That day they remained quiet, but the next morning they set forth, after rising earlier than usual; for there was a gorge they had to cross, and they were afraid that the enemy might attack them as they were crossing.
It was only after they had crossed it, however, that Mithradates appeared again, accompanied by a thousand horsemen and about four thousand bowmen and slingers. For these were the numbers he had requested from Tissaphernes, and these numbers he had obtained upon his promise that, if such a force were given him, he would deliver the Greeks into Tissaphernes' hands; for he had come to despise them, seeing that in his earlier attack with a small force he had done a great deal of harm, as he thought, without suffering any loss himself.
When, accordingly, the Greeks were across the gorge and about eight stadia beyond it, Mithradates also proceeded to make the crossing with his troops. Now orders had already been given to such of the Greek peltasts and hoplites as were to pursue the enemy, and the horsemen had been directed to be bold in urging the pursuit, in the assurance that an adequate force would follow at their heels.
As soon, then, as Mithradates had caught up, so that his sling-stones and arrows were just beginning to reach their marks, the trumpet gave its signal to the Greeks, and on the instant the foot-soldiers who were under orders rushed upon the enemy and the horsemen charged; and the enemy did not await their attack, but fled towards the gorge.
In this pursuit the barbarians had many of their infantry killed, while of their cavalry no less than eighteen were taken alive in the gorge. And the Greek troops, unbidden save by their own impulse, disfigured the bodies of the dead, in order that the sight of them might inspire the utmost terror in the enemy.
After faring thus badly the enemy departed, while the Greeks continued their march unmolested through the remainder of the day and arrived at the Tigris river.
Here was a large deserted city1
; its name was Larisa
, and it was inhabited in ancient times by the Medes. Its wall was twenty-five feet in breadth and a hundred in height, and the whole circuit of the wall was two parasangs. It was built of clay bricks, and rested upon a stone foundation twenty feet high.
This city was besieged by the king2
of the Persians at the time when the Persians were seeking to wrest from the Medes their empire, but he could in no way capture it. A cloud, however, overspread the sun and hid it from sight until the inhabitants abandoned their city; and thus it was taken.
Near by this city was a pyramid of stone, a plethrum in breadth and two plethra in height; and upon this pyramid were many barbarians who had fled away from the neighbouring villages.
From this place they marched one stage, six parasangs, to a great stronghold, deserted and lying in ruins. The name of this city was Mespila,3
and it was once inhabited by the Medes. The foundation of its wall was made of polished stone full of shells, and was fifty feet in breadth and fifty in height.
Upon this foundation was built a wall of brick, fifty feet in breadth and a hundred in height; and the circuit of the wall was six parasangs. Here, as the story goes, Medea, the king's4
wife, took refuge at the time when the Medes were deprived of their empire by the Persians.
To this city also the king of the Persians laid siege, but he was unable to capture it either by length of siege or by storm; Zeus, however, terrified the inhabitants with thunder, and thus the city was taken.
From this place they marched one stage, four parasangs. In the course of this stage Tissaphernes made his appearance, having under his command the cavalry which he had himself brought with him,5
the troops of Orontas,6
who was married to the King's daughter, the barbarians whom Cyrus had brought with him on his upward march, and those with whom the King's brother had come to the aid of the King7
; besides these contingents Tissaphernes had all the troops that the King had given him; the result was, that his army appeared exceedingly large.
When he got near the Greeks, he stationed some of his battalions in their rear and moved others into position on their flanks; then, although he could not muster up the courage to close with them and had no desire to risk a decisive battle, he ordered his men to discharge their slings and let fly their arrows.
But when the Rhodian slingers and the bowmen, posted at intervals here and there, sent back an answering volley, and not a man among them missed his mark (for even if he had been very eager to do so, it would not have been easy),8
then Tissaphernes withdrew out of range with all speed, and the other battalions followed his example.
For the rest of the day the one army continued its march and the other its pursuit. And the barbarians were no longer9
able to do any harm by their skirmishing at long range; for the Rhodian slingers carried farther with their missiles than the Persians, farther even than the Persian bowmen.
