[The preceding narrative has described all that the Greeks did in the course of the upward march with Cyrus until the time of the battle, and all that took place after the death of Cyrus while the Greeks were on the way back with Tissaphernes during the period of the truce.]
After the generals had been seized and such of the captains and soldiers as accompanied them had been killed, the Greeks were naturally in great perplexity, reflecting that they were at the King's gates, that round about them on every side were many hostile tribes and cities, that no one would provide them a market any longer, that they were distant from Greece
not less than ten thousand stadia, that they had no guide to show them the way, that they were cut off by impassable rivers which flowed across the homeward route, that the barbarians who had made the upward march with Cyrus had also betrayed them, and that they were left alone, without even a single horseman to support them, so that it was quite clear that if they should be victorious, they could not kill anyone,2
while if they should be defeated, not one of them would be left alive.
Full of these reflections and despondent as they were, but few of them tasted food at evening, few kindled a fire, and many did not come that night to their quarters, but lay down wherever they each chanced to be, unable to sleep for grief and longing for their native states and parents, their wives and children, whom they thought they should never see again. Such was the state of mind in which they all lay down to rest.
There was a man in the army named Xenophon, an Athenian, who was neither general nor captain nor private, but had accompanied the expedition because Proxenus, an old friend of his, had sent him at his home an invitation to go with him; Proxenus had also promised him that, if he would go, he would make him a friend of Cyrus, whom he himself regarded, so he said, as worth more to him than was his native state.
After reading Proxenus' letter Xenophon conferred with Socrates
the Athenian, about the proposed journey; and Socrates
, suspecting that his becoming a friend of Cyrus might be a cause for accusation against Xenophon on the part of the Athenian government, for the reason that Cyrus was thought to have given the Lacedaemonians zealous aid in their war against Athens
advised Xenophon to go to Delphi
and consult the god in regard to this journey.
So Xenophon went and asked Apollo to what one of the gods he should sacrifice and pray in order best and most successfully to perform the journey which he had in mind and, after meeting with good fortune, to return home in safety; and Apollo in his response told him to what gods he must sacrifice.
When Xenophon came back from Delphi
, he reported the oracle to Socrates; and upon hearing about it Socrates found fault with him because he did not first put the question whether it were better for him to go or stay, but decided for himself that he was to go and then asked the god as to the best way of going. “However,” he added, “since you did put the question in that way, you must do all that the god directed.”
Xenophon, accordingly, after offering the sacrifices to the gods that Apollo's oracle prescribed, set sail, overtook Proxenus and Cyrus at Sardis
as they were on the point of beginning the upward march, and was introduced to Cyrus.
And not only did Proxenus urge him to stay with them, but Cyrus also joined in this request, adding that as soon as the campaign came to an end, he would send Xenophon home at once; and the report was that the campaign was against the Pisidians.
It was in this way, then, that Xenophon came to go on the expedition, quite deceived about its purpose—not, however, by Proxenus, for he did not know that the attack was directed against the King, nor did anyone else among the Greeks with the exception of Clearchus; but by the time they reached Cilicia
, it seemed clear to everybody that the expedition was really against the King. Then, although the Greeks were fearful of the journey and unwilling to go on, most of them did, nevertheless, out of shame before one another and before Cyrus, continue the march. And Xenophon was one of this number.
Now when the time of perplexity came, he was distressed as well as everybody else and was unable to sleep; but, getting at length a little sleep, he had a dream. It seemed to him that there was a clap of thunder and a bolt fell on his father's house, setting the whole house ablaze.
He awoke at once in great fear, and judged the dream in one way an auspicious one, because in the midst of hardships and perils he had seemed to behold a great light from Zeus; but looking at it in another way he was fearful, since the dream came, as he thought, from Zeus the King and the fire appeared to blaze all about, lest he might not be able to escape out of the King's country,5
but might be shut in on all sides by various difficulties.
Now what it really means to have such a dream one may learn from the events which followed the dream—and they were these: Firstly, on the moment of his awakening the thought occurred to him: “Why do I lie here? The night is wearing on, and at daybreak it is likely that the enemy will be upon us. And if we fall into the King's hands, what is there to prevent our living to behold all the most grievous sights and to experience all the most dreadful sufferings, and then being put to death with insult?
