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While Cyrus was thus occupied, messengers1 came as if providentially from the Hyrcanians. Now the Hyrcanians are neighbours of the Assyrians; they are not a large nation; and for that reason they also were subjects of the Assyrians. Even then they had a reputation for being good horsemen, and they have that reputation still. For this reason the Assyrians used to employ them as the Spartans do the Sciritae, sparing them neither in hardships nor in dangers. And on that particular occasion they were ordered to bring up the rear (they were cavalrymen about a thousand strong), in order that, if any danger should threaten from behind, they might have to bear the brunt of it instead of the Assyrians. [2] But as the Hyrcanians were to march in the very rear, they had their wagons also and their families in the rear. For, as we know, most of the Asiatic peoples take the field accompanied by their entire households. So in this particular campaign, the Hyrcanians had taken the field thus attended. [3]

But as they reflected how they were being treated by the Assyrians, that the Assyrian monarch was now slain and the army defeated, that there was great panic throughout the ranks, and that the allies were discouraged and deserting—as they thought over these conditions, they decided that now was a good opportunity to revolt, if Cyrus and his followers would join them in an attack. So they sent envoys2 to Cyrus; for in consequence of the battle his name had been very greatly magnified. [4] And those who were sent told Cyrus that they had good reason to hate the Assyrians and that now, if he would proceed against them, they would be his allies and his guides as well. And at the same time they also gave him an account of the enemy's plight, for they wished above all things to incite him to push the campaign. [5]

“Do you really think,” Cyrus enquired, “that we could still overtake them before they reach their strongholds? For we,” he added, “consider it hard luck that they have run away from us when we were not watching.” Now he said this to make them think as highly as possible of his troops. [6]

They answered that if Cyrus and his army3 would start out at daybreak in light marching order, he would come up with them the next day: for because their numbers were so vast and so encumbered with baggage, the enemy were marching slowly. “And besides,” they said, “as they had no sleep last night, they have gone ahead only a little way and are now encamped.” [7]

“Have you, then, any surety to give us,” Cyrus asked, “to prove that what you say is true?”

“Yes,” they answered, “we are ready to ride away and bring you hostages this very night. Only do you also give us assurance in the name of the gods and give us your right hand, that we may give to the rest of our people, too, the same assurance that we receive from you.” [8]

Thereupon he gave them his solemn promise that, if they should make good their statements, he would treat them as his true friends, so that they should count for no less in his esteem than the Persians or the Medes. And even to this day one may see the Hyrcanians holding positions of trust and authority, just like those of the Persians and Medes who are thought to be deserving. [9]

When they had dined, he led out his army4 while it was still daylight, and he bade the Hyrcanians wait for him that they might go together. Now the Persians, as was to be expected, came out to a man to go with him, and Tigranes came with his army; [10] while of the Medes some came out because as boys they had been friends of Cyrus when he was a boy, others because they liked his ways when they had been with him on the chase, others because they were grateful to him for freeing them, as they thought, from great impending danger, and still others because they cherished the hope that as he seemed to be a man of ability he would one day be exceedingly successful and exceedingly great besides; others wished to requite him for some service he had done for them while he was growing up in Media; many, too, owed to his kindness of heart many a favour at the hands of his grandfather; and many, when they saw the Hyrcanians and when the report spread that these would lead them to rich plunder, came out (apart from other motives) for the sake of getting some gain. [11]

The result was that almost all came out—even the Medes, except those who happened to be feasting in the same tent with Cyaxares; these and their subordinates remained behind. But all the rest hastened out cheerily and enthusiastically, for they came not from compulsion but of their own free will and out of gratitude. [12]

And when they were out of the camp, he went5 first to the Medes and praised them and prayed the gods above all things graciously to lead them and his own men, and he prayed also that he himself might be enabled to reward them for this zeal of theirs. In concluding, he stated that the infantry should go first, and he ordered the Medes to follow with their cavalry. And wherever they were to rest or halt from their march, he enjoined it upon them that some of their number should always come to him, that they might know the need of the hour. [13]

Then he ordered the Hyrcanians to lead the way.

