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Anabasis

Page: 47

(1) So it is said of the Russian General Skobelef, that he had a strange custom of going into battle in his cleanest uniform, perfumed, and wearing a diamond-hilted sword, "in order that," as he said, "he might die in his best attire." (2) For this ancient omen see "Odyssey," xvii. 541: "Even as she spake, and Telemachus sneezed loudly, and around the roof rung wondrously. And Penelope laughed."... "Dost thou not mark how my son has sneezed a blessing on all my words?" (3) See Herod. vi. 114; the allusion is to the invasion of Greeze by Datis and Artaphernes, and to their defeat at Marathon, B.C. 490. "Heredotus estimates the number of those who fell on the Persian side at 6400 men: the number of Athenian dead is accurately known, since all were collected for the last solemn obsequies—they were 192."—Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. v. p. 475. (4) Then = at Salamis, B.C. 480, and at Plataea and Mycale, B.C. 479, on the same day.

"And proofs of these things are yet to be seen in trophies; but the greatest witness of all is the freedom of our cities—the liberty of that land in which you were born and bred. For you call no man master or lord; you bow your heads to none save to the gods alone. Such were your forefathers, and their sons are ye. Think not I am going to say that you put to shame in any way your ancestry—far from it. Not many days since, you too were drawn up in battle face to face with these true descendants of their ancestors, and by the help of heaven you conquered them, though they many times outnumbered you. At that time, it was to win a throne for Cyrus that you showed your bravery; to-day, when the struggle is for your own salvation, what is more natural than that you should show yourselves braver and more zealous still. Nay, it is very meet and right that you should be more undaunted still to-day to face the foe. The other day, though you had not tested them, and before your eyes lay their immeasurable host, you had the heart to go against them with the spirit of your fathers. To-day you have made trial of them, and knowing that, however many times your number, they do not care to await your onset, what concern have you now to be afraid of them?

"Nor let any one suppose that herein is a point of weakness, in that Cyrus's troops, who before were drawn up by your side, have now deserted us, for they are even worse cowards still than those we worsted. At any rate they have deserted us, and sought refuge with them. Leaders of the forlorn hope of flight—far better is it to have them brigaded with the enemy than shoulder to shoulder in our ranks. But if any of you is out of heart to think that we have no cavalry, while the enemy have many squadrons to command, lay to heart this doctrine, that ten thousand horse only equal ten thousand men upon their backs, neither less nor more. Did any one ever die in battle from the bite or kick of a horse? It is the men, the real swordsmen, who do whatever is done in battles. In fact we, on our stout shanks, are better mounted than those cavalry fellows; there they hang on to their horses' necks in mortal dread, not only of us, but of falling off; while we, well planted upon earth, can deal far heavier blows to our assailants, and aim more steadily at who we will. There is one point, I admit, in which their cavalry have the whip-hand of us; it is safer for them than it is for us to run away.


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