Anabasis/Book 3/Chapter 2
By the time the new generals had been chosen, the first faint glimmer of dawn had hardly commenced, as they met in the centre of the camp, and resolved to post an advance guard and to call a general meeting of the soldiers. Now, when these had come together, Cheirisophus the Lacedaemonian first rose and spoke as follows: "Fellow-soldiers, the present posture of affairs is not pleasant, seeing that we are robbed of so many generals and captains and soldiers; and more than that, our former allies, Ariaeus and his men, have betrayed us; still, we must rise above our circumstances to prove ourselves brave men, and not give in, but try to save ourselves by glorious victory if we can; or, if not, at least to die gloriously, and never, while we have breath in our bodies, fall into the hands of our enemies. In which latter case, I fear, we shall suffer things, which I pray the gods may visit rather upon those we hate."
At this point Cleanor the Ochomenian stood up and spoke as follows: "You see, men, the perjury and the impiety of the king. You see the faithlessness of Tissaphernes, professing that he was next-door neighbour to Hellas, and would give a good deal to save us, in confirmation of which he took an oath to us himself, he gave us the pledge of his right hand, and then, with a lie upon his lips, this same man turned round and arrested our generals. He had no reverence even for Zeus, the god of strangers; but, after entertaining Clearchus at his own board as a friend, he used his hospitality to delude and decoy his victims. And Ariaeus, whom we offered to make king, with whom we exchanged pledges not to betray each other, even this man, without a particle of fear of the gods, or respect for Cyrus in his grave, though he was most honoured by Cyrus in lifetime, even he has turned aside to the worst foes of Cyrus, and is doing his best to injure the dead man's friends. Them may the gods requite as they deserve! But we, with these things before our eyes, will not any more be cheated and cajoled by them; we will make the best fight we can, and having made it, whatever the gods think fit to send, we will accept."
After him Xenophon arose; he was arrayed for war in his bravest apparel : "For," said he to himself, "if the gods grant victory, the finest attire will match with victory best; or if I must needs die, then for one who has aspired to the noblest, it is well there should be some outward correspondence between his expectation and his end." He began his speech as follows: "Cleanor has spoken of the perjury and faithlessness of the barbarians, and you yourselves know them only too well, I fancy. If then we are minded to enter a second time into terms of friendship with them, with the experience of what our generals, who in all confidence entrusted themselves to their power, have suffered, reason would we should feel deep despondency. If, on the other hand, we purpose to take our good swords in our hands and to inflict punishment on them for what they have done, and from this time forward will be on terms of downright war with them, then, God helping, we have many a bright hope of safety." The words were scarcely spoken when someone sneezed, and with one impulse the soldiers bowed in worship; and Xenophon proceeded: "I propose, sirs, since, even as we spoke of safety, an omen from Zeus the Saviour has appeared, we vow a vow to sacrifice to the Saviour thank-offerings for safe deliverance, wheresoever first we reach a friendly country; and let us couple with that vow another of individual assent, that we will offer to the rest of the gods 'according to our ability.' Let all those who are in favour of this proposal hold up their hands." They all held up their hands, and there and then they vowed a vow and chanted the battle hymn. But as soon as these sacred matters were duly ended, he began once more thus: "I was saying that many and bright are the hopes we have of safety. First of all, we it is who confirm and ratify the oaths we take by heaven, but our enemies have taken false oaths and broken the truce, contrary to their solemn word. This being so, it is but natural that the gods should be opposed to our enemies, but with ourselves allied; the gods, who are able to make the great ones quickly small, and out of sore perplexity can save the little ones with ease, what time it pleases them. In the next place, let me recall to your minds the dangers of our own forefathers, that you may see and know that bravery is your heirloom, and that by the aid of the gods brave men are rescued even out of the midst of sorest straits. So was it when the Persians came, and their attendant hosts, with a very great armament, to wipe out Athens from the face of the earth--the men of Athens had the heart to withstand them and conquered them. Then they vowed to Artemis that for every man they slew of the enemy, they would sacrifice to the goddess goats so many; and when they could not find sufficient for the slain, they resolved to offer yearly five hundred; and to this day they perform that sacrifice. And at a somewhat later date, when Xerxes assembled his countless hosts and marched upon Hellas, then too our fathers conquered the forefathers of our foes by land and by sea.
