Alfred John Church.

Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

. (page 15 of 22)
Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 15 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and duly furnished with buff jackets and cuirasses. This was only the
first of many instances in which Xenophon showed the fertility and
readiness of device which did so much to save the army.

The very next day the new forces were brought into action with the
happiest results. Mithridates came up again with his archers and
slingers, but encountered a reception on which he had not calculated.
The cavalry made a brilliant charge, cutting down a number of the
infantry and taking prisoners some seventeen horsemen. At the end of the
day's march, the army reached the Tigris. Fourteen weeks of hard and
perilous marching lay before them; but they were fairly well-equipped
for the work. I shall take an account of some of the principal incidents
of the journey from a diary kept by Callias, who acted throughout as
aid-de-camp to Xenophon.


[71] The battle of Cunaxa, in which Cyrus fell, was fought on Sept. 3d.
The day at which we have now arrived is Oct. 31st.



OCTOBER 27.[72] - Our new corps have covered themselves with glory
to-day. About noon Tissaphernes himself appeared with a large force of
cavalry. He had his own regiments with him; among the others we
recognized some of Cyrus' Persian troops. They want, I suppose, to make
the King forget their rebellion. The satrap did not wish to come to
close quarters; but he found after all that the quarters were closer
than he liked. He was well within range; and as his men were posted in
great masses every arrow and every bullet told. It would, in fact, have
been impossible to miss, with such a mark to aim at. As for the Persian
archers they did no damage at all. But we found their arrows very
useful. Our men are now well-equipped, for we discovered an abundant
store of bow-strings and lead for the sling bullets in the villages.

NOVEMBER 3. - Things have not been going so well to-day. The barbarians
occupied a post of vantage on our route and showered down darts, stones,
and arrows upon us as we passed. Our light-armed were easily driven in.
When the heavy-armed tried to scale the height, they found the climbing
very hard work, and of course the enemy were gone by the time that they
reached the top. Three times this was done, and I was never more pleased
in my life than when at last we got to the end of our day's march. Eight
surgeons are busy attending to the wounded, of whom there is a terrible
number. We are going to stop here three days, Xenophon tells me.
Meanwhile we are in a land of plenty. There are granaries full of wheat,
and cellars of wine, and barley enough to supply our horses if we had
fifty times as many. Hereafter we are to follow a new plan. As soon as
we are attacked, we halt. To march and fight at the same time puts us at
a disadvantage. And we are to try to get as far in advance as possible.

NOVEMBER 9. - We had our three days' rest, and then three days' quick
marching. To-day, however, there has been a smart brush with the enemy.
They had occupied a ridge commanding our route, which just then
descended from the hills into the plain. Chirisophus sent for Xenophon
to bring his light-armed to the front. This, of course, was a serious
thing to do, as Tissaphernes was not far from our rear. Xenophon
accordingly galloped to the front to confer with his colleague.
"Certainly," he said, when he saw how the enemy was posted, "these
fellows must be dislodged, but we can't uncover our rear. You must give
me some troops, and I will do my best." Just at that moment he caught
sight of a height rising above us just on our right - he has a true
general's eye - and saw that it gave an approach to the enemy's position.
"That is the place for us to take," he cried. "If we get that, the
barbarians can't stay where they are." As soon as the troops were told
off for service, we started; and lo! as soon as we were off, the
barbarians seeing what we were after started too. It was a race who
should get there first. Xenophon rode beside the men, and urged them on.
"Now for it, brave sirs!" he cried. "'Tis for Hellas! 'Tis for wives and
children! Win the race, and you will march on in peace! Now for it!" The
men did their best, but of course it was hard work. I never had harder
in my life. At last a grumbling fellow in the ranks growled out, "We are
not on equal terms, Xenophon. You are on horseback, and I have got to
carry my shield." In a moment Xenophon was off his horse. He snatched
the fellow's shield from him, and marched on with the rest. That was
hard work indeed, for he had his horseman's cuirass on; still he kept
up. Then the men fell on the grumbler. They abused him, pelted him, and
cuffed him, till he was glad enough to take his shield again. Then
Xenophon re-mounted, and rode on as before as far as the horse could go.
Then he left him tethered to a tree, and went on foot. In the end we won
the race; and the barbarians left the way clear.

