Alfred John Church.

Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

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when he was selling his sword to the highest bidder, never forgot that
he was a citizen, and that as a citizen he had the right of satisfying
himself that his superiors had done their duty with due care and with
integrity. The Ten Thousand accordingly put aside for the time their
military character, and resolved themselves into a civil assembly. Their
generals were no longer the commanding officers to whom they owed an
unhesitating obedience, but the magistrates who had just completed their
term of office, and had now to render their accounts[76] to those who
had elected them.

The meeting of the army, perhaps I should rather say the assembly, was
held on the same ground which had served for a race course. One by one
the officers were called to answer for themselves. With many, indeed,
the proceeding was purely formal. The name was called, and the man
stepped forward on a platform which had been erected where it could be
best seen by the whole meeting. If no one appeared to make a complaint
or to ask a question, the soldiers gave him a round of applause, if I
may use the word of the noise made by clashing their spears against
their shields; this was a verdict of acquittal and the officer retired
with a bow. And this was what commonly happened. After all, the leaders
had, on the whole, done their duty sufficiently well; there was proof of
that in the simple fact that such a meeting was being held. But all did
not escape so easily. If, indeed, only a few voices of dissatisfaction
were heard, the matter was not pushed any further. When the second
appeal was made by the malcontents, they, seeing that they were not
supported by their comrades, preferred to keep silence. The man would,
in all probability, be their officer again and he would not be likely to
think pleasantly of any one who had accused him. But where, on the other
hand, there was anything like an agreement of dissatisfied voices, the
complainants took courage to come forward, and the examination was
proceeded with in earnest. One officer had had charge of some of the
property of the army; there was a deficiency in his accounts and he was
fined twenty himal[77] to make it good. Another was accused of
carelessness in his duties as leader, and had to pay half this sum. Then
came the _cause celebre_, as it may be called, of the day, the trial of
Xenophon himself. Xenophon was generally popular with the army, as,
indeed, he could scarcely fail to be, considering all that he had done
for it; but he had enemies. The mere fact of his being an Athenian made
him an object of dislike to some; others, as will be seen, he had been
compelled to offend in the discharge of his duty.

"Xenophon, the son of Gryllus," shouted the herald at the top of his

The Athenian stepped on to the platform.

An Arcadian soldier, Nicharchus by name, came forward and said, "I
accuse Xenophon the Athenian of violence and outrage."

A few voices of assent were heard throughout the meeting; and some half
dozen men came forward to support the the prosecutor. Accuser and
accused were now confronted.

"Of what do you accuse me?" asked Xenophon.

"Of wantonly striking me," replied the man.

"When and where did you suffer these blows?"

"After we had crossed the Euphrates, when there was a heavy fall of

"I remember. You are right. The weather was terrible; our provisions had
run out; the wine could not so much as be smelt; many men were dropping
down, half dead with fatigue; the enemy were close upon our heels. Were
not these things so?"

"It is true. Things were as bad as you say, or even worse."

"You hear," said Xenophon, turning to the assembly, "how we were
situated, and indeed, seeing that you suffered these things yourself,
you are not likely to forget them. Verily; if in such a condition of
things, I struck this man wantonly and without cause, you might fairly
count me more brutal than an ass. But say - " he went on, addressing
himself again to his accuser, "was there not a cause for my beating

"Yes, there was a cause," the fellow sullenly admitted.

"Did I ask you for something, and strike you because you refused to give


"Did I demand payment for a debt, and lose my temper because the money
was not forthcoming?"


"Was I drunken?"


"Tell me now; are you a heavy-armed soldier?"

"No; I am not."

"Are you a light-armed then?"

"No; nor yet a light-armed."

"What were you doing then?"

"I was driving a mule."

"Being a slave?"

"Not so; I am free; but my commander compelled me to drive it."

A light broke in upon Xenophon. He had had a general recollection of the
occasion, but could not remember the particular incident. Now it all
came back to him.

"Ah," he cried, "I remember; it was you who were carrying the sick man?"

"Yes," the man confessed, "I did so, by your compulsion; and a pretty
mess was made of the kit that I had upon the mule's back."