"And proofs of these things are yet to be seen in trophies; but the greatest witness of all is the freedom of our cities--the liberty of that land in which you were born and bred. For you call no man master or lord; you bow your heads to none save to the gods alone. Such were your forefathers, and their sons are ye. Think not I am going to say that you put to shame in any way your ancestry--far from it. Not many days since, you too were drawn up in battle face to face with these true descendants of their ancestors, and by the help of heaven you conquered them, though they many times outnumbered you. At that time, it was to win a throne for Cyrus that you showed your bravery; to-day, when the struggle is for your own salvation, what is more natural than that you should show yourselves braver and more zealous still. Nay, it is very meet and right that you should be more undaunted still to-day to face the foe. The other day, though you had not tested them, and before your eyes lay their immeasurable host, you had the heart to go against them with the spirit of your fathers. To-day you have made trial of them, and knowing that, however many times your number, they do not care to await your onset, what concern have you now to be afraid of them?
"Nor let any one suppose that herein is a point of weakness, in that Cyrus's troops, who before were drawn up by your side, have now deserted us, for they are even worse cowards still than those we worsted. At any rate they have deserted us, and sought refuge with them. Leaders of the forlorn hope of flight--far better is it to have them brigaded with the enemy than shoulder to shoulder in our ranks. But if any of you is out of heart to think that we have no cavalry, while the enemy have many squadrons to command, lay to heart this doctrine, that ten thousand horse only equal ten thousand men upon their backs, neither less nor more. Did any one ever die in battle from the bite or kick of a horse? It is the men, the real swordsmen, who do whatever is done in battles. In fact we, on our stout shanks, are better mounted than those cavalry fellows; there they hang on to their horses' necks in mortal dread, not only of us, but of falling off; while we, well planted upon earth, can deal far heavier blows to our assailants, and aim more steadily at who we will. There is one point, I admit, in which their cavalry have the whip-hand of us; it is safer for them than it is for us to run away.
"May be, however, you are in good heart about the fighting, but annoyed to think that Tissaphernes will not guide us any more, and that the king will not furnish us with a market any longer. Now, consider, is it better for us to have a guide like Tissaphernes, whom we know to be plotting against us, or to take our chance of the stray people whom we catch and compel to guide us, who will know that any mistake made in leading us will be a sad mistake for their own lives? Again, is it better to be buying provisions in a market of their providing, in scant measure and at high prices, without even the money to pay for them any longer; or, by right of conquest, to help ourselves, applying such measure as suits our fancy best?
"Or again, perhaps you admit that our present position is not without its advantages, but you feel sure that the rivers are a difficulty, and think that you were never more taken in than when you crossed them; if so, consider whether, after all, this is not perhaps the most foolish thing which the barbarians have done. No river is impassable throughout; whatever difficulties it may present at some distance from its source, you need only make your way up to the springhead, and there you may cross it without wetting more than your ankles. But, granted that the rivers do bar our passage, and that guides are not forthcoming, what care we? We need feel no alarm for all that. We have heard of the Mysians, a people whom we certainly cannot admit to be better than ourselves; and yet they inhabit numbers of large and prosperous cities in the king's own country without asking leave. The Pisidians are an equally good instance, or the Lycaonians. We have seen with our own eyes how they fare: seizing fortresses down in the plains, and reaping the fruits of these men's territory. As to us, I go so far as to assert, we ought never to have let it be seen that we were bent on getting home: at any rate, not so soon; we should have begun stocking and furnishing ourselves, as if we fully meant to settle down for life somewhere or other hereabouts. I am sure that the king would be thrice glad to give the Mysians as many guides as they like, or as many hostages as they care to demand, in return for a safe conduct out of his country; he would make carriage roads for them, and if they preferred to take their departure in coaches and four, he would not say them nay. So too, I am sure, he would be only too glad to accommodate us in the same way, if he saw us preparing to settle down here. But, perhaps, it is just as well that we did not stop; for I fear, if once we learn to live in idleness and to batten in luxury and dalliance with these tall and handsome Median and Persian women and maidens, we shall be like the Lotus-eaters, and forget the road home altogether.
"It seems to me that it is only right, in the first instance, to make an effort to return to Hellas and to revisit our hearths and homes, if only to prove to other Hellenes that it is their own faults if they are poor and needy, seeing it is in their power to give to those now living a pauper life at home a free passage hither, and convert them into well-to-do burghers at once. Now, sirs, is it not clear that all these good things belong to whoever has strength to hold them?
"Let us look another matter in the face. How are we to march most safely? or where blows are needed, how are we to fight to the best advantage? That is the question.
"The first thing which I recommend is to burn the wagons we have got, so that we may be free to march wherever the army needs, and not, practically, make our baggage train our general. And, next, we should throw our tents into the bonfire also: for these again are only a trouble to carry, and do not contribute one grain of good either for fighting or getting provisions. Further, let us get rid of all superfluous baggage, save only what we require for the sake of war, or meat and drink, so that as many of us as possible may be under arms, and as few as possible doing porterage. I need not remind you that, in case of defeat, the owners' goods are not their own; but if we master our foes, we will make them our baggage bearers.
