his intention of marching against Susa, the Great King26 would have been at once put upon his guard, and moreover he had every reason to fear that the Hellenes would refuse to enter upon the expedition, if they knew how desperate was the venture, and how far it would lead them from their homes. By means of his posts the King could hear in less than a week of what was doing at Sardis, but an army could not march from thence to Susa in less than six months.

For these reasons Cyrus announced that the expedition was to be directed against the marauding tribes of Pisidia, who had often made raids upon the neighbouring provinces, and laid them waste. These tribes must, he said, be exterminated, in order to maintain the safety of the empire.

But there was one whose sharp eyes had followed all the doings of Cyrus with the close watchfulness of hatred, and who saw clearly through the veil with which he sought to conceal his real purpose. This was his neighbour, Tissaphernes. When he heard of the great host gathered together for the expedition against the Pisidians, Tissaphernes felt certain that Cyrus was aiming at nothing short of the throne of Persia; and taking with him a troop of five hundred cavalry, he set off at full speed for Susa, that he might be the first to warn the King of the approaching danger.


See page 3, and illustration facing page 2.


It was about the ninth day of March in the year 401 B.C., that the army of Cyrus began to set forward. Cyrus was commander-in-chief of the whole army, but the two divisions were kept entirely separate, each under its own officers. The Asiatic troops, who numbered 100,000, were under the command of Ariæus, one of the most distinguished of the Persian supporters of Cyrus. The Hellene force, which consisted of 13,000 men, and was afterwards increased by another thousand, was composed of a number of different companies, each commanded by the general who had raised it, and smaller or larger according to his success in getting recruits. Under the generals were captains, who each had command of a hundred men, and whose numbers consequently varied in each company with the number of the soldiers.

Of the Persian troops, the most brilliant and useful were the cavalry. The Persians had long been famous for their skill and activity as horsemen; they were also excellent archers, and could draw their long bows at full gallop with as accurate an aim as if they were standing still and undisturbed on solid ground.

Among the Hellenes, on the contrary, the most28 useful, and at the same time the most numerous, were the Hoplites, or heavy infantry. There were no cavalry, and in the whole army only forty mounted men, nearly all of whom were officers.


The hoplites wore a helmet, breast-plate and greaves of iron, and carried an oval shield of ox-hide, overlaid with metal, which protected them from the mouth to the ankles. On its inner side the shield had a handle for holding it, and a strap wide enough for a shoulder-belt was attached to it at each end, so that it could be carried over the back. This was the usual way of carrying it on the march, when the enemy was known to be in the neighbourhood so that it was necessary to have the shield at hand, but not when the soldiers were engaged in actual fighting. For weapons of attack, they carried a spear measuring from seven to eight feet in length, made of strong wood with a solid iron point, and a short sword, or curved sabre. None but fine strong men could enter the ranks of the hoplites, for the full weight of the armour and29 weapons that they had to carry was no less than seventy pounds.

The light infantry were armed quite differently. They had but one weapon of defence, a shield which was only two feet in length; besides this they had little to carry but their clothes, for they were practically a troop of foot cavalry, and it was necessary that they should be very active, and able both to advance and retreat with extreme rapidity. According to their weapons of attack, they were subdivided into troops of lancers, archers and slingers. The lancers carried several light javelins, from three to four feet in length, the archers carried bows and arrows, and the slingers carried slings, with which they hurled stones or leaden bullets at the enemy.

And now the great host is well on its way. Try to imagine the dense, suffocating clouds of dust that must have been raised by the progress of such an army! Supposing the troops to have marched ten abreast, leaving one pace between each rank, the Barbarian army would have formed a procession more than three miles long, and the Hellene army would have covered about a third of a mile more. Besides this, there was the long train of baggage-wagons, the great droves of animals brought for slaughter, the numberless beasts of burden, and the crowds of people who in some capacity or other followed the army, but did not march in the ranks.

Even in the Hellene army, which in comparison with the Barbarian force was but scantily provided with camp-followers, there were great numbers of slaves whose duty it was to pitch the tents, to prepare30 the food, and to attend generally to the comfort of the troops. The tents and utensils were packed with the other luggage in wagons which the slaves drove, or piled on the backs of transport animals which the slaves led. Many of the Hellene officers moreover, and even some of the private soldiers, had brought their own slaves to wait upon them and to carry their heavy shields and helmets when there was no likelihood of their being attacked on the march. Behind these came a number of provision-dealers and other merchants, who brought goods of all kinds to sell to the troops, and who were always ready to buy from them any spoil that they might have an opportunity of taking. Still further in the rear were trumpeters, heralds, sacrificing priests, soothsayers and surgeons.

But the Hellene camp-followers were outnumbered a hundred times by the followers of the Barbarian army. For in addition to the other slaves, the luxurious Persian lords had brought with them their cooks, their bakers, and all manner of personal attendants, besides enormous tents in which to house the many members of their households who accompanied them to the war. The complete length of the procession formed by the army and its retinue was nothing short of six miles.

This immense multitude, great enough to people a good-sized town, required every day to be fed, either by buying such provisions as could be obtained on the spot, when the country through which they were marching was fruitful and well-peopled, or, when the country was waste and desolate, by falling back upon the stores which they had brought with them. These31 stores they were careful to renew whenever there was an opportunity of doing so.

In the Barbarian army, the officers were entrusted with the duty of providing food for the troops, and seeing that each man received every day his due portion of bread, meat and wine. In the Hellene army, the men catered for themselves, for their pay was given them in money instead of food.

The ordinary pay of a Hellene soldier was one daric a month, or about twenty-one shillings of our money, and out of this he was expected to provide his own weapons. The captains received twice as much as the private soldiers, and the generals four times as much. To us such a sum appears a very miserable pittance, but it must be remembered that in those days the value of money was far greater than it is now. Moreover all alike, whether officers or privates, might count upon a good share of booty from the enemy’s country.


The Hellenes had now been for some considerable time in the service of Cyrus, and hitherto he had not failed to pay them punctually every month. But the enormous expenses incurred in starting the expedition had for the moment completely drained his treasury, and now, two months after the departure from Sardis, he was still unable to give them any money, although their pay was by this time three months in arrear. It was a painful and embarrassing situation, and he felt it the more keenly because he had always been accustomed to give to those whom he employed more, rather than less, than he had promised them.

For a time the soldiers had been content to wait, for they had mostly some money of their own to fall back upon. But gradually their savings were becoming exhausted, and they were obliged to remind Cyrus of his debt. At first they did this modestly, but as time went on, they became more and more persistent, and now whole bands of them were constantly gathered round his tent, clamouring for their pay.

From this unpleasant position Cyrus was rescued by help that came to him from an unexpected quarter. Just at this time he received a visit from the Princess33 Epyaxa, wife of Prince Syennesis, who was the ruler of Cilicia, a province of the Persian empire included in the satrapy of Cyrus.

The princess had made a long journey in order to meet Cyrus at this point, and she had not come empty-handed. The large sum of money that she brought with her could not have arrived at a more welcome moment, and it was sufficient to enable Cyrus to distribute four months’ pay to the Hellene soldiers, and yet reserve a considerable sum for the next time of necessity.

Cyrus was now approaching the province of Cilicia, and for some days Epyaxa accompanied his march. One day she expressed a wish that he would draw up his whole army before her, so that she might see it at its full strength.

Accordingly, when they came to some open country suitable for the purpose, Cyrus proceeded to gratify her wish, and ordered the troops to be drawn up in battle array, that he might review them in the company of the princess. Side by side they passed along the ranks, the princess in a woman’s chariot shaded by curtains that could be drawn close or opened wide at pleasure, Cyrus in a man’s chariot.

First they reviewed the Barbarian army with its endless ranks of cavalry and foot-soldiers. Then they came to the Hellene troops, who were stationed opposite. In point of numbers the Hellenes could not compare with the Barbarians, but their appearance was far more imposing, so noble and spirited was their bearing, so proud and firm their step. They were dressed in purple tunics, with brass greaves and helmets, and34 carried bright, polished shields that glittered in the sunshine.


After having driven slowly past them, Cyrus sent word to beg that the hoplites would advance, as if they were in battle, and about to charge. In answer to his request, the trumpeters gave a signal, and on hearing it, the hoplites covered themselves with their great shields, and lowered their long, powerful spears as if they saw the enemy before them. Then the war cry was sounded forth, and the hoplites began to advance, marching faster and faster, until their pace was like a whirlwind, carrying everything before it. The Barbarians were seized35 with panic, for the charge had every appearance of being in earnest; the princess sprang from her chariot and ran away as fast as she was able; the merchants left their wares, and, like the rest, sought refuge in flight; and meanwhile the Hellenes returned, laughing, to their tents.

When the princess had recovered from her fright, she could not sufficiently praise the gallant bearing of the Hellene troops, and as for Cyrus, his heart bounded with joy at the thought of the impression they would make upon his enemies when they should confront them in the field of battle.

Soon after this, the army reached the country of the Lycaonians, who were no less notorious than the Pisidians for their constant raids upon the territory of their neighbours. Cyrus desired the Hellenes to plunder their country, and thus gained a double advantage. On the one hand he was able to punish the robbers, and on the other, he could in this way provide some spoil for his Hellene troops,—an arrangement with which they were entirely satisfied.

The army was now within a few days’ march of Cilicia, and the princess returned to her home by a short route, under the escort of a company of Hellene soldiers, while the main part of the army followed by a longer but easier way.

Cyrus was prepared to find Prince Syennesis less disposed than his wife to receive him with open arms. As a subject of Artaxerxes the Great King, it would be his duty to prevent Cyrus the rebel from advancing through his country. This he could easily do, for the entrance to Cilicia was by a road so steep and narrow36 that a very small number of men could hold it against an army of invaders.

But the difficulty had been foreseen, and before leaving Sardis, Cyrus had fitted out a fleet which had followed him round the coast of Asia Minor, and was now in readiness to land soldiers on the further side of the mountains, so that they might fall upon the enemy in the rear.

It happened however that the presence of the fleet was sufficient, and that it was not necessary to land the soldiers. The prince had indeed taken possession of the heights commanding the road by which Cyrus must enter, but when he found that not only were the mountains behind him occupied by the Hellene soldiers who had accompanied his wife to her home, but that moreover the troops who were preparing to disembark from the fleet would also be in his rear, he abandoned all idea of defending it. And thus Cyrus was able to pass over the mountains unhindered, and enter the city of Tarsus without further difficulty.


Cyrus now invited the prince to visit him as a friend. But Syennesis answered, ‘I have never put myself into the power of one who was more powerful than myself, and I will not do so now.’

The princess however persuaded him to trust to the honour of Cyrus, and he finally accepted the invitation. Like his wife, he took with him a considerable sum of money to assist the rebel, and in return, Cyrus presented37 him with the usual gifts offered by the Persians to persons of distinction,—a horse with a golden bridle, a sword with a golden sheath, a ring, armlets, and a robe of honour. So little could the Great King rely upon the loyalty of his subjects!

In deciding to make his peace with Cyrus, the Cilician prince had probably considered what would be the course best calculated to forward his own interests. By occupying the mountains for a few days, he had made a display of loyalty to the Great King; and having done this, he was anxious on the other hand to secure the favour of Cyrus also, in case he should be the conqueror.


For twenty days the army halted at Tarsus. It seemed indeed, at one time, that at this point the expedition would break down altogether. For the Hellene troops, on whom Cyrus based all his hopes of conquest, became restive and dissatisfied. They had been engaged to punish the Pisidian marauders, but had now passed the country of the Pisidians, and were naturally beginning to ask themselves what was the real object of the expedition. Their suspicions were increased moreover by the opposition of the Cilician prince. His resistance had certainly been of the feeblest, but still he had made an attempt to stop their passage through his mountains, and had thus declared himself the enemy of Cyrus. What reason could he have had for taking such a course, were it not that he had received instructions from the Great King to bar the passage of Cyrus, because he was a rebel and was advancing to unseat him from his throne?


See page 3, and illustrations facing pages 47 and 62.

The Hellenes now discovered for the first time that they were intended to march on for hundreds of miles into the very heart of the Persian empire, and then risk their lives in battle against the Great King, of whose boundless resources they had often heard. For such a39 mad enterprise as this, they had not been engaged, they said, and they would never have agreed to enter upon it. For, putting aside the extreme length of the march to Susa, how could they expect that in case the hopes of Cyrus should be doomed to disappointment, it would be possible for them, a mere handful of strangers in an unknown country, to break through the ranks of the enemy, and make their way back to their own land?

The Hellene mercenaries were no mere collection of soldiers of fortune, picked up anywhere, and ready to undertake any service. On the contrary, they were, for the most part, respectable citizens of Hellas, who had taken service under Cyrus, with the expectation of soon returning to their families laden with spoil.

Every day their murmurs became louder, as their suspicions received additional confirmation, and at Tarsus they made a formal protest, declaring to the officers who had enlisted them, that they were betrayed, and that nothing would induce them to go a step farther.

Almost all the officers were of the same mind, but there was one who thought otherwise. This was Clearchus the Spartan, a man who had received from Cyrus many favours, and who was anxious to prove his gratitude by doing his utmost to forward the prince’s wishes. To Cyrus the ultimate decision of the Hellene troops was of the gravest consequence; in his mind there was no question that the success of his plans depended on his being able to reckon upon their help.

Clearchus was at this time about fifty years of age. He possessed the entire confidence of Cyrus, and was40 in fact the only person who had been told from the first the real, though secret, object of the expedition.

He was a man born to be a soldier. A quiet, easy life in his native land was an existence altogether without charm for him; war, with all its dangers and hardships, was his natural element, and into this favourite pursuit he threw all the energy of his character. He personally supervised the provisioning of his men, and this was only one instance of the extreme care with which he attended to every detail. Nothing that could contribute to the efficiency of his company was too insignificant for his notice.

He had nearly all the qualifications of a great general, but in one respect he failed signally. For whilst he could always command the admiration and respect of his men, he was quite incapable of gaining their affection. He had not indeed any desire to do so, for he believed in discipline, and in nothing else. His orders were strict and severe, and he required instant obedience to the most minute particular. He was accustomed to say that an army without discipline was utterly worthless, and that soldiers should fear their officers more than they feared the enemy. Yet although he was so careful to exact obedience from others, he himself was but a poor hand at rendering obedience.9

9 See p. 75.

The soldiers under the command of Clearchus never saw him unbend. His face was always stern, his brow contracted, his eye restless. He punished his men constantly, and severely, and often in moments of passion did things that he afterwards sincerely regretted. The41 consequence was that when there was no immediate danger impending, his men were often tempted to leave him and take service under a less strict officer. But in any time of danger or difficulty, the soldiers would follow Clearchus more readily than any one else, for they had unbounded belief in his ability as a general.

Nothing ever disturbed his presence of mind. However threatening the danger, he always met it with perfect calm and self-possession. At such times the stern, unbending face of Clearchus seemed to his men a tower of strength, the sight of his coolness and insensibility to fear inspired them with courage, and they felt an enthusiasm for their general, in which for the moment something like affection was added to respect.


When first the soldiers of his company declared their intention of marching no farther, Clearchus refused to listen to them. He thought he had sufficient influence over them to compel them to do as he wished, but in this he was mistaken. For when he sternly ordered them to continue the march, and placed himself at their head to lead them on whether they would or no, they took up stones to throw at him, and if he had not quickly made his escape, they would have stoned him to death.

It was clear that any attempt to enforce discipline would be of no avail in such a case as this, but for all that, Clearchus did not intend to be beaten. He knew how to manœuvre as well as how to fight, and had no difficulty in finding ways and means to gain his end.

After allowing a little time for the excitement of the soldiers to subside, he sent to summon them to a meeting. They were at first disinclined to go, but they said to one another, ‘We may as well hear what it is that he wants us to do. But no matter what he says, we will be firm, and hold to our decision.’

When they came to the meeting, they found Clearchus so changed that they would hardly have recognised43 him. Instead of the stern officer with angry brow and flashing eyes, there stood before them a silent, downcast man, who wept like a child. Never had they seen him so deeply moved.

At last he began to speak in a low agitated voice. ‘Comrades,’ he said, ‘be not surprised that I am grieved at your decision. I have every cause to be grateful to Cyrus, who has been to me the best of friends, and for this reason it was my earnest hope that with your assistance I might be able to repay his kindness by helping him in his present undertaking. But you are not willing, and it shall never be said of me that I took the part of a Barbarian against my own countrymen. I declare therefore that I will follow you, for to me you are country, friends, comrades. Without you I can neither help a friend nor harm an enemy.’

On hearing these words, the soldiers felt perfectly satisfied, and at once made peace with their general. Moreover two thousand men, belonging to two other companies, left the generals under whom they had enlisted, in order to join the company of Clearchus. For they believed that having once said that he would not march against the Great King, Clearchus would hold to his resolution whatever happened, whereas it seemed very possible that the other officers might be won over by Cyrus, notwithstanding their present protests.

When Cyrus heard what had passed at the meeting, he was vexed and disappointed, and sent a messenger to summon Clearchus to his presence. Clearchus however refused to go, and took care that the soldiers44 should know of his refusal, but sent word secretly to Cyrus that he hoped all would yet be well.

Several more days went by, and then Clearchus again summoned the soldiers to a meeting. This time any one was allowed to attend, whether he belonged to the company of Clearchus or not, so that there was a very large gathering. Clearchus was the first to speak.

‘Comrades,’ he said, ‘we have now broken with Cyrus. We are no longer his mercenaries, and he is no longer our paymaster. Naturally he is angry with us for deserting him, and as for me, I dare not show myself in his presence, for although he is the best of friends, he is at the same time a relentless enemy, and his power is great. We shall do well therefore to lose no time in considering how we may return in safety, and above all, how it will be possible, without the help of Cyrus, to obtain food for the march. Let whosoever will, now speak his mind.’

First one man and then another rose to speak, some saying what occurred to them at the moment, and others according to instructions previously received. For Clearchus had made his own preparations for the meeting, and had prompted several of the soldiers as to what they should say. Some were to speak in favour of returning home at once, and others were to raise difficulties.

After some of the other soldiers had spoken, one of the men who had been prompted by Clearchus, rose and began to urge with great eagerness an immediate return home, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

‘To begin with,’ he said, ‘we must lay in a store45 of provisions, and then ask Cyrus to give us ships to take us home by sea from Tarsus. Or, if he refuses that, we must ask him to supply us with a guide, who knows the country, to take us back by land. We must act promptly moreover, lest the people of the country treat us as enemies and come out against us.’

This speech was received with great applause. But immediately another of those who had been previously told what to say, rose to reply.

‘All that you have just heard,’ he said, ‘is utter nonsense. How can we expect to get food, when the only market is in the camp of the Barbarians? Do you suppose that after we have broken with Cyrus, he is likely to be so pleasant and obliging as to allow us to take provisions out of his camp for our journey? And the ships that he has brought here for his own use, is it likely that he will part with them in order that we may get home comfortably?

‘Then as regards the guide, is it to be expected that he will grant a guide to us, who by our desertion will be doing him the greatest injury and crossing all his plans? Even if he were to supply us with ships, I, for one, should expect the ships to be sunk in mid-sea in order that we might be drowned, or if he gave us a guide, I should fear that the guide would lead us into some place where we could not fail to perish.

‘This plan will never do. I propose instead that we nominate certain persons to go with Clearchus to Cyrus, and ask him what it is exactly that he wants of us. If he proposes some such enterprise as those on which our countrymen have been employed before, then let us follow him. If on the other hand it appears likely that46 his plans will involve us in great toils and dangers, we must ask him either to give us good reasons for advancing, or else consent to our going back. Then we shall either accompany him as friends, or else be allowed to return in peace.’

This speech made the desired impression, for the Hellenes could not but see that there was far more sense in the apprehensions of the last speaker than in the hopeful view of the man who had preceded him, and accordingly, when the proposal to send a deputation to Cyrus was put to the meeting, a great show of hands was raised in favour of it. The members of the deputation were therefore chosen at once, and sent away on their errand.

Cyrus granted the messengers an interview, and agreed to answer their questions. He made no mention of attacking the Pisidians, still less of marching against the Great King, but spoke of an enemy of his, a powerful satrap named Abrocamas, who lived on the banks of the Euphrates at a distance of twelve days’ march from Tarsus. It was for the purpose of fighting this satrap, he said, that he wanted the help of the Hellenes, for Abrocamas had a great army under his command. If he held his ground, he should be punished; but if on the other hand he should save himself by flight, then in that case, it would be necessary to consider further what would have to be done.


See p. 3, and illustrations facing pp. 38 and 62.