"Nay, not so; the men carried the things themselves, and nothing was
lost. But hear the rest of the story," he went on, turning to the
assembly, "and, indeed it is worth hearing. I found a poor fellow lying
upon the ground, who could not move a step further. I knew the man, and
knew him as one who had done good service. And I compelled you, sir,"
addressing Nicharchus, "to carry him. For if I mistake not, the enemy
were close behind us."

The Arcadian nodded assent.

"Well then; I sent you forward with your burden, and after a while,
overtook you again, when I came up with the rear-guard. You were digging
a trench in which to bury the man. I thought it a pious act, and praised
you for it. But, lo! while I was speaking, the dead man, as I thought he
was, twitched his leg. 'Why he's alive,' the bystanders cried out.
'Alive or dead, as he pleases,' you said, 'but I am not going to carry
him any further.' Then I struck you. I acknowledge it. It seemed to me
that you were going to bury the poor fellow alive."

"Well," said the Arcadian, "you won't deny, I suppose, that the man died
after all."

"Yes," replied Xenophon, "he died, I acknowledge. We must all die some
day; but, meanwhile, there is no reason why we should be buried alive."

The man hung his head and said nothing.

"What say you, comrades?" cried Xenophon.

One of the oldest men in the ranks got up and said, "If Xenophon had
given the scoundrel a few more blows he had done well."

A deafening clash of swords and spears followed, and the verdict was

The other complainants were now called to state the particulars of their
grievances. Dismayed by the reception which their spokesman had met
with, they remained silent, one and all. Xenophon then entered upon a
general defence of his conduct.

"Comrades," he said, "I confess that I have many times struck men for
want of discipline. These were men who, leaving others to provide for
their safety, thought only of their own gain. While we were fighting
they would leave their place in the ranks to plunder, and so enriched
themselves at our expense. Some also I have struck, when I found them
playing the coward and ready to give themselves helplessly up to the
enemy. Then I forced them to march on, and so saved their lives. For I
know, having once myself sat down in a sharp frost, while I was waiting
for my comrades, how loath one is to rise again. Therefore, for their
sake, I raised them even with blows, as I should myself wish, were I so
found, to be raised. Others also have I struck whom I found straggling
behind that they might rest. I struck them for your sake, for they were
hindering both you that were in front, and us that were behind, and I
struck them for their own sake. For verily it was a lighter thing to
have a blow with the fist from me than a spear's thrust from the enemy.
Of a truth, if they are able to stand up now to accuse me, it is because
I saved them thus. Had they fallen into the enemy's hand, what
satisfaction would they be able to get, even if their wrongs were ten
times worse than that Nicharchus complains of? No," he went on, "my
friends, I have done nothing more to any one than what a wise father
does to his child, or a good physician does to his patient. You see how
I behave myself now. I am in better case; I fare better; I have food and
wine in plenty. Yet I strike no one. Why? Because there is no need;
because we have weathered the storm, and are in smooth water. I need no
more defence; you have, I see, acquitted me. Yet I cannot forbear to say
that I take it ill that this accusation has been made. You remember the
times when I had for your good to incur your dislike; but the times when
I eased the burden of storm or winter for any of you, when I beat off an
enemy, when I ministered to you in sickness or in want, these no one
remembers - " and here the speaker's voice half broke, partly with real
emotion, partly at the suggestion of the orator's art. A thrill of
sympathy ran through the audience. "And you forget," he went on, "that I
never failed to praise the doer of any noble deed, or to do such honor
as I could, to the brave, living or dead. Yet, surely it were more
noble, more just, more after the mind of the gods, a sweeter and
kindlier act, to treasure the memory of the good than to cherish these
hateful thoughts."

When the speaker sat down, there was nothing that he might not have
obtained from his comrades.

