TWO GREAT RETREATS OF HISTORY.
I. THE RETREAT OF THE TEN THOUSAND.
II. NAPOLEON'S RETREAT FROM MOSCOW.
WITH INTRODUCTIONS AND NOTES
D. H. M.
BOSTON, U.S.A.: PUBLISHED BY GINN & COMPANY. 1889.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1889, by
GINN & COMPANY,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
TYPOGRAPHY BY J. S. CUSHING & CO., BOSTON, U.S.A.
The two following selections contain, first, Grote's account of the Retreat of the Ten Thousand Greeks, taken from his "History of Greece," and, secondly, an abridgment of Count Segur's narrative of Napoleon's retreat from Russia.
Grote's History, based on Xenophon's, is given entire, with the exception that, in a very few instances, some slight verbal change has been made in order to better adapt the work to school use.
Two maps are furnished, an introduction is prefixed to each selection, and all needed notes subjoined.
D. H. M.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. Retreat of the Ten Thousand. PAGE Sketch of Cyrus the Younger (Introductory to the Retreat of the Ten Thousand) v
Sec. 1. Effect of the death of Cyrus on the Greeks; they resolve to retreat 1
Sec. 2. Commencement of the retreat 6
Sec. 3. Negotiations with Tissaphernes 10
Sec. 4. Treachery of Tissaphernes 19
Sec. 5. Xenophon's dream and its results 29
Sec. 6. The Greeks cross the Zab 42
Sec. 7. The Greeks fight their way across the Karduchian Mountains 50
Sec. 8. March through Armenia; great suffering from cold and hunger 60
Sec. 9. The Greeks come in sight of the Black Sea 70
Sec. 10. The Greek cities on the Black Sea; their feelings toward the Ten Thousand 75
Sec. 11. Plans of the army for the future 79
Sec. 12. The Ten Thousand begin their march westward 82
Sec. 13. Plan of Xenophon for founding a city on the Black Sea 88
Sec. 14. Xenophon defends himself against false accusations 95
Sec. 15. The army passes by sea to Sinope 104
Sec. 16. The army crosses the Bosphorus to Byzantium; false promises of Anaxibius and their results 116
Sec. 17. Mutiny of the army in leaving Byzantium 120
Sec. 18. Xenophon's speech to the soldiers 123
Sec. 19. The army finally leaves Byzantium; Seuthes offers to hire them 128
Sec. 20. The army enters the service of Seuthes 135
Sec. 21. Xenophon crosses over with the army to Asia 138
Sec. 22. Xenophon takes leave of the army. Conclusion 143
II. Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow.
Sketch of Napoleon (Introductory to the Retreat from Moscow) 152
Sec. 1. Description of Moscow; arrival of the Czar 157
Sec. 2. Alarm in Moscow at the advance of the French army; preparations for the destruction of the city 162
Sec. 3. Departure of the Russian governor from Moscow 168
Sec. 4. Napoleon's first view of Moscow; the French enter the city 175
Sec. 5. Napoleon takes up his quarters in the Kremlin; the city discovered to be on fire 182
Sec. 6. The fire compels Napoleon to leave the city 190
Sec. 7. Napoleon returns to the Kremlin; plunder of the city 195
Sec. 8. Rostopchin sets fire to his country-seat; anxiety of Napoleon at not hearing from the Czar 201
Sec. 9. Napoleon determines to leave Moscow 215
Sec. 10. Departure from Moscow; the first battle 224
Sec. 11. Napoleon holds a council of war, and decides to retreat northward 233
Sec. 12. Napoleon's attempt to destroy the Kremlin; view of the battle-field of Borodino 238
Sec. 13. Napoleon reaches Viazma; battle near that place 243
Sec. 14. Dreadful snow-storm on the 6th of November; its effect upon the troops 247
Sec. 15. Defeat and entire dissolution of Prince Eugene's corps at the passage of the Wop 253
Sec. 16. The Grand Army reaches Smolensk 257
Sec. 17. Napoleon leaves Smolensk; battle of Krasnoe 263
Sec. 18. Napoleon reaches Dombrowna and Orcha; he holds a council 267
Sec. 19. Arrival of Marshal Ney 272
Sec. 20. Capture of Minsk by the Russians 277
Sec. 21. March through the forest of Minsk; passage of the Berezina 280
Sec. 22. Napoleon abandons the Grand Army, and sets out for Paris 291
Sec. 23. Sufferings of the Grand Army after Napoleon's departure; arrival at Wilna 298
Sec. 24. Conclusion 308
Index to notes and list of proper names with their pronunciation 316
1. The advance and the retreat of the Ten Thousand, facing 1
2. The advance and the retreat of Napoleon in his Russian campaign, facing 1
SKETCH OF CYRUS THE YOUNGER.
(INTRODUCTORY TO THE RETREAT OF THE TEN THOUSAND GREEKS.)
In the year 423 B.C. Darius Nothus ascended the throne of Persia. That country was then the greatest empire in the world, and had an area nearly equal to that of the United States. The capital of this seemingly powerful realm was the ancient city of Babylon on the lower Euphrates. Here the Great King, as he was styled, had his principal palace, from which he issued orders to his twenty or more satraps or governors whose provinces extended in name at least from the shores of the Mediterranean to the banks of the Indus, and from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea.
Darius had married his half-sister Parysatis, a high-spirited but unscrupulous woman, by whom he had two sons, destined to be known in history. The eldest was Artaxerxes, a youth of but little character; and the second, Cyrus, who inherited the decided qualities of his mother. In order to distinguish him from Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, who died more than a hundred years earlier, he is commonly called Cyrus the Younger.
He was his mother's favorite, and as he was born after Darius assumed the crown, while Artaxerxes was born before that date, Parysatis seems to have encouraged Cyrus to consider himself the true heir to the throne, since he was in fact the king's eldest son. Through her influence he was appointed satrap of Lydia and the adjacent provinces of western Asia Minor when he was but sixteen. This position, since it made him the military ruler of that populous and wealthy section of country, was one of great importance, and doubtless had no small influence in shaping the young man's future career.
In 404 Cyrus was summoned from Sardis, the capital of Lydia, to Babylon, and shortly after, his father died, leaving his crown to Artaxerxes, who, from his remarkable memory which appears to have been his chief characteristic, got the title of Artaxerxes Mnemon. But Cyrus certainly was not deficient in this mental quality, for he seems to have remembered his mother's suggestions about his being the rightful heir to the throne so well, that at the coronation of Artaxerxes he plotted his assassination; or at least, Tissaphernes, a neighboring satrap, accused him of it. Cyrus, who appears to have had no adequate defence to make, was forthwith arrested and would probably have been summarily put to death—for in Persia the law's delays were unknown—had not Parysatis interfered. Realizing her son's imminent peril, she rushed forward and, clasping him in her arms, wound her long flowing hair about him, and pressed his neck to hers in such a way that the executioner must have beheaded her with the same stroke with which he decapitated Cyrus.
The prayers and entreaties of Parysatis saved the young man's life, and he was even permitted to return to Sardis and resume his power. He went; but with no intention of remaining in that subordinate position. Not only was he resolved to be revenged on Tissaphernes, but he was equally determined to overthrow the mild Artaxerxes and convince him of the mistake of yielding to a woman's tears.
Cyrus had learned from his residence on the Mediterranean coast, how far superior Greek soldiers were to the troops of Persia. The former would not only fight from patriotic motives, but what was more, they would readily fight outside of Greece, if they were paid well for it; the latter would only fight when they were flogged to it, and officers had to carry whips to drive them into battle by the sting of the lash.
Under the pretext that he was about to engage in a local and private war with his enemy Tissaphernes, Cyrus managed to gradually collect an army of about ten thousand Greeks whom Klearchus, an ex-governor of Byzantium, hired for him. These ten thousand were the real core of the expedition, though in addition a hundred thousand Asiatics were to form the bulk of it. With this force the young satrap believed that he could take Babylon and with it that title of Great King which he coveted. It was true that Artaxerxes would meet him with an army of ten men to his one; but, as Cyrus said, mere "numbers and noise" did not tell on the battle-field, and "numbers and noise" were all that the Persian sovereign had to rely on.
When all was ready, Cyrus set out from Sardis on his memorable march in the spring of 401. Among the Greeks was a volunteer named Xenophon, who had been persuaded to go by his friend Proxenus, a general in the army of Cyrus. Xenophon, as we shall see, eventually saved his countrymen from destruction, and became not only the leader, but the historian of the expedition.
With the exception of Klearchus, none of the army seem to have known the real object of the campaign, but supposed that Cyrus was going to attack the Pisidians, robber tribes that inhabited the mountainous country southeast of Sardis. Artaxerxes appears to have been equally in the dark, and though he knew Cyrus was advancing in the direction of Babylon, he thought that his ultimate purpose was to make war on Tissaphernes, and so gave himself no more trouble about the matter.
