Retreat of the Ten Thousand - F. Younghusband

The Defection of Ariaeus

But although Tissaphernes had promised to return very shortly, day after day went by, and still he did not come.

Meanwhile there was constant communication between the King's troops and those of Ariaeus, who had sworn to be the faithful friends and allies of the Hellenes, and who were encamped beside them among the Babylonian villages. The brothers and other relations of the general rode over to see him, and in like manner all the troops of Ariaeus, down to the humblest private soldier, received and returned the visits of their friends in the King's army, which was encamped at no great distance.

All this was for a purpose, and for the same purpose Tissaphernes continued to delay his coming. The King's party were anxious to sow dissension between the allies, in order that the Hellenes might be utterly without friends. To this end, promises of free pardon to all subjects of the Great King who would now return to their duty, were diligently circulated, and Tissaphernes was careful to put off his coming, so that the Persians of the King's army might have time to alienate Ariaeus and his men from their former friends.

The Hellenes could not but perceive that the tone of their allies was changing rapidly, and many of them warned Clearchus that there was something wrong. "Why do we remain here?" they asked him. "Do we not know that the King wishes above all things to destroy us? To him it would be unendurable that we should reach home in safety, and boast that we, a handful of Hellenes, have defeated the Great King in the very heart of his empire, and have then escaped out of his hands after defying him openly. He pretends just now to be inclined for peace, but he is only waiting until all his forces are assembled, and then he will put forth his whole power to crush us."

Clearchus saw the danger of their position, but it seemed to him that to go forward was even more perilous than to stay still. "If we fold up our tents and depart," he said, "the King may say that we have broken the treaty, and declared war against him. Who will then give us guides to lead us through this unknown land? What other rivers may lie before us, I know not, but in any case there is the broad Euphrates, which it would be impossible to cross if an enemy were to dispute our way. It seems to me moreover that if the King really meant to destroy us, he would hardly have thought it necessary to perjure himself by swearing to a treaty which he all the time intended to break."

At last, after a delay of twenty days, Tissaphernes arrived with his force, to escort the allied armies on their journey home. The double camp was broken up, and in five days they reached the Tigris, which was crossed by a bridge of boats.

Soon afterwards they came to some villages which belonged to Parysatis, the Queen-mother, and Tissaphernes, who was delighted to have the opportunity of doing her an injury, desired the Hellenes to plunder the villages. He had always envied and hated Cyrus, and because she had done everything in her power to help her younger son, he hated Parysatis also. It gave additional zest to his revenge that her villages should be plundered by the Hellenes for whom Cyrus had always shown such marked partiality. They found them well-stocked with food, and were able to take away a great number of sheep, and a quantity of barley.

It was one of the provisions of the treaty that the Hellenes should be supplied with food; this they were able to procure by buying it in the market established in the Barbarian camp. Nevertheless their distrust of Tissaphernes was constantly on the increase, and they always marched at a prudent distance behind the Barbarians, having separate guides of their own. At night the two camps were pitched at a distance of two or three miles apart.

The army of Ariaeus had by this time openly joined Tissaphernes, and now kept itself close to his force and away from the Hellenes, regardless of all the sacred oaths by which, after the battle of Cunaxa, the two armies had sworn to stand by one another and act as faithful friends and allies.

We cannot but condemn the treachery of Ariaeus, and yet we must remember, as some excuse for him, the difficult position in which he was placed. For, had he remained true to the Hellenes, they would have marched together as far as Ionia, and then the Hellenes would have gone away over the sea to their own country, leaving him alone to bear the full brunt of the King's fury.