With this answer the messengers returned to their comrades, and the Hellenes declared themselves ready to remain in the service of Cyrus, on condition that he would increase their pay. To this he readily consented, and promised that instead of receiving every month one48 daric as before,10 the private soldiers should in future have a daric and a half. In like proportion, the captains were to have three darics instead of two, and the generals six darics instead of four.

10 See p. 31.

The Hellenes were in the position of a man whose path lies through a bog. After he has advanced some little way, he begins to consider whether it would not be better to turn back, but finding that this is just as difficult as to go forward, he thinks it a pity to waste the effort he has already made, and decides to continue.

So to the Hellenes it seemed that to return promised to be no less dangerous than to advance. The more clear-sighted were by this time perfectly aware that whatever Cyrus might say, or refrain from saying, his ultimate design was to proclaim war against the Great King. But the great mass of the soldiers, although they knew in their hearts that this was his real intention, preferred not to think too much about it, and persisted in hoping that after all it might turn out to be something else.


After twenty days’ halt at Tarsus, the army again set out on its march, and in five days came to the last city in Cilicia. The next province through which they would have to pass was that of Syria, and here the entrance was even more carefully guarded than had been the approach to Cilicia.

Between the two provinces were two fortresses, called the Gates of Cilicia and Syria. They were at about six hundred yards apart, and stood one behind the other on each side of a little river which flowed from the mountains into the sea, and formed the boundary between the two provinces. The mountains at this place approached so close to the sea that the walls of the fortresses stretched the whole distance, and the only passage was through gates which opened to admit friends, but remained fast shut when enemies approached. The fortresses were quite impregnable, if defended, and it was said that Abrocamas had taken the field against Cyrus with 300,000 men, reinforced moreover by 400 Hellenes who were in the service of the Great King.

But Cyrus had long ago foreseen this difficulty as he had foreseen that of entering Cilicia, and had provided50 against it in the same way. He had desired the fleet to follow him from Tarsus, and had arranged that it should land two divisions of troops on the coast of Syria, one in the space between the river and the Syrian fortress, the other on the further side of it, so that the fortresses might be attacked on both sides at the same time.

As before however, it proved unnecessary to carry out the plan. For when Abrocamas heard that Cyrus had made his way through Cilicia, and found moreover that his Hellenes were leaving him to join their countrymen, he turned and fled, never stopping until the waters of the Euphrates were rolling behind him. The only harm that he did to Cyrus was to burn the ferry-boats employed for crossing the Euphrates, after making use of them himself.

The cowardly satrap remembered the saying that ‘discretion is the better part of valour,’ and following the example of the Cilician prince, he took care so to manage matters, that in the quarrel between the two brothers, he should have done something to help both sides. If the Great King should conquer, he could urge that he had burnt the boats and guarded the walls for a time. If, on the other hand, Cyrus should prevail, he could say that he had given way at his approach, and had yielded him free passage. He afterwards carried out this policy by bringing an army to the aid of the Great King five days after the decisive battle between the two brothers had been fought, with a plausible excuse for not having been able to arrive sooner.

A day’s march along the Syrian coast brought the troops to Myriandus, a populous sea-port of Phenicia,51 where an active trade brought many merchant-vessels to anchor in the bay. Here the army rested for seven days, and during this time two of the Hellene officers, Xenias and Pasion by name, hired a ship, and sailed away home in it with the greater part of their possessions.

These were the two officers from whom 2,000 soldiers had deserted at Tarsus in order to take service under Clearchus. They had expected that Cyrus would compel the deserters to return to them, but knowing that they would serve much better under the general of their own choice, he had allowed them to remain with Clearchus. In consequence of this, the two officers were so much annoyed that they determined to abandon the expedition.

When their flight became known, the soldiers all expected that Cyrus would send some ships of war in pursuit of them, and that having been overtaken and brought back, they would be severely punished. But in this they were mistaken, for instead of acting in any such way, Cyrus called together the remaining Hellene officers, and addressed them in an altogether different strain.

‘Xenias and Pasion,’ he said, ‘have deserted, but they are still in my power. I am fully informed as to the route they have taken, and my ships are swifter than theirs. But for all that, I will not pursue them. No one shall be able to say of me that I know how to make use of a man as long as he is with me, but that when he wishes to leave me, I lay hands upon him and seize his goods. Let them go. They will have to confess that they have treated me worse than I have treated52 them. I might detain their wives and children who have been left at home under my protection, but they shall not be deprived of them. This shall be their reward for the services they have rendered hitherto.’

This proof of high-mindedness increased the respect of all the Hellenes for Cyrus.


From this point, the route by which the army was to march left the coast and struck inland. The fleet could therefore be of no further service, and Cyrus accordingly sent it home from Myriandus.

It was now the hot season, which in Syria is infinitely more trying than anything that is ever experienced in our northern climates. And as the troops were marching southwards, the heat continued to increase in intensity with every day’s march.

To the Hellenes, everything in these tropical regions was new and strange; the vegetation, the animals, the people, the customs, the ways of thinking, all were very different from anything to which they were accustomed at home. One day they came to a river swarming with great fish. These were worshipped as gods by the people of the country, who would have thought it a great crime to catch them. In the same place there were large flocks of pigeons, which were also considered sacred, and any one who dared to kill or even to catch one of them, would have been severely punished.

Towards the end of August the army reached the large and flourishing city of Thapsacus, on the Euphrates. Here Cyrus called together the Hellene54 officers, and told them plainly that he was marching towards Babylon to make war upon the Great King, and that they must communicate this information to the soldiers under them, and persuade them to follow him as before.

The news was received by the men, not indeed with surprise, for they had long had their misgivings, but with considerable irritation, and many of them cried out that nothing would induce them to go any farther.

Their anger was directed, not so much against Cyrus, as against their own officers, whom they accused of having known from the first what was intended, and they said that by keeping the matter secret, the officers had involved them in an undertaking which, so far at all events, appeared absolutely hopeless.

A few days’ consideration however was sufficient to make them realise their position. What could they do? Ever since leaving Tarsus they had been marching farther and farther away from their homes, and the reasons which had then decided them to cast in their lot with Cyrus were now even more urgent than before.

Again therefore they allowed themselves to be persuaded, and once more demanded an increase of pay, which was promised by Cyrus to an extent that exceeded their highest hopes. For he said that when they reached Babylon he would give to each man five silver minæ, which was more than the ordinary pay for a whole year, and that during the return march they should receive full pay until they were again among their own countrymen in Ionia.

It was now necessary to find some means of crossing55 the great river Euphrates, and at first it seemed probable that this would be a task of no small difficulty. The boats ordinarily used for the purpose had been burnt by Abrocamas, and the only thing to be done was to make an attempt at wading through the stream. Happily this proved to be a far more simple matter than could have been expected, for when the soldiers stepped into the water, it only reached as far as their breasts, although at this season of the year it was usually very much deeper. The men of Thapsacus said that this was a sign from heaven, and that the stream had been constrained to roll back his waters in order to make way for the man who was destined to wear the royal tiara of Persia.

At this time, Menon, one of the Hellene generals, saw an opportunity of gaining an advantage over his comrades, and he used it in a manner that was little to his credit. Before it had been decided whether the Hellenes should continue to follow Cyrus or not, an advance party had been sent out to see if the river could be forded, and had reported that it was possible.

On hearing this, Menon called his men together, and said to them, ‘Soldiers, if you will be guided by my advice, you may, with no danger, and little trouble, get yourselves farther advanced in the favour of Cyrus than any of your comrades. To him it is of the utmost importance that the Hellenes should cross the Euphrates and support him in his attack upon the Great King. If then we take the lead and cross the river to-day, and they follow us, he will give us credit for having set them a good example. If, on the other hand, they decide not to follow Cyrus, we can easily go back again,56 but in any case we may be sure that Cyrus will regard us as his most faithful friends, and that when he has rich appointments and well-paid offices to give away, he will remember us in disposing of them.’

The prospect suggested by Menon was so alluring that the soldiers fell in readily with his proposal, and at once crossed the Euphrates. When Cyrus heard that they were already on the further side, he was greatly pleased, and sent them this message,—‘I have occasion to praise you, and that you may soon have occasion to praise me must be my care, or I should not be Cyrus.’ He lost no time moreover in testifying his especial gratitude to Menon by sending him magnificent presents.

Selfishness was the most conspicuous feature in the character of Menon. His highest aim in life was to amass wealth, and to obtain power. A straightforward, honourable man he regarded as a fool, and for his own part shunned neither deceit nor perjury. Whereas other men considered it their duty to honour the gods and to deal justly with their fellows, Menon prided himself only on getting the better of others by cunning and fraud.


After crossing the Euphrates, the army followed the course of the river, keeping it on the right, and came in nine days to the desert. The tract of country that now lay before them was so waste and barren as to be entirely uninhabited; the most they could expect was to meet from time to time with some stranger journeying through it.

It was necessary therefore to lay in a good store of provisions, and happily the villages on the border of the desert were thriving and well supplied with corn and wine, so that the soldiers were able to load the baggage animals with as much as they could possibly carry.

After this they journeyed for eighteen days through a waste of sand, which lay all around them in broad, low waves, like the sea when it is stirred by a gentle wind. There were no trees in this desert, but occasional shrubs and plants, which gave forth a delicious scent. In consequence of the absence of men, wild animals abounded, especially gazelles and wild asses, bustards and ostriches. Never in their lives before had many of them seen such a creature as a Hellene soldier.


When there was a halt, the soldiers went out hunting, but some of the animals were hard to catch. The wild asses were very different beasts from our donkeys, who are justly accused of being both slow and stupid. They were remarkable both for swiftness and intelligence, and could not be run down by a single horse, however fleet. When they found that they were being hunted, they would stand quite still until their pursuer was almost within spear range, and then dash away out of reach, and again stop to rest.

The only way in which the Hellenes could succeed in capturing them was by arranging for several horsemen to take part in the chase. Having placed themselves at suitable distances apart, the first horseman would drive the wild ass as fast as possible towards the next, who would then take up the chase with his fresh horse, and by the time that two or three horses had been tired out, the wild ass would himself become so exhausted that he was easily caught and killed.

As for the ostriches, it was quite useless to pursue them, for, as is well known, they run very swiftly, and moreover add to their speed by the movement of their wings, which they use like sails. Of all the wild animals the easiest to kill were the bustards, for they, like partridges, can only fly a short distance. They furnished moreover the best eating, although the flesh of the wild ass, which resembled venison, was also excellent.

In this desert region, long forced marches were sometimes necessary, in order to reach either a spring of water, or a place where the horses and beasts of burden could find pasture, but even so, many of59 them died of hunger. The men also suffered considerably.

One day they came in sight of a city where they felt sure that they would be able to obtain abundance of food. But there was neither boat nor bridge nor any other means of crossing the river, and the stream, at this place, was far too deep for the men to wade through it.

They overcame the difficulty however by means of a contrivance that is still common in the East. Taking a number of the leather coverings used by the army for various purposes, they made great sacks which they filled with hay and bound together so as to form little rafts capable of supporting a few men and some cargo. The soldiers then rowed themselves over to the opposite shore in these rafts, and bought in the town supplies of wheat, millet-bread, and palm-wine.

Another time it happened that they had to march along a narrow way, where the wagons sank so deep in the soft clay soil, that the transport animals were unable to drag them through it. Cyrus commanded his Barbarian soldiers to pull the wagons along. But they set to work in a surly, lazy manner, and he became so impatient that he drove them away, and turning to his suite, ordered them to put their shoulders to the wheel.

These proud nobles were little accustomed to any kind of exertion, but with the implicit obedience of the Persian subject, they hastened to do the bidding of Cyrus. Laying aside their gorgeous cloaks, but still dressed in their silk vests and trousers, many of them adorned moreover with golden chains and bracelets,60 they ran to the place, as if each were eager to prove himself more active and zealous than all the rest, and seizing the dirty wagons, dragged them along until they were well beyond the bad part of the road.

Such a spirit of submission was quite unknown among the Hellenes, who were accustomed to treat their superiors in a very different manner. Once already they had manifested their displeasure at the conduct of Clearchus, and about this time another incident of the same sort occurred, which might have led to very serious consequences.

It happened that in passing through the camp, Clearchus saw one of the soldiers of his company engaged in a dispute with a soldier belonging to the company of Menon, and taking the part of his own man, he did not hesitate to have the other one beaten.

This action was resented by the comrades of the man who had been beaten, and later in the day, when Clearchus chanced to be riding through the camp of Menon with only a few soldiers attending him, a Hellene who was occupied in cutting wood, threw his axe at him, while others threw stones, and called out after him in an insulting manner.

Neither the axe nor the stones hit their mark, but Clearchus was nevertheless beside himself with rage, and riding furiously to his own camp, he ordered his men to arm themselves and advance without a moment’s delay against the company of Menon. On the other hand, the soldiers of Menon, seeing Clearchus and his men about to charge, rushed also to seize their arms and prepare for battle.

Meanwhile one of the other generals, named Proxenus,61 had seen what was going on, and he also hurried forward at the head of his men, and placing himself between the combatants, implored Clearchus to make peace. But Clearchus only reproached him with estimating far too lightly the insult he had received, and becoming more furious than ever, ordered him to withdraw.

Just then however, by great good fortune, Cyrus came to the place, and seeing the Hellene troops drawn up in battle-array, enquired what was the meaning of it. When he heard all that had passed, he was filled with dismay, and cried out, ‘Ye leaders of the Hellenes, ye know not what ye do. As surely as my Barbarians see you fighting among yourselves, my ruin will be sealed, and yours also. Ye will have more to fear from my followers than from the army of my brother.’

These grave words brought back Clearchus to his right mind. He was filled with remorse, and both sides laid down their arms and made friends again.

It was not indeed without cause that Cyrus had referred to the ill-will of the Barbarians, for they had long since observed with feelings of jealousy and hatred the preference that on all occasions he showed for the Hellenes.


After marching some distance farther, Cyrus was informed that the ground showed the tracks of about 2,000 horsemen. This was a troop of cavalry sent out by the Great King to reconnoitre. They were to discover and report to him the position of Cyrus, and were also to burn down all the villages and corn-fields on the way, so as to prevent his army from getting any food. It was important therefore for Cyrus to intercept these horsemen, and either kill them or keep them prisoners, so as to prevent their returning to the King.

At this moment, a Persian of high rank, named Orontes, came forward, and offered to undertake their capture. Orontes had already twice proved himself a false friend to Cyrus, and had twice been forgiven. He had however promised so faithfully on the last occasion to be true for the future, that in spite of his previous history, Cyrus did not now feel suspicious, but agreed to let him take with him the thousand horsemen that he asked for.


See page 3, and illustrations facing pages 38 and 47.

Everything was in readiness for the start, when a Barbarian presented himself before Cyrus, and delivered into his hands a letter that he had received from Orontes, with instructions to obtain the swiftest horses,63 and carry it with all speed to the Great King. In the letter Orontes reminded the King of the services that he had formerly rendered him, and added that he was now about to hasten to his side with all the horsemen he could procure.

Cyrus immediately caused Orontes to be arrested, and sent to summon the most distinguished Persians, and Clearchus the Hellene, to a meeting in his tent. After informing them of the treachery of Orontes, he said, ‘My friends, I desire your counsel as to the course which in the sight of God and man it will be right for me to pursue with regard to the prisoner, Orontes.’ He then began to question Orontes.

‘Since our reconciliation at Sardis,’ he asked, ‘have I ever in any way wronged you?’

Orontes was obliged to answer, ‘No.’

‘Did you revolt from me to the Mysians, and lay waste my land, so far as you were able?’

‘I did.’

‘Did you then come to the altar of Artemis, and say that you repented of your misdoings? And did you swear that you would in the future be always my friend and helper?’

‘I did.’

‘Have I since then done you any wrong, that you have turned traitor for the third time?’

‘You have given me no cause.’

‘Do you think that from henceforth you can be to my brother an enemy, but to me a true friend?’

‘If I were, you would not trust me.’

The questioning over, Cyrus turned to the judges, and said to them, ‘Thus has Orontes spoken, thus has64 he done. Speak then, and you first, Clearchus, say what he deserves.’

‘My advice,’ answered Clearchus, ‘is to put this man out of the way, so that we need not have to watch him.’

The Persians, even the relations of Orontes, concurred in the opinion of Clearchus, and each in turn seized the prisoner by the girdle, which was the Persian manner of pronouncing the sentence of death.

Then Orontes was led away through a great crowd of Hellenes and Barbarians who had assembled outside the tent of Cyrus, and many of the Persians of lower rank threw themselves on the ground before him, as they had always been accustomed, although the great lord was now a criminal condemned to death.

After this Orontes was never seen again, and no one ever knew by what death he died, or where he was buried. It is probable that according to a practice common in Persia, he was buried alive beneath the tent to which he had been taken.


After three more days of marching, there arrived at the camp of Cyrus some deserters, who informed him that the King’s army was close at hand.

He could hardly have been much surprised at the news that Artaxerxes was approaching; the only wonder was that he had tarried so long, for he had heard from Tissaphernes of the revolt of Cyrus in little more than a month from the time that the expedition had set out from Sardis.

The King had certainly expected that his brother would find some difficulty in getting through Cilicia, and that Abrocamas, with his 300,000 men, would do something more to check his progress than merely burning the boats on the Euphrates. But it was now two months since the flight of Abrocamas, and yet the King had made no effort to meet the usurper, but had allowed him to penetrate unhindered into the very heart of the empire. Cyrus had now reached the rich province of Babylonia, where the fruitful soil brought forth food in abundance, being watered by the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates, which in this part of the country flow at a distance of only a few miles apart.

The Hellenes thought scorn of a King who could66 be so indolent and so irresolute, and they said, mockingly, one to another, ‘This is a King who can neither ride, nor drink, nor hunt, nor fight.’

But Cyrus took a different view of his brother’s character, for once when Clearchus asked him, ‘Do you think, Cyrus, that your brother will fight at all?’ he answered, ‘By Zeus, he will. If he be the son of Darius and Parysatis, and my brother, I shall not get the crown from him without a struggle.’


Sculpture found at Persepolis. See p. 3.

When the news of the King’s approach reached Cyrus, it was already past midnight, but nevertheless he at once held a review of his whole force, for he thought that a battle might now take place at any time.

After the review, Cyrus addressed the Hellene officers. ‘Men of Hellas,’ he said, ‘it is not from any scarcity of troops of my own that I have brought you hither, but because I know that you are braver and stronger than a whole multitude of Barbarians. See that67 you prove yourselves worthy of the freedom that you enjoy. Believe me when I say that I envy you this, and would willingly part with all my treasures to purchase it, and even with far more precious possessions. The Barbarians trust to their overwhelming numbers, and to the deafening clamour with which they charge, but if you resist them bravely, you will find them—it shames me to say so—nothing but a cowardly mob. Bear yourselves bravely, and if I conquer, I will send you back to your homes with such treasures as will make you envied by all your friends. Yet I hope that many of you will prefer to remain in my service, instead of returning to Hellas.’

When Cyrus had ended his speech, a Hellene from the island of Samos answered him, saying, ‘There are many of us, Cyrus, who think that it is all very well in the hour of danger to promise mountains of gold, but that when the danger is past, you may forget your promises, or it may not perhaps be in your power to fulfil them.’

‘The empire of my father,’ said Cyrus, ‘stretches northwards to the regions where men cannot live because of the cold, and southwards to the regions where men cannot live because of the heat, and all the countries that lie between are governed by the friends of my brother. If we conquer, I will set my friends over all that land. I have less fear that I shall not have enough gifts with which to reward my friends, than that I shall not have enough friends on whom to bestow my gifts. To each of you moreover, ye officers of the Hellenes, I will give, in remembrance of this campaign, a crown of gold.’


The rest of the soldiers quickly heard of the dazzling prospects held out by Cyrus, and there was not a man among them who did not long for the battle to begin. At the same time the officers were anxious that Cyrus should not expose himself, for everything depended on his escaping unhurt, and they urged him to take up a safe position behind the cavalry.

But Cyrus would not hear of such a thing, and in this he was perfectly right. In our days the general is regarded as the head of the army who has to think for all, and he would be blamed if he were to risk his life without actual necessity. But in the time of Cyrus, the general in command always took his share of the actual fighting, and would have been thought a coward if he had not been seen by friend and foe alike, in the fore-front of the battle.

The next morning the troops continued their march, drawn up in fighting order, for Cyrus expected that the two armies would meet that day. But as the day wore on, and no enemy appeared in sight, he remembered a prophecy that had been made by a Hellene soothsayer, Silanus by name, who ten days before this had sacrificed a heifer, and had afterwards prophesied that the battle would not take place within the next ten days.