The Persian bows are also10
large, and consequently the Cretans could make good use of all the arrows that fell into their hands; in fact, they were continually using the enemy's arrows, and practised themselves in long-range work by shooting them into the air.11
In the villages, furthermore, the Greeks found gut in abundance and lead for the use of their slingers.
As for that day's doings, when the Greeks came upon some villages and proceeded to encamp, the barbarians withdrew, having had the worst of it in the skirmishing. The following day the Greeks remained quiet and collected supplies, for there was an abundance of corn in the villages. On the day thereafter they continued their march through the plain, and Tissaphernes hung upon their rear and kept up the skirmishing.
Then it was that the Greeks found out that a square is a poor formation when an enemy is following. For if the wings draw together, either because a road is unusually narrow or because mountains or a bridge make it necessary, it is inevitable that the hoplites should be squeezed out of line and should march with difficulty, inasmuch as they are crowded together and are likewise in confusion; the result is that, being in disorder, they are of little service.
Furthermore, when the wings draw apart again, those who were lately squeezed out are inevitably scattered, the space between the wings is left unoccupied, and the men affected are out of spirits when an enemy is close behind them. Again, as often as the army had to pass over a bridge or make any other crossing, every man would hurry, in the desire to be the first one across, and that gave the enemy a fine chance to make an attack.
When the generals came to realize these difficulties, they formed six companies of a hundred men each and put a captain at the head of each company, adding also platoon and squad commanders.12
Then in case the wings drew together on the march,13
these companies would drop back, so as not to interfere with the wings, and for the time being would move along behind the wings;
and when the flanks of the square drew apart again, they would fill up the space between the wings, by companies in case this space was rather narrow, by platoons in case it was broader, or, if it was very broad, by squads14
—the idea being, to have the gap filled up in any event.
Again, it the army had to make some crossing or to pass over a bridge, there was no confusion, but each company crossed over in its turn; and if any help was needed in any part of the army, these troops would make their way to the spot. In this fashion the Greeks proceeded four stages.
In the course of the fifth stage they caught sight of a palace of some sort, with many villages round about it, and they observed that the road to this place passed over high hills, which stretched down from the mountain at whose foot the villages were situated. And the Greeks were well pleased to see the hills, as was natural considering that the enemy's force was cavalry;15
when, however, in their march out of the plain they had mounted to the top of the first hill, and were descending it, so as to ascend the next, at this moment the barbarians came upon them and down from the hilltop discharged their missiles and sling-stones and arrows, fighting under the lash.16
They not only inflicted many wounds, but they got the better of the Greek light troops and shut them up within the lines of the hoplites, so that these troops, being mingled with the non-combatants, were entirely useless throughout that day, slingers and bowmen alike.
And when the Greeks, hard-pressed as they were, undertook to pursue the attacking force, they reached the hilltop but slowly, being heavy troops, while the enemy sprang quickly out of reach;
and every time they returned from a pursuit to join the main army, they suffered again in the same way.17
On the second hill the same experiences were repeated, and hence after ascending the third hill they decided not to stir the troops from its crest until they had led up a force of peltasts from the right flank of the square to a position on the mountain.18
As soon as this force had got above the hostile troops that were hanging upon the Greek rear, the latter desisted from attacking the Greek army in its descent, for fear that they might be cut off and find themselves enclosed on both sides by their foes.
In this way the Greeks continued their march for the remainder of the day, the one division by the road leading over the hills while the other followed a parallel course along the mountain slope, and so arrived at the villages. There they appointed eight surgeons, for the wounded were many.
In these villages they remained for three days, not only for the sake of the wounded, but likewise because they had provisions in abundance—flour, wine, and great stores of barley that had been collected for horses, all these supplies having been gathered together by the acting satrap of the district.
On the fourth day they proceeded to descend into the plain. But when Tissaphernes and his command overtook them, necessity taught them to encamp in the first village they caught sight of, and not to continue the plan of marching and fighting at the same time; for a large number of the Greeks were hors de combat, not only the wounded, but also those who were carrying them and the men who took in charge the arms of these carriers.
When they had encamped, and the barbarians, approaching toward the village, essayed to attack them at long range, the Greeks had much the better of it; for to occupy a position and therefrom ward off an attack was a very different thing from being on the march and fighting with the enemy as they followed after.
