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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 9. - 6/9 -
foreign auxiliaries, but the native Egyptians are armed with small ones, like daggers. The largest one of which we have any knowledge is in the possession of Herr E. Brugsch at Cairo. It is more than two feet long.]
The heavy-armed soldiers carried large shields, lances, and daggers; the swordsmen and those who fought with battle-axes had smaller shields and light clubs; beside these, there were slingers, but the main body of the army was composed of archers, whose bows unbent were nearly the height of a man. The only clothing of the horse-soldiers was the apron, and their weapon a light club in the form of a mace or battle-axe. Those warriors, on the contrary, who fought in chariots belonged to the highest rank of the military caste, spent large sums on the decoration of their two- wheeled chariots and the harness of their magnificent horses, and went to battle in their most costly ornaments. They were armed with bows and lances, and a charioteer stood beside each, so that their undivided attention could be bestowed upon the battle.
The Persian foot was not much more numerous than the Egyptian, but they had six times the number of horse-soldiers.
As soon as the armies stood face to face, Cambyses caused the great Pelusian plain to be cleared of trees and brushwood, and had the sand- hills removed which were to be found here and there, in order to give his cavalry and scythe-chariots a fair field of action. Phanes' knowledge of the country was of great use. He had drawn up a plan of action with great military skill, and succeeded in gaining not only Cambyses' approval, but that of the old general Megabyzus and the best tacticians among the Achaemenidae. His local knowledge was especially valuable on account of the marshes which intersected the Pelusian plain, and might, unless carefully avoided, have proved fatal to the Persian enterprise. At the close of the council of war Phanes begged to be heard once more: "Now, at length," he said, "I am at liberty to satisfy your curiosity in reference to the closed waggons full of animals, which I have had transported hither. They contain five thousand cats! Yes, you may laugh, but I tell you these creatures will be more serviceable to us than a hundred thousand of our best soldiers. Many of you are aware that the Egyptians have a superstition which leads them rather to die than kill a cat, I, myself, nearly paid for such a murder once with my life. Remembering this, I have been making a diligent search for cats during my late journey; in Cyprus, where there are splendid specimens, in Samos and in Crete. All I could get I ordered to be caught, and now propose that they be distributed among those troops who will be opposed to the native Egyptian soldiers. Every man must be told to fasten one firmly to his shield and hold it out as he advances towards the enemy. I will wager that there's not one real Egyptian, who would not rather fly from the battle-field than take aim at one of these sacred animals."
This speech was met by a loud burst of laughter; on being discussed, however, it was approved of, and ordered to be carried out at once. The ingenious Greek was honored by receiving the king's hand to kiss, his expenses were reimbursed by a magnificent present, and he was urged to take a daughter of some noble Persian family in marriage.
[Themistocles too, on coming to the Persian court, received a high- born Persian wife in marriage. Diod. XI. 57.]
The king concluded by inviting him to supper, but this the Athenian declined, on the plea that he must review the Ionian troops, with whom he was as yet but little acquainted, and withdrew.
At the door of his tent he found his slaves disputing with a ragged, dirty and unshaven old man, who insisted on speaking with their master. Fancying he must be a beggar, Phanes threw him a piece of gold; the old man did not even stoop to pick it up, but, holding the Athenian fast by his cloak, cried, "I am Aristomachus the Spartan!"
Cruelly as he was altered, Phanes recognized his old friend at once, ordered his feet to be washed and his head anointed, gave him wine and meat to revive his strength, took his rags off and laid a new chiton over his emaciated, but still sinewy, frame.
Aristomachus received all in silence; and when the food and wine had given him strength to speak, began the following answer to Phanes' eager questions.
On the murder of Phanes' son by Psamtik, he had declared his intention of leaving Egypt and inducing the troops under his command to do the same, unless his friend's little daughter were at once set free, and a satisfactory explanation given for the sudden disappearance of the boy. Psamtik promised to consider the matter. Two days later, as Aristomachus was going up the Nile by night to Memphis, he was seized by Egyptian soldiers, bound and thrown into the dark hold of a boat, which, after a voyage of many days and nights, cast anchor on a totally unknown shore. The prisoners were taken out of their dungeon and led across a desert under the burning sun, and past rocks of strange forms, until they reached a range of mountains with a colony of huts at its base. These huts were inhabited by human beings, who, with chains on their feet, were driven every morning into the shaft of a mine and there compelled to hew grains of gold out of the stony rock. Many of these miserable men had passed forty years in this place, but most died soon, overcome by the hard work and the fearful extremes of heat and cold to which they were exposed on entering and leaving the mine.
[Diodorus (III. 12.) describes the compulsory work in the gold mines with great minuteness. The convicts were either prisoners taken in war, or people whom despotism in its blind fury found it expedient to put out of the way. The mines lay in the plain of Koptos, not far from the Red Sea. Traces of them have been discovered in modern times. Interesting inscriptions of the time of Rameses the Great, (14 centuries B. C.) referring to the gold-mines, have been found, one at Radesich, the other at Kubnn, and have been published and deciphered in Europe.]
