The soldiers, accordingly, learned by inquiry that this plan was being agitated. And Neon said that Xenophon had won over the other generals and was intending to deceive the soldiers and lead them back to the Phasis
Upon hearing these words the soldiers were exceedingly angry; meetings were held, groups of them collected, and it was greatly to be feared that they would do the sort of things they had done to the heralds of the Colchians and the market clerks.1
When Xenophon became aware of the situation, he decided to call an assembly of the men as speedily as possible and not to allow them to gather of their own accord; so he directed the herald to call an assembly.
And as soon as the soldiers heard the herald, they rushed together with the utmost readiness. Then Xenophon, without mentioning against the generals the matter of their visit to him, spoke as follows:
“I hear, soldiers, that some one is bringing a charge against me, namely, that I am going to deceive you and lead you to the Phasis
. In the name of the gods, then, give ear to my words, and if it appears that I am guilty of wrong, I ought not to leave this spot without paying the penalty; but if it appears to you that my accusers are guilty of wrong, they ought to be dealt with in such manner as they deserve.
You doubtless know,” he continued, “where the sun rises and where it sets; likewise, that if a man is to go to Greece
, he must journey toward the west, while if he wishes to go to the lands of the barbarians, he must travel in the opposite direction, that is, toward the east. Now is there any one who could deceive you in this matter, by maintaining that the place where the sun rises is the one where it sets and the place where it sets is the one where it rises?
Again, you surely know this also, that the north wind carries one out of the Euxine to Greece
, while the south wind carries you within, to the Phasis—indeed, the saying is, `When the north wind doth blow, fair voyaging to Greece
.' In this matter, again, is it possible that any one could deceive you into embarking when the south wind is blowing?
But I am going to put you aboard, you may say, when it is calm. Well, I shall be sailing on one ship, you on a hundred at least. How, then, could I either force you to voyage along with me if you did not choose, or deceive you into following my lead?
But suppose you have been deceived and bewitched by me and we have come to the Phasis
; we accordingly disembark upon the shore; you will perceive, likely enough, that you are not in Greece
; and I, who have done the deceiving, will be one lone man, while you, the deceived, will be close to ten thousand, with arms in your hands. Then how could a man bring down punishment upon himself more surely than by planning in that way for himself and for you?
“Nay, these are the stories of foolish men, jealous of me because I enjoy honour at your hands. And yet they should not in fairness feel such jealousy; for whom among them do I hinder either from saying any good word he can before you, or from fighting if he will in your behalf and his own, or from being watchful in his care for your safety? Well, then, do I stand in any one's way when you are choosing commanders? I yield, let him be commander; only let it be shown that he renders you good service.
For my part, however, what I have said on these points seems to me sufficient; but if any one among you imagines either that he could be deceived himself by such tales, or could deceive another by these tales, let him speak and explain.
And when you have had enough of this, do not go away until you have heard what manner of evil I see beginning to show itself in the army; for if it comes upon us and proves to be as serious as it now shows signs of being, it is time for us to be taking counsel for ourselves, in order that we may not stand revealed as most wicked and base men, both in the sight of gods and mankind, of friends and enemies.”
Upon hearing these words the soldiers fell to wondering what the thing was, and they bade Xenophon go on. So he began again: “You know, perhaps, that in the mountains there were barbarian strongholds, friendly to the Cerasuntians, from which people would come down and sell you cattle and other things which they had, and also, I believe, some of you went to the nearest of these strongholds and did some buying and came back again.
Clearetus the captain, learning that this place was not only small, but also unguarded, for the reason that its inhabitants deemed themselves friendly, set forth against them by night with the idea of plundering the place, and without a word to any one of us.
It was his intention, in case he should capture this stronghold, not to come back again to the army, but to embark on a vessel upon which his messmates chanced to be sailing along the coast, to put aboard whatever plunder he might secure, and sailing out of the Euxine to go away. Indeed, as I now learn, his messmates on the vessel had concluded an agreement with him to this effect.
He accordingly summoned all the men he could persuade, and set out at their head to march against the stronghold. While he was still on the march, however, the break of day surprised him, and the people of the place gathered together and, by throwing missiles and dealing blows from strong positions, killed Clearetus and a good many of his followers, although some of them did make their way back to Cerasus
All this happened on the day when we were setting forth to come hither by land; and some of those who were going by sea were still at Cerasus
, not having as yet set sail.
“After this, as the Cerasuntians say, there arrived at Cerasus
three of the inhabitants of the stronghold, all elderly men, desiring to come before our general assembly.