“What!” they exclaimed, “are you not going to wait until we bring the hostages, that you also may have a guarantee of our good faith before you proceed?”

“No,” he is said to have answered; “for I consider that we have the guarantee in our own hearts and hands. For it is with these, I think, that we are in a position to do you a service, if you speak the truth; but if you are trying to deceive us, we think that, as things are, we shall not be in your power, but rather, if the gods will, you shall be in ours. And hark you, men of Hyrcania,” said he, “as you say that your people are bringing up the enemy's rear, inform us, as soon as you see them, that they are yours, that we may do them no harm.” [14]

When the Hyrcanians heard this, they led the way, as he ordered. They wondered at his magnanimity; and they no longer had any fear of either the Assyrians or the Lydians or their allies, but they feared only lest he should think that it was not of the slightest moment whether they joined him or not. [15]

As they proceeded, night came on, and it is6 said that a light from heaven shone forth upon Cyrus and his army, so that they were all filled with awe at the miracle but with courage to meet the enemy. And as they were proceeding in light marching order with all dispatch, they naturally covered a great distance, and in the morning twilight they drew near to the army of the Hyrcanians. [16] And when the messengers recognized the fact, they reported to Cyrus that these were their own people; for they said that they recognized them both by the fact that they were in the rear and by the number of their fires. [17]

Upon hearing this report he sent one of the two messengers to them with orders to say that if they were friends, they should come to meet him with their right hands raised. And he sent along also one of his own men and ordered him to tell the Hyrcanians that he and his army would govern their conduct according to the way in which they should see the Hyrcanians behave. And thus it came to pass that one of the messengers remained with Cyrus, while the other rode away to the Hyrcanians. [18]

While Cyrus was watching to see what the Hyrcanians were going to do, he haltedd his army. and Tigranes and the officers of the Medes rode up to him and asked what they should do. And he said to them: “What you see there not far away is the Hyrcanian army; and one of their envoys has gone to them, and one of our men with him, to tell them all, if they are our friends, to come to meet us with their right hands upraised. Now, if they do so, give to them the right hand of fellowship, each of you to the man opposite himself, and at the same time bid them welcome. But if they raise a weapon or attempt to run away, we must lose no time in trying not to leave a single one of these first alive.” [19]

Such were his commands. And the Hyrcanians7 were delighted when they heard the report of the envoys, and leaping upon their horses they came at once with right hands upraised, as directed, and the Medes and Persians gave the right hand of fellowship and bade them welcome. [20]

“Men of Hyrcania,” Cyrus said presently, “we trust you now, as you see; and you also ought to feel the same way toward us. But tell us first how far it is from here to the headquarters of the enemy and the main body of their army.”

“Not much more than a parasang,” they answered. [21]

“Come on, then, Persians and Medes,” Cyrus cried; “and you Hyrcanians—for now I speak with you also as confederates and allies—you must know that we are in a position where we shall meet with nothing but disaster if we betray a lack of courage; for the enemy know what we have come for. But if8 we go into the attack upon the enemy with might and main and with stout hearts, you will see right soon that, just like a lot of slaves caught in an attempt to run away, some of them will beg for mercy, others will try to escape, others still will not even have presence of mind to do either. For they will see us before they have recovered from their first defeat, and they will find themselves caught neither thinking of our coming, nor drawn up in line, nor prepared to fight. [22] If, therefore, we wish from this time forth to eat well, to sleep soundly, and to live comfortably, let us not give them time either to take counsel or to provide any defence for themselves, or even to recognize at all that we are human beings; but let them think that nothing but shields, swords, bills, and blows have descended upon them. [23]

“And you, Hyrcanians,” said he, “spread yourselves out in the van and march before us, in order that only your arms may be seen and that our presence here may be concealed as long as possible. And when I come up with the enemy's army, then leave with me, each of you, a division of cavalry for me to use while I remain near their camp. [24] But you, officers and men of years, march together in close order, if you are wise, so that if you fall in with any compact body you may never be forced back; and leave the pursuit to the younger men, and let them kill all they can; for this is the safest measure—to leave now as few of the enemy alive as possible. [25]

