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Anabasis(40)

2006-09-07 20:49

  Book VI I x-chapter:III

  The Arcadians, disembarking under cover of night at Calpe Haven, marched against the nearest villages about thirty furlongs from the sea; and as soon as it was light, each of the ten generals led his company to attack one village, or if the village were large, a couple of companies advanced under their combined generals. They further agreed upon a certain knoll, where they were all eventually to assemble. So sudden was their attack that they seized a number of captives and enclosed a multitude of small cattle. But the Thracians who escaped began to collect again; for being light-armed troops they had slipped in large numbers through the hands of the heavy infantry; and now that they were got together they first attacked the company of the Arcadian general, Smicres, who had done his work and was retiring to the appointed meeting-place, driving along a large train of captives and cattle. For a good while the Hellenes maintained a running fight[1]; but at the passage of a gorge the enemy routed them, slaying Smicres himself and those with him to a man. The fate of another company under command of Hegesander, another of the ten, was nearly as bad; only eight men escaped, Hegesander being one of them. The remaining captains eventually met, some with somewhat to show for their pains, others empty-handed.

  [1] Lit. "marched and fought," as did the forlorn hope under Sir C. Wilson making its way from Abu Klea to the Nile in Jan. 1885.

  The Thracians, having achieved this success, kept up a continual shouting and clatter of conversation to one another during the night; but with day-dawn they marshalled themselves right round the knoll on which the Hellenes were encamped——both cavalry in large numbers and light-armed troops——while every minute the stream of new-comers grew greater. Then they commenced an attack on the heavy infantry in all security, for the Hellenes had not a single bowman, javelin-man, or mounted trooper amongst them; while the enemy rushed forward on foot or galloped up on horseback and let fly their javelins. It was vain to attempt to retaliate, so lightly did they spring back and escape; and ever the attack renewed itself from every point, so that on one side man after man was wounded, on the other not a soul was touched; the result being that they could not stir from their position, and the Thracians ended by cutting them off even from their water. In their despair they began to parley about a truce, and finally various concessions were made and terms agreed to between them; but the Thracians would not hear of giving hostages in answer to the demand of the Hellenes; at that point the matter rested. So fared it with the Arcadians.

  As to Cheirisophus, that general prosecuted his march along the seaboard, and without check reached Calpe Haven. Xenophon advanced through the heart of the country; and his cavalry pushing on in front, came upon some old men pursuing their road somewither, who were brought to him, and in answer to his question, whether they had caught sight of another Hellenic army anywhere, told him all that had already taken place, adding that at present they were being besieged upon a knoll with all the Thracians in close circle round them. Thereupon he kept the old men under strict guard to serve as guides in case of need; next, having appointed outposts, he called a meeting of the soldiers, and addressed them: "Soldiers, some of the Arcadians are dead and the rest are being besieged upon a certain knoll. Now my own belief is, that if they are to perish, with their deaths the seal is set to our own fate: since we must reckon with an enemy at once numerous and emboldened. Clearly our best course is to hasten to their rescue, if haply we may find them still alive, and do battle by their side rather than suffer isolation, confronting danger single-handed.

  "Let us then at once push forward as far as may seem opportune till supper-time, and then encamp. As long as we are marching, let Timasion, with the cavalry, gallop on in front, but without losing sight of us; and let him examine all closely in front, so that nothing may escape our observation." (At the same time too, he sent out some nimble fellows of the light-armed troops to the flanks and to the high tops, who were to give a signal if they espied anything anywhere; ordering them to burn everything inflammable which lay in their path.) "As for ourselves," he continued, "we need not look to find cover in any direction; for it is a long step back to Heraclea and a long leap across to Chrysopolis, and the enemy is at the door. The shortest road is to Calpe Haven, where we suppose Cheirisophus, if safe, to be; but then, when we get there, at Calpe Haven there are no vessels for us to sail away in; and if we stop here, we have not provisions for a single day. Suppose the beleaguered Arcadians left to their fate, we shall find it but a sorry alternative to run the gauntlet with Cheirisophus's detachment alone; better to save them if we can, and with united forces work out our deliverance in common. But if so, we must set out with minds prepared, since to-day either a glorious death awaits us or the achievement of a deed of noblest emprise in the rescue of so many Hellene lives. Maybe it is God who leads us thus, God who chooses to humble the proud boaster, boasting as though he were exceedingly wise, but for us, the beginning of whose every act is by heaven's grace, that same God reserves a higher grade of honour. One duty I would recall to you, to apply your minds to the execution of the orders with promptitude."

  With these words he led the way. The cavalry, scattering as far in advance as was prudent, wherever they set foot, set fire. The peltasts moving parallel on the high ground were similarly employed, burning everything combustible they could discover. While the main army, wherever they came upon anything which had accidentally escaped, completed the work, so that the whole country looked as if it were ablaze; and the army might easily pass for a larger one. When the hour had come, they turned aside to a knoll and took up quarters; and there they espied the enemy's watch-fires. He was about forty furlongs distant. On their side also they kindled as many watch-fires as possible; but as soon as they had dined the order was passed to quench all the fires. So during the night they posted guards and slept. But at daybreak they offered prayers to the gods, and drawing up in order of battle, began marching with what speed they might. Timasion and the cavalry, who had the guides with them, and were moving on briskly in front, found themselves without knowing it at the very knoll upon which the Hellenes had been beleaguered. But no army could they discover, whether of friend or foe; only some starveling old women and men, with a few sheep and oxen which had been left behind. This news they reproted to Xenophon and the main body. At first the marvel was what had happened; but ere long they found out by inquiries from the folk who had been left behind, that the Thracians had set off immediately after sundown, and were gone; the Hellenes had waited till morning before they made off, but in what direction, they could not say.

  On hearing this, Xenophon's troops first breakfasted, and then getting their kit together began their march, desiring to unite with the rest at Calpe's Haven without loss of time. As they continued their march, they came across the track of the Arcadians and Achaeans along the road to Calpe, and both divisions arriving eventually at the same place, were overjoyed to see one another again, and they embraced each other like brothers. Then the Arcadians inquired of Xenophon's officers——why they had quenched the watch-fires? "At first," said they, "when we lost sight of your watch-fires, we expected you to attack the enemy in the night; and the enemy, so at least we imagined, must have been afraid of that and so set off. The time at any rate at which they set off would correspond. But when the requisite time had elapsed and you did not come, we concluded that you must have learnt what was happening to us, and in terror had made a bolt for it to the seaboard. We resolved not to be left behind by you; and that is how we also came to march hither."

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