Here Polycrates, an Athenian captain, requested leave of absence, and taking with him the most active of his men . . . .
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
Xenophon and those with him, telling the sick men that a party should come to their relief next day, proceeded on their march, but before they had gone four stadia they found other soldiers resting by the way in the snow, and covered up with it, no guard being stationed over them. They roused them up, but they said that the head of the army was not moving forward. Xenophon, going past them and sending on some of the ablest of the peltasts, ordered them to ascertain what it was that hindered their progress. They brought word that the whole army was in that manner taking rest. Xenophon and his men, therefore, stationing such a guard as they could, took up their quarters there without fire or supper. When it was near day, he sent the youngest of his men to the sick, telling them to rouse them and oblige them to proceed. At this juncture Chirisophus sent some of his people from the village to see how the rear were faring. The young men were rejoiced to see them, and gave them the sick to conduct to the camp, while they themselves went forward, and, before they had gone twenty stadia, found themselves at the village in which Chirisophus was quartered. When they came together, it was thought safe enough to lodge the troops up and down in the village. Chirisophus accordingly remained where he was, and the other officers, appropriating by lot the several villages that they had in sight, went to their respective quarters with their men.
Here Polycrates, an Athenian captain, requested leave of absence, and taking with him the most active of his men, and hastening to the village to which Xenophon had been allotted, surprised all the villagers and their head man in their houses, together with seventeen colts that were bred as a tribute for the king, and the head man’s daughter, who had been but nine days married; her husband was gone out to hunt hares, and was not found in any of the villages. Their houses were underground, the entrance like the mouth of a well, but spacious below; there were passages dug into them for the cattle, but the people descended by ladders. In the houses were goats, sheep, cows, and fowls, with their young; all the cattle were kept on fodder within the walls. There were also wheat, barley, leguminous vegetables, and barley wine in large bowls; the grains of barley floated in it even with the brim of the vessels, and reeds also lay in it, some larger and some smaller, without joints; and these, when any one was thirsty, he was to take in his mouth and suck. The liquor was very strong, unless one mixed water with it, and a very pleasant drink to those accustomed to it.
[Footnote 1: This description of a village on the Armenian uplands applies itself to many that I visited in the present day. The descent by wells is now rare, but is still to be met with; but in exposed and elevated situations the houses are uniformly semi-subterraneous and entered by as small an aperture as possible, to prevent the cold getting in. Whatever the kind of cottage used, cows, sheep, goats, and fowls participate with the family in the warmth and protection thereof.]
[Footnote 2: Something like our ale.]
[Footnote 3: The reeds were used, says Krueger, that none of the grains of barley might be taken into the mouth.]
Xenophon made the chief man of his village sup with him, and told him to be of good courage, assuring him that he should not be deprived of his children, and that they would not go away without filling his house with provisions in return for what they took, if he would but prove himself the author of some service to the army till they should reach another tribe. This he promised, and, to show his good-will, pointed out where some wine was buried. This night, therefore, the soldiers rested in their several quarters in the midst of great abundance, setting a guard over the chief, and keeping his children at the same time under their eye. The following day Xenophon took the head man and went with him to Chirisophus, and wherever he passed by a village he turned aside to visit those who were quartered in it, and found them in all parts feasting and enjoying themselves; nor would they anywhere let them go till they had set refreshments before them; and they placed everywhere upon the same table lamb, kid, pork, veal, and fowl, with plenty of bread, both of wheat and barley. Whenever any person, to pay a compliment, wished to drink to another, he took him to the large bowl, where he had to stoop down and drink, sucking like an ox. The chief they allowed to take whatever he pleased, but he accepted nothing from them; where he found any of his relatives, however, he took them with him.
[Footnote 4: Xenophon seems to mean grape wine, rather than to refer to the barley wine just before mentioned, of which the taste does not appear to have been much liked by the Greeks. Wine from grapes was not made, it is probable, in these parts, on account of the cold, but Strabo speaks of the fruit wine of Armenia Minor as not inferior to any of the Greek wines. — Schneider.]