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Book II
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Book IV

Sextus Julius Frontinus:
Stratagems

p205 Book III

If the preceding books have corresponded to their titles, and I have held the attention of the reader up to this point, I will now treat of ruses that deal with the siege and defence of towns. Waiving any preface, I will first submit those which are useful in the siege of cities, then those which offer suggestions to the besieged. Laying aside also all considerations of works and engines of war, the invention of which has long since reached its limit,1 and for the improvement of which I see no further hope in the applied arts, I shall recognize the following types of stratagems connected with siege operations:

I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI.

VII.

VIII.

IX.

X.

XI.

p207 On the other hand, stratagems connected with the protection of the besieged:

XII.

XIII.

XIV.

XV.

XVI.

XVII.

XVIII.

I. On Surprise Attacks

1 The consul Titus Quinctius, having conquered the Aequians and Volscians in an engagement, decided to storm the walled town of Antium. Accordingly he called an assembly of the soldiers and explained how necessary this project was and how easy, if only it were not postponed. Then, having roused enthusiasm by his address, he assaulted the town.2

2 Marcus Cato, when in Spain, saw that he could gain possession of a certain town, if only he could assault the enemy by surprise. Accordingly, having in two days accomplished a four days' march through rough and barren districts, he crushed his foes, who were fearing no such event. Then, when his men asked the reason of so easy a success, he told them that they had won the victory as soon as they had accomplished the four days' march in two.3

p209 II. On Deceiving the Besieged

1 When Domitius Calvinus was besieging Lueria, a town of the Ligurians, protected not only by its location and siege-works, but also by the superiority of its defenders, he instituted the practice of marching frequently round the walls with all his forces, and then marching back to camp. When the townspeople had been induced by this routine to believe that the Roman commander did this for the purpose of drill, and consequently took no precautions against his efforts, he transformed this practice of parading into a sudden attack, and gaining possession of the walls, forced the inhabitants to surrender.

2 The consul Gaius Duellius, by frequently exercising his soldiers and sailors, succeeded in preventing the Carthaginians from taking notice of a practice which was innocent enough, until suddenly he brought up his fleet and seized their fortifications.4

3 Hannibal captured many cities in Italy by sending ahead certain of his own men, dressed in the garb of Romans and speaking Latin, which they had acquired as a result of long experience in the war.5

4 The Arcadians, when besieging a stronghold of the Messenians, fabricated certain weapons to resemble those of the enemy. Then, at the time when they learned that another force was to relieve the first, they dressed themselves in the uniform of those who were expected, and being admitted as comrades in consequence of this confusion, they secured possession of the place and wrought havoc among the foe.

5 Cimon, the Athenian general, having designs on a certain city in Caria, under cover of night set fire to a temple of Diana, held in high reverence by the inhabitants, p211and also to a grove outside the walls. Then, when the townspeople poured out to fight the conflagration, Cimon captured the city, since it was left without defenders.6

6 Alcibiades, the Athenian commander, while besieging the strongly fortified city of the Agrigentines, requested a conference of the citizens, and, as though discussing matters of common concern, addressed them at length in the theatre, where according to the custom of the Greeks it was usual to afford a place for consultation. Then, while he held the crowd on the pretence of deliberation, the Athenians, whom he had previously prepared for this move, captured the city, thus left unguarded.7

7 When Epaminondas, the Theban, was campaigning in Arcadia, and on a certain holiday the women of the enemy strolled in large numbers outside the walls, he sent among them a number of his own troops dressed in women's attire. In consequence of this disguise, the men were admitted towards nightfall to the town, whereupon they seized it and threw it open to their companions.8

8 Aristippus, the Spartan, on a holiday of the Tegeans, when the whole population had gone out of the city to celebrate the rites of Minerva, sent to Tegea a number of mules laden with grain-bags filled with chaff. The mules were driven by soldiers disguised as traders, who, escaping notice, threw open the gates of the town to their comrades.

9 When Antiochus was besieging the fortified town of Suenda in Cappadocia, he intercepted some beasts of burden which had gone out to procure grain. Then, killing their attendants, he dressed his own soldiers in their clothes and sent them in as though bringing p213back the grain. The sentinels fell into the trap and, mistaking the soldiers for teamsters, let the troops of Antiochus enter the fortifications.

10 When the Thebans were unable by the utmost exertions to gain possession of the harbour of the Sicyonians, they filled a large vessel with armed men, exhibiting a cargo in full view on deck, in order, under the guise of traders, to deceive their enemies. Then at a point of the fortifications remote from the sea they stationed a few men, with whom certain unarmed members of the crew upon disembarking were to engage in a fracas, on the pretence of a quarrel. When the Sicyonians were summoned to stop the altercation, the Theban crews seized both the unguarded harbour and the town.9

11 Timarchus, the Aetolian, having killed Charmades, general of King Ptolemy,10 arrayed himself in Macedonian fashion in the cloak and casque of the slain commander. Through this disguise he was admitted as Charmades into the harbour of the Sanii and secured possession of it.

III. On Inducing Treachery

1 When the consul Papirius Cursor was before Tarentum, and Milo was holding the town with a force of Epirotes, Papirius promised safety to Milo and the townspeople if he should secure possession of the town through Milo's agency. Bribed by these inducements, Milo persuaded the Tarentines to send him as ambassador to the consul, from whom, in conformity with their understanding, he brought back liberal promises by means of which he caused p215the citizens to relapse into a feeling of security, and was thus enabled to hand the city over to Cursor, since it was left unguarded.11

2 Marcus Marcellus, having tempted a certain Sosistratus of Syracuse to turn traitor, learned from him that the guards would be less strict on a holiday when a certain citizen named Epicydes was to make a generous distribution of wine and food. So, taking advantage of the gaiety and the consequent laxness of discipline, he scaled the walls, slew the sentinels, and threw open to the Roman army a city already made famous as the scene of noted victories.12

3 When Tarquinius Superbus was unable to induce Gabii to surrender, he scourged his son Sextus with rods and sent him among the enemy, where he arraigned the cruelty of his father and persuaded the Gabians to utilize his hatred against the king. Accordingly he was chosen leader in the war, and delivered Gabii over to his father.13

