Book IV

The next day it was resolved that they should set off with all possible speed, before the enemy had time to collect and occupy the defile. Having got their kit and baggage together, they at once began their march through deep snow with several guides, and, crossing the high pass the same day on which Tiribazus was to have attacked them, got safely into cantonments. From this point they marched three desert stages--fifteen parassangs--to the river Euphrates, and crossed it in water up to the waist. The sources of the river were reported to be at no great distance. From this place they marched through deep snow over a flat country three stages--fifteen parasangs[1]. The last of these marches was trying, with the north wind blowing in their teeth, drying up everything and benumbing the men. Here one of the seers suggested to them to do sacrifice to Boreas, and sacrifice was done. The effect was obvious to all in the diminished fierceness of the blast. But there was six feet of snow, so that many of the baggage animals and slaves were lost, and about thirty of the men themselves.

[1] Al. "ten," al. "five."

They spent the whole night in kindling fire; for there was fortunately no dearth of wood at the halting-place; only those who came late into camp had no wood. Accordingly those who had arrived a good while and had kindled fires were not for allowing these late-comers near the fires, unless they would in return give a share of their corn or of any other victuals they might have. Here then a general exchange of goods was set up. Where the fire was kindled the snow melted, and great trenches formed themselves down to the bare earth, and here it was possible to measure the depth of the snow.

Leaving these quarters, they marched the whole of the next day over snow, and many of the men were afflicted with "boulimia" (or hunger-faintness). Xenophon, who was guarding the rear, came upon some men who had dropt down, and he did not know what ailed them; but some one who was experienced in such matters suggested to him that they had evidently got boulimia; and if they got something to eat, they would revive. Then he went the round of the baggage train, and laying an embargo on any eatables he could see, doled out with his own hands, or sent off other able-bodied agents to distribute to the sufferers, who as soon as they had taken a mouthful got on their legs again and continued the march.

On and on they marched, and about dusk Cheirisophus reached a village, and surprised some women and girls who had come from the village to fetch water at the fountain outside the stockade. These asked them who they were. The interpreters answered for them in Persian: "They were on their way from the king to the satrap;" in reply to which the women gave them to understand that the satrap was not at home, but was away a parasang farther on. As it was late they entered with the water-carriers within the stockade to visit the headman of the village. Accordingly Cheirisophus and as many of the troops as were able got into cantonments there, while the rest of the soldiers--those namely who were unable to complete the march--had to spend the night out, without food and without fire; under the circumstances some of the men perished.

On the heels of the army hung perpetually bands of the enemy, snatching away disabled baggage animals and fighting with each other over the carcases. And in its track not seldom were left to their fate disabled soldiers, struck down with snow-blindness or with toes moritified by frostbite. As to the eyes, it was some alleviation against the snow to march with something black before them; for the feet, the only remedy was to keep in motion without stopping for an instant, and to loose the sandal at night. If they went to sleep with the sandals on, the thong worked into the feet, and the sandals were frozen fast to them. This was partly due to the fact that, since their old sandals had failed, they wore untanned brogues made of newly-flayed ox-hides. It was owing to some such dire necessity that a party of men fell out and were left behind, and seeing a black-looking patch of ground where the snow had evidently disappeared, they conjectured it must have been melted; and this was actually so, owing to a spring of some sort which was to be seen steaming up in a dell close by. To this they had turned aside and sat down, and were loth to go a step further. But Xenophon, with his rearguard, perceived them, and begged and implored them by all manner of means not to be left behind, telling them that the enemy were after them in large packs pursuing; and he ended by growing angry. They merely bade him put a knife to their throats; not one step farther would they stir. Then it seemed best to frighten the pursuing enemy if possible, and prevent their falling upon the invalids. It was already dusk, and the pursuers were advancing with much noise and hubbub, wrangling and disputing over their spoils. Then all of a sudden the rearguard, in the plenitude of health and strength[2], sprang up out of their lair and run upon the enemy, whilst those weary wights[3] bawled out as loud as their sick throats could sound, and clashed their spears against their shields; and the enemy in terror hurled themselves through the snow into the dell, and not one of them ever uttered a sound again.

[2] Hug, after Rehdantz, would omit the words "in the plenitude of health and strength."

[3] Or, "the invalids."

