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Anabasis

Page: 106

(5) Harmene, a port of Sinope, between four and five miles (fifty stades) west of that important city, itself a port town. See Smith, "Dict. Geog.," "Sinope"; and Kiepert, op. cit. chap. iv. 60.

At Harmene the army halted five days; and now that they seemed to be so close to Hellas, the question how they were to reach home not empty-handed presented itself more forcibly to their minds than heretofore. The conclusion they came to was to appoint a single general, since one man would be better able to handle the troops, by night or by day, than was possible while the generalship was divided. If secrecy were desirable, it would be easier to keep matters dark, or if again expedition were an object, there would be less risk of arriving a day too late, since mutual explanations would be avoided, and whatever approved itself to the single judgement would at once be carried into effect, whereas previously the generals had done everything in obedience to the opinion of the majority.

With these ideas working in their minds, they turned to Xenophon, and the officers came to him and told him that this was how the soldiers viewed matters; and each of them, displaying a warmth of kindly feeling, pressed him to accept the office. Xenophon partly would have liked to do so, in the belief that by so doing he would win to himself a higher repute in the esteem of his friends, and that his name would be reported to the city written large; and by some stroke of fortune he might even be the discoverer of some blessing to the army collectively.

These and the like considerations elated him; he had a strong desire to hold the supreme command. But then again, as he turned the matter over, the conviction deepened in his mind that the issue of the future is to every man uncertain; and hence there was the risk of perhaps losing such reputation has he had already acquired. He was in sore straights, and, not knowing how to decide, it seemed best to him to lay the matter before heaven. Accordingly, he led two victims to the altar and made sacrifice to Zeus the King, for it was he and no other who had been named by the oracle at Delphi, and his belief was that the vision which he had beheld when he first essayed to undertake the joint administration of the army was sent to him by that god. He also recalled to mind a circumstance which befell him still earlier, when setting out from Ephesus to associate himself with Cyrus (6);—how an eagle screamed on his right hand from the east, and still remained perched, and the soothsayer who was escorting him said that it was a great and royal omen (7); indicating glory and yet suffering; for the punier race of birds only attack the eagle when seated. "Yet," added he, "it bodes not gain in money; for the eagle seizes his food, not when seated, but on the wing."

          

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