HARASSED BY TISSAPHERNES
 FOR some days after the repulse of Mithridates, the Hellenes were allowed to
continue their march unmolested, but soon the Persians were again seen
coming up behind them. Tissaphernes was now pursuing them with all the
forces under his command, determined that they should not much longer escape
Keeping the main body of his army in the background, he brought to the front
his numerous companies of light infantry, and commanded them to make use of
their slings and bows. But the Hellenes, unawed by the overpowering numbers
of the enemy, quickly brought forward their little band of Rhodians, whose
leaden bullets carried farther than the heavy shot of the Persian slingers,
and before the enemy was near enough to do them any harm, they had opened
fire upon their close-packed ranks where every shot was certain to tell. The
archers too discharged their arrows with equal effect, and so deadly was the
assault, that Tissaphernes was obliged to withdraw his men out of range, and
for the rest of that day, contented himself with following the Hellenes at a
Before retiring from the ground where the skirmish had taken place, the
Hellenes were careful to collect all
the bows and arrows that had belonged to the dead Persians. These bows,
which were much stronger than their own, were likely to be of great service
to them, and in the evening, when they reached the villages in which they
were to spend the night, they took great pains to practise using them with
effect. They were so fortunate moreover as to find in these same villages a
store of excellent bow-strings, and a quantity of lead, which they at once
set to work to make into bullets.
After resting for one whole day, they continued their march, and now the
road lay through a flat plain. Tissaphernes followed at a distance, always
on the lookout for any opportunity of attacking them at a disadvantage, and
so overwhelming was his superiority in point of numbers that he was often
able to inflict considerable loss, even upon the brave Hellenes.
Sometimes for instance the road would narrow considerably, or a bridge would
have to be crossed, and then it was found that the plan of marching in the
form of a square had many drawbacks for a retreating army with the enemy in
pursuit. Confusion was sure to arise, both in breaking up the square on
arriving at the narrow part of the road, and in re-forming it on coming out
again into the open country, and by this confusion Tissaphernes did not fail
The generals agreed that some new plan must be devised to meet the
difficulty, and they decided to form six small companies, each consisting of
a hundred men, and subdivided into half and quarter companies, each with its
own officer. When the square had to be compressed for passing over a bridge
or narrow road, these
companies fell out of their places in the wings, and wheeled round to the
back of the rear, returning again to the wings when the square widened out
again. By this means disorder was prevented, and for the next four days the
Hellenes continued their way with very little loss.
On the fifth day they came to the end of the flat country. They had now to
cross a range of hills, and at this they rejoiced, thinking that the hilly
ground would be disadvantageous for the Persian cavalry. But this day was
destined to be the most disastrous of any they had yet known.
Seeing in the distance a palace with several villages clustering round it,
they decided to make for it. The road lay over hilly ground, and they had
already climbed the first hill when they received an unexpected check. As
they descended the farther side, the enemy appeared upon the height they had
just left, and discharged a volley of stones and arrows upon the light-armed
infantry, killing and wounding many of them.
To this the Hellenes replied by sending a detachment of hoplites to march
back up the hill, and dislodge the Persians. Their. heavy armour protected
them to some extent, but made it impossible for them to advance rapidly, and
the nimble Persians quickly withdrew beyond their, reach, returning however
as soon as the hoplites turned back to rejoin their comrades, and
discharging their shots and arrows as before.
At the second hill, the same thing happened again, and now the Persian
cavalry were also brought into play, and directed to chase the Hellenes at
down the steep descent. This they did, but only when they had been driven to
their work with whips. Meanwhile the hail of stones and arrows continued,
and made such havoc in the ranks of the light-armed troops who wore neither
helmet nor coat of mail, that it became urgently necessary to find some
means of diverting the attention of the enemy.
Calling a short halt, the generals rapidly took counsel together, and formed
a plan by which the light infantry could be placed beyond the reach of
danger, and at the same time give assistance to their comrades.
Parallel with the range of hills over which the Hellenes were making their
way, was a range of mountains, from whence the road along the hills could be
overlooked. To these mountains the light-armed troops were despatched, with
instructions to keep pace with their comrades on the lower level, and rain
down shots and arrows upon the enemy whenever they attempted to hinder them
in their march. As soon as the Persians perceived this device, they gave up
the pursuit. The disadvantage was now on their side, and they were afraid of
being cut off from the main body of their army.
So for the rest of that day the Hellenes continued their way in peace, the
light infantry on the mountains, the hoplites on the lower hills. At last
they reached the villages which they had perceived in the distance, and now
the first thing to be done was to see to the sick and wounded, of whom there
were a great many.
They were carefully tended by the eight surgeons who accompanied the Hellene
force, and for three days the army rested quietly in the villages. This was
on account of the sick, but partly also because they found there great
stores of wheat, barley, and wine, of which they took possession without
paying for them, because they were now at war, and in the enemy's country.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics