Alfred John Church.

Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

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unconstitutional rule of a single person. It does not necessarily
connote, as in English, cruelty or oppression. Except in Sparta, where
the kings, indeed, were only hereditary commanders-in-chief, there was
no king in any Greek state. Wherever an individual ruled, he was, of
necessity, a tyrant.

[65] Hermocrates, resenting the decree of banishment that had been
passed against him, attempted to make himself master of the city. He
marched with the force that he had raised from Selinus, where he was
encamped, and made such haste that he found himself with only a few
companions far in advance, and close to the gates of Syracuse. While he
halted to allow the army to come up, the leaders within the walls
sallied out, overpowered the little party, and killed their leader.
There is very little doubt but that he had resolved to seize absolute

[66] Dionysius did actually compete many times. He is said to have
gained the second and third prizes more than once; and finally in the
last year of his life won the first honors for a play entitled "The
Ransoming of Hector." One of the various accounts of his death
attributes it to the excessive feasting in which he indulged on hearing
of his victory.

[67] Athens capitulated in March, 404; Callias is supposed to have
received the letter about August, 401.



Almost the first person that the Athenian saw when he disembarked at
Tarsus was Xenophon. The latter was evidently in the highest spirits.

"You are come at exactly the right moment," he cried. "All is going
well; but, three days ago, I should have said that all would end badly.
Cyrus and Clearchus have thrown for great stakes, and they have won; but
at first the dice were against them. But I forget; you know nothing of
what happened. I will explain. You know something about Cyrus, the Great
King's brother?"

Callias assented.

"You know that he was scarcely contented to be what he was, in fact that
he was disposed to claim the throne."

"I heard some talk of the kind when I was with Alcibiades."

"Listen then to what happened. Cyrus, to put a long story in a few
words, collected by one means or another about thirteen thousand Greek
soldiers. He gave out that he was going to lead them against the
mountain tribes of Cilicia. But his real object has all along been to
march up to Susa, and drive the King from his throne. Clearchus knew
this; I fancy some others guessed it; I know I did for one. But the
army knew nothing about it. Of course it had to come out at last. When
we came to Tarsus, the men had to be told. If we were going to act
against the Cicilian mountaineers, now was the time. If not, why had we
been brought so far? When the truth was known there was a frightful
uproar. The men declared that they would go back. It was madness, they
said, for a few thousand men to march against the Great King. For four
days I thought all was lost. Clearchus and Cyrus managed admirably. I
will tell you all about it some day. Meanwhile it is enough to say that
all is settled. The men have changed their tone completely. They talk of
nothing but ransacking the treasuries of the King, and Cyrus is quite
magnificent in his promises. He gives a great banquet to the officers
to-night. I am going with Proxenus, who is my special friend among the
generals, and I have no doubt that I can take you. Cyrus, I assure you,
is a man worth knowing, and, though we should call him a barbarian,
worth serving."

The Persian prince, when Callias came to make his acquaintance, bore
out, and more than bore out, the high character which Xenophon had given
of him. A more princely man in look and bearing never lived. That he was
a stern ruler was well known, but his subjects needed stern methods; but
for courtesy and generosity he could not be matched, and he had that
genial manner which makes these qualities current coin in the market of
the world. He was of unusual stature, his frame well knit and well
proportioned, and his face, though slightly disfigured by scars which he
had received in early life in a fierce death struggle with a bear,
singularly handsome. Proxenus introduced his friend's friend as a young
Athenian who had come to put his sword at his disposal, and Cyrus at
once greeted him with that manner of friendliness and even comradeship
which made him so popular. At the same time he made some complimentary
remark about Athens, saying that the Athenians had been formidable
enemies, and would hereafter, he hoped, be valuable friends.

The banquet could not fail, under such circumstances, of being a great
success. Everyone was in the highest spirits, and when Cyrus, in
thanking his guests for their company, said that though Greece and
Persia had been enemies in the past they would be firm friends in the
future, he was greeted with a burst of tumultuous applause.