That night there was a great banquet. This served a double purpose.
Quarrels were made up, and some other difficult relations of the army to
its neighbors were satisfactorily adjusted. The fact was, that the
Greeks, partly from their want, and partly in the hope of filling their
pockets after a long and profitless campaign, had been plundering right
and left. The natives, on the other hand, had not been slow to
retaliate. Plundering cannot be done satisfactorily in company; but any
who ventured to do a little business on his own account ran a great
chance of being cut off. Under these circumstances both parties thought
it might be possible to come to an agreement. If the Greeks would not
plunder, the natives would leave them unmolested and even furnish them
with supplies. The chief of the country, accordingly, sent an embassy,
with a handsome present of horses and robes of native manufacture. The
generals entertained them at a banquet, to which, at the same time, they
invited the most influential men of the army. The chief's proposals
would be informally discussed, and proposed in regular form at a general
meeting the next day.

The generals did their best to impress their guests. Meat, bread and
wine were in plenty; and the eparch of Trapezus sent one of the
magnificent turbots for which the waters of the Black Sea were famous.
All the plate that was in the camp was put into requisition to make as
brave a show as possible; and, at the instance of Callias, some handsome
vessels of gold and silver were lent by the town authorities.

But, in the eyes of the guests, the most impressive part of the
entertainment was in the performances which followed it. The libation
having been made and the hymn, which supplied the part of grace after
meat, having been sung, some of the Thracian soldiers came upon the
platform which had been prepared for the performers. They wore the usual
armor of their country, a helmet, greaves, light cuirass, and sword, and
danced a national dance to the sound of a flute, leaping into the air
with extraordinary nimbleness, and brandishing their swords. One pair of
dancers were conspicuous for their agility. Faster and faster grew
their movements, and with gestures of defiance they alternately
retreated and advanced. At last, one of them, carried, it seemed, out of
himself by his rage, thrust at his fellow with his sword. The man fell.

"He is killed!" screamed out the guests, and rose from their seats.

Indeed, the man had fallen so artistically and lay so still that any one
would have thought that he had received a fatal blow. The Greeks,
however, looked on unmoved, and the strangers, not knowing whether this
wonderful people might not be wont to kill each other for the
entertainment of their guests, resumed their seats. The dancer who had
dealt the blow stripped the other of his arms, and hurried off, singing
the Thracian national song:

"All praise to Sitalces,
Invisible Lord,
The spear point that errs not,
The death-dealing sword,
The chariot that scatters
The close ranks of war,
Red Ruin behind it,
Blind Panic before!"

When he had left the stage a party of Thracians appeared and carried off
the fallen man, who had remained without giving the slightest sign of

Another dance in armor succeeded, performed this time by Æolian
tribesmen from the Menalian coast. A man came on the stage, and, laying
aside his arms, made believe to drive a yoke of oxen, and to sow as he
drove. Every now and then he looked round, with an admirable imitation
of expecting some unpleasant interruption. This came in the shape of
another armed man, who was supposed to represent a cattle-lifter. The
ploughman caught up his arms, and ran to encounter him. The two fought
in front of the team, keeping time as they struck and parried to the
sound of the flute. At last the robber appeared to vanquish his
adversary, to bind him, strip him of his arms, and drive off the team.

The next performer was a Mysian, who danced, again in armor, what we
should call a _pas seul_. He had a light shield in each hand, and seemed
to be fighting with two adversaries at once; his action was
extraordinarily life-like and his agility almost more than human. In
curious contrast with his performance was the stately movement of some
Arcadians heavy-armed, who, with all the weight of their armor and
accoutrements upon them, moved to the tune of the warriors' march with
as much ease as if they had been perfectly unencumbered.

"Good Heavens!" cried one of the envoys to his next neighbor, "what men
these are! Their armor seems not one whit heavier to them than a shirt,
and they carry their swords and their spears as if they were twigs of

One of the Mysians, whose dialect was not very different from that of
the speaker, overheard the remark. "Ah!" he said to himself, "we will
astonish these gentlemen still more."

He drew one of the Arcadians who had just performed, aside. "Send Cleone
on the stage," he said.

Cleone was a dancing-girl, famous for her agility.

