Anabasis/Book 7/Chapter 1

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Anabasis by Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns
Book 7, Chapter 1

[In the earlier portion of the narrative will be found a detailed history of the fortunes of the Hellenes during their march up country with Cyrus down to the date of the battle; and, subsequently to his death, until they reached the Euxine; as also of all their doings in their efforts to escape from the Euxine, partly by land marches and partly under sail by sea, until they found themselves outside the mouth of the Black Sea (south of the Bosphorus) at Chrysopolis in Asia.]

At this point Pharnabazus, who was afraid that the army might undertake a campaign against his satrapy, sent to Anaxibius, the Spartan high admiral, who chanced to be in Byzantium, and begged him to convey the army out of Asia, undertaking to comply with his wishes in every respect. Anaxibius accordingly sent to summon the generals and officers to Byzantium, and promised that the soldiers should not lack pay for service, if they crossed the strait. The officers said that they would deliberate and return an answer. Xenophon individually informed them that he was about to quit the army at once, and was only anxious to set sail. Anaxibius pressed him not to be in so great a hurry: "Cross over with the rest," he said, "and then it will be time enough to think about quitting the army." This the other undertook to do.

Now Seuthes the Thracian sent Medosades and begged Xenophon to use his influence to get the army across. "Tell Xenophon, if he will do his best for me in this matter, he will not regret it." Xenophon answered: "The army is in any case going to cross; so that, as far as that is concerned, Seuthes is under no obligation to me or to any one else; but as soon as it is once across, I personally shall be quit of it. Let Seuthes, therefore, as far as he may deem consistent with prudence, apply to those who are going to remain and will have a voice in affairs."

After this the whole body of troops crossed to Byzantium. But Anaxibius, instead of proceeding to give pay, made proclamation that, "The soldiers were to take up their arms and baggage and go forth," as if all he wished were to ascertain their numbers and bid them god-speed at the same moment. The soldiers were not well pleased at that, because they had no money to furnish themselves with provisions for the march; and they sluggishly set about getting their baggage together. Xenophon meanwhile, being on terms of intimacy with the governor, Cleander, came to pay his host a final visit, and bid him adieu, being on the point of setting sail. But the other protested; "Do not do so, or else," said he, "you will be blamed, for even now certain people are disposed to hold you to account because the army is so slow in getting under weigh." The other answered, "Nay, I am not to blame for that. It is the men themselves, who are in want of provisions; that is why they are out of heart at their exodus." "All the same," he replied, "I advise you to go out, as if you intended to march with them, and when you are well outside, it will be time enough to take yourself off." "Well then," said Xenophon, "we will go and arrange all this with Anaxibius." They went and stated the case to the admiral, who insisted that they must do as he had said, and march out, bag and baggage, by the quickest road; and as an appendix to the former edict, he added, "Any one absenting himself from the review and the muster will have himself to blame for the consequences." This was peremptory. So out marched, the generals first, and then the rest; and now, with the exception of here a man and there, they were all outside; it was a "clean sweep"; and Eteonicus stood posted near the gates, ready to close them, as soon as the men were fairly out, and to thrust in the bolt pin.

Then Anaxibius summoned the generals and captains, and addressed them: "Provisions you had better get from the Thracian villages; you will find plenty of barley, wheat, and other necessaries in them; and when you have got them, off with you to the Chersonese, where Cyniscus will take you into his service." Some of the soldiers overheard what was said, or possibly one of the officers was the medium of communication; however it was, the news was handed on to the army. As to the generals, their immediate concern was to try and gain some information as to Seuthes: "Was he hostile or friendly? also, would they have to march through the Sacred mountain,[1] or round about through the middle of Thrace?"

While they were discussing these points, the soldiers snatched up their arms and made a rush full speed at the gates, with the intention of getting inside the fortification again. But Eteonicus and his men, seeing the heavy infantry coming up at a run promptly closed the gates and thrust in the bolt pin. Then the soldiers fell to battering the gates, exclaiming that it was iniquitous to thrust them forth in this fashion into the jaws of their enemies. "If you do not of your own accord open the gates," they cried, "we will split them in half"; and another set rushed down to the sea, and so along the break-water and over the wall into the city; while a third set, consisting of those few who were still inside, having never left the city, seeing the affair at the gates, severed the bars with axes and flung the portals wide open; and the rest came pouring in.

Xenophon, seeing what was happening, was seized with alarm lest the army betake itself to pillage, and ills incurable be wrought to the city, to himself, and to the soldiers. Then he set off, and, plunging into the throng, was swept through the gates with the crowd. The Byzantines no sooner saw the soldiers forcibly rushing in than they left the open square, and fled, some to the shipping, others to their homes, while those already indoors came racing out, and some fell to dragging down their ships of war, hoping possibly to be safe on board these; while there was not a soul who doubted but that the city was taken, and that they were all undone. Eteonicus made a swift retreat to the citadel. Anaxibius ran down to the sea, and, getting on board a fisherman's smack, sailed round to the acropolis, and at once sent off to fetch over the garrison troops from Chalcedon, since those already in the acropolis seemed hardly sufficient to keep the men in check.