The next day the army set out, their last remaining scruples dispelled
by an increase of pay.[68] There was still a certain reserve in speaking
about the object of the campaign but every one knew that it was directed
against the Great King. Two days' march took them to Issi, a town
destined to become famous in later days.[69] The difficult pass of the
Cicilian Gate was found unguarded. About a month later the ford of the
Euphrates at Thapsacus[70] was reached. Then all disguise was thrown
off. Cyrus was marching against his brother, and he would give each man
a bonus of a year's pay when he had reached Babylon.

So the long and tedious march went on. The King made no signs of
resistance. Line after line of defense was found unguarded. At last,
just ten weeks after the army had marched out of Tarsus, a Persian
horseman attached to Cyrus' person, came galloping up with the news,
which he shouted out in Greek and Persian, "The King is coming with a
great army ready for battle."

Something like a panic followed, for the invaders had almost begun to
think that they would not have to fight. Cyrus sprang from the carriage
in which he had been riding, donned his corslet, and mounted his
charger; the Greeks rushed to the wagons in which they had deposited
their armor and weapons, and prepared themselves hastily for battle.

By mid-day all was ready. Clearchus was in command of the right wing,
which consisted of the heavy-armed Greeks, and rested on the Euphrates
the light-armed Greeks, with some Paphlagonian cavalry, stood in the
center; on the left were the Persians under Ariæus, Cyrus' second in
command. The extreme left of all was occupied by Cyrus himself with his
body guard of six hundred horsemen. All wore cuirasses, cuisses and
helmets; but Cyrus, wishing to be easily recognized, rode bareheaded.

It was afternoon before the enemy came in sight. First, a white cloud of
dust became visible; then something like a black pall spread far and
wide over the plain, with now and then a spear point or bronze helmet
gleaming through the darkness. Silently the huge host advanced, its left
on the river, its right far overlapping Cyrus' left, so great was its
superiority in numbers. "Strike at the center," said the Prince to
Clearchus, as he rode along the line, "then our work will be done."

He knew his countrymen; the King himself was in the center. If he should
be killed or driven from the field, victory was assured.

The hostile lines were only two furlongs apart, when the Greeks raised
the battle shout, and charged at a quick pace, which soon became a run.
A few minutes afterwards the Persians broke. Their front line,
consisting of scythe-armed chariots, for the most part, turned and drove
helter skelter through the ranks of their countrymen; the few that
charged the advancing foe did, perhaps attempted to do, no harm. The
ranks were opened to let them through, and they took no further part in
the battle. Anyhow the Greeks won the victory without losing a single

Meanwhile the King, posted, as has been said, in the center, seeing no
one to oppose him, advanced as if he would take the Greeks on their
flank. Cyrus, seeing this, charged with his six hundred, and broke the
line in front of the King. The troopers were scattered in the ardor of
pursuit, and the Prince was left alone with a handful of men. Even then
all might have been well but for the fit of ungovernable rage which
seized him. He spied his brother the King in the throng, and, crying
out, "There is the man," pressed furiously towards him. One blow he
dealt him, piercing his corslet, and making a slight wound. Then one of
the King's attendants struck Cyrus with a javelin under the eye. The two
brothers closed for a moment in a hand-to-hand struggle. But Cyrus and
his followers were hopelessly overmatched. In a few minutes the Prince
and eight of his companions were stretched on the ground. One desperate
effort was made to save him. Artapates, the closest of his friends,
leaped from his horse, and threw his arms around his body. It did but
delay the fatal blow for the briefest space. The next moment Cyrus was


[68] From one daric to one daric and a half per month, $5 to $7.50.

[69] For the second of the great victories of Alexander.

[70] Thipsach or "The Passage."



