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Anabasis(6)

2006-09-07 20:39

  Book I I x-chapter:VI

  As they advanced from this point (opposite Charmande), they came upon the hoof-prints and dung of horses at frequent intervals. It looked like the trail of some two thousand horses. Keeping ahead of the army, these fellows burnt up the grass and everything else that was good for use. Now there was a Persian, named Orontas; he was closely related to the king by birth: and in matters pertaining to war reckoned among the best of Persian warriors. Having formerly been at war with Cyrus, and afterwards reconciled to him, he now made a conspiracy to destroy him. he made a proposal to Cyrus: if Cyrus would furnish him with a thousand horsemen, he would deal with these troopers, who were burning down everything in front of them; he would lay an ambuscade and cut them down, or he would capture a host of them alive; in any case, he would put a stop to their agressiveness and burnings; he would see to it that they did not ever get a chance of setting eyes on Cyrus's army and reporting its advent to the king. The proposal seemed plausible to Cyrus, who accordingly authorised Orontas to take a detachment from each of the generals, and be gone. He, thinking that he had got his horsemen ready to his hand, wrote a letter to the king, announcing that he would ere long join him with as many troopers as he could bring; he bade him, at the same time, instruct the royal cavalry to welcome him as a friend. The letter further contained certain reminders of his former friendship and fidelity. This despatch he delivered into the hands of one who was a trusty messenger, as he thought; but the bearer took and gave it to Cyrus. Cyrus read it. Orontas was arrested. Then Cyrus summoned to his tent seven of the noblest Persians among his personal attendants, and sent orders to the Hellenic generals to bring up a body of hoplites. These troops were to take up a position round his tent. This the generals did; bringing up about three thousand hoplites. Clearchus was also invited inside, to assist at the court-martial; a compliment due to the position he held among the other generals, in the opinion not only of Cyrus, but also of the rest of the court. When he came out, he reported the circumstances of the trial (as to which, indeed, there was no mystery) to his friends. He said that Cyrus opened the inquiry with these words: "I have invited you hither, my friends, that I may take advice with you, and carry out whatever, in the sight of God and man, it is right for me to do, as concerning the man before you, Orontas. The prisoner was, in the first instance, given to me by my father, to be my faithful subject. In the next place, acting, to use his own words, under the orders of my brother, and having hold of the acropolis of Sardis, he went to war with me. I met war with war, and forced him to think it more prudent to desist from war with me: whereupon we shook hands, exchanging solemn pledges. After that," and at this point Cyrus turned to Orontas, and addressed him personally——"after that, did I do you any wrong?" Answer, "Never." Again another question: "Then later on, having received, as you admit, no injury from me, did you revolt to the Mysians and injure my territory, as far as in you lay?"——"I did," was the reply. "Then, once more having discovered the limits of your power, did you flee to the altar of Artemis, crying out that you repented? and did you thus work upon my feelings, that we a second time shook hands and made interchange of solemn pledges? Are these things so?" Orontas again assented. "Then what injury have you received from me," Cyrus asked, "that now for the third time, you have been detected in a treasonous plot against me?"——"I must needs do so," he answered. Then Cyrus put one more question: "But the day may come, may it not, when you will once again be hostile to my brother, and a faithful friend to myself?" The other answered: "Even if I were, you could never be brought to believe it, Cyrus."

  At this point Cyrus turned to those who were present and said: "Such has been the conduct of the prisoner in the past: such is his language now. I now call upon you, and you first, Clearchus, to declare your opinion——what think you?" And Clearchus answered: "My advice to you is to put this man out of the way as soon as may be, so that we may be saved the necessity of watching him, and have more leisure, as far as he is concerned, to requite the services of those whose friendship is sincere."——"To this opinion," he told us, "the rest of the court adhered." After that, at the bidding of Cyrus, each of those present, in turn, including the kinsmen of Orontas, took him by the girdle; which is as much as to say, "Let him die the death," and then those appointed led him out; and they who in old days were wont to do obeisance to him, could not refrain, even at that moment, from bowing down before him, albeit they knew he was being led forth to death.

  After they had conducted him to the tent of Artapates, the trustiest of Cyrus's wand-bearers, none set eyes upon him ever again, alive or dead. No one, of his own knowledge, could declare the manner of his death; though some conjectured one thing and some another. No tomb to mark his resting-place, either then or since, was ever seen.

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