Aeneas Tacticus 2.





2. [Securing the City]

1. To avoid the necessity of stationing troops to defend the unwanted open spaces of the city, it is advisable to block them by digging trenches and raising all possible obstacles to any disaffected citizens who might want to occupy them. 2. Thus, when the Thebans broke into their city, the Lacedaemonians pulled down the nearest houses, and filled baskets with earth and stones taken from them and from fences and walls in different quarters of the town; it is said that they even took from their temples numbers of large bronze tripods, which they used to block up the entrances, passages and open spaces of the citadel, and in this way defeated the enemy’s attempts to break into the citadel itself. 3. Similarly, the Plataeans, when they discovered during the night that some Thebans had entered their city, soon noticed that there were not many of them and that they were not taking proper precautions, because they fancied they were masters of the city; and concluding that a sudden onslaught would easily dispose of them, they promptly devised the following scheme. 4. While some of the magistrates discussed terms with the Thebans in the market place, others secretly passed word to the citizens not to leave their houses indiscriminately in ones and twos, but to break through the partition walls between them, and so muster without the enemy’s knowledge. 5. Having thus got a presentable force together, they used carts without horses to block up the alleys and streets, and then, at a given signal, attacked the Thebans in a body; 6. meanwhile, the women and children gathered on the housetops. The Thebans, having to manoeuvre and defend themselves in the dark, found the carts even more formidable than their assailants. For they fled without any idea where to turn for safety, owing to the presence of the barricades, while their pursuers, knowing the ground well, soon dispatched numbers of them.
7. On the other hand, the arguments against this practice must be admitted: when there is only one open space left in the city, the inhabitants are in a dangerous situation if the traitors are the first to occupy it: for the first move is all important when there is only one such meeting place. But when there are two or three such spaces, there are certain advantages: 8. if one or even two of them are seized, the third is still left for the defenders; while if all are occupied, the detached sections of the attacking force will be in a weaker position to resist the combined forces of their opponents, unless each section by itself outnumbers the whole of the defenders. Similarly, when any other decision has to be made, factors which may tell against the rules laid down must be taken into account; for an unconsidered choice may lead to something very different from what was intended.






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