Xenophon and his party, telling the sick folk that next day people would come for them, set off, and before they had gone half a mile they fell in with some soldiers who had laid down to rest on the snow with their cloaks wrapped round them, but never a guard was established, and they made them get up. Their explanation was that those in front would not move on. Passing by this group he sent forward the strongest of his light infantry in advance, with orders to find out what the stoppage was. They reported that the whole army lay reposing in such fashion. That being so, Xenophon's men had nothing for it but to bivouac in the open air also, without fire and supperless, merely posting what pickets they could under the circumstances. But as soon as it drew towards day, Xenophon despatched the youngest of his men to the sick folk behind, with orders to make them get up and force them to proceed. Meanwhile Cheirisophus had sent some of his men quartered in the village to enquire how they fared in the rear; they were overjoyed to see them, and handed over the sick folk to them to carry into camp, while they themselves continued their march forward, and ere twenty furlongs were past reached the village in which Cheirisophus was quartered. As soon as the two divisions were met, the resolution was come to that it would be safe to billet the regiments throughout the villages; Cheirisophus remained where he was, while the rest drew lots for the villages in sight, and then, with their several detachments, marched off to their respective destinations.

It was here that Polycrates, an Athenian and captain of a company, asked for leave of absence--he wished to be off on a quest of his own; and putting himself at the head of the active men of the division, he ran to the village which had been allotted to Xenophon. He surprised within it the villagers with their headman, and seventeen young horses which were being reared as a tribute for the king, and, last of all, the headman's own daughter, a young bride only eight days wed. Her husband had gone off to chase hares, and so he escaped being taken with the other villagers. The houses were underground structures with an aperture like the mouth of a well by which to enter, but they were broad and spacious below. The entrance for the beasts of burden was dug out, but the human occupants descended by a ladder. In these dwellings were to be found goats and sheep and cattle, and cocks and hens, with their various progeny. The flocks and herds were all reared under cover upon green food. There were stores within of wheat and barley and vegetables, and wine made from barley in great big bowls; the grains of barley malt lay floating in the beverage up to the lip of the vessel, and reeds lay in them, some longer, some shorter, without joints; when you were thirsty you must take one of these into your mouth, and suck. The beverage without admixture of water was very strong, and of a delicious flavour to certain palates, but the taste must be acquired.

Xenophon made the headman of the village his guest at supper, and bade him keep a good heart; so far from robbing him of his children, they would fill his house full of good things in return for what they took before they went away; only he must set them an example, and discover some blessing or other for the army, until they found themselves with another tribe. To this he readily assented, and with the utmost cordiality showed them the cellar where the wine was buried. For this night then, having taken up their several quarters as described, they slumbered in the midst of plenty, one and all, with the headman under watch and ward, and his children with him safe in sight.

But on the following day Xenophon took the headman and set off to Cheirisophus, making a round of the villages, and at each place turning in to visit the different parties. Everywhere alike he found them faring sumptuously and merry-making. There was not a single village where they did not insist on setting a breakfast before them, and on the same table were spread half a dozen dishes at least, lamb, kid, pork, veal, fowls, with various sorts of bread, some of wheat and some of barley. When, as an act of courtesy, any one wished to drink his neighbour's health, he would drag him to the big bowl, and when there, he must duck his head and take a long pull, drinking like an ox. The headman, they insisted everywere, must accept as a present whatever he liked to have. But he would accept nothing, except where he espied any of his relations, when he made a point of taking them off, him or her, with himself.

When they reached Cheirisophus they found a similar scene. There too the men were feasting in their quarters, garlanded with whisps of hay and dry grass, and Armenian boys were playing the part of waiters in barbaric costumes, only they had to point out by gesture to the boys what they were to do, like deaf and dumb. After the first formalities, when Cheirisophus and Xenophon had greeted one another like bosom friends, they interrogated the headman in common by means of the Persian-speaking interpreter. "What was the country?" they asked: he replied, "Armenia." And again, "For whom are the horses being bred?" "They are tribute for the king," he replied. "And the neighbouring country?" "Is the land of the Chalybes," he said; and he described the road which led to it. So for the present Xenophon went off, taking the headman back with him to his household and friends. He also made him a present of an oldish horse which he had got; he had heard that the headman was a priest of the sun, and so he could fatten up the beast and sacrifice him; otherwise he was afraid it might die outright, for it had been injured by the long marching. For himself he took his pick of the colts, and gave a colt apiece to each of his fellow-generals and officers. The horses here were smaller than the Persian horses, but much more spirited. It was here too that their friend the headman explained to them, how they should wrap small bags or sacks around the feet of the horses and other cattle when marching through the snow, for without such precautions the creatures sank up to their bellies.