Aeneas Tacticus 16.

 

 

 

 

16. Anther Method of Relief

1. Another way of ordering an expedition against invaders may therefore be preferable. 2. In the first place, it is undesirable to attempt immediate reprisals ‹at dawn›; for you must remember that before daybreak your men will be unprepared and in great disorder, some eager to save their own property on the farms without loss of time, others afraid to advance boldly to meet the danger, as is natural in the case of sudden alarm, others again caught entirely unprepared. 3. You must, therefore, make ready for the expedition not only by mustering troops without delay, but by removing apprehensions, inspiring confidence, and, where necessary, providing arms.
4. For you must know that if your adversaries are men of judgement and skill, they will at first keep their best troops in hand when in the enemy's country; for they will expect an attack and be prepared to repulse it. Some of them in small detachments will be going about the country plundering, while others will probably be in ambush, ready for any undisciplined attempts of reprisal on your part. 5. You should not, therefore, attack and harass them at once, but should wait till they grow reckless and contemptuous of your opposition, and intent only on satisfying their greed by looting. Soon, too, they will be full of food and drink, and drunken men are careless and disobey orders. 6. Men in this condition are likely to make a poor show in battle and in retreat, if you choose the right moment for attack. 7. This will be when your force is in readiness at the place appointed and the enemy have dispersed in search of plunder: then is the time to attack, cutting off their lines of retreat with your cavalry and using your picked men for ambushes; the rest of the light troops should keep in touch with the enemy, while heavy infantry is brought up in column not far from the detachments sent in advance. Make your attack in a position where you need not fight if you do not want to, but where the advantage will be on your side if you choose to fight.
8. From what I have said you will see that it is sometimes a good plan to give the enemy rein and allow them to lay waste your territory as far as they please, for when they are engaged in pillage and encumbered with spoil, you will have an easy opportunity of revenge; the loot will be all recovered and the robbers will receive their just reward. 9. On the other hand, you will endanger your own men if you attempt reprisals hastily, and when they are unprepared and in disorder; while the enemy, although they will have had time to do a little damage, will not yet have lost their formation, and so will get away unpunished. 10. It is, as I have said, far better to give way for the moment, and then catch them unprepared.
11. If you do not succeed in finding or intercepting your captured property, you should not pursue along the roads or through the country which the enemy have traversed; send only a few men that way to make a demonstration, with orders not to overtake the enemy, but to let him think they are trying to do so, while the main army, in full strength, makes a forced march by another road. After outdistancing the robbers, wait in ambush on the confines of their territory 12. (it will still be easy to outdistance them and reach their frontier first, as the spoil they carry will delay their march), and choose their dinner-hour for your attack; for when the plunderers are safely across their frontier, they will relax their vigilance, and will thus have less chance of escape.
13. If you have boats available, it is best to make a pursuit by sea and so keep the soldiers fresh; for thus you will outdistance the enemy and secure the other advantages you need, as long as your passage by sea is unobserved. 14. It is said that the people of Cyrene and Barca and some other cities, when they sent relief expeditions over their long carriage roads, used carts and chariots. After driving to a likely spot they drew up their chariots in line, and heavy infantry alighted and fell in, fresh and ready for an immediate attack on the enemy. 15. a good supply of vehicles is therefore a great asset, providing a quick way of bringing your men fresh to the point required. The carts will also serve at the time to barricade the encampment, and can be used afterwards to take back to the city those who are wounded or injured in any other way.
16. If your country is not easy to invade, and the ways leading into it a few and narrow, these, as I have said, should be occupied in advance: then, with your detachments posted at the several entrances, you should resist the attack of the force moving on the city; your dispositions should be made in advance, and the fortunes of each detachment made known to the others by fire signals, to enable them to reinforce each other in case of need.
17. If, on the other hand, your country is not hard to enter, and can be invaded by a large force at several points, you must occupy positions within your territory that will make it difficult for the enemy to advance upon the city. 18. If this, too, is impracticable, your next resort is to occupy positions near the city which will help you to fight at an advantage, and to withdraw easily from your position when you desire to retire to the city; then, directly as the enemy enters the country and marches upon the city, you to must assume the offensive with these positions as your base. 19. Your familiarity with the ground must always be used to advantage in delivering attacks; you will gain a great deal by previous knowledge of the country, and by being able to entice the enemy into whatever sort of country suits you best, where you know your ground and are at liberty to act on the defensive, to pursue, retreat, or withdraw either secretly or openly to the city (especially as you will also know where to find your supplies); while the enemy, strangers in an unfamiliar country, can derive from it none of these advantages: 20. for it is well known that a man who does not know the ground is not only unable to carry out his own plans, but finds it hard enough to retreat in safety, if the defenders choose to attack him. Thus with no heart for anything and afraid to move, because they cannot foresee their opponents' movements, they are doomed to failure. For there will be as much difference between your position and theirs if they were fighting in the dark and you in broad daylight, supposing this could happen at once.
21. If you have a fleet, your ships will be ready manned; for an attack by sea will cause the enemy just as much embarrassment as one by land, if the fleet is kept threatening their sea-board and the roads along the coast: they will then be embarrassed both by your attack on land and by the descent made by the fleet upon their rear. 22. By this means you will attack the enemy when they are least prepared to resist, and your movements will take them by surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

created 14/02/2010 - updated 04/07/2017