When these elections had been completed, and as day was just about beginning to break, the commanders met in the middle of the camp; and they resolved to station outposts and then call an assembly of the soldiers. As soon as they had come together, Cheirisophus the Lacedaemonian arose first and spoke as follows:
“Fellow-soldiers, painful indeed is our present situation, seeing that we are robbed of such generals and captains and soldiers, and, besides, that Ariaeus and his men, who were formerly our allies, have betrayed us;
nevertheless, we must quit ourselves like brave men as well as may be in these circumstances, and must not yield, but rather try to save ourselves by glorious victory if we can; otherwise, let us at least die a glorious death, and never fall into the hands of our enemies alive. For in that case I think we should meet the sort of sufferings that I pray the gods may visit upon our foes.”
Then Cleanor the Orchomenian arose and spoke as follows: “Come, fellow-soldiers, you see the perjury and impiety of the King; you see likewise the faithlessness of Tissaphernes. It was Tissaphernes who said1
that he was a neighbour of Greece
and that he would do his utmost to save us; it was none other than he who gave us his oaths to confirm these words; and then he, Tissaphernes, the very man who had given such pledges, was the very man who deceived and seized our generals. More than that, he did not even reverence Zeus, the god of hospitality; instead, he entertained Clearchus at his own table2
and then made that very act the means of deceiving and destroying the generals.
Ariaeus, too, whom we were ready to make king,3
with whom we exchanged pledges4
not to betray one another, even he, showing neither fear of the gods nor honour for the memory of Cyrus dead, although he was most highly honoured by Cyrus living, has now gone over to the bitterest foes of that same Cyrus, and is trying to work harm to us, the friends of Cyrus.
Well, may these men be duly punished by the gods; we, however, seeing their deeds, must never again be deceived by them, but must fight as stoutly as we can and meet whatever fortune the gods may please to send.”
Hereupon Xenophon arose, arrayed for war in his finest dress. For he thought that if the gods should grant victory, the finest raiment was suited to victory; and if it should be his fate to die, it was proper, he thought, that inasmuch as he had accounted his office worthy of the most beautiful attire, in this attire he should meet his death. He began his speech as follows:
“The perjury and faithlessness of the barbarians has been spoken of by Cleanor and is understood, I imagine, by the rest of you. If, then, it is our desire to be again on terms of friendship with them, we must needs feel great despondency when we see the fate of our generals, who trustingly put themselves in their hands; but if our intention is to rely upon our arms, and not only to inflict punishment upon them for their past deeds, but henceforth to wage implacable war with them, we have—the gods willing—many fair hopes of deliverance.”
As he was saying this a man sneezed,5
and when the soldiers heard it, they all with one impulse made obeisance to the god;6
and Xenophon said, “I move, gentlemen, since at the moment when we were talking about deliverance an omen from Zeus the Saviour was revealed to us, that we make a vow to sacrifice to that god thank-offerings for deliverance as soon as we reach a friendly land; and that we add a further vow to make sacrifices, to the extent of our ability, to the other gods also. All who are in favour of this motion,” he said, “will raise their hands.” And every man in the assembly raised his hand. Thereupon they made their vows and struck up the paean. These ceremonies duly performed, Xenophon began again with these words:
“I was saying that we have many fair hopes of deliverance. For, in the first place, we are standing true to the oaths we took in the name of the gods, while our enemies have perjured themselves and, in violation of their oaths, have broken the truce. This being so, it is fair to assume that the gods are their foes and our allies—and the gods are able speedily to make the strong weak and, when they so will, easily to deliver the weak, even though they be in dire perils.
Secondly, I would remind you of the perils of our own forefathers, to show you not only that it is your right to be brave men, but that brave men are delivered, with the help of the gods, even out of most dreadful dangers. For when the Persians and their followers came with a vast array to blot Athens
out of existence, the Athenians dared, unaided, to withstand them, and won the victory.7
And while they had vowed to Artemis that for every man they might slay of the enemy they would sacrifice a goat to the goddess, they were unable to find goats enough;8
so they resolved to offer five hundred every year, and this sacrifice they are paying even to this day.
