View Full Version : Anabasis IV - Xenophon

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05-27-2007, 12:47 AM

When a week had passed, on the eighth day Xenophon delivered over the 1
guide (that is to say, the village headman) to Cheirisophus. He left
the headman's household safe behind in the village, with the exception
of his son, a lad in the bloom of youth. This boy was entrusted to
Episthenes of Amphipolis to guard; if the headman proved himself a
good guide, he was to take away his son also at his departure. They
finally made his house the repository of all the good things they
could contrive to get together; then they broke up their camp and
commenced to march, the headman guiding them through the snow
unfettered. When they had reached the third stage Cheirisophus flew 2
into a rage with him, because he had not brought them to any villages.
The headman pleaded that there were none in this part. Cheirisophus
struck him, but forgot to bind him, and the end of it was that the
headman ran away in the night and was gone, leaving his son behind
him. This was the sole ground of difference between Cheirisophus and
Xenophon during the march, this combination of ill-treatment and
neglect in the case of the guide. As to the boy, Episthenes conceived
a passion for him, and took him home with him, and found in him the
most faithful of friends.

After this they marched seven stages at the rate of five parasangs a
day, to the banks of the river Phasis[1], which is a hundred feet
broad: and thence they marched another couple of stages, ten
parasangs; but at the pass leading down into the plain there appeared
in front of them a mixed body of Chalybes and Taochians and
Phasianians. When Cheirisophus caught sight of the enemy on the pass
at a distance of about three or four miles, he ceased marching, not
caring to approach the enemy with his troops in column, and he passed
down the order to the others: to deploy their companies to the front,
that the troops might form into line. As soon as the rearguard had
come up, he assembled the generals and officers, and addressed them:
"The enemy, as you see, are in occupation of the mountain pass, it is
time we should consider how we are to make the best fight to win it.
My opinion is, that we should give orders to the troops to take their
morning meal, whilst we deliberate whether we should cross the
mountains to-day or to-morrow." "My opinion," said Cleanor, "is, that
as soon as we have breakfasted, we should arm for the fight and attack
the enemy, without loss of time, for if we fritter away to-day, the
enemy who are now content to look at us, will grow bolder, and with
their growing courage, depend upon it, others more numerous will join

[1] Probably a tributary of the Araxes = modern Pasin-Su.

After him Xenophon spoke: "This," he said, "is how I see the matter;
if fight we must, let us make preparation to sell our lives dearly,
but if we desire to cross with the greatest ease, the point to
consider is, how we may get the fewest wounds and throw away the
smallest number of good men. Well then, that part of the mountain 11
which is visible stretches nearly seven miles. Where are the men
posted to intercept us? except at the road itself, they are nowhere to
be seen. It is much better to try if possible to steal a point of this
desert mountain unobserved, and before they know where we are, secure
the prize, than to fly at a strong position and an enemy thoroughly
prepared. Since it is much easier to march up a mountain without
fighting than to tramp along a level when assailants are at either
hand; and provided he has not to fight, a man will see what lies at
his feet much more plainly even at night than in broad daylight in the
midst of battle; and a rough road to feet that roam in peace may be
pleasanter than a smooth surface with the bullets whistling about your
ears[2]. Nor is it so impossible, I take it, to steal a march, since
it is open to us to go by night, when we cannot be seen, and to fall
back so far that they will never notice us. In my opinion, however, if
we make a feint of attacking here, we shall find the mountain chain
all the more deserted elsewhere, since the enemy will be waiting for
us here in thicker swarm.

[2] Or, more lit., "with the head a mark for missiles."

"But what right have I to be drawing conclusions about stealing in
your presence, Cheirisophus? for you Lacedaemonians, as I have often
been told, you who belong to the 'peers,' practise stealing from your
boyhood up; and it is no disgrace but honourable rather to steal,
except such things as the law forbids; and in order, I presume, to
stimulate your sense of secretiveness, and to make you master thieves,
it is lawful for you further to get a whipping if you are caught. Now
then you have a fine opportunity of displaying your training. But take
care we are not caught stealing over the mountain, or we shall catch
it ourselves." "For all that," retorted Cheirisophus, "I have heard
that you Athenians are clever hands at stealing the public moneys; and
that too though there is a fearful risk for the person so employed;
but, I am told, it is your best men who are addicted to it; if it is
your best men who are thought worthy to rule. So it is a fine
opportunity for yourself also, Xenophon, to exhibit your education." 17
"And I," replied Xenophon, "am ready to take the rear division, as
soon as we have supped, and seize the mountain chain. I have already
got guides, for the light troops laid an ambuscade, and seized some of
the cut-purse vagabonds who hung on our rear. I am further informed by
them that the mountain is not inaccessible, but is grazed by goats and
cattle, so that if we can once get hold of any portion of it, there
will be no difficulty as regards our animals--they can cross. As to
the enemy, I expect they will not even wait for us any longer, when
they once see us on a level with themselves on the heights, for they
do not even at present care to come down and meet us on fair ground."
Cheirisophus answered: "But why should you go and leave your command
in the rear? Send others rather, unless a band of volunteers will
present themselves." Thereupon Aristonymus the Methydrian came forward
with some heavy infantry, and Nicomachus the Oetean with another body
of light troops, and they made an agreement to kindle several
watch-fires as soon as they held the heights. The arrangements made,
they breakfasted; and after breakfast Cheirisophus advanced the whole
army ten furlongs closer towards the enemy, so as to strengthen the
impression that he intended to attack them at that point.

But as soon as they had supped and night had fallen, the party under
orders set off and occupied the mountain, while the main body rested
where they were. Now as soon as the enemy perceived that the mountain
was taken, they banished all thought of sleep, and kept many
watch-fires blazing throughout the night. But at break of day
Cheirisophus offered sacrifice, and began advancing along the road,
while the detachment which held the mountain advanced pari passu by
the high ground. The larger mass of the enemy, on his side, remained
still on the mountain-pass, but a section of them turned to confront
the detachment on the heights. Before the main bodies had time to draw
together, the detachment on the height came to close quarters, and the
Hellenes were victorious and gave chase. Meanwhile the light division
of the Hellenes, issuing from the plain, were rapidly advancing
against the serried lines of the enemy, whilst Cheirisophus followed
up with his heavy infantry at quick march. But the enemy on the road 25
no sooner saw their higher division being worsted than they fled, and
some few of them were slain, and a vast number of wicker shields were
taken, which the Hellenes hacked to pieces with their short swords and
rendered useless. So when they had reached the summit of the pass,
they sacrificed and set up a trophy, and descending into the plain,
reached villages abounding in good things of every kind.