Anabasis/Book 5/Chapter 4

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Anabasis by Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns
Book 5, Chapter 4

From Cerasus they continued the march, the same portion of the troops being conveyed by sea as before, and the rest marching by land. When they had reached the frontiers of the Mossynoecians[1] they sent to him Timesitheus the Trapezuntine, who was the proxenos[2] of the Mossynoecians, to inquire whether they were to pass through their territory as friends or foes. They, trusting in their strongholds, replied that they would not give them passage. It was then that Timesitheus informed them that the Mossynoecians on the farther side of the country were hostile to these members of the tribe; and it was resolved to invite the former to make an alliance, if they wished it. So Timesitheus was sent, and came back with their chiefs. On their arrival there was a conference of the Mossynoecian chiefs and the generals of the Hellenes, and Xenophon made a speech which Timesitheus interpreted. He said: "Men of the Mossynoecians, our desire is to reach Hellas in safety; and since we have no vessels we must needs go by foot, but these people who, as we hear, are your enemies, prevent us. Will you take us for your allies? Now is your chance to exact vengeance for any wrong, which they at any time may have put upon you, and for the future they will be your subjects; but if you send us about our business, consider and ask yourselves from what quarter will you ever again obtain so strong a force to help you?" To this the chief of the Mossynoecians made answer:--that the proposal was in accordance with their wishes and they welcomed the alliance. "Good," said Xenophon, "but to what use do you propose to put us, if we become your allies? And what will you in turn be able to do to assist our passage?" They replied: "We can make an incursion into this country hostile to yourselves and us, from the opposite side, and also send you ships and men to this place, who will aid you in fighting and conduct you on the road."

On this understanding, they exchanged pledges and were gone. The next day they returned, bringing three hundred canoes, each hollowed out of a single trunk. There were three men in each, two of whom disembarked and fell into rank, whilst the third remained. Then the one set took the boats and sailed back again, whilst the other two-thirds who remained marshalled themselves in the following way. They stood in rows of about a hundred each, like the rows of dancers in a chorus, standing vis-a-vis to one another, and all bearing wicker shields, made of white oxhide, shaggy, and shaped like an ivy leaf; in the right hand they brandished a javelin about six cubits long, with a lance in front, and rounded like a ball at the butt end of the shaft.

Their bodies were clad in short frocks, scarcely reaching to the knees and in texture closely resembling that of a linen bedclothes' bag; on their heads they wore leathern helmets just like the Paphlagonian helmet, with a tuft of hair in the middle, as like a tiara in shape as possible. They carried moreover iron battle-axes. Then one of them gave, as it were, the key-note and started, while the rest, taking up the strain and the step, followed singing and marking time. Passing through the various corps and heavy armed battalions of the Hellenes, they marched straight against the enemy, to what appeared the most assailable of his fortresses. It was situated in front of the city, or mother city, as it is called, which latter contains the high citadel of the Mossynoecians. This citadel was the real bone of contention, the occupants at any time being acknowledged as the masters of all the other Mossynoecians. The present holders (so it was explained) had no right to its possession; for the sake of self-aggrandisement they had seized what was really common property.

Some of the Hellenes followed the attacking party, not under the orders of the generals, but for the sake of plunder. As they advanced, the enemy for a while kept quiet; but as they got near the place, they made a sortie and routed them, killing several of the barbarians as well as some of the Hellenes who had gone up with them; and so pursued them until they saw the Hellenes advancing to the rescue. Then they turned round and made off, first cutting off the heads of the dead men and flaunting them in the face of the Hellenes and of their own private foes, dancing the while and singing in a measured strain. But the Hellenes were much vexed to think that their foes had only been rendered bolder, while the Hellenes who had formed part of the expedition had turned tail and fled, in spite of their numbers; a thing which had not happened previously during the whole expedition. So Xenophon called a meeting of the Hellenes and spoke as follows: "Soldiers, do not in any wise be cast down by what has happened, be sure that good no less than evil will be the result; for to begin with, you now know certainly that those who are going to guide us are in very deed hostile to those with whom necessity drives us to quarrel; and, in the next place, some of our own body, these Hellenes who have made so light of orderly array and conjoint action with ourselves, as though they must needs achieve in the company of barbarians all they could with ourselves, have paid the penalty and been taught a lesson, so that another time they will be less prone to leave our ranks. But you must be prepared to show these friendly barbarians that you are of a better sort, and prove to the enemy that battle with the undisciplined is one thing, but with men like yourselves another."

