Anabasis (The Persian Expedition) by Xenophon (370 BC), Book 3 – The March to Kurdestan

Anabasis (The Persian Expedition) by Xenophon (370 BC), Book 3 – The March to Kurdestan

Chapter 1 – Xenophon Takes the Initiative

  • With generals & captains either caught or killed, the Greeks were leaderless & without hope of getting supplies.,1000 miles from home & surrounded by hostile troops & people
    • If they fought & won, they couldn’t win much. If they lost, they’d all be prisoners or killed
    • They were thorough depressed & in despair
  • Before leaving to join Proxenus in Cyrus’s army, Xenophon had consulted with Socrates of Athes about the matter & he told him to go talk to the Oracle of Delphi. Xenophon asked which god he should pray to about a successful trip & the Oracle said “the appropriate ones”
    • Xenophon reported this to Socrates & Socrates said he was stupid in this because he presumed in his question that he ought to go to Persia in the first place. His question should’ve been whether he ought to go or not. He was committed to going & had better do as the god had said
    • Xenophon sacrifices & joined Proxenus & Cyrus. The campaign was supposed to be only fighting the Pisidians. He felt he’d been tricked, as did Proxenus. Nobody but Clearchus knew the real purpose of the campaign. It wasn’t until they went to Cilicia that things were apparent. But it was too late to leave & not lose face & be in a bad spot
  • Xenophon went to sleep & had a dream of a thunderbolt hitting his fathers’ house while he was in it, sent by Zeus. But did Zeus represent the Persian king? Would he be stuck in Persia?
    • He woke up thinking: Why am I sitting here? We could easily be captured by the King. No one’s done a thing to improve our situation. Am I the one to do something? Am I too young? If I get captured, I’ll never get to be old
    • He called Proxenus’s captains & spoke:
      • I can’t sleep, as I imagine you all can’t. We’re in bad shape. No one’s been able to come up with a plan for our defense. If we get captures, what can we expect? The King decapitated his own brother. What will he do to us, non-relatives? We can’t get caught
      • When the truce was in force, we had to buy all our supplies. But they’ve declared war on us. The terms of the truce don’t apply anymore. We should take our supplies from wherever we find them. The gods are on our side because we swore we’d keep the truce & we kept our end of the bargain. So, we can have that confidence. Plus, we’re physically tougher than the enemy
      • I think others will feel the same as I do. So, let’s not wait for others to tell us what to do. Let’s see the bravest captains come forth. I’d be willing to follow along. & if you think my young age isn’t a problem, I’ll lead
    • Many wanted him as a leader, except Apollonides from Boetia, who said that they ought to plead for mercy to the King. He also said how difficult it would be to do what Xenophon was proposing
      • Xenophon answered: Don’t you remember that the King demanded that we lay down our arms after Cyrus’s death? We asked for a truce & for mercy. We had their agreement & they killed our generals. They are treacherous. To do the same thing again would be suicide. You have to leave here in shame for proposing that.
      • Apollonides ran off because he was no longer trusted
  • Others tried to round up as many officers as they could & once they had about 100, they met up at midnight. Hieronymus of Elis suggested that Xenophon should lead. Xenophon spoke:
    • The King & Tissaphernes have imprisoned or killed all those they could & would do more. We all here are in a great deal of responsibility for our men. If we show them we are depressed about our chances, they’ll become cowardly. In peace time, generals command a great deal of respect & earn more than the regular soldiers. But now, in war, we have to be braver for their sake. We have to take the big decisions for us all. I suggest all units without captains elect some new ones so that we can be back in fighting shape. Once that’s done, come back & we’ll discuss what we’ll do afterwards.
    • Impress upon the men that numbers aren’t what counts but what does count is whose side the gods are on. That should boost our morale. Living life as a cowards is worse than dying with honor. We should live honorably
  • Chirisophus suggested that Xenophon was the right man for the job
  • The men elected new leaders & met back up

