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Anabasis

Page: 29

During the seventeen last stages, even on our way hither, we could extract nothing from the country; or, if there was now and again anything, we passed over and utterly consumed it. At this time our project is to take another and a longer journey certainly, but we shall not be in straits for provisions. The earliest stages must be very long, as long as we can make them; the object is to put as large a space as possible between us and the royal army; once we are two or three days' journey off, the danger is over. The king will never overtake us. With a small army he will not dare to dog our heels, and with a vast equipment he will lack the power to march quickly. Perhaps he, too, may even find a scarcity of provisions. There," said he, "you asked for my opinion, see, I have given it."

Here was a plan of the campaign, which was equivalent to a stampede: helter-skelter they were to run away, or get into hiding somehow; but fortune proved a better general. For as soon as it was day they recommenced the journey, keeping the sun on their right, and calculating that with the westering rays they would have reached villages in the territory of Babylonia, and in this hope they were not deceived. While it was yet afternoon, they thought they caught sight of some of the enemy's cavalry; and those of the Hellenes who were not in rank ran to their ranks; and Ariaeus, who was riding in a wagon to nurse a wound, got down and donned his cuirass, the rest of his party following his example. Whilst they were arming themselves, the scouts, who had been sent forward, came back with the information that they were not cavalry but baggage animals grazing. It was at once clear to all that they must be somewhere in the neighbourhood of the king's encampment. Smoke could actually be seen rising, evidently from villages not far ahead. Clearchus hesitated to advance upon the enemy, knowing that the troops were tired and hungry; and indeed it was already late. On the other hand he had no mind either to swerve from his route—guarding against any appearance of flight. Accordingly he marched straight as an arrow, and with sunset entered the nearest villages with his vanguard and took up quarters.

These villages had been thoroughly sacked and dismantled by the royal army—down to the very woodwork and furniture of the houses. Still, the vanguard contrived to take up their quarters in some sort of fashion; but the rear division, coming up in the dark, had to bivouac as best they could, one detachment after another; and a great noise they made, with hue and cry to one another, so that the enemy could hear them; and those in their immediate proximity actually took to their heels, left their quarters, and decamped, as was plain enough next morning, when not a beast was to be seen, nor sign of camp or wreath of smoke anywhere in the neighbourhood. The king, as it would appear, was himself quite taken aback by the advent of the army; as he fully showed by his proceedings next day.

During the progress of this night the Hellenes had their turn of scare—a panic seized them, and there was a noise and clatter, hardly to be explained except by the visitation of some sudden terror. But Clearchus had with him the Eleian Tolmides, the best herald of his time; him he ordered to proclaim silence, and then to give out this proclamation of the generals: "Whoever will give any information as to who let an ass into the camp shall receive a talent of silver in reward." On hearing this proclamation the soldiers made up their minds that their fear was baseless, and their generals safe and sound. At break of day Clearchus gave the order to the Hellenes to get under arms in line of battle, and take up exactly the same position as they held on the day of the battle.





III

And now comes the proof of what I stated above—that the king was utterly taken aback by the sudden apparition of the army; only the day before, he had sent and demanded the surrender of their arms—and now, with the rising sun, came heralds sent by him to arrange a truce. These, having reached the advanced guard, asked for the generals. The guard reported their arrival; and Clearchus, who was busy inspecting the ranks, sent back word to the heralds that they must await his leisure. Having carefully arranged the troops so that from every side they might present the appearance of a compact battle line without a single unarmed man in sight, he summoned the ambassadors, and himself went forward to meet them with the soldiers, who for choice accoutrement and noble aspect were the flower of his force; a course which he had invited the other generals also to adopt.

And now, being face to face with the ambassadors, he questioned them as to what their wishes were. They replied that they had come to arrange a truce, and were persons competent to carry proposals from the king to the Hellenes and from the Hellenes to the king. He returned answer to them: "Take back word then to your master, that we need a battle first, for we have had no breakfast; and he will be a brave man who will dare mention the word 'truce' to Hellenes without providing them with breakfast." With this message the heralds rode off, but were back again in no time, which was a proof that the king, or some one appointed by him to transact the business, was hard by. They reported that "the message seemed reasonable to the king; they had now come bringing guides who, if a truce were arranged, would conduct them where they would get provisions." Clearchus inquired "whether the truce was offered to the individual men merely as they went and came, or to all alike." "To all," they replied, "until the king receives your final answer." When they had so spoken, Clearchus, having removed the ambassadors, held a council; and it was resolved to make a truce at once, and then quietly to go and secure provisions; and Clearchus said: "I agree to the resolution; still I do not propose to announce it at once, but to wile away time till the ambassadors begin to fear that we have decided against the truce; though I suspect," he added, "the same fear will be operative on the minds of our soldiers also." As soon as the right moment seemed to have arrived, he delivered his answer in favour of the truce, and bade the ambassadors at once conduct them to the provisions.


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