Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 4/Chapter 2

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Hellenica (Xenophon) by Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns
Book 4, Chapter 2

1Such were the concerns and projects of Agesilaus. Meanwhile the Lacedaemonians at home were quite alive to the fact that moneys had been sent into Hellas, and that the bigger states were leagued together to declare war against them. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that Sparta herself was in actual danger, and that a campaign was inevitable. 2While busy, therefore, with preparations themselves, they lost no time in despatching Epicydidas to fetch Agesilaus. That officer, on his arrival, explained the position of affairs, and concluded by delivering a peremptory summons of the state recalling him to the assistance of the fatherland without delay. 3The announcement could not but come as a grievous blow to Agesilaus, as he reflected on the vanished hopes, and the honours plucked from his grasp. Still, he summoned the allies and announced to them the contents of the despatch from home. "To aid our fatherland," he added, "is an imperative duty. If, however, matters turn out well on the other side, rely upon it, friends and allies, I will not forget you, but I shall be back anon to carry out your wishes." 4When they heard the announcement many wept, and they passed a resolution, one and all, to assist Agesilaus in assisting Lacedaemon; if matters turned out well there, they undertook to take him as their leader and come back again to Asia; and so they fell to making preparations to follow him.

5Agesilaus, on his side, determined to leave behind him in Asia Euxenus as governor, and with him a garrison numbering no less than four thousand troops, which would enable him to protect the states in Asia. But for himself, as on the one hand he could see that the majority of the soldiers would far rather stay behind than undertake service against fellow-Hellenes, and on the other hand he wished to take as fine and large an army with him as he could, he offered prizes first to that state or city which should continue the best corps of troops, and secondly to that captain of mercenaries who should join the expedition with the best equipped battalion of heavy infantry, archers, and light infantry. On the same principle he informed the chief cavalry officers that the general who succeeded in presenting the best accoutred and best mounted regiment would receive from himself some victorious distinction. 6"The final adjudication," he said, "would not be made until they had crossed from Asia into Europe and had reached the Chersonese; and this with a view to impress upon them that the prizes were not for show but for real campaigners."[1] 7These consisted for the most part of infantry or cavalry arms and accoutrements tastefully furnished, besides which there were chaplets of gold. The whole, useful and ornamental alike, must have cost nearly a thousand pounds,[2] but as the result of this outlay, no doubt, arms of great value were procured for the expedition.[3] 8When the Hellespont was crossed the judges were appointed. The Lacedaemonians were represented by Menascus, Herippidas, and Orsippus, and the allies by one member from each state. As soon as the adjudication was complete, the army commenced its march with Agesilaus at its head, following the very route taken by the great king when he invaded Hellas.

9Meanwhile the ephors had called out the ban, and as Agesipolis was still a boy, the state called upon Aristodemus, who was of the royal family and guardian of the young king, to lead the expedition; 10and now that the Lacedaemonians were ready to take the field and the forces of their opponents were duly mustered, the latter met[4] to consider the most advantageous method of doing battle.

11Timolaus of Corinth spoke: "Soldiers of the allied forces," he said, "the growth of Lacedaemon seems to me just like that of some mighty river--at its sources small and easily crossed, but as it farther and farther advances, other rivers discharge themelves into its channel, and its stream grows ever more formidable. 12So is it with the Lacedaemonians. Take them at the starting-point and they are but a single community, but as they advance and attach city after city they grow more numerous and more resistless. I observe that when people wish to take wasps' nests--if they try to capture the creatures on the wing, they are liable to be attacked by half the hive; whereas, if they apply fire to them ere they leave their homes, they will master them without scathe themselves. On this principle I think it best to bring about the battle within the hive itself, or, short of that, as close to Lacedaemon as possible."[5]

13The arguments of the speaker were deemed sound, and a resolution was passed in that sense; but before it could be carried out there were various arrangements to be made. There was the question of headship. Then, again, what was the proper depth of line to be given to the different army corps? for if any particular state or states gave too great a depth to their battle line they would enable the enemy to turn their flank. Whilst they were debating these points, the Lacedaemonians had incorporated the men of Tegea and the men of Mantinea, and were ready to debouch into the bimarine region.[6] 14And as the two armies advanced almost at the same time, the Corinthians and the rest reached the Nemea,[7] and the Lacedaemonians and their allies occupied Sicyon. The Lacedaemonians entered by Epieiceia, and at first were severely handled by the light-armed troops of the enemy, who discharged stones and arrows from the vantage-ground on their right; 15but as they dropped down upon the Gulf of Corinth they advanced steadily onwards through the flat country, felling timber and burning the fair land. Their rivals, on their side, after a certain forward movement,[8] paused and encamped, placing the ravine in front of them; but still the Lacedaemonians advanced, and it was only when they were within ten furlongs[9] of the hostile position that they followed suit and encamped, and then they remained quiet.

16And here I may state the numbers on either side. The Lacedaemonian heavy-armed infantry levies amounted to six thousand men. Of Eleians, Triphylians, Acroreians, and Lasionians, there must have been nearly three thousand, with fifteen hundred Sicyonians, while Epidaurus, Troezen, Hermione, and Halieis[10] contributed at least another three thousand. To these heavy infantry troops must be added six hundred Lacedaemonian cavalry, a body of Cretan archers about three hundred strong, besides another force of slingers, at least four hundred in all, consisting of Marganians, Letrinians, and Amphidolians. The men of Phlius were not represented. Their plea was they were keeping "holy truce." That was the total of the forces on the Lacedaemonian side. 17There was collected on the enemy's side six thousand Athenian heavy infantry, with about, as was stated, seven thousand Argives, and in the absence of the men of Orchomenus something like five thousand Boeotians. There were besides three thousand Corinthians, and again from the whole of Euboea at least three thousand. These formed the heavy infantry. Of cavalry the Boeotians, again in the absence of the Orchomenians, furnished eight hundred, the Athenians[11] six hundred, the Chalcidians of Euboea one hundred, the Opuntian Locrians[12] fifty. Their light troops, including those of the Corinthians, were more numerous, as the Ozolian Locrians, the Melians, and Arcarnanians[13] helped to swell their numbers.

