Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Xenophon's Anabasis, Book IV

Book IV

The invasion of the Carduchian lands begins, with the Spartan Cheirisophus in the vanguard and Xenophon in the rearguard. The Carduchians, finding an army suddenly upon them, flee, leaving all their possessions behind. Despite the abundance of potential loot, the Greeks considered the possibility of later Carduchian alliance more promising as a contribution to getting home than any wealth they could get from the plunder, so they took only food and drink and left everything else. Attempts to coax the Carduchians out for friendly meeting failed, however, and the Carduchians would occasionally harry them with stones and arrows. The Greek commanders, concluding that they were still moving too slowly, agreed to release all recently taken captives and strip down their baggage even further. The soldiers were largely amenable to this, although, of course, some smuggling inevitably occurred.

A further attack showed some disarray in the Greek army due to a failure in communication between the van and the rear; Cheirisophus operating on experience and Xenophon with his prudential planning occasionally end up at cross-purposes because they are in a situation in which the two sometimes take equally reasonable but nonetheless mutually inconsistent steps in the attempt to get the army home. Thus, for instance, Cheirisophus puts Xenophon in a bad position, one in which he loses brave men, because he takes the initiative to seize a pass that is said to guard the only route out, at the same time that Xenophon is taking the initiative to ambush and capture prisoners in order to discover if it is, in fact, the only route out. The plans both were reasoned and reasonable decisions, but as implemented they weren't properly meshed.

Learning of another route, guarded by one hill, the Greeks put into effect a clever plan by which Xenophon provided a distraction at the same time that a group of volunteers caught the guards on the hill by surprise, with Cheirisophus charging in to back up the volunteers once they were in place. There were problems in the implementation of this, but it was largely successful in the end, and the army continued its way, having few problems beyond the heavy Carduchian arrows, which were able to pierce even Greek shields. They were glad to leave the country of the Carduchians, though, since they had been fighting for seven days straight -- the Carduchians were more of a threat than the Persians.

No sooner did they leave the Carduchian lands, though, than they came up against a Persian army. Pinned in place by a river, a Persian army, and a Carduchian army, the Greeks fell into despair. But that night Xenophon had a dream that he was bound by chains, but that these chains fell off simply because he willed them to do so, after which he could take long steps. The Greek word for taking long steps, diabaino, is the same word used for crossing a river, so it was a good omen. The Greeks sacrifices to the gods and read the omens, which were favorable, and then had breakfast. At breakfast, Xenophon received news of a shallow spot in the river that was shielded from the enemy.

Upon hearing this report Xenopohon immediately proceeded to pour a libation himself, and directed his attendants to fill a cup for the young men and to pray to the gods who had revealed the dream and the ford, to bring to fulfilment the other blessings also. The libation accomplished, he at once led the young men to Cheirisophus, and they repeated their story to him. And upon hearing it Cheirisophus also made libation.

The river crossing was a success, and the Greeks began their march through Armenia. The local governor, Tiribazus, offered a treaty, in which the Greeks would be allowed to march through if they behaved themselves, and it was accepted. They later hear rumors, however, that Tiribazus is planning on betraying them, and so attack his army, again successfully. This means that they have to hurry once again, despite hunger and a heavy snow leading to severe frostbite throughout the army. Once they start reaching villages, however, the Armenians turn out to be immensely hospitable, and provide valuable information, including the tip that they should wrap bags around their horses' feet to prevent them from sinking too far into the snow.

Reaching a mountain pass, they find it held by men, and Xenophon advises that instead of fighting they simply steal around another way, which leads to some joking banter and commentary on Greek views of Greeks:

"...But why should I be the man to make suggestions about stealing? For, as I hear, Cheirisophus, you Lacedaemonians, at least those among you who belong to the peers, practise stealing even from childhood, and count it not disgraceful but honourable to steal anything that the law does not prevent you from taking. And in order that you may steal with all possible skill and may try not to be caught at it, it is the law of your land that, if you are caught stealing, you are flogged. Now, therefore, is just the time for you to display your training, and to take care that we do not get caught stealing any of the mountain, so that we shall not get a beating.”

“Well, for all that,” said Cheirisophus, “I hear on my side that you Athenians are terribly clever at stealing the public funds, even though it is terribly dangerous for the stealer, and, in fact, that your best people do it most, at least if they really are your best who are deemed worthy to rule; hence it is time for you also to be displaying your training.”

Not long after, at the top of a mountain, they see the sea, which leads to great rejoicing -- at this point it must have been seen as one of the few things clearly suggesting that their hope of getting out alive might be fulfilled.

They negotiate their way through Macronian territory, then battle through Colchian territory, until they reach the Greek coastal city of Trapezus. This, of course, is cause for celebration. They sacrifice to Zeus for salvation and Heracles for guidance, and arranged for athletic games.

But, of course, they still have to get home.

Additional Comments

* The sea passage in Book IV, of course, is deservedly one of the most famous passages of the work:

Now as soon as the vanguard got to the top of the mountain, a great shout went up. And when Xenophon and the rearguard heard it, they imagined that other enemies were attacking in front; for enemies were following behind them from the district that was in flames, and the rearguard had killed some of them and captured others by setting an ambush, and had also taken about twenty wicker shields covered with raw, shaggy ox-hides. But as the shout kept getting louder and nearer, as the successive ranks that came up all began to run at full speed toward the ranks ahead that were one after another joining in the shout, and as the shout kept growing far louder as the number of men grew steadily greater, it became quite clear to Xenophon that here was something of unusual importance; so he mounted a horse, took with him Lycius and the cavalry, and pushed ahead to lend aid; and in a moment they heard the soldiers shouting, “The Sea! The Sea!” and passing the word along. Then all the troops of the rearguard likewise broke into a run, and the pack animals began racing ahead and the horses. And when all had reached the summit, then indeed they fell to embracing one another, and generals and captains as well, with tears in their eyes.

* The route of Xenophon and the Ten Thousand through Persia:

Persian Empire, 490 BC.png

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