The Hellenes believed that by examining the entrails, that is to say, the heart, the lungs and the liver of an animal that had been offered in sacrifice, the soothsayer could discover the will of the gods, and foretell the fate of the person for whom the animal had been sacrificed.

Cyrus had rejoiced greatly on hearing the prophecy of Silanus, for he said, ‘If my brother does not fight69 within the next ten days, he will not fight at all.’ And he had promised the soothsayer that if his prophecy should come true, he would give him 3,000 darics.11 This was now the eleventh day, and he sent for Silanus, and gave him the promised reward.

11 See note on p. 24.

Another circumstance seemed also to indicate that the King had abandoned all idea of fighting. In the middle of the day, the army came to a newly made trench of enormous size, twenty feet only from the bank of the Euphrates, whose course they were still following. The trench was thirty feet wide and eighteen feet deep, and was said to extend for more than forty miles. It had been recently dug by the command of the Great King, and must have required the toil, night and day, for months, of many thousands of workmen. It seemed certain therefore that the enemy would not fail to make the most of a defence that had been prepared at such tremendous cost, and Cyrus approached it with considerable anxiety, for in the narrow space of twenty feet between the river and the trench, his army would be completely exposed to the arrows and darts of the enemy, whom he expected to find waiting for him on the further side.

To his extreme surprise however, when he reached the dreaded spot not a soul was to be seen behind the trench, and the army was able to pass it unharmed. There were indeed tracks of men and horses, as if troops had been stationed there, but had retreated.

Cyrus now became convinced that his brother must have given up all intention of fighting, and he began to look forward to obtaining possession of the throne70 without a struggle. Hitherto he had been riding on horseback, but now he dismounted and seated himself in his chariot. The army also took its ease, and marched carelessly. In order to save themselves the fatigue of carrying their heavy shields in the burning sun, the hoplites took them off, and either placed them on the baggage-wagons, or gave them to their slaves.

It was almost time to halt and prepare the midday meal when a scout came riding up at a furious gallop, his horse all covered with foam and heat. Without drawing rein, he dashed through the various groups of soldiers, straight to the presence of Cyrus, but as he passed he shouted aloud, here in Persian, there in Hellene speech, ‘The King comes! The King comes!’


In a moment everything was in confusion. The King was said to be approaching with a vast army, prepared for battle, and it was thought that the battle would take place without delay. Cyrus leapt from his chariot, put on his armour, and mounted his horse, giving orders that all should arm themselves in like manner, and take their appointed places.

The Hellene army under its various officers occupied the right wing; the Barbarian army, commanded by Ariæus, took the left; Cyrus, with his body-guard of six hundred Persian cavalry, was in the centre. The body-guard were armed with breast-plate and helmet, carrying in the left hand a short Hellenic sword, and in the right hand two javelins; their horses were also protected by light armour on the head and breast. Cyrus was armed in like manner, but on his head he had placed, instead of a helmet, the upright tiara, worn only by the Great King.

It was still some time however before the enemy came in sight. Not till the afternoon was their approach announced by immense clouds of white dust, soon displaced by a blackness that overspread the horizon. Presently, as the host came nearer, the long, never-ending72 lines of spear-points began to flash in the sunlight, and by degrees the different groups could be distinguished, advancing nation by nation.

In front of all came a hundred and fifty scythe-chariots. These were two-wheeled cars with a number of sharp scythes projecting from the axle-trees on both sides. They were drawn by a pair of swift horses, and driven as fast as possible into the midst of the enemy’s ranks, that they might cut to pieces everything that crossed their path.

Behind the scythe-chariots came the royal troops, drawn up in the order in which they were to fight. In the centre of the line was the Great King surrounded by a guard of six thousand picked horsemen, and close to him floated the standard of his forefathers, a golden eagle with outstretched wings upon a high perch.

It was easy enough to see how infinitely greater was the army of the King than that of his brother. Cyrus had twenty scythe-chariots, but the King had a hundred and fifty. The army of Cyrus numbered a hundred thousand, besides the Hellene force of thirteen thousand, but the King was said to have with him a million two hundred thousand soldiers. This may have been an exaggeration, but in any case the disproportion was so great that the whole line of Cyrus, although far less deep, extended little beyond the centre of the King’s line.


See p. 4.

As the enemy approached, Cyrus rode a little forward, and surveyed his own troops and those of his brother. The immense host marshalled against him caused him no alarm, for he felt sure that his Hellenes would be victorious, and setting spurs to his horse,74 he galloped down to the right wing, where they were posted, to tell them that the sacrificing priest had just declared the omens to be favourable.

As he approached, he heard a sort of murmur passing through the ranks. He asked what it meant, and was told that it was the war-cry being given for the second time from mouth to mouth. Before entering into an engagement, it was the custom for the general in command to give the war-cry, or watch-word for the day, to the first soldier in the foremost rank, who immediately passed it on to the man next him. It was thus passed from man to man through all the ranks, and then, for greater safety, it was returned in like manner from the last to the first.

‘What is the watch-word?’ asked Cyrus.

‘Zeus the Saviour, and Victory,’ was the answer.

‘It is a good omen,’ cried Cyrus; ‘may it be fulfilled!’ And with these words he returned to his place in the centre of the line.


The eventful battle which was now fought between the rival brothers, was called after some villages which were then in the neighbourhood, but which have long since disappeared, the battle of Cunaxa.

Cyrus had desired Clearchus to charge the centre of the enemy’s line, where the King was stationed. ‘For,’ he said, ‘if we win there, the whole battle is ours.’

But Clearchus was afraid that if the Hellenes were to advance against the centre, they would find themselves surrounded by the innumerable host of the enemy and attacked on all sides at once. He therefore thought it better to attack the troops of the left wing, immediately opposite to him, and he assured Cyrus that his plan would succeed. But, judging from the result, he would have done better to follow the instructions of Cyrus.

The troops of the left wing consisted of a body of cavalry under the command of Tissaphernes; a company of archers who carried shields of basket-work fastened to poles which they stuck into the ground for protection while discharging their arrows; and a company of Egyptian infantry, armed with great wooden shields76 that covered their whole body. Contrary to the expectation of Cyrus, they advanced, behind their scythe-chariots, in silence, and with a firm, even step.

When they had come within a distance of five or six hundred yards, the Hellenes sang the pæan, or battle-hymn, and began to move forwards, at first slowly, but by degrees faster and faster, until their pace was like a whirlwind.

At the mere sight of them, the Barbarians turned and fled. Before they had come within arrowshot, the enemy’s line was broken, and in wild confusion, the archers thinking of nothing but saving their lives by running away. The drivers of the scythe-chariots sprang from their seats and left the horses to go where they pleased. The horses rushed pell-mell over the plain, some to the right, some to the left; many of them ran back into their own ranks adding to the confusion there; only a few went in the direction of the Hellenes, and these did no harm.

The only part of the line that made any resistance was the cavalry of Tissaphernes. These troops rode rapidly forward against the light-armed Hellene archers. But they, at the approach of the cavalry, opened their ranks and let them pass through, and then hurled javelins and arrows at them as they went by. The whole injury sustained by the Hellenes in this charge consisted in the loss of one man shot by an arrow, and another disabled through being caught by one of the scythe-chariots.

It was only at the end of several hours that the Hellenes returned from the pursuit of the flying Barbarians. On their way back they met with another77 detachment of the enemy’s troops, but these they defeated, if possible, even more easily than the first.

They were now very anxious for their long-delayed meal, for as yet they had eaten nothing that day. But Cyrus had arranged that all the food should be stored in the Barbarian camp, which had been plundered by a body of the enemy’s troops. The Hellenes were consequently obliged to go supperless to bed, only a few of them having been able to find something to eat. Yet they were cheered by the thought of the victory they had won, and by the hope that Cyrus had in like manner triumphed over the cowardly Barbarians opposed to him. They had not indeed heard anything of him, but supposed that he had gone far in pursuit of his foes, and was therefore at a distance from the camp.


(From the Darius Vase at Naples.)

The next morning, as they had nothing else to eat, they slaughtered the oxen and asses belonging to the baggage-wagons, and sought in the battle-field for fuel to make a fire. There they found great quantities of arrows, and shields both of wood and wicker-work, as well as empty wagons and overturned chariots. All of these they piled up in heaps, and kindled therewith several fires in which they cooked the food, holding it78 in the flame on their spear-points, and so appeased their hunger for that day.

They wondered however that Cyrus neither came, nor sent them word of what had happened since they had left him to pursue the Barbarians, and resolved to set out in search of him. But whilst they were preparing for the start, they were hailed by two soldiers of the army of Cyrus, who brought them this terrible news:—‘Cyrus is dead. Ariæus and the Barbarians under him have been put to flight.’

On perceiving the easy victory won by the Hellenes, Cyrus had been beside himself with joy, for he thought that the fate of the day was already decided. All those around him shared his expectation, and the officers of the body-guard sprang from their horses and threw themselves in the dust before him, as if he were already the Great King.

For a moment he waited to see what the enemy would do. Then, observing that the troops of Artaxerxes were making a movement as if to wheel round and attack him in the rear, he hesitated no longer, but dashed forward with his six hundred chosen companions towards the place where the King was stationed with his guard of six thousand horse.

With his own hand Cyrus killed the leader of the guard, and so irresistible was the charge, that the ranks of the enemy were broken through in a moment, and driven right and left before the cavalry of Cyrus, who pursued them eagerly.

Thus it happened that the prince was left almost alone, with only his most intimate friends, those whom he called his table-companions, round him. At the same79 moment he caught sight of his hated brother, the troops in front of the King having been put to flight, and on seeing him, lost all command of himself. Mad with passion he galloped up to him, crying out, ‘I see the man!’ and hurling his javelin, hit him in the breast, inflicting a wound which however was but slight, the course of the javelin having been checked by the coat of mail worn by the King.

But at that moment, while still almost alone, Cyrus was struck under the eye by the javelin of a Carian lancer. It was a mortal wound, and falling from his horse to the ground, he died immediately. All his table-companions fell around him; the most faithful of all leaped from his horse and threw himself upon the corpse, where he was either killed by the enemy, or, as some say, fell upon his own sword.

The head and right hand of Cyrus were cut off by command of Artaxerxes, and carried through the ranks on the point of a long spear. And when Ariæus, who commanded the right wing of the rebel army, saw that Cyrus was dead, he sought safety in flight. Thus the battle which had begun so well for Cyrus, turned in a moment quite unexpectedly, and all the hopes of his followers were dashed to the ground.

But for the javelin thrust which ended the life of Cyrus, the future history of Persia might have been very different. Artaxerxes, the indolent, was not the man to save his country. From him no effort could be expected, no attempt to improve his subjects, or check the luxurious selfishness which was bringing the country to ruin. But had Cyrus, the brave, wise, and generous Cyrus, become King, he might have been able, not only to80 arrest the ruin, but even to restore the empire to something of its former greatness. For since the time of Cyrus I., the throne of Persia had never been occupied by a man so worthy and so able to govern a great nation as was his young namesake.

Had it been Artaxerxes who had fallen in the battle, the Queen-mother Parysatis would hardly have wept other than tears of joy, for then Cyrus would have been sure of the throne. But now that her best-beloved son was killed, the grief of Parysatis was only equalled by her burning desire for vengeance on all who had had any part in his death. She contrived to get into her power the Carian archer by whose javelin her son had been wounded, and the soldier who had carried through the ranks his head and hand, and caused them both to be tortured to death.


See page 5.


Terrible indeed must have been the despair of the Hellenes on hearing of the death of Cyrus, for by this one blow their whole position was changed, their every hope was shattered. Instead of being able to cherish pleasant dreams of future happiness made possible by the bounty of Cyrus, they had now before them nothing but a dark and dreary prospect of toil and danger, through which if they barely escaped with their lives, it was as much as they could dare to hope.

Hitherto Cyrus, who had studied in advance every mile of the road, had been their leader, and had always brought them by the best way. Now they found themselves a thousand miles distant from their home, without the slightest knowledge of the countries through which they would have to pass. Hitherto they had been free from all care with regard to their daily food, for the liberal pay which they had received from Cyrus had enabled them to supply their wants without difficulty. Now they had nothing to fall back upon but their savings, and when these were spent, they would be reduced to the most extreme distress.

They were, in fact, like men lost in some primeval82 forest, surrounded by every kind of danger, with no human being to help them, no landmark to point out the way, but nevertheless struggling to escape from among its gloomy shades.

Fortunately for the Hellenes, there was among them one man at least, who, even in the most sudden reverses of fortune, never lost his presence of mind. This was the rough, stern soldier, Clearchus. Although under ordinary circumstances he was rather hated than loved by his men, yet in the press of battle, the consciousness that nothing escaped him, and that he, at all events, was absolutely cool and self-possessed, inspired them with courage and confidence, and in this time of need, he rose at once to the position of greatest authority in the whole army. Hitherto he had been merely the general of his own company; now he became commander-in-chief, not so much by any formal choice, as because every one was ready to grant him willing obedience, in the belief that whatever the difficulties might be, he would cope with them better than any one else.

The first plan suggested by Clearchus was to join forces with Ariæus, who had commanded the Barbarian army under Cyrus, and who, on the previous day, had fled back three miles to the last halting-place. To him therefore the Hellenes sent messengers to say that if he would like to fight for the throne on his own account, they would be willing to help him, as they had helped Cyrus.

Soon after the messengers had departed, there arrived at the camp some Persian ambassadors, accompanied by a Hellene named Phalinus, belonging to the83 suite of Tissaphernes, who acted as their spokesman. They asked to see the generals, and demanded, in the name of the Great King, that the Hellenes should give up their arms, and throw themselves upon his mercy.

But Clearchus said, ‘We have conquered, and it is not usual for the conquerors to give up their arms.’

Just then however he was called away to attend to a sacrifice that he had caused to be offered for the purpose of consulting the omens, and he left the conference, saying to his comrades, ‘Give them such a message to take back as may seem good to you.’

In his absence, Cleanor, the eldest of the generals, was the first to speak, and he said, ‘We will rather die than give ourselves up.’

Another general asked, ‘If the King thinks himself the conqueror, why does he not come and fetch our arms?’

And a third said, ‘The most precious possessions that we have are our valour and our arms. So long as we keep our arms, our valour may be of some service to us, but if we part with them, our lives will not be worth much.’

Others again thought it desirable not to irritate the King, and said that the arms which they had hitherto carried in the service of Cyrus might now be employed in the service of the King.

By this time Clearchus had returned, and he asked Phalinus whether the ambassadors had as yet received their answer.

‘The other generals,’ answered Phalinus, ‘have spoken this and that,—now let us hear what you say.’

This gave Clearchus an opportunity of appealing to84 Phalinus to help him to keep up the spirits of his comrades. ‘I rejoice, Phalinus,’ he said, ‘that you, a countryman of our own, are here among the ambassadors. Give us counsel, and say what appears to you the most honourable and advantageous course for us Hellenes, situated as we are. You know that in the time to come all Hellas will know what has been your advice to us to-day.’

But Phalinus evaded the appeal, and gave a very different answer from that which Clearchus had hoped for. ‘If,’ he said, ‘you have the least ground for supposing yourselves able to hold your own against the Great King, I advise you not to give up your arms. But if you see clearly that it is impossible, then my advice is this, Save yourselves as best you can.’

Clearly there was nothing to be gained by further discussion, and Clearchus said, ‘You have spoken, but take to the King this answer, that if he desires our service as friends, it is better for him that we should keep our arms. And on the other hand, if he regards us as enemies, it is better for us that we should have them.’

With this message, the ambassadors returned to the King. When they were gone, Clearchus announced to the other generals that the omens of the sacrifice which he had just caused to be offered, were unfavourable for a battle with the King, but favourable for the proposal to join forces with Ariæus.

Soon afterwards the messengers returned from Ariæus with the answer that he did not care to accept the offer of the Hellenes to set him on the throne, because among the great lords of Persia there were85 many more powerful and distinguished than himself, who would never endure to see him placed above them. But he said that early the next morning he was going to begin the return-march to Sardis, and that the Hellenes might go with him if they liked.

The generals decided to do so, and although it was already dark, they set out at once for the place where he was encamped, and reached it about midnight. There they entered into a treaty with Ariæus, and confirmed it with sacred rites in order that it might be doubly sure. According to the Persian custom, a bull, a wolf, a wild boar, and a ram were slaughtered, and their blood was mingled in the hollow of a shield, into which the Hellene officers dipped their swords and the Barbarian officers their lances. Then they swore on both sides to help one another in every difficulty. Neither party was to desert the other, the Barbarians were to act as guides to the Hellenes, according to the best of their knowledge, and in all emergencies they were to stand by one another as true friends.


The next thing was to decide as to the best route for the return march, and Ariæus was of opinion that it would be better not to return by the way they had come.

‘If we go that way’ he said, ‘we cannot fail to perish from hunger, for even on the journey hither we have often been short of food, and in those places where food was plentiful, we have already taken all that was to be had. I think I can show you a better way, which though longer, goes through fruitful districts. But for the first few days we must make long forced marches, so as to get at least two or three days’ journey in advance of the Great King. He will give up the idea of pursuing us, for he would not venture to come after us with a small army; and with a great army, which must of necessity move slowly, he would not be able to overtake us.’

Early the next morning therefore, the allied forces started together for some villages in which they were to encamp for the night. They were still on the march when, towards evening, they perceived by various signs that the King’s troops were not far off. Clearchus did not wish for an engagement, for his men were tired87 and hungry, having had nothing to eat all day, but in order that he might not seem to be afraid of them, he went on marching in the same direction as before.

The enemy did not however appear in sight, and the Hellenes reached the villages for which they were bound, without any fighting. But on arriving at the place, they found that the King’s soldiers had been there, and had destroyed everything; they had not even stopped short of burning down the houses. The first-comers were able to make themselves fairly comfortable, but the rear, who did not get in till after dark, were obliged to lie down upon the bare ground, without food or shelter.

The discomfort gave rise to quarrels among the soldiers, and there was so much noise and confusion that those at a distance were seized with panic, thinking that the enemy had surprised them in the darkness. Thus the night passed in wretchedness and anxiety, but in the morning Clearchus invented a joke as a means of reassuring the disheartened soldiers. He sent for a herald, and told him to go round the camp, proclaiming that whoever would give information as to the person who had let the ass into the camp, should receive a talent of silver.12 By this joke the soldiers understood that Clearchus meant to laugh at them for their fright, and to assure them that there had been no real cause for it.

12 A talent was equal to 243l. 15s. of our money.

Meanwhile the King was by no means at ease, for he was quite as much afraid of the Hellenes as they of him, and in the morning he again sent heralds to them. He did not now attempt to demand that they should give88 up their arms, but proposed to make a treaty with them.

When the heralds were announced, Clearchus was very careful not to let it appear that the Hellenes were in any pressing need, or that they felt their position to be a difficult one. The heralds were told that they must wait until he could find time to attend to them, and meanwhile he drew up his troops in such a manner as to make the best possible display, putting in front those who had complete sets of armour and who could otherwise appear to the greatest advantage.

This done, he went forward with the other generals to receive the heralds, and asked, rather curtly, what they wanted. When they had delivered their message, he answered, ‘Say to the King that another battle will be necessary before we can think about a treaty. For we have nothing to eat, and I cannot speak to my men about a treaty until their hunger is stayed.’

The heralds rode away, but quickly returned, which proved that the King was near at hand. They brought with them guides, and said that in case the Hellenes were willing to agree to a truce, they were to conduct them to a place where food could be obtained.

Clearchus and the other generals withdrew to consider this proposal, and they very quickly decided to conclude the truce at once. But nevertheless they again kept the heralds waiting for some time, so that it might appear as if it had been a good while before they could make up their minds to agree to the King’s proposals.


See page 3.

At last the decision was communicated to the heralds, and the two armies set out under the direction of the King’s guides, marching by a road which was one of89 the very worst that the Hellenes had ever seen. The district through which they were passing was part of the province of Babylonia, and was crossed in all directions by an infinite number of canals and ditches which kept the country well watered, and made it abundantly fruitful. At this time of year they were not usually full of water, but in order to make the march as difficult as possible for the Hellenes, the Persians had opened all the sluices. Consequently the canals could not be crossed except by bridges, of which there were none.

The Barbarians had been anxious to give the Hellenes a practical example of the endless difficulties that they might expect to meet with in the course of their retreat. But if they hoped that this would have the effect of making them humble and ready to submit, they were much mistaken; Clearchus was not the man to be beaten by a difficulty of this sort, and under his direction the Hellenes set cheerily to work to make temporary bridges wherever they were required. In many places fallen trunks of date-palms lay ready to hand, and where these did not suffice, others were quickly felled.