NOVEMBER 10. - We had a great disappointment to-day. The route lay either
across a river which was too deep to ford - we tried it with our spears,
and could find no bottom - or through a mountainous region inhabited by a
set of fierce savages whom the King has never been able to subdue. He
once sent an army of a hundred thousand men among them, they say, and
not a single soldier ever came back! First we considered about crossing
the river. A Rhodian had a grand plan, he said, for taking the army
across. He would sell it for a talent. I must confess, by the way, that
I am more and more disgusted by the manner in which everything is for
sale. Citizen soldiers think of the common good, though, it must be
confessed, they are not so sturdy in action as these fellows;
mercenaries think only of the private purse. However, the Rhodian never
got his talent. His plan was clever enough, making floats of skins, but
impracticable, seeing that the enemy occupied the other shore in force.
Nothing, then, remained for it but to take to the mountains. We must do
our best to fight our way through them, if the mountaineers won't be
friends. This done, we shall find ourselves in Armenia; once there, we
shall be able to go anywhere we please.

NOVEMBER 14. - We have had three awful days. The Carduchians - so they
call the barbarians - are as hostile and as fierce as they can be. It
seems unreasonable, for they must hate the Great King as much as we do.
Still they will not listen to our overtures for friendly intercourse,
but keep up an incessant attack. To-day there was very near being a
positive disaster. We in the rear-guard had, of course, the worst of it.
Generally when we find our work particularly hard we pass on the word to
the van, and they slacken their pace; otherwise we should get divided
from the main army. To-day no attention was paid to our messages;
Chirisophus did nothing but send back word that we must hurry on.
Consequently our march became something very like a rout, and we lost
two of our best men. At the first halt Xenophon rode to the front.

"Why this hurry?" he asked. "It has cost us two men, and we had to
leave their bodies behind." "See you that?" said Chirisophus, and he
pointed to a height straight before us, which was strongly held by the
enemy. "I wanted to get there first, for the guide says that there is no
other way." "Says he so?" said Xenophon. "Let us hear what my fellows
have to say. I laid an ambush, you must know, and caught two barbarians.
They would be useful, I thought, as guides!" The two were brought up and
questioned. "Is there any other way than what we see?" "No," said the
first. Try all we could, he would make no other answer. At last
Chirisophus had him killed. "Now," he said, turning to the other, "can
you tell us anything more?" "O yes," said the man, "there is another
way, and one that horses can pass over. But the other would not say
anything about it, because he had kinsfolk living near it, and was
afraid that you would do them an injury." Poor fellow! I was sorry for
him, when I knew how loyal he had been. But I don't know what else could
have been done. The second man told us that there was a height which we
must occupy if we would make the new route practicable. Two thousand men
have set off to get hold of it. If they fail, we shall be in terrible

NOVEMBER 16. - The army is safe for the present, but some - I among the
number - have had a very narrow escape. The two thousand found their work
very much harder than at first they thought it was going to be. They
took the first height without any difficulty, and fancied they had done
all that was wanted. But there were no less than three heights beyond,
and each of these had to be stormed. My part in the business was this.
Xenophon thought that the second of the four heights - there were four
in all - ought to be held permanently till our army had passed. Some two
hundred men were told off for this duty, and I volunteered to be one of
them. All of a sudden we found ourselves attacked by a whole swarm of
mountaineers. They outnumbered us by at least ten to one. It was a case
for running, for there was really no position that we could hold. But
running was no easy matter. Our only chance was to climb down a very
steep mountain side to the pass below, where the last columns of the
van-guard were just making their way. Some of the men did not like to
try it; and, indeed, it did look desperately dangerous. While they were
hesitating, the barbarians were upon them. As for myself, I felt that I
would sooner break my neck than fall into the enemy's hands, so I
started off at full pace, and was safe. Nor do I think that any who
followed my example were seriously hurt, though some got very nasty
falls. Those who stayed behind were killed to a man. Just now we are in
comfortable quarters. Wine is in such plenty hereabouts that positively
the people keep it in great cisterns.