4 Cyrus, king of the Persians, having proved the loyalty of his attendant Zopyrus, deliberately mutilated his face and sent him among the enemy. In consequence of their belief in his wrongs, he was regarded as implacably hostile to Cyrus, and promoted this belief by running up and discharging his weapons against Cyrus, whenever an engagement took place, till finally the city of the Babylonians was entrusted to him and by him delivered into the hands of Cyrus.14

5 Philip, when prevented from gaining possession of the town of the Sanians, bribed one of their generals, Apollonides, to turn traitor, inducing him to plant a cart laden with dressed stone at the p217very entrance to the gate. Then straightway giving the signal, he followed after the townspeople, who were huddled in panic around the blocked entrance of the gate, and succeeded in overwhelming them.15

6 When Hannibal was before Tarentum, and this town was held by a Roman garrison under the command of Livius, he induced a certain Cononeus of Tarentum to turn traitor, and concerted with him a stratagem whereby he was to go out at night for the purpose of hunting, on the ground that enemy rendered this impossible by day. When he went forth, Hannibal supplied him with boars to present to Livius as trophies of the chase. When this had repeatedly been done, and for that reason was less noticed, Hannibal one night dressed a number of Carthaginians in the garb of hunters and introduced them among Cononeus's attendants. When these men, loaded with the game they were carrying, were admitted by the guards, they straightway attacked and slew the latter. Then breaking down the gate, they admitted Hannibal with his troops, who slew all the Romans, save those who had fled for refuge to the citadel.16

7 When Lysimachus, king of the Macedonians, was besieging the Ephesians, these were assisted by the pirate chief Mandro, who was in the habit of bringing into Ephesus galleys laden with booty. Accordingly Lysimachus bribed Mandro to turn traitor, and attached to him a number of dauntless Macedonians to be taken into the city as captives, with hands pinioned behind their backs. These men subsequently snatched weapons from the citadel and delivered the town into the hands of Lysimachus.17

p219 IV. By What Means the Enemy may be Reduced to Want.

1 Fabius Maximus, having laid waste the lands of the Campanians, in order that they might have nothing left to warrant the confidence that a siege could be sustained, withdrew at the time of the sowing, that inhabitants might plant what seed they had remaining. Then, returning, he destroyed the new crop and thus made himself master of the Campanians, whom he had reduced to famine.18

2 Antigonus employed the same device against the Athenians.19

3 Dionysius, having captured many cities and wishing to attack the Rhegians, who were well provided with supplies, pretended to desire peace, and begged of them to furnish provisions for his army. When he had secured his request and had consumed the grain of the inhabitants, he attacked their town, now stripped of food, and conquered it.20

4 He is said to have employed the same device also against the people of Himera.21

5 When Alexander22 was about to besiege Leucadia, a town well-supplied with provisions, he first captured the fortresses on the border and allowed all the people from these to flee for refuge to Leucadia, in order that the food-supplies might be consumed with greater rapidity when shared by many.

6 Phalaris of Agrigentum, when besieging certain places in Sicily protected by fortifications, pretended to make a treaty and deposited with the Sicilians all the wheat which he said he had remaining, taking pains, however, that the chambers of the buildings in which the grain was stored should have p221leaky roofs. Then when the Sicilians, relying on the wheat which Phalaris had deposited with them, had used up their own supplies, Phalaris attacked them at the beginning of summer and as a result of their lack of provisions forced them to surrender.23

V. How to Persuade the Enemy that the Siege will be Maintained

1 When Clearchus, the Spartan, had learned that the Thracians had conveyed to the mountains all things necessary for their subsistence and were buoyed up by the sole hope that he would withdraw in consequence of lack of supplies, at the time when he surmised their envoys would come, he ordered one of the prisoners to be put to death in full view and his body to be distributed in pieces among the tents, as though for the mess. The Thracians, believing that Clearchus would stick at nothing in order to hold out, since he brought himself to try such loathsome food, delivered themselves up.24

2 When the Lusitanians told Tiberius Gracchus that they had supplies for ten years and for that reason stood in no fear of a siege, he answered: "Then I'll capture you in the eleventh year." Terror-stricken by this language, the Lusitanians, though well supplied with provisions, at once surrendered.25

3 When Aulus Torquatus was besieging a Greek city and was told that the young men of the city were engaged in earnest practice with the javelin and bow, he replied: "Then the price at which I shall presently sell them shall be higher."

p223 VI. On Distracting the Attention of a Hostile Garrison

1 When Hannibal had returned to Africa, many towns were still held by strong forces of the Carthaginians. Scipio's policy demanded that these towns should be reduced. Accordingly he often sent troops to assault them. Finally he would appear before the towns as though bent on sacking them, and would then retire, feigning fear. Hannibal, thinking his alarm real, withdrew the garrison from all points, and began to follow, as though determined to fight a decisive battle. Scipio, having thus accomplished what he intended, with the assistance of Masinissa and the Numidians, captured the towns, which had thus been stripped of their defenders.26

2 Publius Cornelius Scipio, appreciating the difficulty of capturing Delminus, because it was defended by the concerted efforts of the population of the district, began to assault other towns. Then, when the inhabitants of the various towns had been called back to defend their homes, Scipio took Delminus, which had been left without support.27

3 Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, in his war against the Illyrians, aimed to reduce their capital, but despairing of this, began to attack the other towns, and succeeded in making the enemy disperse to protect their other cities, since they had confidence in the apparently adequate fortification of the capital. When he had accomplished this, he recalled his own forces and captured the town, now left without defenders.28

4 The consul Cornelius Rufinus for some time besieged p225the city of Crotona, without success, since it had been made impregnable by the arrival of a band of Lucanian reinforcements. He therefore pretended to desist from his undertaking, and by offers of great rewards induced a certain prisoner to go to Crotona. This emissary, by feigning to have escaped from custody, persuaded the inhabitants to believe his report that the Romans had withdrawn. The people of Crotona, thinking this to be true, dismissed their allies. Then, weakened by being stripped of their defenders, they were surprised and captured.29

