Book V
VII
 

Presently the soldiers came to learn what was in course of agitation, and Neon gave out that Xenophon had persuaded the other generals to adopt his views, and had a plan to cheat the soldiers and take them back to the Phasis. The soldiers were highly indignant; meetings were held; little groups gathered ominously; and there seemed an alarming probability that they would repeat the violence with which they had lately treated the heralds of the Colchians and the clerks of the market; when all who did not save themselves by jumping into the sea were stoned to death. So Xenophon, seeing what a storm was brewing, resolved to anticipate matters so far as to summon a meeting of the men without delay, and thus prevent their collecting of their own accord, and he ordered the herald to announce an assembly. The voice of the herald was no sooner heard than they rushed with great readiness to the place of meeting. Then Xenophon, without accusing the generals of having come to him, made the following speech: "I hear that a charge is brought against me. It is I apparently who am going to cheat you and carry you off to Phasis. I beg you by all that is holy to listen to me; and if there be found any guilt in me, let me not leave this place till I have paid the penalty of my misdoing; but if my accusers are found guilty, treat them as they deserve. I presume, sirs, you know where the sun rises and where he sets, and that he who would go to Hellas must needs journey towards the sunset; whereas he who seeks the land of the barbarian must contrariwise fix his face towards the dawn. Now is that a point in which a man might hope to cheat you? Could any one make you believe that the sun rises here and sets there, or that he sets here and rises there? And doubtless you know this too, that it is Boreas, the north wind, who bears the mariner out of Pontus towards Hellas, and the south wind inwards towards the Phasis, whence the saying--

      "'When the North wind doth blow
        Home to Hellas we will go[1].'

[1] Whether this was a local saying or a proverb I cannot say. The words have a poetical ring about them: "When Borrhas blows, fair voyages to Hellas."

"He would be a clever fellow who could befool you into embarking with a south wind blowing. That sounds all very well, you think, only I may get you on board during a calm. Granted, but I shall be on board my one ship, and you on board another hundred at least, and how am I to constrain you to voyage with me against your will, or by what cajolery shall I carry you off? But I will imagine you so far befooled and bewitched by me, that I have got you to the Phasis; we proceed to disembark on dry land. At last it will come out, that wherever you are, you are not in Hellas, and the inventor of the trick will be one sole man, and you who have been caught by it will number something like ten thousand with swords in your hands. I do not know how a man could better ensure his own punishment than by embarking on such a policy with regards to himself and you.

"Nay, these tales are the invention of silly fellows who are jealous of the honour you bestow on me. A most uncalled-for jealousy! Do I hinder any of them from speaking any word of import in his power? of striking a blow in your behalf and his own, if that is his choice? or, finally, of keeping his eyes and ears open to secure your safety? What is it? In your choice of leaders do I stand in the way of any one, is that it? Let him step forward, I yield him place; he shall be your general; only he must prove that he has your good at heart.

"For myself, I have done; but for yourselves, if any of you conceive either that he himself could be the victim of a fraud, or that he could victimise any one else in such a thing as this, let him open his lips and explain to us how. Take your time, but when you have sifted the matter to your hearts' content, do not go away without suffering me to tell you of something which I see looming. If it should burst upon us and prove in fact anything like what it gives signs of being now, it is time for us to take counsel for ourselves and see that we do not prove ourselves to be the worst and basest of men in the sight of gods and men, be they friends or be they foes." The words moved the curiosity of the soldiers. They marvelled what this matter might be, and bade him explain. Thereupon he began again: "You will not have forgotten certain places in the hills--barbaric fastnesses, but friendly to the Cerasuntines--from which people used to come down and sell us large cattle and other things which they possessed, and if I mistake not, some of you went to the nearest of these places and made purchases in the market and came back again. Clearetus the captain learnt of this place, that it was but a little one and unguarded. Why should it be guarded since it was friendly? so the folk thought. Thus he stole upon it in the dead of night, and meant to sack it without saying a word to any of us. His design was, if he took the place, not to return again to the army, but to mount a vessel which, with his messmates on board her, was sailing past at the time, and stowing away what he had seized, to set sail and begone beyond the Euxine. All this had been agreed upon and arranged with his comrades on board the vessel, as I now discover. Accordingly, he summoned to his side all whom he could persuade, and set off at their head against the little place. But dawn overtook him on his march. The men collected out of their strongholds, and whether from a distance or close quarters, made such a fight that they killed Clearetus and a good many of the rest, and only a few of them got safe back to Cerasus.

