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Frances Younghusband

Armenian Villages

At last, all who were still alive of the sick men were brought away from the spring, and before nightfall, the rear-guard reached the village which had been already occupied for two nights by the van. Near it were other villages, and the various companies drew lots for their respective quarters. Here they were able to rest in comfort after the privations of the last few days.

The dwellings in this part of the country were made in a fashion that was quite new to the Hellenes. Instead of being built upon the ground, they were dug out of it, and had, for entrance, an opening like the mouth of a well, which widened out below into a large room, inhabited by the owner and his whole family, together with his goats, his sheep, his cattle, and his fowls. There were two ways of reaching it, a ladder for the human beings, and a slope of earth for the animals. Such dwellings are still common in Armenia, among the poorer classes, and like the cellars in which we keep our wine, they are cooler in summer and warmer in winter than the air outside.

The houses in which the Hellenes took up their quarters were well stocked with food, and the hospitable villagers set before them maize and barley and other kinds of corn, as much as they desired. They had also a kind of barley beer, made with whole corns floating in it, which they drank through hollow reeds, so that the corns should not choke them. When they wished to drink a toast to the health of one of their guests, they filled a great bowl with wine, and bending over it, lapped it up, as an ox drinks out of a pail. Then it was the turn of the guest, and he was expected to answer the toast by drinking to his host in the same manner.

On the day after his arrival, Xenophon visited in turn all the villages, and found the soldiers everywhere feasting and enjoying themselves. The friendly villagers had made them most welcome, and when Xenophon arrived, they loaded the tables with flesh of lambs, kids, calves and swine, besides fowls, and bread both of maize and barley.

It happened that this was the season for sending the yearly tribute of horses required by the Great King from the province of Armenia, where the horses were smaller than those of Persia, but far more spirited. Finding in the villages a number of horses destined for this purpose, Xenophon did not hesitate to take one for his own use, and he advised the other officers to follow his example. The head-man of the village was a priest of the sun-god, and to him Xenophon gave the horse who had faithfully carried him through so many dangers, but who was now quite worn out and unable to go any farther, that be might be rested and well fed, and then offered as a sacrifice to the sun-god.

Xenophon was on very friendly terms with the head-man, and always invited him to dine with him at the same table. He had assured him that no harm would come to him, and that the Hellenes would pay for whatever they took, if he, for his part, would help them on their way, by acting as their guide till they came to the next country. The man agreed to this, and as further proof of friendship, showed the Hellenes the place where a great store of wine had been buried. The conversation between Xenophon and the head-man was carried on through an interpreter, but the soldiers had to make themselves understood as best they could by means of signs and gestures.

For eight days the Hellenes rested in the villages in order that they might thoroughly recover themselves before going farther. On the ninth day they again set out, and by the advice of the head-man, tied up their horses' hoofs in little bags of leather, so as to give them a larger surface to tread upon, and thus prevent them from sinking as deeply into the snow as before.

Cheirisophus as usual led the van, and with him went the head-man who was to act as guide. It was not thought necessary to bind him, as they had bound the Carduchian guide, for they had perfect confidence in him, and felt sure that he would not desert them. But after marching for three days without coming to any villages in which they could shelter, Cheirisophus reproached the guide, on the third evening, for bringing them by such a bad way. The man answered that in that part of the country there were no villages, but Cheirisophus did not believe him, and getting more and more angry, he ended by striking him. The next morning the guide was nowhere to be found.

In consequence of this misadventure, there arose a quarrel between the two generals, the first and last in the whole course of the march. Xenophon became very angry, and said that Cheirisophus had committed two unpardonable blunders, first in striking the poor man who was doing his best for them, and secondly in that after having ill-used him in this manner, he had not taken the precaution of putting him into chains in order to prevent his running away.

The Hellenes had to suffer for the imprudence of Cheirisophus, for now they were again without a guide. Nevertheless they made their way onwards as best they could, and on the eighth day came in sight of the mountain range which forms the northern boundary of Armenia.