5 Mago, general of the Carthaginians, having defeated Gnaeus Piso and having blockaded the tower wherein he had taken refuge, suspecting that reinforcements would come to his relief, sent a deserter to persuade the approaching troops that Piso was already captured. Having thus scared them off, Mago made his victory complete.30

6 Alcibiades, wishing to capture the city of Syracuse in Sicily, chose from among the people of Catana, where he was encamped, a certain man of tested shrewdness and sent him to the Syracusans. This man, when brought before the public assembly of the Syracusans, persuaded them that the people of Catana were very hostile to the Athenians, and that, if assisted by the Syracusans, they would crush the Athenians and Alcibiades along with them. Induced by these representations, the Syracusans left their own city and set out in full force to join the people of Catana, whereupon Alcibiades attacked Syracuse from the rear, and finding it unprotected, as he had hoped, brought it under subjection.31

7 When the people of Troezen were held in subjection p227by troops under the command of Craterus, the Athenian Cleonymus made an assault on the town and hurled within its walls missiles inscribed with messages stating that Cleonymus had come to liberate their state. At the same time certain prisoners whom he had won over to his side were sent back to disparage Craterus. By this plan he stirred up internal strife among the besieged and, bringing up his troops, gained possession of the city.32

VII. On Diverting Streams and Contaminating Waters

1 Publius Servilius diverted the stream from which the inhabitants of Isaura drew their water, and thus forced them to surrender in consequence of thirst.33

2 Gaius Caesar, in one of his Gallic campaigns, deprived the city of the Cadurcia of water, although it was surrounded by a river and abounded in springs; for he diverted the springs by subterranean channels, while his archers shut off all access to the river.34

3 Lucius Metellus, when fighting in Hither Spain, diverted the course of a river and directed it from a higher level against the camp of the enemy, which was located on low ground. Then, when the enemy were in a panic from the sudden flood, he had them slain by men whom he had stationed in ambush for this very purpose.35

4 At Babylon, which is divided into two parts by the river Euphrates, Alexander constructed both a ditch and an embankment, the enemy supposing that the earth was being taken out merely to form the embankment. Alexander, accordingly, suddenly p229diverting the stream, entered the town along the former river bed, which had dried up and thus afforded an entrance to the town.36

5 Semiramis is said to have done the same thing in the war against the Babylonians, by diverting the same Euphrates.

6 Clisthenes of Sicyon cut the water-pipes leading into the town of the Crisaeans. Then when the townspeople were suffering from thirst, he turned on the water again, now poisoned with hellebore. When the inhabitants used this, they were so weakened by diarrhoea that Clisthenes overcame them.37

VIII. On Terrorizing the Besieged

1 When Philip was unable by the utmost exertions to capture the fortress of Prinassus, he made excavations of earth directly in front of the walls and pretended to be constructing a tunnel. The men within the fortress, imagining that they were being undermined, surrendered.38

2 Pelopidas, the Theban, on one occasion planned to make a simultaneous attack on two towns of the Magnetes, not very far distant from each other. As he advanced against one of these towns, he gave orders that, in accordance with preconcerted arrangements, four horsemen should come from the other camp with garlands on their heads and with the marked eagerness of those who announce a victory. To complete the illusion, he arranged to have a forest between the two cities set on fire, to give the appearance of a burning town. Besides this, he ordered certain prisoners to be led along, dressed in p231the costume of the townspeople. When the besieged had been terrified by these demonstrations, deeming themselves already defeated in one quarter, they ceased to offer resistance.39

3 Cyrus, king of the Persians, at one time forced Croesus to take refuge in Sardis. On one side a steep hill prevented access to the town. Here near the walls Cyrus erected masts equal to the height of the ridge of the hill, and on them placed dummies of armed men dressed in Persian uniforms. At night he brought these to the hill. Then at dawn he attacked the walls from the other side. As soon as the sun rose and the dummies, flashing in the sunlight, revealed the garb of warriors, the townspeople, imagining that their city had been captured from the rear, scattered in flight and left the field to the enemy.40

IX. On Attacks from an Unexpected Quarter

1 Scipio, when fighting before Carthage, approached the walls of the city, just before the turn of the tide, guided, as he said, by some god. Then, when the tide went out in the shallow lagoon, he burst in at that point, the enemy not expecting him there.41

2 Fabius Maximus, son of Fabius Cunctator, finding Arpi occupied by Hannibal's forces, first inspected the site of the town, and then sent six hundred soldiers on a dark night to mount the walls with scaling-ladders at a part of the town which was fortified and therefore less guarded, and to tear down the gates. These men were aided in the execution of their orders by the noise of the falling rain, which deadened the sound of their operations. p233In another quarter, Fabius himself made an attack at a given signal and captured Arpi.42

3 In the Jugurthine War Gaius Marius was at one time besieging a fortress situated near the Mulucha river. It stood on a rocky eminence, accessible on one side by a single narrow path, while the other side, as though by special design, was precipitous. It happened that a certain Ligurian, a common soldier from among the auxiliaries, had gone out to procure water, and, while gathering snails among the rocks of the mountain, had reached the summit. This man reported to Marius that it was possible to clamber up to the stronghold. Marius accordingly sent a few centurions in company with his fleetest soldiers, including also the most skilful trumpeters. These men went bare-headed and bare-footed, that they might see better and make their way more easily over the rocks; their shields and swords were fastened to their backs. Guided by the Ligurian, and aided by straps and staffs, with which they support themselves, they made their way up to the rear of the fortress, which, owing to its position, was without defenders, and then began to sound their trumpets and make a great uproar, as they had previously been directed. At this signal, Marius, steadfastly urging on his men, began to advance with renewed fury against the defenders of the fortress. The latter were recalled from the defence by the populace, who had lost heart under the impression that the town had been captured from the rear, so that Marius was enabled to press on and capture the fort.43

4 The consul Lucius Cornelius Rufinus captured numerous towns in Sardinia by landing powerful p235detachments of troops at night, with instructions to remain in hiding and to wait till he himself drew near to land with his ships. Then as the enemy came to meet him at his approach, he led them a long chase by pretending to flee, while his other troops attacked the cities thus abandoned by their inhabitants.44

5 Pericles, the Athenian general, was once besieging a city which was protected by very determined defenders. At night he ordered the trumpet to be sounded and a loud outcry to be raised at a quarter of the walls adjacent to the sea. The enemy, thinking that the town had been entered at that point, abandoned the gates, whereupon, as soon as these were left without defence, Pericles burst into the town.