NOVEMBER 19. - We have crossed the Centrites, which is the Eastern branch
of the Tigris.

NOVEMBER 30. - The march through Armenia has been on the whole as
pleasant as we had hoped. The Lieutenant Governor, one Tiribazus, made
an agreement with our generals that he would do us no harm, if we would
not burn the houses, but content ourselves with taking such provisions
as we wanted. Four days ago, we had a heavy fall of snow, and the
general thought it as well to billet out the army in the villages, which
are very thick in these parts. There was no enemy in sight, and, as we
had no tents, bivouacking in the open would be neither pleasant nor
safe. We all enjoyed it vastly, particularly as the villages were full
of good things, oxen, and sheep, and wine, some of the very best I ever
tasted, and raisins, and vegetables of all kinds. But after the first
night we had an alarm. A great army was reported in sight; and certainly
there were watchfires in every direction. The generals thereupon
determined to bring the army together again, and to bivouac on the
plain. The weather too, promised to be fine. But in the night there was
another heavy snow fall, so heavy that it covered us all up. It was not
uncomfortable lying there under the snow; in fact, it felt quite warm;
but of course it was not safe. I have heard of people going to sleep
under such circumstances and not waking up again. Anyhow Xenophon set
the example of getting up, and setting to work splitting wood. Before
long we were all busy. But there was no more bivouacking in the open. We
went to the villages again; and some foolish fellows who had wantonly
set their houses on fire were now punished for their folly.

DECEMBER 8. - The weather becomes colder and colder, and is our worst
enemy now. The other day there was a cutting north wind, which drifted
the snow till it was more than six feet deep in places. Xenophon, whose
faith and piety are admirable, suggested a sacrifice to the north wind.
This was made; and certainly the weather did begin to abate shortly
afterwards. The doubters say that the wind always does go down after a
time. These are matters on which I do not pretend to judge; but I do see
that Xenophon's pious belief makes him very cheerful and courageous.
The day before yesterday many of our men were afflicted, what with the
long march and what with the cold, with a sort of ravenous hunger. They
fell down, and either would not, or could not, move a step forward. At
first we did not know what was the matter with them; but then some one
who had campaigned before in cold countries suggested the real cause.
When we gave them a little food we found that they recovered. Yesterday
we nearly lost a number of men who were simply overpowered with the
cold. The enemy was close behind, and we tried to raise the poor fellows
up; but they would not stir. "Kill us," they said, "but leave us alone."
They were simply stupid with cold. All that could be done was to
frighten the enemy away. On the barbarians came, till the rear guard,
who were lying in ambush, dashed out upon them, and at the same time the
sick men shouted as loud as they could, and rattled their spears against
their shields. The enemy fled in a hurry, and we saw and heard no more
of them. But what would have happened if they had persisted, is more
than I can say. The whole army was demoralized with the cold. The men
lay down as they could with their cloaks round them. There was not a
single guard placed anywhere. As it was, no harm was done; and in the
afternoon to-day the sick men were brought safe into good quarters. We
are now in excellent quarters, with all that we could wish to eat and

DECEMBER 9. - Just as I had finished my entries yesterday an Athenian
with whom I have struck up a great friendship asked me to come with him
on an expedition. His name is Polycrates, and he is the captain of a
company. "Let us raid that village," he said, "before the people have
time to get away." So we did, and we had a fine catch. We laid hands on
the villagers and their head man. With the head man was his daughter who
had been married only eight days before. Her husband was out
hare-hunting, and so escaped. The village was a curious place. All the
houses were underground; beasts and men lived there together, the beasts
entering by a sloping way, the men by a ladder. There were great stores
of barley, and wheat, and green stuff of all kinds. The drink was barley
wine, which they keep in great bowls. You have to suck it up by a reed.
It is very strong. As to the flavor I feel a little doubtful. To-day
Xenophon has been taking the head man, whom he had to sup with him last
night, all round the camp, by which I mean the villages, for the men are
encamped in them. At Chirisophus' quarters there was a strange sight.
The men were feasting with wisps of hay round their heads, for lack of
flowers; and Armenian boys, in the costume of their country, were
waiting on them. Everything of course had to be explained by signs, for
neither soldiers nor waiters knew a word of each other's language.
Xenophon gave the head man his old charger, which indeed was pretty well
worn out with marching, and took for himself and his officers a number
of young horses which were going to be sent, we were told, as part of
the King's tribute.

