View Full Version : Anabasis IV - Xenophon

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05-27-2007, 12:45 AM

During this day they bivouacked in the villages which lie above the 1
plain of the river Centrites[1], which is about two hundred feet
broad. It is the frontier river between Armenia and the country of the
Carduchians. Here the Hellenes recruited themselves, and the sight of
the plain filled them with joy, for the river was but six or seven
furlongs distant from the mountains of the Carduchians. For the moment
then they bivouacked right happily; they had their provisions, they
had also many memories of the labours that were now passed; seeing
that the last seven days spent in traversing the country of the
Carduchians had been one long continuous battle, which had cost them
more suffering than the whole of their troubles at the hands of the
king and Tissaphernes put together. As though they were truly quit of
them for ever, they laid their heads to rest in sweet content.

[1] I.e. the Eastern Tigris.

But with the morrow's dawn they espied horsemen at a certain point
across the river, armed cap-a-pie, as if they meant to dispute the
passage. Infantry, too, drawn up in line upon the banks above the
cavalry, threatened to prevent them debouchng into Armenia. These
troops were Armenian and Mardian and Chaldaean mercenaries belonging
to Orontas and Artuchas. The last of the three, the Chaldaeans, were
said to be a free and brave set of people. They were armed with long
wicker shields and lances. The banks before named on which they were
drawn up were a hundred yards or more distant from the river, and the
single road which was visible was one leading upwards and looking like
a regular artificially constructed highway. At this point the Hellenes
endeavoured to cross, but on their making the attempt the water proved 6
to be more than breast-deep, and the river bed was rough with great
slippery stones, and as to holding their arms in the water, it was out
of the question--the stream swept them away--or if they tried to carry
them over the head, the body was left exposed to the arrows and other
missiles; accordingly they turned back and encamped there by the bank
of the river.

At the point where they had themselves been last night, up on the
mountains, they could see the Carduchians collected in large numbers
and under arms. A shadow of deep despair again descended on their
souls, whichever way they turned their eyes--in front lay the river so
difficult to ford; over, on the other side, a new enemy threatening to
bar the passage; on the hills behind, the Carduchians ready to fall
upon their rear should they once again attempt to cross. Thus for this
day and night they halted, sunk in perplexity. But Xenophon had a
dream. In his sleep he thought that he was bound in fetters, but
these, of their own accord, fell from off him, so that he was loosed,
and could stretch his legs as freely as he wished[2]. So at the first
glimpse of daylight he came to Cheirisophus and told him that he had
hopes that all things would go well, and related to him his dream.

[2] It is impossible to give the true sense and humour of the passage
in English, depending, as it does, on the double meaning of
{diabainein} (1) to cross (a river), (2) to stride or straddle (of
the legs). The army is unable to cross the Centrites; Xenophon
dreams that he is fettered, but the chains drop off his legs and
he is able to stride as freely as ever; next morning the two young
men come to him with the story how they have found themselves able
to walk cross the river instead of having to swim it. It is
obvious to Xenophon that the dream is sent from Heaven.

The other was well pleased, and with the first faint gleam of dawn the
generals all were present and did sacrifice; and the victims were
favourable in the first essay. Retiring from the sacrifice, the
generals and officers issued an order to the troops to take their
breakfasts; and while Xenophon was taking his, two young men came
running up to him, for every one knew that, breakfasting or supping,
he was always accessible, or that even if asleep any one was welcome
to awaken him who had anything to say bearing on the business of war. 10
What the two young men had at this time to say was that they had been
collecting brushwood for fire, and had presently espied on the
opposite side, in among some rocks which came down to the river's
brink, an old man and some women and little girls depositing, as it
would appear, bags of clothes in a cavernous rock. When they saw them,
it struck them that it was safe to cross; in any case the enemy's
cavalry could not approach at this point. So they stripped naked,
expecting to have to swim for it, and with their long knives in their
hands began crossing, but going forward crossed without being wet up
to the fork. Once across they captured the clothes, and came back

Accordingly Xenophon at once poured out a libation himself, and bade
the two young fellows fill the cup and pray to the gods, who showed to
him this vision and to them a passage, to bring all other blessings
for them to accomplishment. When he had poured out the libation, he at
once led the two young men to Cheirisophus, and they repeated to him
their story. Cheirisophus, on hearing it, offered libations also, and
when they had performed them, they sent a general order to the troops
to pack up ready for starting, while they themselves called a meeting
of the generals and took counsel how they might best effect a passage,
so as to overpower the enemy in front without suffering any loss from
the men behind. And they resolved that Cheirisophus should lead the
van and cross with half the army, the other half still remaining
behind under Xenophon, while the baggage animals and the mob of
sutlers were to cross between the two divisions.

When all was duly ordered the move began, the young men pioneering
them, and keeping the river on their left. It was about four furlongs'
march to the crossing, and as they moved along the bank, the squadrons
of cavalry kept pace with them on the opposite side.

