11MAR2018 Quote of the Day

Part 1 of Xenophon


Here’s my edited version of how Xenophon rallied the Ten Thousand and provided the basis for their escape from Persia.  I’ve deleted a lot of stuff which you can always read on your own.  As I said earlier, Xenophon is his own biggest fan but if even a fraction of what he claims he did was true then he really was the savior of that army.

Such were Xenophon’s words; and upon hearing what he said the officers bade him take the lead…

Thereupon Xenophon spoke as follows: “We all understand thus much, that the King and Tissaphernes have seized as many as they could of our number, and that they are manifestly plotting against the rest of us, to destroy us if they can. It is for us, then, in my opinion, to make every effort that we may never fall into the power of the barbarians, but that they may rather fall into our power. [36] Be sure, therefore, that you, who have now come together in such numbers, have the grandest of opportunities. For all our soldiers here are looking to you; if they see that you are faint-hearted, all of them will be cowards; but if you not only show that you are making preparations yourselves against the enemy, but call upon the rest to do likewise, be well assured that they will follow you and will try to imitate you. [37] But perhaps it is really proper that you should somewhat excel them. For you are generals, you are lieutenant-generals and captains; while peace lasted, you had the advantage of them alike in pay and in standing; now, therefore, when a state of war exists, it is right to expect that you should be superior to the common soldiers, and that you should plan for them and toil for them whenever there be need. [38]

“And now, firstly, I think you would do the army a great service if you should see to it that generals and captains are appointed as speedily as possible to take the places of those who are lost. For without leaders nothing fine or useful can be accomplished in any field, to put it broadly, and certainly not in warfare. For discipline, it seems, keeps men in safety, while the lack of it has brought many ere now to destruction. [39] Secondly, when you have appointed all the leaders that are necessary, I think you would perform a very opportune act if you should gather together the rest of the soldiers also and try to encourage them. [40] For, as matters stand now, perhaps you have observed for yourselves in what dejection they came to their quarters and in what dejection they proceeded to their picket duty; and so long as they are in this state, I know not what use one could make of them, if there should be need of them either by night or by day. [41] If, however, we can turn the current of their minds, so that they shall be thinking, not merely of what they are to suffer, but likewise of what they are going to do, they will be far more cheerful. [42] For you understand, I am sure, that it is neither numbers nor strength which wins victories in war; but whichever of the two sides it be whose troops, by the blessing of the gods, advance to the attack with stouter hearts, against those troops their adversaries generally refuse to stand. [43] And in my own experience, gentlemen, I have observed this other fact, that those who are anxious in war to save their lives in any way they can, are the very men who usually meet with a base and shameful death; while those who have recognized that death is the common and inevitable portion of all mankind and therefore strive to meet death nobly, are precisely those who are somehow more likely to reach old age and who enjoy a happier existence while they do live. [44] We, then, taking to heart this lesson, so suited to the crisis which now confronts us, must be brave men ourselves and call forth bravery in our fellows.” [45] With these words Xenophon ceased speaking.

After him Cheirisophus said: “Hitherto, Xenophon, I have known you only to the extent of having heard that you were an Athenian, but now I commend you both for your words and your deeds, and I should be glad if we had very many of your sort; for it would be a blessing to the entire army. [46] And now, gentlemen,” he went on, “let us not delay; withdraw and choose your commanders at once, you who need them, and after making your choices come to the middle of the camp and bring with you the men you have selected; then we will call a meeting there of all the troops. And let us make sure,” he added, “that Tolmides, the herald, is present.” [47] With these words he got up at once, that there might be no delay in carrying out the needful measures. Thereupon the commanders were chosen, Timasion the Dardanian in place of Clearchus, Xanthicles the Achaean in place of Socrates, Cleanor the Arcadian in place of Agias, Philesius the Achaean in place of Menon, and Xenophon the Athenian in place of Proxenus. 2.

