Locked Down in Lancashire, Day 70:
After more than two months in lockdown, we went on our first genuine day out…
…to the sea.
A vast sheet of water, the commencement of a lake or an ocean, spread far away beyond the range of the eye, reminding me forcibly of that open sea which drew from Xenophon’s ten thousand Greeks, after their long retreat, the simultaneous cry, “Thalatta! thalatta!” the sea! the sea!
Lockdown is over.
Virtual Escape: θάλαττα θάλαττα – The Sea! The Sea!
καὶ ἀφικνοῦνται ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος τῇ πέμπτῃ ἡμέρᾳ: ὄνομα δὲ τῷ ὄρει ἦν Θήχης. ἐπεὶ δὲ οἱ πρῶτοι ἐγένοντο ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους καὶ κατεῖδον τὴν θάλατταν, κραυγὴ πολλὴ ἐγένετο.
On the fifth day they did in fact reach the mountain; its name was Theches. Now as soon as the vanguard got to the top of the mountain, a great shout went up.
ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ξενοφῶν καὶ οἱ ὀπισθοφύλακες ᾠήθησαν ἔμπροσθεν ἄλλους ἐπιτίθεσθαι πολεμίους: εἵποντο γὰρ ὄπισθεν ἐκ τῆς καιομένης χώρας, καὶ αὐτῶν οἱ ὀπισθοφύλακες ἀπέκτεινάν τέ τινας καὶ ἐζώγρησαν ἐνέδραν ποιησάμενοι, καὶ γέρρα ἔλαβον δασειῶν βοῶν ὠμοβόεια ἀμφὶ τὰ εἴκοσιν.
And when Xenophon and the rearguard heard it, they imagined that other enemies were attacking in front; for enemies were following behind them from the district that was in flames, and the rearguard had killed some of them and captured others by setting an ambush, and had also taken about twenty wicker shields covered with raw, shaggy ox-hides.
ἐπειδὴ δὲ βοὴ πλείων τε ἐγίγνετο καὶ ἐγγύτερον καὶ οἱ ἀεὶ ἐπιόντες ἔθεον δρόμῳ ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀεὶ βοῶντας καὶ πολλῷ μείζων ἐγίγνετο ἡ βοὴ ὅσῳ δὴ πλείους ἐγίγνοντο, ἐδόκει δὴ μεῖζόν τι εἶναι τῷ Ξενοφῶντι, καὶ ἀναβὰς ἐφ᾽ ἵππον καὶ Λύκιον καὶ τοὺς ἱππέας ἀναλαβὼν παρεβοήθει: καὶ τάχα δὴ ἀκούουσι βοώντων τῶν στρατιωτῶν θάλαττα θάλαττα καὶ παρεγγυώντων. ἔνθα δὴ ἔθεον πάντες καὶ οἱ ὀπισθοφύλακες, καὶ τὰ ὑποζύγια ἠλαύνετο καὶ οἱ ἵπποι.
But as the shout kept getting louder and nearer, as the successive ranks that came up all began to run at full speed toward the ranks ahead that were one after another joining in the shout, and as the shout kept growing far louder as the number of men grew steadily greater, it became quite clear to Xenophon that here was something of unusual importance; so he mounted a horse, took with him Lycius and the cavalry, and pushed ahead to lend aid; and in a moment they heard the soldiers shouting, “The Sea! The Sea!” and passing the word along. Then all the troops of the rearguard likewise broke into a run, and the pack animals began racing ahead and the horses.
ἐπεὶ δὲ ἀφίκοντο πάντες ἐπὶ τὸ ἄκρον, ἐνταῦθα δὴ περιέβαλλον ἀλλήλους καὶ στρατηγοὺς καὶ λοχαγοὺς δακρύοντες. καὶ ἐξαπίνης ὅτου δὴ παρεγγυήσαντος οἱ στρατιῶται φέρουσι λίθους καὶ ποιοῦσι κολωνὸν μέγαν.
And when all had reached the summit, then indeed they fell to embracing one another, and generals and captains as well, with tears in their eyes. And on a sudden, at the bidding of some one or other, the soldiers began to bring stones and to build a great cairn.
There are a few moments in history and, following on from there, in literature, that leave you with an unforgettable image. For example:
- Coming across the feet of Ramesses II in the desert
- Vasco Nuñez de Balboa first setting eyes on the Pacific
- Diego Ordaz first setting eyes on Tenochtitlán from the summit of the volcano Popocatepetl
- Ten thousand desperate Greek mercenaries finally reaching the sea, their salvation…
Xenophon and ten thousand Greek mercenaries were hired by Cyrus the Younger to help him to seize the throne of Persia from his brother, Artaxerxes II. After Cyrus was killed in battle, the ten thousand mercenaries found themselves superfluous to requirement but deep inside enemy territory: in the heart of Mesopotamia. Their journey – across deserts and snowy mountain passes, pursued by the army of Artaxerxes II and hindered by the locals whose lands they were running over – to the Black Sea, where the nearest Greek colonies were, is a story of endurance, told by Xenophon in Anabasis, the ‘March Up-Country’.
P.S.: Reaching the sea was actually not the end of the journey of the Greek mercenaries – just as seeing the sea today is not the end of our restrictions.
Nevertheless, a great moment!
Recommended Reading: ♥ Xenophon: Anabasis (The March Up-Country aka The Persian Expedition or The March of the Ten Thousand) ♥ And in the original: Κύρου Ανάβασις :) ♥ Jules Verne: The Journey to the Centre of the Earth ♥ Percy Bysshe Shelley: Ozymandias ♥ John Keats: On First Looking into Chapman's Homer ♥ Bernal Díaz del Castillo: The Conquest of New Spain ♥ Stefan Zweig: Flight into Immortality