Then it was that the barbarians turned about and fled, every man for himself, while the Greeks held possession of the summit. As for the troops under Tissaphernes and Ariaeus, they turned off by another road and were gone; and the army under Cheirisophus descended into the plain1
and proceeded to encamp in a village stored with abundant supplies. There were likewise many other villages richly stored with supplies in this plain on the banks of the Tigris
When it came to be late in the day, all of a sudden the enemy appeared in the plain and cut to pieces some of the Greeks who were scattered about there in quest of plunder; in fact, many herds of cattle had been captured while they were being taken across to the other side of the river.
Then Tissaphernes and his followers attempted to burn the villages; and some of the Greeks got exceedingly despondent, out of apprehension that they would not have a place from which to get provisions in case the enemy should succeed in this attempt.
Meanwhile Cheirisophus and his men, who had gone to the rescue of the plunderers, were returning; and when Xenophon had come down from the mountain, he rode along the lines upon falling in with the Greeks of the rescuing party and said:
“Do you observe, men of Greece
, that they admit the country is now ours? For while they stipulated when they made the treaty that there should be no burning of the King's territory, now they are doing that very thing themselves, as though the land were another's. At any rate, if they leave supplies anywhere for their own use, they shall behold us also proceeding to that spot.
But, Cheirisophus,” he went on, “it seems to me that we ought to sally forth against these incendiaries, like men defending their own country.” “Well, it doesn't seem so to me,” said Cheirisophus; “rather, let us set about burning ourselves, and then they will stop the sooner.”
When they had come to their quarters, the troops were busy about provisions, but the generals and captains gathered in council. And here there was great despondency. For on one side of them were exceedingly high mountains and on the other side a river so deep that not even their spears reached above water when they tried its depth.
In the midst of their perplexity a Rhodian came to them and said: “I stand ready, gentlemen, to set you across the river, four thousand hoplites at a time, if you will provide me with the means that I require and give me a talent for pay.”
Upon being asked what his requirements were, he replied: “I shall need two thousand skins. I see plenty of sheep and goats and cattle and asses; take off their skins and blow them up, and they would easily provide the means of crossing.2
I shall want also the girths which you use on the beasts of burden; with these I shall tie the skins to one another and also moor each skin by fastening stones to the girths and letting them down into the water like anchors; then I shall carry the line of skins across the river, make it fast at both ends, and pile on brushwood and earth.
As for your not sinking, then, you may be sure in an instant on that point, for every skin will keep two men from sinking;
and as regards slipping, the brushwood and the earth will prevent that.” After hearing these words the generals thought that while the idea was a clever one, the execution of it was impossible. For there were people on the other side of the river to thwart it, a large force of horsemen, namely, who at the very outset would prevent the first comers from carrying out any part of the plan.
Under these circumstances they marched all the next day in the reverse direction, going back to the unburned villages,3
after burning the one from which they withdrew. The result was that, instead of making an attack, the enemy merely gazed at the Greeks, and appeared to be wondering where in the world they would turn and what they had in mind.
At the close of the day, while the rest of the army went after provisions, the generals held another meeting, at which they brought together the prisoners that had been taken and enquired of them about each district of all the surrounding country.
The prisoners said that the region to the south lay on the road towards Babylon
and Media, the identical province they had just passed through; that the road to the eastward led to Susa
, where the King is said to spend his summers; across the river and on to the west was the way to Lydia
; while the route through the mountains and northward led to the country of the Carduchians.
These Carduchians, they said, dwelt up among the mountains, were a warlike people, and were not subjects of the King; in fact, a royal army of one hundred and twenty thousand men had once invaded them, and, by reason of the ruggedness of the country, not a man of all that number came back. Still, whenever they made a treaty with the satrap in the plain, some of the people of the plain did have dealings with the Carduchians and some of the Carduchians with them.
After listening to these statements from the men who claimed to know the way in every direction, the generals caused them to withdraw, without giving them the least clue as to the direction in which they proposed to march. The opinion of the generals however, was that they must make their way through the mountains into the country of the Carduchians; for the prisoners said that after passing through this country they would come to Armenia
, the large and prosperous province of which Orontas was ruler; and from there, they said, it was easy to go in any direction one chose.
Thereupon the generals offered sacrifice, so that they could begin the march at the moment they thought best4
—for they feared that the pass over the mountains might be occupied in advance; and they issued orders that when the troops had dined, every man should pack up his belongings and go to rest, and then fall into line as soon as the word of command was given.