Aeneas Tacticus 32.





32. Contrivances for Repelling Assaults

1. I will now mention some methods of repelling an enemy’s assaults, whether made by machines or by storming parties. First, sails offer protection against missiles coming over the wall from towers or masts or the like. Cover them with something tear-proof, use capstans to stretch them taut, and once they are in position, the projectiles will have to overshoot them. At the same time make a big fire which will emit thick fumes. 2. Wooden towers should be raised in defence, or other tall structures made either of baskets filled with sand or of stones or of bricks; missiles may be kept off by wicker-work made of reeds woven crosswise. 3. Defences should also be prepared against battering rams and similar engines directed against the battlements: hang in front of them sacks filled with chaff, bags of wool, or fresh ox hides, inflated or stuffed, and similar articles. 4. When the ram is making a breach in a gate or any part of the wall, you must catch its projecting end in a noose, and so prevent the engine from delivering its blow. 5. And have ready a rock large enough to fill a cart, to drop on it and smash its nose to pieces. This stone should be dropped from the projecting beams, where it can be held in position by grappling hooks. 6. Make sure that the stone shall not miss the nose of the ram as it falls by letting down a plumb line first, and when this drops on the nose, immediately let the stone go after it.
7. It is best, too, to prepare as follows against engines attempting to breach the wall. When you know where the ram is to be applied, get ready at this point a counter-ram on the inside, digging through a part of the wall, but only as far as the brickwork on the further side, so as to keep the enemy still in ignorance of your proceedings. Then, when the enemy’s engine is close up, deliver a blow from the inside with your counter-ram. The counter-ram should be much the stronger of the two.
8. When you have to deal with big machines which bring up a number of men to discharge missiles from catapults, slings and so on, and burning arrows to set fire to thatched roofs – contrivances of this sort must be met, first, by setting the inhabitants of the city to dig secretly beneath the spots where the assaults will be made, so that the wheels of the machine will fall through and sink into the excavations; next raise a breastwork against them as best you can with baskets full of sand and with stones, which will raise above the level of the machine and render the enemy’s missiles ineffective. 9. Hang out as well strong curtains or sails as a shelter against the missiles, to catch them as they come over the wall; they can then be easily collected, and none will reach the ground. 10. Do the same, too, at any other point where the missiles may fly over the wall and disable or wound workmen and passers-by.
11. At whatever point he enemy bring up a shelter to enable them to dig through or knock down part of the wall, you must be ready to resist their attack. 12. Where they are digging through, light a great fire, and where they are knocking down the wall, dig a trench inside to prevent their getting in.




The translation of 32.1-2 has been adapted based on Whitehead (1990).


created 14/02/2010 - updated 14/02/2010