WHEN Cyrus fell, the left wing, under Ariaeus, broke and fled. The Greeks had mean-time poured on in pursuit of the royalist left, while the main body of the royalists were in possession of the rebel camp, though a Greek guard, which had been left there, held the Greek quarter. Artaxerxes, however, had no mind to give battle to the returning Greek column.
It was not till next day that Clearchus learned that Cyrus was slain, and that Ariaeus had fallen back to the last halting place, where he proposed to wait twenty-four hours, and no more, before starting to retreat westward. Clearchus sent word that the Greeks, for their part, had been victorious, and that if Ariaeus would rejoin them they would win the Persian crown for him, since Cyrus was dead.
The next message was from Artaxerxes, inviting the Greeks to give up their arms; to which they replied that he might come and take them if he could, but, if he meant to treat them as friends, they would be no use to him without arms; if as enemies they would keep them for defence.
Though no formal choice was made, the Greeks recognized Clearchus as their leader. They fell back to join Ariaeus, who declined the proposal to win him the Persian throne; and it was agreed to follow a new route in retreat to Ionia, the way of the advance being now impracticable.
Now, however, Artaxerxes began to negotiate through Tissaphernes, the Greeks maintaining a bold and even contemptuous front, warranted by the king's obvious fear of risking an engagement.
Finally, an offer came to conduct the Greeks back to Grecian territory, providing them, at their own cost, with necessaries. Prolonged delays, however, aroused suspicions of treachery among the Greeks, who distrusted Tissaphernes and Ariaeus alike; but Clearchus held it better not to break openly with the Persians. The march at last began along a northerly route towards the Black Sea, the Greeks keeping rigidly apart from the Persian forces which accompanied them, in readiness for an attack.
AT the crossing of the Tigris suspicion was particularly active, the conduct of Ariaeus being especially dubious; but still no overt hostilities were attempted until the river Zabatus was reached, after three weeks of marching.
Here Clearchus endeavoured to end the extremely strained relations between the Greeks and the barbarian commanders by an interview with Tissaphernes. Both men carefully repudiated any idea of hostile intentions, and the Persian invited Clearchus and the Greek officers generally to attend a conference. Not all, but a considerable number--five generals, including Clearchus, Proxenus and Menon, with twenty more officers and nearly two hundred others--attended. At a given signal all were treacherously massacred; but a fugitive reached the Greek camp, where the men sprang to arms. Ariaeus, approaching with an escort, declared that Clearchus had been proved guilty of treason, but was received with fierce indignation, and withdrew.
Of the murdered generals, Clearchus was a man of high military capacity, but a harsh disciplinarian, feared and respected but very unpopular; Proxenus, a particular friend of Xenophon, was an amiable but not a strong man; Menon, the Thessalian commander, was a crafty and hypocritical time-server, of whom no good can be spoken.
The ten thousand Greeks were now in an ugly predicament; they were a thousand miles from home, while between them and the Black Sea lay the mountains of Armenia. They were surrounded by hostile hordes, and were without cavalry. They had no recognized chief, and their most trusted leaders were gone. The whole company seemed paralysed under a universal despondency.
It was at this juncture that Xenophon, an Athenian gentleman-volunteer, was stirred to action by a dream. He rose and roused the officers of the contingent of Proxenus, to which he was attached. Heartened by an address, in which he pointed out that, on the one hand they had to depend on their own courage, skill, and resourcefulness, and, on the other, were released from all obligation to the Persians, they unanimously chose him their leader, and at his instigation roused the senior officers of all the other contingents to assemble for deliberation.
The council thus summoned, inspired again by the words of Xenophon, vigorously backed up by other leaders, appointed new generals, among them Xenophon himself, and set about actively to organize a retreat to the sea. The contagion of resolute determination spread through the ranks of the whole force. Chrisophus the Lacedaemonian was given the chief command, the two youngest generals, Xenophon and Timerion, were placed in charge of the rearguard. A troop of slingers was organized; all horses with the army were sequestrated to form a cavalry squadron. The army started on its march through the unknown, formed in a hollow square, which was shortly so organized that the columns could be broadened or narrowed according to the ground without creating confusion.