6 Alcibiades, the Athenian general, planning to assault Cyzicus, approached the town unexpectedly at night, and commanded his trumpeters to sound their instruments at a different part of the fortifications. The defenders of the walls were ample, but since they all flocked to the side where alone they imagined themselves to be attacked, Alcibiades succeeded in scaling the walls at the point where there was no resistance.45

7 Thrasybulus, general of the Milesians, in his efforts to seize the harbour of the Sicyonians, made repeated attacks upon the inhabitants from the land side. Then, when the enemy directed their attention to the point where they were attacked, he suddenly seized the harbour with his fleet.46

8 Philip, while besieging a certain coast town, secretly lashed ships together in pairs, with a common deck over all, and erected towers on them. Then launching an attack with other towers by land, p237he distracted the attention of the defenders of the city, till he brought up by sea the ships provided with towers, and advanced against the walls at the point where no resistance was offered.

9 Pericles, when about to lay siege to a fortress of the Peloponnesians to which there were only two avenues of approach, cut off one of these by a trench and began to fortify the other. The defenders of the fortress, thrown off their guard at one point, began to watch only the other where they saw the building going on. But Pericles, having prepared bridges, laid them across the trench and entered the fortress at the point where no guard was kept.47

10 Antiochus, when fighting against the Ephesians, directed the Rhodians, whom he had as allies, to make an attack on the harbour at night with a great uproar. When the entire population rushed headlong to this quarter, leaving the rest of the fortress without defenders, Antiochus attacked at a different quarter and captured the town.

X. On Setting Traps to Draw out the Besieged

1 When Cato was besieging the Lacetani, he sent away in full view of the enemy all his other troops, while ordering certain Suessetani, who were the least martial of his allies, to attack the walls of the town. When the Lacetani, making a sortie, easily repulsed these forces and pursued them eagerly as they fled, the soldiers whom Cato had placed in hiding rose up and by their help he captured the town.48

2 When campaigning in Sardinia, Lucius Scipio, in order to draw out the defenders of a certain city, abandoned the siege which he had begun, and pretended p239to flee with a detachment of his troops. Then, when the inhabitants followed him pell-mell, he attacked the town with the help of those whom he had placed in hiding near at hand.49

3 When Hannibal was besieging the city of Himera, he purposely allowed his camp to be captured, ordering the Carthaginians to retire, on the ground that the enemy were superior. The inhabitants were so deceived by this turn of affairs that in their joy they came out of the city and advanced against the Carthaginian breast-works, whereupon Hannibal, finding the town vacant, captured it by means of the troops whom he had placed in ambush for this very contingency.50

4 In order to draw out the Saguntines, Hannibal on a certain occasion advanced against their walls with a thin line of troops. Then, at the first sally of the inhabitants, feigning flight, he withdrew, and interposing troops between the pursuing foe and the city, he slaughtered the enemy thus cut off from their fellows between the two forces.51

5 Himilco, the Carthaginian, when campaigning near Agrigentum, placed part of his forces in ambush near the town, and directed them to set fire to some damp wood as soon as the soldiers from the town should come forth. Then, advancing at daybreak with the rest of his army for the purpose of luring forth the enemy, he feigned flight and drew the inhabitants after him for a considerable distance by his retirement. The men in ambush near the walls applied the torch to the wood-piles as directed. The Agrigentines, beholding the smoke ascend, thought their city on fire and ran back in alarm to protect it. p241Being encountered by those lying in wait for them near the walls, and beset in the rear by those whom they had just been pursuing, they were caught between two forces and so cut to pieces.52

6 Viriathus, on one occasion, having placed men in ambush, sent a few others to drive off the flocks of the Segobrigenses. When the latter rushed out in great numbers to defend their flocks and followed up the marauders, who pretended to flee, they were drawn into an ambush and cut to pieces.53

7 When Lucullus was put in charge of a garrison of two cohorts at Heraclea, the cavalry of the Scordisci, by pretending to drive off the flocks of the inhabitants, provoked a sortie. Then, when Lucullus followed, they drew him into an ambush, feigning flight, and killed him together with eight hundred of his followers.

8 The Athenian general, Chares, when about to attack a city on the coast, hid his fleet behind certain promontories and then ordered his swiftest ship to sail past the forces of the enemy. At sight of this ship, all the forces guarding the harbour darted out in pursuit, whereat Chares sailed in with the rest of his fleet and took possession of the undefended harbour and likewise of the city itself.54

9 On one occasion when Roman troops were blockading Lilybaeum by land and sea, Barca, general of the Carthaginians in Sicily, ordered a part of his fleet to appear in the offing ready for action. When our men darted out at the sight of this, Barca seized the harbour of Lilybaeum with the ships which he had held in hiding.55

p243 XI. On Pretended Retirements

1 When the Athenian general Phormio had ravaged the lands of the Chalcidians, and their envoys complained of this action, he answered them graciously, and at evening, when he was about to dismiss them, pretended that a letter had come from his fellow-citizens requiring his return. Accordingly he retired a short distance and dismissed the envoys. When these reported that all was safe and that Phormio had withdrawn, the Chalcidians in view of the promised consideration and of the withdrawal of the troops, relaxed the guard of their town. Than Phormio suddenly returned and the Chalcidians were unable to withstand his unexpected attack.56

2 When the Spartan commander, Agesilaus, was blockading the Phocaeans and had learned that those who were then lending them support were weary with the burdens of war, he retired a short distance as though for other objects, thus leaving the allies free opportunity to withdraw. Not long after, bringing back his troops, he defeated the Phocaeans thus left without assistance.57

