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Callias—The Fall of Athens by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

THE DIARY

[204] OCTOBER 27—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 [205] 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 Xenonphon 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, [206] 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 remounted, 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, [207] 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.

[208] "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 straits.

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 [209] 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 watch fires 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 [210] 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 [211] 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 drink.

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 headman, 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 [212] 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," [213] 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 [214] 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 [215] same. I caught hold of one man to stop him, but he wiggled 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 wholes 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 passed, 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, [216] 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, [217] 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 as helpful as possible, making roads for us, and supplying us with as good food as they possessed.

FEBRUARY 7.—Yesterday I really thought that after all that I had gone through, I was going to die of eating a mouthful of honey. We found a great store of this in one of the Colchian villages that we came to, and of course ate it freely. It was poisonous, at least to persons not used to it. I know that I was desperately ill and so were many of my comrades. Happily no one died. We reach Trapezus to-morrow. We are in Greece again. Thanks be to Zeus and all the gods!


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