Xenophon, Cyropaedia (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Xen. Cyr.].
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7.5.6And when they had thus closed up, they retired backward as long as they were within range of the missiles from the wall; but when they were out of range, they would face about and go forward at first only a few steps and wheel to the left and stand facing the wall; and the further off they got, the less often did they thus wheel around; and when they seemed to be out of all danger, they marched off without stopping until they arrived at their tents.

7.5.7When they had encamped, Cyrus called together [Note] his staff-officers and said: “Friends and allies, we have viewed the city on every side. But I am sure I cannot see how any one could take by storm walls so massive and so high; but the more men there are in the city, the sooner they can, I think, be brought by famine to capitulate, seeing that they will not come out and fight. Therefore, unless you have some other method to suggest, I propose that we use this method of laying siege to those gentlemen.”

7.5.8“But,” said Chrysantas, “does not this river flow through the midst of the city? And it is more than two stadia in width.”

“Aye, by Zeus,” said Gobryas, “and its depth is such that two men, one standing on the other's shoulders, would not reach the surface of the water, so that the city is better defended by the river than by its walls.”

7.5.9“Chrysantas,” Cyrus answered, “let us not [Note] trouble ourselves with that which is beyond our powers; but we must apportion the work among ourselves as quickly as possible, to each contingent its proper share, and dig a ditch as wide and as deep as possible, so that we may require only as many men on guard as are absolutely indispensable.”

7.5.10Accordingly, he took measurements in a circle round about the city, leaving just enough room by the river for the erection of large towers, and began on either side of the city to dig an immense trench; and the earth from it they threw up on their own side of the ditch. 7.5.11First of all, he began to build towers by the river, laying his foundations with the trunks of date-palms not less than a hundred feet long—and they grow even taller than that. And they were good material for this purpose, for it is a well known fact that date-palms, when under heavy pressure, bend upward like the backs of pack-asses. 7.5.12These he used as “mud-sills,” in order that, even if the river should break into his trench above, it might not carry his towers away. And he erected many other towers besides upon the breast-works of earth, so that he might have as many watch-towers as possible.

7.5.13Thus, then, his men were employed, while the enemy upon the walls laughed his siege-works to scorn, in the belief that they had provisions enough for more than twenty years.

Upon hearing of this, Cyrus divided his army into twelve parts as if intending each part to be responsible for sentry duty during one month of each year; 7.5.14but the Babylonians, in their turn, when they heard of that, laughed much more scornfully still, at the thought of Phrygians and Lydians and Arabians and Cappadocians keeping guard against them, for they considered all these to be more friendly to them than to the Persians.

7.5.15At last the ditches were completed. Then, [Note] when he heard that a certain festival had come round in Babylon, during which all Babylon was accustomed to drink and revel all night long, Cyrus took a large number of men, just as soon as it was dark, and opened up the heads of the trenches at the river. 7.5.16As soon as that was done, the water flowed down through the ditches in the night, and the bed of the river, where it traversed the city, became passable for men.

7.5.17When the problem of the river was thus solved, Cyrus gave orders to his Persian colonels, infantry and cavalry, to marshal their regiments two abreast and come to him, and the rest, the allies, to follow in their rear, drawn up as before. 7.5.18They came, according to orders, and he bade his aides, both foot and horse, get into the dry channel of the river and see if it was possible to march in the bed of the river. 7.5.19And when they brought back word that it was, he called together the generals of both infantry and cavalry and spoke as follows:

7.5.20“My friends,” said he, “the river has made [Note]” way for us and given us an entrance into the city. Let us, therefore, enter in with dauntless hearts, fearing nothing and remembering that those against whom we are now to march are the same men that we have repeatedly defeated, and that, too, when they were all drawn up in battle line with their allies at their side, and when they were all wide awake and sober and fully armed; 7.5.21 whereas now we are going to fall upon them at a time when many of them are asleep, many drunk, and none of them in battle array. And when they find out that we are inside the walls, in their panic fright they will be much more helpless still than they are now.

Xenophon, Cyropaedia (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Xen. Cyr.].
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