All soldiers under the age of thirty years were ordered to the work, in order that it might be carried through as fast as possible. Clearchus himself acted as overseer, moving about briskly among the soldiers with a staff in the right hand and a spear in the left, and whenever he saw a man loitering over his task, he did not hesitate to give him a beating. Although he was more than fifty years old, he laboured with his own hands with the utmost diligence, and this example was followed by many other of the older men.


At last the toil was over, and the Hellenes reached some villages where a little money could buy food in abundance. Inexhaustible seemed the immense stores of corn, dates, and palm-wine, as well as of a kind of acid drink made also from the date-palm, which they found in these villages. The food, moreover, was as good as it was plentiful. Dates better than any that the Hellenes had ever eaten at home were here food for slaves; those put aside for the masters were of immense size and exquisite flavour. Delicious too was the sweet juice of the date-palm, but unhappily it was apt to give head-ache.


In this district the Hellene army encamped, together with their Barbarian allies. For two days they heard nothing of the enemy, but on the third day Tissaphernes arrived, with a brother-in-law of the Great King and three other Persian noblemen, attended by many slaves. Tissaphernes demanded an interview with the Hellene generals, and when they had presented themselves, he began to address them in a friendly manner, by means of an interpreter who understood both Persian and Hellene speech.

‘You know,’ said Tissaphernes, ‘that I am the nearest neighbour of your country, and as I see that you are now in great straits, I am anxious to obtain the permission91 of the Great King to conduct you to your homes in safety. By so doing I hope not only to gain your gratitude, but also that of all Hellas. The King knows and values the services I have rendered him. I was the first to bring him news of the revolt of Cyrus, and the only one who did not fly before you in the battle. He has promised me therefore to grant my request on your behalf, but at the same time he desires me to ask you for what reason you have taken the field against him. As your friend I advise you to be careful in giving your answer, that I may not fail in my endeavour to help you.’

After conferring with the other generals, Clearchus answered, ‘We knew not that Cyrus intended to lead us against the Great King. But when he who had shown us much kindness was in need of our help, we should have been shamed before gods and men had we then deserted him. Cyrus is now dead, and we have no further quarrel with the King, nor any wish to injure his subjects. If we are allowed to go on our way in peace, we will return quietly to our home, and for any kindness that we may receive we shall prove ourselves grateful. But if we are treated as enemies, then by the help of the gods, we shall know how to defend our lives.’

With this answer Tissaphernes professed himself satisfied, and he rode away, saying, ‘Let there be a truce between us until I come again.’

Three days afterwards he again made his appearance. ‘It was far from easy,’ he said, ‘to dispose the King in your favour, but at last I have succeeded, and we are ready to conclude a treaty with you to this effect:—You are to92 be allowed to pass through the King’s dominions in peace, and where there is food to be bought you shall be supplied with it in exchange for your money; where they refuse to sell it, you can take what you require. On your side, you must swear that you will act the part of friends and not enemies towards the people of the countries through which you march.’

These conditions having been agreed to, Tissaphernes and the Persian nobles gave their right hands to the generals and captains of the Hellenes, and all swore by the most sacred oaths that they would faithfully keep the treaty. Then Tissaphernes departed, saying, ‘I shall very soon bring my army to escort you on your way to Hellas, whilst I return myself to my own province.’


But although Tissaphernes had promised to return very shortly, day after day went by, and still he did not come.

Meanwhile there was constant communication between the King’s troops and those of Ariæus, who had sworn to be the faithful friends and allies of the Hellenes, and who were encamped beside them among the Babylonian villages. The brothers and other relations of the general rode over to see him, and in like manner all the troops of Ariæus, down to the humblest private soldier, received and returned the visits of their friends in the King’s army, which was encamped at no great distance.

All this was for a purpose, and for the same purpose Tissaphernes continued to delay his coming. The King’s party were anxious to sow dissension between the allies, in order that the Hellenes might be utterly without friends. To this end, promises of free pardon to all subjects of the Great King who would now return to their duty, were diligently circulated, and Tissaphernes was careful to put off his coming, so that the Persians of the King’s army might have time to alienate Ariæus and his men from their former friends.

The Hellenes could not but perceive that the tone94 of their allies was changing rapidly, and many of them warned Clearchus that there was something wrong. ‘Why do we remain here?’ they asked him. ‘Do we not know that the King wishes above all things to destroy us? To him it would be unendurable that we should reach home in safety, and boast that we, a handful of Hellenes, have defeated the Great King in the very heart of his empire, and have then escaped out of his hands after defying him openly. He pretends just now to be inclined for peace, but he is only waiting until all his forces are assembled, and then he will put forth his whole power to crush us.’

Clearchus saw the danger of their position, but it seemed to him that to go forward was even more perilous than to stay still. ‘If we fold up our tents and depart,’ he said, ‘the King may say that we have broken the treaty, and declared war against him. Who will then give us guides to lead us through this unknown land? What other rivers may lie before us, I know not, but in any case there is the broad Euphrates, which it would be impossible to cross if an enemy were to dispute our way. It seems to me moreover that if the King really meant to destroy us, he would hardly have thought it necessary to perjure himself by swearing to a treaty which he all the time intended to break.’

At last, after a delay of twenty days, Tissaphernes arrived with his force, to escort the allied armies on their journey home. The double camp was broken up, and in five days they reached the Tigris, which was crossed by a bridge of boats.

Soon afterwards they came to some villages which belonged to Parysatis, the Queen-mother, and Tissaphernes,95 who was delighted to have the opportunity of doing her an injury, desired the Hellenes to plunder the villages. He had always envied and hated Cyrus, and because she had done everything in her power to help her younger son, he hated Parysatis also. It gave additional zest to his revenge that her villages should be plundered by the Hellenes for whom Cyrus had always shown such marked partiality. They found them well-stocked with food, and were able to take away a great number of sheep, and a quantity of barley.

It was one of the provisions of the treaty that the Hellenes should be supplied with food; this they were able to procure by buying it in the market established in the Barbarian camp. Nevertheless their distrust of Tissaphernes was constantly on the increase, and they always marched at a prudent distance behind the Barbarians, having separate guides of their own. At night the two camps were pitched at a distance of two or three miles apart.

The army of Ariæus had by this time openly joined Tissaphernes, and now kept itself close to his force and away from the Hellenes, regardless of all the sacred oaths by which, after the battle of Cunaxa, the two armies had sworn to stand by one another and act as faithful friends and allies.

We cannot but condemn the treachery of Ariæus, and yet we must remember, as some excuse for him, the difficult position in which he was placed. For, had he remained true to the Hellenes, they would have marched together as far as Ionia, and then the Hellenes would have gone away over the sea to their own country, leaving him alone to bear the full brunt of the King’s fury.


For about three weeks the two armies continued marching, one behind the other, neither good friends nor yet open enemies. The mutual distrust resulted in constant quarrels, and if the soldiers from both armies were cutting wood in the same forest, or gathering grass from the same fields, there was sure to be a fight.

Clearchus did not however believe that the Persians had any deliberate intention of breaking the treaty to which they had sworn, and in the hope of putting an end to a state of affairs which was every day getting worse, he resolved if possible to come to an understanding with Tissaphernes. He sent word therefore that he wished to speak with him. Tissaphernes accordingly invited him to a conference in his tent, and Clearchus spoke as follows—

‘You regard us,’ he said, ‘as enemies, and consequently we think it necessary to stand on our guard against you. These mutual suspicions may easily lead to actual war, and therefore I am anxious to convince you that you have no reason to doubt us.

‘First, and before all things, we are prevented by our oath from thinking of you in any other light than that of friends. He who breaks an oath plunges himself97 into the greatest misery, for who is swift enough to outrun the wrath of the gods? In what darkness could he hide himself from them? What fortress would protect him, were it ever so strong? For to the gods all things are subject, and they have power over all, everywhere alike.

‘But more than this, you are of all others the man who is best able to help us. Without you our way is shrouded in shades of night, for we know not your land. The inhabited districts we should fear to enter, but far more should we dread the barren waste lands, where there would be none to help us. But with your good-will every way is open to us, every river can be crossed, we shall be among friends, and food will not fail. If we were mad enough to think of taking your life, we should be destroying our best friend, and should expose ourselves to the fury of the Great King who would hasten to avenge your death.

‘And now I will tell you what services we can render in return for your friendship. We know that you are harassed by the Mysians, the Pisidians and other nations, and moreover that the Egyptians have risen against you. But if we Hellenes are your friends, and fight as comrades by your side, what people can hope to withstand you?

‘Taking all things into consideration, it seems incredible that you should suspect us, and I can only suppose that some mischief-maker has been at work, causing you to question our good faith.’

In his own mind Clearchus had little doubt that the mischief-maker was Menon, one of the other generals. Menon was a rival of Clearchus, and wished to supersede98 him as commander-in-chief of the Hellene army, while Clearchus was by no means inclined to make way for him. Clearchus suspected that Menon had been trying to induce the Satrap to insist upon his being given the first place, and that in return for this, he had promised to bring over the Hellenes to the party of Tissaphernes. Of such a plan the selfish Menon13 was certainly capable, and it afterwards appeared that he was not entirely innocent of intrigues with the Persians. But it is very possible that Clearchus may have been misled by jealousy into over-estimating the extent of his guilt.

13 See p. 55.

To the speech of Clearchus, Tissaphernes made a hypocritical reply. ‘I rejoice,’ he said, ‘to hear that you know how to value our friendship. But now, on the other hand, have we not long since given you proofs of our sincerity?

‘If we wished to do you an injury, have we not foot-soldiers and horsemen enough to overpower you? Is there any lack of favourable places for falling upon you? Could I not seize the mountains to block your way? Or prevent you from crossing a river? Or, surest means of all to compass your ruin, could I not set fire to the country far and wide around you, and having destroyed all the fruits of the earth, leave you to die of hunger? Why have I not done this? Because I love the Hellenes, and hope, by means of their friendship, to attain my highest wish.

‘The Great King,’ he added, ‘is the only one who may wear the tiara upright upon his head, but with your help, another may wear it upright in his heart.’


By these mysterious words he meant to signify that he aspired to fight himself for the throne, as Cyrus had done. He also hinted that Clearchus was quite right in suspecting one of his fellow-officers, and asked him to bring all the generals and captains to a meeting in his tent, when he promised to point out the traitor.

All difficulties appeared now to have been smoothed away. Tissaphernes assumed a most friendly manner, and begged Clearchus to remain with him for supper, and be his guest for the night.


On the next day Clearchus returned to the camp, and reported the good understanding that he had established with Tissaphernes. But when he said that Tissaphernes wished all the officers to assemble in his tent, the Hellenes objected, for they did not trust the Satrap, and did not care to let their best men run any risk of falling into his clutches.

Clearchus however was so confident that all would go well, and pressed his opinion with such persistence, that after a long discussion it was at last decided to send five generals and twenty captains to take part in the conference. Clearchus was of course one of the five generals, so also was Menon. They were accompanied by two hundred soldiers who wished to buy provisions in the Barbarian camp, but all were unarmed, for it was to be a friendly meeting.

Some hours passed by, and the Hellenes did not return. Those who were left behind began to look out anxiously for their comrades, but they could see nothing but a number of Persian horsemen galloping about separately in all directions upon the heath, which lay between the two camps. They did not understand what this could mean, but soon the horrible explanation101 was brought to them by a badly-wounded Hellene, who made his way back to the camp as fast as he was able, and told them what had happened.

On reaching the tent of Tissaphernes, the five generals had been invited to go within; the captains were left standing at the door. Presently a blood-red flag was hoisted above the tent, and at this signal, the Barbarians fell upon the captains and the two hundred soldiers who were all unarmed, and massacred them. Those who attempted to flee were cut down by horsemen sent in pursuit of them, and killed upon the heath. Of the fate of the generals who had gone within the tent, the wounded man knew nothing.

On hearing this terrible news, the Hellenes rushed to seize their arms, for they naturally expected an immediate attack. This did not however take place, but Ariæus, with some other nobles, and about three hundred Persian cavalry, rode towards the camp, and demanded to speak with one of the generals. When he was within hearing, Ariæus cried out, ‘Clearchus was a traitor, he had broken the oath, and has been punished. To you I bring an order from the Great King to deliver up your arms, for they belonged to Cyrus, who was his slave.’ Every one in the Persian empire was considered a slave, except the King himself.

But one of the generals answered with spirit befitting the occasion. ‘Thou miserable Ariæus,’ he cried, ‘and you others who were the friends of Cyrus, you are the most wicked of men, you who formerly swore that our friends should be your friends, and our enemies your enemies, and have now entered into a covenant with the godless Tissaphernes to destroy us.’


To this the Persians could make no reply, and they turned back to their own camp.

The night that followed was a terrible one for the Hellenes. The infamous crime that had been committed could only be regarded as the first of a series planned long ago by Tissaphernes. Now that Clearchus was gone, who was to command the little band of Hellenes, left as sheep without a shepherd? If the treacherous Barbarians were bent upon their destruction, what was to hinder them from taking them by surprise again and again, until at last they were reduced to the choice of death or slavery?

Throughout the whole camp reigned discouragement, despondency, even despair. Only a few of the soldiers could rouse themselves to take food or kindle a fire. Wherever they chanced to be, they threw themselves down upon the ground, and passed a sleepless night, kept awake by brooding care for what the next day might bring forth, and for sick longing for their country, their parents, their wives, their children, whom they feared they should never see again.

* * * * *

On entering the tent of Tissaphernes, the five generals had been surprised and made prisoners, and were forthwith sent to Susa, there to await the King’s pleasure. Menon was set at liberty, but the rest languished for a year in prison, and were then beheaded.


(From a frieze in the palace at Susa.)

See p. 2.

For Clearchus, who had been the most intimate friend of her dearly loved Cyrus, Parysatis, the Queen-mother, did everything in her power. Through the medium of her physician, she was able to supply him with many comforts in his prison, and she even hoped104 that her influence with Artaxerxes would prevail to save his life. But in Statira, the Queen-consort, she had a rival whose influence was even greater than her own. Statira succeeded in convincing her husband that it was indispensable to the dignity of the Persian throne to pass sentence of death upon the most active and distinguished adherent of the usurper Cyrus, and Clearchus was consequently executed.

Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law had long been consumed by mutual jealousy and hatred, and this last struggle filled the cup to overflowing. In order to revenge herself for the death of Clearchus, Parysatis bribed a servant to give poison to Statira, and thus caused her death. As a punishment for the murder, she was banished for a time from Babylon.

For a year Menon was at liberty, and went about as he pleased in Susa, but at the end of that time he also was executed, after having been cruelly tortured. The freedom that he enjoyed at first seems to prove that, as Clearchus suspected, he had really rendered some service to the Great King, to the disadvantage of his countrymen. And his subsequent death shows that, cunning as he was, he was not cunning enough to provide against all contingencies. It is very possible that here also the influence of Parysatis may have been at work.


In the history of Rome there is a story which tells how King Tarquin desired, once upon a time, to conquer the town of Gabii. As he was unable to overcome it by fair fighting, he determined to have recourse to treachery, and in order to carry out his purpose, sent his son to the city.

The son knocked at the city gate, and when from within they asked who was there, he said that he was the son of Tarquin, but that he came as a friend, not an enemy, for his father had ill-treated him shamefully, and he wished now to revenge himself by helping the Gabians to defend their city.

The townsmen let him in, and after having seen him, time after time, fighting bravely in their ranks, they gave him their full confidence, and finally chose him to be their general-in-chief.

So far he had succeeded, but he did not know what was the next thing to be done, and therefore sent a trusted slave to ask his father’s advice. The king took the slave into his garden, where there was a bed of poppies in full bloom, and walking up and down beside the bed, he struck off the heads of the tallest poppies,106 one by one. Then he said to the slave, ‘Go back and tell my son what you have seen.’

The slave did not know how this could be an answer to the question that had been asked, but when he had carefully described to his master what he had seen, the son understood very well what it meant. One after another, he impeached in turn all the chief men of the city upon some frivolous pretext or other, and he did it so cleverly that their fellow-townsmen believed them to be traitors, and condemned them either to death or banishment. When the city had been deprived of all its best men, it was easy enough for him to give it up into the hands of his father.

In like manner Tissaphernes thought that by the removal of their officers, the Hellenes would be left helpless, and would no longer have the heart to fight for their lives and their freedom. But it fell out otherwise, for the officers who had been betrayed by Tissaphernes were succeeded by others still more able. Above all, Xenophon the Athenian, a man hitherto almost unnoticed in the crowd, came forward, and by his inspiring presence, his sound judgment, and his unfailing courage, gained the confidence of his comrades, and brought them at last through all their difficulties to a place of safety.

Xenophon was at this time in the full prime of life, being about forty years old. He had been born and brought up at Athens, and in his youth astonished every one by his remarkable beauty, which was of such a kind that it seemed to indicate rare qualities of heart and mind. The wise Socrates met him one day by chance, and was so much attracted by his appearance107 that he invited him to join the company of his friends. Socrates had a great number of friends, both young and old, with whom he used every day to discuss all manner of questions, in order that he might inspire them with a love of everything that was true and noble and good. Xenophon became one of his favourite pupils, and the teaching of Socrates fell on fruitful soil; the beautiful and gifted youth grew up to be a wise and pious man.

It is said that some years afterwards, when Xenophon was about thirty years of age, Socrates had once the opportunity of saving him from a great danger. In a war between the Athenians and Bœotians, Xenophon was serving his country as a cavalry soldier, Socrates was on foot. The Athenians were beaten at Delium, and obliged to flee. In the bustle and confusion, Xenophon fell wounded from his horse, and must either have been trodden to death by his countrymen, or else killed by the enemy, had not Socrates perceived his danger, and rushed to help him, carrying him in his strong arms until he was far away from the place of battle.

Another of the friends of Xenophon was Proxenus the Bœotian, who was ten years younger than himself. From a very early age it had been the ambition of Proxenus to gain for himself a high place as leader of the people, and with this end in view he had placed himself under the instruction of the famous orator, Gorgias. But his fate led him in another direction.

At the time that Cyrus was preparing for his expedition against Artaxerxes, Proxenus happened to be staying at Sardis. He soon became an honoured friend108 and guest of Cyrus, and was asked by the prince to raise a company of Hellenes for his service, as had already been done by many of his countrymen. This commission he agreed to accept.

For the position of general Proxenus was in many respects well fitted, but his nature was so amiable that he lacked the power of being severe, and he was quite unable to maintain discipline amongst unruly soldiers. He considered it sufficient if the superior officer praised those who did their duty, and simply withheld his praise from those who shirked it. And so it came to pass, that he had more fear of being irksome to his men than they had of incurring his displeasure, and that he took more pains to avoid annoying them than they took to do their duty. The good soldiers were devoted to him, but the bad ones did not scruple to be inattentive to his orders, because they knew that he was easy-going. Proxenus was in fact the exact opposite of the stern Clearchus.

Fired with affection and enthusiasm for Cyrus, Proxenus wrote to Xenophon, pressing him to come at once to Sardis, and join the prince. He said that he would introduce him to Cyrus, and that Xenophon would never repent of accepting the invitation, and he added that he himself loved Cyrus even more than he loved his home.

Whenever Xenophon was in doubt about any decision, he was accustomed to ask the advice of Socrates, and did so on this occasion. Socrates doubted whether it would be well for Xenophon to do as his friend wished, for some years before, in the time of the Peloponnesian war between the Athenians and the Spartans, Cyrus had109 taken the part of the Spartans against the Athenians, and had helped them with large sums of money. He thought therefore that the Athenians might take it ill if Xenophon were to ally himself with their former enemy. It would be best, he said, to go to the oracle at Delphi, and ask counsel of the god.

Accordingly Xenophon repaired to Delphi, but he had already made up his mind, and worded his question thus:—‘To which of the gods must I pray and offer sacrifices, in order that I may prosper in the journey which I have in view, and return home in safety?’

The oracle named the gods. But when Xenophon returned, and told what he had done, Socrates said, ‘That was not the right way to put the question. Since however you have so asked, and so been answered, depart, and do the bidding of the oracle.’

Xenophon was well received at Sardis, and accompanied Cyrus on his march. Yet, up to the day of the massacre of the Hellenes by Tissaphernes, he had taken no active part in the expedition. He served neither as general, nor as captain, nor as private soldier, but was present merely as the friend of Proxenus and Cyrus. Nevertheless he took the deepest interest in everything that befell the army, whether for good or ill.


Xenophon was deeply affected by the massacre of his countrymen, and all the more so because of his friendship for Proxenus, who was one of the five generals entrapped by Tissaphernes.