As soon as it came to be late in the afternoon, it was time for the enemy to withdraw. For in no instance did the barbarians encamp at a distance of less than sixty stadia from the Greek camp, out of fear that the Greeks might attack them during the night.
For a Persian army at night is a sorry thing. Their horses are tethered, and usually hobbled also to prevent their running away if they get loose from the tether, and hence in case of any alarm a Persian has to put saddle-cloth and bridle on his horse, and then has also to put on his own breastplate and mount his horse—and all these things are difficult at night and in the midst of confusion. It was for this reason that the Persians encamped at a considerable distance from the Greeks.
When the Greeks became aware that they were desirous of withdrawing and were passing the word along, the order to pack up luggage was proclaimed to the Greek troops within hearing of the enemy. For a time the barbarians delayed their setting out, but when it began to grow late, they went off; for they thought it did not pay to be on the march and arriving at their camp in the night.
When the Greeks saw at length that they were manifestly departing, they broke camp and took the road themselves, and accomplished a march of no less than sixty stadia. Thus the two armies got so far apart that on the next day the enemy did not appear, nor yet on the third; on the fourth day, however, after pushing forward by night the barbarians occupied a high position on the right of the road by which the Greeks were to pass, a spur of the mountain, namely, along the base of which ran the route leading down into the plain.
As soon as Cheirisophus observed that the spur was already occupied, he summoned Xenophon from the rear, directing him to come to the front and bring the peltasts with him.
Xenophon, however, would not bring the peltasts, for he could see Tissaphernes and his whole army coming into view;19
but he rode forward himself and asked, “Why are you summoning me?” Cheirisophus replied, “It is perfectly evident; the hill overhanging our downward road has been occupied, and there is no getting by unless we dislodge these people.
Why did you not bring the peltasts?” Xenophon answered that he had not thought it best to leave the rear unprotected when hostile troops were coming into sight. “Well, at any rate,” said Cheirisophus, “it is high time to be thinking how we are to drive these fellows from the height.”
Then Xenophon observed that the summit of the mountain was close above their own army and that from this summit there was a way of approach to the hill where the enemy were; and he said, “Our best plan, Cheirisophus, is to drive with all speed for the mountain top; for if we once get possession of that, those men above our road will not be able to hold their position. If you choose, then, stay in command of the army, and I will go; or, if you prefer, you make for the mountain top, and I will stay here.”
“Well,” said Cheirisophus, “I leave it to you to choose whichever part you wish.” Then Xenophon, with the remark that he was the younger, elected to go, but he urged Cheirisophus to send with him some troops from the front; for it would have been too long a journey to bring up men from the rear.
Cheirisophus accordingly sent with him the peltasts at the front, replacing them with those that were inside the square; he also ordered the three hundred picked men20
under his own command at the front of the square to join Xenophon's force.
Then they set out with all possible speed. But no sooner had the enemy upon the hill observed their dash for the summit of the mountain than they also set off, to race with the Greeks for this summit.
Then there was a deal of shouting from the Greek army as they urged on their friends, and just as much shouting from Tissaphernes' troops to urge on their men.
And Xenophon, riding along the lines upon his horse, cheered his troops forward: “My good men,” he said, “believe that now you are racing for Greece
, racing this very hour back to your wives and children, a little toil for this one moment and no more fighting for the rest of our journey.”
But Soteridas the Sicyonian said: “We are not on an equality, Xenophon; you are riding on horseback, while I am desperately tired with carrying my shield.”
When Xenophon heard that, he leaped down from his horse and pushed Soteridas out of his place in the line, then took his shield away from him and marched on with it as fast as he could; he had on also, as it happened, his cavalry breastplate, and the result was that he was heavily burdened. And he urged the men in front of him to keep going, while he told those who were behind to pass along by him, for he found it hard to keep up.
The rest of the soldiers, however, struck and pelted and abused Soteridas until they forced him to take back his shield and march on. Then Xenophon remounted, and as long as riding was possible, led the way on horseback, but when the ground became too difficult, he left his horse behind and hurried forward on foot. And they reached the summit before the enemy.