Retreat of the Ten Thousand - F. Younghusband

The Princess Epyaxa

The Hellenes had now been for some considerable time in the service of Cyrus, and hitherto he had not failed to pay them punctually every month. But the enormous expenses incurred in starting the expedition had for the moment completely drained his treasury, and now, two months after the departure from Sardis, he was still unable to give them any money, although their pay was by this time three months in arrear. It was a painful and embarrassing situation, and he felt it the more keenly because he had always been accustomed to give to those whom he employed more, rather than less, than he had promised them.

For a time the soldiers had been content to wait, for they had mostly some money of their own to fall back upon. But gradually their savings were becoming exhausted, and they were obliged to remind Cyrus of his debt. At first they did this modestly, but as time went on, they became more and more persistent, and now whole bands of them were constantly gathered round his tent, clamouring for their pay.

From this unpleasant position Cyrus was rescued by help that came to him from an unexpected quarter. Just at this time he received a visit from the Princess Epyaxa, wife of Prince Syennesis, who was the ruler of Cilicia, a province of the Persian empire included in the satrapy of Cyrus. The princess had made a long journey in order to meet Cyrus at this point, and she had not come empty-handed. The large sum of money that she brought with her could not have arrived at a more welcome moment, and it was sufficient to enable Cyrus to distribute four months' pay to the Hellene soldiers, and yet reserve a considerable sum for the next time of necessity.

Cyrus was now approaching the province of Cilicia, and for some days Epyaxa accompanied his march. One day she expressed a wish that he would draw up his whole army before her, so that she might see it at its full strength.

Accordingly, when they came to some open country suitable for the purpose, Cyrus proceeded to gratify her wish, and ordered the troops to be drawn up in battle array, that he might review them in the company of the princess. Side by side they passed along the ranks, the princess in a woman's chariot shaded by curtains that could be drawn close or opened wide at pleasure, Cyrus in a man's chariot.

[Illustration] from Retreat of the Ten Thousand by F. Younghusband


First they reviewed the Barbarian army with its endless ranks of cavalry and foot-soldiers. Then they came to the Hellene troops, who were stationed opposite. In point of numbers the Hellenes could not compare with the Barbarians, but their appearance was far more imposing, so noble and spirited was their bearing, so proud and firm their step. They were dressed in purple tunics, with brass greaves and helmets, and carried bright, polished shields that glittered in the sunshine. After having driven slowly past them, Cyrus sent word to beg that the hoplites would advance, as if they were in battle, and about to charge. In answer to his request, the trumpeters gave a signal, and on hearing it, the hoplites covered themselves with their great shields, and lowered their long, powerful spears as if they saw the enemy before them. Then the war cry was sounded forth, and the hoplites began to advance, marching faster and faster, until their pace was like a whirlwind, carrying everything before it. The Barbarians were seized with panic, for the charge had every appearance of being in earnest; the princess sprang from her chariot and ran away as fast as she was able; the merchants left their wares, and, like the rest, sought refuge in flight; and meanwhile the Hellenes returned, laughing, to their tents.

When the princess had recovered from her fright, she could not sufficiently praise the gallant bearing of the Hellene troops, and as for Cyrus, his heart bounded with joy at the thought of the impression they would make upon his enemies when they should confront them in the field of battle.

Soon after this, the army reached the country of the Lycaonians, who were no less notorious than the Pisidians for their constant raids upon the territory of their neighbours. Cyrus desired the Hellenes to plunder their country, and thus gained a double advantage. On the one hand he was able to punish the robbers, and on the other, he could in this way provide some spoil for his Hellene troops,—an arrangement with which they were entirely satisfied.

[Illustration] from Retreat of the Ten Thousand by F. Younghusband


The army was now within a few days march of Cilicia, and the princess returned to her home by a short route, under the escort of a company of Hellene soldiers, while the main part of the army followed by a longer but easier way.

Cyrus was prepared to find Prince Syennesis less disposed than his wife to receive him with open arms. As a subject of Artaxerxes the Great King, it would be his duty to prevent Cyrus the rebel from advancing through his country. This he could easily do, for the entrance to Cilicia was by a road so steep and narrow that a very small number of men could hold it against an army of invaders.

But the difficulty had been foreseen, and before leaving Sardis, Cyrus had fitted out a fleet which had followed him round the coast of Asia Minor, and was now in readiness to land soldiers on the further side of the mountains, so that they might fall upon the enemy in the rear.

It happened however that the presence of the fleet was sufficient, and that it was not necessary to land the soldiers. The prince had indeed taken possession of the heights commanding the road by which Cyrus must enter, but when he found that not only were the mountains behind him occupied by the Hellene soldiers who had accompanied his wife to her home, but that moreover the troops who were preparing to disembark from the fleet would also be in his rear, he abandoned all idea of defending it. And thus Cyrus was able to pass over the mountains unhindered, and enter the city of Tarsus without further difficulty.

Cyrus now invited the prince to visit him as a friend. But Syennesis answered, "I have never put myself into the power of one who was more powerful than myself, and I will not do so now."

The princess however persuaded him to trust to the honour of Cyrus, and he finally accepted the invitation. Like his wife, he took with him a considerable sum of money to assist the rebel, and in return, Cyrus presented him with the usual gifts offered by the Persians to persons of distinction, —a horse with a golden bridle, a sword with a golden sheath, a ring, armlets, and a robe of honour. So little could the Great King rely upon the loyalty of his subjects!

In deciding to make his peace with Cyrus, the Cilician prince had probably considered what would be the course best calculated to forward his own interests. By occupying the mountains for a few days, he had made a display of loyalty to the Great King; and having done this, he was anxious on the other hand to secure the favour of Cyrus also, in case he should be the conqueror.