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Bill Thayer

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Chapters 7‑9

This webpage reproduces part of the
The General (Strategikos)


(Loeb Classical Library edition, 1928)

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapters 10.2‑12

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p409 X. (1) [The Need for Controlling the Army
in Time of Peace]

[link to original Greek text] 1 On this account it is the duty of a good general to prepare what is useful for war, when the necessity of a pitched battle is not pressing. He should also assign unproductive tasks to keep the army in good condition. For it is sufficient relaxation for soldiers, even if they are very weary, to exercise in arms without the dangers involved in a real battle. The general should train his troops in some such manner as the following.

[link to original Greek text] 2 First arming the soldiers, he should draw them up in military formation that they may become practised in maintaining their formation; that they may become familiar with the faces and names of one another; that each soldier may learn by whom he stands and where and after how many. In this way, by one sharp command, the whole army will immediately form ranks. Then he should instruct the army in open and close order; in turning to the left and right; the interchange, taking distance, and closing up of files; the division into files; the p411arrangement and extension of files to form the phalanx; withdrawing of files for greater depth of the phalanx; battle formation facing in two directions, when the rear guard turns to fight an encircling enemy; and he should instruct them thoroughly in the calls for retreat.

[link to original Greek text] 3 For just as those who begin to learn to play a musical instrument, in placing their fingers on the stops of the pipe or on the strings of the lyre, often set one finger on one and then another on another, without observing the interval that produces harmony, and then, with great effort, extending their fingers, they lift them slowly and slowly place them again; whereas practised players, no longer giving any evidence of care, with disciplined hand swiftly change from one note to another, lightly checking or opening the flow of air at will or lightly plucking the strings; in just this manner men unpractised and inexperienced in military formations, with great confusion and failure to find one another, will only after loss of much time take their places; but those who are well trained in formations quickly — indeed automatically, so to speak — rush to their stations, presenting a harmonious, I may say, and beautiful sight.

[link to original Greek text] 4 Next after dividing the army into two parts he should lead them against each other in a sham battle, armed with staves or the shafts of javelins; if there should be any fields covered with clods, he p413should command them to throw clods; if they have any leather straps, the soldiers should use them in the battle.5 Pointing out to the soldiers ridges or hills or steep ascents, he should command them to charge and seize these places; and sometimes arming the soldiers with the weapons I have just mentioned, he should place some on the hilltops and send the others to dislodge them. He should praise those who stand firm without retreating, and those who succeed in dislodging their opponents. 5 For from such exercise and training the army is kept in good health, eating and drinking everything with heartier appetite, even if the fare is plain, desiring nothing more luxurious. For the hunger and thirst derived from toil are a sufficient relish and a sweet draught, and muscles become harder and untiring; and trained by sweating, puffing, and panting, and exposed to summer heat and the bitter cold under the open sky, the soldiers become accustomed to future hardships.

[link to original Greek text] 6 In the same way the general should train his cavalry, arranging practice battles, both pursuits and hand-to‑hand struggles and skirmishes in the plain and around the base of the hills, as far as it is possible to go in the broken country; p415for it is not possible to charge uphill nor to ride downhill.

The Loeb Editor's Note:

5 This passage is derived from Xenophon, Cyropaedia, II.3.17‑18. Compare the Introduction.

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Page updated: 27 Jul 13