Retreat of the Ten Thousand - F. Younghusband

From Tarsus to Myriandus

After twenty days' halt at Tarsus, the army again set out on its march, and in five days came to the last city in Cilicia. The next province through which they would have to pass was that of Syria, and here the entrance was even more carefully guarded than had been the approach to Cilicia.

Between the two provinces were two fortresses, called the Gates of Cilicia and Syria. They were at about six hundred yards apart, and stood one behind the other on each side of a little river which flowed from the mountains into the sea, and formed the boundary between the two provinces. The mountains at this place approached so close to the sea that the walls of the fortresses stretched the whole distance, and the only passage was through gates which opened to admit friends, but remained fast shut when enemies approached. The fortresses were quite impregnable, if defended, and it was said that Abrocamas had taken the field against Cyrus with 300,000 men, reinforced moreover by 400 Hellenes who were in the service of the Great King.

But Cyrus had long ago foreseen this difficulty as he had foreseen that of entering Cilicia, and had provided against it in the same way. He had desired the fleet to follow him from Tarsus, and had arranged that it should land two divisions of troops on the coast of Syria, one in the space between the river and the Syrian fortress, the other on the further side of it, so that the fortresses might be attacked on both sides at the same time.

As before however, it proved unnecessary to carry out the plan. For when Abrocamas heard that Cyrus had made his way through Cilicia, and found moreover that his Hellenes were leaving him to join their countrymen, be turned and fled, never stopping until the waters of the Euphrates were rolling behind him. The only harm that he did to Cyrus was to burn the ferryboats employed for crossing the Euphrates, after making use of them himself. The cowardly satrap remembered the saying that "discretion is the better part of valour," and following the example of the Cilician prince, he took care so to manage matters, that in the quarrel between the two brothers, he should have done something to help both sides. If the Great King should conquer, he could urge that he had burnt the boats and guarded the walls for a time. If, on the other hand, Cyrus should prevail, he could say that he had given way at his approach, and had yielded him free passage. He afterwards carried out this policy by bringing an army to the aid of the Great King five days after the decisive battle between the two brothers had been fought, with a plausible excuse for not having been able to arrive sooner.

A day's march along the Syrian coast brought the troops to Myriandus, a populous sea-port of Phenicia, where an active trade brought many merchant-vessels to anchor in the bay. Here the army rested for seven days, and during this time two of the Hellene officers, Xenias and Pasion by name, hired a ship, and sailed away home in it with the greater part of their possessions.

These were the two officers from whom 2,000 soldiers had deserted at Tarsus in order to take service under Clearchus. They had expected that Cyrus would compel the deserters to return to them, but knowing that they would serve much better under the general of their own choice, he had allowed them to remain with Clearchus. In consequence of this, the two officers were so much annoyed that they determined to abandon the expedition.

When their flight became known, the soldiers all expected that Cyrus would send some ships of war in pursuit of them, and that having been overtaken and brought back, they would be severely punished. But in this they were mistaken, for instead of acting in any such way, Cyrus called together the remaining Hellene officers, and addressed them in an altogether different strain.

"Xenias and Pasion," he said, "have deserted, but they are still in my power. I am fully informed as to the route they have taken, and my ships are swifter than theirs. But for all that, I will not pursue them. No one shall be able to say of me that I know how to make use of a man as long as he is with me, but that when he wishes to leave me, I lay hands upon him and seize his goods. Let them go. They will have to confess that they have treated me worse than I have treated them. I might detain their wives and children who have been left at home under my protection, but they shall not be deprived of them. This shall be their reward for the services they have rendered hitherto."

This proof of high-mindedness increased the respect of all the Hellenes for Cyrus.