Anabasis/Book 2/Chapter 3

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Anabasis by Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns
Book 2, Chapter 3

And now comes the proof of what I stated above--that the king was utterly taken aback by the sudden apparition of the army; only the day before, he had sent and demanded the surrender of their arms--and now, with the rising sun, came heralds sent by him to arrange a truce. These, having reached the advanced guard, asked for the generals. The guard reported their arrival; and Clearchus, who was busy inspecting the ranks, sent back word to the heralds that they must await his leisure. Having carefully arranged the troops so that from every side they might present the appearance of a compact battle line without a single unarmed man in sight, he summoned the ambassadors, and himself went forward to meet them with the soldiers, who for choice accoutrement and noble aspect were the flower of his force; a course which he had invited the other generals also to adopt.

And now, being face to face with the ambassadors, he questioned them as to what their wishes were. They replied that they had come to arrange a truce, and were persons competent to carry proposals from the king to the Hellenes and from the Hellenes to the king. He returned answer to them: "Take back word then to your master, that we need a battle first, for we have had no breakfast; and he will be a brave man who will dare mention the word 'truce' to Hellenes without providing them with breakfast." With this message the heralds rode off, but were back again in no time, which was a proof that the king, or some one appointed by him to transact the business, was hard by. They reported that "the message seemed reasonable to the king; they had now come bringing guides who, if a truce were arranged, would conduct them where they would get provisions." Clearchus inquired "whether the truce was offered to the individual men merely as they went and came, or to all alike." "To all," they replied, "until the king receives your final answer." When they had so spoken, Clearchus, having removed the ambassadors, held a council; and it was resolved to make a truce at once, and then quietly to go and secure provisions; and Clearchus said: "I agree to the resolution; still I do not propose to announce it at once, but to wile away time till the ambassadors begin to fear that we have decided against the truce; though I suspect," he added, "the same fear will be operative on the minds of our soldiers also." As soon as the right moment seemed to have arrived, he delivered his answer in favour of the truce, and bade the ambassadors at once conduct them to the provisions.

So these led the way; and Clearchus, without relaxing precaution, in spite of having secured a truce, marched after them with his army in line and himself in command of the rearguard. Over and over again they encountered trenches and conduits so full of water that they could not be crossed without bridges; but they contrived well enough for these by means of trunks of palm trees which had fallen, or which they cut down for the occasion. And here Clearchus's system of superintendence was a study in itself; as he stood with a spear in his left hand and a stick in the other; and when it seemed to him there was any dawdling among the parties told off to the work, he would pick out the right man and down would come the stick; nor, at the same time, was he above plunging into the mud and lending a hand himself, so that every one else was forced for very shame to display equal alacrity. The men told off for the business were the men of thirty years of age; but even the elder men, when they saw the energy of Clearchus, could not resist lending their aid also. What stimulated the haste of Clearchus was the suspicion in his mind that these trenches were not, as a rule, so full of water, since it was not the season to irrigate the plain; and he fancied that the king had let the water on for the express purpose of vividly presenting to the Hellenes the many dangers with which their march was threatened at the very start.

Proceeding on their way they reached some villages, where their guides indicated to them that they would find provisions. They were found to contain plenty of corn, and wine made from palm dates, and an acidulated beverage extracted by boiling from the same fruit. As to the palm nuts or dates themselves, it was noticeable that the sort which we are accustomed to see in Hellas were set aside for the domestic servants; those put aside for the masters are picked specimens, and are simply marvellous for their beauty and size, looking like great golden lumps of amber; some specimens they dried and preserved as sweetmeats. Sweet enough they were as an accompaniment of wine, but apt to give headache. Here, too, for the first time in their lives, the men tasted the brain[1] of the palm. No one could help being struck by the beauty of this object, and the peculiarity of its delicious flavour; but this, like the dried fruits, was exceedingly apt to give headache. When this cabbage or brain has been removed from the palm the whole tree withers from top to bottom.

In these villages they remained three days, and a deputation from the great king arrived--Tissaphernes and the king's brother-in-law and three other Persians--with a retinue of many slaves. As soon as the generals of the Hellenes had presented themselves, Tissaphernes opened the proceedings with the following speech, through the lips of an interpreter: "Men of Hellas, I am your next-door neighbour in Hellas. Therefore was it that I, when I saw into what a sea of troubles you were fallen, regarded it as a godsend, if by any means I might obtain, as a boon from the king, the privilege of bringing you back in safety to your own country: and that, I take it, will earn me gratitude from you and all Hellas. In this determination I preferred my request to the king; I claimed it as a favour which was fairly my due; for was it not I who first announced to him the hostile approach of Cyrus? who supported that announcement by the aid I brought; who alone among the officers confronted with the Hellenes in battle did not flee, but charged right through and united my troops with the king inside your camp, where he was arrived, having slain Cyrus; it was I, lastly, who gave chase to the barbarians under Cyrus, with the help of those here present with me at this moment, which are also among the trustiest followers of our lord the king. Now, I counsel you to give a moderate answer, so that it may be easier for me to carry out my design, if haply I may obtain from him some good thing on your behalf."

Thereupon the Hellenes retired and took counsel. Then they answered, and Clearchus was their spokesman: "We neither mustered as a body to make war against the king, nor was our march conducted with that object. But it was Cyrus, as you know, who invented many and divers pretexts, that he might take you off your guard, and transport us hither. Yet, after a while, when we saw that he was in sore straits, we were ashamed in the sight of God and man to betray him, whom we had permitted for so long a season to benefit us. But now that Cyrus is dead, we set up no claim to his kingdom against the king himself; there is neither person nor thing for the sake of which we would care to injure the king's country; we would not choose to kill him if we could, rather we would march straight home, if we were not molested; but, God helping us, we will retaliate on all who injure us. On the other hand, if any be found to benefit us, we do not mean to be outdone in kindly deeds, as far as in us lies."

So he spoke, and Tissaphernes listened and replied: "That answer will I take back to the king and bring you word from him again. Until I come again, let the truce continue, and we will furnish you with a market." All next day he did not come back, and the Hellenes were troubled with anxieties, but on the third day he arrived with the news that he had obtained from the king the boon he asked; he was permitted to save the Hellenes, though there were many gainsayers who argued that it was not seemly for the king to let those who had marched against him depart in peace. And at last he said: "You may now, if you like, take pledges from us, that we will make the countries through which you pass friendly to you, and will lead you back without treachery into Hellas, and will furnish you with a market; and wherever you cannot purchase, we will permit you to take provisions from the district. You, on your side, must swear that you will march as through a friendly country, without damage--merely taking food and drink wherever we fail to supply a market--or, if we afford a market, you shall only obtain provisions by paying for them." This was agreed to, and oaths and pledges exchanged between them--Tissaphernes and the king's brother-in-law upon the one side, and the generals and officers of the Hellenes on the other. After this Tissaphernes said: "And now I go back to the king; as soon as I have transacted what I have a mind to, I will come back, ready equipped, to lead you away to Hellas, and to return myself to my own dominion."

  1. I.e. the cabbage-like crown.