Book IV

During this day they bivouacked in the villages which lie above the plain of the river Centrites[1], which is about two hundred feet broad. It is the frontier river between Armenia and the country of the Carduchians. Here the Hellenes recruited themselves, and the sight of the plain filled them with joy, for the river was but six or seven furlongs distant from the mountains of the Carduchians. For the moment then they bivouacked right happily; they had their provisions, they had also many memories of the labours that were now passed; seeing that the last seven days spent in traversing the country of the Carduchians had been one long continuous battle, which had cost them more suffering than the whole of their troubles at the hands of the king and Tissaphernes put together. As though they were truly quit of them for ever, they laid their heads to rest in sweet content.

[1] I.e. the Eastern Tigris.

But with the morrow's dawn they espied horsemen at a certain point across the river, armed cap-a-pie, as if they meant to dispute the passage. Infantry, too, drawn up in line upon the banks above the cavalry, threatened to prevent them debouchng into Armenia. These troops were Armenian and Mardian and Chaldaean mercenaries belonging to Orontas and Artuchas. The last of the three, the Chaldaeans, were said to be a free and brave set of people. They were armed with long wicker shields and lances. The banks before named on which they were drawn up were a hundred yards or more distant from the river, and the single road which was visible was one leading upwards and looking like a regular artificially constructed highway. At this point the Hellenes endeavoured to cross, but on their making the attempt the water proved to be more than breast-deep, and the river bed was rough with great slippery stones, and as to holding their arms in the water, it was out of the question--the stream swept them away--or if they tried to carry them over the head, the body was left exposed to the arrows and other missiles; accordingly they turned back and encamped there by the bank of the river.

At the point where they had themselves been last night, up on the mountains, they could see the Carduchians collected in large numbers and under arms. A shadow of deep despair again descended on their souls, whichever way they turned their eyes--in front lay the river so difficult to ford; over, on the other side, a new enemy threatening to bar the passage; on the hills behind, the Carduchians ready to fall upon their rear should they once again attempt to cross. Thus for this day and night they halted, sunk in perplexity. But Xenophon had a dream. In his sleep he thought that he was bound in fetters, but these, of their own accord, fell from off him, so that he was loosed, and could stretch his legs as freely as he wished[2]. So at the first glimpse of daylight he came to Cheirisophus and told him that he had hopes that all things would go well, and related to him his dream.

[2] It is impossible to give the true sense and humour of the passage in English, depending, as it does, on the double meaning of {diabainein} (1) to cross (a river), (2) to stride or straddle (of the legs). The army is unable to cross the Centrites; Xenophon dreams that he is fettered, but the chains drop off his legs and he is able to stride as freely as ever; next morning the two young men come to him with the story how they have found themselves able to walk cross the river instead of having to swim it. It is obvious to Xenophon that the dream is sent from Heaven.

The other was well pleased, and with the first faint gleam of dawn the generals all were present and did sacrifice; and the victims were favourable in the first essay. Retiring from the sacrifice, the generals and officers issued an order to the troops to take their breakfasts; and while Xenophon was taking his, two young men came running up to him, for every one knew that, breakfasting or supping, he was always accessible, or that even if asleep any one was welcome to awaken him who had anything to say bearing on the business of war. What the two young men had at this time to say was that they had been collecting brushwood for fire, and had presently espied on the opposite side, in among some rocks which came down to the river's brink, an old man and some women and little girls depositing, as it would appear, bags of clothes in a cavernous rock. When they saw them, it struck them that it was safe to cross; in any case the enemy's cavalry could not approach at this point. So they stripped naked, expecting to have to swim for it, and with their long knives in their hands began crossing, but going forward crossed without being wet up to the fork. Once across they captured the clothes, and came back again.

Accordingly Xenophon at once poured out a libation himself, and bade the two young fellows fill the cup and pray to the gods, who showed to him this vision and to them a passage, to bring all other blessings for them to accomplishment. When he had poured out the libation, he at once led the two young men to Cheirisophus, and they repeated to him their story. Cheirisophus, on hearing it, offered libations also, and when they had performed them, they sent a general order to the troops to pack up ready for starting, while they themselves called a meeting of the generals and took counsel how they might best effect a passage, so as to overpower the enemy in front without suffering any loss from the men behind. And they resolved that Cheirisophus should lead the van and cross with half the army, the other half still remaining behind under Xenophon, while the baggage animals and the mob of sutlers were to cross between the two divisions.

When all was duly ordered the move began, the young men pioneering them, and keeping the river on their left. It was about four furlongs' march to the crossing, and as they moved along the bank, the squadrons of cavalry kept pace with them on the opposite side.

