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Anabasis

Page: 11

As the army wended its way through this region, they reached the river Mascas, which is one hundred feet in breadth. Here stood a big deserted city called Corsote, almost literally environed by the stream, which flows round it in a circle. Here they halted three days and provisioned themselves. Thence they continued their march thirteen desert stages—ninety parasangs—with the Euphrates still on their right, until they reached the Gates. On these marches several of the baggage animals perished of hunger, for there was neither grass nor green herb, or tree of any sort; but the country throughout was barren. The inhabitants make their living by quarrying millstones on the river banks, which they work up and take to Babylon and sell, purchasing corn in exchange for their goods. Corn failed the army, and was not to be got for money, except in the Lydian market open in Cyrus's Asiatic army; where a kapithe of wheat or barley cost four shekels; the shekel being equal to seven and a half Attic obols, whilst the kapithe is the equivalent of two Attic choeneces (1), dry measure, so that the soldiers subsisted on meat alone for the whole period. Some of the stages were very long, whenever they had to push on to find water or fodder; and once they found themselves involved in a narrow way, where the deep clay presented an obstacle to the progress of the wagons. Cyrus, with the nobles about him, halted to superintend the operation, and ordered Glus and Pigres to take a body of barbarians and to help in extricating the wagons. As they seemed to be slow about the business, he turned round angrily to the Persian nobles and bade them lend a hand to force the wagons out. Then, if ever, what goes to constitute one branch of good discipline, was to be witnessed. Each of those addressed, just where he chanced to be standing, threw off his purple cloak, and flung himself into the work with as much eagerness as if it had been a charge for victory. Down a steep hill side they flew, with their costly tunics and embroidered trousers—some with the circlets round their necks, and bracelets on their arms—in an instant, they had sprung into the miry clay, and in less time than one could have conceived, they had landed the wagons safe on terra firma.

 (1) The choenix = about 1 quart (or, according to others, 1 1/2 pint).
    It was the minimum allowance of corn for a man, say a slave, per
    diem. The Spartan was allowed at the public table 2 choenices a
    day.

Altogether it was plain that Cyrus was bent on pressing on the march, and averse to stoppages, except where he halted for the sake of provisioning or some other necessary object; being convinced that the more rapidly he advanced, the less prepared for battle would he find the king; while the slower his own progress, the larger would be the hostile army which he would find collected. Indeed, the attentive observer could see, at a glance, that if the king's empire was strong in its extent of territory and the number of inhabitants, that strength is compensated by an inherent weakness, dependent upon the length of roads and the inevitable dispersion of defensive forces, where an invader insists upon pressing home the war by forced marches.


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