Chapter 3: Rebirth
“Brothers, I brought you something to eat.” Said Hielos as he entered the small tent.
The quiet military tent suddenly became lively as the few people who were lying down stood up and, like a hungry wolf, grabbed the food from Hielos’ arms as quickly as they could.
“Hielos, I would have starved to death if you didn’t come back.” Matonis chewed the half-cooked horse meat, which he usually disdained, but now it was indescribable delicious in his mouth.
“I got it from Antonios. Menon asked them to form a special team and risk getting attacked by the Persians to drag back the dead horses from the battlefield.” Hielos sighed and looked at the man lying in the innermost part of the tent and asked with concern, “How is Davos? Has he woken up?”
“He woke up. But he was in a daze all this time, he seemed unable to recognise those who spoke with him, and he didn’t say a word. It seems he is currently asleep now.” Giorgris answered gloomily.
“I think he might have sat on Charon’s1 boat when he accidentally fell into Lethe2, now he has lost his memory.” Olivos said.
“Shut up!” Matonis reached out and pressed on Olivos’ head and pushed him away.
Hielos then forcefully separated the two men and screamed, “We’re all from the same town in Thessaly. In the land thousands of miles away from home and surrounded by enemies. If we don’t unite, I’m afraid we won’t be able to return.”
Silence suddenly fell in the tent.
Hielos felt the heavy atmosphere, so he comfortingly said, “I’ve seen several warriors who were hit in the head badly. At first, they are confused, but they’ll be normal after resting. Maybe by tomorrow morning, Davos will be able to greet us with a smile.”
“Davos is also a veteran warrior. How could he fall when pursuing!” Olivos had just irritatedly said a couple of words, and when he saw Matonis staring at him again, he immediately closed his mouth.
“Hielos, did Cyrus the Younger win or was he defeated?” The temporary silence made Giorgris unable to help but speak out the most concerned but fearful problem that all of them were facing.
Previously, only after returning to the battlefield from their pursuit of the fleeing enemies did they find out the Persian troops were still there, while Cyrus the Younger’s troops had disappeared. Because it was getting late, the two armies had no desire to continue fighting, so after they confronted for a while, the Persian troops retreated.
Only then did the Greek mercenaries discover that their camp had been looted. Due to their tiredness and hungriness, the soldiers naturally had no energy to think about and ask this very important question.
“Cyrus the Younger had led the cavalry. Whether they were victorious or got defeated, he could easily leave the battlefield and join us tomorrow to fight the Persian king once more.” Hielos lightly said.
“But the Persian king’s army was much larger than ours. So if Cyrus the Younger really got defeated, then there will be fewer troops to join us tomorrow.” Giorgris worriedly said.
“What are you afraid of? We have more than 10,000 hoplites! The Persians are as timid as rabbits! So no matter how many people dared to fight us, I still had not killed enough to be satisfied! Thus if there’s another battle tomorrow, it would just be right!” As soon as Matonis hear Giorgris, he encourages everyone in his own way.
“Even if Cyrus the Younger was defeated, we defeated their left-wing and killed many of them. Tomorrow, they will only have fewer soldiers than today!” Hielos is equally confident.
“These damn Persians destroying our camp, stole our food and stole a lot of my silver coins! Tomorrow we’re going to beat them and get our things back!” Matonis said angrily.
“That’s right!” Everyone hated the enemy, “We should not only take back our things but also take their things.”
“Oh!” Olivos thought of something and excitedly said, “I heard that they also captured the women of Cyrus the Younger with only one managing to escape. That’s the one I told you last time….a beautiful woman like Aphrodite. I heard that Clearchus took her into his camp! He will definitely have a fun time tonight!….” Olivos gulped and said in a sullen voice.
“Don’t talk nonsense!” Hielos warned him.
“Olivos. You must defeat the Persian king tomorrow and grab one of his women.”
“Oh, that is a great idea! Matonis, you really are smart once in a while.”
“Damn Olivos, do you want to get beaten again!”
While several people were talking and laughing, a hoarse voice came from the innermost part of the tent, “Don’t just think that Cyrus the Younger only got defeated! He has died!”
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tissaphernes arrived at the tent of the Persian king, and Masabates, the eunuch, was already waiting at the entrance, “The king is waiting for you. Quickly go in!”