DECEMBER 27. - Nothing of much moment has happened, except it be a
quarrel, the first that has taken place - and I devoutly hope the
last - between our generals. After resting in the villages for a week, we
started again, taking the head man with us as a guide. If he did this
duty properly, he was to be allowed to depart and to take his son with
him, for he had a young son in his company. All the rest of his family
were safe in his own village with a very handsome lot of presents. At
the end of the third day Chirisophus got into a great rage because the
head man had not taken them to any village. The man declared that there
was no village near. But Chirisophus would not listen, and struck the
man. The next night he ran away. Xenophon was very angry. "You ought not
to have struck him," he said; "but having struck him, you certainly
ought to have kept a doubly strict guard on him."

DECEMBER 30. - We have crossed the river Phasis, and got through what is,
I hope, our last difficult pass. I have not time to write about it; but
I must record an amusing little controversy that took place between our
two generals. It shows anyhow that they have made up their quarrel.
Xenophon had been insisting that they must do as much as they could by
craft, and had been speaking of _stealing_ somewhere at night,
_stealing_ a march, and so forth. Then he went on, "But why do I talk
about stealing in your presence Chirisophus, for you Spartans are
experts in the art. You practice it, I am told, from your youth up. It
is honorable among you to take anything except what the law forbids. But
to encourage you and to make you master thieves you get a whipping if
you are found out. I must not therefore presume to instruct you about
_stealing_." "Nay," replied the other, "you have the best possible right
to do it. You Athenians, I am told, are wonderfully clever hands at
stealing the public money and the best men among you do it the most. No;
we Spartans must yield to you." In the end the pass was carried without
much loss.

JANUARY 3. - For several days we have been on very short commons. The
Taochi, through whose country we are passing, have collected all their
possessions, alive and dead, into strong places. At last we felt that
something had to be done, for we were simply starving. Accordingly, when
we came about noon to-day to one of these strongholds which happened to
lie directly on our route, Chirisophus made up his mind to take it. It
could be seen to be full of flocks and herds besides a mixed crowd of
men, women and children. First one regiment went up against it; then a
second; then a third. They could do nothing with it; the slingers and
archers, which were the only troops we could use, made no impression at
all. Just then Xenophon came up with the rear-guard, I being close
behind him. "You have come just in the nick of time my friend," said
Chirisophus, "we must take this place or starve." "But what," Xenophon
asked, "is to hinder our simply walking in?" Chirisophus answered, "You
see that one narrow path, that is the only way of approaching the place.
Whenever anyone attempts to go by it, these fellows roll down huge
masses of rock from the crag up there," and he pointed to a cliff that
overhung the plain. "See what has happened to some of my poor fellows
who were unlucky enough to get in the way!" And sure enough there was
one man with one leg broken and another with both, and a third with his
ribs crushed in. "But," said my own general, "when these fellows have
expended their ammunition - and they can't have a perpetual supply of
it - there will be nothing else to hinder our going in. I can only see a
very few men, and of these not more than two or three are armed. As for
the distance that we have to get across, it cannot be more than one
hundred and fifty yards; and two-thirds of this are covered at intervals
by great pine trees. As long as we are among these, stones cannot hurt
us. These past, there are only fifty yards more to be crossed." "Very
good," said Chirisophus, "but the moment we get near, the fire of stones
begins again." "All the better," said Xenophon, "the hotter their fire,
the quicker the enemy will use up their ammunition. However, let us
begin by picking out the place where the run across the open space will
be shortest."