3 When fighting against the Byzantines, who kept within their walls, Alcibiades laid an ambush and, feigning a retirement, took them off their guard and crushed them.58

4 Viriathus, after retreating for three days, suddenly turned round and traversed the same distance in one day. He thus crushed the Segobrigenses, taking them off their guard at a moment when they were earnestly engaged in sacrifice.59

5 In the operations around Mantinea, Epaminondas, having noticed that the Spartans had come to help p245his enemies, conceived the idea that Sparta might be captured, if he should set out against it secretly. Accordingly he ordered numerous watch-fires to be built at night, that, by appearing to remain, he might conceal his departure. But betrayed by a deserter and pursued by the Lacedaemonian troops, he abandoned his march to Sparta, and employed the same scheme against the Mantineans; for by building watch-fires as before, he deceived the Spartans into thinking that he would remain. Meanwhile, returning to Mantinea by a march of forty miles, he found it without defences and captured it.60

On the other hand, Stratagems Connected with the Protection of the Besieged

XII. On Stimulating the Vigilance of One's Own Troops

1 Alcibiades, the Athenian commander, when his own city was blockaded by the Spartans, fearing negligence on the part of the guards, ordered the men on picket-duty to watch for the light which he should exhibit from the citadel at night, and to raise their own lights at sight of it, threatening that whoever failed in this duty should suffer a penalty. While anxiously awaiting the signal of their general, all maintained constant watch, and so escaped the dangers of the perilous night.61

2 When Iphicrates, the Athenian general, was holding Corinth with a garrison and on one occasion personally made the rounds of the sentries as the enemy were approaching, he found one of the guards asleep at his post and stabbed him with his spear. p247When certain ones rebuked this procedure as cruel, he answered: "I left him as I found him."62

3 Epaminondas the Theban is said, on one occasion, to have done the same thing.

XIII. On Sending and Receiving Messages

1 When the Romans were besieged in the Capitol, they sent Pontius Cominius to implore Camillus to come to their aid. Pontius, to elude the pickets of the Gauls, let himself down over the Tarpeian Rock, swam the Tiber, and reached Veii. Having accomplished his errand, he returned by the same route to his friends.63

2 When the Romans were maintaining careful guard against the inhabitants of Capua, whom they were besieging, the latter sent a certain fellow in the guise of a deserter, and he, finding an opportunity to escape, conveyed to the Carthaginians a letter which he had secreted in his belt.64

3 Some have written messages on skins and then sewed these to the carcasses of game or sheep.

4 Some have stuffed the message under the tail of a mule while passing the picket-posts.

5 Some have written on the linings of scabbards.

6 When the Cyzicenes were besieged by Mithridates, Lucius Lucullus wished to inform them of his approach. There was a single narrow entrance to the city, connecting the island with the mainland by a small bridge. Since this was held by forces of the enemy, he sewed some letters up inside two inflated skins and then ordered one of his soldiers, an adept p249in swimming and boating, to mount the skins, which he had fastened together at the bottom by two strips some distance apart, and to make the trip of seven miles across. So skilfully did the soldier do this that, by spreading his legs, he steered his course as though by rudder, and deceived those watching from a distance by appearing to be some marine creature.65

7 The consul Hirtius often sent letters inscribed on lead plates to Decimus Brutus, who was besieged by Antonius at Mutina. The letters were fastened to the arms of soldiers, who then swam across the Scultenna River.66

8 Hirtius also shut up pigeons in the dark, starved them, fastened letters to their necks by a hair, and then released them as near to the city walls as he could. The birds, eager for light and food, sought the highest buildings and were received by Brutus, who in that way was informed of everything, especially after he set food in certain spots and taught the pigeons to alight there.67

XIV. On Introducing Reinforcements and Supplying Provisions

1 In the Civil War, when the Spanish city of Ategua, belonging to Pompey's party, was under blockade, one night a Moor, pretending to be a tribune's adjutant belonging to the Caesarian party, roused certain sentries and got from them the password. He then roused others, and by continuing his deception, succeeded in conducting reinforcements for Pompey through the midst of Caesar's troops.68

p251 2 When Hannibal was besieging Casilinum, the Romans sent big jars of wheat down the current of the Volturnus, to be picked up by the besieged. After Hannibal stopped these by throwing a chain across the river, the Romans scattered nuts on the water. These floated down stream to the city and thus sustained the necessities of the allies.69

3 When the inhabitants of Mutina were blockaded by Antonius, and were greatly in need of salt, Hirtius packed some in jars and sent it in to them by way of the Scultenna River.70

4 Hirtius also sent down the river carcasses of sheep, which were received and thus furnished the necessities of life.

XV. How to Produce the Impression of Abundance of what is Lacking

1 When the Capitol was besieged by the Gauls, the Romans, in the extremity of famine, threw bread among the enemy. They thus produced the impression that they were well supplied with food, and so withstood the siege till Camillus came.71

2 The Athenians are said to have employed the same ruse against the Spartans.

3 The inhabitants of Casilinum, when blockaded by Hannibal, were thought to have reached the starvation point, since Hannibal had cut off from their food supply even their use of the growing herbs by ploughing the ground between his camp and the city walls. The ground being thus made ready, the besiegedº flung seed into it, thus giving the impression that they had enough wherewith to sustain life even till harvest time.72

p253 4 When the survivors of the Varian disaster73 were under siege and seemed to be running short of food, they spent an entire night in leading prisoners round their store-houses; then, having cut off their hands, they turned them loose. These men persuaded the besieging force to cherish no hope of an early reduction of the Romans by starvation, since they had an abundance of food supplies.

5 When the Thracians were besieged on a steep mountain inaccessible to the enemy, they got together by individual contributions a small amount of wheat. This they fed to a few sheep which they then drove among the forces of the enemy. When the sheep had been caught and slaughtered, and traces of wheat had been found in their intestines, the enemy raised the siege, imagining that the Thracians had a surplus of wheat, inasmuch as they fed it even to their sheep.

