Imágenes de páginas

ence. On the contrary, it will be found that they long continued to be the theatre of the most remarkable events, and have, in point of fact, been at all times the battle-field on which the empire of the East has been contended for and won. We shall therefore present our readers with a short sketch of the changes they have witnessed, and briefly describe some of the more important occurrences of which they have been the scene.

The first of these which we shall notice is an exploit that has been pronounced by a high authority* to be "one of the most splendid of all the military events that have been recorded in ancient history"— -we mean the retreat of Xenophon with his Ten Thousand Greeks; which, as is well known, arose out of an unsuccessful effort of the younger Cyrus to dispute the throne of Persia with his brother Artaxerxes Mnemon. Both these princes were sons of Darius Ochus, by his queen Parysatis, who, preferring the younger to the elder, sought to secure for him the succession. Failing in this, she induced him to conspire against the life of the lawful heir, and finally laboured to protect him from the consequences of his unsuccessful attempts. Cyrus, who retired from court to his government in Asia Minor, smarting under disgrace and disappointment, resolved on revenge. In order to achieve this, he maintained an intercourse with the Grecian states on the opposite side of the Bosphorus, and, having presented Clearchus, a banished Lecedæmonian, with large sums of money, succeeded, chiefly through his influence, in levying an army of 12,800 Greeks, at the head of which, and 100,000 natives, he advanced towards Persia in the year B.C. 401, in order to pull Artaxerxes from his throne.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon his progress from Sardis, whence he commenced his march, to the borders of Mesopotamia, nor on the difficulties he experienced in persuading his Western mercenaries to proceed against the great king his brother. It is sufficient to state that, having reached Myriandrus, in the Gulf of Scanderoon, he marched to Thapsacus, a distance of sixty-five parasangs, or about 260 miles, in twelve days, crossing in his route the rivers Chalus and Daradax, the latter of which is said to be 100 feet broad at its source, and seems to correspond

The late Major Rennell.

to the Fountain of Fay mentioned by Rennell,* having in its vicinity the palace of Belesis, formerly governor of Syria. That town, according to the same author, who agrees with D'Anville, is identified with El Der, situated a little above the mouth of the Khabour. But if Beles represents Barbalissus, the former must be looked for higher up; and recent investigations lead to the belief that it stood some distance above Racca, on the right bank of the river: a position which will agree with the subsequent nine days' march of fifty parasangs to the River Araxes or Khabour. From Thapsacus, where they crossed the Euphrates, the account of their march to the Pyle or Gates is very short. These passes are by most authorities placed at the termination of the hilly tract below Hit, which probably represented the Caramande mentioned by Xenophon.

From the Pylæ, Cyrus proceeded through the country of Babylonia to meet the army of his rival, who had advanced to oppose him. That he expected not to conquer without a struggle is known from the reply which he made to Clearchus, who asked him if he believed the king would hazard a battle. "6 Certainly," said he, "if he is the son of Darius and Parysatis, and my brother, I shall never obtain all this without a stroke;" and, accordingly, both Greeks and barbarians prepared themselves for fighting. They had need of all their resolution; for Xenophon states the reputed number of the Persian host at 1,200,000 men, and 200 scythe-armed chariots, besides 6000 horse.

Cyrus, having reviewed his troops, which consisted of 10,400 heavy-armed Greeks, and 2400 targeteers, with 100,000 barbarians, and twenty scythe-armed chariots, marched three parasangs in order of battle, expecting the enemy would fight that day; but the policy of Artaxerxes seems rather to have been to embarrass than overwhelm his opponent, for he caused a trench to be dug near the Euphrates by way of fortification, leaving, however, a narrow pass through which the invading army were permitted to pass unopposed. This would appear to have been done in order to throw Cyrus off his guard; and we accordingly find that prince riding on the third day in his car, his soldiers having left their ranks, and many of them laid their weapons upon sumpter horses or wagons, when Pa

* Illustrations of the History of the Expedition of Cyrus, &c., 4to, London, 1816, p. 68.

tagyas, a Persian in his confidence, rode up at full speed, and informed him that the king was actually at hand, marching in regular order. This news causing an immediate bustle, the men ran to their arms, and prepared for action. It was the afternoon, however, before "a dust like a white cloud appeared, which soon spread itself like darkness over the plain. When they drew nearer, the brazen armour flashed, and their spears and ranks appeared, having on their left a body of horse, armed in white corslets (said to be commanded by Tissaphernes), and followed by those with Persian bucklers, besides heavy-armed men with wooden shields reaching down to their feet (said to be Egyptians), and other horse and archers, all which marched according to their respective countries, each nation being drawn up in a solid oblong square; and before them were disposed, at a considerable distance from one another, chariots armed with scythes, fixed aslant at the axletrees, with others under the body of the chariot pointing downward, that so they might cut asunder everything they encountered, by driving them among the ranks of the Greeks to break them. But it now appeared that Cyrus was greatly mistaken when he exhorted the Greeks to withstand the shouts of the barbarians, for they did not come on with cries, but as silently and quietly as possible, and in an equal and slow march.