Seven weeks have passed since the catastrophe recorded in my last
chapter.[71] Curiously enough the Greeks had returned to their camp
after their easily won victory without any suspicion of what had
happened on the other side of the battle field. They wondered, indeed,
that Cyrus neither came nor sent to congratulate them on their success,
but the news of his death which was brought to them next morning by an
Ionian Greek, who had been in the service of Cyrus, came upon them like
a thunderclap. Then had followed a period of indecision and perplexity.
So long as they had to answer insolent messages from the King or
Tissaphernes, bidding them give up their arms and be content with such
chance of pardon as they might have, their course was plain. To such
demands only one answer was possible. "We will die sooner than give them
up," had been the reply which Cleanor the Arcadian, the senior officer,
had made. But when the Persians began to treat, when they agreed upon a
truce, and even allowed the Greeks to provision themselves, the course
to be followed became less plain. Tissaphernes made indeed the most
liberal offers. "We will lead you back to Greece," he said, "and find
you provisions at a fair price. If we do not furnish them, you are at
liberty to take them for yourselves, only you must swear that you will
behave as if you were marching through the country of friends." There
were some who roundly said that the Greeks had best have no dealings
with the man; he was known to be treacherous and false; this was only
his way of luring them on to their death. On the other hand it was
difficult to refuse terms so advantageous. It was possible that the
satrap, though not in the least friendly, was genuinely afraid, and
would be glad to get rid at any price of visitants so unwelcome. This
was the common opinion. If the army could find its way home without
fighting, it would be madness to reject the chance. For many days past,
every thing had gone smoothly; relations between the Greeks and
Tissaphernes seemed to become more and more friendly. Clearchus, the
general, commanding in chief, had even dined with the satrap, had been
treated in the most friendly fashion, and was now come back to the camp
with a proposition from him for a formal conference at which the Greeks
were to be represented by their principal generals. Some voices were
raised against this proposal. "No one ever trusted Tissaphernes without
repenting it," was the sentiment of not a few, Xenophon amongst the
number. But the opposition was overruled. Five generals and twenty
inferior officers proceeded to the tent of Tissaphernes, followed by a
troop of stragglers, who availed themselves of the favorable
opportunity, as they thought it, of marketing within the enemy's lines.

"Callias," said Xenophon to his friend on the morning of this eventful
day, "my mind misgives me. The soothsayer tells me that, though the
sacrifices have been generally favorable, there have always been some
sinister indications. And certain it is that we have never put ourselves
so completely in the enemy's power as we have this day. Tissaphernes has
only to say the word and our most skillful leaders are dead men. But,
hark, what is that?"

A cry of surprise and wrath went up from the camp, and the two Athenians
rushed out of the tent in which they had been sitting, to ascertain the
cause. One glance was enough. The stragglers were hurrying back at the
top of their speed with the Persians in hot pursuit. Among the foremost
of the fugitives was an Arcadian officer, who, fearfully wounded as he
was, managed to make his way to the camp. "To arms!" he cried,
"Clearchus and the rest are either dead or prisoners." Instantly there
was a wild rush for arms. Everyone expected that the next moment would
bring the whole Persian army in sight. But the King and his satraps knew
how formidable the Greeks really were. As long as they had a chance of
succeeding by fraud, they would not use force.

Fraud was immediately attempted. Ariæus, who by this time had made his
peace with the King, rode up to within a short distance of the camp, and
said, "Let the Greeks send some one that is in authority to bear a
message from the King." The veteran Cleanor accordingly went forward.

"Let me go with you," cried Xenophon, "I am eager to hear what has
become of my friend Proxenus. Come you, too," he whispered to Callias.

Ariæus addressed them: "Thus saith the King; Clearchus, having forsworn
himself and broken the truth, has been put to death. Proxenus and Medon
are honorably treated. As for you, the King demands your arms, seeing
that they belonged to Cyrus, who was his slave."

Cleanor's answer was brief and emphatic, "Thou villain, Ariæus, and the
rest of you, have you no shame before gods or men, that you betray us in
this fashion, and make friends with that perjurer Tissaphernes?"

Ariæus could only repeat that Clearchus was a traitor. "Then," cried
Xenophon, "why send us not back Proxenus and Medon, good men you say,
who would advise both you and us for the best?"

To this no answer was made; and the party slowly made their way back to
the camp. The worst had happened. They were in the midst of their
enemies, more than a thousand miles from the sea, and they had lost
their leaders.

The two Athenians, who shared the same tent, lay down to rest at an
early hour. It still wanted some time to midnight, when Xenophon
surprised his companion by suddenly starting up.

"I believe," he cried, "all will be well after all. I have had a most
encouraging dream."