All went well with Cyrus and his Greek mercenaries until they reached that city of Tarsus in Cilicia, which was later to become famous as the birthplace of the apostle Paul. When they reached that place, Xenophon's countrymen saw that they had been deceived, and that Cyrus evidently had some greater foe in view than the rough banditti of the Pisidian highlands. At first they were on the point of mutinying, and of stoning Klearchus to give proper emphasis to their feelings; but sober second thought showed them that it was doubtful whether they would gain anything by such a course. Klearchus, who was quite equal to the emergency, bade them reflect that they were now a long distance from home, and that Cyrus had it in his power to make it difficult for them to get back without his permission. Next, they were promised a decided increase of pay if they would keep on. These considerations so influenced the Greeks that they finally resolved to continue their march and take the chances of war. Cyrus still refused to divulge his real purpose; and though there cannot be much doubt that the Ten Thousand felt pretty reasonably certain what it was, yet they probably believed he had chances enough of success to make it worth their while to run the risk with him.
Accordingly the army resumed their forward movement, following the trend of the coast round the Gulf of Issus, and then striking southeasterly again, until some time in the summer they reached and crossed the Euphrates at Thapsacus. From that point they marched down the left bank of the river, through the hilly desert of Arabia, toward the great city of Babylon. Early in September they reached a point on the Tigris, nearly opposite Bagdad, and about two days' march from Kunaxa, a place not very far northwest of the Persian capital.
Up to this time Cyrus had met with no opposition, though he was daily expecting to see the advance-guard of his brother's army. Before going further he thought it prudent to hold a grand review of his troops, which he did at midnight, as it was now reported that Artaxerxes, with an army of over a million, was coming to give him battle.
But the million did not make their appearance, and so Cyrus decided to keep on until he should encounter them. The next day the invading army reached a trench which had evidently been recently dug to obstruct their advance. It stretched across the plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris, in connection with the ruins of the old Median Wall, built probably in the days of Nebuchadnezzar as one of the defences of Babylon. This trench was eighteen feet deep, thirty feet wide, and upwards of forty miles in length; it stopped short of the Euphrates by only twenty feet. Over that narrow strip of ground, which the Persian king might easily have held with a small number of resolute men, the Cyreian forces passed, with no one to hinder them. The great trench, on which so much labor had been expended, was, therefore, not only useless as a defence to Artaxerxes, but it was a positive encouragement to Cyrus and his men, for it revealed the inefficiency and the cowardice of the Persians. The whole army now moved rapidly forward, confident of an easy victory, many even supposing that Artaxerxes would make no stand at all, but abandon his capital to them. The Great King, however, was not so hopelessly pusillanimous as that; for, when Cyrus reached Kunaxa, scouts brought word that the enemy's hosts were not far behind. This time the intelligence was correct. That very afternoon a great cloud of white dust rolled up from the plain, and as it kept advancing the invaders caught sight of the flash of brazen armor and a forest of spears.
When all was ready for the battle to begin, the Greeks, not waiting to be attacked, charged on the run against the Persian left wing. The Persians, who seem to have thought that on such an occasion absence of body was a good deal better than presence of mind, waited just long enough to hear the Greeks give a fierce shout to Mars, accompanied by a significant clatter of spears and shields. That satisfied them, and, turning like a flock of frightened sheep, they ran for their lives.
Cyrus, who had refused to put on a helmet, now dashed into the fight with uncovered head, making straight for King Artaxerxes, who occupied the centre of his army. "I see the man!" he cried, and, hurling his lance, he struck and slightly wounded the Great King; but that fratricidal blow was the last, for just then a javelin pierced Cyrus under the eye, and he fell from his horse and was slain. His head and right hand were then cut off to serve as a warning to traitors. The native or Asiatic troops, seeing the disaster, fled, and did not stop till they had reached a former camp eight miles away.
Meanwhile the victorious Ten Thousand, knowing nothing of what had happened to Cyrus, pursued the Persians as long as light lasted; then when the sun had set they returned to find that their camp had been plundered by the enemy, and that they must go to bed supperless. It was not until sunrise of the next day that they learned that Cyrus was dead; that their companions in arms had fled; and that they were left a mere handful of men without a leader, and without provisions, in the heart of the enemy's country.
How to retreat from such a position was the supreme question. They could not return the way they came, for that road led them through the desert, where it would be impossible to get food. If they were to get back alive they must take the northern route to the shores of the Black Sea. This would lead them through a fertile but rough country, in which they would have to find their way as best they could across rivers and over mountains, harassed by the Persians in the rear, and encountering savage tribes who would dispute their progress. At the shortest such a march would be about six hundred miles even in an air line, with prospect of something like six hundred more before they reached the Mediterranean.
After many delays, this latter course was the one they finally resolved to take, and owing to Xenophon's courage and resolution it turned out successfully.
After eight months of wandering, hardships, and peril, they all came in sight of the Euxine, and perhaps no shipwrecked sailors clinging to a raft ever cried "Land!" "Land!" with more joy than those Greeks who had climbed a hill-top shouted "The Sea!" "The Sea!"
Thanks to their own bravery, to their able leader, and finally to Persian vacillation and cowardice, this little army had now reached a place of safety. It was long, however, before they got back to their native country, and when they did, they were not to arrive at its shores asleep, on shipboard, as the much wandering and storm-tossed Ulysses came to his beloved Ithaca.
It is doubtful, indeed, how many of them ever got back to their Spartan or Athenian homes, for we know that most of them could not make up their minds to live quiet lives of peace again; but preferred fighting in behalf of the independence of the Ionian cities which Greece had planted on the coast of Asia Minor.
Such was the Retreat of the Ten Thousand. If we may accept the judgment of Rollin, a once noted historian, it has never had a parallel in history. If we consider its results, it certainly merits all that Rollin claims for it, for it convinced the Greek people that the apparent power of the Persian empire was utterly unreal. They saw that, as Cyrus had said, its only strength was in "numbers and noise." This conviction grew, and two generations after Xenophon's return, it led to that grand invasion of Persia by Alexander the Great which was to revolutionize the ancient world.
What, then, had the retreat of the Greeks accomplished? First, it proved that ten thousand men not afraid to die are worth more than a million who lack that courage; and next, though it was a retreat, yet it suggested that advance which eventually spread the Greek language, Greek culture and Greek civilization in countries where they were before unknown.
D. H. M.
 Tissaphernes was a satrap of Caria, a province of Asia Minor south of Lydia.
RETREAT OF THE TEN THOUSAND GREEKS.
Sec. 1. Effect of the death of Cyrus on the Greeks; they resolve to retreat.
The first triumphant feeling of the Greek troops at Kunaxa was exchanged, as soon as they learnt the death of Cyrus, for dismay and sorrow; accompanied by unavailing repentance for the venture into which he and Klearchus had seduced them. Probably Klearchus himself too repented, and with good reason, of having displayed, in his manner of fighting the battle, so little foresight, and so little regard either to the injunctions or to the safety of Cyrus. Nevertheless he still maintained the tone of a victor in the field, and after expressions of grief for the fate of the young prince, desired Prokles and Glus to return to Ariaeus, with the reply, that the Greeks on their side were conquerors without any enemy remaining; that they were about to march onward against Artaxerxes; and that if Ariaeus would join them, they would place him on the throne which had been intended for Cyrus. While this reply was conveyed to Ariaeus by his particular friend Menon along with the messengers, the Greeks procured a meal as well as they could, having no bread, by killing some of the baggage animals; and by kindling fire to cook their meat, from the arrows, the wooden Egyptian shields which had been thrown away on the field, and the baggage carts.
Before any answer could be received from Ariaeus, heralds appeared coming from Artaxerxes; among them being Phalinus, a Greek from Zakynthus, and the Greek surgeon Ktesias of Knidus, who was in the service of the Persian king. Phalinus, an officer of some military experience and in the confidence of Tissaphernes, addressed himself to the Greek commanders; requiring them on the part of the King, since he was now victor and had slain Cyrus, to surrender their arms and appeal to his mercy. To this summons, painful in the extreme to a Grecian ear, Klearchus replied that it was not the practice for victorious men to lay down their arms. Being then called away to examine the sacrifice which was going on, he left the interview to the other officers, who met the summons of Phalinus by an emphatic negative. "If the King thinks himself strong enough to ask for our arms unconditionally, let him come and try to seize them."—"The King (rejoined Phalinus) thinks that you are in his power, being in the midst of his territory, hemmed in by impassable rivers, and encompassed by his innumerable subjects."—"Our arms and our valor are all that remain to us (replied a young Athenian); we shall not be fools enough to hand over to you our only remaining treasures, but shall employ them still to have a fight for your treasure." But though several spoke in this resolute tone, there were not wanting others disposed to encourage a negotiation; saying that they had been faithful to Cyrus as long as he lived, and would now be faithful to Artaxerxes, if he wanted their services in Egypt or anywhere else. In the midst of this parley Klearchus returned, and was requested by Phalinus to return a final answer on behalf of all. He at first asked the advice of Phalinus himself; appealing to the common feeling of Hellenic patriotism, and anticipating, with very little judgment, that the latter would encourage the Greeks in holding out. "If (replied Phalinus) I saw one chance out of ten thousand in your favor, in the event of a contest with the King, I should advise you to refuse the surrender of your arms. But as there is no chance of safety for you against the King's consent, I recommend you to look out for safety in the only quarter where it presents itself." Sensible of the mistake which he had made in asking the question, Klearchus rejoined—"That is your opinion: now report our answer. We think we shall be better friends to the King, if we are to be his friends,—or more effective enemies, if we are to be his enemies,—with our arms, than without them." Phalinus, in retiring, said that the King proclaimed a truce so long as they remained in their present position—but war, if they moved, either onward or backward. And to this Klearchus acceded, without declaring which he intended to do.
