Hence the Greeks advanced three days’ journey, a distance of ten parasangs, through the country of the Macrones.
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. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Crisis of Xenophon’s 10,000’s Quest for Home.
Time: 400 BC
They then all began to run, the rear-guard as well as the rest, and the baggage-cattle and horses were put to their speed; and when they had all arrived at the top, the men embraced one another and their generals and captains, with tears in their eyes. Suddenly, whoever it was that suggested it, the soldiers brought stones, and raised a large mound, on which they laid a number of raw ox-hides, staves, and shields taken from the enemy. The shields the guide himself hacked in pieces, and exhorted the rest to do the same. Soon after, the Greeks sent away the guide, giving him presents from the common stock: a horse, a silver cup, a Persian robe, and ten darics; but he showed most desire for the rings on their fingers, and obtained many of them from the soldiers. Having then pointed out to them a village where they might take up their quarters, and the road by which they were to proceed to the Macrones, when the evening came on he departed, pursuing his way during the night.
Hence the Greeks advanced three days’ journey, a distance of ten parasangs, through the country of the Macrones. On the first day they came to a river which divides the territories of the Macrones from those of the Scythini. On their right they had an eminence extremely difficult of access, and on their left another river, into which the boundary river, which they had to cross, empties itself. This stream was thickly edged with trees, not indeed large, but growing closely together. These the Greeks, as soon as they came to the spot, cut down, being in haste to get out of the country as soon as possible. The Macrones, however, equipped with wicker shields, and spears, and hair tunics, were drawn up on the opposite side of the crossing-place; they were animating one another and throwing stones into the river. They did not hit our men or cause them any inconvenience.
[Footnote 1: The Greeks cut down the trees in order to throw them into the stream, and form a kind of bridge on which they might cross.]
[Footnote 2: They threw stones into the river that they might stand on them and approach nearer to the Greeks, so as to use their weapons with more effect.]
At this juncture one of the peltasts came up to Xenophon, saying that he had been a slave at Athens, and adding that he knew the language of these men. “I think, indeed,” said he, “that this is my country, and, if there is nothing to prevent, I should wish to speak to the people.”
“There is nothing to prevent,” replied Xenophon; “so speak to them, and first ascertain what people they are.” When he asked them, they said that they were the Macrones. “Inquire, then,” said Xenophon, “why they are drawn up to oppose us and wish to be our enemies.” They replied, “Because you come against our country.” The generals then told him to acquaint them that we were not come with any wish to do them injury, but that we were returning to Greece after having been engaged in war with the king, and that we were desirous to reach the sea. They asked if the Greeks would give pledges to this effect; and the Greeks replied that they were willing both to give and receive them. The Macrones accordingly presented the Greeks with a barbarian lance, and the Greeks gave them a Grecian one; for they said that such were their usual pledges. Both parties called the gods to witness.
After these mutual assurances, the Macrones immediately assisted them in cutting away the trees and made a passage for them as if to bring them over, mingling freely among the Greeks; they also gave such facilities as they could for buying provisions, and conducted them through their country for three days, until they brought them to the confines of the Colchians. Here was a range of hills, high, but accessible, and upon them the Colchians were drawn up in array. The Greeks, at first, drew up against them in a line, with the intention of marching up the hill in this disposition; but afterward the generals thought proper to assemble and deliberate how they might engage with the best effect.
Xenophon then said it appeared to him that they ought to relinquish the arrangement in line, and to dispose the troops in columns; “for a line,” pursued he, “will be broken at once, as we shall find the hills in some parts impassable, though in others easy of access; and this disruption will immediately produce despondency in the men, when, after being ranged in a regular line, they find it dispersed. Again, if we advance drawn up very many deep, the enemy will stretch beyond us on both sides, and will employ the parts that outreach us in any way they may think proper; and if we advance only a few deep, it would not be at all surprising if our line be broken through by showers of missiles and men falling upon us in large bodies. If this happen in any part, it will be ill for the whole extent of the line. I think, then, that having formed our companies in columns, we should keep them so far apart from each other as that the last companies on each side may be beyond the enemy’s wings. Thus our extreme companies will both outflank the line of the enemy, and, as we march in file, the bravest of our men will close with the enemy first, and wherever the ascent is easiest, there each division will direct its course. Nor will it be easy for the enemy to penetrate into the intervening spaces when there are companies on each side, nor will it be easy to break through a column as it advances; while, if any one of the companies be hard pressed, the neighboring one will support it; and if but one of the companies can by any path attain the summit, the enemy will no longer stand their ground.”