"What was it?" asked Callias.

"I dreamed," returned the other, "that I was at home and that there was
a great storm of thunder and lightning and that the lightning struck the
house and that it blazed up all over."

Callias stared. "But that does not sound very encouraging."

"Ah! but listen to what I have to tell you. When Proxenus asked me to
come with him on this expedition, I applied to Socrates for his advice.
'Ask the god at Delphi,' he said. So I asked the god but not, as he
meant me to do, whether I should go or not, but to what gods, if
I went, I should sacrifice. Well, this has been a great trouble to
me, and I look upon this dream as an answer. First - this is the
encouragement - Zeus shows me a light in darkness. The house all on a
blaze, I take it, means that we are surrounded with dangers."

"May it turn out well," was all that Callias could find it in his heart
to say. But if he was tempted to think meanly of his companion, he had
soon reason to alter his opinion.

"Whether my dream means what I think or any thing else," Xenophon went
on, "we must act. To fall into the hands of the King means death, and
death in the most shameful form. And yet no one stirs hand or foot to
avoid it; we lie quiet, as though it were time to take our rest. I shall
go and talk to my comrades about it."

The first thing was to call together his own particular friends, the
officers of Proxenus' division. He found them as wakeful as himself.

"Friends," he said, "we must get out of the King's clutches. You know
what he did to his own brother. The man was dead; but he must nail his
body to a cross. What will he do, think you, to us? No; we must get out
of his reach. But how? Not by making terms with him. That only gives him
time to hem us in more and more completely. No; we must fight him; and
we, who are more enduring and brave than our enemies, have a right to
hope that we shall fight to good purpose. And surely the gods will help
us rather than them. For are they not faithless and forsworn?

"But, if we are to fight, we must have leaders. Let us choose them then.
As for me, I will follow another, or, if you will have it so, I will
lead myself. Young I am, but I am at least of an age to take care of

Then there was a loud cry - "Xenophon for general!" Only one voice was
raised in protest, that of a captain, who spoke in very broad
Boeotian. "Escape is impossible; we should better try persuasion."
Such was the burden of his speech.

Xenophon turned on him fiercely. "Escape impossible! And yet you know
what the King did. First came a haughty command that we should give up
our arms. When we refused, he took to soft words and cajolery. He is
afraid of us; but if we trust to persuasion we are lost." Then turning
to the others, he cried, "Is this man fit to be a captain? Make him a
bearer of burdens. He is a disgrace to the name of Greek."

"Greek," cried an Arcadian captain, "he is no Boeotian, nor Greek at
all. He is a Mysian slave. I see his ears are bored." And the man was
promptly turned out of camp.

Not a moment was now lost. A representative body of officers from the
whole army was promptly collected, and Xenophon was asked to repeat what
he had said to the smaller gathering. The meeting ended in the election
of five generals to replace those who had been murdered. Chirisophus, a
Spartan, made the sixth, having held the office before.

The day was now beginning to dawn. It was scarcely light when the whole
army assembled in obedience to a hasty summons which had been sent
through the camp.

Chirisophus opened the proceedings. "We have fared ill, fellow
soldiers," he said, "in that we have been robbed of so many officers and
have been deserted by our allies. Still we must not give in. If we
cannot conquer, at least we can die gloriously. Anyhow we must not fall
alive into the hands of the King."

After an address by another general, Xenophon stood up. He had dressed
himself in his best apparel. "Fine clothes will suit victory best," he
said to himself, "and if I die, let me at least die like a gentleman."

"Gentlemen," he said, "if we were going to treat with the barbarians,
then, knowing how faithless they are, we might well despair; but if we
mean, taking our good swords in our hands, to punish them for what they
have done, and to secure our own safety, then we may hope for the best."

At this point, a soldier sneezed. A sneeze was a lucky omen, and by a
common impulse all the soldiers bowed their heads. Xenophon seized the

"I spoke of safety, gentlemen, and as I was speaking, Zeus the Savior,
sent us an omen of good fortune. Let us therefore vow to him a
thank-offering for deliverance, if we ever reach our native country.
This let us do as an army; and besides, let everyone vow to offer
according to his ability in return for his own safe arrival."