"These things took place on the day on which we started to come hither on foot; while some of those who were to go by sea were still at Cerasus, not having as yet weighed anchor. After this, according to what the Cerasuntines state, there arrived three inhabitants of the place which had been attacked; three elderly men, seeking an interview with our public assembly. Not finding us, they addressed themselves to the men of Cerasus, and told them, they were astonished that we should have thought it right to attack them; however, when, as the Cerasuntines assert, they had assured them that the occurrence was not authorised by public consent, they were pleased, and proposed to sail here, not only to state to us what had occurred, but to offer that those who were interested should take up and bury the bodies of the slain.

"But among the Hellenes still at Cerasus were some of those who had escaped. They found out in which direction the barbarians were minded to go, and not only had the face themselves to pelt them with stones, but vociferously encouraged their neighbours to do the same. The three men--ambassadors, mark you--were slain, stoned to death. After this occurrence, the men of Cerasus came to us and reported the affair, and we generals, on being informed, were annoyed at what had taken place, and took counsel with the Cerasuntines how the dead bodies of the Hellenes might be buried. While seated in conclave outside the camp, we suddenly were aware of a great hubbub. We heard cries: 'Cut them down!' 'Shoot them!' 'Stone them!' and presently we caught sight of a mass of people racing towards us with stones in their hands, and others picking them up. The Cerasuntines, naturally enough, considering the incident they had lately witnessed, retired in terror to their vessels, and, upon my word, some of us did not feel too comfortable. All I could do was to go to them and inquire what it all meant. Some of them had not the slightest notion, although they had stones in their hands, but chancing on some one who was better informed, I was told by him that 'the clerks of the market were treating the army most scandalously.' Just then some one got sight of the market clerk, Zelarchus, making his way off towards the sea, and lifted up his voice aloud, and the rest responding to the cry as if a wild boar or a stag had been started, they rushed upon him.

"The Cerasuntines, seeing a rush in their direction, thought that, without a doubt, it was directed against themselves, and fled with all speed and threw themselves into the sea, in which proceeding they were imitated by some few of our own men, and all who did not know how to swim were drowned. But now, what do you think of their case, these men of Cerasus? They had done no wrong. They were simply afraid that some madness had seized us, like that to which dogs are liable.

"I say then, if proceedings like this are to be the order of the day, you had better consider what the ultimate condition of the army is like to be. As a body you will not have it in your power to undertake war against whom you like, or to conclude peace. But in private any one who chooses will conduct the army on any quest which takes his fancy. And when ambassadors come to you to demand peace, or whatever it may be, officious people will put them to death and prevent your hearing the proposals which brought them to you. The next step will be that those whom you as a body may choose as generals will be of no account; but any one who likes to elect himself general, and will adopt the formula 'Shoot him! shoot him!' will be competent to cut down whomsoever he pleases untried, be it general or private soldier, if only he have sufficient followers, as was the case just now. But just consider what these self-appointed generals have achieved for you. Zelarchus, the clerk of the market, may possibly have done you a wrong; if so, he has sailed off and is gone without paying you any penalty; or he may be guiltless, in which case we have driven him from the army in terror of perishing unjustly without a trial. While those who stoned the ambassadors have contrived so cleverly that we alone of all Hellenes cannot approach Cerasus safely without a strong force, and the corpses which the very men who slew them themselves invited us to bury, we cannot now pick up with safety even under a flag of truce. Who indeed would care to carry a flag of truce, or go as a herald with the blood of heralds upon his hands? All we could do was to implore the Cerasuntines to bury them.

"If then you approve of such doings, have a resolution passed to that effect, so that, with a prospect of like occurrences in the future, a man may privately set up a guard and do his best to fix his tent where he can find a strong position with a commanding site. If, however, these seem to you to be the deeds rather of wild beasts than of human beings, bethink you of some means by which to stay them; or else, in heaven's name, how shall we do sacrifice to the gods gladly, with impious deeds to answer for? or how shall we, who lay the knife to each other's throats, give battle to our enemies? What friendly city will receive us when they see rampant lawlessness in our midst? Who will have the courage to afford us a market, when we prove our worthlessness in these weightiest concerns? and what becomes of the praise we expect to win from the mouths of men? who will vouchsafe it to us, if this is our behaviour? Should we not ourselves bestow the worst of names on the perpetrators of like deeds?"

After this they rose, and, as one man, proposed that the ringleaders in these matters should be punished; and that for the future, to set an example of lawlessness should be forbidden. Every such ringleader was to be prosecuted on the capital charge; the generals were to bring all offenders to the bar of justice; prosecutions for all other misdemeanours committed since the death of Cyrus were to be instituted; and they ended by constituting the officers into a board of dicasts[2]; and upon the strong representation of Xenophon, with the concurrence of the soothsayers, it was resolved to purify the army, and this purification was made.

[2] I.e. a board of judges or jurors.