“And if we win the battle,” he continued,9 “we must be on our guard against an error which has lost the day for many in the hour of victory—turning aside to plunder. For the man who does this is no longer a soldier but a camp-follower; and any one who will is free to treat him as a slave. [26]

“You should realize this also, that nothing is more enriching than victory. For the victor has swept together all the spoil at once, the men and the women, the wealth and all the lands. Therefore have an eye to this alone—that we may conserve our victory; for even the plunderer himself is in the enemy's power if he is conquered. And remember even in the heat of pursuit to come back to me while it is yet daylight; for after nightfall we shall not admit another man.” [27]

When he had said this he sent them away to their several companies with orders to issue, as they marched, the same directions each to his own corporals (for the corporals were in the front so as to hear); and they were to bid the corporals each one to announce it to his squad.

Then the Hyrcanians led the way while he himself with his Persians occupied the centre as they marched. The cavalry he arranged, as was natural, on either flank. [28]

And when daylight came, some of the enemy10 wondered at what they saw, some realized at once what it meant, some began to spread the news, some to cry out, some proceeded to untie the horses, some to pack up, others to toss the armour off the pack-animals, still others to arm themselves, while some were leaping upon their horses, some bridling them, others helping the women into the wagons, and others were snatching up their most valuable possessions to save them; still others were caught in the act of burying theirs, while the most of them sought refuge in precipitate flight. We may imagine that they were doing many other things also—all sorts of other things—except that no one offered to resist, but they perished without striking a blow. [29]

As it was summer, Croesus, the king of Lydia, had had his women sent on by night in carriages, that they might proceed more comfortably in the cool of the night, and he himself was following after with his cavalry. [30] And the Phrygian king, the ruler of Phrygia on the Hellespont, they say, did the same. And when they saw the fugitives who were overtaking them, they enquired of them what was happening, and then they also took to flight as fast as they could go. [31]

But the king of Cappadocia and the Arabian king, as they were still near by and stood their ground though unarmed, were cut down by the Hyrcanians. But the majority of the slain were Assyrians and Arabians. For as these were in their own country, they were very leisurely about getting away. [32]

Now the Medes and Hyrcanians, as they pursued,11 committed such acts as men might be expected to commit in the hour of victory. But Cyrus ordered the horsemen who had been left with him to ride around the camp and to kill any that they saw coming out under arms; while to those who remained inside he issued a proclamation that as many of the enemy's soldiers as were cavalrymen or targeteers or bowmen should bring out their weapons tied in bundles and deliver them up, but should leave their horses at their tents. Whoever failed to do so should soon lose his head. Now Cyrus's men stood in line around them, sabre in hand. [33] Accordingly, those who had the weapons carried them to one place, where he directed, and threw them down, and men whom he had appointed for the purpose burned them. [34]

Now Cyrus recollected that they had come with neither food nor drink, and without these it was not possible to prosecute a campaign or to do anything else. And as he was considering how to12 procure the best possible supplies with the greatest possible dispatch, it occurred to him that all those who take the field must have some one to take care of the tent and to have food prepared for the soldiers when they came in. [35] So he concluded that of all people these were the ones most likely to have been caught in the camp, because they would have been busy packing up. Accordingly, he issued a proclamation for all the commissaries to come to him; but if a commissary officer should be lacking anywhere, the oldest man from that tent should come. And to any one who should dare to disobey he threatened direst punishment. But when they saw their masters obeying, they also obeyed at once. And when they had come, he first ordered those of them to sit down who had more than two months' supply of provisions in their tents. [36] And when he had noted them, he gave the same order to those who had one month's supply. Hereupon nearly all sat down. [37] And when he had this information he addressed them as follows:

“Now then, my men,” said he, “if any of you have a dislike for trouble and wish that you might receive kind treatment at our hands, be sure to see to it that there be twice as much food and drink prepared in each tent as you used to get ready every day for your masters and their servants; and get everything else ready that belongs to a good meal; for whichever side is victorious, they will very soon be here and they will expect to find plenty of every sort of provisions. Let me assure you, then, that it would be to your advantage to entertain those men handsomely.” [38]