But when they had reached a point in a line with the ford, and the cliff-like banks of the river, they grounded arms, and first Cheirisophus himself placed a wreath upon his brows, and throwing off his cloak[3], resumed his arms, passing the order to all the rest to do the same, and bade the captains form their companies in open order in deep columns, some to left and some to right of himself. Meanwhile the soothsayers were slaying a victim over the river, and the enemy were letting fly their arrows and slingstones; but as yet they were out of range. As soon as the victims were favourable, all the soldiers began singing the battle hymn, and with the notes of the paean mingled the shouting of the men accompanied by the shriller chant of the women, for there were many women[4] in the camp.

[3] Or, "having doffed it," i.e. the wreath, an action which the soldiers would perform symbolically, if Grote is right in his interpretation of the passage, "Hist. of Greece," vol. ix. p. 137.

[4] Lit. "comrade-women."

So Cheirisophus with his detachment stepped in. But Xenophon, taking the most active-bodied of the rearguard, began running back at full speed to the passage facing the egress into the hills of Armenia, making a feint of crossing at that point to intercept their cavalry on the river bank. The enemy, seeing Cheirisophus's detachment easily crossing the stream, and Xenophon's men racing back, were seized with the fear of being intercepted, and fled at full speed in the direction of the road which emerges from the stream. But when they were come opposite to it they raced up hill towards their mountains. Then Lycius, who commanded the cavalry, and Aeschines, who was in command of the division of light infantry attached to Cheirisophus, no sooner saw them fleeing so lustily than they were after them, and the soldiers shouted not to fall behind[5], but to follow them right up to the mountains. Cheirisophus, on getting across, forbore to pursue the cavalry, but advanced by the bluffs which reached to the river to attack the enemy overhead. And these, seeing their own cavalry fleeing, seeing also the heavy infantry advancing upon them, abandoned the heights above the river.

[5] Or, "to stick tight to them and not to be outdone"; or, as others understand, "the (infantry) soldiers clamoured not to be left behind, but to follow them up into the mountains."

Xenophon, as soon as he saw that things were going well on the other side, fell back with all speed to join the troops engaged in crossing, for by this time the Carduchians were well in sight, descending into the plain to attack their rear.

Cheirisophus was in possession of the higher ground, and Lycius, with his little squadron, in an attempt to follow up the pursuit, had captured some stragglers of their baggage-bearers, and with them some handsome apparel and drinking-cups. The baggage animals of the Hellenes and the mob of non-combatants were just about to cross, when Xenonphon turned his troops right about to face the Carduchians. Vis-a-vis he formed his line, passing the order to the captains each to form his company into sections, and to deploy them into line by the left, the captains of companies and lieutenants in command of sections to advance to meet the Carduchians, while the rear leaders would keep their position facing the river. But when the Carduchians saw the rearguard so stript of the mass, and looking now like a mere handful of men, they advanced all the more quickly, singing certain songs the while. Then, as matters were safe with him, Cheirisophus sent back the peltasts and slingers and archers to join Xenophon, with orders to carry out his instructions. They were in the act of recrossing, when Xenophon, who saw their intention, sent a messenger across, bidding them wait there at the river's brink without crossing; but as soon as he and his detachment began to cross they were to step in facing him in two flanking divisions right and left of them, as if in the act of crossing; the javelin men with their javelins on the thong, and the bowmen with their arrows on the string; but they were not to advance far into the stream. The order passed to his own men was: "Wait till you are within sling-shot, and the shield rattles, then sound the paean and charge the enemy. As soon as he turns, and the bugle from the river sounds for 'the attack,' you will face about to the right, the rear rank leading, and the whole detachment falling back and crossing the river as quickly as possible, every one preserving his original rank, so as to avoid tramelling one another: the bravest man is he who gets to the other side first."

The Carduchians, seeing that the remnant left was the merest handful (for many even of those whose duty it was to remain had gone off in their anxiety to protect their beasts of burden, or their personal kit, or their mistresses), bore down upon them valorously, and opened fire with slingstones and arrows. But the Hellenes, raising the battle hymn, dashed at them at a run, and they did not await them; armed well enough for mountain warfare, and with a view to sudden attack followed by speedy flight, they were not by any means sufficiently equipped for an engagement at close quarters. At this instant the signal of the bugle was heard. Its notes added wings to the flight of the barbarians, but the Hellenes turned right about in the opposite direction, and betook themselves to the river with what speed they might. Some of the enemy, here a man and there another, perceived, and running back to the river, let fly their arrows and wounded a few; but the majority, even when the Hellenes were well across, were still to be seen pursuing their flight. The detachment which came to meet Xenophon's men, carried away by their valour, advanced further than they had need to, and had to cross back again in the rear of Xenophon's men, and of these too a few were wounded.