Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 4/Chapter 6

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Hellenica (Xenophon) by Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns
Book 4, Chapter 6

B.C. 390-389.[1] 1At a later date the Achaeans, being in possession of Calydon, a town from old times belonging to Aetolia, and having further incorporated the Calydonians as citizens,[2] were under the necessity of garrisoning their new possession. The reason was, that the Arcarnanians were threatening the place with an army, and were aided by contingents from Athens and Boeotia, who were anxious to help their allies.[3] Under the strain of this combined attack the Achaeans despatched ambassadors to Lacedaemon, who on arrival complained of the unfair conduct of Lacedaemon towards themselves. 2"We, sirs," they said, "are ever ready to serve in your armies, in obedience to whatever orders you choose to issue; we follow you whithersoever you think fit to lead; but when it comes to our being beleaguered by the Acarnanians, with their allies the Athenians and Boeotians, you show not the slightest concern. Understand, then, that if things go on thus we cannot hold out; but either we must give up all part in the war in Peloponnesus and cross over in full force to engage the Arcarnanians, or we must make peace with them on whatever terms we can." 3This language was a tacit threat that if they failed to obtain the assistance they felt entitled to from Lacedaemon they would quit the alliance.

The ephors and the assembly concluded that there was no alternative but to assist the Achaeans in their campaign against the Acarnanians. Accordingly they sent out Agesilaus with two divisions and the proper complement of allies. The Achaeans none the less marched out in full force themselves. 4No sooner had Agesilaus crossed the gulf than there was a general flight of the population from the country districts into the towns, whilst the flocks and herds were driven into remote districts that they might not be captured by the troops. Being now arrived on the frontier of the enemy's territory, Agesilaus sent to the general assembly of the Acarnanians at Stratus,[4] warning them that unless they chose to give up their alliance with the Boeotians and Athenians, and to take instead themselves and their allies, he would ravage their territory through its length and breadth, and not spare a single thing. 5When they turned a deaf ear to this summons, the other proceeded to do what he threatened, systematically laying the district waste, felling the timber and cutting down the fruit-trees, while slowly moving on at the rate of ten or twelve furlongs a day. The Acarnanians, owing to the snail-like progress of the enemy, were lulled into a sense of security. They even began bringing down their cattle from their alps, and devoted themselves to the tillage of far the greater portion of their fields. 6But Agesilaus only waited till their rash confidence reached its climax; then on the fifteenth or sixteenth day after he head first entered the country he sacrificed at early dawn, and before evening had traversed eighteen miles[5] or so of country to the lake[6] round which were collected nearly all the flocks and herds of the Acarnanians, and so captured a vast quantity of cattle, horses, and grazing stock of all kinds, besides numerous slaves.

Having secured this prize, he stayed on the spot the whole of the following day, and devoted himself to disposing of the captured property by public sale. 7While he was thus engaged, a large body of Arcarnanian light infantry appeared, and availing themselves of the position in which Agesilaus was encamped against the mountain side, assailed him with volleys of sling-stones and rocks from the razor-edge of the mountain, without suffering any scathe themselves. By this means they succeeded in dislodging and forcing his troops down into the level plain, and that too at an hour when the whole camp was engaged in preparations for the evening meal. As night drew on, the Acarnanians retired; sentinels were posted, and the troops slept in peace.

8Next day Agesilaus led off his army. The exit from the plain and meadow-land round the lake was a narrow aperture through a close encircling range of hills. In occupation of this mountain barrier the Acarnanians, from the vantage-ground above, poured down a continuous pelt of stones and other missiles, or, creeping down to the fringes, dogged and annoyed them so much that the army was no longer able to proceed. 9If the heavy infantry or cavalry made sallies from the main line they did no harm to their assailants, for the Acarnanians had only to retire and they had quickly gained their strongholds. It was too severe a task, Agesilaus thought, to force his way through the narrow pass so sorely beset. He made up his mind, therefore, to charge that portion of the enemy who dogged his left, though these were pretty numerous. The range of hills on this side was more accessible to heavy infantry and horse alike. 10During the interval needed for the inspection of victims, the Acarnanians kept plying them with javelins and bullets, and, coming into close proximity, wounded man after man. But presently came the word of command, "Advance!" and the fifteen- years-service men of the heavy infantry[7] ran forward, accompanied by the cavalry, at a round pace, the general himself steadily following with the rest of the column. 11Those of the Acarnanians who had crept down the mountain side at that instant in the midst of their sharpshooting turned and fled, and as they climbed the steep, man after man was slain. When, however, the top of the pass was reached, there stood the hoplites of the Acarnanians drawn up in battle line, and supported by the mass of their light infantry. There they steadily waited, keeping up a continuous discharge of missiles the while, or launching their long spears; whereby they dealt wounds to the cavalry troopers and death in some cases to the horses. But when they were all but within the clutches of the advancing heavy infantry[8] of the Lacedaemonians their firmness forsook them; they swerved and fled, and there died of them on that day about three hundred. So ended the affair.

12Agesilaus set up a trophy of victory, and afterwards making a tour of the country, he visited it with fire and sword.[9] Occasionally, in obedience to pressure put upon him by the Achaeans, he would assault some city, but did not capture a single one. And now, as the season of autumn rapidly approached, he prepared to leave the country; 13whereupon the Achaeans, who looked upon his exploits as abortive, seeing that not a single city, willingly or unwillingly, had as yet been detached from their opponents, begged him, as the smallest service he could render them, at any rate to stay long enough in the country to prevent the Acarnanians from sowing their corn. He answered that the course they suggested ran counter to expediency. "You forget," he said, "that I mean to invade your enemies again next summer; and therefore the larger their sowing now, the stronger will be their appetite for peace hereafter." 14With this retort he withdrew overland through Aetolia, and by roads, moreover, which no army, small or great, could possibly have traversed without the consent of the inhabitants. The Aetolians, however, were only too glad to yield the Spartan king a free passage, cherishing hopes as they did that he would aid them to recover Naupactus. On reaching Rhium[10] he crossed the gulf at that point and returned homewards, the more direct passage from Calydon to Peloponnesus being effectually barred by an Athenian squadron stationed at Oeniadae.

  1. According to others (who suppose that the Isthmia and the events recorded in chapter v. 1-19 above belong to B.C. 392), we have now reached B.C. 391.
  2. Or, "having conferred a city organisation on the Calydonians."
  3. See Thuc. ii. 68.
  4. "The Akarnanians had, in early times, occupied the hill of Olpai as a place for judicial proceedings common to the whole nation" (see Thuc. iii. 105). "But in Thucydides' own time Stratos had attained its position as the greatest city of Akarnania, and probably the Federal Assemblies were already held there" (Thuc. ii. 80). "In the days of Agesilaos we find Stratos still more distinctly marked as the place of Federal meeting."--Freeman, "Hist. Fed. Gov." ch. iv. p. 148 foll., "On the constitution of the League."
  5. Lit. "one hundred and sixty stades."
  6. See Thuc. ii. 80; vi. 106.
  7. I.e. "the first two ranks." See above, IV. v. 14.
  8. See "Ages." ii. 20, for an extraordinary discrepancy.
  9. Or lit. "burning and felling."
  10. Or Antirrhium (as more commonly called).