As for defending ourselves, however, no one is making preparations or taking thought for that, but we lie here just as if it were possible for us to enjoy our ease. What about myself, then? From what state am I expecting the general to come who is to perform these duties? And what age must I myself wait to attain? For surely I shall never be any older, if this day I give myself up to the enemy.”
Then he arose and, as a first step, called together the captains of Proxenus. When they had gathered, he said: “Gentlemen, I am unable either to sleep, as I presume you are also, or to lie still any longer, when I see in what straits we now are.
For the enemy manifestly did not begin open war upon us until the moment when they believed that their own preparations had been adequately made; but on our side no one is planning any counter-measures at all to ensure our making the best possible fight.
And yet if we submit and fall into the King's hands, what do we imagine our fate is to be? Even in the case of his own brother, and, yet more, when he was already dead, this man cut off his head and his hand and impaled them; as for ourselves, then, who have no one to intercede for us,6
and who took the field against him with the intention of making him a slave rather than a king and of killing him if we could, what fate may we expect to suffer?
Will he not do his utmost to inflict upon us the most outrageous tortures, and thus make all mankind afraid ever to undertake an expedition against him? We, then, must make every effort not to fall into his power.
“For my part, so long as the truce lasted I never ceased commiserating ourselves and congratulating the King and his followers; for I saw plainly what a great amount of fine land they possessed, what an abundance of provisions, what quantities of servants, cattle, gold, and apparel;
but whenever I took thought of the situation of our own soldiers, I saw that we had no share in these good things, except we bought them, I knew there were but few of us who still had money wherewith to buy, and I knew that our oaths restrained us from getting provisions in any other way than by purchase. Hence, with these considerations in mind, I used sometimes to fear the truce more than I now fear war.
But seeing that their own act has put an end to the truce, the end has likewise come, in my opinion, both of their arrogance and of our embarrassment. For now all these good things are offered as prizes for whichever of the two parties shall prove to be the braver men; and the judges of the contest are the gods, who, in all likelihood, will be on our side.
For our enemies have sworn falsely by them, while we, with abundant possessions before our eyes, have steadfastly kept our hands therefrom because of our oaths by the gods; hence we, I think, can go into the contest with far greater confidence than can our enemies.
Besides, we have bodies more capable than theirs of bearing cold and heat and toil, and we likewise, by the blessing of the gods, have better souls; and these men are more liable than we to be wounded and killed, if the gods again, as on that former day, grant us victory.
“And now, since it may be that others also have these same thoughts in mind, let us not, in the name of the gods, wait for others to come to us and summon us to the noblest deeds, but let us take the lead ourselves and arouse the rest to valour. Show yourselves the best of the captains, and more worthy to be generals than the generals themselves.
As for me, if you choose to set out upon this course, I am ready to follow you; but if you assign me the leadership, I do not plead my youth as an excuse; rather, I believe I am in the very prime of my power to ward off dangers from my own head.”
Such were Xenophon's words; and upon hearing what he said the officers bade him take the lead, all of them except a man named Apollonides, who spoke in the Boeotian dialect. This man maintained that anyone who said he could gain safety in any other way than by winning the King's consent through persuasion, if possible, was talking nonsense; and at the same time he began to recite the difficulties of their situation. Xenophon, however, interrupted him in the midst of his talk, and said:
“You amazing fellow, you have eyes but still do not perceive, and you have ears but still do not remember. You were present, surely, with the rest of these officers at the time when the King, after the death of Cyrus and in his elation over that event, sent and ordered us to give up our arms.
But when, instead of giving them up, we equipped ourselves with them, and went and encamped beside him, what means did he leave untried—sending ambassadors, begging for a truce, offering us provisions—until in the end he obtained a truce?
When, however, our generals and captains, following precisely the plan that you are now urging, went unarmed to a conference with them, relying upon the truce, what happened in that case? are they not at this moment being beaten, tortured, insulted, unable even to die, hapless men that they are, even though they earnestly long, I imagine, for death? And do you, knowing all these things, say that they are talking nonsense who urge self-defence, and do you propose that we should again go and try persuasion?
In my opinion, gentlemen, we should not simply refuse to admit this fellow to companionship with us, but should deprive him of his captaincy, lay packs on his back, and treat him as that sort of a creature. For the fellow is a disgrace both to his native state and to the whole of Greece
, since, being a Greek, he is still a man of this kind.”
