Book I

From this place Cyrus marched through Babylonia three stages--twelve parasangs. Now, on the third stage, about midnight, Cyrus held a review of the Hellenes and Asiatics in the plain, expecting that the king would arrive the following day with his army to offer battle. He gave orders to Clearchus to take command of the right wing, and to Menon the Thessalian of the left, while he himself undertook to the disposition of his own forces in person. After the review, with the first approach of day, deserters from the great king arrived, bringing Cyrus information about the royal army. Then Cyrus summoned the generals and captains of the Hellenes, and held a council of war to arrange the plan of battle. He took this opportunity also to address the following words of compliment and encouragement to the meeting: "Men of Hellas," he said, "it is certainly not from dearth of barbarians to fight my battles that I put myself at your head as my allies; but because I hold you to be better and stronger than many barbarians. That is why I took you. See then that you prove yourselves to be men worthy of the liberty which you possess, and which I envy you. Liberty--it is a thing which, be well assured, I would choose in preference to all my other possessions, multiplied many times. But I would like you to know into what sort of struggle you are going: learn its nature from one who knows. Their numbers are great, and they come on with much noise; but if you can hold out against these two things, I confess I am ashamed to think, what a sorry set of folk you will find the inhabitants of this land to be. But you are men, and brave you must be, being men: it is agreed; then if you wish to return home, any of you, I undertake to send you back, in such sort that your friends at home shall envy you; but I flatter myself I shall persuade many of you to accept what I will offer you here, in lieu of what you left at home."

Here Gaulites, a Samian exile, and a trusty friend of Cyrus, being present, exclaimed: "Ay, Cyrus, but some say you can afford to make large promises now, because you are in the crisis of impending danger; but let matters go well with you, will you recollect? They shake their heads. Indeed, some add that, even if you did recollect, and were ever so willing, you would not be able to make good all your promises, and repay." When Cyrus heard that, he answered: "You forget, sirs, my father's empire stretches southwards to a region where men cannot dwell by reason of the heat, and northwards to a region uninhabitable through cold; but all the intervening space is mapped out in satrapies belonging to my brother's friends: so that if the victory be ours, it will be ours also to put our friends in possession in their room. On the whole my fear is, not that I may not have enough to give to each of my friends, but lest I may not have friends enough on whom to bestow what I have to give, and to each of you Hellenes I will give a crown of gold."

So they, when they heard these words, were once more elated than ever themselves, and spread the good news among the rest outside. And there came into his presence both the generals and some of the other Hellenes also, claiming to know what they should have in the event of victory; and Cyrus satisfied the expectations of each and all, and so dismissed them. Now the advice and admonition of all who came into conversation with him was, not to enter the battle himself, but to post himself in rear of themselves; and at this season Clearchus put a question to him: "But do you think that your brother will give battle to you, Cyrus?" and Cyrus answered: "Not without a battle, be assured, shall the prize be won; if he be the son of Darius and Parysatis, and a brother of mine."

In the final arming for battle at this juncture, the numbers were as follows: Of Hellenes there were ten thousand four hundred heavy infantry with two thousand five hundred targeteers, while the barbarians with Cyrus reached a total of one hundred thousand. He had too about twenty scythe-chariots. The enemy's forces were reported to number one million two hundred thousand, with two hundred scythe-chariots, besides which he had six thousand cavalry under Artagerses. These formed the immediate vanguard of the king himself. The royal army was marshalled by four generals or field-marshals, each in command of three hundred thousand men. Their names were Abrocomas, Tissaphernes, Gobryas, and Arbaces. (But of this total not more than nine hundred thousand were engaged in the battle, with one hundred and fifty scythe-chariots; since Abrocomas, on his march from Phoenicia, arrived five days too late for the battle.) Such was the information brought to Cyrus by deserters who came in from the king's army before the battle, and it was corroborated after the battle by those of the enemy who were taken prisoners.

From this place Cyrus advanced one stage--three parasangs--with the whole body of his troops, Hellenic and barbarian alike in order of battle. He expected the king to give battle the same day, for in the middle of this day's march a deep sunk trench was reached, thirty feet broad, and eighteen feet deep. The trench was carried inland through the plain, twelve parasang's distance, to the wall of Media[1]. [Here are canals, flowing from the river Tigris; they are four in number, each a hundred feet broad, and very deep, with corn ships plying upon them; they empty themselves into the Euphrates, and are at intervals of one parasang apart, and are spanned by bridges.]

[1] For "the wall of Media" see Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. ix. p. 87 and foll. note 1 (1st ed.), and various authorities there quoted or referred to. The next passage enclosed in [] may possibly be a commentator's or editor's note, but, on the whole, I have thought it best to keep the words in the text instead of relegating them, as heretofore, to a note. Perhaps some future traveller may clear up all difficulties.

Between the Euphrates and the trench was a narrow passage, twenty feet only in breadth. The trench itself had been constructed by the great king upon hearing of Cyrus's approach, to serve as a line of defence. Through this narrow passage then Cyrus and his army passed, and found themselves safe inside the trench. So there was no battle to be fought with the king that day; only there were numerous unmistakable traces of horse and infantry in retreat. Here Cyrus summoned Silanus, his Ambraciot soothsayer, and presented him with three thousand darics; because eleven days back, when sacrificing, he had told him that the king would not fight within ten days, and Cyrus had answered: "Well, then, if he does not fight within that time, he will not fight at all; and if your prophecy comes true, I promise you ten talents." So now, that the ten days were passed, he presented him with the above sum.

But as the king had failed to hinder the passage of Cyrus's army at the trench, Cyrus himself and the rest concluded that he must have abandoned the idea of offering battle, so that next day Cyrus advanced with less than his former caution. On the third day he was conducting the march, seated in his carriage, with only a small body of troops drawn up in front of him. The mass of the army was moving on in no kind of order: the soldiers having consigned their heavy arms to be carried in the wagons or on the backs of beasts.