"My companions," continued Aristomachus, "were either condemned murderers to whom mercy had been granted, or men guilty of high treason whose tongues had been cut out, and others such as myself whom the king had reason to fear. Three months I worked among this set, submitting to the strokes of the overseer, fainting under the fearful heat, and stiffening under the cold dews of night. I felt as if picked out for death and only kept alive by the hope of vengeance. It happened, however, by the mercy of the gods, that at the feast of Pacht, our guards, as is the custom of the Egyptians, drank so freely as to fall into a deep sleep, during which I and a young Jew who had been deprived of his right hand for having used false weights in trade, managed to escape unperceived; Zeus Lacedaemonius and the great God whom this young man worshipped helped us in our need, and, though we often heard the voices of our pursuers, they never succeeded in capturing us. I had taken a bow from one of our guards; with this we obtained food, and when no game was to be found we lived on roots, fruits and birds' eggs. The sun and stars showed us our road. We knew that the gold-mines were not far from the Red Sea and lay to the south of Memphis. It was not long before we reached the coast; and then, pressing onwards in a northerly direction, we fell in with some friendly mariners, who took care of us until we were taken up by an Arabian boat. The young Jew understood the language spoken by the crew, and in their care we came to Eziongeber in the land of Edom. There we heard that Cambyses was coming with an immense army against Egypt, and travelled as far as Harma under the protection of an Amalekite caravan bringing water to the Persian army. From thence I went on to Pelusium in the company of some stragglers from the Asiatic army, who now and then allowed me a seat on their horses, and here I heard that you had accepted a high command in Cambyses' army. I have kept my vow, I have been true to my nation in Egypt; now it is your turn to help old Aristomachus in gaining the only thing he still cares for--revenge on his persecutors."
"And that you shall have!" cried Phanes, grasping the old man's hand. "You shall have the command of the heavy-armed Milesian troops, and liberty to commit what carnage you like among the ranks of our enemies. This, however, is only paying half the debt I owe you. Praised be the gods, who have put it in my power to make you happy by one single sentence. Know then, Aristomachus, that, only a few days after your disappearance, a ship arrived in the harbor of Naukratis from Sparta. It was guided by your own noble son and expressly sent by the Ephori in your honor--to bring the father of two Olympic victors back to his native land."
The old man's limbs trembled visibly at these words, his eyes filled with tears and he murmured a prayer. Then smiting his forehead, he cried in a voice trembling with feeling: "Now it is fulfilled! now it has become a fact! If I doubted the words of thy priestess, O Phoebus Apollo! pardon my sin! What was the promise of the oracle?
"If once the warrior hosts from the snow-topped mountains descending, Come to the fields of the stream watering richly the plain, Then shall the lingering boat to the beckoning meadows convey thee, Which to the wandering foot peace and a home can afford. When those warriors come, from the snow-topped mountains descending, Then will the powerful Five grant thee what long they refused."
"The promise of the god is fulfilled. Now I may return home, and I will; but first I raise my hands to Dice, the unchanging goddess of justice, and implore her not to deny me the pleasure of revenge."
"The day of vengeance will dawn to-morrow," said Phanes, joining in the old man's prayer. "Tomorrow I shall slaughter the victims for the dead-- for my son--and will take no rest until Cambyses has pierced the heart of Egypt with the arrows which I have cut for him. Come, my friend, let me take you to the king. One man like you can put a whole troop of Egyptians to flight."
It was night. The Persian soldiers, their position being unfortified, were in order of battle, ready to meet any unexpected attack. The foot- soldiers stood leaning on their shields, the horsemen held their horses saddled and bridled near the camp-fires. Cambyses was riding through the ranks, encouraging his troops by words and looks. Only one part of the army was not yet ranged in order of battle--the centre. It was composed of the Persian body-guard, the apple-bearers, Immortals, and the king's own relatives, who were always led into battle by the king in person.
The Ionian Greeks too had gone to rest, at Phanes' command. He wanted to keep his men fresh, and allowed them to sleep in their armor, while he kept watch. Aristomachus was welcomed with shouts of joy by the Greeks, and kindly by Cambyses, who assigned him, at the head of one half the Greek troops, a place to the left of the centre attack, while Phanes, with the other half, had his place at the right. The king himself was to take the lead at the head of the ten thousand Immortals, preceded by the blue, red and gold imperial banner and the standard of Kawe. Bartja was to lead the regiment of mounted guards numbering a thousand men, and that division of the cavalry which was entirely clothed in mail.
Croesus commanded a body of troops whose duty it was to guard the camp with its immense treasures, the wives of Cambyses' nobles, and his own mother and sister.
At last Mithras appeared and shed his light upon the earth; the spirits of the night retired to their dens, and the Magi stirred up the sacred fire which had been carried before the army the whole way from Babylon,
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