7 The Milesians were at one time suffering a long siege at the hands of Alyattes, who hoped they could be starved into surrender. But the Milesian commander, Thrasybulus, in anticipation of the arrival of envoys from Alyattes, ordered all the grain to be brought together into the market-place, arranged for banquets to be held on that occasion, and provided sumptuous feasts throughout the city. Thus he convinced the enemy that the Milesians had abundance of provisions with which to sustain a long siege.74

XVI. How to Meet the Menace of Treason and Desertion

1 A certain Lucius Bantius of Nola on one occasion cherished the plan of rousing his fellow-citizens to p255revolt, as a favour to Hannibal, by whose kindness he had been tended when wounded among those engaged at Cannae, and by whom he had been sent back from captivity to his own people. Claudius Marcellus, learning of his purpose and not daring to put him to death, for fear that by his punishment he would stir up the rest of the people of Nola, summoned Bantius and talked with him, pronouncing him a very valiant soldier (a fact which Marcellus admitted he had not previously known), and urging him to remain with him. Besides these compliments, he presented him also with a horse. By such kindness he secured the loyalty, not only of Bantius, but also of his townspeople, since their allegiance hinged on his.75

2 When the Gallic auxiliaries of Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general, were in the habit of crossing over to the Romans and were regularly received by them as allies, Hamilcar engaged his most loyal men to pretend desertion, while actually they slew the Romans who came out to welcome them. This device was not merely of present aid to Hamilcar, but caused real deserters to be regarded in future as objects of suspicion in the eyes of the Romans.76

3 Hanno, commander of the Carthaginians in Sicily, learned on one occasion that about four thousand Gallic mercenaries had conspired to desert to the Romans, because for several months they had received no pay. Not daring to punish them, for fear of mutiny, he promised to make good the deferred payment by increasing their wages. When the Gauls rendered thanks for this, Hanno, promising that they should be permitted to go out foraging at a suitable time, sent to the consul Otacilius an p257extremely trustworthy steward, who pretended to have deserted on account of embezzlement, and who reported that on the coming night four thousand Gauls, sent out on a foraging expedition, could be captured. Otacilius, not immediately crediting the deserter, nor yet thinking the matter ought to be treated with disdain, placed the pick of his men in ambush. These met the Gauls, who fulfilled Hanno's purpose in a twofold manner, since they not only slew a number of the Romans, but were themselves slaughtered to the last man.77

4 By a similar plan Hannibal took vengeance on certain deserters; for, being aware that some of his soldiers had deserted on the previous night, and knowing that spies of the enemy were in his camp, he publicly proclaimed that the name of "deserter" ought not to be applied to his cleverest soldiers, who at his order had gone out to learn the designs of the enemy. The spies, as soon as they heard this pronouncement, reported it to their own side. Thereupon the deserters were arrested by the Romans and sent back with their hands cut off.

5 When Diodotus was holding Amphipolis with a garrison, and entertained suspicions of two thousand Thracians, who seemed likely to pillage the city, he invented the story that a few hostile ships had put in at the shore near by and could be plundered. When he had incited the Thracians at that prospect, he let them out. Then, closing the gates, he refused to admit them again.78

XVII. On Sorties

1 When Hasdrubal came to besiege Panormus, the Romans, who were in possession of the town, p259purposely placed a scanty number of defenders on the walls. In contempt of their small numbers, Hasdrubal incautiously approached the walls, whereupon they made a sortie and slew him.79

2 When the Ligurians with their entire force made a surprise attack on the camp of Aemilius Paulus, the latter feigned fear and for a long time kept his troops in camp. Then, when the enemy were exhausted, making a sortie by the four gates, he defeated the Ligurians and made them prisoners.80

3 Livius, commander of the Romans, when holding the citadel of the Tarentines, sent envoys to Hasdrubal, requesting the privilege of withdrawing undisturbed. When by this feint he had thrown the enemy off their guard, he made a sortie and cut them to pieces.81

4 Gnaeus Pompey, when besieged near Dyrrhachium, not only released his own men from blockade, but also made a sally at an opportune time and place; for just as Caesar was making a fierce assault on a fortified position surrounded by a double line of works, Pompey, by this sortie, so enveloped him with a cordon of troops that Caesar incurred no slight peril and loss, caught, as he was, between those whom he was besieging and those who had surrounded him from the outside.82

5 Flavius Fimbria, when fighting in Asia near the river Rhyndacus against the son of Mithridates, constructed two lines of works on his flanks and a ditch in front, and kept his soldiers quietly within their entrenchments, until the cavalry of the enemy passed within the confined portions of his fortifications. Then, making a sortie, he slew six thousand of them.83

p261 6 When the forces of Titurius Sabinus and Cotta, Caesar's lieutenants in Gaul, had been wiped out by Ambiorix, Caesar was urged by Quintus Cicero, who was himself also under siege, to come with two legions to his relief. The enemy then turned upon Caesar, who feigned fear and kept his troops within his camp, which he had purposely constructed on a smaller scale than usual. The Gauls, already counting on victory, and pressing forward as though to plunder the camp, began to fill up the ditches and to tear down the ramparts. Caesar, therefore, as the Gauls were not equipped for battle, suddenly sent forth his own troops from all quarters and cut the enemy to pieces.84

7 When Titurius Sabinus was fighting against a large force of Gauls, he kept his troops within their fortifications, and thus produced upon the Gauls the impression that he was afraid. To further this impression, he sent a deserter to state that the Roman army was in despair and was planning to flee. Spurred on by the hope of victory thus offered, the Gauls loaded themselves with wood and brush with which to fill the trenches, and at top speed started for our camp, which was pitched on the top of an elevation. From there Titurius launched all his forces against them, killing many of the Gauls and receiving large numbers in surrender.85

8 As Pompey was about to assault the town of Asculum the inhabitants exhibited on the ramparts a few aged and feeble men. Having thus thrown the Romans off their guard, they made a sortie and put them to flight.86

9 When the Numantines were blockaded, they did not even draw up a line of battle in front of the p263entrenchments, but kept so closely within the town that Popilius Laenas was emboldened to attack it with scaling-ladders. But, suspecting a ruse, since not even then was resistance offered, he recalled his men; whereupon the Numantines made a sortie and attacked the Romans in the rear as they were climbing down.87

XVIII. Concerning Steadfastness on the Part of the Besieged

1 The Romans, when Hannibal was encamped near their walls, in order to exhibit their confidence, sent troops out by a different gate to reinforce the armies which they had in Spain.88

2 The land on which Hannibal had his camp having come into the market owing to the death of the owner, the Romans bid the price up to the figure at which the property had sold before the war.88b

3 When the Romans were besieged by Hannibal and were themselves besieging Capua, they passed a decree not to recall their army from the latter place until it was captured.89


The Editor's Notes:

1 the invention of works and engines of war has long since reached its limit: A curious illustration of the rashness of prophecy.

