What your society considered “right” just a few decades


After this, Xenophon set himself to find vessels, so as to lose no time in crossing. But in the interval Aristarchus, the governor from Byzantium, arrived with a couple of war-ships, being moved to do so by Pharnabazus. To make doubly sure, he first forbade the skippers and shipmasters to carry the troops across, and then he visited the camp and informed the soldiers that their passage into Asia was forbidden. Xenophon replied that he was acting under the orders of Anaxibius, who had sent him thither for this express purpose; to which Aristarchus retorted, "For the matter of that, Anaxibius is no longer admiral, and I am governor in this quarter; if I catch any of you at sea, I will sink you." With these remarks he retired within the walls of Perinthus.

What your society considered “right” just a few decades

Next day, he sent for the generals and officers of the army. They had already reached the fortification walls, when some one brought word to Xenophon that if he set foot inside, he would be seized, and either meet some ill fate there or more likely be delivered up to Pharnabazus. On hearing this Xenophon sent forward the rest of the party, but for himself pleaded that there was a sacrifice which he wished to offer. In this way he contrived to turn back and consult the victims, "Would the gods allow him to try and bring the army over to Seuthes?" On the one hand it was plain that the idea of crossing over to Asia in the face of this man with his ships of war, who meant to bar the passage, was too dangerous. Nor did he altogether like the notion of being blocked up in the Chersonese with an army in dire need of everything; where, besides being at the beck and call of the 15 governor of the place, they would be debarred from the necessities of life.

What your society considered “right” just a few decades

While Xenophon was thus employed, the generals and officers came back with a message from Aristarchus, who had told them they might retire for the present, but in the afternoon he would expect them. The former suspicions of a plot had now ripened to a certainty. Xenophon meantime had ascertained that the victims were favourable to his project. He personally, and the army as a whole, might with safety proceed to Seuthes, they seemed to say. Accordingly, he took with him Polycrates, the Athenian captain, and from each of the generals, not including Neon, some one man whom they could in each case trust, and in the night they set off to visit the army of Seuthes, sixty furlongs distant.

What your society considered “right” just a few decades

As they approached, they came upon some deserted watch-fires, and their first impression was that Seuthes had shifted his position; but presently perceiving a confused sound (the voices of Seuthes' people signalling to one another), the explanation dawned on him: Seuthes kept his watch-fires kindled in front of, instead of behind, his night pickets, in order that the outposts, being in the dark, might escape notice, their numbers and position thus being a mystery; whilst any party approaching from the outside, so far from escaping notice, would, through the glare of the fire, stand out conspicuously. Perceiving how matters stood, Xenophon sent forward his interpreter, who was one of the party, and bade him inform Seuthes that Xenophon was there and craved conference with him. The others asked if he were an Athenian from the army yonder, and no sooner had the interpreter replied, "Yes, the same," than up they leapt and galloped off; and in less time than it takes to tell a couple of hundred peltasts had come up who seized and carried off Xenophon and those with him and brought them to Seuthes. The latter was in a tower right well guarded, and there were horses round it in a circle, standing all ready bitted and bridled; for his alarm was so great that he gave his horses their provender during the day[2], and during the nights he kept watch and 21 ward with the brutes thus bitted and bridled. It was stated in explanation that in old days an ancestor of his, named Teres, had been in this very country with a large army, several of whom he had lost at the hands of the native inhabitants, besides being robbed of his baggage train. The inhabitants of the country are Thynians, and they are reputed to be far the most warlike set of fighters--especially at night.

[2] I.e. "instead of letting them graze."

