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IN THE DESERT
 AFTER crossing the Euphrates, the army followed the course of the river,
keeping it on the right, and came in nine days to the desert. The tract of
country that now lay before them was so waste and barren as to be entirely
uninhabited; the most they could expect was to meet from time to time with
some stranger journeying through it.
It was necessary therefore to lay in a good store of provisions, and happily
the villages on the border of the desert were thriving and well supplied
with corn and wine, so that the soldiers were able to load the baggage
animals with as much as they could possibly Carry.
After this they journeyed for eighteen days through a waste of sand, which
lay all around them in broad, low waves, like the sea when it is stirred by
a gentle wind. There were no trees in this desert, but occasional shrubs and
plants, which gave forth a delicious scent. In consequence of the absence of
men, wild animals abounded, especially gazelles and wild asses, bustards and
ostriches. Never in their lives before had many of them seen such a creature
as a Hellene soldier.
When there was a halt, the soldiers went out hunting, but some of the
animals were hard to catch. The wild asses were very different beasts from
our donkeys, who are justly accused of being both slow and stupid. They were
remarkable both for swiftness and intelligence, and could not be run down by
a single horse, however fleet. When they found that they were being hunted,
they would stand quite still until their pursuer was almost within spear
range, and then dash away out of reach, and again stop to rest.
The only way in which the Hellenes could succeed in capturing them was by
arranging for several horsemen to take part in the chase. Having placed
themselves at suitable distances apart, the first horseman would drive the
wild ass as fast as possible towards the next, who would then take up the
chase with his fresh horse, and by the time that two or three horses had
been tired out, the wild ass would himself become so exhausted that he was
easily caught and killed.
As for the ostriches, it was quite useless to pursue them, for, as is well
known, they run very swiftly, and moreover add to their speed by the
movement of their wings, which they use like sails. Of all the wild animals
the easiest to kill were the bustards, for they, like partridges, can only
fly a short distance. They furnished moreover the best eating, although the
flesh of the wild ass, which resembled venison, was also excellent.
In this desert region, long forced marches were sometimes necessary, in
order to reach either a spring of water, or a place where the horses and
beasts of burden could find pasture, but even so, many of
them died of hunger. The men also suffered considerably.
One day they came in sight of a city where they felt sure that they would be
able to obtain abundance of food. But there was neither boat nor bridge nor
any other means of crossing the river, and the stream, at this place, was
far too deep for the men to wade through it.
They overcame the difficulty however by means of a contrivance that is still
common in the East. Taking a number of the leather coverings used by the
army for various purposes, they made great sacks which they filled with hay
and bound together so as to form little rafts capable of supporting a few
men and some cargo. The soldiers then rowed themselves over to the opposite
shore in these rafts, and bought in the town supplies of wheat,
millet-bread, and palm-wine.
Another time it happened that they had to march along a narrow way, where
the wagons sank so deep in the soft clay soil, that the transport animals
were unable to drag them through it. Cyrus commanded his Barbarian soldiers
to pull the wagons along. But they set to work in a surly, lazy manner, and
he became so impatient that he drove them away, and turning to his suite,
ordered them to put their shoulders to the wheel.
These proud nobles were little accustomed to any kind of exertion, but with
the implicit obedience of the Persian subject, they hastened to do the
bidding of Cyrus. Laying aside their gorgeous cloaks, but still dressed in
their silk vests and trousers, many of them adorned moreover with golden
chains and bracelets,
they ran to the place, as if each were eager to prove himself more active
and zealous than all the rest, and seizing the dirty wagons, dragged them
along until they were well beyond the bad part of the road.
Such a spirit of submission was quite unknown among the Hellenes, who were
accustomed to treat their superiors in a very different manner. Once already
they had manifested their displeasure at the conduct of Clearchus, and about
this time another incident of the same sort occurred, which might have led
to very serious consequences.
It happened that in passing through the camp, Clearchus saw one of the
soldiers of his company engaged in a dispute with a soldier belonging to the
company of Menon, and taking the part of his own man, he did not hesitate to
have the other one beaten.
This action was resented by the comrades of the man who had been beaten, and
later in the day, when Clearchus chanced to be riding through the camp of
Menon with only a few soldiers attending him, a Hellene who was occupied in
cutting wood, threw his axe at him, while others threw stones, and called
out after him in an insulting manner.
Neither the axe nor the stones hit their mark, but Clearchus was
nevertheless beside himself with rage, and riding furiously to his own camp,
he ordered his men to arm themselves and advance without a moment's delay
against the company of Menon. On the other hand, the soldiers of Menon,
seeing Clearchus and his men about to charge, rushed also to seize their
arms and prepare for battle.
Meanwhile one of the other generals, named
Pro-  xenus, had seen what was going on, and he also hurried forward at the head of his
men, and placing himself between the combatants, implored Clearchus to make
peace. But Clearchus only reproached him with estimating far too lightly the
insult he had received, and becoming more furious than ever, ordered him to
Just then however, by great good fortune, Cyrus came to the place, and
seeing the Hellene troops drawn up in battle-array, enquired what was the
meaning of it. When he heard all that had passed, be was filled with dismay,
and cried out, "Ye leaders of the Hellenes, ye know not what ye do. As
surely as my Barbarians see you fighting among yourselves, my ruin will be
sealed, and yours also. Ye. will have more to fear from my followers than
from the army of my brother."
These grave words brought back Clearchus to his right mind. He was filled
with remorse, and both sides laid down their arms and made friends again.
It was not indeed without cause that Cyrus had referred to the ill-will of
the Barbarians, for they had long since observed with feelings of jealousy
and hatred the preference that on all occasions he showed for the Hellenes.