Accordingly they halted, as they were, that day. Next day they sacrificed and finding the victims favourable, they breakfasted, formed the companies into columns, and with their barbarians arranged in similar order on their left, began their march. Between the companies were the archers only slightly retired behind the front of the heavy infantry, on account of the enemy's active light troops, who ran down and kept up volleys of stones. These were held in check by the archers and peltasts; and steadily step by step the mass marched on, first to the position from which the barbarians and those with them had been driven two days back, and where the enemy were now drawn up to meet them. Thus it came to pass that the barbarians first grappled with the peltasts and maintained the battle until the heavy infantry were close, when they turned and fled. The peltasts followed without delay, and pursued them right up to their city, while the heavy troops in unbroken order followed. As soon as they were up at the houses of the capital, there and then the enemy, collecting all together in one strong body, fought valiantly, and hurled their javelins, or else clenched their long stout spears, almost too heavy for a man to wield, and did their best to ward off the attack at close quarters.

But when the Hellenes, instead of giving way, kept massing together more thickly, the barbarians fled from this place also, and in a body deserted the fortress. Their king, who sat in his wooden tower or mossyn, built on the citadel (there he sits and there they maintain him, all at the common cost, and guard him narrowly), refused to come forth, as did also those in the fortress first taken, and so were burnt to a cinder where they were, their mossyns, themselves, and all. The Hellenes, pillaging and ransacking these places, discovered in the different houses treasures and magazines of loaves, pile upon pile, "the ancestral stores," as the Mossynoecians told them; but the new corn was laid up apart with the straw-stalk and ear together, and this was for the most part spelt. Slices of dolphin were another discovery, in narrow-necked jars, all properly salted and pickled; and there was blubber of dolphin in vessels, which the Mossynoecians used precisely as the Hellenes use oil. Then there were large stores of nuts on the upper floor, the broad kind without a division.[3] This was also a chief article of food with them--boiled nuts and baked loaves. Wine was also discovered. This, from its rough, dry quality, tasted sharp when drunk pure, but mixed with water was sweet and fragrant.

The Hellenes breakfasted and then started forward on their march, having first delivered the stronghold to their allies among the Mossynoecians. As for the other strongholds belonging to tribes allied with their foes, which they passed en route, the most accessible were either deserted by their inhabitants or gave in their adhesion voluntarily. The following description will apply to the majority of them: the cities were on an average ten miles apart, some more, some less; but so elevated is the country and intersected by such deep clefts that if they chose to shout across to one another, their cries would be heard from one city to another. When, in the course of their march, they came upon a friendly population, these would entertain them with exhibitions of fatted children belonging to the wealthy classes, fed up on boiled chestnuts until they were as white as white can be, of skin plump and delicate, and very nearly as broad as they were long, with their backs variegated and their breasts tattooed with patterns of all sorts of flowers. They sought after the women in the Hellenic army, and would fain have laid with them openly in broad daylight, for that was their custom. The whole community, male and female alike, were fair-complexioned and white-skinned.

It was agreed that this was the most barbaric and outlandish people that they had passed through on the whole expedition, and the furthest removed from the Hellenic customs, doing in a crowd precisely what other people would prefer to do in solitude, and when alone behaving exactly as others would behave in company, talking to themselves and laughing at their own expense, standing still and then again capering about, wherever they might chance to be, without rhyme or reason, as if their sole business were to show off to the rest of the world.

  1. I.e. dwellers in mossyns, or wooden towers. See Herod. iii. 94; vii. 78. Cf. also Strabo, xi. 41.
  2. Or, "consul."
  3. I.e. "chestnuts."