"It only rests for me to name the one thing which I look upon as the greatest of all. You see, the enemy did not dare to bring war to bear upon us until they had first seized our generals; they felt that whilst our rulers were there, and we obeyed them, they were no match for us in war; but having got hold of them, they fully expected that the consequent confusion and anarchy would prove fatal to us. What follows? This: Officers and leaders ought to be more vigilant ever than their predecessors; subordinates still more orderly and obedient to those in command now than even they were to those who are gone. And you should pass a resolution that, in case of insubordination, any one who stands by is to aid the officer in chastising the offender. So the enemy will be mightily deceived; for on this day they will behold ten thousand Clearchuses instead of one, who will not suffer one man to play the coward. And now it is high time I brought my remarks to an end, for may be the enemy will be here anon. Let those who are in favour of these proposals confirm them with all speed, that they may be realised in fact; or if any other course seem better, let not any one, even though he be a private soldier, shrink from proposing it. Our common safety is our common need."
After this Cheirisophus spoke. He said: "If there is anything else to be done, beyond what Xenophon has mentioned, we shall be able to carry it out presently; but with regard to what he has already proposed, it seems to me the best course to vote upon the matters at once. Those who are in favour of Xenophon's proposals, hold up their hands." They all held them up. Xenophon rose again and said: "Listen, sirs, while I tell you what I think we have need of besides. It is clear that we must march where we can get provisions. Now, I am told there are some splendid villages not more than two miles and a half distant. I should not be surprised, then, if the enemy were to hang on our heels and dog us as we retire, like cowardly curs which rush out at the passer-by and bite him if they can, but when you turn upon them they run away. Such will be their tactics, I take it. It may be safer, then, to march in a hollow square, so as to place the baggage animals and our mob of sutlers in greater security. It will save time to make the appointments at once, and to settle who leads the square and directs the vanguard; who will take command of the two flanks, and who of the rearguard; so that, when the enemy appears, we shall not need to deliberate, but can at once set in motion the machinery in existence.
"If any one has any better plan, we need not adopt mine; but if not, suppose Cheirisophus takes the lead, as he is a Lacedaemonian, and the two eldest generals take in charge the two wings respectively, whilst Timasion and I, the two youngest, will for the present guard the rear. For the rest, we can but make experiment of this arrangement, and alter it with deliberation, as from time to time any improvement suggests itself. If any one has a better plan to propose, let him do so." . . . No dissentient voice was heard. Accordingly he said: "Those in favour of this resolution, hold up their hands." The resolution was carried. "And now," said he, "it would be well to separate and carry out what we have decreed. If any of you has set his heart on seeing his friends again, let him remember to prove himself a man; there is no other way to achieve his heart's wish. Or is mere living an object with any of you, strive to conquer; if to slay is the privilege of victory, to die is the doom of the defeated. Or perhaps to gain money and wealth is your ambition, strive again for mastery; have not conquerors the double gain of keeping what is their own, whilst they seize the possessions of the vanquished?"
- So it is said of the Russian General Skobelef, that he had a strange custom of going into battle in his cleanest uniform, perfumed, and wearing a diamond-hilted sword, "in order that," as he said, "he might die in his best attire."
- For this ancient omen see "Odyssey," xvii. 541: "Even as she spake, and Telemachus sneezed loudly, and around the roof rung wondrously. And Penelope laughed." . . . "Dost thou not mark how my son has sneezed a blessing on all my words?"
- See Herod. vi. 114; the allusion is to the invasion of Greeze by Datis and Artaphernes, and to their defeat at Marathon, B.C. 490. "Heredotus estimates the number of those who fell on the Persian side at 6400 men: the number of Athenian dead is accurately known, since all were collected for the last solemn obsequies--they were 192."--Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. v. p. 475.
- Then = at Salamis, B.C. 480, and at Plataea and Mycale, B.C. 479, on the same day.
- See "Odyssey," ix. 94, "ever feeding on the Lotus and forgetful of returning."
- Here seems to be the germ--unless, indeed, the thought had been conceived above--here at any rate the first conscious expression of the colonisation scheme, of which we shall hear more below, in reference to Cotyora; the Phasis; Calpe. It appears again fifty years later in the author's pamphlet "On Revenues," chapters i. and vi. For the special evils of the fourth century B.C., and the growth of pauperism between B.C. 401 and 338, see Jebb, "Attic Orators," vol i. p. 17.