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Anabasis(23)

2006-09-07 20:44

  Book IV I x-chapter:II

  It was already late afternoon, when they ordered the storming party to take a snatch of food and set off; then they bound the guide and handed him over to them. The agreement was, that if they succeeded in taking the summit they were to guard the position that night, and at daybreak to give a signal by bugle. At this signal the party on the summit were to attack the enemy in occupation of the visible pass, while the generals with the main body would bring up their succours; making their way up with what speed they might. With this understanding, off they set, two thousand strong; and there was a heavy downpour of rain, but Xenophon, with his rearguard, began advancing to the visible pass, so that the enemy might fix his attention on this road, and the party creeping round might, as much as possible, elude observation. Now when the rearguard, so advancing, had reached a ravine which they must cross in order to strike up the steep, at that instant the barbarians began rolling down great boulders, each a wagon load[1], some larger, some smaller; against the rocks they crashed and splintered flying like slingstones in every direction——so that it was absolutely out of the question even to approach the entrance of the pass. Some of the officers finding themselves baulked at this point, kept trying other ways, nor did they desist till darkness set in; and then, when they thought they would not be seen retiring, they returned to supper. Some of them who had been on duty in the rearguard had had no breakfast (it so happened). However, the enemy never ceased rolling down their stones all through the night, as was easy to infer from the booming sound.

  [1] I.e. several ton weight.

  The party with the guide made a circuit and surprised the enemy's guards seated round their fire, and after killing some, and driving out the rest, took their places, thinking that they were in possession of the height. As a matter of fact they were not, for above them lay a breast-like hill[2] skirted by the narrow road on which they had found the guards seated. Still, from the spot in question there was an approach to the enemy, who were seated on the pass before mentioned.

  [2] Or, "mamelon."

  Here then they passed the night, but at the first glimpse of dawn they marched stealthily and in battle order against the enemy. There was a mist, so that they could get quite close without being observed. But as soon as they caught sight of one another, the trumpet sounded, and with a loud cheer they rushed upon the fellows, who did not wait their coming, but left the road and made off; with the loss of only a few lives however, so nimble were they. Cheirisophus and his men, catching the sound of the bugle, charged up by the well-marked road, while others of the generals pushed their way up by pathless routes, where each division chanced to be; the men mounting as they were best able, and hoisting one another up by means of their spears; and these were the first to unite with the party who had already taken the position by storm. Xenophon, with the rearguard, followed the path which the party with the guide had taken, since it was easiest for the beasts of burthen; one half of his men he had posted in rear of the baggage animals; the other half he had with himself. In their course they encountered a crest above the road, occupied by the enemy, whom they must either dislodge or be themselves cut off from the rest of the Hellenes. The men by themselves could have taken the same route as the rest, but the baggage animals could not mount by any other way than this.

  Here then, with shouts of encouragement to each other, they dashed at the hill with their storming columns, not from all sides, but leaving an avenue of escape for the enemy, if he chose to avail himself of it. For a while, as the men scrambled up where each best could, the natives kept up a fire of arrows and darts, yet did not receive them at close quarters, but presently left the position in flight. No sooner, however, were the Hellenes safely past this crest, than they came in sight of another in front of them, also occupied, and deemed it advisable to storm it also. But now it struck Xenophon that if they left the ridge just taken unprotected in their rear, the enemy might re-occupy it and attack the baggage animals as they filed past, presenting a long extended line owing to the narrowness of the road by which they made their way. To obviate this, he left some officers in charge of the ridge——Cephisodorus, son of Cephisophon, an Athenian; Amphicrates, the son of Amphidemus, an Athenian; and Archagoras, an Argive exile——while he in person with the rest of the men attacked the second ridge; this they took in the same fashion, only to find that they had still a third knoll left, far the steepest of the three. This was none other than the mamelon mentioned as above the outpost, which had been captured over their fire by the volunteer storming party in the night. But when the Hellenes were close, the natives, to the astonishment of all, without a struggle deserted the knoll. It was conjectured that they had left their position from fear of being encircled and besieged, but the fact was that they, from their higher ground, had been able to see what was going on in the rear, and had all made off in this fashion to attack the rearguard.

  So then Xenophon, with the youngest men, scaled up to the top, leaving orders to the rest to march on slowly, so as to allow the hindmost companies to unite with them; they were to advance by the road, and when they reached the level to ground arms[3]. Meanwhile the Argive Archagoras arrived, in full flight, with the announcement that they had been dislodged from the first ridge, and that Cephisodorus and Amphicrates were slain, with a number of others besides, all in fact who had not jumped down the crags and so reached the rearguard. After this achievement the barbarians came to a crest facing the mamelon, and Xenophon held a colloquy with them by means of an interpreter, to negotiate a truce, and demanded back the dead bodies. These they agreed to restore if he would not burn their houses, and to these terms Xenophon agreed. Meanwhile, as the rest of the army filed past, and the colloquy was proceeding, all the people of the place had time to gather gradually, and the enemy formed; and as soon as the Hellenes began to descend from the mamelon to join the others where the troops were halted, on rushed the foe, in full force, with hue and cry. They reached the summit of the mamelon from which Xenophon was descending, and began rolling down crags. One man's leg was crushed to pieces. Xenophon was left by his shield-bearer, who carried off his shield, but Eurylochus of Lusia[4], an Arcadian hoplite, ran up to him, and threw his shield in front to protect both of them; so the two together beat a retreat, and so too the rest, and joined the serried ranks of the main body.

  [3] To take up position.

  [4] I.e. of Lusi (or Lusia), a town (or district) in Northern Arcadia.

  After this the whole Hellenic force united, and took up their quarters there in numerous beautiful dwellings, with an ample store of provisions, for there was wine so plentiful that they had it in cemented cisterns. Xenophon and Cheirisophus arranged to recover the dead, and in return restored the guide; afterwards they did everything for the dead, according to the means at their disposal, with the customary honours paid to good men.

  Next day they set off without a guide; and the enemy, by keeping up a continuous battle and occupying in advance every narrow place, obstructed passage after passage. Accordingly, whenever the van was obstructed, Xenophon, from behind, made a dash up the hills and broke the barricade, and freed the vanguard by endeavouring to get above the obstructing enemy. Whenever the rear was the point attacked, Cheirisophus, in the same way, made a detour, and by endeavouring to mount higher than the barricaders, freed the passage for the rear rank; and in this way, turn and turn about, they rescued each other, and paid unflinching attention to their mutual needs. At times it happened that, the relief party having mounted, encountered considerable annoyance in their descent from the barbarians, who were so agile that they allowed them to come up quite close, before they turned back, and still escaped, partly no doubt because the only weapons they had to carry were bows and slings.

  They were, moreover, excellent archers, using bows nearly three cubits long and arrows more than two cubits. When discharging the arrow, they draw the string by getting a purchase with the left foot planted forward on the lower end of the bow. The arrows pierced through shield and cuirass, and the Hellenes, when they got hold of them, used them as javelins, fitting them to their thongs. In these districts the Cretans were highly serviceable. They were under the command of Stratocles, a Cretan.

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