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2 Titus Quinctius' rational pep talk: 468 B.C.

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3 Cato's forced march: 195 B.C.

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4 Duilius' naval exercises: 260 B.C.

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5 Hannibal's infiltrators: 216‑203 B.C.

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6 Cimon sets fire to a temple of Diana: About 470 B.C.

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7 Alcibiades' diversionary town meeting: 415 B.C. Thuc. VI.51, Polyaen. I.XL.4 and Diodor. XIII.IV.4, make Catana, and not Agrigentum, the scene of this stratagem.

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8 Epaminondas' transvestites: 379 B.C. Polyaen. II.III.1 has a different version of this story, but in II.IV.3 attributes a somewhat similar stratagem to Pelopidas.

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9 Thebans disguised as traders: Polyaen. V.XVI.3 makes Pammenes the author of this stratagem, 369 B.C.

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10 King Ptolemy: Ptolemy Ceraunus, king of Macedonia, 280 B.C.

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11 Papirius Cursor's quiet diplomacy: 272 B.C. Cf. Zonar. VIII.6.

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12 Marcellus takes advantage of a holiday: 212 B.C. Livy XXV.23 ff., Plut. Marc. 18, and Polyaen. VIII.11 name Damippus a Spartan, rather than Sosistratus, as the source of the information.

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13 Tarquinius Superbus scourges his son: Cf. Livy I.53; Val. Max. VII.IV.2; Polyaen. VIII.6.

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14 Cyrus' mutilated aide: 518 B.C. Herod. III.153, Justin. I.X.15, and Polyaen. VII.13, represent Zopyrus as mutilating himself, and make Darius rather than Cyrus the monarch at the time.

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15 Philip blocks a gate: 359‑336 B.C.

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16 Hannibal's generous hunters: 212 B.C. Cf. Appian Hann. 32; Livy XXV.8‑9; Polyb. VIII.26. The name of the traitor is variously given.

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17 Lysimachus infiltrates Ephesus: 287 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. V.19.

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18 Fabius Maximus lets the enemy sow their crops: Apparently a confusion of two occasions. Cf. Livy XXIII.XLVIII.1‑2 and XXV.XIII. 215 or 211 B.C.

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19 Antigonus lets the enemy sow their crops: 263 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. IV.VI.20.

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20 Dionysius gets supplies from Rhegium: 391 B.C. The version of Diodor. XIV.108 is slightly different.

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21 Dionysius gets supplies from Himera: 387 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. V.II.10.

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22 Alexander: Son of Pyrrhus. 266‑263 B.C.

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23 Phalaris' spoiled grain: 570‑554 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. V.I.3. According to Polyaenus, the Sicilians were to return to Phalaris not the grain he had left with them but the crops from their later harvests.

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24 Clearchus distributes rations to his cannibals: 402‑401 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. II.II.8.

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25 Tiberius Gracchus can wait: 179‑178 B.C.

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26 Scipio is clearly afraid to attack: 202 B.C.

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27 Scipio goes after the enemy's allies: 155 B.C.

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28 Pyrrhus goes after the enemy's allies: 296‑280 B.C.

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29 Cornelius Rufinus' disinformation: 277 B.C. Cf. Zonar. VIII.6.

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30 Mago's disinformation: 216‑203 B.C.

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31 Alcibiades' shrewd talker: 415 B.C. This account agrees with that of Polyaen. I.XL.5. Thuc. VI.64 ff., and Diodor. XIII.VI.2 ff., attribute the stratagem to Nicias and Lamachus, and give a different version of its result.

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32 Cleonymus' propaganda assault: 277‑276 B.C. Polyaen. II.XXIX.1 calls Cleonymus a king of Sparta.

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33 Publius Servilius diverts the enemy's water supply: 78‑76 B.C.

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34 Caesar diverts the enemy's water supply: 51 B.C. Cf. Hirt. B. G. VIII.40 ff.

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35 Metellus floods the enemy's camp: 143‑142 B.C. Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, although the better manuscript readings give L. as the praenomen.

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36 Alexander diverts a river: Herod. I.191, Xen. Cyrop. VII.5, and Polyaen. VII.VI.5, attribute this stratagem to Cyrus rather than Alexander.

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37 Clisthenes poisons the enemy's water: 595‑585 B.C. Polyaen. VI.13 attributes this stratagem to Eurylochus; Pausan. X.XXXVII.7, to Solon.

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38 Philip's phantom mining: 201 B.C. Cf. Polyb. XVI.11; Polyaen. IV.XVIII.1.

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39 Pelopidas' early victory: 369‑364 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. II.IV.1.

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40 Cyrus' dummies: 546 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. VII.VI.10; Ctes. ed. Müller, pp46‑60. Herod. I.84 makes no mention of this stratagem.

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41 Scipio uses the tides: 210 B.C. Cf. Livy XXVI.45‑46; Polyb. X.10 ff.; Appian Hisp. 21 ff.

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42 Fabius Maximus takes advantage of rain: 213 B.C. Cf. Livy XXIV.46‑47.

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43 Marius' mountain detachment: 107 B.C. Cf. Sall. Jug. 92‑94; Flor. III.I.14.

