Aeneas Tacticus 23.





23 Secret Sallies at Night

1. When making a sally at night to surprise the enemy outside your walls the following precautions should be observed. First of all, take care that no-one deserts; secondly, that there are no lights in the open air: for a glow in the sky over the city may betray your intentions. 2. Any chance of dogs’ barking or cocks’ crowing must be done away with: you can keep them quiet for the time by cauterizing some parts of their bodies; for the noise they make by barking or crowing altogether betrays what is going on. 3. The following device has been employed in making a sally. The citizens made a plausible pretence of sedition within the city, watched their opportunity for a sally, and made a surprise attack on the enemy with complete success. 4. In another city the besieged surprised the enemy by sally in the following way. They walled up the gates in full view of the enemy; but at the point where an attack upon the latter was most practicable, they let down a sail and after a while drew it up again. This surprised the enemy at first, but on its frequent repetition they ceased to take notice of it; 5. then, at night, the besieged made a hole in the wall large enough for their purpose, built a retired wall across the gap and stretched the sail over; when the opportunity came, they made their sally and took the enemy by surprise. While they were doing all this they took good care that no one should desert. None of these points, therefore, must be neglected. 6. But you should never, not even at night, go out incautiously with a disorganised mob: in times of danger traitors both within and without devise plans with the special object of drawing an attack, by such tricks as lighting fires or setting fire to a dockyard, gymnasium, or public shrine, in short, by any ruse likely to entice a crowd of unusual size out of the city. You must therefore use care, and not be too ready to take such proceedings seriously. 7. I will mention here a scheme originated by certain magistrates. They arranged for an alarm to be raised in the country and for a report to be brought in from the fields of an intended attack by robbers, which they know would bring the citizens in haste to the rescue. 8. When the alarm was raised, these magistrates and their supporters called upon the citizens to go to the rescue. When the citizen body had mustered at the gates under arms, their next manoeuvre was to direct the assembled force to divide into three detachments and lay ambushes at a little distance from the city: 9. an order which suited their own plans without exciting the suspicions of their hearers. 10. Thereupon they led out the force and posted it in likely spots with directions to lie in wait for the invaders; they themselves with their accomplices went on ahead, saying that they would test the truth of the report and meet the danger first, their plan being, nominally, to entice the enemy into the ambush by a pretended flight. 11. They then went ahead to a spot where a force of mercenaries, who had arrived secretly by sea, was ready waiting, picked them up, and without attracting notice, succeeded in conveying them into the city by another route: for it looked as if they were merely leading back the citizens on their return from the expedition. Then, when the mercenaries were in occupation of the city, some of the citizens who had formed the ambush were banished, and the rest permitted to return. All such reports, therefore, should be looked at with suspicion, and no sallies in force should be made at night without due precautions.






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