Get to know Aeneas' work

This section offers extracts from the text, sorted by major themes which are particularly characteristic for Aeneas' work. In some cases, digressions have been omitted from the text to emphasise the main issues addressed in the passage.

Many of the passages come with a few comments at the end: these are mainly aimed at readers who are not experts in Ancient History. These comments are intended to alert the reader to interesting details, or they offer basic information necessary to understand the text.

If you prefer to read the whole text, and see these passages in context, switch to the text section, where you can read the whole Poliorketika in translation.


General practical advice

Selecting and organising troops

Technical advice

Psychological insights: handling people under pressure

Controlling information and communciation

Watching the enemy within

Aeneas as a historian and storyteller


As you are reading, watch out for details:

  • Aeneas usually takes into account Murphy’s law: what can go wrong, will go wrong.
  • Aeneas has little trust in people’s ability to get anything right.
  • There are many unique details about daily life in ancient Greece.
  • In many cases, Aeneas foresees a need to improvise: note his ingenuity in this respect.
  • Note the many references to a lack of resources in various areas.
  • Get a sense of the community effort involved.
  • Note details which suggest the size o the city (e.g. the assumption that sounds will be heard, and signals be seen from all parts of the city).

Also note Aeneas’ notion of what a ‘typical’ siege looks like.

Intensive siege operations, where walls were built around a besieged city and the aggressor attempted to cut off all communication with the outside, were known in the classical period. However, such operations were very costly, and only very large powers (the big alliances of Athens and Sparta, Macedon, Persia) would be able to carry out and sustain such an operation. Aeneas’ ‘average’ siege is by no means such an intensive affair. While there is some advice on how to deal with a direct assault on the walls (chapters 32-38), most of the work is concerned with a situation where the enemy on the outside occupies the countryside, or at least manages to make it unsafe for normal activity outside the walls. This in itself could cause major hardships for the city’s inhabitants, since most of them would have depended on farmland and pasture outside. However, Aeneas assumes that armed defenders are able to venture outside their walls, even to undertake fairly major operations. The enemy is expected to attempt attacks occasionally, on specific sections of the walls, and mostly by stealth. The attackers’ main hope is treachery on the inside, which is therefore also one of the major concerns in the Poliorcetica.


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