During the night that followed that ill-fated day, he could not sleep. He had thrown himself upon the ground, overcome with grief and anxiety, but could get no rest. At last however he fell into a troubled slumber, and dreamt that it was thundering and lightning, and that his father’s house was struck by the lightning and burst into flames.

He started up in horror, but found that it was a dream. Then, being a pious man who believed that every event was brought about by the direct intervention of the gods, he began to consider what the dream could mean, for he doubted not that it was sent to him as a sign from Zeus, the Ruler of all. But whether it betokened good or evil fortune, he could not tell. The burning of the house would seem to foretell misfortune, and yet, on the other hand, the light breaking suddenly out of darkness might be taken to signify help in the hour of need.

Shaking off his despondency, he began to reason111 with himself. ‘Of what avail is it,’ he said, ‘to lie here? The night creeps on apace. To-morrow the enemy will attack us, and there is not one of us who thinks of preparing for defence. All are lying prone, as if this were a time for inaction and giving way to despair. For what should I wait, or for whom? It is clear that I must help myself.’

With these words he sprang to his feet, and calling together the captains of the company of Proxenus, he proceeded to address them, saying, ‘I cannot sleep, and you in like manner are unable to close your eyes for thinking of the perilous situation in which we find ourselves. From the Great King we can look for nothing but fury and vengeance, for we came hither to unseat him from his throne.

‘Nevertheless it seems to me that our condition is not such that we should give way to despair, for the gods are angry with the Barbarians because they have broken the peace they swore to maintain. The gods will therefore be on our side. Moreover we can endure frost and heat better than the weakly Persians, and are in every way, thank the gods, made of better stuff. Let us therefore not delay, but at once put our hands to the work. On us everything depends, for the soldiers will follow our lead. If they see us wanting in courage they will be faint-hearted, but if we show ourselves ready for anything that may be in store for us, whether of toil or danger, and encourage a like spirit in our comrades, the soldiers will follow our example and be ashamed of their faint-heartedness.’

All the captains but one agreed with Xenophon, but there was one who thought otherwise, a certain Apollonides,112 who appeared by his speech to be a Bœotian. This man said that it was madness to dream of any other deliverance than that which they might hope to gain by throwing themselves upon the mercy of the Great King, and began to reckon up all the hardships that lay before them.

But Xenophon cut him short. ‘Thou fool,’ he said, ‘thou hast eyes and ears, but canst neither see nor hear. When the King demanded our arms, and we refused to give them up and began to march away, was he not then most anxious to enter into a treaty with us? And is it not in consequence of having trusted in his promises that we have fallen into this present distress? Ye captains, this man has not the mind of a Hellene, he is a disgrace to our brave Hellas. Let us not endure him among us any longer, he is only fit to be among the camp-followers and carry the baggage.’

‘In truth,’ said one of the captains, ‘Apollonides is no Bœotian, nor indeed a Hellene of any sort, but a Barbarian from Lydia. This you can tell by looking at his ears, which have been pierced.’ So indeed it proved, and Apollonides was turned away.

It was now midnight, and at the suggestion of Xenophon, the captains of the company of Proxenus went through the camp, and summoned all the generals and captains of the other companies to meet together and take counsel as to what should be done.

When they were assembled, to the number of about a hundred, Xenophon was asked to repeat in the hearing of all what he had already said to the captains of the company of Proxenus. This he did, and then went on to propose immediate action.


‘The first thing to be done,’ he said, ‘is to choose generals and captains to replace those who have been taken from us, that the army may not be left without responsible chiefs. For through order and discipline an army is strong; slackness and disorder are the harbingers of defeat. Let us first agree among ourselves who are the best men to fill the vacant places, and then call together the soldiers to confirm our decision. It will be well also to speak to them some words of encouragement, for it is not numbers that ensure victory, but confidence and courage. He who in war thinks only of saving his life is the most likely to lose it, and his death is the death of a coward. But he who, remembering that death is the common lot of all men, chooses rather to die with honour than to live in shame, is far more likely to attain old age, and while life lasts, lives nobly.’

The suggestion was acted upon without delay. Xenophon was chosen to take the place of his friend Proxenus, and for the four other missing generals successors were appointed from among the captains of their companies. In the same way, soldiers were elected to replace the dead captains and those newly promoted, so that as far as the officers were concerned, each company was made up to its former strength.

By this time it was almost daybreak, and a herald was sent round the camp to summon all the soldiers to a general meeting, the precaution being meanwhile taken of placing outposts at regular intervals outside the camp, with instructions to bring in news at once, if they should perceive any sign of the enemy’s approach.


When the soldiers were assembled, Xenophon appeared among them clad in his most beautiful armour, as if for a feast, with a serene countenance, and eyes that glowed with hope and courage. When he was asked to speak, he addressed them in a clear, penetrating voice that all could hear. ‘Soldiers,’ he said, ‘in the terrible disaster that has befallen us, you see the result of trusting to the oaths of Barbarians. From henceforth we must regard them, not as allies, but as enemies, and fight to avenge the murder of our comrades. Thus by the help of the gods may we hope to be delivered out of their hands.’


At this moment it chanced that one of the soldiers sneezed loudly. Nothing could have been more fortunate, for the Hellenes believed that a sneeze was a sign sent by the gods to confirm the word that had just been spoken. Such a good omen could not fail to cheer the downcast soldiers, and Xenophon paused in his speech, and proposed that all should unite in making a vow to Zeus the Saviour, from whom the sign had come, that as soon as they should again find themselves in a land of friends, they would offer thank-offerings to Zeus and the other gods. The proposal was accepted with115 acclamation, and all prayed together, and sang a hymn of praise.

After this, Xenophon continued to speak. ‘Our hope,’ he said, ‘rests on a sure foundation. We have been true to the oath sworn in the name of the gods, while the Barbarians have perjured themselves. The gods will not allow them to go unpunished; their anger will be turned against our enemies, and their help will be with us. They can humble the mighty and exalt the weak, and can, if they will, save us out of our distress.

‘Let us not form too high an estimate of the Persian resources. The Mysians and the little nation of Pisidians defy the Great King. In the midst of his empire they live as free men, and have many large and flourishing cities. Are we at all inferior to Mysians or Pisidians? Think of our forefathers, and of the world-famed victories which they won. The Persians came with a mighty army to lay Athens in the dust, but the little band of Athenians met them with undaunted courage, and drove them back in disgraceful flight. After that came Xerxes with an army, countless as the sand of the sea. And what happened to him? Our forefathers overcame that army by sea and by land, and the glorious results of their victories continue to this very day. To this day our cities are free, and over us we acknowledge no other lords but only the eternal gods.

‘You yourselves moreover have been put to the test, and have not been found wanting. It is but a short time since you confronted the descendants of those same Barbarians. Their number was many times116 greater than yours, but with the help of the gods you smote them and they were scattered like chaff before the wind, not one of them could look you in the face. And at that time you were fighting for Cyrus, a stranger, to set him upon the throne. With how much greater zeal will you fight now, when the battle is for your own salvation!

‘In the last place, let each one of us take heed to do his part. Our new chiefs must be even more vigilant and cautious than those we have lost; the soldiers must be more strictly obedient than hitherto. If every man will keep his eye upon the rest, and allow nothing to be done that is against the rule, then will our enemies be disappointed of their hope that in depriving us of our officers they have robbed us of all discipline.’

As of an heroic deed, so too of an inspiring speech it may with truth be said that it ‘begets courage, even in a coward.’ The brave words of Xenophon put to flight the dark cloud of despair that had threatened to paralyse the energy of the soldiers, and prepared the way for a dawning of new confidence, and a hope that in their case also the old saying might once again prove true, that ‘Fortune helps the brave.’

The next thing to be done was to make preparations for continuing the march. Xenophon was asked for his advice, and he answered, ‘Before everything else, it will be necessary to provide ourselves with food, now that we can no longer buy it in the Barbarian camp, and I hear that there are villages in the neighbourhood where we shall find what we want. The Barbarians will pursue us like cowardly curs, who run after a man, snapping at his heels. If he turns round upon them,117 they immediately run away, but as soon as he continues to go forward, they are after him again as before.

‘I propose therefore that we adopt the form of a hollow square, and place in the centre the camp-followers and baggage-animals, that there may be no risk of their being cut off by the enemy. Let Cheirisophus take the post of honour and lead the van, as is fitting, for he is a Spartan,14 and let the two eldest generals take charge of the wings, while Timasion and myself command the rear. If after a time we wish to make any alteration, it will always be easy to change. He who has something better than this to propose, let him now speak.’

14 Sparta was at this time the leading state in Hellas.

All were silent.

‘Hold up hands then, those who agree to my plan,’ cried Xenophon.

Every hand was raised, and the proposal was accordingly carried.

There was another matter to which Xenophon was anxious to call the attention of his comrades. He knew how serious a disadvantage it is to an army in the field to be encumbered with a quantity of baggage, and advised that everything not absolutely needed for the march should be burnt.

‘He who would enrich himself with spoil,’ he said, ‘must overcome the enemy. Only conquerors can hold their own, and take the spoil of the vanquished. Whichever of you would see again those who are most dear to him, let him remember that he must prove himself a man.’

This proposal was also carried by a show of hands,118 and the meeting being at an end, the soldiers dispersed to overlook their possessions, and choose from among them such things as were indispensable. If any of them had possessions which they themselves did not need, but which others lacked, they gave them to their comrades. Then a great bonfire was lighted, and into it were cast all the rest of the things, together with the tents and the wagons.

From this time forward the recognised heads of the army were Cheirisophus the Spartan and Xenophon the Athenian, but more especially Xenophon. All alike were agreed in thinking that these two men were the best fitted to command, and the other generals felt that by carrying out with alacrity whatever was proposed by them, they could most surely promote the present well-being and ultimate salvation of the brave Ten Thousand.


The sun had now risen, and the Hellenes were about to prepare their morning meal, when the scouts brought in word that the satrap Mithridates was riding towards the camp with an escort of thirty horsemen.

Having arrived within speaking distance, Mithridates called out to the generals to come forward and hear what he had to say. Then he proceeded to address them in an apparently friendly manner. ‘Men of Hellas,’ he said, ‘I was, as you know, upon the side of Cyrus, and am now your friend. I do not wish to remain with Tissaphernes, for I fear his vengeance, and if you will let me know your plans, I will gladly join you with all my following, and march by your side. Tell me therefore what you have decided to do.’

The generals conferred together, and agreed that Cheirisophus, their spokesman, should answer Mithridates as they had already so often answered the Persian envoys. ‘If we are allowed to return in peace to our home, we will pursue our way with as little injury as possible to the inhabitants of the countries through which we pass. But if we are hindered in our march, we will fight to the death.’

To this Mithridates replied by trying to persuade120 them that they could have no hope of escape except by making peace with the Great King, and it soon became clear that he had been sent by the enemy to feign friendship, for the purpose of finding out their plans. They refused therefore to listen to him any longer, and Mithridates was obliged to ride away without having succeeded in his mission.

The generals had been confirmed in their suspicion of Mithridates by recognising among his escort a man belonging to the suite of Tissaphernes, who had evidently been sent with him as a spy, so that he might not be able to say anything to the Hellenes except such words as had been dictated by Tissaphernes. And as some Persians had already succeeded in making their way into the camp, and had induced one of the captains to desert with twenty of his men, they proceeded to pass a resolution, that in future there was to be open war with the Persians, and that they would receive no more ambassadors coming in the name of the Great King.

They then returned to their interrupted meal, and when this was over, set out upon the march, forming themselves, as already agreed upon, in a hollow square. But they had not gone far when Mithridates again appeared with two hundred horsemen and four hundred archers and slingers, who advanced towards them as if with friendly intentions. As soon however as they had come within arrow range, they opened fire, and the Hellenes found themselves suddenly beset with a storm of arrows and darts, which wounded many of them.

For a time Xenophon pursued his way without taking any notice, for he was anxious not to delay the121 progress of the march, but finding that the shots came thicker and thicker, he called a halt, and commanded the rear-guard to charge the enemy. No sooner had they done so than the Barbarians were in full flight, but the heavy armed hoplites could not pursue them far, and each time that they re-formed their ranks and turned to continue the march, the Barbarians were after them as before. This occurred so often that it was late in the day before they reached the villages where they were to halt, although the distance was little more than three miles.

When at last they were established for the night in the villages, Cheirisophus and the other generals reproached Xenophon with having so seriously delayed the march, without having gained any advantage. They did not, perhaps, fully realise the difficulty, but instead of retorting that they were inconsiderate, Xenophon answered quietly, admitting that they had cause for annoyance, and proposing a plan by which he hoped to remedy the evil.

‘To-day,’ he said, ‘we have to thank the gods that we have only had a small force to deal with, that could not do us any great injury; and we have also to thank the enemy for having shown us where we are weak. The Persian slingers and archers can make their missiles carry to a greater distance than ours, and moreover the enemy have cavalry, while we are without. Under such circumstances the struggle must always be unequal, with the disadvantage on our side.

‘Happily however we have it in our power to improve our position in this respect. Among the troops there are several Rhodians, and we know that the men122 of Rhodes are famed for their skill in slinging. Their shots carry moreover twice as far as those of the Persians, for instead of great stones the size of a fist, they use little bullets of lead. I propose that we find out if any of these men possess slings, or know how to make new slings. With their help we may be able to form a band of slingers capable of doing good service.

‘Then as regards our want of cavalry. Fortunately we have horses. I have a few, there are some that belonged to Clearchus, and others that have been captured, and are now used for transport, besides those belonging to private persons. Any one willing to give up his horse for the public service could have the loss made good to him by receiving in exchange other baggage animals.’

All the proposals made by Xenophon were accepted, and carried into execution during the night. By the next day the army was supplemented with a company of five hundred Rhodian slingers and a troop of fifty horsemen, all fully equipped,—the command of the cavalry being entrusted to an Athenian named Lycius.


The Hellenes remained one more day in the villages, and then, on the third morning, set out at earliest dawn to continue their march. There lay before them a wooded ravine which it would be difficult to go through in fighting order, and they were anxious to get as far123 beyond it as possible, before they should be overtaken by the Persians.

The early start met with its due reward, for the Hellenes were already a good distance beyond the ravine when Mithridates again appeared, this time with a much larger force than before.

He had been very much pleased with the success of his first attempt to harass the Hellenes, for his small band of slingers and archers had sustained but little injury, whereas they had, as he believed, inflicted considerable loss. Expecting to find the Hellenes still at the same disadvantage, he had assured Tissaphernes that if he were supplied with a thousand horsemen and four thousand archers and slingers, he would make an end of them altogether.

But now they were prepared for him. They let him pass unhindered through the ravine, and advance beyond it until he was almost within arrow-shot. Then the trumpets sounded, and the newly formed cavalry and light infantry charged forward upon the advancing foe.

At this wholly unexpected attack, the Barbarians were seized with panic, and fled precipitately. But on reaching the ravine, their flight was impeded by the trees and bushes, and many of them were killed by the Hellene cavalry who came after them in full pursuit. Eighteen horsemen were captured, together with their horses, and many more of the enemy were killed, whose bodies the Hellenes mutilated in a horrible manner in order to strike terror into the breasts of the Persians.

From this time they saw no more of Mithridates. His place was now to be taken by a still more powerful enemy.


For some days after the repulse of Mithridates, the Hellenes were allowed to continue their march unmolested, but soon the Persians were again seen coming up behind them. Tissaphernes was now pursuing them with all the forces under his command, determined that they should not much longer escape his vengeance.

Keeping the main body of his army in the background, he brought to the front his numerous companies of light infantry, and commanded them to make use of their slings and bows. But the Hellenes, unawed by the overpowering numbers of the enemy, quickly brought forward their little band of Rhodians, whose leaden bullets carried farther than the heavy shot of the Persian slingers, and before the enemy was near enough to do them any harm, they had opened fire upon their close-packed ranks where every shot was certain to tell. The archers too discharged their arrows with equal effect, and so deadly was the assault, that Tissaphernes was obliged to withdraw his men out of range, and for the rest of that day, contented himself with following the Hellenes at a safe distance.

Before retiring from the ground where the skirmish had taken place, the Hellenes were careful to collect all125 the bows and arrows that had belonged to the dead Persians. These bows, which were much stronger than their own, were likely to be of great service to them, and in the evening, when they reached the villages in which they were to spend the night, they took great pains to practise using them with effect. They were so fortunate moreover as to find in these same villages a store of excellent bow-strings, and a quantity of lead, which they at once set to work to make into bullets.

After resting for one whole day, they continued their march, and now the road lay through a flat plain. Tissaphernes followed at a distance, always on the lookout for any opportunity of attacking them at a disadvantage, and so overwhelming was his superiority in point of numbers that he was often able to inflict considerable loss, even upon the brave Hellenes.

Sometimes for instance the road would narrow considerably, or a bridge would have to be crossed, and then it was found that the plan of marching in the form of a square had many drawbacks for a retreating army with the enemy in pursuit. Confusion was sure to arise, both in breaking up the square on arriving at the narrow part of the road, and in re-forming it on coming out again into the open country, and by this confusion Tissaphernes did not fail to profit.

The generals agreed that some new plan must be devised to meet the difficulty, and they decided to form six small companies, each consisting of a hundred men, and subdivided into half and quarter companies, each with its own officer. When the square had to be compressed for passing over a bridge or narrow road, these126 companies fell out of their places in the wings, and wheeled round to the back of the rear, returning again to the wings when the square widened out again. By this means disorder was prevented, and for the next four days the Hellenes continued their way with very little loss.

On the fifth day they came to the end of the flat country. They had now to cross a range of hills, and at this they rejoiced, thinking that the hilly ground would be disadvantageous for the Persian cavalry. But this day was destined to be the most disastrous of any they had yet known.

Seeing in the distance a palace with several villages clustering round it, they decided to make for it. The road lay over hilly ground, and they had already climbed the first hill when they received an unexpected check. As they descended the farther side, the enemy appeared upon the height they had just left, and discharged a volley of stones and arrows upon the light-armed infantry, killing and wounding many of them.

To this the Hellenes replied by sending a detachment of hoplites to march back up the hill, and dislodge the Persians. Their heavy armour protected them to some extent, but made it impossible for them to advance rapidly, and the nimble Persians quickly withdrew beyond their reach, returning however as soon as the hoplites turned back to rejoin their comrades, and discharging their shots and arrows as before.


At the second hill, the same thing happened again, and now the Persian cavalry were also brought into play, and directed to chase the Hellenes at full speed127 down the steep descent. This they did, but only when they had been driven to their work with whips. Meanwhile the hail of stones and arrows continued, and made such havoc in the ranks of the light-armed troops who wore neither helmet nor coat of mail, that it became urgently necessary to find some means of diverting the attention of the enemy.

Calling a short halt, the generals rapidly took counsel together, and formed a plan by which the light infantry could be placed beyond the reach of danger, and at the same time give assistance to their comrades.

Parallel with the range of hills over which the Hellenes were making their way, was a range of mountains, from whence the road along the hills could be overlooked. To these mountains the light-armed troops were despatched, with instructions to keep pace with their comrades on the lower level, and rain down shots and arrows upon the enemy whenever they attempted to hinder them in their march. As soon as the Persians perceived this device, they gave up the pursuit. The disadvantage was now on their side, and they were afraid of being cut off from the main body of their army.

So for the rest of that day the Hellenes continued their way in peace, the light infantry on the mountains, the hoplites on the lower hills. At last they reached the villages which they had perceived in the distance, and now the first thing to be done was to see to the sick and wounded, of whom there were a great many. They were carefully tended by the eight surgeons who accompanied the Hellene force, and for three days the army rested quietly in the villages. This was chiefly128 on account of the sick, but partly also because they found there great stores of wheat, barley, and wine, of which they took possession without paying for them, because they were now at war, and in the enemy’s country.


During the time that the Hellenes rested in the villages Tissaphernes disappeared from sight, but on the fourth day, when they came out from under cover, they found him again pursuing them with his whole army.

It was an anxious time for the Hellenes, for a large number of them were incapacitated from fighting. Besides the wounded, there were those who carried the wounded in litters, and those again who carried the armour of the litter-bearers. The wagons in which the sick might have journeyed had been burnt when they had declared war against the Great King.

The generals were of opinion that in this crippled condition they were no match for the enemy in the open field, and that it would be useless to attempt to march and fight at the same time, as hitherto. So when they found that the Persians were coming against them, they determined to halt at the first village they should reach, and place the wounded in safety, while the able-bodied could easily put the Persians to flight from under the cover of the huts. Once routed, they knew that the Persians would give them no more trouble that night, for they were so terribly afraid of being surprised by130 the Hellenes that they always pitched their camp at least six miles away from them.

