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Frances Younghusband

Before the Battle

In a moment everything was in confusion. The King was said to be approaching with a vast army, prepared for battle, and it was thought that the battle would take place without delay. Cyrus leapt from his chariot, put on his armour, and "mounted his horse, giving orders that all should arm themselves in like manner, and take their appointed places.

The Hellene army under its various officers occupied the right wing; the Barbarian army, commanded by Ariaeus, took the left; Cyrus, with his body-guard of six hundred Persian cavalry, was in the centre. The body-guard were armed with breast-plate and helmet, carrying in the left hand a short Hellenic sword, and in the right hand two javelins; their horses were also protected by light armour on the head and breast. Cyrus was armed in like manner, but on his head he had placed, instead of a helmet, the upright tiara, worn only by the Great King.

It was still some time however before the enemy came in sight. Not till the afternoon was their approach announced by immense clouds of white dust, soon displaced by a blackness that overspread the horizon. Presently, as the host came nearer, the long, never-ending lines of spear-points began to flash in the sunlight, and by degrees the different groups could be distinguished, advancing nation by nation.

In front of all came a hundred and fifty scythe-chariots. These were two-wheeled cars with a number of sharp scythes projecting from the axle-trees on both sides. They were drawn by a pair of swift horses, and driven as fast as possible into the midst of the enemy's ranks, that they might cut to pieces everything that crossed their path.

Behind the scythe-chariots came the royal troops, drawn up in the order in which they were to fight. In the centre of the line was the Great King surrounded by a guard of six thousand picked horsemen, and close to him floated the standard of his forefathers, a golden eagle with outstretched wings upon a high perch.

It was easy enough to see how infinitely greater was the army of the King than that of his brother. Cyrus had twenty scythe-chariots, but the King had a hundred and fifty. The army of Cyrus numbered a hundred thousand, besides the Hellene force of thirteen thousand, but the King was said to have with him a million two hundred thousand soldiers. This may have been an exaggeration, but in any case the disproportion was so great that the whole line of Cyrus, although far less deep, extended little beyond the centre of the King's line.

As the enemy approached, Cyrus rode a little forward, and surveyed his own troops and those of his brother. The immense host marshalled against him caused him no alarm, for he felt sure that his Hellenes would be victorious, and setting spurs to his horse, he galloped down to the right wing, where they were posted, to tell them that the sacrificing priest had just declared the omens to be favourable.

As he approached, he heard a sort of murmur passing through the ranks. He asked what it meant, and was told that it was the war-cry being given for the second time from mouth to mouth. Before entering into an engagement, it was the custom for the general in command to give the war-cry, or watch-word for the day, to the first soldier in the foremost rank, who immediately passed it on to the man next him. It was thus passed from man to man through all the ranks, and then, for greater safety, it was returned in like manner from the last to the first.

"What is the watch-word?" asked Cyrus.

"Zeus the Saviour, and Victory," was the answer.

"It is a good omen," cried Cyrus; "may it be fulfilled!" And with these words he returned to his place in the centre of the line.