THEY soon found themselves able to repulse without difficulty even attacks in force by the troops of Tissaphernes, the enemy being entirely outmatched in hand-to-hand fighting. The slingers and archers, however, proved troublesome, and hostile forces, though keeping out of reach, were never far off. At last Tissaphernes and Ariaeus drew off altogether, and the Greek generals having as alternative courses the march eastwards upon Susa, northwards upon Babylon, and westwards towards Ionia, decided to revert to the course northwards to the Black Sea.
This route led at first through the country of the Carduchi, a very warlike folk who had never been subjugated. Here there was a good deal of hard fighting, the Carduchi being adepts in hill warfare and particularly expert archers. Such was the length and weight of their arrows that the Greeks collected them and used them as javelins. Seven days of this brought the retreating force to the river Centrites, which parts the Carduchian mountains from the province of Armenia.
With a barely fordable river, troops in evidence on the other side, and the Carduchi hanging on their rear, the passage offered great difficulties, solved by the discovery of a much shallower ford. A feint at one point by the rearguard drew off the enemy on the opposite bank, while the main body crossed at the shallows, which the rearguard also managed to pass by a successful ruse which misled the Carduchi on the south bank.
The Persian governor of Western Armenia, Tiribazus, offered safe passage through his province, but scouts brought information that large forces were collecting and would dispute the passage of a defile through which the army must pass. This point, however, was reached by a forced march, and the enemy were routed.
For some days after this, the marching was very severe; the men had to struggle forward on very nearly empty stomachs, through blizzards, suffering terribly from frost-bite and the blinding effect of the snow on their eyes, so that at times nothing short of actual threats from the officers could induce the exhausted men to toil forward; and all the time the enemy's skirmishers were harassing the troops and cutting off stragglers. These, however, were finally dispersed by a sudden onslaught of the rearguard, and after this a more populous district was reached, where food and wine abounded, and the Greeks made some days' halt to recuperate.
Here a guide was obtained for the next stages; but on the third night he deserted, because Chirisophus had lost his temper and struck him. This incident was the only occasion of a serious difference between Xenophon and the elder commander.
On the seventh day after this the river Phasis was crossed; but two days later, on approaching a mountain pass, it was seen to be occupied in force. A council of war was held, at which some jesting passed, Xenophon remarking on the reputation of the Lacedaemonians as adepts in thieving, a jibe which Chirisophus retorted on the Athenians; as the business in hand was to 'steal a march' on the enemy, each encouraged the other to act up to the national reputation. In the night, a detachment of volunteers captured the ridge above the pass; the enemy beat a hasty retreat when they found their position turned.
Another five days brought the army into the country of the Taochi, where the Greeks had to rush a somewhat dangerous position in order to capture supplies. A space of some twenty yards was open to such a storm of missiles from above that it could only be passed by drawing the enemy's fire and making a dash before fresh missiles were accumulated. When this was accomplished, however, the foe offered no practical resistance, but flung themselves over the cliffs.
Eighteen days later the Greeks reached a town called Gymniae, where they obtained a guide. Their course lay through tribes towards whom the governor was hostile, and the Greeks had no objection to gratifying him by devastating on their way. On the fifth day after leaving Gymniae, a mountain pass was reached.
When the van reached the top of the mountain (Teches), a great shout arose. And when Xenophon heard it, and they of the rearguard, they supposed that other enemies were ranged against them, for the men of the land which had been ravaged were following behind; but when the clamour grew louder and nearer, and the new arrivals doubled forward to where the shouting was, so that it became greater and greater with the added numbers, Xenophon thought this must be something of moment. Therefore, taking Lycias and the horsemen, he rode forward at speed to give aid; and then suddenly they were aware of the soldiers' shout, the word that rang through the lines--'The sea ! the sea !'
THEN every man raced, rearguard and all, urging horses and the very baggagemules to the top of their speed, and when they came to the top, they fell on each other's necks, and the generals, and officers, too, with tears of delight. And in a moment, whoever it was that passed the word, the men were gathering stones, and there they reared a mighty column.
And as for the lucky guide, he betook himself home laden with presents.
Of what befell between this point and the actual arrival of the army on the coast of the Black Sea at the Grecian colony of Trapezus (Trebizond) the most curious incident was that of the soldiers lighting upon great quantities of honey, which not only made them violently ill, but had an intoxicating effect, attributed to the herbs frequented by the bees in that district. This necessitated a halt of some days. The second day's march thence brought them to Trapezus, where they made sacrificial thank-offerings to the gods, and further celebrated the occasion by holding athletic games.