By good luck she was at hand, having indeed expected to perform for the
amusement of the company. The Arcadian made her put on a light cuirass
of silvered steel, which she wore over a scarlet tunic. She had a short
gilded helmet, buskins of purple, and sandals tied with crimson strings.
In her left hand she carried a small shield, and in her right, a light
spear. Thus accoutred, she came on the stage and danced the Pyrrhic
dance with tremendous applause from all the spectators.

The astonishment of the native guests was beyond all expression.

"What!" cried their chief, "do your women fight?"

"Of course," said the General whom he addressed, "of course they fight,
and very pretty soldiers they make."

"Women soldiers!" gasped the man.

"Why," said his host, "did you not know that it was the women who routed
the Great King, and drove him out of our camp?"


[76] The examination of accounts (euthuna) was one of the most important
constitutional usages in the Athenian commonwealth. All magistrates on
coming out of office, and ambassadors returning from a mission had to
undergo it. The existence of this usage would make the difference in the
eyes of an Athenian between a constitutional and a despotic government.
The other Greek States, though we know but little of their internal
arrangements, probably had some similar institution.

[77] Rather more than £400.



Callias found it very hard to sit out the banquet and the entertainment
that followed it. He had felt a headache before sitting, or to speak
more correctly, lying down, and this grew so bad during the evening that
he gladly took the earliest opportunity of leaving. The fact was that he
had been ailing for some days; the excitement of the games had carried
him through the labors of the day, but he suffered doubly from the
reaction, and before nightfall he was seriously ill.

And now he found the advantage of having followed Xenophon's advice and
taken up his quarters in the town. Had he been reduced to such nursing
and attendance as the camp could have supplied, his chances of moving
would have been small indeed. At the house of Demochares, on the
contrary, he had everything in his favor, an exceptionally good nurse,
and an exceptionally skillful physician. In those days neither branch of
the healing art, for nursing has certainly as much to do with healing as
physicking, was very successfully cultivated. Women nursed the sick,
indeed, often with kindness and devotion, for woman's nature was
substantially the same then as it is now, but they did it in a blind and
ignorant fashion. As for the practice of medicine it was a mass of
curious superstitions and prejudices, leavened here and there with a few
grains of experience, and, if the practitioner happened to have that
inestimable quality, of good sense. Of systems there was only the
beginning. The great physician Hippocrates had indeed acquired a vast
reputation, and was beginning to influence the opinion of the faculty
throughout Greece; but the medical profession has always been slow to
adopt new ideas - what profession, indeed, has not? - the means of
communication, too, were very limited, and as yet his teaching had had
but little effect.

But Callias happened to be exceedingly fortunate both in his nurse and
in his doctor. The house of Demochares was kept by his sister, a widow,
who after her husband's death had returned to her old home, and had
devoted herself to a life of kindness and charity. The young Athenian
had won her heart, not only by his sunny temper and gracious manners,
but by his resemblance to a son of her own whose early death - he had
been slain in a skirmish with the barbarian neighbors of Trapezus - had
been the second great sorrow of her life. His illness called forth her
tenderest sympathies, and nothing could have exceeded the devotion with
which she ministered to her patient.