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44 Lucius Cornelius Rufinus's long chase: Probably a confusion of names: Lucius Cornelius Scipio invaded Sardinia in 259 B.C. (cf. III.X.2). Publius Cornelius Rufinus was consul in 277, but waged war only in Italy.

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45 Alcibiades' diversionary trumpets: According to Thuc. VIII.107 and Diodor. XIII.XL.6, Cyzicus was not fortified by walls. This stratagem belongs rather to the taking of Byzantium, 409 B.C. Cf. III.XI.3; Diodor. XIII.66‑67; Plut. Alcib. 31.

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46 Thrasybulus' diversions: About 600 B.C.

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47 Pericles' diversion: 430 B.C. Cf. I.V.10 and note.

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48 Cato's diversion: 195 B.C. Cf. Livy XXXIV.20.

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49 Lucius Scipio's diversion: 259 B.C. Cf. III.IX.4 and note.

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50 Hannibal sacrifices his camp: 409 B.C. The Hannibal here mentioned is the son of Gisgo. Diodor. XIII.59‑62 represents the Carthaginians as withdrawing in flight rather than executing a stratagem.

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51 Hannibal's diversion at Sagunto: 219 B.C. Son of Hamilcar Barca. The identity of names led to the confusion between these two generals.

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52 Himilco's diversion and ambush: 406 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. V.X.4. In the Old Testament (Josh. viii.), a similar stratagem is employed by Joshua.

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53 Viriathus' diversion and ambush: 147‑139 B.C.

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54 Chares' diversion: 366‑336 B.C.

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55 Hamilcar Barca's diversion: 249 B.C. Cf. Polyb. I.44, where Hannibal, rather than Barca, is the general.

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56 Phormio's feint: 432 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. III.IV.1.

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57 Agesilaus' feint: 396‑394 B.C. Cf. Polyaen. II.I.16.

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58 Alcibiades draws out the enemy to ambush them: 409 B.C. Cf. Diodor. XIII.66‑67; Plut. Alcib. 31.

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59 Viriathus' speedy return: 147‑139 B.C.

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60 Epaminondas' phantom camps: 362 B.C. Cf. Polyb. IX.8; Diodor. XV.82‑84; Plut. Ages. 34.

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61 Alcibiades enforces watchfulness: Cf. Polyaen. I.XL.3.

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62 "I left him as I found him": 393‑391 B.C. Cf. Nep. Iphic. ii.1‑2.

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63 Pontius Cominius' triathlon: 390 B.C. Cf. Livy V.46; Diodor. XIV.116; Plut. Camill. 25.

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64 the Capuans send a courier: 211 B.C. Livy XXVI.7 represents Hannibal as sending the letter to the Capuans.

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65 Lucius Lucullus' special forces messenger: 74 B.C. Cf. Flor. III.V.15‑16; Oros. VI.II.14.

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66 Hirtius' special forces messengers: 43 B.C. Cf. Dio XLVI.36.

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67 Hirtius' carrier pigeons: 43 B.C. Cf.  Plin. N. H. X.37.

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68 An African soldier of Pompey's gets the enemy password: 45 B.C. Cf. Dio XLIII.33‑34. According to Dio, this man, Munatius Flaccus, whose real mission is to aid the Ateguans in withstanding the blockade of Caesar's troops, represents to the sentries that he has been sent by Caesar to betray the city. Thus having once learned the password, he secures an easy entrance into the city.

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69 the Romans float food supplies to the besieged city of Casilinum: 216 B.C. Cf. Livy XXIII.19.

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70 Hirtius floats food supplies to the besieged city of Mutina: 43 B.C.

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71 the Romans throw bread among the enemy: 390 B.C. Cf. Livy V.48; Val. Max. VII.IV.3; Ovid. Fast. VI.350 ff.

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72 the inhabitants of Casilinum sow seed: 216 B.C. Cf. Livy XXIII.19.

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73 the Varian disaster: i.e. the defeat of Varus by Arminius in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D.

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74 Thrasybulus' feasts: About 611 B.C. Cf. Herod. I.21‑22; Polyaen. VI.47.

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75 Claudius Marcellus praises a soldier of wavering loyalty: 216 B.C. Cf. Livy XXIII.15‑16; Plut. Marcel. 10‑11. Variations of this stratagem and its author are found in IV.VII.36, Plut. Fab. 20 and Val. Max. VII.III.7.

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76 Hamilcar's false deserters: 260‑241 B.C.

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77 Hanno gets rid of troublemakers ("let's you and him fight"): 261 B.C. Cf. Diodor. XXIII.VIII.3. Zonar. VIII.10 attributes this stratagem to Hamilcar.

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78 Diodotus gets rid of troublemakers: 168 B.C. In Livy XLIV.44, the author of the stratagem is called Diodorus.

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79 the Romans kill an incautious Hasdrubal in front of Panormus: 251 B.C. Cf. Polyb. I.40.

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80 Aemilius Paulus' campaign of attrition: 181 B.C. Cf. Livy XL.25, 27‑28.

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81 Livius' feint: 212‑209 B.C.

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82 Pompey's sally: 48 B.C. Cf. Caes. B.C. III.65‑70.

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83 Flavius Fimbria looks defensive: 85 B.C.

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84 Caesar's camp, small and afraid: 54 B.C. Cf. Caes. B. G. V.37‑52; Dio XL.10; Polyaen. VIII.XXIII.7.

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85 Titurius Sabinus' deception: 56 B.C. Cf. Caes. B. G. III.17‑19.

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86 noone here but the aged and infirm: 90 B.C.

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87 the Numantines' deception: 138 B.C.

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88 The Romans are confident: 211 B.C. Cf. Livy XXVI.11; Val. Max. III.VII.10.

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89 The Romans mandate by law the taking of Capua: 211 B.C. Cf. Livy XXVI.I.7‑8.


Thayer's Notes:

a Divona Cadurcorum, today's Cahors.

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b On the Monday in September 2001 when the stock market reopened after the Islamic attack on New York, in a similar access of patriotic duty, I bought stock. I sold it a few weeks later for a 35% profit.


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