Again, when Xerxes at a later time gathered together that countless9
host and came against Greece
, then too our forefathers were victorious, both by land and by sea,10
over the forefathers of our enemies. As tokens of these victories we may, indeed, still behold the trophies, but the strongest witness to them is the freedom of the states in which you were born and bred; for to no human creature do you pay homage as master, but to the gods alone.
It is from such ancestors, then, that you are sprung.
“Now I am far from intending to say that you disgrace them; in fact, not many days ago you set yourselves in array against these descendants of those ancient Persians and were victorious, with the aid of the gods, over many times your own numbers.
And then, mark you, it was in Cyrus' contest for the throne that you proved yourselves brave men; but now, when the struggle is for your own safety, it is surely fitting that you should be far braver and more zealous.
Furthermore, you ought now to be more confident in facing the enemy. For then you were unacquainted with them, you saw that their numbers were beyond counting, and you nevertheless dared, with all the spirit of your fathers, to charge upon them; but now, when you have already made actual trial of them and find that they have no desire, even though they are many times your number, to await your attack, what reason can remain for your being afraid of them?
“Again, do not suppose that you are the worse off because the followers of Ariaeus, who were formerly marshalled with us, have now deserted us. For they are even greater cowards than the men we defeated; at any rate they took to flight before them,11
leaving us to shift for ourselves. And when we find men who are ready to set the example of flight, it is far better to see them drawn up with the enemy than on our own side.
“But if anyone of you is despondent because we are without horsemen while the enemy have plenty at hand, let him reflect that your ten thousand horsemen are nothing more than ten thousand men; for nobody ever lost his life in battle from the bite or kick of a horse, but it is the men who do whatever is done in battles.
Moreover, we are on a far surer foundation than your horsemen: they are hanging on their horses' backs, afraid not only of us, but also of falling off; while we, standing upon the ground, shall strike with far greater force if anyone comes upon us and shall be far more likely to hit whomsoever we aim at. In one point alone your horsemen have the advantage—flight is safer for them than it is for us.
Suppose, however, that you do not lack confidence about the fighting, but are troubled because you are no longer to have Tissaphernes to guide you or the King to provide a market. If this be the case, I ask you to consider whether it is better to have Tissaphernes for a guide, the man who is manifestly plotting against us, or such people as we may ourselves capture and may order to serve as guides, men who will know that if they make any mistake in aught that concerns us, they will be making a mistake in that which concerns their own lives and limbs.
And as for provisions, is it the better plan to buy from the market which these barbarians have provided—small measures for large prices, when we have no money left, either—or to appropriate for ourselves, in case we are victorious, and to use as large a measure as each one of us pleases?
“But in these points, let us say, you realize that our present situation is better; you believe, however, that the rivers are a difficulty, and you think you were immensely deceived when you crossed them;12
then consider whether this is not really a surpassingly foolish thing that the barbarians have done.13
For all rivers, even though they be impassable at a distance from their sources, become passable, without even wetting your knees, as you approach toward the sources.
“But assume that the rivers will not afford us a crossing and that we shall find no one to guide us; even in that case we ought not to be despondent. For we know that the Mysians, whom we should not admit to be better men than ourselves, inhabit many large and prosperous cities in the King's territory, we know that the same is true of the Pisidians, and as for the Lycaonians14
we even saw with our own eyes that they had seized the strongholds in the plains and were reaping for themselves the lands of these Persians;
so, in our case, my own view would be that we ought not yet to let it be seen that we have set out for home; we ought, rather, to be making our arrangements as if we intended to settle here. For I know that to the Mysians the King would not only give plenty of guides, but plenty of hostages, to guarantee a safe conduct for them out of his country; in fact, he would build a road for them, even if they wanted to take their departure in four-horse chariots. And I know that he would be thrice glad to do the same for us, if he saw that we were preparing to stay here.
I really fear, however, that if we once learn to live in idleness and luxury, and to consort with the tall and beautiful women and maidens of these Medes and Persians, we may, like the lotus-eaters,15
forget our homeward way.
