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Anabasis(31)

2006-09-07 20:46

  Book V I x-chapter:II

  The time came when it was no longer possible to capture provisions, going and returning to the camp in one day. In consequence of this, Xenophon took some guides from the Trapezuntines and led half the army out against the Drilae, leaving the other half to guard the camp. That was necessary, since the Colchians, who had been ousted from their houses, were assembled thickly, and sat eyeing them from the heights above; on the other hand the Trapezuntines, being friendly to the native inhabitants, were not for leading the Hellenes to places where it was easy to capture provisions. But against the Drilae, from whom they personally suffered, they would lead them with enthusiasm, up into mountainous and scarcely accessible fortresses, and against the most warlike people of any in the Pontus.

  But when the Hellenes had reached the uplands, the Drilae set fire to all their fastnesses which they thought could be taken easily, and beat a retreat; and except here and there a stray pig or bullock or other animal which had escaped the fire there was nothing to capture; but there was one fastness which served as their metropolis: into this the different streams of people collected; round it ran a tremendously deep ravine, and the approaches to the place were difficult. So the light infantry ran forward five or six furlongs in advance of the heavy infantry, and crossed the ravine; and seeing quantities of sheep and other things, proceeded to attack the place. Close at their heels followed a number of those who had set out on the foray armed with spears, so that the storming party across the ravine amounted to more than two thousand. But, finding that they could not take the place by a coup-de-main, as there was a trench running round it, mounded up some breadth, with a stockade on the top of the earthwork and a close-packed row of wooden bastions, they made an attempt to run back, but the enemy fell upon them from the rear. To get away by a sudden rush was out of the question, since the descent from the fortress into the ravine only admitted of moving in single file. Under the circumstances they sent to Xenophon, who was in command of the heavy infantry. The messenger came and delivered his message: "There is a fastness choke full of all sorts of stores, but we cannot take it, it is too strong; nor can we easily get away; the enemy rush out and deliver battle, and the return is difficult."

  On hearing this, Xenophon pushed forward his heavy infantry to the edge of the ravine, and there ordered them to take up a position, while he himself with the officers crossed over to determine whether it were better to withdraw the party already across, or to bring over the heavy infantry also, on the supposition that the fortress might be taken. In favour of the latter opinion it was agreed that the retreat must cost many lives, and the officers were further disposed to think, they could take the place. Xenophon consented, relying on the victims, for the seers had announced, that there would be a battle, but that the result of the expedition would be good. So he sent the officers to bring the heavy troops across, while he himself remained, having drawn off all the light infantry and forbidden all sharp-shooting at long range. As soon as the heavy infantry had arrived, he ordered each captain to form his company, in whatever way he hoped to make it most effective in the coming struggle. Side by side together they stood, these captains, not for the first time to-day competitors for the award of manly virtue. While they were thus employed, he——the general——was engaged in passing down his order along the ranks of the light infantry and archers respectively to march with the javelin on its thong and the arrow to the string, ready at the word "shoot" to discharge their missiles, while the light troops were to have their wallets well stocked with slingstones; lastly, he despatched his adjutants to see to the proper carrying out of these orders.

  And now the preparations were complete: the officers and lieutenants and all others claiming to be peers of these, were drawn up in their several places. With a glance each was able to command the rest in the crescent-like disposition which the ground invited. Presently the notes of the battle hymn arose, the clarion spoke, and with a thrilling cry in honour of the warrior-god, commenced a rush of the heavy infantry at full speed under cover of a storm of missiles, lances, arrows, bullets, but most of all stones hurled from the hand with ceaseless pelt, while there were some who brought firebrands to bear. Overwhelmed by this crowd of missiles, the enemy left their stockades and their bastion towers, which gave Agasias the Stymphalian and Philoxenus of Pellene a chance not to be missed; laying aside their heavy arms, up they went in bare tunics only, and one hauled another up, and meantime another had mounted, and the place was taken, as they thought. Then the peltasts and light troops rushed in and began snatching what each man could. Xenophon the while, posted at the gates, kept back as many of the hoplites as he could, for there were other enemies now visible on certain strong citadel heights; and after a lapse of no long time a shout arose within, and the men came running back, some still clutching what they had seized; and presently here and there a wounded man; and mighty was the jostling about the portals. To the questions which were put to them the outpouring fugitives repeated the same story: there was a citadel within and enemies in crowds were making savage sallies and beating the fellows inside.