Shortly after the departure of Phalinus, the envoys despatched to Ariaeus returned; communicating his reply that the Persian grandees would never tolerate any pretensions on his part to the crown, and that he intended to depart early the next morning on his return; if the Greeks wished to accompany him, they must join him during the night. In the evening, Klearchus, convening the generals and the captains, acquainted them that the morning sacrifice had been of a nature to forbid their marching against the King—a prohibition, of which he now understood the reason, from having since learnt that the King was on the other side of the Tigris, and therefore out of their reach—but that it was favorable for rejoining Ariaeus. He gave directions accordingly for a night-march back along the Euphrates, to the station where they had passed the last night but one prior to the battle. The other Grecian generals, without any formal choice of Klearchus as chief, tacitly acquiesced in his orders, from a sense of his superior decision and experience, in an emergency when no one knew what to propose. The night-march was successfully accomplished, so that they joined Ariaeus at the preceding station about midnight; not without the alarming symptom, however, that Miltokythes the Thracian deserted to the King at the head of 340 of his countrymen, partly horse, partly foot.
The first proceeding of the Grecian generals was to exchange solemn oaths of reciprocal fidelity and fraternity with Ariaeus. According to an ancient and impressive practice, a bull, a wolf, a boar, and a ram, were all slain, and their blood allowed to run into the hollow of a shield; in which the Greek generals dipped a sword, and Ariaeus, with his chief companions, a spear. The latter, besides the promise of alliance, engaged also to guide the Greeks in good faith down to the Asiatic coast. Klearchus immediately began to ask what route he proposed to take; whether to return by that along which they had come up, or by any other. To this Ariaeus replied, that the road along which they had marched was impracticable for retreat, from the utter want of provisions through seventeen days of desert; but that he intended to choose another road, which, though longer, would be sufficiently productive to furnish them with provisions. There was, however, a necessity (he added), that the first two or three days' marches should be of extreme length, in order that they might get out of the reach of the king's forces, who would hardly be able to overtake them afterwards with any considerable numbers.
They had now come 93 days' march from Ephesus, or 90 from Sardis. The distance from Sardis to Kunaxa is 1464 miles. There had been at least 96 days of rest, enjoyed at various places, so that the total of time elapsed must have at least been 189 days, or a little more than half a year: but it was probably greater, since some intervals of rest are not specified in number of days.
How to retrace their steps was now the problem, apparently insoluble. As to the military force of Persia in the field, indeed, not merely the easy victory at Kunaxa, but still more the undisputed march throughout so long a space, left them no serious apprehension. In spite of this great extent, population, and riches, they had been allowed to pass through the most difficult and defensible country, and to ford the broad Euphrates, without a blow: nay, the King had shrunk from defending the long trench which he had specially caused to be dug for the protection of Babylonia. But the difficulties which stood between them and their homes were of a very different character. How were they to find their way back, or obtain provisions, in defiance of a numerous hostile cavalry, which, not without efficiency even in a pitched battle, would be most formidable in opposing their retreat? The line of their upward march had all been planned, with supplies furnished, by Cyrus:—yet even under such advantages, supplies had been on the point of failing, in one part of the march. They were now, for the first time, called upon to think and provide for themselves; without knowledge of either roads or distances—without trustworthy guides—without any one to furnish or even to indicate supplies—and with a territory all hostile, traversed by rivers which they had no means of crossing. Klearchus himself knew nothing of the country, nor of any other river except the Euphrates; nor does he indeed in his heart seem to have conceived retreat as practicable without the consent of the King. The reader who casts his eye on a map of Asia, and imagines the situation of this Greek division on the left bank of the Euphrates, near the parallel of latitude 33 deg. 30'—will hardly be surprised at any measure of despair, on the part either of general or soldiers. And we may add that Klearchus had not even the advantage of such a map, or probably of any map at all, to enable him to shape his course.
In this dilemma, the first and most natural impulse was to consult Ariaeus; who (as has been already stated) pronounced, with good reason, that return by the same road was impracticable; and promised to conduct them home by another road—longer indeed, yet better supplied.
Sec. 2. Commencement of the Retreat.
At daybreak on the ensuing morning, they began their march in an easterly direction, anticipating that before night they should reach some villages of the Babylonian territory, as in fact they did; yet not before they had been alarmed in the afternoon by the supposed approach of some of the enemy's horse, and by evidences that the enemy were not far off, which induced them to slacken their march for the purpose of more cautious array. Hence they did not reach the first villages before dark; these too had been pillaged by the enemy while retreating before them, so that only the first-comers under Klearchus could obtain accommodation, while the succeeding troops, coming up in the dark, pitched as they could without any order. The whole camp was a scene of clamor, dispute, and even alarm, throughout the night. No provisions could be obtained. Early the next morning Klearchus ordered them under arms; and desiring to expose the groundless nature of the alarm, caused the herald to proclaim, that whoever would denounce the person who had let the ass into the camp on the preceding night, should be rewarded with a talent of silver.
What was the project of route entertained by Ariaeus, we cannot ascertain; since it was not farther pursued. For the effect of the unexpected arrival of the Greeks as if to attack the enemy—and even the clamor and shouting of the camp during the night—so intimidated the Persian commanders, that they sent heralds the next morning to treat about a truce. The contrast between this message, and the haughty summons of the preceding day to lay down their arms, was sensibly felt by the Grecian officers, and taught them that the proper way of dealing with the Persians was by a bold and aggressive demeanor. When Klearchus was apprised of the arrival of the heralds, he desired them at first to wait at the outposts until he was at leisure: then, having put his troops into the best possible order, with a phalanx compact on every side to the eye, and the unarmed persons out of sight, he desired the heralds to be admitted. He marched out to meet them with the most showy and best-armed soldiers immediately around him, and when they informed him that they had come from the King with instructions to propose a truce, and to report on what conditions the Greeks would agree to it, Klearchus replied abruptly—"Well then—go and tell the King, that our first business must be to fight; for we have nothing to eat, nor will any man presume to talk to Greeks about a truce, without first providing dinner for them." With this reply the heralds rode off, but returned very speedily; thus making it plain that the King, or the commanding officer, was near at hand. They brought word that the King thought their answer reasonable, and had sent guides to conduct them to a place where they would obtain provisions, if the truce should be concluded.
After an affected delay and hesitation, in order to impose upon the Persians, Klearchus concluded the truce, and desired that the guides should conduct the army to those quarters where provisions could be had. He was most circumspect in maintaining exact order during the march, himself taking charge of the rear guard. The guides led them over many ditches and channels, full of water, and cut for the purpose of irrigation; some so broad and deep that they could not be crossed without bridges. The army had to put together bridges for the occasion, from palm-trees either already fallen, or expressly cut down. This was a troublesome business, which Klearchus himself superintended with peculiar strictness. He carried his spear in the left hand, his stick in the right; employing the latter to chastise any soldier who seemed remiss—and even plunging into the mud and lending his own hands in aid wherever it was necessary. As it was not the usual season of irrigation for crops he suspected that the canals had been filled on this occasion expressly to intimidate the Greeks, by impressing them with the difficulties of their prospective march; and he was anxious to demonstrate to the Persians that these difficulties were no more than Grecian energy could easily surmount.
At length they reached certain villages indicated by their guides for quarters and provisions; and here for the first time they had a sample of that unparalleled abundance of the Babylonian territory, which Herodotus is afraid to describe with numerical precision. Large quantities of corn,—dates not only in great numbers, but of such beauty, freshness, size, and flavor, as no Greek had ever seen or tasted, insomuch that fruit like what was imported into Greece, was disregarded and left for the slaves—wine and vinegar, both also made from the date-palm; these are the luxuries which Xenophon is eloquent in describing, after his recent period of scanty fare and anxious apprehension; not without also noticing the headaches which such new and luscious food, in unlimited quantity, brought upon himself and others.
Sec. 3. Negotiations with Tissaphernes.
