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Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of the
Tactics

by
Asclepiodotus

(Loeb Classical Library edition, 1928)

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 4

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Asclepiodotus
Tactics

p263 III. The Disposition of the Men
both in the entire Army and in its Subdivisions

With Asclep. iii.1‑3 cf. Ael. X1 The entire army as well as its units is disposed on the basis of a fourfold division, so that of the four half-wings the bravest holds the right of the right wing, the second and third in point of valour the left and right, respectively, of the left wing, and the fourth the left of the right wing. For with the units ordered in this manner the right wing will have the same strength as the left, since, as the geometricians say, the product of the first and the fourth will equal that of the second and third, if the four be proportionate.16

2 In the same way we shall arrange each half-wing or corps; since, indeed, a half of it is the division and a fourth the brigade; we shall station the bravest brigade on the right of the right-hand corps, the p265second and third in point of valour on the left and right of the left-hand corps, and the remaining brigade on the left of the right-hand corps; for thus the several corps will have a uniform strength.

3 The brigades also we shall order in the same manner, since a half of these is the regiment, and a fourth the battalion. We shall, then, assign the first and fourth battalion to the right-hand regiment, setting the first among its right-hand units, and we shall, further, assign the second and third battalion to the left-hand regiment, disposing them in the regiment on exactly the same principle.

With Asclep. iii.4 cf. Ael. X4 Each battalion also, since it has as its half the company and as its quarter the platoon, will be ordered in like manner, that its companies may have an equal strength. The same arrangement applies also to the platoon. For its half is the double-file, and its quarter the file.17

Asclep. iii.5 = Ael. XIII.1‑25 We shall not, however, arrange the file as above, but we shall place the strongest in the front rank and behind them the most intelligent, and of the former the file-leaders shall be those who excel in size, strength, and skill; because this line of file-leaders binds the phalanx together and is like the p267cutting edge of the sword, for which reason the companies, when covered on both flanks by file-leaders, are called double-edged (amphistomoi).

Asclep. iii.6 = Ael. XIII.3, 5; XI.36 The second line must also be not much inferior to the first, so that when a file-leader falls his comrade behind may move forward and hold the line together; and the file-closers, both those in the files and those attached to larger units, should be men who surpass the rest in presence of mind, the former to hold their own files straight, the latter to keep the battalions in file and rank with one another besides bringing back to position any who may leave their places through fear, and forcing them to close up in case they lock shields.18


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

16 There is some point to this arrangement, if one thinks of an arithmetical series, where, e.g., in the series 5, 7, 9, 11, 5 + 11 = 7 + 9; but the words clearly refer to a geometrical series 2, 4, 8, 16, or a proportion 2 : 4 :: 8 : 16, where 2 × 16 = 4 × 8, although it is difficult to see how one multiplies strength by merely adding together units.

[decorative delimiter]

17 Aelian, in the parallel account, follows our author, but arranges the divisions of the army on the basis of the strength of the commanders and not of the men. This is worse than the arrangement proposed by Asclepiodotus, for in practical operations we know of such a distribution of strength only in the largest divisions of the army. It remained for the philosophers to seize upon an arrangement applicable only to large masses and apply it down to the very lowest unit, the file, and, as in Aelian, even down to the individual officers!

[decorative delimiter]

18 The importance of the ranks of file-leaders and file-closers can scarcely be exaggerated; the former were the first to meet the enemy and in between them and the file-closers were included the less brave.


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Page updated: 28 Nov 12