When they drew near, Seuthes bade Xenophon enter, and bring with him any two he might choose. As soon as they were inside, they first greeted one another warmly, and then, according to the Thracian custom, pledged themselves in bowls of wine. There was further present at the elbow of Seuthes, Medosades, who on all occasions acted as his ambassador-in-chief. Xenophon took the initiative and spoke as follows: "You have sent to me, Seuthes, once and again. On the first occasion you sent Medosades yonder, to Chalcedon, and you begged me to use my influence in favour of the army crossing over from Asia. You promised me, in return for this conduct on my part, various kindnesses; at least that is what Medosades stated"; and before proceeding further he turned to Medosades and asked, "Is not that so?" The other assented. "Again, on a second occasion, the same Medosades came when I had crossed over from Parium to rejoin the army; and he promised me that if I would bring you the army, you would in various respects treat me as a friend and brother. He said especially with regard to certain seaboard places of which you are the owner and lord, that you were minded to make me a present of them." At this point he again questioned Medosades, "Whether the words attributed to him were exact?" and Medosades once more fully assented. "Come now," proceeded Xenophon, "recount what answer I made you, and first at Chalcedon." "You answered that the army was, in any case, about to cross over to Byzantium; and as far as that went, there was no need to pay you or any one else anything; and for yourself, you added, that once across you were minded to leave the army, which thing came to pass even as you said." "Well! what did I say," he asked, "at your next visit, when 28 you came to me in Selybria?" "You said that the proposal was impossible; you were all going to Perinthus to cross into Asia." "Good," said Xenophon, "and in spite of it all, at the present moment, here I am myself, and Phryniscus, one of my colleagues, and Polycrates yonder, a captain; and outside, to represent the other generals (all except Neon the Laconian), the trustiest men they could find to send. So that if you wish to give these transactions the seal of still greater security, you have nothing to do but to summon them also; and do you, Polycrates, go and say from me, that I bid them leave their arms outside, and you can leave your own sword outside before you enter with them on your return."

When Seuthes had heard so far, he interposed: "I should never mistrust an Athenian, for we are relatives already[3], I know; and the best of friends, I believe, we shall be." After that, as soon as the right men entered, Xenophon first questioned Seuthes as to what use he intended to make of the army, and he replied as follows: "Maesades was my father; his sway extended over the Melanditae, the Thynians, and the Tranipsae. Then the affairs of the Odrysians took a bad turn, and my father was driven out of this country, and later on died himself of sickness, leaving me to be brought up as an orphan at the court of Medocus, the present king. But I, when I had grown to man's estate, could not endure to live with my eyes fixed on another's board. So I seated myself on the seat by him as a suppliant, and begged him to give me as many men as he could spare, that I might wreak what mischief I could on those who had driven us forth from our land; that thus I might cease to live in dependence upon another's board, like a dog watching his master's hand. In answer to my petition, he gave me 34 the men and the horses which you will see at break of day, and nowadays I live with these, pillaging my own ancestral land. But if you would join me, I think, with the help of heaven, we might easily recover my empire. That is what I want of you." "Well then," said Xenophon, "supposing we came, what should you be able to give us? the soldiers, the officers, and the generals? Tell us that these witnesses may report your answer." And he promised to give "to the common soldiers a cyzicene[4], to a captain twice as much, and to a general four times as much, with as much land as ever they liked, some yoke of oxen, and a fortified place upon the seaboard." "But now supposing," said Xenophon, "we fail of success, in spite of our endeavours; suppose any intimidation on the part of the Lacedaemonians should arise; will you receive into your country any of us who may seek to find a refuge with you?" He answered: "Nay, not only so, but I shall look upon you as my brothers, entitled to share my seat, and the joint possessors of all the wealth which we may be able to acquire. And to you yourself, O Xenophon! I will give my daughter, and if you have a daughter, I will buy her in Thracian fashion; and I will give you Bisanthe as a dwelling-place, which is the fairest of all my possessions on the seaboard[5]."

[3] Tradition said that the Thracians and Athenians were connected, through the marriage of a former prince Tereus (or Teres) with Procne, the daughter of Pandion. This old story, discredited by Thucydides, ii. 29, is referred to in Arist. "Birds," 368 foll. The Birds are about to charge the two Athenian intruders, when Epops, king of the Birds, formerly Tereus, king of Thrace, but long ago transformed into a hoopoe, intercedes in behalf of two men, { tes emes gunaikos onte suggene kai phuleta}, "who are of my lady's tribe and kin." As a matter of history, the Athenians had in the year B.C. 431 made alliance with Sitalces, king of the Odrysians (the son of Teres, the first founder of their empire), and made his son, Sadocus, an Athenian citizen. Cf. Thuc. ib.; Arist. Acharnians, 141 foll.

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