Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
ANNOYED BY MITHRIDATES
 THE sun had now risen, and the Hellenes, were about to prepare their morning
meal, when the scouts brought in word that the satrap Mithridates was riding
towards the camp with an escort of thirty horsemen.
Having arrived within speaking distance, Mithridates called out to the
generals to come forward and hear what he had to say. Then he proceeded to
address them in an apparently friendly manner. "Men of Hellas," he said, "I
was, as you know, upon the side of Cyrus, and am now your friend. I do not
wish to remain with Tissaphernes, for I fear his vengeance, and if you will
let me know your plans, I will gladly join you with all my following, and
march by your side. Tell me therefore what you have decided to do."
The generals conferred together, and agreed that Cheirisophus, their
spokesman, should answer Mithridates as they had already so often answered
the Persian envoys. "If we are allowed to return in peace to our home, we
will pursue our way with as little injury as possible to the inhabitants of
the countries through which we pass. But if we are hindered in our march, we
will fight to the death."
To this Mithridates replied by trying to persuade
them that they could have no hope of escape except by making peace with the
Great King, and it soon became clear that he had been sent by the enemy to
feign friendship, for the purpose of finding out their plans. They refused
therefore to listen to him any longer, and Mithridates was obliged to ride
away without having succeeded in his mission.
The generals had been confirmed in their suspicion of Mithridates by
recognising among his escort a man belonging to the suite of Tissaphernes,
who had evidently been sent with him as a spy, so that he might not be able
to say anything to the Hellenes except such words as had been dictated by
Tissaphernes. And as some Persians had already succeeded in making their way
into the camp, and had induced one of the captains to desert with twenty of
his men, they proceeded to pass a resolution, that in future there was to be
open war with the Persians, and that they would receive no more ambassadors
coming in the name of the Great King.
They then returned to their interrupted meal, and when this was over, set
out upon the march, forming themselves, m already agreed upon, in a hollow
square. But they had not gone far when Mithridates again appeared with two
hundred horsemen and four hundred archers and slingers, who advanced towards
them as if with friendly intentions. As soon however as they had come within
arrow range, they opened fire, and the Hellenes found themselves suddenly
beset with a storm of arrows and darts, which wounded many of them.
For a time Xenophon pursued his way without taking any notice, for he was
anxious not to delay the
progress of the march, but finding that the shots came thicker and thicker,
he called a halt, and commanded the rear-guard to charge the enemy. No
sooner had they done so than the Barbarians were in full flight, but the
heavy armed hoplites could not pursue them far, and each time that they
re-formed their ranks and turned to continue the march, the Barbarians were
after them as before. This occurred so often that it was late in the day
before they reached the villages where they were to halt, although the
distance was little more than three miles.
When at last they were established for the night in the villages,
Cheirisophus and the other generals reproached Xenophon with having so
seriously delayed the march, without having gained any advantage. They did
not, perhaps, fully realise the difficulty, but instead of retorting that
they were inconsiderate, Xenophon answered quietly, admitting that they had
cause for annoyance, and proposing a plan by which he hoped to remedy the
"To-day," he said, "we have to thank the gods that we have only had a small
force to deal with, that could not do us any great injury; and we have also
to thank the enemy for having shown us where we are weak. The Persian
clingers and archers can make their missiles carry to a greater distance
than ours, and moreover the enemy have cavalry, while we are without. Under
such circumstances the struggle must always be unequal, with the
disadvantage on our side.
Happily however we have it in our power to improve our position in this
respect. Among the troops there are several Rhodians, and we know that the
of Rhodes are famed for their skill in slinging. Their shots carry moreover
twice as far as those of the Persians, for instead of great stones the size
of a fist, they use little bullets of lead. I propose that we find out if
any of these men possess slings, or know how to make new slings. With their
help we may be able to form a band of slingers capable of doing good
"Then as regards our want of cavalry. Fortunately we have horses. I have a
few, there are some that belonged to Clearchus, and others that have been
captured, and are now used for transport, besides those belonging to private
persons. Any one willing to give up his horse for the public service could
have the loss made good to him by receiving in exchange other baggage
All the proposals made by Xenophon were accepted, and carried into execution
during the night. By the next day the army was supplemented with a company
of five hundred Rhodian slingers and a troop of fifty horsemen, all fully
equipped,—the command of the cavalry being entrusted to an Athenian
The Hellenes remained one more day in the villages, and then, on the third
morning, set out at earliest dawn to continue their march. There lay before
them a wooded ravine which it would be difficult to go through in fighting
order, and they were anxious to get as far
beyond it as possible, before they should be overtaken by the Persians.
The early start met with its due reward, for the Hellenes were already a
good distance beyond the ravine when Mithridates again appeared, this time
with a much larger force than before.
He had been very much pleased with the success of his first attempt to
harass the Hellenes, for his small band of slingers and archers had
sustained but little injury, whereas they had, as he believed, inflicted
considerable loss. Expecting to find the Hellenes still at the same
disadvantage, he had assured Tissaphernes that if he were supplied with a
thousand horsemen and four thousand archers and slingers, he would make an
end of them altogether.
But now they were prepared for him. They let him pass unhindered through the
ravine, and advance beyond it until he was almost within arrow-shot. Then
the trumpets sounded, and the newly formed cavalry and light infantry
charged forward upon the advancing foe.
At this wholly unexpected attack, the Barbarians were seized with panic, and
fled precipitately. But on reaching the ravine, their flight was impeded by
the trees and bushes, and many of them were killed by the Hellene cavalry
who came after them in full pursuit. Eighteen horsemen were captured,
together with their horses, and many more of the enemy were killed, whose
bodies the Hellenes mutilated in a horrible manner in order to strike terror
into the breasts of the Persians.
From this time they saw no more of Mithridates. His place was now to be
taken by a still more powerful enemy.