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Bill Thayer

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Chapters 1‑3

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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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 6
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.


 p391  [link to original Greek text] IV. [The Necessity of a reasonable Cause for War]

1 The causes of war, I believe, should be marshalled with the greatest care; it should be evident to all that one fights on the side of justice. For then the gods also, kindly disposed, become comrades in arms to the soldiers, and men are more eager to take their stand against the foe.​4 2 For with the knowledge that they are not fighting an aggressive but a defensive war, with consciences free from evil designs, they contribute a courage that is complete; while those who believe an unjust war is displeasing to heaven, because of this very opinion enter the war with fear, even if they are not about to face danger at the hands of the enemy. 3 On this account the general must first announce, by speeches and through embassies, what he wishes to obtain and what he is not willing to concede, in order that it may appear that, because the enemy will not agree to his reasonable demands, it is of necessity, not of his own preference, that he is taking the field. He should call heaven to witness that he is entering the war without offence, since he has not failed to consider the dangers that fall to the lot of combatants, and is not deliberately seeking, in every possible manner, to ruin the enemy. 4 He should know that not only is a firm foundation  p393 necessary for houses and walls — for if this is weak the superstructures will also collapse —, but that in war also it is only after one has prepared a firm beginning, and has laid a safe foundation, that he should take the field. For those whose cause is weak, when they take up the heavy burden of war, are quickly crushed by it and fail. 5 Just as a careful ship-captain, after he has given his ship a thorough overhauling and outfitting while in harbour, and has done everything within his own power, must then commit his craft to Fortune, so it is most disgraceful and dangerous for a general, after he has given intimations of a beginning of war, implying an immediate advance of his forces by both land and sea, then to back out. 6 For while every one laughs at folly and rashness, we despise weakness, and the enemy — whoever they may be — even if they experience no harm, have good reason to hate the would‑be invaders, as men who have not lacked the will, but lacked the ability to put a matter through.

[link to original Greek text] V. [Propitiation of the divine Power by the General before leading the Army into Battle]

Before the general leads out his army he must see that it is purified, by such rites as either the laws or  p395 soothsayers direct, and must avert whatever taint there is in the state or in any citizen, by expiatory sacrifices.

The Loeb Editor's Note:

4 Something of a commonplace even in antiquity; for typical expressions see Thucydides II.74; Xenophon, Cyropedia, I.5.13‑14; Dionysius of Halicarnassus II.72.3.º

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Page updated: 27 Jul 13