The physician, Demoleon by name, was a very remarkable man. He was a
native of the island of Cos, and was at this time between fifty and
sixty years of age. He had been one of the first pupils of the famous
Hippocrates, who was a native of the same island, and had lived on terms
of great intimacy with his teacher whom he assisted in his private
practice. When Hippocrates was summoned to the plague-stricken city of
Athens, Demoleon accompanied him, and, by a curious coincidence, in the
course of his residence there had treated the father of Callias.
Whatever the benefit that followed the prescriptions of Hippocrates, it
is certain that the fact of his being called in to administer them by
the most famous citizen of Greece, largely increased his reputation, and
that even beyond the border of Greece. The great physician's return from
Athens was speedily followed by an invitation from Artaxerxes, King of
Persia.[78] The plague that had devastated Greece had passed eastward,
and was committing destructive ravages throughout the Persian Empire.
Artaxerxes implored Hippocrates to give him and his subjects the benefit
of his advice. He offered at the same time the magnificent _honorarium_
of two talents of gold yearly.[79] The patriotism or the prudence of
Hippocrates led him to refuse this offer, tempting as it was. He would
not, he said, and doubtless with sincerity, give the benefit of his
advice to the hereditary enemy of his country. At the same time, we may
suppose, he reflected to himself that he would be putting himself,
without any possibility of appeal, at the mercy of a tyrannical and
unscrupulous master. But one of the Persian envoys succeeded in doing a
little business of the same kind on his own account. He found the pupil
less resolute against the temptations of a great bribe than the master
had been. Accordingly he engaged Demoleon to come in the capacity of
physician to himself and his household. The King would have the
opportunity of availing himself of his advice if he pleased. Artaxerxes
was disappointed at the refusal of Hippocrates, but he did not disdain
the help of a man who had shared his practice, and was probably
acquainted with his system. Demoleon prescribed at Susa and Persepolis
the remedies which his master had employed at Athens, the burning of
huge fires in the street and squares, and the use of an antidote. The
pestilence either yielded to these influences, or, as is more probable,
had exhausted its force. At any rate Demoleon got the credit of having
vanquished the enemy, and was rewarded by a munificent present from the
King and by an enormous practice.

He might have accumulated great wealth but for an unlucky complication
for which he can scarcely be considered to have been to blame. Necessity
sometimes compelled a departure, in the case of the physician, from the
strict rules of seclusion with which the Persian women were surrounded.
Demoleon was called in to visit the daughter of a Persian noble. She was
a beautiful girl, or rather would have been beautiful but for the fact
that she was blind. It was a case of cataract, and the Greek physician,
who was as bold as he was skillful, ventured on an operation which at
that time had scarcely been attempted, or even thought of. It proved
entirely successful. The gratitude of the father was shown by a
munificent present of gold and jewels; that of the daughter by the gift
of her heart. One of the very first objects on which her eyes rested
when the bandage was permitted to be removed was the form of the young
physician who had restored to her one of the greatest joys of life.
Under any circumstances it was likely to please her; and Demoleon was in
the bloom of early manhood, and his fair complexion and golden hair
showed in attractive contrast to the swarthy hues of her countrymen. The
result was that she fell deeply in love. Demoleon was not without
prudence, and would have hesitated to listen to any promptings of his
own heart, for he too had been greatly impressed by the beauty and grace
as well as by the pathetic patience of the sufferer. Amestris - that was
the young lady's name - guessed readily enough that the physician would
not venture to speak, and she took the matter into her own hands. She
did not speak herself; for that, passionate as was her affection, would
have been impossible; but she got some one to speak for her. Her
nurse - the nurse was generally the _confidante_ of antiquity - undertook
the task of communicating with the young man. One day she gave him a
pomegranate, saying at the same time that he would find the fruit
especially sweet. Her words would have seemed ordinary enough to any one
that might have happened to hear them; but the young physician, whose
feelings made him susceptible, suspected, he could not say why, a
particular meaning. Opening the fruit he found a ring engraved with a
single Greek word - _Be Bold_. The next day he thanked the giver of the
fruit with emphasis. "It was sweet to the core," he said.

After that the affair proceeded rapidly. The young man, who, as may be
guessed, did not hurry the case of his patient, found an opportunity of
declaring his love, and in the following summer the two lovers fled
together. All the arrangements had been carefully made. The girl
feigned sickness, and the physician prescribed a residence among the
hills and a simpler life and plainer diet than the patient was likely to
get in her father's house. Her foster-mother was the wife of a sheep
master who rented some extensive pasture on the hills of Southern
Armenia, and it was settled that Amestris should pay her a visit. The
lady was sent off under a small escort, no one dreaming that the family
of an influential noble would be molested on its journey. Yet, curiously
enough, a band of brigands was bold enough to enter the caravanserai
where the party was lodging on the fourth night after their departure
from Susa. Certainly the keeper of the inn, and, possibly, the commander
of the escort, had been bribed - Demoleon's successful practice had put
him in the command of as much money as he wanted. For a long time
Amestris absolutely disappeared. Her father searched everywhere and
offered munificent rewards for information, but he could find and hear

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 17 of 22)