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Bill Thayer

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Ἑλληνική

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This webpage reproduces part of the
The General (Strategikos)

by
Onasander

(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,
please let me know!


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Chapters 1‑3
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Onasander
Strategikos

p369 Prooemium

[link to original Greek text] 1 It is fitting, I believe, to dedicate monographs on horsemanship, or hunting, or fishing, or farming, to men who are devoted to such pursuits, but a treatise on military science, Quintus Veranius, should be dedicated to Romans, and especially to those of the Romans who have attained senatorial dignity, and who through the wisdom of Augustus Caesar have been raised to the power of consul or general, both by reason of their military training (in which they have had no brief experience) and because of the distinction of their ancestors. 2 I have dedicated this treatise primarily to them, not as to men unskilled in generalship, but with especial confidence in this fact, that the ignorant soul is unaware even of that in which another is successful, but knowledge bears additional witness to that which is well done. 3 For this reason, if what I have composed would seem to have been already devised by many others, even then I should be pleased, because I have not only p371compiled precepts of generalship, but have also endeavoured to get at the art of the general and the wisdom that inheres in the precepts. I should be fortunate if I should be considered capable, before such men, of making a summary sketch of what the Romans have already accomplished by their mighty deeds.

[link to original Greek text] 4 It remains for me to say with good courage of my work, that it will be a school for good generals, and an object of delight for retired commanders in these times of holy peace; and we shall know, if nothing else, for what reason some generals have stumbled and fallen, but others have prospered and been raised to fame; and we shall consider above all the valour of the Romans, how that neither king, nor state, nor nation has held a greater position of leadership, nor even equalled them in the establishment of a dominion, unshaken through so many years. 5 For it is not by chance, as it seems to me, that they have overrun the boundaries of Italy and extended their sway to the limits of the earth, but by deeds of generalship. For it is necessary to pray to Fortune to do its share, but not to consider that Fortune has entire control. 6 Stupid are those who make disasters chargeable to Fortune alone, rather than to the negligence of commanders, as well as those who attribute successes to her, and not to the skill of the generals. It is neither reasonable simply to dismiss without punishment a general who has met with complete disaster, on the ground that Fortune is responsible for all things, nor is it just to p373leave the successful general so far without recognition that gratitude for everything is offered to Fortune.

[link to original Greek text] 7 Now since all men naturally give credit for truthfulness to those who appear to write with professional experience, even though their style be feeble, while for inexperienced writers, even though their teachings are practicable, they feel distrust on account of their lack of reputation, I consider it necessary to say in advance, about the military principles collected in this book, that they have all been derived from experience of actual deeds, and, in fact, of exploits performed by those men from whom has been derived the whole primacy of the Romans, in race and valour, down to the present time. 8 For this treatise presents no impromptu invention of an unwarlike and youthful mind, but all the principles are taken from authentic exploits and battles, especially of the Romans. For the expedients they used in order to avoid suffering harm, and the means by which they contrived to inflict it, all this I have collected. 9 Nor have I failed to perceive that a writer, seeking greater praise from credulous readers, would prefer to have it appear that the source of all the military stratagems he described was himself and his own shrewdness rather than the sagacity of others. But I do not think that the latter diminishes one's glory. 10 For if a general after experience in the field had composed such a work, it would not be considered of less value because he introduced and commemorated in his p375work, not only the personal discoveries of his native wit, but also the brilliant deeds of other generals; in the same way I do not consider that I myself shall win less praise, because I admit that not everything I write springs from my own intelligence. On the contrary, I have chosen the opposite course, that I may have praise without reproach and trust without slander.


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Page updated: 27 Jul 13