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Bill Thayer

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Chapters 10.2‑12

This webpage reproduces part of the
The General (Strategikos)


(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.
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Chapters 15‑22

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.


 p437  [link to original Greek text] XIII. [Courage on the Part of the General
when in Adversity]

1 Whenever despondency or fear has fallen on an army because the enemy has received reinforcements or gained an advantage, then especially the general should show himself to his soldiers gay, cheerful, and undaunted. 2 For the appearance of the leaders brings about a corresponding change in the minds  p439 of the subordinates, and if the general is cheerful and has a joyful look, the army also takes heart, believing that there is no danger; but should he have a frightened, worried appearance, the spirits of the soldiers fall with his, in the belief that disaster is impending. 3 On this account, the general must inspire cheerfulness in the army, more by the strategy of his facial expression than by his words; for many distrust speeches on the ground that they have been concocted especially for the occasion, but believing a confident appearance to be unfeigned they are fully convinced of his fearlessness; and it is an excellent thing to understand these two points, how to say the right word and how to show the right expression.

[link to original Greek text] XIV. (1) [When one's own Army
must be made to fear the Enemy]

1 Just as the recovery of courage at a crucial moment benefits an army, so also fear is advantageous. For whenever an army becomes idle and inclined to disobey its officers, the general should suggest the danger from the enemy, especially by representing their reserves to be formidable. It will not be possible thus to make the soldiers cowardly but only steady, since in despondency it is necessary to be of good courage, but in idleness to fear; for fear makes cowards bold and the rash cautious.  p441 2 These two misfortunes happen to armies, to become so terrified of the enemy that they are unwilling to attempt any offensive, and so bold that they are unwilling to take any precautionary measures. With regard to each the general must arrange his plans, and know when by voice and look he must make the enemy appear weak, and when more threatening and formidable.

[link to original Greek text] (2) [Encouraging the frightened Army]

3 On the eve of battle, when the army, uncertain of the outcome of the war, is distrust­ful and fearful, the general, if he is able, should manage to capture some prisoners by ambush or skirmishing, or some men who have strayed from their own camp. If he learns that they are strong in courage and in body, he should either kill them on the spot or turn them over, securely bound, to men assigned to this duty, with orders to guard them, so that not many of his own forces may see them; but if they are weak and cowardly and spiritless, after threatening them in the privacy of his own tent and enslaving their minds through fear, he should lead them, weeping and supplicating, before his army, pointing out to  p443 his soldiers how base and wretched and worthless they are, and saying that it is against such men that they are to fight, men who are so greatly afraid of death, who cling to the knees and grovel at the feet of every one. 4 The army is emboldened at all this, since they know before the conflict the appearance of the enemy and his state of mind. For what a man has never seen he always expects will be greater than it really is; so also because of his fear of the future, a man measures his apprehensions by reference to the more grievous outcome.

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Page updated: 27 Jul 13