  At that Xenophon ordered Tolmides the herald to proclaim: "Enter all who are minded to capture aught." In poured the surging multitude, and the counter-current of persons elbowing their passage in prevailed over the stream of those who issued forth, until they beat back and cooped up the enemy within the citadel again. So outside the citadel everything was sacked and pillaged by the Hellenes, and the heavy infantry took up their position, some about the stockades, others along the road leading up to the citadel. Xenophon and the officers meantime considered the possibility of taking the citadel, for if so, their safety was assured; but if otherwise, it would be very difficult to get away. As the result of their deliberations they agreed that the place was impregnable. Then they began making preparations for the retreat. Each set of men proceeded to pull down the palisading which faced themselves; further, they sent away all who were useless or who had enough to do to carry their burdens, with the mass of the heavy infantry accompanying them; the officers in each case leaving behind men whom they could severally depend on.

  But as soon as they began to retreat, out rushed upon them from within a host of fellows, armed with wicker shields and lances, greaves and Paphlagonian helmets. Others might be seen scaling the houses on this side and that of the road leading into the citadel. Even pursuit in the direction of the citadel was dangerous, since the enemy kept hurling down on them great beams from above, so that to stop and to make off were alike dangerous, and night approaching was full of terrors. But in the midst of their fighting and their despair some god gave them a means of safety. All of a sudden, by whatsoever hand ignited, a flame shot up; it came from a house on the right hand, and as this gradually fell in, the people from the other houses on the right took to their heels and fled.

  Xenophon, laying this lesson of fortune to heart, gave orders to set fire to the left-hand houses also, which being of wood burned quickly, with the result that the occupants of these also took to flight. The men immediately at their front were the sole annoyance now, and these were safe to fall upon them as they made their exit and in their descent. Here then the word was passed for all who were out of range to bring up logs of wood and pile them between themselves and the enemy, and when there was enough of these they set them on fire; they also fired the houses along the trench-work itself, so as to occupy the attention of the enemy. Thus they got off, though with difficulty, and escaped from the place by putting a fire between them and the enemy; and the whole city was burnt down, houses, turrets, stockading, and everything belonging to it except the citadel.

  Next day the Hellenes were bent on getting back with the provisions; but as they dreaded the descent to Trapezus, which was precipitous and narrow, they laid a false ambuscade, and a Mysian, called after the name of his nation (Mysus)[1], took ten of the Cretans and halted in some thick brushy ground, where he made a feint of endeavouring to escape the notice of the enemy. The glint of their light shields, which were of brass, now and again gleamed through the brushwood. The enemy, seeing it all through the thicket, were confirmed in their fears of an ambuscade. But the army meanwhile was quietly making its descent; and when it appeared that they had crept down far enough, the signal was given to the Mysian to flee as fast as he could, and he, springing up, fled with his men. The rest of the party, that is the Cretans, saying, "We are caught if we race," left the road and plunged into a wood, and tumbling and rolling down the gullies were saved. The Mysian, fleeing along the road, kept crying for assistance, which they sent him, and picked him up wounded. The party of rescue now beat a retreat themselves with their face to the foe, exposed to a shower of missiles, to which some of the Cretan bowmen responded with their arrows. In this way they all reached the camp in safety.

  [1] Lit. "{Musos} (Mysus), a Mysian by birth, and {Musos} (Mysus) by name."

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