Thence he marched through Arabia
, keeping the Euphrates
on the right, five stages through desert country, thirty-five parasangs. In this region the ground was an unbroken plain, as level as the sea, and full of wormwood; and whatever else there was on the plain by way of shrub or reed, was always fragrant, like spices;
trees there were none, but wild animals of all sorts, vast numbers of wild asses and many ostriches, besides bustards and gazelles. These animals were sometimes chased by the horsemen. As for the asses, whenever one chased them, they would run on ahead and stop—for they ran much faster than the horses—and then, when the horses came near, they would do the same thing again, and it was impossible to catch them unless the horsemen posted themselves at intervals and hunted them in relays. The flesh of those that were captured was like venison, but more tender.
But no ostrich was captured by anyone, and any horseman who chased one speedily desisted; for it would distance him at once in its flight, not merely plying its feet, but hoisting its wings and using them like a sail. The bustards, on the other hand, can be caught if one is quick in starting them up, for they fly only a short distance, like partridges, and soon tire; and their flesh was delicious.
Marching on through this region they arrived at the Mascas river, which is a plethrum in width. There, in the desert, was a large city named Corsote, completely surrounded by the Mascas.
There they remained three days and provisioned the army. Thence Cyrus marched thirteen stages through desert country, ninety parasangs, keeping the Euphrates river on the right, and arrived at Pylae. In the course of these stages many of the baggage animals died of hunger, for there was no fodder and, in fact, no growing thing of any kind, but the land was absolutely bare; and the people who dwelt here made a living by quarrying mill-stones along the river banks, then fashioning them and taking them to Babylon
, where they sold them and bought grain in exchange.
As for the troops, their supply of grain gave out, and it was not possible to buy any except in the Lydian1
market attached to the barbarian army of Cyrus,2
at the price of four sigli for a capith of wheat flour or barley meal. The siglus is worth seven and one-half Attic obols, and the capith had the capacity of two Attic choenices.3
The soldiers therefore managed to subsist by eating meat.4
And Cyrus sometimes made these stages through the desert very long, whenever he wanted to reach water or fresh fodder.
Once in particular, when they came upon a narrow, muddy place which was hard for the wagons to get through, Cyrus halted with his train of nobles and dignitaries and ordered Glus and Pigres to take some of the barbarian troops and help to pull the wagons out.
But it seemed to him that they took their time with the work; accordingly, as if in anger, he directed the Persian nobles who accompanied him to take a hand in hurrying on the wagons. And then one might have beheld a sample of good discipline: they each threw off their purple cloaks where they chanced to be standing, and rushed, as a man would run to win a victory, down a most exceedingly steep hill, wearing their costly tunics and coloured trousers, some of them, indeed, with necklaces around their necks and bracelets on their arms; and leaping at once, with all this finery, into the mud, they lifted the wagons high and dry and brought them out more quickly than one would have thought possible.
In general, it was clear that Cyrus was in haste throughout the whole journey and was making no delays, except where he halted to procure provisions or for some other necessary purpose; his thought was that the faster he went, the more unprepared the King would be to fight with him, while, on the other hand, the slower he went, the greater would be the army that was gathering for the King. Furthermore, one who observed closely could see at a glance that while the King's empire was strong in its extent of territory and number of inhabitants, it was weak by reason of the greatness of the distances and the scattered condition of its forces, in case one should be swift in making his attack upon it.
Across the Euphrates river in the course of these desert marches was a large and prosperous city named Charmande, and here the soldiers made purchases of provisions, crossing the river on rafts in the following way: they took skins which they had for tent covers, filled them with hay, and then brought the edges together and sewed them up, so that the water could not touch the hay; on these they would cross and get provisions—wine made from the date of the palm tree and bread made of millet, for this grain was very abundant in the country.
There one of Menon's soldiers and one of Clearchus' men had some dispute, and Clearchus, deciding that Menon's man was in the wrong, gave him a flogging. The man then went to his own army and told about it, and when his comrades heard of the matter, they took it hard and were exceedingly angry with Clearchus.
On the same day Clearchus, after going to the place where they crossed the river and there inspecting the market, was riding back to his own tent through Menon's army, having only a few men with him; and Cyrus had not yet arrived, but was still on the march toward the place; and one of Menon's soldiers who was splitting wood threw his axe at Clearchus when he saw him riding through the camp. Now this man missed him, but another threw a stone at him, and still another, and then, after an outcry had been raised, many.
Clearchus escaped to his own army and at once called his troops to arms; he ordered his hoplites to remain where they were, resting their shields against their knees,5
while he himself with the Thracians6
and the horsemen, of which he had in his army more than forty, most of them Thracians, advanced upon Menon's troops; the result was that these and Menon himself were thoroughly frightened and ran to their arms, though there were some who stood stock-still, nonplussed by the situation.
But Proxenus—for he chanced to be now coming up, later than the others, with a battalion of hoplites following him—straightway led his troops into the space between the two parties, halted them under arms, and began to beg Clearchus not to proceed with his attack. Clearchus, however, was angry, because, when he had barely escaped being stoned to death, Proxenus was talking lightly of his grievance, and he ordered him to remove himself from between them.
At this moment Cyrus also came up and learned about the situation, and he immediately took his spears in his hands and, attended by such of his counsellors as were present, came riding into the intervening space and spoke as follows:
“Clearchus, and Proxenus, and all you other Greeks who are here, you know not what you are doing. For as certainly as you come to fighting with one another, you may be sure that on this very day I shall be instantly cut to pieces and yourselves not long after me; for once let ill fortune overtake us, and all these barbarians whom you see will be more hostile to us than are those who stand with the King.”
On hearing these words Clearchus came to his senses, and both parties ceased from their quarrel and returned to their quarters.