This plan was carried out, and the Persians were driven back from the village. Then, as soon as they were out of sight, the Hellenes made a fresh start, and marched on for another six miles before encamping for the night, so that the next day when they began their march, they had twelve miles start of the enemy.

All that day and all the next day they were able to march steadily on without fighting, for the Barbarians were too far behind to attack them, but during the third night Tissaphernes also made an extra, or as it is called, a forced march.

The Satrap had the great advantage of being able to get every information as to the districts through which they were marching, and knowing that the flat plain that they had been traversing ever since the last skirmish would now be succeeded by mountainous country, he sent forward a detachment of his troops to get in advance of the Hellenes by taking another road, and seize a hill overlooking the way by which they must pass.

When the Hellene vanguard approached the hill, they found it already in possession of the enemy, and Cheirisophus sent to the rear for Xenophon. It was clear that the Persians must be dislodged without a moment’s delay, for already the main body of the Barbarian army, commanded by Tissaphernes himself, could be seen approaching in the distance.

Xenophon looked long and carefully at the height occupied by the Persians, and saw that from the very top of the mountain above it there was a road leading131 down to the place. ‘We must get up to the top of the mountain,’ he said, ‘and from thence charge down upon the enemy and drive them from their post. There is not a moment to lose. If you will remain here with the rest of the army, I will attack the mountain with the light-armed troops, or else if you will lead them thither, I will remain below.’

‘You may choose,’ said Cheirisophus.

‘Very well then,’ answered Xenophon, ‘I will climb the mountain, for I am the younger.’

He set off at once with the troops assigned to him, and for a time they were concealed from the enemy by the trees and bushes which clothed the hillside. But as soon as the Persians perceived their intention, they also made for the higher peak, hoping to reach it before the Hellenes. And now began a race, Hellenes and Persians climbing each by a different road, and watching eagerly the progress of the other party. Now one side would seem to have the advantage and now the other, while all the time incessant shouts from below stimulated their efforts, for on both sides it was well known how much depended on the issue.

Xenophon rode on horseback beside his men, urging them to do their utmost. ‘Remember,’ he said, ‘that this toil is to make it possible for you to return to your homes, your wives, and your children. Yet a little more effort, and all the rest will be easy.’

One of the soldiers, who was named Soteridas, was a lazy, sullen fellow, and looking enviously at Xenophon, he said, ‘It is all very well for you to talk, Xenophon, for you can ride at your ease, but I am groaning beneath the weight of this heavy shield.’


Instantly Xenophon sprang from his horse, seized the shield of Soteridas, pushed him aside, and taking his place in the ranks, struggled up the hill like a private soldier, although he was encumbered with the heavy armour worn for riding.

The other men were delighted at this, and they did not scruple to express their contempt for Soteridas by blows as well as taunts, until at last the unhappy man was constrained to implore Xenophon to let him take back his shield and share the toil of his comrades.

To this Xenophon consented, and remounting his horse, he rode as long as it was possible to do so, but soon the road became so bad that he was obliged to dismount and climb on foot for the rest of the way.

The Persians were but a very little distance from the crest of the mountain when the first Hellenes reached it. The advantage was now with them, and they at once charged. Back fled the Persians by any path they could find, and soon there was no longer a trace either of the detachment that had been posted on the hill, or of the main army advancing along the plain.

The road was free, and a short march brought the Hellenes to some villages where they could rest after the fatigues of the day. There they found abundance of food, and were able moreover to take as spoil a number of cows and other animals, for it happened, fortunately for the Hellenes, that a great number were just then collected at that place in order to be ferried across the Tigris.

This was their last encounter with Tissaphernes. Since his shameful betrayal of their generals, he had133 for twenty days been following in their track, as a pack of hounds pursues a noble stag, who nevertheless saves himself by his courage and endurance. Taking into consideration the enormous difference in point of numbers, the loss sustained by the Hellenes during these twenty days was very slight. They had been more than a match for Tissaphernes and his great army, and might well feel proud of their superiority to the cowardly mob of Barbarians.


But although they had now seen the last of Tissaphernes, the Hellenes were still a very long way from the end of their journey. Difficulties of another and more serious kind still lay before them, and the question of their further route caused the generals great anxiety. For in front of the fruitful valley in which they were encamped, there stretched before them a stern and rugged mountain-country inhabited by a nation of savages.

The limit of this mountain district was the river Tigris, and the only way of avoiding it was by crossing the Tigris. No path could be found by which they could pass between the mountains and the river, for immense rocks stretched out far over the water, so that there was not space for even a single person to go by.

But the river was far too deep and broad to be forded, and they had no other means of crossing. When they tried to measure its depth with their long spears, they could not reach the bottom, even close to the shore.

Whilst the generals were consulting together as to what could be done, a Rhodian soldier came to them to ask for an audience, and said, ‘If you will promise me a135 talent of silver,15 and provide me with all that I shall need for carrying out my plan, I will build you a bridge over the Tigris capable of bearing two thousand hoplites.’

15 A talent was equal to 243l. 15s. of our money.

Then he went on to explain his plan. ‘We have here,’ he said, ‘a great many cows, sheep, goats and asses. All these animals must give me their skins, for I shall want two thousand leather bags. I shall also want all the straps used for the baggage animals. The skins must be inflated, and tied up securely. I shall then attach one of the straps to either end of each skin so that it can be fastened to the next one, and steady it in the water with large stones let down from the under side to serve as anchors. When the skins are all in their places and fastened together, I shall cover them thoroughly with earth and brushwood to prevent them from being slippery, and the bridge will be complete. Each skin will bear the weight of two men, so that you will have a bridge able to carry four thousand.’

The generals agreed that it was an excellent idea, but unhappily they could not turn it to any account, for on the further side of the river, troops of Persian cavalry were already collected to oppose their crossing, and by them the men employed in working at the bridge would be shot down one by one, long before it was sufficiently finished to carry the soldiers across.

The crossing of the river was thus out of the question, and there remained nothing but the road over the mountains, although they knew not whither it led. They were like mariners driven out of their course by violent storms, who neither know where they are, nor what is before, or behind, or on either side of them.136 Gladly would the Hellenes have given a good deal of their scanty store of money for a small sheet of paper which to-day can be bought anywhere for a few pence,—a map of the country that lay before them. But in those days no such thing had ever been heard of.

All they could do was to question the prisoners, and from them they learnt that southwards, in the direction from whence they had come, were the provinces of Babylonia and Media, to the east were the cities of Susa and Babylon, to the west the provinces of Lydia and Ionia, and that the road northwards over the mountains would lead them through the land of the Carduchians, a fierce, war-loving race, who had never been conquered. Once the Great King had sent into their country an army of 120,000 men, to subdue them, but of all that great host not one had ever seen his home again.

If the Hellenes should succeed in getting through the country of the Carduchians, they would then reach the province of Armenia, and after that they would be able to journey on without further hindrance.


Although in themselves not very formidable enemies, within the limits of their own country the Carduchians were almost invincible. It was a mountainous district, in which the hills rose sheer and steep from the rich, fertile valleys lying far below, where the Carduchians built their houses and pastured their flocks.

They seldom risked coming to close quarters with their enemies, but contented themselves with shooting from a distance at any intruders who might be rash enough to enter their country. This method of warfare was the more effective as they had considerable skill as marksmen, and were beyond the possibility of pursuit. Every path and every recess of their wild mountain country was familiar to them, and they were extremely agile, being accustomed from their childhood to clamber up and down the rocks like cats. Moreover they had the advantage of being burdened with no armour and but little clothing, and they carried no weapons but bows and slings.

Their bows and arrows were unusually large, the bow measuring nearly three cubits in length, and the arrows more than two cubits. In order to shoot, they rested the lower end of the bow on the ground, and138 placed one foot upon it; then, drawing back the string as far as it would go, they discharged the arrow with such force that it was able to pierce right through a leather jerkin, and penetrate deep into the flesh beneath.

With this barbarous people the Hellenes were most anxious to remain at peace, and they desired nothing better than to be allowed to pass quietly through the country, paying for everything that they might be obliged to take, in order to supply themselves with food. The prisoners who had told them about the defeat of the Persian army, had spoken also of an alliance made by the Carduchians with the satrap of the province nearest their country. With him they had established an occasional exchange of friendly intercourse, but as they hated all the other Persians as bitterly as ever, the Hellenes hoped that on the principle that ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ the Carduchians might be inclined to regard them with favour, and make a treaty with them.

Nevertheless they resolved to enter the country very cautiously, and after having offered sacrifices and prayers to the gods, that their enterprise might be brought to a successful issue, they set out while it was still dark in the hope of crossing the first mountain unperceived. By daybreak they were in the country of the Carduchians, Cheirisophus leading the van, which included all the light-armed troops, Xenophon in the rear commanding the hoplites, while the camp-followers as usual marched in the centre.

Cheirisophus passed unobserved over the crest of the mountain, and on the further side, found several139 villages scattered about in the ravines and recesses of the country. Great was the astonishment of the inhabitants at the unexpected appearance of the Hellene soldiers. They came pouring out of their houses, and although the Hellenes made signs of friendliness, and called out that they had no wish to injure them, they would not stop to listen, but fled away into the mountains with their wives and children.

Meanwhile the rear was still crossing the height over which Cheirisophus had just passed in safety. The road was narrow, and the long line of combatants and camp-followers could make but slow progress. Night had fallen before those in the extreme rear could reach the villages, and on their way, they were attacked by the terrified Carduchians who had fled at the approach of Cheirisophus. Some of them were killed, and others wounded, with stones and arrows. Happily the enemy were as yet but few in number, or they might have sustained more serious loss.

The Hellenes established themselves for the night in the villages of which they had been left in possession, and found in the houses many vessels and utensils of brass, but as they still hoped to enter into peaceful relations with the Carduchians, they took no spoil, excepting only such food as was necessary. There was no one from whom to buy, and so they were obliged to help themselves.

During the night they were left undisturbed, but great bonfires could be seen flaming away upon the tops of the mountains. They had been set alight by the Carduchians in order that the signal might be passed on from point to point, all over the country, to140 call together all the people to defend their land from the strangers who had entered it.

There could no longer be any doubt that the Carduchians were determined to regard the Hellenes as enemies, and again the generals and captains met in consultation. As on the occasion when they had declared war against the Great King, they determined to leave behind everything that could possibly be spared. All prisoners were set free, and of the transport animals they retained only such of the strongest as were quite indispensable. By this means it became possible to reduce the quantity of provisions to be carried, and moreover the men who had been formerly employed in attending to the discarded animals could now be added to the fighting force.

The soldiers were informed of the decision arrived at, and desired to be ready for a fresh start immediately after the morning meal. Then the generals placed themselves at a narrow part of the road, and as the army marched past, took away from the men anything that they might have tried to carry off in defiance of the order.

The day did not pass without several skirmishes with the Carduchians, but for the most part they were able to march on steadily without serious fighting.


On the following day a great snow-storm made it difficult for the Hellenes to continue their march. Nevertheless they were obliged to go forward, as they had not a sufficient supply of food. The Carduchians now beset them in greater numbers than before, and harassed them with showers of stones and arrows, especially whenever they were hindered by coming to a part of the road that was particularly narrow.

Xenophon, who led the rear-guard, was several times obliged to halt and drive back the enemy, giving as he did so, a signal with the trumpets, in order that Cheirisophus and the van might wait for him. No sooner did the Hellenes turn and prepare to charge, than the Carduchians disappeared as if by magic, but in a very short time they were again in the rear, shooting at them as before.

At first Cheirisophus waited for the hoplites, so that they had no great difficulty in keeping up with the rest of the army, but after a time he took no more notice of the signals, and the distance between the van and the rear became greater and greater, until at last the march of Xenophon and his men was more like142 a flight than a retreat, whilst all the time they were exposed to the arrows and missiles of the enemy.

When in the evening they rejoined their comrades, Xenophon complained to Cheirisophus of the want of consideration he had shown in obliging the men to run and fight at the same time. In consequence of this, several of them, he said, had fallen, amongst whom were two of the best, and moreover it had been impossible to rescue their bodies.

Among the Hellenes it was regarded as a terrible calamity if anything interfered to prevent the dead from receiving funeral honours. If nothing else could be done, the corpse must at least be solemnly sprinkled with earth in the name of the gods, or the shade of the dead man would find no rest in the Lower World.

But it was not without urgent necessity that Cheirisophus had hurried forward during the latter part of the march, and he answered, ‘We were told by the guides that the mountains in front of us are almost impassable, and that there is but one steep road—that which you see yonder—leading to the only pass by which we can cross them. I hoped that by hurrying we might be able to seize this pass before the enemy should occupy it, but unhappily they have reached it first. They are posted there in great numbers, and I do not see how we are to drive them from it.’


Xenophon was obliged to admit that Cheirisophus was fully justified in acting as he had done, but he had something to report, which made the situation a little less hopeless. ‘As the Carduchians persisted in molesting us,’ he said, ‘we lay in ambush for them behind some bushes. This gave us the opportunity of doing them143 an injury, and also of resting ourselves for a moment, for we were quite out of breath. When a band of Carduchians came by, we rushed out upon them and killed most of them, but two I was careful to take alive, and we have brought them as prisoners, for I thought they would be useful in guiding us through these mountains. They may be able to tell us of a second way not known to the guides we have had hitherto.’

The two prisoners were led forward to be examined, and the first one was asked if he did not know of another road leading to the pass. Although it was evident that he could, if he chose, give the information of which the Hellenes were in such pressing need, he persisted in saying that there was no other road.

They threatened him with death if he continued obstinate, but it was of no avail, and fearing lest the other Carduchian should be encouraged to follow his example, they determined to show that they were not to be trifled with. It was absolutely essential to find another road, the fate of the whole army depended on it, and in order to strike terror into the heart of the second man, they hanged his comrade before his eyes.

This had the desired effect, and when the second Carduchian was questioned, he said, ‘There is another road. My country-man would not betray the secret, because his daughter lives near it, with her husband. I am ready to show it to you, and you will find it passable also for the baggage animals.’

In war, terrible things occur. For the sake of the general good it is often necessary to be cruel. But still we cannot help regretting the fate of the brave man144 who for the love of his daughter gave himself over to death.

On further questioning the Carduchian, the generals discovered that the road which he promised to show them was at one point commanded by a peak already in possession of the enemy, who must be dislodged from it before the road could be used. This would probably be an enterprise of some risk, and the generals resorted to an expedient often used in war to rouse enthusiasm for a difficult and dangerous undertaking,—namely that of calling for volunteers.

About two thousand men at once offered their services, of whom some were officers and others private soldiers. Having first eaten a good meal, they set out, as soon as it began to get dark, in a storm of wind and rain, guided by the Carduchian, whom they had put into chains, lest he should desert them on the way.

It was arranged that the band of volunteers should dislodge the Carduchians from the height commanding the second road, and remain there during the night. At dawn they were to descend towards the pass and begin the attack upon it, giving at the same time a signal with the trumpets. On hearing the signal, a part of the army left below was to ascend as rapidly as possible by the first road, and join them at the pass.

In order to divert the attention of the enemy from the movements of the two thousand, Xenophon set out at the same moment with the hoplites, and made a feint of advancing up the first road leading to the pass.

Coming however to a narrow ravine between great boulders of rock, he found the cliffs on either side crowded with Carduchians, who had dragged to that145 place huge fragments of rock, besides stones of all sizes, ready to be hurled down upon the Hellenes. The moment the Carduchians caught sight of the approaching enemy, down crashed the stone-storm, making the most appalling noise as the great pieces of rock bounded from boulder to boulder, broke off into a thousand splinters, and then thundered to the ground, burying themselves finally deep in the earth.

Had the Hellenes entered the ravine, not one of them would have escaped alive. But they had taken good care to keep well beyond the range of the deadly hail, only, from time to time, one or other of the captains would show himself from among the bushes on either side of the ravine, as if he were looking for some other way of getting past.

When it had become so dark that they could no longer be seen by the Carduchians, the Hellenes hastened back to the valley, where they were glad enough to prepare their evening meal, for they had had no dinner that day. All through the night they could hear the noise made by the Carduchians, who were still on the alert, and who continued to pour down volleys of stones and rock, lest their enemies should slip past them in the darkness.

Meanwhile the two thousand volunteers had been led by their guide to a place which they believed to be the peak commanding the second road. There they found a number of Carduchians sitting comfortably round their fires, and attacking them suddenly, they killed some and put the rest to flight. Then they sat down and spent the remainder of the night in front of the fires that had been kindled by the enemy, which,146 as it was excessively cold, they looked upon as a piece of great good fortune.

At dawn they proceeded towards the pass, very cautiously and silently, according to the instructions they had received, and under cover of a thick mist, were able to come close up to the enemy unobserved. Then the trumpets gave the signal that had been agreed upon, and the Hellenes charged. The enemy saw that it was of no use to attempt to maintain their position, and fled without a struggle, only a few of them being killed.

This freed the road, up which Cheirisophus and his men were making their way as fast as possible. It was excessively steep and narrow, and in their eagerness to reach the top, many of the men climbed as best they could over places where there was no path, drawing one another up with the help of their spears. At last they reached the pass, and joined the band of volunteers who were already in possession.

Two-thirds of the army had now reached the pass. But for the rest there was still in store a long day of toil and fighting before they could arrive at the same spot.


Xenophon and his rear-guard of hoplites had undertaken the escort of the transport animals, who had to be brought up to the pass by the second, more circuitous road, because the first was too steep for them. The animals were placed in the centre of the line, half the troops marching in front of them, and half behind.

The rear had not proceeded far when they came in sight of a peak overlooking the road, and discovered that it was occupied by the enemy. The volunteers had indeed thought that they had freed the road by driving the enemy from their camp-fires on the previous evening, but this proved not to be the case.

Until the Carduchians could be ousted from the height, it would not be safe for either troops or cattle to pass beneath, and Xenophon at once told off some of his men for this service, with instructions to make the attack in such a manner as to give the Carduchians ample opportunity for running away. He did not want them to be forced to make a desperate stand, for he was anxious not to be delayed by having to stop and fight.

Accordingly a detachment of hoplites, headed by Xenophon himself, set out to climb the hill. As they did148 so, they were exposed the whole time to a constant volley of arrows and stones, discharged at them by the Carduchians from above, but no sooner had they reached the top than the Carduchians turned and fled, leaving the road below the peak free.

A new difficulty however now presented itself, for from this peak a second came into sight, occupied just in the same manner. This would have to be fought for as the first had been, and moreover it would be necessary to leave a guard on the first peak to prevent the enemy from returning to it. For the Carduchians were like a swarm of flies, who can easily be driven away from the place where they have settled, but who return just as quickly, the moment they are left alone again. And Xenophon knew that he could not hope to get his line of men and horses past the peak of which he had just taken possession, before the Carduchians would have time to get back to it, for the road was so narrow that they were obliged to go very slowly.

Accordingly he left three captains, with the men serving under them, to guard the first peak, whilst he himself went forward towards the second. This was captured with the same toil and the same success as the first, but now a third came into view which had to be taken in like manner. Xenophon accordingly set forward to attack it, but in this case the task was easier than before, for the enemy abandoned the peak before the Hellenes arrived at it, so that it could be climbed without hindrance or danger.

So far all had gone well, but now from the rear came disastrous news. The men left in charge of the first peak had been surprised and defeated by the enemy,149 who had killed almost all of them, including two out of the three captains. A few only had saved their lives by making a desperate leap from the rocks into the road below.

There was nothing for it but to reconquer the peak which they had thought already secured,—a terrible addition to the work of a day already overcrowded with toils and risks which cost many a brave soldier his life. Xenophon himself was at one time in great peril. In climbing one of the mountains, his shield-bearer became so frightened at the shower of stones and arrows pouring down from above, that he turned and fled, taking the shield with him. Xenophon was thus left unprotected, but happily one of the soldiers saw his danger, and hastening to his side, held his own shield so as to cover both.

At last however the long march was over, and before nightfall, the hoplites had rejoined their comrades at the pass, from whence they soon reached some well-to-do mountain villages where there was food in abundance, and where they could shelter themselves in comfortable huts. Their loss that day had been very severe, and unhappily it had been impossible to carry off the dead.

To repair such a misfortune, no sacrifice could be too great, and accordingly Cheirisophus and Xenophon sent a herald to the Carduchians, offering to restore the man who had acted as their guide, if the Carduchians, on their part, would give up the bodies of the fallen Hellenes. To this they agreed, and the Hellenes had the satisfaction of burying their comrades with the customary rites.


