After these words of Xenophon's the assembly arose, and all went back to camp and proceeded to burn the wagons and the tents. As for the superfluous articles of baggage, whatever anybody needed they shared with one another, but the rest they threw into the fire. When they had done all this, they set about preparing breakfast; and while they were so engaged, Mithradates1
approached with about thirty horsemen, summoned the Greek generals within earshot, and spoke as follows:
“Men of Greece
, I was faithful to Cyrus, as you know for yourselves, and I am now friendly to you; indeed, I am tarrying here in great fear. Therefore if I should see that you were taking salutary measures, I should join you and bring all my retainers with me. Tell me, then, what you have in mind, in the assurance that I am your friend and well-wisher, and am desirous of making the journey in company with you.”
The generals held council and voted to return the following answer, Cheirisophus acting as spokesman: “It is our resolve, in case no one hinders our homeward march, to proceed through the country doing the least possible damage, but if anyone tries to prevent us from making the journey, to fight it out with him to the best of our power.”
Thereupon Mithradates undertook to show that there was no possibility of their effecting a safe return unless the King so pleased. Then it became clear to the Greeks that his mission was a treacherous one; indeed, one of Tissaphernes' relatives had followed along, to see that he kept faith.
The generals consequently decided that it was best to pass a decree that there should be no negotiations with the enemy in this war so long as they should be in the enemy's country. For the barbarians kept coming and trying to corrupt the soldiers; in the case of one captain, Nicarchus the Arcadian, they actually succeeded, and he decamped during the night, taking with him about twenty men.
After this they took breakfast, crossed the Zapatas2
river, and set out on the march in the formation decided upon,3
with the baggage animals and the camp followers in the middle of the square. They had not proceeded far when Mithradates appeared again, accompanied by about two hundred horsemen and by bowmen and slingers—exceedingly active and nimble troops—to the number of four hundred.
He approached the Greeks as if he were a friend, but when his party had got close at hand, on a sudden some of them, horse and foot alike, began shooting with their bows and others with slings, and they inflicted wounds. And the Greek rearguard, while suffering severely, could not retaliate at all; for the Cretan4
bowmen not only had a shorter range than the Persians, but besides, since they had no armour, they were shut in within the lines of the hoplites; and the Greek javelin-men could not throw far enough to reach the enemy's slingers.
Xenophon consequently decided that they must pursue the Persians, and this they did, with such of the hoplites and peltasts as were guarding the rear with him; but in their pursuit they failed to catch a single man of the enemy.
For the Greeks had no horsemen, and their foot-soldiers were not able to overtake the enemy's foot-soldiers—since the latter had a long start in their flight—within a short distance; and a long pursuit, far away from the main Greek army, was not possible.
Again, the barbarian horsemen even while they were in flight would inflict wounds by shooting behind them from their horses; and whatever distance the Greeks might at any time cover in their pursuit, all that distance they were obliged to fall back fighting.
The result was that during the whole day they travelled not more than twenty-five stadia. They did arrive, however, towards evening at the villages.5
Here again there was despondency. And Cheirisophus and the eldest of the generals found fault with Xenophon for leaving the main body of the army to undertake a pursuit, and thus endangering himself without being able, for all that, to do the enemy any harm.
When Xenophon heard their words, he replied that they were right in finding fault with him, and that the outcome bore witness of itself for their view. “But,” he continued, “I was compelled to pursue when I saw that by keeping our places we were suffering severely and were still unable to strike a blow ourselves.
As to what happened, however, when we did pursue, you are quite right: we were no better able to inflict harm upon the enemy, and it was only with the utmost difficulty that we effected our own withdrawal.
Let us thank the gods, therefore, that they came, not with a large force, but with a handful, so that without doing us any great damage they have revealed our needs.
For at present the enemy can shoot arrows and sling stones so far that neither our Cretan bowmen nor our javelin-men can reach them in reply; and when we pursue them, a long chase, away from our main body, is out of the question, and in a short chase no foot-soldier, even if he is swift, can overtake another foot-soldier who has a bow-shot the start of him.
Hence, if we should propose to put an end to the possibility of their harming us on our march, we need slingers ourselves at once, and horsemen also. Now I am told that there are Rhodians6
in our army, that most of them understand the use of the sling, and that their missile carries no less than twice as far as those from the Persian slings.
For the latter have only a short range because the stones that are used in them are as large as the hand can hold; the Rhodians, however, are versed also in the art of slinging leaden bullets.
If, therefore, we should ascertain who among them possess slings, and should not only pay these people for their slings, but likewise pay anyone who is willing to plait new ones, and if, furthermore, we should devise some sort of exemption for the man who will volunteer to serve as a slinger at his appointed post, it may be that men will come forward who will be capable of helping us.
Again, I observe that there are horses in the army—a few at my own quarters, others that made part of Clearchus' troop and were left behind,7
and many others that have been taken from the enemy and are used as pack-animals. If, then, we should pick out all these horses, replacing them with mules, and should equip them for cavalry, it may be that this cavalry also will cause some annoyance to the enemy when they are in flight.”
These proposals also were adopted, and in the course of that night a company of two hundred slingers was organized, while on the following day horses and horsemen to the number of fifty were examined and accepted, and jerkins and cuirasses were provided for them; and Lycius, the son of Polystratus, an Athenian, was put in command of the troop.