Chapter 2 – The Council of War

  • The soldiers convened & Chirisophus addressed them:
    • We’re in a tight spot. We’ve lost a lot of leaders & allies. Many have betrayed us. It’s a long way back home but we have to try to do it, or at least die with honor. The gods are on our side
    • Cleanor of Orchomenus: You all have seen how the King has betrayed us. You’ve seen Tissaphernes do the same. He swore an oath, as did we, to uphold a truce & they killed our leaders. We were prepared to make Ariaeus King after Cyrus died & he turned his back on us. We must fight to avenge Cyrus & our dead
  • Xenophon had put on his best armor. It was either to honor the gods to get victory or look his best when dying. He spoke:
    • Cleanor is right. If we’re looking for friends, we’ve come to the wrong place. Our goal now is to make them pay & fight them when we can, & get back home
      • Someone sneezed in the middle of all of this & they all dropped to their knees in worship to the god who made this happen
    • Xenophon: Zeus has sent an omen as we were talking about going home safely. We must give thanks & sacrifices.
      • They made vows & sang the paean
    • Xenophon: Breaking one’s promise is sure to anger the gods. They will be on our side. The Persians tried to destroy Athens. The Athenians vowed to Artemis to sacrifice a goat for every Persian killed. They’re still doing it today for all the Persians that killed. When Xerxes came he got wiped out. Our fathers beat those people’s fathers. Let’s not dishonor our fathers. We have shown bravery in battle against them. They are no match for us one on one, or in large numbers. But they don’t have the gods with them. They are treacherous cowards.
      • If you fear we have no cavalry, remember that cavalry don’t really kill anyone. We are on the ground, firm, not bouncing around easily knocked off (NB! There were no stirrups back then). No one ever got bitten by a horse in battle. Horses only help them to run away
      • If you fear that we don’t have any Persian allies to help us on the way home. We’ll have our prisoners show us the way home. Their lives will depend on it.
      • If you fear we don’t have enough supplies or money to buy supplies, remember this: We will take supplies when we need them from wherever
      • While they may have large rivers here, they may be impassable at a distance but we can easily cross their sources without getting wet
      • Remember all those Persians we’ve defeated so far & all the various tribes as well. We’ve seen how the Lycaonians have been able to live off the natives’ land. We should look like we’re going home but enjoy everything this country has to offer. We might even forget to go home, we’ll be living so good. If & when we ever get home, we can tell the Greeks that to live in poverty is a choice.
      • Let’s try to make our march as danger-free as possible. If we have to fight let’s do so to our own advantage. Set fire to the wagons & tents so as not to weigh ourselves down. Let’s keep only the essentials – our weapons & cooking equipment. We have to see the enemy as carrying our supplies. When we defeat them, we get their supplies
      • Remember that the enemy only made war on us once they had killed our generals because they thought we’d crumble without them. But we have many generals already within our ranks. That will shock them to see. Let’s get ready. Time’s a wastin’
      • Be prepared for the enemy to hit us with low blows. They are cowards & won’t give us a fair fight. Let’s organize ourselves to be ready for that. Remember the winners do the killing & the losers get killed. The winners can keep what’s their own & what belongs to the losers

Chapter 3 – The Greeks Suffer From Slings & Arrows

  • After Xenophon’s speech, they started burning wagon & tents
    • Mithridates showed up with 30 horsemen telling them he was still their friend. He asked what they were doing
    • They told them they were going home. They’d try to go as peacefully as possible but they defend themselves if attacked
    • Mithridates told them it wasn’t possible to do this without the King’s goodwill. But one of the men with him was Tissaphernes’s men to ensure he was “reliable”
  • The generals decided to be safe, while in enemy territory war should be conducted without without negotiations which were too seductive – 20+ had defected
  • They crossed the Zapatas River. Mithridates showed up again trying to make friendly – but his men shot arrows & swing slung rocks at them. They were not able to retaliate before the Persian ran off.
    • Xenophon decided they should use hoplites & peltasts to drive them off but couldn’t capture a single enemy. In fact, Persian cavalry was able to shoot at them while retreating. The Greeks fell back.
    • That day, they only traveled 2.5 miles. Despair set in again. Some generals blamed Xenophon’s pursuit.
      • Xenophon but said the gods prevented bad damage. The incident showed their deficiency. Their archers had a longer range. Their slingers had a longer range than the Greek javelin-throwers. They’re faster than the Greek infantry. They had to stop enemy cavalry & slingers as soon as possible
      • Some Rhodians could sling twice as far as Persians because they use larger stones. They asked for volunteers. They got 200 men & put 50 men on horseback to chase the Persian cavalry