When these elections had been completed, and as day was just about beginning to break, the commanders met in the middle of the camp; and they resolved to station outposts and then call an assembly of the soldiers. As soon as they had come together, Cheirisophus the Lacedaemonian arose first and spoke as follows: [2] “Fellow-soldiers, painful indeed is our present situation, seeing that we are robbed of such generals and captains and soldiers, and, besides, that Ariaeus and his men, who were formerly our allies, have betrayed us; [3] nevertheless, we must quit ourselves like brave men as well as may be in these circumstances, and must not yield, but rather try to save ourselves by glorious victory if we can; otherwise, let us at least die a glorious death, and never fall into the hands of our enemies alive. For in that case I think we should meet the sort of sufferings that I pray the gods may visit upon our foes.” [4]…

Hereupon Xenophon arose, arrayed for war in his finest dress. For he thought that if the gods should grant victory, the finest raiment was suited to victory; and if it should be his fate to die, it was proper, he thought, that inasmuch as he had accounted his office worthy of the most beautiful attire, in this attire he should meet his death. He began his speech as follows: …

“It is really a plain fact, gentlemen, that all these good things belong to those who have the strength to possess them; [27] but I must go on to another point, how we can march most safely and, if we have to fight, can fight to the best advantage. In the first place, then,” Xenophon proceeded, “I think we should burn up the wagons which we have, so that our cattle may not be our captains, but we can take whatever route may be best for the army. Secondly, we should burn up our tents also; for these, again, are a bother to carry, and no help at all either for fighting or for obtaining provisions. [28] Furthermore, let us abandon all our other superfluous baggage, keeping only such articles as we use for war, or in eating and drinking, in order that we may have the largest possible number of men under arms and the least number carrying baggage. For when men are conquered, you are aware that all their possessions become the property of others; but if we are victorious, we may regard the enemy as our pack-bearers. [29]

“It remains for me to mention the one matter which I believe is really of the greatest importance. You observe that our enemies did not muster up courage to begin hostilities against us until they had seized our generals; for they believed that so long as we had our commanders and were obedient to them, we were able to worst them in war, but when they had got possession of our commanders, they believed that the want of leadership and of discipline would be the ruin of us. [30] Therefore our present commanders must show themselves far more vigilant than their predecessors, and the men in the ranks must be far more orderly and more obedient to their commanders now than they used to be. [31] We must pass a vote that, in case anyone is disobedient, whoever of you may be at hand at the time shall join with the officer in punishing him; in this way the enemy will find themselves mightily deceived; for to-day they will behold, not one Clearchus,25 but ten thousand, who will not suffer anybody to be a bad soldier. [32] But it is time now to be acting instead of talking; for perhaps the enemy will soon be at hand. Whoever, then, thinks that these proposals are good should ratify them with all speed, that they may be carried out in action. But if any other plan is thought better than mine, let anyone, even though he be a private soldier, feel free to present it; for the safety of all is the need of all.” [33]

After this Cheirisophus said: “We shall be able to consider presently whether we need to do anything else besides what Xenophon proposes, but on the proposals which he has already made I think it is best for us to vote as speedily as possible. Whoever is in favour of these measures, let him raise his hand.” [34] They all raised their hands…

After these words of Xenophon’s the assembly arose, and all went back to camp and proceeded to burn the wagons and the tents. As for the superfluous articles of baggage, whatever anybody needed they shared with one another, but the rest they threw into the fire. When they had done all this, they set about preparing breakfast; and while they were so engaged, Mithradates26 approached with about thirty horsemen, summoned the Greek generals within earshot, and spoke as follows: [2] “Men of Greece, I was faithful to Cyrus, as you know for yourselves, and I am now friendly to you; indeed, I am tarrying here in great fear. Therefore if I should see that you were taking salutary measures, I should join you and bring all my retainers with me. Tell me, then, what you have in mind, in the assurance that I am your friend and well-wisher, and am desirous of making the journey in company with you.” [3] The generals held council and voted to return the following answer, Cheirisophus acting as spokesman: “It is our resolve, in case no one hinders our homeward march, to proceed through the country doing the least possible damage, but if anyone tries to prevent us from making the journey, to fight it out with him to the best of our power.” [4] Thereupon Mithradates undertook to show that there was no possibility of their effecting a safe return unless the King so pleased. Then it became clear to the Greeks that his mission was a treacherous one; indeed, one of Tissaphernes’ relatives had followed along, to see that he kept faith. [5] The generals consequently decided that it was best to pass a decree that there should be no negotiations with the enemy in this war so long as they should be in the enemy’s country. For the barbarians kept coming and trying to corrupt the soldiers; in the case of one captain, Nicarchus the Arcadian, they actually succeeded, and he decamped during the night, taking with him about twenty men. [6]


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