After three days passed in these restorative quarters, they were visited by Tissaphernes, accompanied by four Persian grandees and a suite of slaves. The satrap began to open a negotiation with Klearchus and the other generals. Speaking through an interpreter, he stated to them that the vicinity of his province to Greece impressed him with a strong interest in favor of the Cyreian Greeks, and made him anxious to rescue them out of their present desperate situation; that he had solicited the King's permission to save them, as a personal recompense to himself for having been the first to forewarn him of the schemes of Cyrus, and for having been the only Persian who had not fled before the Greeks at Kunaxa; that the King had promised to consider this point, and had sent him in the mean time to ask the Greeks what their purpose was in coming up to attack him; and that he trusted the Greeks would give him a conciliatory answer to carry back, in order that he might have less difficulty in realizing what he desired for their benefit. To this Klearchus, after first deliberating apart with the other officers, replied, that the army had come together, and had even commenced their march, without any purpose of hostility to the King; that Cyrus had brought them up the country under false pretences, but that they had been ashamed to desert him in the midst of danger, since he had always treated them generously; that since Cyrus was now dead, they had no purpose of hostility against the King, but were only anxious to return home; that they were prepared to repel hostility from all quarters, but would be not less prompt in requiting favor or assistance. With this answer Tissaphernes departed, and returned on the next day but one, informing them that he had obtained the King's permission to save the Grecian army—though not without great opposition, since many Persian counsellors contended that it was unworthy of the King's dignity to suffer those who had assailed him to escape. "I am now ready (said he) to conclude a covenant and exchange oaths with you; engaging to conduct you safely back into Greece, with the country friendly, and with a regular market for you to purchase provisions. You must stipulate on your part always to pay for your provisions, and to do no damage to the country: if I do not furnish you with provisions to buy, you are then at liberty to take them where you can find them." Well were the Greeks content to enter into such a covenant, which was sworn, with hands given upon it, by Klearchus, the other generals, and the captains on their side—and by Tissaphernes with the King's brother-in-law on the other. Tissaphernes then left them, saying that he would go back to the King, make preparations, and return to reconduct the Greeks home; going himself to his own province.
The statements of Ktesias, though known to us only indirectly, and not to be received without caution, afford ground for believing that Queen Parysatis decidedly wished success to her son Cyrus in his contest for the throne—that the first report conveyed to her of the battle of Kunaxa, announcing the victory of Cyrus, filled her with joy, which was exchanged for bitter sorrow when she was informed of his death,—that she caused to be slain with horrible tortures all those, who, though acting in the Persian army and for the defence of Artaxerxes, had any participation in the death of Cyrus—and that she showed favorable dispositions towards the Cyreian Greeks. It may seem probable, farther, that her influence may have been exerted to procure for them an unimpeded retreat, without anticipating the use afterwards made by Tissaphernes (as will soon appear) of the present convention. And in one point of view the Persian king had an interest in facilitating their retreat. For the very circumstance which rendered retreat difficult, also rendered the Greeks dangerous to him in their actual position. They were in the heart of the Persian Empire, within seventy miles of Babylon; in a country not only teeming with fertility, but also extremely defensible; especially against cavalry, from the multiplicity of canals, as Herodotus observed respecting Lower Egypt. And Klearchus might say to his Grecian soldiers—what Xenophon was afterwards preparing to say to them at Kalpe on the Euxine Sea, and what Nikias also affirmed to the unhappy Athenian army whom he afterwards conducted away from Syracuse—that wherever they sat down, they were sufficiently numerous and well-organized to become at once a city. A body of such troops might effectually assist, and would perhaps encourage, the Babylonian population to throw off the Persian yoke, and to relieve themselves from the prodigious tribute which they now paid to the satrap. For these reasons, the advisers of Artaxerxes thought it advantageous to convey the Greeks across the Tigris out of Babylonia, beyond all possibility of returning thither. This was at any rate the primary object of the convention. And it was the more necessary to conciliate the goodwill of the Greeks, because there seems to have been but one bridge over the Tigris; which bridge could only be reached by inviting them to advance considerably farther into the interior of Babylonia.
Such was the state of fears and hopes on both sides, at the time when Tissaphernes left the Greeks, after concluding his convention. For twenty days did they await his return, without receiving from him any communication; the Cyreian Persians under Ariaeus being encamped near them. Such prolonged and unexplained delay became, after a few days, the source of much uneasiness to the Greeks; the more so, as Ariaeus received during this interval several visits from his Persian kinsmen, and friendly messages from the King, promising amnesty for his recent services under Cyrus. Of these messages the effects were painfully felt, in manifest coldness of demeanor on the part of his Persian troops towards the Greeks. Impatient and suspicious, the Greek soldiers impressed upon Klearchus their fears, that the King had concluded the recent convention only to arrest their movements, until he should have assembled a larger army and blocked up more effectually the roads against their return. To this Klearchus replied—"I am aware of all that you say. Yet if we now strike our tents, it will be a breach of the convention, and a declaration of war. No one will furnish us with provisions: we shall have no guides: Ariaeus will desert us forthwith, so that we shall have his troops as enemies instead of friends. Whether there be any other river for us to cross, I know not; but we know that the Euphrates itself can never be crossed, if there be an enemy to resist us. Nor have we any cavalry,—while cavalry is the best and most numerous force of our enemies. If the King, having all these advantages, really wishes to destroy us, I do not know why he should falsely exchange all these oaths and solemnities, and thus make his own word worthless in the eyes both of Greeks and barbarians."
Such words from Klearchus are remarkable, as they testify his own complete despair of the situation—certainly a very natural despair—except by amicable dealing with the Persians; and also his ignorance of geography and the country to be traversed. This feeling helps to explain his imprudent confidence afterwards in Tissaphernes.
That satrap, however, after twenty days, at last came back, with his army prepared to return to Ionia—with the King's daughter, whom he had just received in marriage—and with another grandee named Orontas. Tissaphernes took the conduct of the march, providing supplies for the Greek troops to purchase; while Ariaeus and his division now separated themselves altogether from the Greeks, and became intermingled with the other Persians. Klearchus and the Greeks followed them, at the distance of about three miles in the rear, with a separate guide for themselves; not without jealousy and mistrust, sometimes shown in individual conflicts, while collecting wood or forage, between them and the Persians of Ariaeus. After three days' march (that is, apparently, three days, calculated from the moment when they began their retreat with Ariaeus) they came to the Wall of Media, and passed through it, prosecuting their march onward through the country on its other or interior side. It was of bricks cemented with bitumen, 100 feet high, and 20 feet broad; it was said to extend a length of about 70 miles, and to be not far distant from Babylon. Two days of farther march, computed at 28 miles, brought them to the Tigris. During these two days they crossed two great ship-canals, one of them over a permanent bridge, the other over a temporary bridge laid on seven boats. Canals of such magnitude must probably have been two among the four stated by Xenophon to be drawn from the river Tigris, each of them about three miles and a half distant from the other. They were 100 feet broad, and deep enough even for heavy vessels; they were distributed by means of numerous smaller channels and ditches for the irrigation of the soil; and they were said to fall into the Euphrates; or rather perhaps they terminated in one main larger canal cut directly from the Euphrates to the Tigris, each of them joining this larger canal at a different point of its course. Within less than two miles of the Tigris was a large and populous city named Sittake, near which the Greeks pitched their camp, on the verge of a beautiful park or thick grove full of all kinds of trees; while the Persians all crossed the Tigris, at the neighboring bridge.
As Proxenus and Xenophon were here walking in front of the camp after supper, a man was brought up who had asked for the former at the advanced posts. This man said that he came with instructions from Ariaeus. He advised the Greeks to be on their guard, as there were troops concealed in the adjoining grove, for the purpose of attacking them during the night—and also to send and occupy the bridge over the Tigris, since Tissaphernes intended to break it down, in order that the Greeks might be caught without possibility of escape between the river and the canal. On discussing this information with Klearchus, who was much alarmed by it, a young Greek present remarked that the two matters stated by the informant contradicted each other; for that if Tissaphernes intended to attack the Greeks during the night, he would not break down the bridge, so as both to prevent his own troops on the other side from crossing to aid, and to deprive those on this side of all retreat if they were beaten,—while, if the Greeks were beaten, there was no escape open to them, whether the bridge continued or not. This remark induced Klearchus to ask the messenger, what was the extent of ground between the Tigris and the canal. The messenger replied that it was a great extent of country, comprising many large cities and villages. Reflecting on this communication, the Greek officers came to the conclusion that the message was a stratagem on the part of Tissaphernes to frighten them and hasten their passage across the Tigris; under the apprehension that they might conceive the plan of seizing or breaking the bridge and occupying a permanent position in the spot where they were; which was an island, fortified on one side by the Tigris,—on the other sides, by intersecting canals between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Such an island was a defensible position, having a most productive territory with numerous cultivators, so as to furnish shelter and means of hostility for all the King's enemies: Tissaphernes calculated that the message now delivered would induce the Greeks to become alarmed with their actual position, and to cross the Tigris with as little delay as possible. At least this was the interpretation which the Greek officers put upon his proceeding; an interpretation highly plausible, since, in order to reach the bridge over the Tigris, he had been obliged to conduct the Greek troops into a position sufficiently tempting for them to hold—and since he knew that his own purposes were purely treacherous. But the Greeks, officers as well as soldiers, were animated only by the wish of reaching home. They trusted, though not without misgivings, in the promise of Tissaphernes to conduct them; and never for a moment thought of taking permanent post in this fertile island. They did not however neglect the precaution of sending a guard during the night to the bridge over the Tigris, which no enemy came to assail. On the next morning they passed over it in a body, in cautious and mistrustful array, and found themselves on the eastern bank of the Tigris,—not only without attack, but even without sight of a single Persian, except Glus the interpreter and a few others watching their motions.