Chapter 4 – Tissaphernes Still in Pursuit

  • They zoomed along, crossing rivers as quickly as possible before they could be attacked mid-crossing. Mithridates was on their trail with archers & slings. He had a low opinion of the Greeks from their earlier ineffectual & pathetic counter against his attacks
    • Once Mithridates caught up to them, he had his ranks charge. The Greeks retreated into the river, slowing the Persian cavalry’s charge enough that they were easy targets to kill. The Greeks mutilated the dead to scare off the other attackers
    • This win in the skirmish allowed the Greeks to get to the Tigris safely at a deserted city, Larissa. There was a stone pyramid 200 feet high
    • They went to an undefended city, Mespila, that the Persians had besieged in their war with the Medes
    • 12 miles later, Tissaphernes showed up with his own cavalry, Orontas’s forces, the King’s forces & forces that had once fought under Cyrus against the King. Tissaphernes avoided direct assaults but used arrows & slings
      • The Rhodians fired back doing significant damage & Tissaphernes’s army ran off
      • The Greeks moved on with Persians following. The Persians couldn’t use long-range weapons because they were outmatched by the Greeks in that department
  • The Greeks realized a square formation wasn’t so good. The roads compressed their firm & soldiers got out of position, bad when the enemy was on the rear. Getting back into form caused chaos, the enemy could take advantage of
    • The generals created 6 companies of 100 men, when companies were pushed together, companies waited to keep order on the flanks. Afterwards, they’d got to the left or right again. This was useful on bridges & narrow roads
  • They arrived at a palace in the foothills leading to the mountains. This would be helpful because the enemy’s army was mostly cavalry. Locals in the area attacked them. The Greeks’ light troops held their own archers & slingers in the hoplite square. Being footsoldiers, they had trouble escaping to the highland. Once Greek peltasts were able to get to the top of a hill, the enemy ran off. They marched in this way as they moved toward the mountain. They rested 3 days & treated their wounded & gathered food
    • After 4 days, they went down to the plain where they found Tissaphernes’s & the King’s men camped out. They ought to have rested & not fight while marching. The natives retried long-range fighting to no avail
    • Instead of camping, the Greeks marched away & put enough distance between the Persians & themselves to lose them for a few days. The enemy marched at night to catch up. Seeing the road was blocked by the Persians, they decided to go to the summit of the mountain instead of engaging them. If able to occupy a higher position, they’d have an advantage
      • Xenophon began to lead his troops but the Persians saw this & rushed to beat them there. Xenophon impressed upon his men that their lives depended on getting there first. Xenophon marched with his men instead of riding on horseback. They arrived there first

Chapter 5 – Between the Tigris & the Mountains

  • The natives ran off & the Greeks held the summit. Tissaphernes’s & Ariaeus’s men left in another direction. The rest of the Greeks camped out in the village below. They rested & reloaded supplies
    • Later that day, Tissaphernes appeared again to set fire to villages so that the Greeks wouldn’t be able to use them for comfort & supplies. This fact seemed to depress the Greeks
    • Xenophon explained that the Persians were panicking by setting fire to the King’s own land. The Greeks ought to look at the land in front of them as their own, since they were going to be taking supplies from it, & stop it from burning
    • The generals planned out formations through the mountains, as well as ways to procure & carry supplies as they approached the mountains.
    • The prisoners that the Greeks held told them about the lay out of the land in front of them. They would have to go through the land of the Carduchi & Armenia, territory governed by Orontas.

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