"Here Cyrus, riding along the ranks with Pigres the interpreter and three or four others, commanded Clearchus to bring his men opposite to the centre of the enemy (because the king was there), saying, 'If we break that, our work is done;' but the latter, observing their position, and understanding that the king was beyond the left wing of the Greek army (for his majesty was so much superior in numbers, that, when he stood in the centre of his own army, he was beyond the left wing of that of his brother), would not be prevailed on to withdraw his right from the river, fearing to be surrounded on both sides, but answered that he would take care all should go well.

"Now the barbarians came regularly on, and the Greek army standing on the same ground, the ranks were formed as the men arrived. In the mean time, Cyrus, riding at a small distance before the ranks, surveying both the enemy's army and his own, was observed by Xenophon, an Athenian, who rode up to him, and asked whether he

had anything to command. The prince, stopping his horse, ordered him to let them all know that the sacrifices and victims promised success. While he was saying this, he heard a noise running through the ranks, and asked him what it meant. Xenophon answered that the word was now giving for the second time. Cyrus, wondering who should give it, demanded what the word was. The other replied, Jupiter the Preserver, and Victory;' Cyrus rejoined, 'I accept it: let that be the word;' after which he immediately returned to his post; and the two armies being now within three or four stadia of each other, the Greeks sung the Pæan, and began to advance against the enemy; but the motion occasioning a small fluctuation in the line of battle, those who were left behind hastened their march, and at once gave a general shout, as their custom is when they invoke the God of War; and all ran forward, striking their shields with their pikes (as some say) to frighten the enemy's horses, so that, before the barbarians came within reach of their darts, they turned their horses and fled; but the Greeks pursued them as fast as they could, calling out to one another not to run, but to follow in their ranks. Some of the chariots were borne through their own people without their charioteers, others through the Greeks, some of whom, seeing them coming, divided, while others, being amazed, like spectators in the hippodrome, were taken unawares; but even these were reported to have received no harm, neither was there any other Greek hurt in the action, except one upon the left wing, who was said to have been wounded by an


"Cyrus, seeing the Greeks victorious on their side, rejoiced in pursuit of the enemy, and was already worshipped as king by those about him; however, he was not so far transported as to leave his post and join in the pursuit; but, keeping his 600 horse in a body, observed the king's motions, well knowing that he was in the centre of the Persian army; for in all barbarian armies the generals ever place themselves in the centre, looking upon that post as the safest; on each side of which their strength is equally divided, and if they have occasion to give out any orders, they are received in half the time by the army. The king, therefore, being at that time in the centre of his own battle, was, however, beyond the left wing of Cyrus;

and when he saw none opposed him in front, nor any motion made to charge the troops that were drawn up before him, he wheeled to the left in order to surround their army; whereupon Cyrus, fearing he should get behind him and cut off the Greeks, advanced against the king, and, charging with his 600 horse, broke those who were drawn up before him, put the 6000 men to flight, and, as they say, killed Artagerses, their commander, with his own hand. These being broken, and the 600 belonging to Cyrus dispersed in the pursuit, very few were left about him, and those almost all persons who used to eat at his table; however, upon discovering the king properly attended, and unable to contain himself, he immediately cried out, 'I see the man,' then ran furiously at him, and, striking him on the breast, wounded him through his corslet (as Ctesias the physician says, who affirms that he cured the wound), having, while he was giving the blow, received a wound under the eye from somebody who threw a javelin at him with great force; at the same time, the king and Cyrus engaged hand to hand, and those about them in defence of each. In this action, Ctesias (who was with the king) informs us how many fell on his side; on the other, Cyrus himself was killed, and eight of his most considerable friends lay dead upon him. When Artagerses, who was in the greatest trust with Cyrus of any of his sceptred ministers, saw him fall, they say he leaped from his horse, and threw himself about him, when (as some say) the king ordered him to be slain upon the body of Cyrus, though others assert that, drawing his cimeter, he slew himself; for he wore a golden cimeter, a chain, bracelets, and other ornaments which were worn by the most considerable Persians, and was held in great esteem both for his affection and fidelity.

"Thus died Cyrus, a man universally acknowledged by those who were well acquainted with him, to have been, of all the Persians since the ancient Cyrus, endued with the most princely qualities, and to have appeared the most worthy of empire."*

The leader of the expedition having fallen in the manner now described, the king attacked the camp of his enemies, which was deserted by the barbarians who had been

* Spelman's Xenophon, 2 vols. 8vo, Cambridge, 1776, vol. i., p. 85-95.

« AnteriorContinuar »