After having crossed by a bridge laid upon thirty-seven pontoons, the Greeks continued their march to the northward upon the eastern side of the Tigris, for four days to the river Physkus; said to be seventy miles. The Physkus was 100 feet wide, with a bridge, and the large city of Opis near it. Here, at the frontier of Assyria and Media, the road from the eastern regions to Babylon joined the road northerly on which the Greeks were marching. An illegitimate brother of Artaxerxes was seen at the head of a numerous force, which he was conducting from Susa and Ekbatana as a reinforcement to the royal army. This great host halted to see the Greeks pass by; and Klearchus ordered the march in column of two abreast, employing himself actively to maintain an excellent array, and halting more than once. The army thus occupied so long a time in passing by the Persian host that their numbers appeared greater than the reality, even to themselves; while the effect upon the Persian spectators was very imposing. Here Assyria ended and Media began. They marched, still in a northerly direction, for six days through a portion of Media almost unpeopled, until they came to some flourishing villages which formed a portion of the domain of Queen Parysatis; probably these villages, forming so marked an exception to the desert character of the remaining march, were situated on the Lesser Zab, which flows into the Tigris, and which Xenophon must have crossed, though he makes no mention of it. According to the order of march stipulated between the Greeks and Tissaphernes, the latter only provided a supply of provisions for the former to purchase; but on the present halt, he allowed the Greeks to plunder the villages, which were rich and full of all sorts of subsistence—yet without carrying off the slaves. The wish of the satrap to put an insult on Cyrus, as his personal enemy, through Parysatis, thus proved a sentence of ruin to these unhappy villagers. Five more days' march, called seventy miles, brought them to the banks of the river Zabatus, or the Greater Zab, which flows into the Tigris near a town now called Senn. During the first of these five days, they saw on the opposite side of the Tigris a large town called Kaenae, from whence they received supplies of provisions, brought across by the inhabitants upon rafts supported by inflated skins.
Sec. 4. Treachery of Tissaphernes.
On the banks of the Great Zab they halted three days—days of serious and tragical moment. Having been under feelings of mistrust, ever since the convention with Tissaphernes, they had followed throughout the whole march, with separate guides of their own, in the rear of his army, always maintaining their encampment apart. During their halt on the Zab, so many various manifestations occurred to aggravate the mistrust, that hostilities seemed on the point of breaking out between the two camps. To obviate this danger Klearchus demanded an interview with Tissaphernes, represented to him the threatening attitude of affairs, and insisted on the necessity of coming to a clear understanding. He impressed upon the satrap that, over and above the solemn oaths which had been interchanged, the Greeks on their side could have no conceivable motive to quarrel with him; that they had everything to hope from his friendship, and everything to fear, even to the loss of all chance of safe return, from his hostility; that Tissaphernes also could gain nothing by destroying them, but would find them, if he chose, the best and most faithful instruments for his own aggrandizement and for conquering the Mysians and Pisidians—as Cyrus had experienced while he was alive. Klearchus concluded his protest by requesting to be informed, what malicious reporter had been filling the mind of Tissaphernes with causeless suspicions against the Greeks.
"Klearchus (replied the satrap), I rejoice to hear such excellent sense from your lips. You remark truly, that if you were to meditate evil against me, it would recoil upon yourselves. I shall prove to you, in my turn, that you have no cause to mistrust either the King or me. If we had wished to destroy you, nothing would be easier. We have superabundant forces for the purpose: there are wide plains in which you would be starved—besides mountains and rivers which you would be unable to pass, without our help. Having thus the means of destroying you in our hands, and having nevertheless bound ourselves by solemn oaths to save you, we shall not be fools and knaves enough to attempt it now, when we should draw upon ourselves the just indignation of the gods. It is my peculiar affection for my neighbors the Greeks—and my wish to attach to my own person, by ties of gratitude, the Greek soldiers of Cyrus—which have made me eager to conduct you to Ionia in safety. For I know that when you are in my service, though the King is the only man who can wear his tiara erect upon his head, I shall be able to wear mine erect upon my heart, in full pride and confidence."
So powerful was the impression made upon Klearchus by these assurances, that he exclaimed—"Surely those informers deserve the severest punishment, who try to put us at enmity, when we are such good friends to each other, and have so much reason to be so." "Yes (replied Tissaphernes), they deserve nothing less: and if you, with the other generals and captains, will come into my tent tomorrow, I will tell you who the calumniators are." "To-be-sure I will (rejoined Klearchus), and bring the other generals with me. I shall tell you at the same time who are the parties that seek to prejudice us against you." The conversation then ended, the satrap detaining Klearchus to dinner, and treating him in the most hospitable and confidential manner.
On the next morning, Klearchus communicated what had passed to the Greeks, insisting on the necessity that all the generals should go to Tissaphernes pursuant to his invitation; in order to re-establish that confidence which unworthy calumniators had shaken, and to punish such of the calumniators as might be Greeks. So emphatically did he pledge himself for the good faith and philhellenic dispositions of the satrap, that he overruled the opposition of many among the soldiers; who, still continuing to entertain their former suspicions, remonstrated especially against the extreme imprudence of putting all the generals at once into the power of Tissaphernes. The urgency of Klearchus prevailed. Himself with four other generals—Proxenus, Menon, Agias, and Sokrates—and twenty captains—went to visit the satrap in his tent; about 200 of the soldiers going along with them, to make purchases for their own account in the Persian camp-market.
On reaching the quarters of Tissaphernes—distant nearly three miles from the Persian camp according to habit—the five generals were admitted into the interior, while the captains remained at the entrance. A purple flag, hoisted from the top of the tent, betrayed too late the purpose for which they had been invited to come. The captains, with the Grecian soldiers who had accompanied them, were surprised and cut down, while the generals in the interior were detained, put in chains, and carried up as prisoners to the Persian court. Here Klearchus, Proxenus, Agias, and Sokrates, were beheaded, after a short imprisonment. Queen Parysatis, indeed, from affection to Cyrus, not only furnished many comforts to Klearchus in the prison (by the hands of her surgeon Ktesias), but used all her influence with her son Artaxerxes to save his life; though her efforts were counteracted, on this occasion, by the superior influence of Queen Stateira, his wife. The rivalry between these two royal women, doubtless arising out of many other circumstances besides the death of Klearchus, became soon afterwards so furious, that Parysatis caused Stateira to be poisoned.
Menon was not put to death along with the other generals. He appears to have taken credit at the Persian court for the treason of entrapping his colleagues into the hands of Tissaphernes. But his life was only prolonged to perish a year afterwards in disgrace and torture—probably by the requisition of Parysatis, who thus avenged the death of Klearchus. The queen-mother had always power enough to perpetrate cruelties, though not always to avert them. She had already brought to a miserable end every one, even faithful defenders of Artaxerxes, concerned in the death of her son Cyrus.
Though Menon thought it convenient, when brought up to Babylon, to boast of having been the instrument through whom the generals were entrapped into the fatal tent, this boast is not to be treated as matter of fact. For not only does Xenophon explain the catastrophe differently, but in the delineation which he gives of Menon, dark and odious as it is in the extreme, he does not advance any such imputation; indirectly, indeed, he sets it aside.
Unfortunately for the reputation of Klearchus, no such reasonable excuse can be offered for his credulity, which brought himself as well as his colleagues to so melancholy an end, and his whole army to the brink of ruin. It appears that the general sentiment of the Grecian army, taking just measure of the character of Tissaphernes, was disposed to greater circumspection in dealing with him. Upon that system Klearchus himself had hitherto acted; and the necessity of it might have been especially present to his mind, since he had served with the Lacedaemonian fleet at Miletus in 411 B.C., and had therefore had fuller experience than other men in the army, of the satrap's real character. On a sudden he now turns round, and on the faith of a few verbal declarations, puts all the military chiefs into the most defenceless posture and the most obvious peril, such as hardly the strongest grounds for confidence could have justified. Though the remark of Machiavel is justified by large experience—that from the short-sightedness of men and their obedience to present impulse, the most notorious deceiver will always find new persons to trust him—still such misjudgment on the part of an officer of age and experience is difficult to explain. Polyaenus intimates that beautiful women, exhibited by the satrap at his first banquet to Klearchus alone, served as a lure to attract him with all his colleagues to the second; while Xenophon imputes the error to continuance of a jealous rivalry with Menon. The latter, it appears, having always been intimate with Ariaeus; had been thus brought into previous communication with Tissaphernes, by whom he had been well received, and by whom he was also encouraged to lay plans for detaching the whole Grecian army from Klearchus so as to bring it all under his (Menon's) command into the services of the satrap. Such at least was the suspicion of Klearchus; who, jealous in the extreme of his own military authority, tried to defeat the scheme by bidding still higher himself for the favor of Tissaphernes. Imagining that Menon was the unknown calumniator who prejudiced the satrap against him, he hoped to prevail on the satrap to disclose his name and dismiss him. Such jealousy seems to have robbed Klearchus of his customary prudence. We must also allow for another impression deeply fixed in his mind; that the salvation of the army was hopeless without the consent of Tissaphernes, and therefore, since the latter had conducted them thus far in safety, when he might have destroyed them before, that his designs at the bottom could not be hostile.
