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Anabasis(27)

2006-09-07 20:45

  Book IV I x-chapter:VI

  When a week had passed, on the eighth day Xenophon delivered over the guide (that is to say, the village headman) to Cheirisophus. He left the headman's household safe behind in the village, with the exception of his son, a lad in the bloom of youth. This boy was entrusted to Episthenes of Amphipolis to guard; if the headman proved himself a good guide, he was to take away his son also at his departure. They finally made his house the repository of all the good things they could contrive to get together; then they broke up their camp and commenced to march, the headman guiding them through the snow unfettered. When they had reached the third stage Cheirisophus flew into a rage with him, because he had not brought them to any villages. The headman pleaded that there were none in this part. Cheirisophus struck him, but forgot to bind him, and the end of it was that the headman ran away in the night and was gone, leaving his son behind him. This was the sole ground of difference between Cheirisophus and Xenophon during the march, this combination of ill-treatment and neglect in the case of the guide. As to the boy, Episthenes conceived a passion for him, and took him home with him, and found in him the most faithful of friends.

  After this they marched seven stages at the rate of five parasangs a day, to the banks of the river Phasis[1], which is a hundred feet broad: and thence they marched another couple of stages, ten parasangs; but at the pass leading down into the plain there appeared in front of them a mixed body of Chalybes and Taochians and Phasianians. When Cheirisophus caught sight of the enemy on the pass at a distance of about three or four miles, he ceased marching, not caring to approach the enemy with his troops in column, and he passed down the order to the others: to deploy their companies to the front, that the troops might form into line. As soon as the rearguard had come up, he assembled the generals and officers, and addressed them: "The enemy, as you see, are in occupation of the mountain pass, it is time we should consider how we are to make the best fight to win it. My opinion is, that we should give orders to the troops to take their morning meal, whilst we deliberate whether we should cross the mountains to-day or to-morrow." "My opinion," said Cleanor, "is, that as soon as we have breakfasted, we should arm for the fight and attack the enemy, without loss of time, for if we fritter away to-day, the enemy who are now content to look at us, will grow bolder, and with their growing courage, depend upon it, others more numerous will join them."

  [1] Probably a tributary of the Araxes = modern Pasin-Su.

  After him Xenophon spoke: "This," he said, "is how I see the matter; if fight we must, let us make preparation to sell our lives dearly, but if we desire to cross with the greatest ease, the point to consider is, how we may get the fewest wounds and throw away the smallest number of good men. Well then, that part of the mountain which is visible stretches nearly seven miles. Where are the men posted to intercept us? except at the road itself, they are nowhere to be seen. It is much better to try if possible to steal a point of this desert mountain unobserved, and before they know where we are, secure the prize, than to fly at a strong position and an enemy thoroughly prepared. Since it is much easier to march up a mountain without fighting than to tramp along a level when assailants are at either hand; and provided he has not to fight, a man will see what lies at his feet much more plainly even at night than in broad daylight in the midst of battle; and a rough road to feet that roam in peace may be pleasanter than a smooth surface with the bullets whistling about your ears[2]. Nor is it so impossible, I take it, to steal a march, since it is open to us to go by night, when we cannot be seen, and to fall back so far that they will never notice us. In my opinion, however, if we make a feint of attacking here, we shall find the mountain chain all the more deserted elsewhere, since the enemy will be waiting for us here in thicker swarm.

  [2] Or, more lit., "with the head a mark for missiles."

  "But what right have I to be drawing conclusions about stealing in your presence, Cheirisophus? for you Lacedaemonians, as I have often been told, you who belong to the 'peers,' practise stealing from your boyhood up; and it is no disgrace but honourable rather to steal, except such things as the law forbids; and in order, I presume, to stimulate your sense of secretiveness, and to make you master thieves, it is lawful for you further to get a whipping if you are caught. Now then you have a fine opportunity of displaying your training. But take care we are not caught stealing over the mountain, or we shall catch it ourselves." "For all that," retorted Cheirisophus, "I have heard that you Athenians are clever hands at stealing the public moneys; and that too though there is a fearful risk for the person so employed; but, I am told, it is your best men who are addicted to it; if it is your best men who are thought worthy to rule. So it is a fine opportunity for yourself also, Xenophon, to exhibit your education." "And I," replied Xenophon, "am ready to take the rear division, as soon as we have supped, and seize the mountain chain. I have already got guides, for the light troops laid an ambuscade, and seized some of the cut-purse vagabonds who hung on our rear. I am further informed by them that the mountain is not inaccessible, but is grazed by goats and cattle, so that if we can once get hold of any portion of it, there will be no difficulty as regards our animals——they can cross. As to the enemy, I expect they will not even wait for us any longer, when they once see us on a level with themselves on the heights, for they do not even at present care to come down and meet us on fair ground." Cheirisophus answered: "But why should you go and leave your command in the rear? Send others rather, unless a band of volunteers will present themselves." Thereupon Aristonymus the Methydrian came forward with some heavy infantry, and Nicomachus the Oetean with another body of light troops, and they made an agreement to kindle several watch-fires as soon as they held the heights. The arrangements made, they breakfasted; and after breakfast Cheirisophus advanced the whole army ten furlongs closer towards the enemy, so as to strengthen the impression that he intended to attack them at that point.

  But as soon as they had supped and night had fallen, the party under orders set off and occupied the mountain, while the main body rested where they were. Now as soon as the enemy perceived that the mountain was taken, they banished all thought of sleep, and kept many watch-fires blazing throughout the night. But at break of day Cheirisophus offered sacrifice, and began advancing along the road, while the detachment which held the mountain advanced pari passu by the high ground. The larger mass of the enemy, on his side, remained still on the mountain-pass, but a section of them turned to confront the detachment on the heights. Before the main bodies had time to draw together, the detachment on the height came to close quarters, and the Hellenes were victorious and gave chase. Meanwhile the light division of the Hellenes, issuing from the plain, were rapidly advancing against the serried lines of the enemy, whilst Cheirisophus followed up with his heavy infantry at quick march. But the enemy on the road no sooner saw their higher division being worsted than they fled, and some few of them were slain, and a vast number of wicker shields were taken, which the Hellenes hacked to pieces with their short swords and rendered useless. So when they had reached the summit of the pass, they sacrificed and set up a trophy, and descending into the plain, reached villages abounding in good things of every kind.

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