First we occupied the trees. I had the luck, by special favor of
Xenophon, to be among them. We were only seventy, for no more could find
proper shelter behind the pines. Then one of us came forward a yard or
two from under cover of the pines. No sooner did the Taochi see him than
they sent down a vast quantity of stones. Before they reached him he was
under cover again. This he did several times; and every time a
wagon-load of rocks, at the very least, must have been whizzing and
whistling down the slope. Before long, however, the ammunition gave
signs of not holding out. As soon as Agasias, an Arcadian from Lake
Stymphalus, perceived this, he ran forward at full speed. The man who
had been amusing himself with the rocks, caught hold of his shield as he
ran by. Then two other men started. Altogether it was a splendid race,
and curiously enough not another stone was thrown. Then the rest of us
followed. But when I saw the horrible thing that ensued, I was inclined
to be sorry that I had anything to do with it. The women threw their
children over the cliff, and then threw themselves after them, and the
men did the same. I caught hold of one man to stop him, but he wriggled
out of my grasp, and threw himself over the top. It was well for me that
he did so or else I might have fared as Æneas of Stymphalus did. He saw
a man very finely dressed just about to throw himself over, and tried to
hold him. The man did not try to get away, but clasped Æneas tightly in
his arms. The next moment both had fallen headlong over the edge. Of
course they were both killed. We took very few prisoners, but flocks and
herds as many as we wanted and more.

JANUARY 26. - The marching has been easy enough on the whole, though we
have met with the bravest enemies that we have yet come across, the
Chalybes, they are called. They did not hang on our rear, taking care
never to fight unless they had some vantage ground, but met us fairly
face to face. They were not as well armed as we. Indeed, they had no
armor on the body except cuirasses of linen. Their chief weapon was a
very long and clumsy spear. Nevertheless they made a good fight of it;
and if they did kill a man they cut his head off directly with a short
sabre that they carried at their waists. We got nothing but hard knocks
here. All the property of the country was stored away in strongholds;
still what we got from the Taochi has lasted us up to this time, and
will supply us for some days to come. The country of the Chalybes past,
we came to the city, the first, by the way, that we have seen. It seemed
very populous and rich, and its governor was extremely civil. He gave us
a guide who told us the best news that we had heard for a long time.
"Within five days you shall see the sea," he said. "If I fail, my life
shall be the forfeit." According to this we ought to see it to-morrow.

JANUARY 27. - We have seen it! I was in the van-guard as usual. We had
our hands full, for the people of the country were up in arms against
us. Our friend, the guide, had been very urgent with us to ravage and
burn the country; and the men had not been backward in following his
advice. So now there was a whole swarm of enemies hanging on our heels,
and we of the rear guard had to keep them in check. All of a sudden we
heard a tremendous uproar. "There is another attack on the van," cried
Xenophon, "this looks serious." But the shouting grew louder and nearer.
As soon as a company came up, it began racing towards the shouters, and
then took to shouting itself. Xenophon mounted his horse to see for
himself what had happened. He took the cavalry with him in case anything
should have happened, and I made the best of my way after them.
Presently we could distinguish the words. The men were shouting, _The
sea! The sea!_ Then everybody started running, rear guard and all; even
the very baggage horses were taken with it and came galloping up. And,
sure enough, there it was, right before our eyes, a glimpse of blue in
the distance with the sunshine upon it. What a scene it was! We all fell
to embracing one another; rank was forgotten; generals, officers, and
common men were friends. Indeed the gods could not have given to our
eyes a more delightful sight. Presently the soldiers fell to erecting a
great cairn of stones. On this they put skins and staves and wicker
shields that we had taken from the enemy. Of course the guide had a
very handsome present from the common store, a purse, a silver bowl, a
Persian dress, and ten gold pieces. Then he begged some rings, and got
not a few. The soldiers were ready to give him anything.

FEBRUARY 2. - We have passed safely through another country. The people
were drawn out in order of battle when the luckiest thing happened,
saving, I doubt not, many lives. One of the men came up to Xenophon and
said: "I think I know the language these people talk. I verily believe
that it is my own." And so it turned out to be. The man had been a slave
in Athens. He explained to them that we did not wish to do them any
harm, but simply wanted to get back to our own country. Since then it
has been peaceful. The people - Macrones they call themselves - have been

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 15 of 22)