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Anabasis

Page: 30

So these led the way; and Clearchus, without relaxing precaution, in spite of having secured a truce, marched after them with his army in line and himself in command of the rearguard. Over and over again they encountered trenches and conduits so full of water that they could not be crossed without bridges; but they contrived well enough for these by means of trunks of palm trees which had fallen, or which they cut down for the occasion. And here Clearchus's system of superintendence was a study in itself; as he stood with a spear in his left hand and a stick in the other; and when it seemed to him there was any dawdling among the parties told off to the work, he would pick out the right man and down would come the stick; nor, at the same time, was he above plunging into the mud and lending a hand himself, so that every one else was forced for very shame to display equal alacrity. The men told off for the business were the men of thirty years of age; but even the elder men, when they saw the energy of Clearchus, could not resist lending their aid also. What stimulated the haste of Clearchus was the suspicion in his mind that these trenches were not, as a rule, so full of water, since it was not the season to irrigate the plain; and he fancied that the king had let the water on for the express purpose of vividly presenting to the Hellenes the many dangers with which their march was threatened at the very start.

Proceeding on their way they reached some villages, where their guides indicated to them that they would find provisions. They were found to contain plenty of corn, and wine made from palm dates, and an acidulated beverage extracted by boiling from the same fruit. As to the palm nuts or dates themselves, it was noticeable that the sort which we are accustomed to see in Hellas were set aside for the domestic servants; those put aside for the masters are picked specimens, and are simply marvellous for their beauty and size, looking like great golden lumps of amber; some specimens they dried and preserved as sweetmeats. Sweet enough they were as an accompaniment of wine, but apt to give headache. Here, too, for the first time in their lives, the men tasted the brain (1) of the palm. No one could help being struck by the beauty of this object, and the peculiarity of its delicious flavour; but this, like the dried fruits, was exceedingly apt to give headache. When this cabbage or brain has been removed from the palm the whole tree withers from top to bottom.

 (1) I.e. the cabbage-like crown.

In these villages they remained three days, and a deputation from the great king arrived—Tissaphernes and the king's brother-in-law and three other Persians—with a retinue of many slaves. As soon as the generals of the Hellenes had presented themselves, Tissaphernes opened the proceedings with the following speech, through the lips of an interpreter: "Men of Hellas, I am your next-door neighbour in Hellas. Therefore was it that I, when I saw into what a sea of troubles you were fallen, regarded it as a godsend, if by any means I might obtain, as a boon from the king, the privilege of bringing you back in safety to your own country: and that, I take it, will earn me gratitude from you and all Hellas. In this determination I preferred my request to the king; I claimed it as a favour which was fairly my due; for was it not I who first announced to him the hostile approach of Cyrus? who supported that announcement by the aid I brought; who alone among the officers confronted with the Hellenes in battle did not flee, but charged right through and united my troops with the king inside your camp, where he was arrived, having slain Cyrus; it was I, lastly, who gave chase to the barbarians under Cyrus, with the help of those here present with me at this moment, which are also among the trustiest followers of our lord the king. Now, I counsel you to give a moderate answer, so that it may be easier for me to carry out my design, if haply I may obtain from him some good thing on your behalf."


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