But when they had reached a point in a line with the ford, and the
cliff-like banks of the river, they grounded arms, and first
Cheirisophus himself placed a wreath upon his brows, and throwing off 17
his cloak[3], resumed his arms, passing the order to all the rest to
do the same, and bade the captains form their companies in open order
in deep columns, some to left and some to right of himself. Meanwhile
the soothsayers were slaying a victim over the river, and the enemy
were letting fly their arrows and slingstones; but as yet they were
out of range. As soon as the victims were favourable, all the soldiers
began singing the battle hymn, and with the notes of the paean mingled
the shouting of the men accompanied by the shriller chant of the
women, for there were many women[4] in the camp.

[3] Or, "having doffed it," i.e. the wreath, an action which the
soldiers would perform symbolically, if Grote is right in his
interpretation of the passage, "Hist. of Greece," vol. ix. p. 137.

[4] Lit. "comrade-women."

So Cheirisophus with his detachment stepped in. But Xenophon, taking
the most active-bodied of the rearguard, began running back at full
speed to the passage facing the egress into the hills of Armenia,
making a feint of crossing at that point to intercept their cavalry on
the river bank. The enemy, seeing Cheirisophus's detachment easily
crossing the stream, and Xenophon's men racing back, were seized with
the fear of being intercepted, and fled at full speed in the direction
of the road which emerges from the stream. But when they were come
opposite to it they raced up hill towards their mountains. Then
Lycius, who commanded the cavalry, and Aeschines, who was in command
of the division of light infantry attached to Cheirisophus, no sooner
saw them fleeing so lustily than they were after them, and the
soldiers shouted not to fall behind[5], but to follow them right up to
the mountains. Cheirisophus, on getting across, forbore to pursue the
cavalry, but advanced by the bluffs which reached to the river to
attack the enemy overhead. And these, seeing their own cavalry
fleeing, seeing also the heavy infantry advancing upon them, abandoned
the heights above the river.

[5] Or, "to stick tight to them and not to be outdone"; or, as others
understand, "the (infantry) soldiers clamoured not to be left
behind, but to follow them up into the mountains."

Xenophon, as soon as he saw that things were going well on the other 24
side, fell back with all speed to join the troops engaged in crossing,
for by this time the Carduchians were well in sight, descending into
the plain to attack their rear.

Cheirisophus was in possession of the higher ground, and Lycius, with
his little squadron, in an attempt to follow up the pursuit, had
captured some stragglers of their baggage-bearers, and with them some
handsome apparel and drinking-cups. The baggage animals of the
Hellenes and the mob of non-combatants were just about to cross, when
Xenonphon turned his troops right about to face the Carduchians.
Vis-a-vis he formed his line, passing the order to the captains each
to form his company into sections, and to deploy them into line by the
left, the captains of companies and lieutenants in command of sections
to advance to meet the Carduchians, while the rear leaders would keep
their position facing the river. But when the Carduchians saw the
rearguard so stript of the mass, and looking now like a mere handful
of men, they advanced all the more quickly, singing certain songs the
while. Then, as matters were safe with him, Cheirisophus sent back the
peltasts and slingers and archers to join Xenophon, with orders to
carry out his instructions. They were in the act of recrossing, when
Xenophon, who saw their intention, sent a messenger across, bidding
them wait there at the river's brink without crossing; but as soon as
he and his detachment began to cross they were to step in facing him
in two flanking divisions right and left of them, as if in the act of
crossing; the javelin men with their javelins on the thong, and the
bowmen with their arrows on the string; but they were not to advance
far into the stream. The order passed to his own men was: "Wait till
you are within sling-shot, and the shield rattles, then sound the
paean and charge the enemy. As soon as he turns, and the bugle from
the river sounds for 'the attack,' you will face about to the right,
the rear rank leading, and the whole detachment falling back and
crossing the river as quickly as possible, every one preserving his
original rank, so as to avoid tramelling one another: the bravest man
is he who gets to the other side first."

The Carduchians, seeing that the remnant left was the merest handful 30
(for many even of those whose duty it was to remain had gone off in
their anxiety to protect their beasts of burden, or their personal
kit, or their mistresses), bore down upon them valorously, and opened
fire with slingstones and arrows. But the Hellenes, raising the battle
hymn, dashed at them at a run, and they did not await them; armed well
enough for mountain warfare, and with a view to sudden attack followed
by speedy flight, they were not by any means sufficiently equipped for
an engagement at close quarters. At this instant the signal of the
bugle was heard. Its notes added wings to the flight of the
barbarians, but the Hellenes turned right about in the opposite
direction, and betook themselves to the river with what speed they
might. Some of the enemy, here a man and there another, perceived, and
running back to the river, let fly their arrows and wounded a few; but
the majority, even when the Hellenes were well across, were still to
be seen pursuing their flight. The detachment which came to meet
Xenophon's men, carried away by their valour, advanced further than
they had need to, and had to cross back again in the rear of
Xenophon's men, and of these too a few were wounded.