Then Agasias, a Stymphalian, broke in and said: “For that matter, this fellow has nothing to do either with Boeotia
or with any part of Greece
at all, for I have noticed that he has both his ears bored,7
like a Lydian's.”8
In fact, it was so. He, therefore, was driven away, but the others proceeded to visit the various divisions9
of the army. Wherever a general was left alive, they would invite him to join them; where the general was gone, they invited the lieutenant-general; or, again, where only a captain was left, the captain.
When all had come together, they seated themselves at the front of the encampment, and the generals and captains thus assembled amounted in number to about one hundred. By this time it was nearly midnight.
Then Hieronymus the Elean, who was the eldest of Proxenus' captains, began to speak as follows: “Generals and captains, we have deemed it best, in view of the present situation, both to come together ourselves and to invite you to join us, in order that we may devise whatever good counsel we can. Repeat now, Xenophon,” he added, “just what you said to us.”
Thereupon Xenophon spoke as follows: “We all understand thus much, that the King and Tissaphernes have seized as many as they could of our number, and that they are manifestly plotting against the rest of us, to destroy us if they can. It is for us, then, in my opinion, to make every effort that we may never fall into the power of the barbarians, but that they may rather fall into our power.
Be sure, therefore, that you, who have now come together in such numbers, have the grandest of opportunities. For all our soldiers here are looking to you; if they see that you are faint-hearted, all of them will be cowards; but if you not only show that you are making preparations yourselves against the enemy, but call upon the rest to do likewise, be well assured that they will follow you and will try to imitate you.
But perhaps it is really proper that you should somewhat excel them. For you are generals, you are lieutenant-generals and captains; while peace lasted, you had the advantage of them alike in pay and in standing; now, therefore, when a state of war exists, it is right to expect that you should be superior to the common soldiers, and that you should plan for them and toil for them whenever there be need.
“And now, firstly, I think you would do the army a great service if you should see to it that generals and captains are appointed as speedily as possible to take the places of those who are lost. For without leaders nothing fine or useful can be accomplished in any field, to put it broadly, and certainly not in warfare. For discipline, it seems, keeps men in safety, while the lack of it has brought many ere now to destruction.
Secondly, when you have appointed all the leaders that are necessary, I think you would perform a very opportune act if you should gather together the rest of the soldiers also and try to encourage them.
For, as matters stand now, perhaps you have observed for yourselves in what dejection they came to their quarters and in what dejection they proceeded to their picket duty; and so long as they are in this state, I know not what use one could make of them, if there should be need of them either by night or by day.
If, however, we can turn the current of their minds, so that they shall be thinking, not merely of what they are to suffer, but likewise of what they are going to do, they will be far more cheerful.
For you understand, I am sure, that it is neither numbers nor strength which wins victories in war; but whichever of the two sides it be whose troops, by the blessing of the gods, advance to the attack with stouter hearts, against those troops their adversaries generally refuse to stand.
And in my own experience, gentlemen, I have observed this other fact, that those who are anxious in war to save their lives in any way they can, are the very men who usually meet with a base and shameful death; while those who have recognized that death is the common and inevitable portion of all mankind and therefore strive to meet death nobly, are precisely those who are somehow more likely to reach old age and who enjoy a happier existence while they do live.
We, then, taking to heart this lesson, so suited to the crisis which now confronts us, must be brave men ourselves and call forth bravery in our fellows.”
With these words Xenophon ceased speaking.
After him Cheirisophus said: “Hitherto, Xenophon, I have known you only to the extent of having heard that you were an Athenian, but now I commend you both for your words and your deeds, and I should be glad if we had very many of your sort; for it would be a blessing to the entire army.
And now, gentlemen,” he went on, “let us not delay; withdraw and choose your commanders at once, you who need them, and after making your choices come to the middle of the camp and bring with you the men you have selected; then we will call a meeting there of all the troops. And let us make sure,” he added, “that Tolmides, the herald, is present.”
With these words he got up at once, that there might be no delay in carrying out the needful measures. Thereupon the commanders were chosen, Timasion the Dardanian in place of Clearchus, Xanthicles the Achaean in place of Socrates, Cleanor the Arcadian in place of Agias, Philesius the Achaean in place of Menon, and Xenophon the Athenian in place of Proxenus.