18Such was the strength of the two armies. The Boeotians, as long as they occupied the left wing, showed no anxiety to join battle, but after a rearrangement which gave them the right, placing the Athenians opposite the Lacedaemonians, and themselves opposite the Achaeans, at once, we are told,[14] the victims proved favourable, and the order was passed along the lines to prepare for immediate action. The Boeotians, in the first place, abandoning the rule of sixteen deep, chose to give their division the fullest possible depth, and, moreover, kept veering more and more to their right, with the intention of overlapping their opponent's flank. The consequence was that the Athenians, to avoid being absolutely severed, were forced to follow suit, and edged towards the right, though they recognised the risk they ran of having their flank turned. 19For a while the Lacedaemonians had no idea of the advance of the enemy, owing to the rough nature of the ground,[15] but the notes of the paean at length announced to them the fact, and without an instant's delay the answering order "prepare for battle" ran along the different sections of their army. As soon as their troops were drawn up, according to the tactical disposition of the various generals of foreign brigades, the order was passed to "follow the lead," and then the Lacedaemonians on their side also began edging to their right, and eventually stretched out their wing so far that only six out of the ten regimental divisions of the Athenians confronted the Lacedaemonians, the other four finding themselves face to face with the men of Tegea. 20And now when they were less than a furlong[16] apart, the Lacedaemonians sacrificed in customary fashion a kid to the huntress goddess,[17] and advanced upon their opponents, wheeling round their overlapping columns to outflank his left. As the two armies closed, the allies of Lacedaemon were as a rule fairly borne down by their opponents. The men of Pellene alone, steadily confronting the Thespiaeans, held their ground, and the dead of either side strewed the position.[18] 21As to the Lacedaemonians themselves: crushing that portion of the Athenian troops which lay immediately in front of them, and at the same time encircling them with their overlapping right, they slew man after man of them; and, absolutely unscathed themselves, their unbroken columns continued their march, and so passed behind the four remaining divisions[19] of the Athenians before these latter had returned from their own victorious pursuit. Whereby the four divisions in question also emerged from battle intact, except for the casualties inflicted by the Tegeans in the first clash of the engagement. 22The troops next encountered by the Lacedaemonians were the Argives retiring. These they fell foul of, and the senior polemarch was just on the point of closing with them "breast to breast" when some one, it is said, shouted, "Let their front ranks pass." This was done, and as the Argives raced past, their enemies thrust at their unprotected[20] sides and killed many of them. The Corinthians were caught in the same way as they retired, and when their turn had passed, once more the Lacedaemonians lit upon a portion of the Theban division retiring from the pursuit, and strewed the field with their dead. 23The end of it all was that the defeated troops in the first instance made for safety to the walls of their city, but the Corinthians within closed the gates, whereupon the troops took up quarters once again in their old encampment. The Lacedaemonians on their side withdrew to the point at which they first closed with the enemy, and there set up a trophy of victory. So the battle ended.

  1. Or, "that the perfection of equipment was regarded as anticipative of actual service in the field." Cobet suggests for {eukrinein} {dieukrinein}; cf. "Oecon." viii. 6.
  2. Lit. "at least four talents" = 975 pounds.
  3. Or, "beyond which, the arms and material to equip the expedition were no doubt highly costly."
  4. At Corinth. See above, III. iv. 11; below, V. iv. 61, where the victory of Nixos is described but not localised.
  5. Or, "if not actually at Lacedaemon, then at least as near as possible to the hornet's nest."
  6. I.e. "the shores of the Corinthian Gulf." Or, "upon the strand or coast road or coast land of Achaia" [aliter {ten aigialon}(?) the Strand of the Corinthian Gulf, the old name of this part of Achaia].
  7. Or, "the district of Nemea."
  8. {epelthontes}, but see Grote ("H. G." ix. 425 note), who prefers {apelthontes} = retreated and encamped.
  9. Lit. "ten stades." For the numbers below, see Grote, "H. G." ix. 422, note 1.
  10. Halieis, a seafaring people (Strabo, viii. 373) and town on the coast of Hermionis; Herod. vii. 137; Thuc. i. 105, ii. 56, iv. 45; Diod. xi. 78; "Hell." VI. ii. 3.
  11. For a treaty between Athens and Eretria, B.C. 395, see Hicks, 66; and below, "Hell." IV. iii. 15; Hicks, 68, 69; Diod. xiv. 82.
  12. See above, "Hell." III. v. 3.
  13. See below, "Hell." IV. vi. 1; ib. vii. 1; VI. v. 23.
  14. Or, "then they lost no time in discovering that the victims proved favourable."
  15. See Grote, "H. G." ix. 428; cf. Lys. "pro Mant." 20.
  16. Lit. "a stade."
  17. Lit. "our Lady of the Chase." See "Pol. Lac." xiii. 8.
  18. Lit. "men on either side kept dropping at their post."
  19. Lit. "tribes."
  20. I.e. "right."