Notwithstanding these two great mistakes—one on the present occasion, one previously, at the battle of Kunaxa, in keeping the Greeks on the right contrary to the order of Cyrus—both committed by Klearchus, the loss of that officer was doubtless a great misfortune to the army; while, on the contrary, the removal of Menon was a signal benefit—perhaps a condition of ultimate safety. A man so treacherous and unprincipled as Xenophon depicts Menon, would probably have ended by really committing towards the army that treason, for which he falsely took credit at the Persian court in reference to the seizure of the generals.
The impression entertained by Klearchus, respecting the hopeless position of the Greeks in the heart of the Persian territory after the death of Cyrus was perfectly natural in a military man who could appreciate all the means of attack and obstruction which the enemy had it in their power to employ. Nothing is so unaccountable in this expedition as the manner in which such means were thrown away—the spectacle of Persian impotence. First, the whole line of upward march, including the passage of the Euphrates, left undefended; next, the long trench dug across the frontier of Babylonia, with only a passage of twenty feet wide left near the Euphrates, abandoned without a guard; lastly, the line of the Wall of Media and the canals which offered such favorable positions for keeping the Greeks out of the cultivated territory of Babylonia, neglected in like manner, and a convention concluded whereby the Persians engaged to escort the invaders safe to the Ionian coast, beginning by conducting them through the heart of Babylonia, amidst canals affording inexpugnable defences if the Greeks had chosen to take up a position among them. The plan of Tissaphernes, as far as we can understand it, seems to have been, to draw the Greeks to some considerable distance from the heart of the Persian empire, and then to open his schemes of treasonable hostility, which the imprudence of Klearchus enabled him to do, on the banks of the Great Zab, with chances of success such as he could hardly have contemplated. We have here a fresh example of the wonderful impotence of the Persians. We should have expected that, after having committed so flagrant an act of perfidy, Tissaphernes would at least have tried to turn it to account; that he would have poured with all his forces and all his vigor on the Grecian camp, at the moment when it was unprepared, disorganized, and without commanders. Instead of which, when the generals (with those who accompanied them to the Persian camp) had been seized or slain, no attack whatever was made except by small detachments of Persian cavalry upon individual Greek stragglers in the plain. One of the companions of the generals, an Arcadian, named Nikarchus, ran wounded into the Grecian camp, where the soldiers were looking from afar at the horsemen scouring the plain without knowing what they were about,—exclaiming that the Persians were massacring all the Greeks, officers as well as soldiers. Immediately the Greek soldiers hastened to put themselves in defence, expecting a general attack to be made upon their camp; but no more Persians came near than a body of about 300 horse, under Ariaeus and Mithridates (the confidential companions of the deceased Cyrus), accompanied by the brother of Tissaphernes. These men, approaching the Greek lines as friends, called for the Greek officers to come forth, as they had a message to deliver from the King. Accordingly, Kleanor and Sophaenetus with an adequate guard, came to the front, accompanied by Xenophon, who was anxious to hear news about Proxenus. Ariaeus then acquainted them that Klearchus, having been detected in a breach of the convention to which he had sworn, had been put to death; that Proxenus and Menon, who had divulged his treason, were in high honor at the Persian quarters. He concluded by saying—"The King calls upon you to surrender your arms, which now (he says) belong to him, since they formerly belonged to his slave Cyrus."
The step here taken seems to testify a belief on the part of these Persians, that the generals being now in their power the Grecian soldiers had become defenceless, and might be required to surrender their arms, even to men who had just been guilty of the most deadly fraud and injury towards them. If Ariaeus entertained such an expectation, he was at once undeceived by the language of Kleanor and Xenophon, which breathed nothing but indignant reproach; so that he soon retired and left the Greeks to their own reflections.
While their camp yet remained unmolested, every man within it was a prey to the most agonizing apprehensions. Ruin appeared impending and inevitable, though no one could tell in what precise form it would come. The Greeks were in the midst of a hostile country, nearly 1200 miles from home, surrounded by enemies, blocked up by impassable mountains and rivers, without guides, without provisions, without cavalry to aid their retreat, without generals to give orders. A stupor of sorrow and conscious helplessness seized upon all. Few came to the evening muster; few lighted fires to cook their suppers; every man lay down to rest where he was; yet no man could sleep, for fear, anguish, and yearning after relatives whom he was never again to behold.
Amidst the many causes of despondency which weighed down this forlorn army, there was none more serious than the fact, that not a single man among them had now either authority to command, or obligation to take the initiative. Nor was any ambitious candidate likely to volunteer his pretensions, at a moment when the post promised nothing but the maximum of difficulty as well as of hazard. A new, self-kindled light—and self-originated stimulus—was required, to vivify the embers of suspended hope and action, in a mass paralyzed for the moment, but every way capable of effort. And the inspiration now fell, happily for the army, upon one in whom a full measure of soldierly strength and courage was combined with the education of an Athenian, a democrat, and a philosopher.
Sec. 5. Xenophon's Dream and its Results.
It is in true Homeric vein, and in something like Homeric language, that Xenophon (to whom we owe the whole narrative of the expedition) describes his dream, or the intervention of Oneirus, sent by Zeus, from which this renovating impulse took its rise. Lying mournful and restless like his comrades, he caught a short repose; when he dreamt that he heard thunder, and saw the burning thunderbolt fall upon his paternal house, which became forthwith encircled by flames. Awaking, full of terror, he instantly sprang up; upon which the dream began to fit on and blend itself with his waking thoughts, and with the cruel realities of his position. His pious and excited fancy generated a series of shadowy analogies. The dream was sent by Zeus the King, since it was from him that thunder and lightning proceeded. In one respect, the sign was auspicious—that a great light had appeared to him from Zeus in the midst of peril and suffering. But on the other hand, it was alarming, that the house had appeared to be completely encircled by flames, preventing all egress, because this seemed to indicate that he would remain confined where he was in the Persian dominions, without being able to overcome the difficulties which hedged him in. Yet doubtful as the promise was, it was still the message of Zeus addressed to himself, serving as a stimulus to him to break through the common stupor and take the initiative movement. "Why am I lying here? Night is advancing; at daybreak the enemy will be on us, and we shall be put to death with tortures. Not a man is stirring to take measures of defence. Why do I wait for any man older than myself, or for any man of a different city, to begin?"
With these reflections, interesting in themselves, and given with Homeric vivacity, he instantly went to convene the captains who had served under his late friend Proxenus. He impressed upon them emphatically the necessity of standing forward to put the army in a posture of defence. "I cannot sleep, fellow-soldiers; neither, I presume, can you, under our present perils. The enemy will be upon us at daybreak—prepared to kill us all with tortures, as his worst enemies. For my part, I rejoice that his villanous perjury has put an end to a truce by which we were the great losers; a truce, under which we, mindful of our oaths, have passed through all the rich possessions of the King, without touching anything except what we could purchase with our own scanty means. Now, we have our hands free: all these rich spoils stand between us and him, as prizes for the better man. The gods, who preside over the match, will assuredly be on the side of us, who have kept our oaths in spite of strong temptations, against these perjurers. Moreover, our bodies are more enduring, and our spirit more gallant, than theirs. They are easier to wound, and easier to kill, than we are, under the same favor of the gods as we experienced at Kunaxa.
"Probably others also are feeling just as we feel. But let us not wait for any one else to come as monitors to us: let us take the lead, and communicate the stimulus of honor to others. Do you show yourselves now the best among the captains—more worthy of being generals than the generals themselves. Begin at once, and I desire only to follow you. But if you order me into the front rank, I shall obey without pleading my youth as an excuse—accounting myself to be of complete maturity, when the purpose is to save myself from ruin."