Therefore, I think it is right and proper that our first endeavour should be to return to our kindred and friends in Greece
, and to point out to the Greeks that it is by their own choice that they are poor; for they could bring here the people who are now living a hard life at home, and could see them in the enjoyment of riches.
“It is really a plain fact, gentlemen, that all these good things belong to those who have the strength to possess them;
but I must go on to another point, how we can march most safely and, if we have to fight, can fight to the best advantage. In the first place, then,” Xenophon proceeded, “I think we should burn up the wagons which we have, so that our cattle may not be our captains, but we can take whatever route may be best for the army. Secondly, we should burn up our tents also; for these, again, are a bother to carry, and no help at all either for fighting or for obtaining provisions.
Furthermore, let us abandon all our other superfluous baggage, keeping only such articles as we use for war, or in eating and drinking, in order that we may have the largest possible number of men under arms and the least number carrying baggage. For when men are conquered, you are aware that all their possessions become the property of others; but if we are victorious, we may regard the enemy as our pack-bearers.
“It remains for me to mention the one matter which I believe is really of the greatest importance. You observe that our enemies did not muster up courage to begin hostilities against us until they had seized our generals; for they believed that so long as we had our commanders and were obedient to them, we were able to worst them in war, but when they had got possession of our commanders, they believed that the want of leadership and of discipline would be the ruin of us.
Therefore our present commanders must show themselves far more vigilant than their predecessors, and the men in the ranks must be far more orderly and more obedient to their commanders now than they used to be.
We must pass a vote that, in case anyone is disobedient, whoever of you may be at hand at the time shall join with the officer in punishing him; in this way the enemy will find themselves mightily deceived; for to-day they will behold, not one Clearchus,16
but ten thousand, who will not suffer anybody to be a bad soldier.
But it is time now to be acting instead of talking; for perhaps the enemy will soon be at hand. Whoever, then, thinks that these proposals are good should ratify them with all speed, that they may be carried out in action. But if any other plan is thought better than mine, let anyone, even though he be a private soldier, feel free to present it; for the safety of all is the need of all.”
After this Cheirisophus said: “We shall be able to consider presently whether we need to do anything else besides what Xenophon proposes, but on the proposals which he has already made I think it is best for us to vote as speedily as possible. Whoever is in favour of these measures, let him raise his hand.”
They all raised their hands.
Then Xenophon arose once more and said: “Give ear, gentlemen, to the further proposals I have to present. It is clear that we must make our way to a place where we can get provisions; and I hear that there are fine villages at a distance of not more than twenty stadia.
We should not be surprised, then, if the enemy—after the fashion of cowardly dogs that chase passers-by and bite them, if they can, but run away from anyone who chases them—if the enemy in the same way should follow at our heels as we retire.
Hence it will be safer, perhaps, for us to march with the hoplites formed into a hollow square, so that the baggage train and the great crowd of camp followers may be in a safer place. If, then, it should be settled at once who are to lead the square and marshal the van, who are to be on either flank, and who to guard the rear, we should not need to be taking counsel at the time when the enemy comes upon us, but we should find our men at once in their places ready for action.
Now if anyone sees another plan which is better, let us follow that plan; but if not, I propose that Cheirisophus take the lead, especially since he is a Lacedaemonian, that the two oldest generals have charge of the two flanks, and that, for the present, we who are the youngest, Timasion and I, command the rear.
And for the future, as we make trial of this formation we can adopt whatever course may seem from time to time to be best. If anyone sees a better plan, let him present it.” No one having any opposing view to express, Xenophon said: “Whoever is in favour of these measures, let him raise his hand.” The motion was carried.
“And now,” he continued, “we must go back and put into execution what has been resolved upon. And whoever among you desires to see his friends again, let him remember to show himself a brave man; for in no other way can he accomplish this desire. Again, whoever is desirous of saving his life, let him strive for victory; for it is the victors that slay and the defeated that are slain. Or if anyone longs for wealth, let him also strive to conquer; for conquerors not only keep their own possessions, but gain the possessions of the conquered.”