|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
THE MARCH OF THE TEN THOUSAND
 IN 404 B.C., soon after the disaster of Ægospotami,
Darius, king of Persia, died. His eldest son
Artaxerxes succeeded to his father's throne.
Cyrus, the younger son, who was present at his father's
death, was accused by Tissaphernes of trying to secure
the throne for himself.
Artaxerxes believed Tissaphernes, and Cyrus was
arrested, and would have been put to death had not his
mother pleaded that his life might be spared.
The king listened to his mother's request and set his
brother free. He even allowed him to govern the
provinces that had been his in his father's lifetime.
But Cyrus felt no gratitude to his brother, he hated
him, and was determined if it were possible to seize
So he hired a large number of Greek soldiers, for now
that there was peace between Athens and Sparta, many of
them were idle and glad to take service under Cyrus.
The prince pretended that he was going to fight against
Tissaphernes, and no one save himself and the Spartan,
Clearchus, who was the leader of the Greeks, knew that
the army was going to Babylon to fight against
Artaxerxes, king of Persia.
Among the Greek soldiers was Xenophon, a scholar and a
pupil of Socrates, who write the story of this
Early in 401 B.C., Cyrus assembled his troops at
Sardis. When they arrived at Tarsus, a city on the
coast of Cilicia, the soldiers began to suspect that
Cyrus was going to lead
 them against Artaxerxes. They were not afraid of the
great king, but they were afraid to leave the sea
behind them, for that was ever a terrible thing to the
Greeks. So they refused to march farther.
Clearchus, who was a stern commander and no favourite
with his men, tried in vain to quell their rebellion,
but all his efforts were vain. Not a step forward
would they march.
He had used his authority and failed, now he resolved
not to command but to persuade. So he called his men
together again, and as he looked at them he wept.
Their grim, stern commander shedding tears! The
soldiers stared at him in open-eyed wonder.
Then Clearchus bade them see in how difficult a
position they had placed him, for he must either fail
Cyrus or forsake them. Forsake them he could not, so
he declared, for were they not "his country, his
friends, and his allies"?
These words pleased the soldiers well, but what pleased
them even more was that when Cyrus sent to ask their
commander to go to his tent, he refused to go.
But they were less content when Clearchus reminded them
that as they refused to follow Cyrus, they could no
longer expect him to give them food or wages. What, he
asked them, did they mean to do?
All that they could do was to send a few of their
number to the prince to ask him where he intended to
Cyrus answered that he was taking them to the river
Euphrates, to fight against a Persian rebel, and at the
same time he offered to increase their wages if they
would obey Clearchus.
The Greeks were far from home, and not knowing what
else to do, they agreed to follow their commander. But
they did not trust Cyrus, and they still suspected that
he wished to march beyond the river Euphrates. And
when they reached the river their suspicions proved
true, for Cyrus told them plainly that he was going to
Babylon to dethrone his brother Artaxerxes.
 As the Euphrates was unusually shallow, the army was
able to cross over on foot, and soon afterwards it was
in the desert of Arabia.
Xenophon tells us that the desert was "smooth as a
sea." There were no large trees in all the great
expanse, but there were many shrubs that had a pleasant
The soldiers did not find the march across the desert
dull, for they saw many strange beasts, unlike any they
had ever seen—wild asses, ostriches, antelopes,—and
these they hunted with zest.
When the desert lay behind them they found themselves
in a land where fields had been dug and gardens tended.
Here, too, a little before them, was Artaxerxes, with a
great army, ready to fight to the death for his crown.
The king was encamped at a place called Cunascæ, where
in the summer of 401 B.C. a battle was fought. Strange
as it may seem, before a blow was struck, the Persians
were seized with panic and turned to flee. Only
Tissaphernes at the head of the cavalry stood firm.
Cyrus with a small body of men, about six hundred in
number, dashed upon the centre of the army, for there,
surrounded by six thousand horsemen, was Artaxerxes.
The guards scattered before his fierce attack, and the
king turned to fly with them.
Then Cyrus, careless of aught save his desire to slay
his brother, and gain his crown, galloped after him,
attended by only a few of his own bodyguard.
As he drew near to the king, he hurled a javelin at him
and wounded him slightly. Almost at the same moment
Cyrus himself was wounded in the eye, and shortly after
he fell from his horse and was slain.
Cyrus was dead, and ten thousand Greek soldiers were
left alone with their generals in a strange land,
surrounded by enemies. Tissaphernes pretended to be a
friend to the Greeks, and offered to guide them safely
home. So the two armies set out together, but before
long the Greek soldiers
 grew suspicious of the Persians. To reassure the men,
Tissaphernes invited Clearchus and his captains to his
The Greek general accepted the invitation, and, never
dreaming of treachery, he went to the Persian's tent
with four other generals, twenty captains and a few
No sooner had they entered than the captains and
soldiers were seized and put to death by the order of
Tissaphernes. Clearchus and the other generals were
loaded with chains and sent to the king. Artaxerxes
commanded that they, too, should be put to death.
The Persians believed that the Greek army would now be
forced to surrender. For, alone in an unknown land,
without a leader, how could they hope to reach their
But the greatness of their danger roused the courage of
the Greeks. Xenophon, who was at the time only a young
man, made an eloquent speech to the army, bidding them
choose new generals and obey them, for in this way only
could they hope to escape from their enemies.
The men did as he advised, choosing Xenophon himself as
one of the new generals.
And now began the retreat of the ten thousand through
untold difficulties. To go back the same way as they
had come was impossible, for the roads would be guarded
by the Persians. So they turned to the north and
marched through a wild and barren country, where fierce
hillmen held the narrow passes through which they must
Sometimes the savage tribes hurled down upon them from
the heights great pieces of rock, and the soldiers
lived in dread of being crushed to death by their
When they reached Armenia it was December and bitterly
cold. They were overtaken by a snowstorm so severe
that many of the men lost their way. In vain they
tried to rejoin their comrades, and at length, utterly
worn out, they stumbled into great snowdrifts or lay
down on the road to die.
 Still the army struggled bravely on, in the face of the
biting north wind, until at length it reached a
tributary of the river Euphrates. This they crossed in
safety, to find that most of their difficulties were
over, for soon after they reached a city called
Gymnias was a prosperous mining town, and the
inhabitants welcomed the ten thousand gladly and gave
them food and shelter, after they had heard of the
terrible difficulties through which the men had come.
But the soldiers did not linger long at Gymnias. They
were eager to set out again, for a guide promised that
in five days he would bring them to the sea.
"On the fifth day the Greeks came to a hill, and when
the van reached the summit a great cry arose. When
Xenophon and those at the rear heard it they thought
that an enemy was attacking in front; but when the cry
increased as fresh men continually came up to the
summit, Xenophon thought it must be something more
serious, and galloped forward to the front with his
"As he drew near he heard what the cry was—'The Sea,
the Sea.' "
A few days more and the ten thousand were on Greek
soil. Here they rested for a month, offering glad
sacrifices of thanksgiving to Zeus, who had brought
them back in safety to their own land.
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