All the captains who heard Xenophon cordially concurred in his suggestion, and desired him to take the lead in executing it. One captain alone—Apollonides, speaking in the Boeotian dialect—protested against it as insane; enlarging upon their desperate position, and insisting upon submission to the King as the only chance of safety. "How? (replied Xenophon). Have you forgotten the courteous treatment which we received from the Persians in Babylonia when we replied to their demand for the surrender of our arms by showing a bold front? Do not you see the miserable fate which has befallen Klearchus, when he trusted himself unarmed in their hands, in reliance on their oaths? And yet you scout our exhortations to resistance, again advising us to go and plead for indulgence! My friends, such a Greek as this man, disgraces not only his own city, but all Greece besides. Let us banish him from our councils, cashier him, and make a slave of him to carry baggage." "Nay (observed Agasias of Stymphalus), the man has nothing to do with Greece: I myself have seen his ears bored, like a true Lydian." Apollonides was degraded accordingly.
Xenophon with the rest then distributed themselves in order to bring together the chief remaining officers in the army, who were presently convened, to the number of about one hundred. The senior captain of the earlier body next desired Xenophon to repeat to this larger body the topics upon which he had just before been insisting. Xenophon obeyed, enlarging yet more emphatically on the situation, perilous, yet not without hope—on the proper measures to be taken—and especially on the necessity that they, the chief officers remaining, should put themselves forward prominently, first fix upon effective commanders, then afterwards submit the names to be confirmed by the army, accompanied with suitable exhortations and encouragement. His speech was applauded and welcomed, especially by the Lacedaemonian general Cheirisophus, who had joined Cyrus with a body of 700 heavy-armed foot-soldiers at Issus in Kilikia. Cheirisophus urged the captains to retire forthwith, and agree upon their commanders instead of the five who had been seized; after which the herald must be summoned, and the entire body of soldiers convened without delay. Accordingly Timasion of Dardanus was chosen instead of Klearchus; Xanthikles in place of Sokrates; Kleanor in place of Agias; Philesius in place of Menon; and Xenophon instead of Proxenus. The captains, who had served under each of the departed generals, separately chose a successor to the captain thus promoted. It is to be recollected that the five now chosen were not the only generals in the camp; thus for example, Cheirisophus had the command of his own separate division, and there may have been one or two others similarly placed. But it was now necessary for all the generals to form a Board and act in concert.
At daybreak the newly-constituted Board of generals placed proper outposts in advance, and then convened the army in general assembly, in order that the new appointments might be submitted and confirmed. As soon as this had been done, probably on the proposition of Cheirisophus (who had been in command before), that general addressed a few words of exhortation and encouragement to the soldiers. He was followed by Kleanor, who delivered, with the like brevity, an earnest protest against the perfidy of Tissaphernes and Ariaeus. Both of them left to Xenophon the task, alike important and arduous at this moment of despondency, of setting forth the case at length,—working up the feelings of the soldiers to that pitch of resolution which the emergency required,—and above all extinguishing all those inclinations to acquiesce in new treacherous proposals from the enemy, which the perils of the situation would be likely to suggest.
Xenophon had equipped himself in his finest military costume at this his first official appearance before the army, when the scales seemed to tremble between life and death. Taking up the protest of Kleanor against the treachery of the Persians, he insisted that any attempt to enter into convention or trust with such liars, would be utter ruin—but that if energetic resolution were taken to deal with them only at the point of the sword, and punish their misdeeds, there was good hope of the favor of the gods and of ultimate preservation. As he pronounced this last word, one of the soldiers near him happened to sneeze. Immediately the whole army around shouted with one accord the accustomed invocation to Zeus the Preserver; and Xenophon, taking up the accident, continued—"Since, fellow-soldiers, this omen from Zeus the Preserver has appeared at the instant when we were talking about preservation, let us here vow to offer the preserving sacrifice to that god, and at the same time to sacrifice to the remaining gods as well as we can, in the first friendly country which we may reach. Let every man who agrees with me hold up his hand." All held up their hands: all then joined in the vow, and shouted the paean.
This accident, so dexterously turned to profit by the rhetorical skill of Xenophon, was eminently beneficial in raising the army out of the depression which weighed them down, and in disposing them to listen to his animating appeal. Repeating his assurances that the gods were on their side, and hostile to their perjured enemy, he recalled to their memory the great invasions of Greece by Darius and Xerxes,—how the vast hosts of Persia had been disgracefully repelled. The army had shown themselves on the field of Kunaxa worthy of such forefathers; and they would for the future be yet bolder, knowing by that battle of what stuff the Persians were made. As for Ariaeus and his troops, alike traitors and cowards, their desertion was rather a gain than a loss. The enemy were superior in horsemen: but men on horseback were after all only men, half occupied in the fear of losing their seats—incapable of prevailing against infantry firm on the ground,—and only better able to run away. Now that the satrap refused to furnish them with provisions to buy, they on their side were released from their covenant, and would take provisions without buying. Then as to the rivers; those were indeed difficult to be crossed, in the middle of their course; but the army would march up to their sources, and could then pass them without wetting the knee. Or indeed, the Greeks might renounce the idea of retreat, and establish themselves permanently in the King's own country, defying all his force, like the Mysians and Pisidians. "If (said Xenophon) we plant ourselves here at our ease in a rich country, with these tall, stately and beautiful Median and Persian women for our companions—we shall be only too ready, like the Lotos-eaters, to forget our way home. We ought first to go back to Greece, and tell our countrymen that if they remain poor, it is their own fault, when there are rich settlements in this country awaiting all who choose to come, and who have courage to seize them. Let us burn our baggage wagons and tents, and carry with us nothing but what is of the strictest necessity. Above all things, let us maintain order, discipline, and obedience to the commanders, upon which our entire hope of safety depends. Let every man promise to lend his hand to the commanders in punishing any disobedient individuals; and let us thus show the enemy that we have ten thousand persons like Klearchus, instead of that one whom they have so perfidiously seized. Now is the time for action. If any man, however obscure, has anything better to suggest, let him come forward and state it; for we have all but one object—the common safety."
It appears that no one else desired to say a word, and that the speech of Xenophon gave unqualified satisfaction; for when Cheirisophus put the question, that the meeting should sanction his recommendations, and finally elect the new generals proposed—every man held up his hand. Xenophon then moved that the army should break up immediately, and march to some well-stored villages, rather more than two miles distant; that the march should be in a hollow square, with the baggage in the centre; that Cheirisophus, as a Lacedaemonian, should lead the van; while Kleanor, and the other senior officers, would command on each flank,—and himself with Timasion, as the two youngest of the generals, would lead the rear guard.
This proposition was at once adopted, and the assembly broke up; proceeding forthwith to destroy, or distribute among one another, every man's superfluous baggage—and then to take their morning meal previous to the march.
The scene just described is interesting and illustrative in more than one point of view. It exhibits that susceptibility to the influence of persuasive discourse which formed so marked a feature in the Grecian character—a resurrection of the collective body out of the depth of despair, under the exhortation of one who had no established ascendency, nor anything to recommend him, except his intelligence, his oratorical power, and his community of interest with themselves. Next, it manifests, still more strikingly, the superiority of Athenian training as compared with that of other parts of Greece. Cheirisophus had not only been before in office as one of the generals, but was also a native of Sparta, whose supremacy and name was at that moment all-powerful; Kleanor had been before, not indeed a general, but a captain, or one in the second rank of officers:—he was an elderly man—and he was an Arcadian, while more than the numerical half of the army consisted of Arcadians and Achaeans. Either of these two therefore, and various others besides, enjoyed a sort of prerogative, or established starting-point, for taking the initiative in reference to the dispirited army. But Xenophon was comparatively a young man, with little military experience:—he was not an officer at all, either in the first or second grade, but simply a volunteer, companion of Proxenus:—he was moreover a native of Athens, a city at that time unpopular among the great body of Greeks, and especially of Peloponnesians, with whom her recent long war had been carried on. Not only therefore he had no advantages compared with others, but he was under positive disadvantages. He had nothing to start with except his personal qualities and previous training; in spite of which we find him not merely the prime mover, but also the superior person for whom the others make way. In him are exemplified those peculiarities of Athens, attested not less by the denunciation of her enemies than by the panegyric of her own citizens,—spontaneous and forward impulse, as well in conception as in execution—confidence under circumstances which made others despair—persuasive discourse and publicity of discussion, made subservient to practical business, so as at once to appeal to the intelligence, and stimulate the active zeal, of the multitude. Such peculiarities stood out more remarkably from being contrasted with the opposite qualities in Spartans—mistrust in conception, slackness in execution, secrecy in counsel, silent and passive obedience. Though Spartans and Athenians formed the two extremities of the scale, other Greeks stood nearer on this point to the former than to the latter.
If, even in that encouraging autumn which followed immediately upon the great Athenian catastrophe before Syracuse, the inertia of Sparta could not be stirred into vigorous action without the vehemence of the Athenian Alkibiades—much more was it necessary, under the depressing circumstances which now overclouded the unofficered Grecian army, that an Athenian bosom should be found as the source of new life and impulse. Nor would any one, probably, except an Athenian, either have felt or obeyed the promptings to stand forward as a volunteer at that moment, when there was every motive to decline responsibility, and no special duty to impel him. But if by chance a Spartan or an Arcadian had been found thus forward, he would have been destitute of such talents as would enable him to work on the minds of others—of that flexibility, resource, familiarity with the temper and movements of an assembled crowd, power of enforcing the essential views and touching the opportune chords, which Athenian democratical training imparted. Even Brasidas and Gylippus, individual Spartans of splendid merit, and equal or superior to Xenophon in military resource, would not have combined with it that political and rhetorical accomplishment which the position of the latter demanded. Obvious as the wisdom of his propositions appears, each of them is left to him not only to initiate, but to enforce: Cheirisophus and Kleanor, after a few words of introduction, consign to him the duty of working up the minds of the army to the proper pitch.