It was however at no small cost that they had effected this exchange, for by so doing they had lost the services of the only man who could pilot them through this wild and unknown land. They were now without a guide, and from the nature of the country, no extensive view could anywhere be gained. They could but direct their course by the sun and stars, and they decided to continue marching northwards towards the source of the Tigris.

The next three days were spent in much the same manner as the last, the Carduchians disputing every step of their march, and constantly assailing them with shots and stones hurled from a higher level. But at last, to their infinite joy, they came to the edge of the Carduchian country, and could look down upon the broad plains of Armenia stretched out before them.

They had only been seven days, in all, in the land of the Carduchians, and yet, during that short time they had suffered so severely, that all their previous encounters, both with the Great King and with Tissaphernes, seemed in comparison but child’s play.


The Persian province of Armenia was divided from the land of the Carduchians by the river Kentrites. It was a fertile country, but for a distance of nearly twenty miles from the river there were no villages nor cultivated land, because the Armenians were determined that there should be nothing to tempt their warlike neighbours, the Carduchians, to enter their country in search of plunder.

The news that the Hellenes were approaching had reached them, and on the further side of the river, Persian cavalry were already keeping guard along the shore. Infantry also were posted beyond, in the more hilly part of the country. Notwithstanding this, however, since there was no way of getting round the river, the Hellenes were determined, if possible, to wade through it, in defiance of the Persian troops.

But on stepping into the river, they found that the water was breast deep, and that the stream had a very rapid current, which swept to one side the great shields they carried to protect them in front, so that they were exposed to the arrows and darts of the enemy. They could indeed, by lifting the shields out of the water and holding them above their heads,152 protect themselves to some extent, but not sufficiently to be out of danger. Besides this, the ground at the bottom of the river was strewn with great stones, so slippery that they could not get any certain footing, and were in constant danger of falling. And in addition to everything else, they now perceived, at the edge of the mountainous country which they had just quitted, a band of armed Carduchians, who were evidently only waiting for the moment when they should be occupied in crossing the river, to come and attack them in the rear.

The position was most embarrassing, and they could not tell what to do for the best. Being urgently in need of rest, they resolved to remain where they were for that day, and encamp at night in the same place as on the previous evening. The Carduchians continued at their post until dark, and then retreated to their nearest villages.

That night Xenophon had a dream. He thought that he was bound with fetters, but suddenly the fetters fell off, and he could move his limbs freely. Thereupon he awoke, with the firm conviction that the dream had been sent from the gods, to signify that they would provide a way of escape from the present difficulty.

Early in the morning he went to Cheirisophus to tell him of the dream, and of his interpretation of it, and both generals agreed to have sacrifices offered, that by means of the omens they might know yet more surely the will of the gods. At the very first, the omens were favourable, and now they felt certain that the gods would not fail to work out their deliverance,153 though how it was to be accomplished they did not as yet know.

They had not however long to wait, for whilst they were still eating their breakfast, two young soldiers came running into the camp to tell the generals of a discovery that they had made.

‘We were looking for fuel,’ they said, ‘a good way up the stream, when we saw a man, a woman, and two girls, who seemed to be entering a cave among the rocks. So we tried the water in that place, and found that it flows much more quietly than here, and we went right over to the other side, for the country there is hilly, so that we were protected from the enemy’s cavalry, and nowhere did the water come above our waists.’

This was indeed welcome news, and the generals believed that it had been sent to them by the gods. In token of thankfulness they at once offered as a libation the wine of which they had been drinking, pouring it out upon the ground. And for each of the two youths they filled also a cup of wine, that they too might pour it out to the gods, and be thankful.

The other generals were summoned, and all took counsel together as to the arrangements to be made for crossing the river with the least possible loss, in spite of the enemy in front and the enemy in the rear. For with the morning light, the Carduchians had returned to their post on the high ground that formed the fringe of their country.

After some consideration the generals decided upon a plan. Guided by the two youths, the whole Hellene army marched up the river bank towards the ford, which was about half a mile from the place where154 they had pitched their camp. Seeing this, the Persian horsemen took the same course, and made a similar progress on the opposite bank of the river.

When the Hellenes reached the ford, the priests offered a sacrifice to the god of the river, then all joined in singing the pæan, or hymn of praise to the gods, and with a mighty shout, Cheirisophus and the van stepped into the stream.

But meanwhile Xenophon and his men hurried back as fast as possible to the former place, as if they intended crossing there; and this movement had the effect that had been aimed at by the generals in making their plan. For when the Persian cavalry saw that Cheirisophus was in the act of crossing above, and that Xenophon, as they supposed, was about to cross below, they were seized with panic, and fearing lest they should be shut in between the two divisions of the Hellene army, they urged their horses into a gallop, and fled away as fast as they could.

By this means Cheirisophus and the van crossed the river without hindrance, and they marched straight to the high ground where the Persian infantry were posted. The infantry however made no better stand than the other troops, for when they saw that the cavalry had fled, they followed the example of their comrades, and ran away also.

The camp-followers and the baggage animals had crossed the river behind Cheirisophus, and now, on the hither side of the Kentrites, there only remained the rear-guard commanded by Xenophon.


To enable these remaining troops to cross in safety was the last, and by no means the easiest task of the156 day. For the Carduchians were still behind, only waiting for the moment when they could most effectively fall upon them. Until the greater part of the men were in the water, they did not venture down from their mountains, but as soon as they saw that comparatively few of them were left on the bank, they dashed forward, as if they wished to teach the Hellenes the truth of the proverb that the last man is bitten by the dog.

But Xenophon was prepared to receive them. Before taking any notice, he allowed them to come almost within close quarters. Their arrows were even whirring already through the air when he gave a signal with the trumpet. Then the hoplites turned suddenly, and charged with rapid step, shouting the Hellene war-cry.

The Carduchians fled back into shelter as fast as they could, for they knew well that except in their own mountains they were no match for the Hellene troops. Once more the trumpet sounded, and the Carduchians fled yet faster than before, but Xenophon had previously given secret instructions to the men, that when they heard the second signal for attack, instead of obeying it they should turn back and hasten across the river as quickly as possible. This they did, and thus the crossing of the Kentrites, which in the beginning had seemed almost impossible, was accomplished by the Hellenes with little or no loss.


The Hellenes were now in Armenia. In this country there were no dangerous mountains, such as those they had just left, but here they had to contend against difficulties of another kind. The greater part of the country was 5,000 feet above the sea level, and in consequence of this, the winters were very long and cold, and the summers very short. In June the corn began to sprout. In September the harvest was gathered, and then the winter set in. It was now December, and the Hellenes were soon to experience the intense cold of an Armenian winter.

After crossing the Kentrites, they marched for a distance of a hundred and twenty miles over level country, without encountering any enemy. These marches occupied six days, and it mostly chanced that in the evening they found themselves near villages where they could shelter for the night.

On the seventh day there came to meet them a troop of horsemen, commanded by the satrap Tiribazus, who stood high in the favour of the Great King, and enjoyed the privilege, when he was at court, of helping the sovereign to mount on horseback.

He rode forward towards the Hellene army, and158 demanded speech of the generals, announcing that he was desirous of entering into a treaty with them. They were to promise that they would neither burn the villages nor do violence to the inhabitants, but they were at liberty to take any provisions that they might require; and he, for his part, would undertake not to molest them in any way.


This was all that could be desired, and the generals agreed to conclude the treaty on the terms proposed. But their previous experience of the Persians had not been such as to induce them to place much confidence in any promises they might make, and they judged that it was best, notwithstanding the treaty, to remain on their guard. Tiribazus followed their march at the distance of rather more than a mile.

During the night that followed, the Hellenes were encamped beneath the open sky, when they were overtaken by the first fall of snow. The next day there was nothing to be seen of Tiribazus, and thinking that159 the deep snow would prevent him from attempting any surprise, they ventured, when night came on, to take up their quarters in some villages which they had reached.

In the morning however, some of the soldiers who had strayed to a distance the previous night, reported that they had seen a great number of fires in the neighbourhood, which seemed to show that the army of Tiribazus was not far off. The generals decided therefore that it was too unsafe to break up the army by allowing the soldiers to scatter themselves over various villages, and on the next night again camped out in the open, where all could be together.

But again the snow came down, and this time more heavily than before, burying as if in a grave, both the men and their stacks of weapons. The frost too was very severe, and the transport horses were so benumbed that they could hardly raise their limbs from the ground. The soldiers remained lying beneath the snow, for they found it warmer to be thus covered up, as if with a soft blanket, but Xenophon roused himself, and taking an axe, began to cut wood, partly for the sake of getting warm, partly in order to make a fire. Then some of the men followed his example, and soon they had a number of fires blazing.

After a night of such severity, the generals were afraid to risk spending another in the open air, and decided that at all hazards they must take shelter the next evening in the villages. They determined however to send out a small band of men, under cover of the darkness, to search in the direction in which the soldiers had stated that they had seen the fires burning.


No fires could be discovered, but the soldiers came upon a man carrying a battle-axe, and a Persian bow and quiver. When they asked him who he was, and where he came from, the man replied that he was a Persian, and had come from the army of Tiribazus to seek for food. Then they questioned him further as to the size of the army, and the purpose for which it had been assembled, and ascertained from his answers that the satrap was keeping a little in advance of the Hellenes in order to seize a pass in the mountains that they were now approaching, before they should reach it.

There could be no doubt that the Barbarians were intending to play the same treacherous game as before. It was well for the Hellenes that they had not trusted them. The soldiers returned, taking with them the Persian they had captured, and brought him into the presence of the generals, who again questioned him. Having satisfied themselves that he was speaking the truth, they resolved to be beforehand with Tiribazus, and detailed a part of the army to set out at once under the guidance of the prisoner towards the place where the Barbarians had pitched their camp, not far from the pass.

As they were going over one of the mountains, the archers and slingers who marched in front, caught sight of the camp, and without waiting for the hoplites, rushed forward with a loud cry, which so frightened the Barbarians that they immediately fled in the most disgraceful manner,—just as when the lion opens his mouth and roars, all the lesser animals run away in fear and trembling.


Few of the Barbarians were killed, but the Hellenes captured twenty horses, and the magnificent tent of the satrap, in which were found richly wrought drinking vessels, and couches with silver feet. The bakers and cup-bearers of the satrap were also taken prisoners.

After this, the Hellenes returned with all speed to their comrades, and the whole army hastened forward to secure the pass before the enemy should have time to recover from their alarm. This they accomplished successfully on the following day.

Three more marches brought them to the Euphrates, but as the river was in this part of the country near its source they were able to ford it without difficulty, for the water did not reach higher than the middle of their bodies.


But now the Hellenes were brought face to face with a new difficulty. The winter had by this time set in, and the whole country was buried in snow. All around in every direction, as far as the eye could reach, was one vast stretch of snow, many feet in depth, and through this the Hellenes had to make their way. Any one who has tried to walk for even a quarter of an hour through snow into which he cannot help sinking above the knee at every step he takes, may imagine how tiring and painful it must have been to march thus for a whole day. Many of the slaves and horses perished, and also thirty of the soldiers.

On the third day after crossing the Euphrates, their sufferings were still further increased by a north-wind, whose bitter blast was torture, even to the stalwart Hellenes. One of the soothsayers suggested that a sacrifice should be offered to Boreas, the god of the north-wind, and when this had been accomplished, it seemed to them all that his fury abated to some extent.

When night came on, the Hellenes had to encamp in the snow. Those who first reached the camping-place found plenty of food, and soon had some big fires burning, round which the stragglers were glad enough163 to press as soon as they arrived; but the first-comers would only make room for them on condition of their giving them some of their bread, or anything else that they might have to eat, for food was now getting scarce. As the snow melted beneath the fires, the soldiers could measure its depth, and they found that it was no less than six feet.

All the next day, the Hellenes had to plough their way through this terrible snow, and many became so faint and ill that they threw themselves down upon the ground, unable to move. When Xenophon, with the rear-guard, came up to the place, and saw them lying there in such misery, he asked his men if there was nothing that could be done for them. One of the older soldiers answered that the poor fellows were merely suffering from exhaustion caused by fatigue and want of food, and that if they could get something to eat, they would be able to march on again. Xenophon went himself to the transport to get what he could for them, and when the sick soldiers had taken some food, they revived, and were able to keep up with their comrades.

In the evening, Cheirisophus and the van reached a village which had a wall round it, and a gate that could be shut at night. When they arrived, they found some women and children drawing water at a well outside the village, who asked Cheirisophus where he came from. He answered that he was on his way from the King to the satrap; and they told him that the satrap was not in the village, but at a place about four miles off. The women then went home, and the Hellenes of the van went with them through the gate, and took up their quarters in the village for the night.


But the other soldiers, who were a long way behind, had to spend the night in the open air, with little or nothing to eat, and several of them died of cold and hunger. When, on the next day, they continued their march, some of those who had suffered most discovered a sheltered place where there was a warm spring, that had not been frozen over, nor covered up with snow. In a moment they threw themselves upon the warm black earth round the spring, and there they lay enjoying the hot steam that rose from it, when Xenophon, who always brought up the rear, came to the place and found them there. He told the men that they must not linger, as the enemy were close behind; and finding that mild words were of no avail, he spoke more and more sharply, and even beat some of them. But the men would not move. They said that if they must be killed they were ready to die, but they could not go a step farther.

Meanwhile the Persians were coming nearer and nearer. They had not failed to profit by the distress of the Hellenes, and had captured the fallen baggage animals, who had been left lying in the snow. Now they were disputing over their prize with great clamour, as they approached the spring.

Xenophon ordered some of the least exhausted of his hoplites to charge, and drive them back; and the sick men at the spring helped by shouting with all their might, and striking their spears against their shields. The enemy were soon routed, and fled as fast as they could, but were hindered by the snow. Xenophon then marched on, but before leaving the sick men, he165 promised that as soon as possible, he would send some of their comrades to fetch them.

That night, he again had to encamp with his men in the open, without either food or fire. When it was nearly morning, he sent some of his youngest soldiers back to the spring to fetch the sick men who had been left there the day before, and bring them on their way. Many had died during the night, and for these there was nothing to be done but to bury them where they lay; but others who were still living, though unable to walk, had to be carried by their comrades.

Going to see whether the men were performing their task faithfully, Xenophon was just in time to prevent a most barbarous action. One of the soldiers was digging a grave for a comrade who lay beside him, but as he watched him, Xenophon saw the dead man move, and called out to the soldier, ‘He is still alive.’ But the man answered, ‘He may have ten lives as far as I am concerned. I will not drag him any farther.’ And it was only after having been well beaten that he consented to take up his burden again.

Up to this time, the Hellenes had preserved their courage through all the difficulties and privations to which they had been exposed, or if for a moment their spirits had flagged, they had quickly recovered themselves. But now the trial of excessive cold seemed to have robbed many of them of all manliness.

It must be remembered that extreme cold has an exceptionally enervating effect, even upon men accustomed to it. But in this case, the sons of a country where frost and snow are unknown except in the166 mildest form, found themselves suddenly exposed to the terrible cold of the high Asiatic table-land in the month of December.

Moreover they were absolutely unprovided with clothing suitable for such weather. The Hellene soldier wore but one garment, and besides this had nothing whatever to protect him except that some of them, though by no means all, carried a great square of woollen cloth which they used as a cloak. We may rather wonder that so many kept up their spirits throughout this terrible march, than that the courage of some should have failed.


At last, all who were still alive of the sick men were brought away from the spring, and before nightfall, the rear-guard reached the village which had been already occupied for two nights by the van. Near it were other villages, and the various companies drew lots for their respective quarters. Here they were able to rest in comfort after the privations of the last few days.

The dwellings in this part of the country were made in a fashion that was quite new to the Hellenes. Instead of being built upon the ground, they were dug out of it, and had, for entrance, an opening like the mouth of a well, which widened out below into a large room, inhabited by the owner and his whole family, together with his goats, his sheep, his cattle, and his fowls. There were two ways of reaching it, a ladder for the human beings, and a slope of earth for the animals. Such dwellings are still common in Armenia, among the poorer classes, and like the cellars in which we keep our wine, they are cooler in summer and warmer in winter than the air outside.

The houses in which the Hellenes took up their quarters were well stocked with food, and the hospitable villagers set before them maize and barley and other168 kinds of corn, as much as they desired. They had also a kind of barley beer, made with whole corns floating in it, which they drank through hollow reeds, so that the corns should not choke them. When they wished to drink a toast to the health of one of their guests, they filled a great bowl with wine, and bending over it, lapped it up, as an ox drinks out of a pail. Then it was the turn of the guest, and he was expected to answer the toast by drinking to his host in the same manner.

On the day after his arrival, Xenophon visited in turn all the villages, and found the soldiers everywhere feasting and enjoying themselves. The friendly villagers had made them most welcome, and when Xenophon arrived, they loaded the tables with flesh of lambs, kids, calves and swine, besides fowls, and bread both of maize and barley.

It happened that this was the season for sending the yearly tribute of horses required by the Great King from the province of Armenia, where the horses were smaller than those of Persia, but far more spirited. Finding in the villages a number of horses destined for this purpose, Xenophon did not hesitate to take one for his own use, and he advised the other officers to follow his example. The head-man of the village was a priest of the sun-god, and to him Xenophon gave the horse who had faithfully carried him through so many dangers, but who was now quite worn out and unable to go any farther, that he might be rested and well fed, and then offered as a sacrifice to the sun-god.


Xenophon was on very friendly terms with the head-man, and always invited him to dine with him at169 the same table. He had assured him that no harm would come to him, and that the Hellenes would pay for whatever they took, if he, for his part, would help them on their way, by acting as their guide till they came to the next country. The man agreed to this, and as further proof of friendship, showed the Hellenes the place where a great store of wine had been buried. The conversation between Xenophon and the head-man was carried on through an interpreter, but the soldiers had to make themselves understood as best they could by means of signs and gestures.

For eight days the Hellenes rested in the villages in order that they might thoroughly recover themselves before going farther. On the ninth day they again set out, and by the advice of the head-man, tied up their horses’ hoofs in little bags of leather, so as to give them a larger surface to tread upon, and thus prevent them from sinking as deeply into the snow as before.

Cheirisophus as usual led the van, and with him went the head-man who was to act as guide. It was not thought necessary to bind him, as they had bound the Carduchian guide, for they had perfect confidence in him, and felt sure that he would not desert them.

But after marching for three days without coming to any villages in which they could shelter, Cheirisophus reproached the guide, on the third evening, for bringing them by such a bad way. The man answered that in that part of the country there were no villages, but Cheirisophus did not believe him, and getting more and more angry, he ended by striking him. The next morning the guide was nowhere to be found.

In consequence of this misadventure, there arose170 a quarrel between the two generals, the first and last in the whole course of the march. Xenophon became very angry, and said that Cheirisophus had committed two unpardonable blunders, first in striking the poor man who was doing his best for them, and secondly in that after having ill-used him in this manner, he had not taken the precaution of putting him into chains in order to prevent his running away.

The Hellenes had to suffer for the imprudence of Cheirisophus, for now they were again without a guide. Nevertheless they made their way onwards as best they could, and on the eighth day came in sight of the mountain range which forms the northern boundary of Armenia.


The country north of Armenia was inhabited by the Taochians, a warlike and independent tribe, who soon made it clear that they were by no means disposed to welcome the intruding strangers.

On approaching the border of Armenia, the Hellenes saw before them, at a distance of about three miles, a mountain range stretching away both to the left and right. The generals halted, and brought up the troops in line, whilst waiting for the return of the spies, who had been sent on in front to find out whether there was any road leading over the ridge. When the spies returned, they reported that the only road led to a narrow pass, already occupied by the Taochians.

It was evident that they would not be suffered to cross the mountains without a struggle, and Cheirisophus gave orders that the men should at once take their dinner, during which time the generals were asked to discuss whether they should attack the pass immediately, or wait till the next day. One of the generals, named Cleanor, had quickly made up his mind, and was the first to speak. ‘It is well,’ he said, ‘that the soldiers should begin by making a good meal, but this done, we must attack the enemy without delay. If we wait till to-morrow, they172 will think we are afraid of them, their spirits will rise, and many more of their friends will join them.’

But Xenophon was of a different opinion. ‘It is of the first importance,’ he said, ‘that we should lose as few men as possible in seizing the pass. The mountains stretch away to a distance of more than six miles, and no part of the range appears to be guarded except the road leading to the pass. It seems to me that it would be better for us to find a way over the unguarded part, instead of attacking the enemy in their favourable position.

‘For it is more easy to ascend by a steep road, if unhindered, than by a level road that is contested, and more possible to see in the night, if there is nothing to distract us, than in the day time, if there are enemies all around. Moreover the rough road is better, if we are left in peace, than the smooth road, if stones are continually falling about our heads. We can steal a way for ourselves under cover of the darkness at such a distance from the enemy that they will not hear us, especially if some of us divert their attention by advancing towards the pass as if we were going to attack it.