When Tissaphernes gave his sword to the royal guard next to him, he found that the eunuch, whom the Persian King trusted the most, was somewhat melancholy and couldn’t help but think about, ‘Is his majesty hurt badly?’
Once he entered, a rich aroma of frankincense3 hit his nose, with a mixed scent of a few herbs.
Artaxerxes was lying on his side on the couch, dressed in a gorgeous scarlet gown with his bare chest wrapped in a white cloth that had faint blood seeping out. Beside him was a beautiful maid gently rubbing his shoulders and next stood the physician, Ctesias4.
Ctesias then immediately withdrew once he saw Tissaphernes enters.
Artaxerxes asked him to wait outside his tent, allowing him to summon him immediately in case of any change in his condition.
Once he saw the Greek physician withdraw from the tent, Tissaphernes half-knelt and bowed his head, then said, “Your highness, please punish me for losing the battle!”
Artaxerxes did not speak, making Tissaphernes begin to feel a little uneasy, so he knelt more motionlessly on the ground.
It took a long time till he heard Artaxerxes speak, “You were defeated, Tissaphernes. But at least you dared to fight. I heard that you led your cavalry around the Greek’s hoplite and attacked their rear, only to be defeated by their peltast5 and almost got hit by a Greek javelin.”
“Yes, your highness. You know everything!” Tissaphernes sighed in relief.
“You’re much braver than those who run away before they even fight! Get up!” Artaxerxes was somewhat dissatisfied with the Persian troop’s left-wing’s performance yesterday; he then increased his voice, “I’m not as lucky as you are. Cyrus’s spear struck me, but fortunately, my armour was strong enough and allowed me to have the opportunity to strike him down!”
Wasn’t the guard Mithridates6 the one to strike Cyrus the Younger with his spear? Tissaphernes was surprised, but he did not show it. Instead, he spoke with admiration and excitement.
“Your highness, everyone used to say that Cyrus was brave. Yesterday on the battlefield, when we were about to suffer defeat, your majesty, at great risk that a king should not take, bravely stepped forward and personally killed Cyrus the rebel! And made us win an incredible victory! Your highness, you deserve to be the king of kings! You were born brave!”
Masabadi and Ctesias also immediately expressed their admiration for the heroic performance of the Persian king.
Artaxerxes looked flushed and said with resentment, “Cyrus has always been victorious since we were children. But as a brother, I have always let him be. Even last time when he tried to assassinate me at the ceremony, I still forgave him for mother’s sake! However, I did not expect that he would regard my kindness as weakness and deception, and dared to start a rebellion!! For the sake of the empire’s stability, I have to execute him even if he is my brother!”
“The king’s benevolence is well known to all the empire’s people! Cyrus, who doesn’t know anything, is guilty of seducing outsiders and invading the empire’s land!..” Tissaphernes spoke with great enthusiasm.
Artaxerxes nodded and coughed a few times as he had spent a lot of energy talking, “My Satrap, you have exposed Cyrus’ conspiracy to me many times, and your governance of Asia Minor has always been excellent! When this rebellion is over, I will reward you well!”
“Your Majesty, as the satrap of Asia Minor, this is my duty!” Tissaphernes solemnly said.
Then a complex expression appeared on Tissaphernes as a large earthen pot was placed on the wooden table in front of his left hand, “This is Cyrus’ head and hands that Masabadi cut off. Take it to the Greek camp and let them surrender immediately!!”
Note: There were two parties that have left a record of the Battle of Cunaxa, one is Xenophon and the other is the Persian Physician Ctesias, and his record was quoted by Plutarch during the Roman Empire in his 《Biography of Artaxerxes》, in which the Greek’s Hoplite defeated the Persian’s right wing a lot harder than what Xenophon had written. I chose Xenophon’s account in the novel, although his description is exaggerated, it can explain some of the strange performance of the Persians after the war.
1. Charon is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead.
2. Lethe was one of the five rivers of the underworld of Hades.
3. Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes, obtained from Boswellia trees.
4. Ctesias was a Greek physician and historian.
5. Peltast was a type of light infantry, originating in Thrace and Paeonia, who often served as skirmishers in Hellenic and Hellenistic armies.
6. Mithridates was a young Persian soldier who accidentaly killed Cyrus the Younger and he later got executed for kill stealing.