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Anabasis

Page: 150

Here Xenophon was hospitably entertained at the house of Hellas, the wife of Gongylus the Eretrian (5), the mother of Gorgion and Gongylus. From her he learnt that Asidates, a Persian notable, was in the plain. "If you take thirty men and go by night, you will take him prisoner," she said, "wife, children, money, and all; of money he has a store;" and to show them the way to these treasures, she sent her own cousin and Daphnagoras, whom she set great store by. So then Xenophon, with these two to assist, did sacrifice; and Basias, an Eleian, the soothsayer in attendance, said that the victims were as promising as could be, and the great man would be an easy prey. Accordingly, after dinner he set off, taking with him the officers who had been his staunchest friends and confidants throughout; as he wished to do them a good turn. A number of others came thrusting themselves on their company, to the number of six hundred, but the officers repelled them: "They had no notion of sharing their portion of the spoil," they said, "just as though the property lay already at their feet."

 (5) Cf. Thuc. i. 128; also "Hell." III. i. 6.

About midnight they arrived. The slaves occupying the precincts of the tower, with the mass of goods and chattles, slipped through their fingers, their sole anxiety being to capture Asidates and his belongings. So they brought their batteries to bear, but failing to take the tower by assault (since it was high and solid, and well supplied with ramparts, besides having a large body of warlike defenders), they endeavoured to undermine it. The wall was eight clay bricks thick, but by daybreak the passage was effected and the wall undermined. At the first gleam of light through the aperture, one of the defendants inside, with a large ox-spit, smote right through the thigh of the man nearest the hole, and the rest discharged their arrows so hotly that it was dangerous to come anywhere near the passage; and what with their shouting and kindling of beacon fires, a relief party at length arrived, consisting of Itabelius at the head of his force, and a body of Assyrian heavy infantry from Comania, and some Hyrcanian cavalry (6), the latter also being mercenaries of the king. There were eighty of them, and another detachment of light troops, about eight hundred, and more from Parthenium, and more again from Apollonia and the neighbouring places, also cavalry.

 (6) The Hyrcanian cavalry play an important part in the "Cyropaedeia."
    They are the Scirites of the Assyrian army who came over to Cyrus
    after the first battle. Their country is the fertile land touching
    the south-eastern corner of the Caspian. Cf. "Cyrop." IV. ii. 8,
    where the author (or an editor) appends a note on the present
    status of the Hyrcanians.

It was now high time to consider how they were to beat a retreat. So seizing all the cattle and sheep to be had, with the slaves, they put them within a hollow square and proceed to drive them off. Not that they had a thought to give to the spoils now, but for precaution's sake and for fear lest if they left the goods and chattels behind and made off, the retreat would rapidly degenerate into a stampede, the enemy growing bolder as the troops lost heart. For the present then they retired as if they meant to do battle for the spoils. As soon as Gongylus espied how few the Hellenes were and how large the attacking party, out he came himself, in spite of his mother, with his private force, wishing to share in the action. Another too joined in the rescue—Procles, from Halisarna and Teuthrania, a descendant of Damaratus. By this time Xenophon and his men were being sore pressed by the arrows and slingstones, though they marched in a curve so as to keep their shields facing the missiles, and even so, barely crossed the river Carcasus, nearly half of them wounded. Here it was that Agasias the Stymphalian, the captain, received his wound, while keeping up a steady unflagging fight against the enemy from beginning to end. And so they reached home in safety with about two hundred captives, and sheep enough for sacrifices.


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