How well he performed this, may be seen by his speech to the army, which bears in its general tenor a remarkable resemblance to that of Perikles addressed to the Athenian public in the second year of the war, at the moment when the miseries of the epidemic, combined with those of invasion, had driven them almost to despair. It breathes a strain of exaggerated confidence, and an undervaluing of real dangers, highly suitable for the occasion, but which neither Perikles nor Xenophon would have employed at any other moment. Throughout the whole of his speech, and especially in regard to the accidental sneeze near at hand which interrupted the beginning of it, Xenophon displayed that skill and practice in dealing with a numerous audience, and a given situation, which characterized more or less every educated Athenian. Other Greeks, Lacedaemonians or Arcadians, could act, with bravery and in concert; but the Athenian Xenophon was among the few who could think, speak, and act, with equal efficiency. It was this threefold accomplishment which an aspiring youth was compelled to set before himself as an aim, in the democracy of Athens; and which the Sophists as well as the democratical institutions—both of them so hardly depreciated by most critics—helped and encouraged him to acquire. It was this threefold accomplishment, the exclusive possession of which, in spite of constant jealousy on the part of Boeotian officers and comrades of Proxenus, elevated Xenophon into the most ascendent person of the Cyreian army, from the present moment until the time when it broke up,—as will be seen in the subsequent history.
I think it the more necessary to notice this fact,—that the accomplishments whereby Xenophon leaped on a sudden into such extraordinary ascendency, and rendered such eminent service to his army, were accomplishments belonging in an especial manner to the Athenian democracy and education—because Xenophon himself has throughout his writings treated Athens not merely without the attachment of a citizen, but with feelings more like the positive antipathy of an exile. His sympathies are all in favor of the perpetual drill, the mechanical obedience, the secret government proceedings, the narrow and prescribed range of ideas, the silent and deferential demeanor, the methodical, though tardy, action—of Sparta. Whatever may be the justice of his preference, certain it is, that the qualities whereby he was himself enabled to contribute so much both to the rescue of the Cyreian army, and to his own reputation—were Athenian far more than Spartan.
While the Grecian army, after sanctioning the propositions of Xenophon, were taking their morning meal before they commenced their march, Mithridates, one of the Persians previously attached to Cyrus, appeared with a few horsemen on a mission of pretended friendship. But it was soon found out that his purposes were treacherous, and that he came merely to seduce individual soldiers to desertion—with a few of whom he succeeded. Accordingly, the resolution was taken to admit no more heralds or envoys.
Sec. 6. The Greeks cross the Zab.
Disembarrassed of superfluous baggage, and refreshed, the army now crossed the Great Zab River, and pursued their march on the other side, having their baggage and attendants in the centre, and Cheirisophus leading the van, with a select body of 300 heavy-armed foot-soldiers. As no mention is made of a bridge, we are to presume that they forded the river,—which furnishes a ford still commonly used, at a place between thirty and forty miles from its junction with the Tigris. When they had got a little way forward, Mithridates again appeared with a few hundred cavalry and bowmen. He approached them like a friend; but as soon as he was near enough, suddenly began to harass the rear with a shower of missiles. What surprises us most, is, that the Persians, with their very numerous force, made no attempt to hinder them from crossing so very considerable a river; for Xenophon estimates the Zab at 400 feet broad,—and this seems below the statement of modern travellers, who inform us that it contains not much less water than the Tigris; and though usually deeper and narrower, cannot be much narrower at any fordable place. It is to be recollected that the Persians, habitually marching in advance of the Greeks, must have reached the river first, and were therefore in possession of the crossing, whether bridge or ford. Though on the watch for every opportunity of perfidy, Tissaphernes did not dare to resist the Greeks, even in the most advantageous position, and ventured only upon sending Mithridates to harass the rear; which he executed with considerable effect. The bowmen and darters of the Greeks, few in number, were at the same time inferior to those of the Persians; and when Xenophon employed his rear-guard, heavy-armed foot-soldiers and light-armed foot-soldiers, to charge and repel them, he not only could never overtake any one, but suffered much in getting back to rejoin his own main body. Even when retiring, the Persian horseman could discharge his arrow or cast his javelin behind him with effect; a dexterity which the Parthians exhibited afterwards still more signally, and which the Persian horsemen of the present day parallel with their carbines. This was the first experience which the Greeks had of marching under the harassing attack of cavalry. Even the small detachment of Mithridates greatly delayed their progress; so that they accomplished little more than two miles, reaching the villages in the evening, with many wounded, and much discouragement.
"Thank Heaven" (said Xenophon in the evening, when Cheirisophus reproached him for imprudence in quitting the main body to charge cavalry, whom yet he could not reach), "Thank Heaven, that our enemies attacked us with a small detachment only, and not with their great numbers. They have given us a valuable lesson, without doing us any serious harm." Profiting by the lesson, the Greek leaders organized during the night and during the halt of the next day, a small body of fifty cavalry; with 200 Rhodian slingers, whose slings, furnished with leaden bullets, both carried farther and struck harder than those of the Persians hurling large stones. On the ensuing morning, they started before daybreak, since there lay in their way a ravine difficult to pass. They found the ravine undefended (according to the usual stupidity of Persian proceedings), but when they had got nearly a mile beyond it, Mithridates reappeared in pursuit with a body of 4000 horsemen and darters. Confident from his achievement of the preceding day, he had promised, with a body of that force, to deliver the Greeks into the hands of the satrap. But the latter were now better prepared. As soon as he began to attack them, the trumpet sounded,—and forthwith the horsemen, slingers, and darters, issued forth to charge the Persians, sustained by the heavy-armed foot-soldiers in the rear. So effective was the charge, that the Persians fled in dismay, notwithstanding their superiority in number; while the ravine so impeded their flight that many of them were slain, and eighteen prisoners made. The Greek soldiers of their own accord mutilated the dead bodies, in order to strike terror into the enemy. At the end of the day's march, they reached the Tigris, near the deserted city of Larissa, the vast, massive, and lofty brick walls of which (25 feet in thickness, 100 feet high, seven miles in circumference) attested its former grandeur. Near this place was a stone pyramid, 100 feet in breadth, and 200 feet high; the summit of which was crowded with fugitives out of the neighboring villages. Another day's march up the course of the Tigris brought the army to a second deserted city called Mespila, nearly opposite to the modern city of Mosul. Although these two cities, which seem to have formed the continuation of (or the substitute for) the once colossal Nineveh or Ninus, were completely deserted,—yet the country around them was so well furnished with villages and population, that the Greeks not only obtained provisions, but also strings for the making of new bows, and lead for bullets to be used by the slingers.
During the next day's march, in a course generally parallel with the Tigris, and ascending the stream, Tissaphernes, coming up along with some other grandees, and with a numerous army, enveloped the Greeks both in flanks and rear. In spite of his advantage of numbers, he did not venture upon any actual charge, but kept up a fire of arrows, darts, and stones. He was however so well answered by the newly-trained archers and slingers of the Greeks, that on the whole they had the advantage, in spite of the superior size of the Persian bows, many of which were taken and effectively employed on the Grecian side. Having passed the night in a well-stocked village, they halted there the next day in order to stock themselves with provisions, and then pursued their march for four successive days along a level country, until on the fifth day they reached hilly ground with the prospect of still higher hills beyond. All this march was made under unremitting annoyance from the enemy, insomuch that though the order of the Greeks was never broken, a considerable number of their men were wounded. Experience taught them, that it was inconvenient for the whole army to march in one inflexible, undivided, hollow square; and they accordingly constituted six regiments of 100 men each, subdivided into companies of 50, and smaller companies of 25, each with a special officer (conformably to the Spartan practice) to move separately on each flank, and either to fall back, or fall in, as might suit the fluctuations of the central mass, arising from impediments in the road or menaces of the enemy. On reaching the hills, in sight of an elevated citadel or palace, with several villages around it, the Greeks anticipated some remission of the Persian attack. But after having passed over one hill, they were proceeding to ascend the second, when they found themselves assailed with unwonted vigor by the Persian cavalry from the summit of it, whose leaders were seen flogging on the men to the attack. This charge was so efficacious, that the Greek light troops were driven in with loss, and forced to take shelter within the ranks of the heavy-armed foot-soldiers. After a march both slow and full of suffering, they could only reach their night-quarters by sending a detachment to get possession of some ground above the Persians, who thus became afraid of a double attack.