When they heard this, they proceeded with great alacrity to carry out his directions, while he called together his captains and spoke as follows: “I13 realize, friends, that it is possible for us now to take luncheon first, while our comrades are away, and to enjoy the choicest food and drink. But I do not think that it would be of more advantage to us to eat this luncheon than it would to show ourselves thoughtful for our comrades; neither do I think that this feasting would add as much to our strength as we should gain if we could make our allies devoted to us. [39] But if we show ourselves to be so neglectful of them that we are found to have broken our fast even before we know how they are faring, while they are pursuing and slaying our enemies and fighting any one that opposes them, let us beware lest we be disgraced in their eyes and lest we find ourselves crippled by the loss of our allies. If, on the other hand, we take care that those who are bearing the danger and the toil shall have what they need when they come back, a banquet of this sort would, in my opinion, give us more pleasure than any immediate gratification of our appetites. [40] And remember,” said he, “that even if we were under no obligation to show them every consideration, even so it is not proper for us as yet to sate ourselves with food or drink; for not yet have we accomplished what we wish, but, on the contrary, everything is now at a crisis and requires care. For we have enemies in camp many times our own number, and that, too, under no confinement. We not only must keep watch against them but we must keep watch over them, so that we may have people to look after our provisions. Besides, our cavalry are gone, making us anxious to know where they are and whether they will stay with us if they do come back. [41]

“And so, my men,” said he, “it seems to me that we should take only such meat and such drink as one would suppose to be least likely to overcome us with sleep and foolishness. [42]

“Besides, there is also a vast amount of treasure in the camp, and I am not ignorant of the fact that it is possible for us to appropriate to ourselves as much of it as we please, though it belongs just as much to those who helped us to get it. But I do not think it would bring us greater gain to take it than it would to show that we mean to be fair and square, and by such dealing to secure greater affection from them than we have already. [43] And so it seems best to me to entrust the division of the treasure to the Medes and Hyrcanians and Tigranes when they come; and if they apportion to us the smaller share, I think we should account it our gain; for because of what they gain, they will be the more glad to stay with us. [44] For to secure a present advantage would give us but short-lived riches. But to sacrifice this and obtain the source from which real wealth flows, that, as I see it, could put us and all of ours in possession of a perennial fountain of wealth. [45]

“And if I am not mistaken, we used to train ourselves at home, too, to control our appetites and to abstain from unseasonable gain with this in view, that, if occasion should ever demand it, we might be able to employ our powers of self-control to our advantage. And I fail to see where we could give proof of our14 training on a more important occasion than the present.” [46]

Thus he spoke; and Hystaspas, one of the Persian peers, supported him in the following speech: “Why, yes, Cyrus; on the chase we often hold out without a thing to eat, in order to get our hands on some beast, perhaps one worth very little; and it would be strange indeed now, when the quarry we are trying to secure is a world of wealth, if we should for a moment allow those passions to stand in our way which are bad men's masters but good men's servants. I think, if we did so, we should be doing what does not befit us.” [47]

Such was Hystaspas's speech, and all the rest agreed with it. Then Cyrus said: “Come then, since we are of one mind on this point, send each of you five of the most reliable men from his platoon. Let them go about and praise all those whom they see preparing provisions; and let them punish more unsparingly than if they were their masters those whom they see neglectful.”

Accordingly, they set about doing so.

1 The Hyrcanians

2 They send envoys to Cyrus

3 They report the enemy within striking distance

4 The volunteers to follow Cyrus

5 He assigns the order of marching

6 He comes up with the Hyrcanians

7 They all join his army

8 Cyrus outlines plans for a second attack

9 How to conserve the results of victory

10 The panic flight of the Assyrian army

11 How the victors behaved

12 Cyrus organizes his commissariat

13 Cyrus exhorts the Persians to self-denial and consideration of others

14 The Persians ready to put their training to the proof

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), EXE´RCITUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), HARMAMAXA
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter IV
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