THE MACRONIANS AND THE COLCHIANS
 BEFORE parting from the Hellenes, the guide showed them a village where they
could rest for the night, and pointed out a road that led to the country of
the Macronians, through which they must next pass. Then he took leave of
them, and returned to his own people.
The country of the Macronians was bounded by a river, whose banks were lined
with trees, not large, but growing close together, and the Hellenes set to
work to cut down the trees, that they might throw them into the river and so
cross the more easily. Soon however there appeared on the opposite bank- a
number of Macronians armed with spears and shields, who began throwing
stones at the Hellenes, although they could not reach far enough to hit
Just then one of the soldiers went up to Xenophon and said, "When I was
quite a child, I was taken to Athens and sold as a slave, and I could never
discover who were my parents, nor to what race they belonged. But now I hear
the tongue which I remember to have spoken as a child. These must be my
countrymen. May I speak with them?"
"By all means," answered Xenophon. "Ask them why they come out against us,
and seek to stop our way."
The soldier translated this question, and soon reported the answer, "Because
ye come as invaders into our country."
"Tell them," said Xenophon, "that we have been at war with the Great King,
and that we are now returning to our home, and only wish to reach the sea as
quickly as possible. Say also that we will not do them any harm."
The Macronians then asked if the Hellenes would make a treaty with them, and
give pledges to deal with them as with friends, and when the generals had
agreed to this, they came through the water to the other side. The gods were
called to witness, and as a pledge of friendship, the Macronians gave to the
Hellenes a Barbarian spear, and received from them in return a Hellene
After this the Macronians set to work to help the Hellenes in cutting down
trees to make a bridge, and re-crossed the river with their new friends.
They also brought barley and other food for sale, and at parting supplied
them with a guide to take them on to the next country, which was inhabited
by the Colchians.
In three days the Hellenes came to a chain of mountains already occupied by
the Colchians, who were drawn up against them in battle array. The mountains
were not too steep to be scaled, and the Hellenes halted and took counsel as
to how they could best make the attack.
It was at first proposed to advance in the form of a phalanx, that is to say
in long lines, each close behind the next, but Xenophon thought there were
many objections to this plan. "A phalanx," he said, "would
be liable to fall out of line in climbing the mountain, for in some places
we shall find the road good, and in other places bad.
Moreover if the phalanx is at all deep, the lines will not extend far enough
to outflank the enemy, and in that case they will be able to attack us at
the wings or in the rear. And on the other hand, if we extend our lines far
enough to obviate that danger, the phalanx will be shallow, and easily
"My advice is that we divide the hoplites into separate companies of a
hundred men each, and let them ascend in column, leaving spaces between the
columns, so that they may extend beyond the enemy's line. The bravest man in
each company must head the column, and lead it up the mountain by the best
path he can find. The Colchians will not venture to charge, for if they were
to press in between the columns, they would be surrounded by enemies on both
This plan was agreed upon, and the hoplites were formed into eighty
companies of a hundred men each, while the light-armed troops were divided
into three detachments of about six hundred men each, and posted in the
centre and at the two wings. Before advancing to the battle, Xenophon
addressed the troops in a soldier-like speech, short, and to the point.
"Comrades," he said, "these are the last enemies that stand in our path. Let
us eat them up alive, if we can, without cooking."
Having prayed and sung the battle-hymn, the Hellenes advanced bravely up the
mountain to meet the Colchians, who seeing that they were outflanked, drew
out their line to the right and left, leaving a gap in the centre, of which
the Hellenes were not slow to take
advantage. With a great about they pressed forward to occupy the vacant
space, and when the Colchians saw that the two wings of their army were cut
off one from the other, they betook themselves to flight.
The Hellenes then crossed the mountain-range, and came, on the further side,
to some villages where they could rest and enjoy themselves at the expense
of the enemy.
In this district there were great quantities of bees, but the honey which
they made was of a peculiar kind, and very poisonous. After eating it, the
Hellenes were overcome with sickness, their senses left them, and they were
unable to stand. Those who had eaten but little of the honey were like men
intoxicated, while those who had eaten much became quite mad, and some of
them appeared to be at the point of death. Hundreds lay on the ground unable
to move, a prey to despair, just as if some great defeat had recently taken
No one died however, and at the end of twenty-four hours they all recovered
their senses. In three or four days afterwards they were nearly, if not
quite, well again.