The enemy, when they saw the heights occupied, kept watch and burned a number of fires all night.
Continuing Crisis of Xenophon’s 10,000’s Quest for Home,
our selection from Anabasis by Xenophon published in around 350 BC. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Crisis of Xenophon’s 10,000’s Quest for Home.
Time: 400 BC
But I hear that you Athenians also,” rejoined Chirisophus, “are very clever at stealing the public money, though great danger threatens him that steals it; and that your best men steal it most, if indeed your best men are thought worthy to be your magistrates; so that it is time for you likewise to give proof of your education.”
I am then ready,” exclaimed Xenophon, “to march with the rear-guard, as soon as we have supped, to take possession of the hills. I have guides too, for our light-armed men captured some of the marauders following us, by lying in ambush, and from them I learn that the mountains are not impassable, but are grazed over by goats and oxen, so that if we once gain possession of any part of the range, there will be tracks also for our baggage cattle. I expect also that the enemy will no longer keep their ground, when they see us upon a level with them on the heights, for they will not now come down to be upon a level with us.” Chirisophus then said: “But why should you go, and leave the charge of the rear? Rather send others, unless some volunteers present themselves.” Upon this Aristonymus of Methydria came forward with his heavy-armed men, and Aristeas of Chios and Nichomachus of Oeta with their light-armed; and they made an arrangement that as soon as they should reach the top they should light a number of fires. Having settled these points, they went to dinner; and after dinner Chirisophus led forward the whole army ten stadia toward the enemy, that he might appear to be fully resolved to march against them on that quarter.
When they had taken their supper, and night came on, those appointed for the service went forward and got possession of the hills; the other troops rested where they were. The enemy, when they saw the heights occupied, kept watch and burned a number of fires all night. As soon as it was day, Chirisophus, after having offered sacrifice, marched forward along the road; while those who had gained the heights advanced by the ridge. Most of the enemy, meanwhile, stayed at the pass, but a part went to meet the troops coming along the heights. But before the main bodies came together, those on the ridge closed with one another, and the Greeks had the advantage, and put the enemy to flight. At the same time the Grecian peltasts ran up from the plain to attack the enemy drawn up to receive them, and Chirisophus followed at a quick pace with the heavy-armed men. The enemy at the pass, however, when they saw those above defeated, took to flight. Not many of them were killed, but a great number of shields were taken, which the Greeks, by hacking them with their swords, rendered useless. As soon as they had gained the ascent, and had sacrificed and erected a trophy, they went down into the plain before them, and arrived at a number of villages stored with abundance of excellent provisions.
From hence they marched five days’ journey, thirty parasangs, to the country of the Taochi, where provisions began to fail them; for the Taochi inhabited strong fastnesses, in which they had laid up all their supplies. Having at length, however, arrived at one place which had no city or houses attached to it, but in which men and women and a great number of cattle were assembled, Chirisophus, as soon as he came before it, made it the object of an attack; and when the first division that assailed it began to be tired, another succeeded, and then another, for it was not possible for them to surround it in a body, as there was a river about it. When Xenophon came up with his rear-guard, peltasts, and heavy-armed men, Chirisophus exclaimed: “You come seasonably, for we must take this place, as there are no provisions for the army unless we take it.”
They then deliberated together, and Xenophon asking what hindered them from taking the place, Chirisophus replied: “The only approach to it is the one which you see; but when any of our men attempt to pass along it, the enemy roll down stones over yonder impending rock, and whoever is struck is treated as you behold;” and he pointed, at the same moment, to some of the men who had had their legs and ribs broken. “But if they expend all their stones,” rejoined Xenophon, “is there anything else to prevent us from advancing? For we see, in front of us, only a few men, and but two or three of them armed. The space, too, through which we have to pass under exposure to the stones is, as you see, only about a hundred and fifty feet in length; and of this about a hundred feet is covered with large pine trees in groups, against which, if the men place themselves, what would they suffer either from the flying stones or the rolling ones? The remaining part of the space is not above fifty feet, over which, when the stones cease, we must pass at a running pace.”
“But,” said Chirisophus, “the instant we offer to go to the part covered with trees, the stones fly in great numbers.”
“That,” cried Xenophon, “would be the very thing we want, for thus they will exhaust their stones the sooner. Let us then advance, if we can, to the point whence we shall have but a short way to run, and from which we may, if we please, easily retreat.”