But Trapezus was not Greece, and the problem of transport was serious. The men, sick of marching, were eager to accomplish the rest of their journey by sea. Chirisophus, the general as being a personal friend of the Lacedaemonian admiral stationed at Byzantium, was commissioned to obtain ships from him to take the Greeks home.
Chirisophus departed. The army, which still numbered over ten thousand persons, was willing enough to maintain its military organization for foraging and for self-defence; also to make such arrangements as were practicable for collecting ships in case Chirisophus should fail them; but the men flatly refused to consider any further movement except by water.
So they stayed where they were, maintaining their supplies by raids on the natives; but time passed, and there were no tidings of Chirisophus. At last, they saw nothing for it but to put the sick and other non-combatants aboard of the vessels which had been secured, send them on by sea, and themselves march by the coast to Cerasus, another Greek colony. Thence they continued their westward progress, in which they met with considerable resistance from the natives, who were barbarians of a primitive type, until they came to Cotyora.
This was another settlement from Sinope; but it received the Greeks very inhospitably, so that the latter continued their practice of ravaging the neighbouring territories. It was now eight months since the expedition had started on its homeward march. Here a deputation arrived from Sinope to protest against their proceedings; but Xenophon pointed out that while they were perfectly willing to buy what they needed and behave as friends, if they were not allowed to buy, self-preservation compelled them to take by force. Ultimately, the deputation promised to send ships to convey them to Sinope.
DURING the time of waiting there was some risk of the force breaking itself up, and some inclination to make attacks on the officers, including Xenophon. The formulation of charges, however, enabled him amply to justify the acts complained of, and order generally was restored. At last, however, a sufficient number of ships was collected to convey the force to Sinope, where also Chirisophus put in his long-delayed appearance.
Chirisophus came practically without ships and with nothing but vague promises from the admiral at Byzantium. At this point it occurred to the army that it would be better to have a single commander for the whole than a committee of generals each in control of his own division. Hence Xenophon was invited to accept the position. On consulting the omens he declined, recommending that since Chirisophus was a Lacedaemonian, it would be the proper thing to offer him the command, which was accordingly done.
The force now sailed from Sinope as far as Heraclea. Here the contingents from Arcadia and Achaea--more than half the force--insisted on requisitioning large supplies of money from Heraclea. Chirisophus, supported by Xenophon, refused assent; the Arcadians and Achaeans consequently refused to serve under their command any more, and appointed captains for themselves. The other half of the army was also parted in two divisions, commanded by Chirisophus and Xenophon respectively.
From Calpe the Arcadians and Achaeans made an expedition into the interior, which fared so ill that Xenophon, hearing by accident of what had happened, was obliged to march to their relief. To his satisfaction, however, it was found that the enemy had already dispersed, and the Greek column was overtaken on the way back to Calpe. The general effect of the episode was to impress upon the Arcadians and Achaeans that it was common sense for the whole force to remain united.
The usual operations were carried on for obtaining supplies, report having arrived that Cleander, the Lacedaemonian governor of Byzantium, was coming, which he presently did, with a couple of galleys but no transports. From information received, Cleander was inclined to regard the army as little better than a band of brigands; but this idea was successfully dissipated by Xenophon. Cleander went back to Byzantium, and the Greeks marched from Calpe to Chrysopolis, which faces Byzantium.
Here the whole force was at last carried over to the opposite shore, and once more found itself on European soil, having received promises of pay from the admiral Anaxibius. Suspicions of his real intentions were aroused, and Zenophon had difficulty in keeping his men from breaking loose and sacking Byzantium itself.
ULTIMATELY, the greater part of the force took service with the Thracian king Seuthes. Seuthes, however, failed to carry out his promises as to payment and rewards. But now the Lacedaemonians were engaged in a quarrel with the western satraps, Tissaphernes and Artabazus; six thousand veterans so experienced as those who had followed this famous march into the heart of the Persian empire, had fought their way from Cunaxa to Trapezus, and had supported themselves mainly by their military prowess in getting from Trapezus to Europe, were a force by no means to be neglected, and the bulk of the troops were not unwilling to be incorporated in the Spartan armies. So ends the story of the retreat of the ten thousand Greeks.
Return to Outline of Great Books Volume I