These propositions were unanimously accepted, and the hymn of battle was
solemnly sung by the whole army.

"Now," said the speaker, "we have set ourselves right with the gods, who
will doubtless reward our piety, while they will punish these perjurers
and traitors who seek to destroy us."

Then, after appealing to the glorious memories of the past, when the
Greeks, fighting against overwhelming odds, had once and again turned
back the tide of Persian invasion, he addressed himself to deal with the
circumstances of the situation. "Our allies have deserted us; but we
shall fight better without such cowards. We have no cavalry; but battles
are won by the sword; our foes will have the better only in being able
to run away more quickly. No market will be given us; but it is better
to take our food than to buy it. If rivers bar our way, we have only to
cross them higher up. Verily, I believe that not only can we get away,
but that if the King saw us preparing to settle here, he would be glad
to send us away in coaches and four, so terribly afraid is he of us.

"But how shall we go? Let us burn our tents and all superfluous baggage.
The baggage too often commands the army. That is the first thing to do.
Our arms are our chief possession. If we use them aright, everything in
the country is ours. Let us march in a hollow square, with the baggage
animals and the camp followers in the middle. And let us settle at once
who is to command each section of the army."

All this was accepted without demur. Chirisophus was appointed to
command the van, Xenophon, with a colleague, as the youngest of the
generals, the rear. Practically these two divided the command between

The first experience of an encounter with the enemy was not reassuring;
in fact it was almost disastrous. Early in the first day's march, one
Mithridates, a personage well known to the Greeks, for he had been high
in Cyrus' confidence, rode up with a couple of hundred horsemen and
twice as many slingers and bowmen. He had a look of coming as a friend;
indeed, earlier in that day he had come with what purported to be a
conciliatory message from Tissaphernes. But on arriving within a
moderate distance of the Greeks he halted, and the next moment there was
a shower of bullets and arrows from the slings and bows. The Greeks were
helpless. They suffered severely, but could do nothing to the enemy in
return. The Cretan archers had a shorter range than that of the Persian
bows, and the javelin could not, of course, come anywhere near the
slingers. At last Xenophon gave the order to charge. Charge the men did,
heavy-armed and light-armed alike. Possibly it was better than standing
still to be shot at. But they did not contrive to catch a single man. As
foot soldiers they were fairly outpaced; and they had no cavalry. Only
three miles were accomplished that day, and the army reached the
villages in which they were to bivouac, in a state of great despondency.
Unless such attacks could be resisted with better success, the fate of
the army was sealed.

Xenophon was severely blamed by his colleagues for his action in
charging. He frankly acknowledged his fault. "I could not stand still,"
he said, "and see the men falling round me without striking a blow, but
the charge was no good. We caught none of them, and we did not find it
easy to get back. Thanks to the gods, there were not very many of them;
if they had come on in force, we must have been cut to pieces."

After a short silence, he addressed his colleagues again. "We are at a
great disadvantage. Our Cretans cannot shoot as far as their Persian
archers; and our hand throwers are useless against the slingers. As for
the foot soldiers, no man, however fleet of foot, can overtake another
who has a bowshot's start of him, especially as we cannot push the
pursuit far from the main body. The simple truth is that we must have
slingers and horsemen of our own. I know that there are Rhodians in the
army who can sling leaden bullets to a much greater distance than these
Persian slings can reach. I propose, first, that we find out who among
them have slings of their own; these we will buy at the proper value; if
any know how to plait some more, we will pay them the proper price for
doing it; the slings thus obtained, we shall soon get a corps of
slingers to use them. Give them some advantage and they will enroll
themselves fast enough. Now for the cavalry. We have some horses I know.
There are some in the rear-guard with me; there are others that belonged
to Clearchus; a good many have been taken from the enemy, and are being
used as baggage animals. Let us take the pick of these and equip them
for the use of cavalry; we shall soon have some very capable horsemen at
our service."

The idea was promptly carried out. That very night a couple of hundred
slingers were enrolled, and the next day, which was spent without any
attempt to advance, fifty horsemen passed muster, fairly well-mounted

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 14 of 22)