But since they did not find us, they addressed themselves to the Cerasuntians, saying that they wondered why we had seen fit to make an attack upon them. When, however, the Cerasuntians replied, so their statement ran, that it was not by public authority that the affair took place, the envoys were pleased, and were intending to sail hither in order to tell us what had happened, and to urge that we should ourselves take and bury the bodies of our dead.
Now it chanced that some of the Greeks who had escaped were still at Cerasus
; and when they learned whither the barbarians were going, they committed the shamelessness of not only attacking them with stones themselves, but urging others to do the same. And the men were killed, these three, who were ambassadors—stoned to death.
“When this had taken place, the Cerasuntians came to us and told us of the affair; and we generals, upon hearing the story, were distressed at what had happened, and we proceeded to take counsel with the Cerasuntians as to how the bodies of the Greek dead might be buried.
While we were in session outside the camp, we suddenly heard a great uproar and shouts of `Strike! strike! pelt! pelt!' and in a moment we saw a crowd of men rushing toward us with stones in their hands and others picking up stones.
And the Cerasuntians, having witnessed, mark you, the affair in their own city, were naturally terrified, and hurried back toward their ships. For that matter, by Zeus, there were some of our own number who were terrified.
I went up to the men, however, and asked what the trouble was. Some of them did not know at all, but nevertheless they had stones in their hands. When I did come upon a man who knew, he told me that the market-clerks were treating the army most outrageously.
At this moment some one saw the market-clerk, Zelarchus, retreating toward the sea, and set up a shout; and when the rest heard it, they rushed upon him as though a wild boar or a stag had been sighted.
And now the Cerasuntians, seeing this rush in their neighbourhood and believing it was undoubtedly directed against themselves, took to running in their flight and threw themselves into the sea. Some of our own men also plunged in with them, and any who did not chance to know how to swim were drowned.
Now what think you about these Cerasuntians? They had done no wrong, but they were afraid that a kind of madness, such as attacks dogs, had seized upon us.
“Now if these doings are to go on in this way, observe what the situation of your army will be.
You, the general body, will not have it in your power either to undertake war upon whom you please or to bring war to an end, but any individual who wishes will be leading an army to gain any end he may desire. And if people come to you as ambassadors, desiring peace or anything else, any who choose will kill them and prevent you from hearing the words of those who come to confer with you.
Furthermore, the men whom you as a body may choose for commanders will be of no account, but whoever may choose himself general and will raise the cry `Pelt, pelt,' that man will have the power to slay either commander or private, any one of you he pleases, without a trial, provided—as indeed it came about in the present case—there are people who will obey him.
Consider the sort of things these self-chosen generals have actually accomplished for you. Take Zelarchus, the market-clerk: supposing he has done you wrong, he has sailed off without paying you the penalty; supposing he is not guilty, he has fled from the army out of fear that he might be slain unjustly and without a trial.
Take those who stoned to death the ambassadors: they have accomplished this result, that you alone of all the Greeks cannot go to Cerasus
safely unless you arrive there with a strong force; and as for the dead whom previously the very men who killed them proposed burying, the result accomplished is, that now it is not safe to pick up their bodies even for one who carries a herald's staff. For who will care to go as herald when he has the blood of heralds upon his hands? So we requested the Cerasuntians to bury them.
“Now if these things are right, do you so resolve, in order that, with the understanding that such deeds are to be done, a man may establish his own private guard and may endeavour to hold possession of the strong places overhanging him on the right when he encamps.
If, however, you think that such deeds are those of wild beasts and not of human beings, look about for some means of stopping them; otherwise, how, in the name of Zeus, shall we offer glad sacrifices to the gods when we are doing impious deeds, or how shall we fight with enemies if we are slaying one another?
And what friendly city will receive us when it sees so great lawlessness amongst us? Who will dare to supply us a market if in matters of the greatest import we show ourselves guilty of such offences? And in that land2
where we are always fancying that we shall obtain praise from every one, who will praise us if we are men of this sort? For we ourselves, I am quite sure, should say that people who perform such deeds are scoundrels.”
Hereupon all rose and proposed that the men who began this affair should be duly punished, and that henceforth no one should be again permitted to make a beginning of lawlessness; but if any should so begin, they were to be put on trial for their lives; and the generals were to bring all offenders to trial, and trials were likewise to be held in the matter of any other offences which any one had committed since the time when Cyrus was killed; and they appointed the captains to serve as a jury.
Further, upon the recommendation of Xenophon, and by the advice of the soothsayers, it was resolved to purify the army. So the rites of purification were performed.