The soldiers, catching sight of Xenophon, threw themselves upon him, crying: "Now, Xenophon, is the time to prove yourself a man. You have got a city, you have got triremes, you have got money, you have got men; to-day, if you only chose, you can do us a good turn, and we will make you a great man." He replied: "Nay, I like what you say, and I will do it all; but if that is what you have set your hearts on, fall into rank and take up position at once." This he said, wishing to quiet them, and so passed the order along the lines himself, while bidding the rest to do the same: "Take up position; stand easy." But the men themselves, by a species of self-marshalling, fell into rank, and were soon formed, the heavy infantry eight deep, while the light infantry had run up to cover either wing. The Thracian Square, as it is called, is a fine site for manouvering, being bare of buildings and level. As soon as the arms were stacked and the men's tempers cooled, Xenophon called a general meeting of the soldiers, and made the following speech:--

"Soldiers, I am not surprised at your wrath, or that you deem it monstrous treatment so to be cheated; but consider what will be the consequences if we gratify our indignation, and in return for such deception, avenge ourselves on the Lacedaemonians here present, and plunder an innocent city. We shall be declared enemies of the Lacedaemonians and their allies; and what sort of war that will be, we need not go far to conjecture. I take it, you have not forgotten some quite recent occurrences. We Athenians entered into war against the Lacedaemonians and their allies with a fleet consisting of not less than three hundred line-of-battle ships, including those in dock as well as those afloat. We had vast treasures stored up in the city, and a yearly income which, derived from home or foreign sources, amounted to no less than a thousand talents. Our empire included all the islands, and we were possessed of numerous cities both in Asia and in Europe. Amongst others, this very Byzantium, where we are now, was ours; and yet in the end we were vanquished, as you all very well know.

"What, must we anticipate, will now be our fate? The Lacedaemonians have not only their old allies, but the Athenians and those who were at that time allies of Athens are added to them. Tissaphernes and all the rest of the Asiatics on the seaboard are our foes, not to speak of our arch-enemy, the king himself, up yonder, whom we came to deprive of his empire, and to kill, if possible. I ask then, with all these banded together against us, is there any one so insensate as to imagine that we can survive the contest? For heaven's sake, let us not go mad or loosely throw away our lives in war with our own native cities--nay, our own friends, our kith and our kin; for in one or other of the cities they are all included. Every city will march against us, and not unjustly, if, after refusing to hold one single barbarian city by right of conquest, we seize the first Hellenic city that we come to and make it a ruinous heap. For my part, my prayer is that before I see such things wrought by you, I, at any rate, may lie ten thousand fathoms under ground! My counsel to you, as Hellenes, is to try and obtain your just rights, through obedience to those who stand at the head of Hellas; and if so be that you fail in those demands, why, being more sinned against than sinning, need we rob ourselves of Hellas too? At present, I propose that we should send to Anaxibius and tell him that we have made an entrance into the city, not meditating violence, but merely to discover if he and his will show us any good; for if so, it is well; but of otherwise, at least we will let him see that he does not shut the door upon us as dupes and fools. We know the meaning of discipline; we turn our backs and go."

This resolution was passed, and they sent Hieronymus an Eleian, with two others, Eurylochus an Arcadian and Philesius an Achaean, to deliver the message. So these set off on their errand. But while the soldiers were still seated in conclave, Coeratadas, of Thebes, arrived. He was a Theban not in exile, but with a taste for generalship, who made it his business to see if any city or nation were in need of his services. Thus, on the present occasion, he presented himself, and begged to state that he was ready to put himself at their head, and lead them into the Delta of Thrace,[2] as it is called, where they would find themselves in a land of plenty; but until they got there, he would provide them with meat and drink enough and to spare. While they were still listening to this tale, the return message from Anaxibius came. His answer was: "The discipline, they had spoken of, was not a thing they would regret; indeed he would report their behaviour to the authorities at home; and for himself, he would take advice and do the best he could for them."

Thereupon the soldiers accepted Coeratadas as their general, and retired without the walls. Their new general undertook to present himself to the troops next day with sacrificial beasts and a soothsayer, with eatables also and drinkables for the army. Now, as soon as they were gone out, Anaxibius closed the gates and issued a proclamation to the effect that "any of the soldiers caught inside should be knocked down to the hammer and sold at once." Next day, Coeratadas arrived with the victims and the soothsayer. A string of twenty bearers bearing barleymeal followed at his heels, succeeded by other twenty carrying wine, and three laden with a supply of olives, and two others carrying, the one about as much garlic as a single man could lift, and the other a similar load of onions. These various supplies he set down, apparently for distribution, and began to sacrifice.

Now Xenophon sent to Cleander, begging him to arrange matters so that he might be allowed to enter the walls, with a view to starting from Byzantium on his homeward voyage. Cleander came, and this is what he said: "I have come; but I was barely able to arrange what you want. Anaxibius insisted: 'It was not convenient that Xenophon should be inside while the soldiers are close to the walls without; the Byzantines at sixes and sevens moreover; and no love lost between the one party of them and the other.' Still, he ended by bidding you to come inside, if you were really minded to leave the town by sea with himself." Accordingly Xenophon bade the soldiers good-bye, and returned with Cleander within the walls.

To return to Coeratadas. The first day he failed to get favourable signs at the sacrifice, and never a dole of rations did he make to the soldiers. On the second day the victims were standing ready near the altar, and so was Coeratadas, with chaplet crowned, all ready to sacrifice, when up comes Timasion the Dardanian, with Neon the Asinaean, and Cleanor of Orchomenus, forbidding Coeratadas to sacrifice: "He must understand there was an end to his generalship, unless he gave them provisions." The other bade them measure out the supplies, "Pray, dole them out." But when he found that he had a good deal short of a single day's provisions for each man, he picked up his paraphernalia of sacrifice and withdrew. As to being general, he would have nothing more to say to it.

  1. So the mountain-range is named which runs parallel to the Propontis (Sea of Marmora) from lat. 41 degrees N. circa to lat. 40 degrees 30'; from Bisanthe (Rhodosto) to the neck of the Chersonese (Gallipoli).
  2. The exact locality, so called, is not known; doubtless it lay somewhere between Byzantium and Salmydessus, possibly at Declus (mod. Derkos); or possibly the narrow portion of Thrace between the Euxine, Bosphorus, and Propontis went by this name. See note in Pretor ad. loc., and "Dict. Geog." "Thracia."