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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
Siege Defense

Aeneas Tacticus

(Loeb Classical Library edition, 1928)

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Aeneas Tacticus
On the Defence of Fortified Positions

[link to original Greek text] XV

1 After the foregoing matters have been arranged, if a call for help come, either by messenger or by signal-fire, troops must be sent out to the parts of  p77 the country that are being devastated. 2 The generals must immediately marshal such men as are at hand, in order that they may not go forth in small and scattered groups, each bent upon saving his own property, and ruin themselves from lack of discipline and premature exertion, meeting disaster through ambuscades of the enemy. 3 Those who report for duty must assemble, up to a certain number, at the gates, for instance, the quota of one or two companies, and only after they have been marshalled and a capable leader has been assigned them must they be dispatched from the town, and then they must hasten as fast as military order will allow. 4 Then other groups in succession must be speedily dispatched in the same fashion until enough seem to have been sent forth to render the assistance needed. This must be done in order that the divisions may be close together on the march, and, if it is necessary for one division to assist another, or for all to act together, they may easily be united and those in the rear may not have to come from a distance on the run. 5 The available cavalry and light-armed troops, however, also in good order, should go ahead of the others and should reconnoitre and preoccupy the elevated positions, that the heavy-armed troops may be aware as early as possible of the movements of the enemy and may not be surprised by any sudden attack. 6 At places where there are turning-points, bases of the ridges, and forks in the roads, that is, wherever there are diverging ways, signs should be placed, lest at these points the stragglers, through ignorance of the road, be separated from their fellows.  p79 7 Likewise when the bands return to the city they should employ caution, for many reasons, but chiefly for fear of the enemy's ambuscades. For this sort of thing has been known to happen to incautious relief parties. 8 When the Triballi were invading the country of the Abderites,​38 the latter sallied forth against them, formed in battle array, and carried out a brilliant operation; for joining battle they killed many and defeated a large and powerful force. 9 Now the Triballi, enraged at the occurrence, withdrew and reorganized, and making another inroad into the country set ambuscades and started to lay waste the land of the Abderites not far from the city. The Abderites held them in contempt because of the previous achievement and made a hasty attack against them with great force and eagerness, but the Triballi drew them into their ambuscades. 10 On that particular occasion it is said that more men perished in a shorter time than had ever been the case, at least from a single city of similar size. For the others, not having learned of the destruction of those who had gone first, did not pause in their rush to the rescue, but cheering one another on, hurried away to render assistance to those who had already sallied forth, until the city was bereft of men.

[link to original Greek text] XVI. [Other Kinds of Relief]

1 Still another kind of relief would be more effective against the invaders. 2 In the first place one should  p81 not in the night-time go straight out to give assistance, seeing that before dawn the inhabitants would be in very great disorder and also unprepared, some hurrying with all speed to save their property on the farms, others dreading to face danger, as is natural when the alarm is sudden, while still others are wholly unready. 3 It is necessary, therefore, to assemble and prepare the rescue force with all speed, at the same time freeing some from their fear, inspiring others with confidence, and arming still others. 4 For you must know that when an enemy goes to war with judgement and understanding, he at first advances the strongest of his forces in military order, expecting a counter-attack and ready to defend himself. Meanwhile a part of these invaders separate and devastate the country, while others would lie in ambush expecting some of your forces to come in disorder to lend assistance. 5 It is not best, therefore, to disturb them by an immediate attack, but to allow them first to become bold, and in their contempt of you to start off pillaging and satisfying their greed. At the same time these men when sated with food and drink and heavy with wine would become careless and disobedient to their leaders; 6 and as a result of this they will be likely to put up a poor fight, and will retreat, at least if you fall upon them opportunely. 7 For, when your supporting force is ready at the appointed place, and the enemy has already scattered for plunder, then and then only you should  p83 attack them, cut off their retreat with your cavalry, set ambuscades of picked men, and, engaging them with your other light-armed forces, bring up your heavy-armed troops in close formation not far behind the divisions already sent forward.

[link to original Greek text] Attack the enemy where you are not unwilling to do battle, and where you will not be at a disadvantage in the fight. 8 Hence, for the reasons already stated, it is sometimes to your interest to give the enemy rein, and to allow him to lay waste as much of the land as he wishes, where, while plundering and laden with spoil, he will easily suffer punishment at your hands. For in this way all that has been taken would be recovered, and those who had done the damage would receive their just deserts. 9 On the other hand, if you should hastily send out relief forces, you might endanger your own men, unprepared and not yet in order, while the enemy, although they would already have done a little harm, yet, because they were still in order, would get away unpunished. 10 But it is much better, as I have written,​39 to give way to them, and then attack them when off their guard. 11 But if the plundering of the country has escaped your notice or has occurred before you could prevent it, you should not make your pursuit of the enemy along the same roads nor in the same places, but should cause only a few to make a demonstration there, and, in their pursuit, intentionally but without arousing suspicion, refrain from overtaking them, while the army as a whole, in considerable strength, should hasten as quickly as possible by other roads, and,  p85 anticipating the enemy, should lie in ambush in the land of the invaders, near the border. 12 You may reasonably expect to reach their land first, since because of driving their booty they must advance more slowly. And you should make your attack upon them while they are at the evening meal; for when the marauders are already within their own border and feel themselves secure they would be inclined to carelessness and be more off their guard. 13 The best plan of all, however, in order to have your soldiers fresh for battle, provided boats are at hand, is to make the pursuit by sea; for you will thus outstrip the enemy, and the other conditions necessary for success will favour you, provided you are not detected by them on your voyage. 14 Of the people of Cyrene and Barca and certain other cities the story runs that they made their rescue expeditions over long wagon-roads in four- and in two‑horse vehicles;​40 and when they had reached the appointed place, and the vehicles had been arranged in order, the heavy-armed troops alighted, and, forming at once in ranks, attacked the enemy with unimpaired strength. 15 Hence, for those who have a ready supply of vehicles, it is a great advantage to have their soldiers arrive quickly where they are needed and with fresh strength; further, the wagons would be a ready defence for the camp, while soldiers who were wounded or suffering from any other mishap could be conveyed in them back to the city.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

38 Diodorus XV.36.1 ff. sets this occurrence in 376‑5 B.C., but ascribes the disaster mainly to the treachery of a force of Thracians who turned upon the Abderites in the course of the battle.

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39 The reference is to §§ 5, 6, and 7 of this same chapter.

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40 This region was widely celebrated fits horses and cars, and according to one account the Libyans were the first to yoke horses to a chariot, a tradition which would be very natural if the suggestion that Libya was the original home of the ancestors of the thorough-bred horse be correct.

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