‘But when I speak of stealing,’ he continued in a jesting tone, turning to Cheirisophus, ‘ye Spartans, as I have heard, are accustomed to steal from your infancy. With you it is considered an honour to steal successfully, but in order that you may learn to be skilful, he who is caught is scourged. Now you can give proof of the excellent training you have received. Help us to steal our way so cleverly that we shall not be caught and punished.’

Cheirisophus took the jest in good part, and replied173 in the same tone. ‘You also,’ he said, ‘ye men of Athens, have some experience in stealing, for I hear that notwithstanding the risk of severe punishment, you know how to steal the treasures of the state, and the greatest robbers are those distinguished persons who hold the highest offices. For you too, therefore, there is now a chance of showing how well you can turn to account the lessons which you have learnt at home.’

The plan proposed by Xenophon was adopted, and it was agreed that certain of the troops should climb the mountain, and that others should advance along the road to the pass. The Hellenes were happily provided with guides who knew the country, for on the march they had captured some marauders who had followed at a little distance, hoping to find a favourable opportunity for stealing a few cattle. The prisoners had already been questioned, and had said that the mountains were not impassable, but were used as grazing ground for both goats and cattle, and that if the Hellenes had command of any part of the ridge, they would be able to take the baggage animals over it without difficulty.

Dinner being ended, Cheirisophus led the army towards the pass occupied by the enemy, but halted at the distance of a mile from the mountains. When it was dark, the troops who were to climb over the heights, marched away in the utmost silence. All went well, the soldiers met with no hindrance, and having reached the top of the ridge, kindled a fire according to agreement, as a signal to those below that they had accomplished their task.

The fire was seen also by the Taochians, who now perceived that they were in danger of being assailed on174 both sides, and they also lighted fires as a signal to their comrades to come to their help.

In the morning, Cheirisophus pressed forward along the road leading to the pass, and at the same time, the other troops appeared upon the heights, and began to make their way to the same place. The Taochians divided their men into two companies, the greater number remaining at the pass, whilst a smaller band marched out to meet the enemy on the ridge. Here the first engagement took place, and the Hellenes soon defeated the Taochians, and put them to flight. Meanwhile Cheirisophus was rapidly approaching at the head of the hoplites, having sent on the archers and slingers in advance, and when the Taochians at the pass saw that their friends had been defeated on the ridge, they also turned and fled, so that the pass was won almost without fighting. As a remembrance of their victory, the Hellenes raised upon the mountain a trophy, made of stones piled one upon another, and decorated with the shields and arms taken from the Taochians.

From hence they marched for five days through a level country, where they met with no resistance. But now provisions again began to fail. There was no lack of food in the country, but the Taochians had taken care to store everything within their castles, which were strong, fortified places, always perched on the top of some rugged height. The Hellenes did not think it prudent to attack these castles, and in spite of their hunger, were forced to pass them by.

On the sixth day however they came to a fortress which they were obliged to attack, for they were quite without food. It was built upon the edge175 of an overhanging cliff and beneath it was a river, and a road running beside the river. In this fortress all the men, women and children of the neighbourhood had assembled, together with their cattle, and had piled together great heaps of stones to hurl down upon the Hellenes.

Having tried in vain to find some means of taking the place, Cheirisophus called a halt, and waited until Xenophon came up. In answer to his question as to why they were at a standstill, Cheirisophus replied, ‘The only approach to this place is by the road under the cliff, and the moment we attempt to pass, they hurl down stones upon us from above of which this is the result,’ and he pointed to some poor fellows lying on the ground whose legs and ribs had been broken.

As usual, Xenophon had something to suggest. ‘It seems to me,’ he said, ‘that there are not many of them up there, and that it will not take long to exhaust their supply of stones.’ And then, having carefully examined the place, he added, ‘The dangerous piece of road is about a hundred and fifty feet in length, of which two-thirds is covered with great pine trees, not very far apart. One, or at the most two leaps, will take us from the shelter of one group of pine trees to the next, and then, when the stones begin to fail, we must run as fast as possible over the last fifty feet of open ground.’

About seventy men were entrusted with the task of freeing the approach to the fortress, and one of them hit upon a clever device for bringing down the stones as fast as possible. From beneath the shelter of a pine tree, he ran a step or two forward to attract the attention of the enemy, who at once hurled all their176 biggest stones at the place, but before they could touch him, he was back under the shelter of his tree. He did this so often that at last there was quite a heap of stones lying in front of him, but he himself was untouched.

The other men followed his example, and made it a sort of game, enjoying the sensation, pleasant alike to old and young, of courting danger for a moment, and then quickly escaping it. When the stones were almost exhausted, the soldiers raced one another over the exposed part of the road, each eager to be the first to reach the fortress. The Taochians made no further resistance, but, fearing the vengeance of the Hellenes, men, women and children flung themselves over the edge of the cliff and were dashed to pieces.

One of the soldiers, seeing a Taochian who appeared to be better dressed than the rest, about to throw himself over the precipice, ran up to him and tried to pull him back, but the Taochian grasped him in his strong arms and dragged him forward with him over the edge, so that both perished together.

The Hellenes took few prisoners, but much spoil, cattle and asses in abundance, and whole flocks of sheep.


The next country through which the Hellenes had to make their way was inhabited by the Chalybeans, who like the Taochians, were a free people, not subject to the Great King. In their country were iron mines which they had worked from the most ancient times, and they knew how to smelt the iron and make it into steel.

When they went out to fight, the Chalybeans wore a cuirass made of many folds of linen, with a thick fringe at the bottom, of twisted cords. They wore also greaves and helmet, and carried a spear twenty-two feet in length, and a short curved sword, with which they cut off the heads of their fallen enemies. These they carried about, singing and dancing, and displayed them to the foe with horrible delight.

Like the Taochians, the Chalybeans were possessed of strong castles, to which they had carried off all the food in the country, and the Hellenes would have fared badly but for the cattle which they had recently taken from the Taochians.

It was not the custom of the Chalybeans to meet their enemies in the open field, and they contented themselves with harassing the Hellenes whenever they178 could do so at an advantage, although if their castles had been attacked, they would have defended them with the utmost bravery. As it was, the Hellenes suffered considerable loss during the seven days that they spent in passing through this country, and at the end of the whole march, Xenophon declared that the Chalybeans were the most warlike of all the many tribes with whom they had exchanged blows in Asia.

After leaving their country, the Hellenes marched for four days through the land of the Scythinians, until they came to some villages where they rested for three days, and took in a fresh supply of food.

From thence, four more marches brought them to the rich and populous city of Gymnias, which derived its wealth mainly from the produce of a silver mine. It was the first city the Hellenes had seen for many long weeks, and here they met with the agreeable surprise of being received as friends. The governor paid them, unasked, the most welcome of all attentions in sending them a guide, who undertook to bring them, within five days, to a mountain from whence they could look down upon the Black Sea. At hearing this promise the hearts of the Ten Thousand leapt for joy, for hitherto they had been marching on and on without in the least knowing how many more weary miles yet lay between them and the sea.

But first the guide led them through a country of which the inhabitants were at feud with the city of Gymnias, and desired them to lay waste the land with fire and sword. It then appeared that the governor of Gymnias had received them so kindly because he hoped to make use of them. The Hellenes rendered him the179 service he required, and ravaged the country, taking abundance of spoil.

Soon afterwards they came to the mountain of which the guide had spoken, and began to ascend it. Suddenly Xenophon and the rear heard a cry from the van, who had now reached the top, and the cry swelled louder and louder as rank after rank came up to the place. Thinking that there must be some unexpected attack, Xenophon urged on his horse, and galloped forward to see what was the matter.

But as he came nearer, he perceived that it was no war-cry, but a shout of joy. ‘Thalatta! Thalatta!’ was the cry, ‘The sea! The sea!’ And there, on the distant horizon, glittering in the sunlight, was a narrow, silver streak, the long-looked-for goal of all their hopes.

The soldiers burst into tears of joy, poured forth congratulations one to the other, threw themselves into the arms of their comrades and their officers. Then some one suggested that they should raise a trophy to commemorate the occasion, and all ran to get stones. These they piled one upon another, and covered them with skins of animals for decoration, and with shields which they had taken as spoil from the enemy.

The guide had kept his word, and was generously rewarded, for out of their poverty, the Hellenes presented him with a horse, a silver cup, a Persian dress, and ten darics, equal to about ten guineas of our money. He begged moreover for some of the rings that the soldiers wore on their fingers, and a good many were given to him.

The Hellenes loved the sea as the Swiss love their180 Alps. Hardly anywhere is there a country so sea-girt as Hellas. A glance at the map will show the numberless bays and inlets by which the sea makes its way to all parts of the country. Almost every Hellene had been born within reach of the fresh salt breeze, had been familiar with the sea from his childhood, had sailed over it in all directions, and was accustomed to cherish for it the same sort of feeling as for that which he regarded as the greatest of all blessings, namely freedom.

Now the sea was actually in sight, and a few more marches would bring the weary soldiers to the Hellene colonies which lay scattered all along its coast. There they would hear once more their own mother-tongue, and be again among friends, among men of their own race, whose help they could count upon in case of need.

For the last five months, ever since the battle of Cunaxa, they had been engaged in a desperate struggle with difficulties of every kind, surrounded on all sides by enemies of foreign race and alien tongue. Now they saw before them the end of all their toils.



Before parting from the Hellenes, the guide showed them a village where they could rest for the night, and pointed out a road that led to the country of the Macronians, through which they must next pass. Then he took leave of them, and returned to his own people.

The country of the Macronians was bounded by a river, whose banks were lined with trees, not large, but growing close together, and the Hellenes set to work to cut down the trees, that they might throw them into the river and so cross the more easily. Soon however there appeared on the opposite bank a number of Macronians armed with spears and shields, who began throwing stones at the Hellenes, although they could not reach far enough to hit them.

Just then one of the soldiers went up to Xenophon and said, ‘When I was quite a child, I was taken to Athens and sold as a slave, and I could never discover who were my parents, nor to what race they belonged. But now I hear the tongue which I remember to have spoken as a child. These must be my countrymen. May I speak with them?’

‘By all means,’ answered Xenophon. ‘Ask them why they come out against us, and seek to stop our way.’


The soldier translated this question, and soon reported the answer, ‘Because ye come as invaders into our country.’

‘Tell them,’ said Xenophon, ‘that we have been at war with the Great King, and that we are now returning to our home, and only wish to reach the sea as quickly as possible. Say also that we will not do them any harm.’

The Macronians then asked if the Hellenes would make a treaty with them, and give pledges to deal with them as with friends, and when the generals had agreed to this, they came through the water to the other side. The gods were called to witness, and as a pledge of friendship, the Macronians gave to the Hellenes a Barbarian spear, and received from them in return a Hellene spear.

After this the Macronians set to work to help the Hellenes in cutting down trees to make a bridge, and re-crossed the river with their new friends. They also brought barley and other food for sale, and at parting supplied them with a guide to take them on to the next country, which was inhabited by the Colchians.

In three days the Hellenes came to a chain of mountains already occupied by the Colchians, who were drawn up against them in battle array. The mountains were not too steep to be scaled, and the Hellenes halted and took counsel as to how they could best make the attack.

It was at first proposed to advance in the form of a phalanx, that is to say in long lines, each close behind the next, but Xenophon thought there were many objections to this plan. ‘A phalanx,’ he said, ‘would183 be liable to fall out of line in climbing the mountain, for in some places we shall find the road good, and in other places bad. Moreover if the phalanx is at all deep, the lines will not extend far enough to outflank the enemy, and in that case they will be able to attack us at the wings or in the rear. And on the other hand, if we extend our lines far enough to obviate that danger, the phalanx will be shallow, and easily broken through.

‘My advice is that we divide the hoplites into separate companies of a hundred men each, and let them ascend in column, leaving spaces between the columns, so that they may extend beyond the enemy’s line. The bravest man in each company must head the column, and lead it up the mountain by the best path he can find. The Colchians will not venture to charge, for if they were to press in between the columns, they would be surrounded by enemies on both sides.’

This plan was agreed upon, and the hoplites were formed into eighty companies of a hundred men each, while the light-armed troops were divided into three detachments of about six hundred men each, and posted in the centre and at the two wings. Before advancing to the battle, Xenophon addressed the troops in a soldier-like speech, short, and to the point. ‘Comrades,’ he said, ‘these are the last enemies that stand in our path. Let us eat them up alive, if we can, without cooking.’

Having prayed and sung the battle-hymn, the Hellenes advanced bravely up the mountain to meet the Colchians, who seeing that they were outflanked, drew out their line to the right and left, leaving a gap in the centre, of which the Hellenes were not slow to take184 advantage. With a great shout they pressed forward to occupy the vacant space, and when the Colchians saw that the two wings of their army were cut off one from the other, they betook themselves to flight.

The Hellenes then crossed the mountain-range, and came, on the further side, to some villages where they could rest and enjoy themselves at the expense of the enemy.

In this district there were great quantities of bees, but the honey which they made was of a peculiar kind, and very poisonous. After eating it, the Hellenes were overcome with sickness, their senses left them, and they were unable to stand. Those who had eaten but little of the honey were like men intoxicated, while those who had eaten much became quite mad, and some of them appeared to be at the point of death. Hundreds lay on the ground unable to move, a prey to despair, just as if some great defeat had recently taken place.

No one died however, and at the end of twenty-four hours they all recovered their senses. In three or four days afterwards they were nearly, if not quite, well again.


From the villages of the Colchians, two marches brought the Hellenes to the city of Trebizond, an ancient Hellene colony on the coast of the Black Sea. Now at last they had arrived at the sea, now they could rest awhile among their own countrymen, and forget all the miseries they had endured since taking service under the ill-fated Cyrus.

The people of Trebizond received them with great kindness, and made them gifts of cattle, barley and wine. They also opened a market for them, and brought abundance of goods for sale. By this time however money had become very scarce among the Hellenes, but they were able to provide themselves with food by making raids into the country of the Colchians.

The march from Sardis to Cunaxa had occupied six months, the return-journey from Cunaxa to Trebizond had lasted five months. It was now February, and since December all the other trials of the retreat had been aggravated by the intense cold which had cost many of them their lives.

When reviewed by Cyrus before the battle of Cunaxa, the Hellenes had numbered 13,000, but by the time they reached Trebizond, they had become reduced to 8,600.186 Of those who were missing, some had been killed by the enemy, and others had perished in the snow or had been cut off by sickness. In round numbers they are always spoken of as the famous Ten Thousand.

At the time of their greatest need, when Clearchus and the other officers had been struck down by the treachery of Tissaphernes, the Hellenes had vowed to offer sacrifices to the gods if ever they should again be in a land peopled by men of their own race. When they made the vow it seemed hardly possible to hope that they would ever be in a position to fulfil it, but now the time had come, for now the deliverance was accomplished.

It would have been a thing unknown for the Hellenes to celebrate any great event without including among the ceremonies some contests of physical strength and skill, which always attracted the presence of a great crowd of spectators. Accordingly it was agreed that there should be races of this kind on the occasion of the sacrifices offered as thank-offerings to the gods for the safe return of the Ten Thousand, and the arrangements were entrusted to a Spartan named Dracontius.

Dracontius could not arrange for races on the grand scale of the celebrated games at Olympia to which all Hellas was accustomed to flock once in every four years, but he was determined that at least there should be no lack of amusement and excitement. Since he could not command a fine level course strewn with sand, he chose instead a rugged hill with a steep slope down to the sea, and when they asked him how it would be possible to have a wrestling match on such rough ground, he187 answered laughing, ‘Those who are thrown will get the hardest knocks.’

In accordance with the ancient custom, the first race was for boys, but as among the soldiers there were no boys, this race was contested by such of the prisoners as were still youths. Then came a foot-race for which more than sixty Cretan soldiers had entered their names, followed by a wrestling match, a boxing match, and the game called by the Hellenes Pankration, which combined both wrestling and boxing.

All these games were watched with great enthusiasm by a crowd of spectators, both men and women. Numbers of people had come out from the town, dressed in their gayest apparel, and mingled with the soldiers, lining both sides of the course. The successful combatants were greeted with tremendous applause, and those who were defeated with shouts of laughter.

Best as well as last of all, was the horse-race. The riders had to race from the altar at the top of the hill down the slope to the sea, and then turn and climb the hill again. They started off at full gallop, but many of the horses tripped in the uneven ground, and rolled over and over, while others who had gone down well enough, came toiling back, unable to get beyond a walk. All this called forth peals of laughter from the spectators, together with many shouts and cheers. The prizes given to the winners were the skins of the animals that had been slaughtered for the sacrifices.

Not far from the place chosen for the games was the spot where the Argonauts were said to have landed long ago to win the Golden Fleece. The story of Jason and his brave comrades was one of the old tales that the188 Hellenes loved, of dauntless heroes helped by the gods to accomplish tasks beyond the power of mortal men.

If that old story was remembered by the Hellene soldiers as they took part in the games, they might have reflected with pride that although there was nothing superhuman in the task which they had just brought to a successful issue, yet it had nevertheless demanded courage and endurance, and by the help of the gods they had triumphed. Many a time there had seemed no possibility of escape, many a time they had been within a hair’s-breadth of utter destruction, but at last they had reached the goal. Certainly there was still a strain of the blood of the heroes in the veins of the brave Ten Thousand.


The Hellenes were now among their countrymen; but they still had many difficulties to encounter, and many toils and dangers to pass through, before they could actually reach their home. They could not get ships enough to take so large a number by sea, and were obliged, for the most part, to make their way on foot all along the Black Sea coast, getting food, as best they could, by plundering any enemies within reach.

Xenophon had been anxious to return to Hellas as quickly as possible, but he would not forsake his comrades, and determined to remain with them as long as they needed his help and counsel. After a time, however, the greater number of the soldiers decided to join the Spartans, who were just then sending an expedition into Asia to make war upon Tissaphernes, and Xenophon resigned his charge to the Spartan general in command of the expedition.

Soon after leaving Trebizond, the spoil taken from the Colchians and other enemies had been divided among the troops, a tenth part having first been set aside for the god Apollo, and his sister, the goddess Artemis, whose magnificent temple at Ephesus was one of the wonders of the world. The share for the gods190 was assigned to the generals, to be offered in any way that they might think best, and out of a part of the treasure given to him for the goddess Artemis, Xenophon bought in after years a piece of land near Olympia, and dedicated it to her service for ever. It was a lovely spot, with a little stream running through it called Selinus, which happened also to be the name of the river that flows past the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and like the Ephesian Selinus, it was full of fish and mussels. There were groves, moreover, and forests abounding in game, besides hilly ground, and pastures for cattle, sheep and horses.

Here Xenophon built a temple to Artemis, and planted around it a grove of many kinds of fruit-trees; and in the temple he placed an altar, and an image of the goddess. The temple was like the temple at Ephesus, only far smaller, and the image was like the image at Ephesus, but instead of being made of gold, it was of cypress-wood. Lastly he set up a column near the temple, and on it this inscription:—‘This place is sacred to Artemis. He who lives here and enjoys the fruits of the ground must every year offer the tenth part of the produce to the goddess, and out of the residue keep the temple in repair. Should he neglect this duty, the goddess will remember it against him.’


The first guardian of the temple was Xenophon himself. In this beautiful place he settled down on retiring from the cares of public life, and here he spent many happy years with his wife and two brave sons, living to the age of ninety. Every year he made a feast in the name of the goddess, and invited to it all191 the people of the neighbourhood. Booths were erected for the reception of the guests, and they were feasted on the produce of the sacred ground,—on barley and wheaten bread, flesh of the flocks and herds, game caught in the chase by Xenophon and his sons, wines and sweetmeats.

In his old age Xenophon had the grief of losing one of his dearly loved sons, who fell in battle. The news was brought to him as he was standing, crowned with a garland, before the image of the goddess, about to offer a sacrifice. On hearing it he put off the garland, the emblem of joy and gladness; but when he was told his son had fallen in fair fight, after a brave resistance, he put on the garland again, and ended the sacrifice, saying, ‘I knew that my child was mortal.’

It was no doubt in this pleasant retreat that Xenophon composed the writings that have been handed down to us as a record of the events which he saw with his own eyes, and in which he took an honourable and distinguished part. Among them all there are no more graphic or more interesting pages than those which describe the doings and sufferings of the brave Ten Thousand.16

16 For further particulars of the life of Xenophon, see the detailed study prefixed by Mr. Dakyns to his translation of the works of Xenophon.


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left unbalanced.

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