Aeneas Tacticus 11.1-11: Plots to overthrow a goverment.

Aeneas provides some cautionary tales about conspiracies to overthrow a city's government, but he also offers a story where such a plan was thwarted.






1.Again, it is necessary to keep an eye on the citizens who are known to be disaffected, and never to adopt suggestions too readily. 2. To illustrate this, I will give in order an account of the several plots mentioned in my treatise on the subject which owed their origin to the treachery of magistrates or private persons, and also relate how some of them were frustrated and failed.
3. When Chios was on the point of being betrayed, a magistrate who was in the plot deceived his colleagues by persuading them that, as it was peace time, it was advisable to have the harbour boom hauled ashore, dried, and pitched, the old tackle of the ships sold, and the leaky roofs of the ship-houses put in a state of repair, as well as the colonnade adjoining the docks and the tower next to it, in which the magistrates resided: this served as a pretext to provide ladders for those whose object it was to seize the dockyard, colonnade and tower. 4. He also advised the discharge of a greater number of the city guards, on the plea of saving expense. 5. By these and similar arguments he persuaded his colleagues to agree to the very measures that would facilitate the capture of the city by the traitors’ attack. It is, therefore, important always to keep an eye on people who busy themselves to prepare the way for such schemes. 6. At the same time, he fastened to the walls and hung out stag-nets and boar-nets, as if for drying, and in another place sails with their ropes hanging outside; and by these some of the enemy climbed up under cover of night.
7. In Argos the following measures were taken against the revolutionary party. When the wealthy party was about to make its second attempt against the democracy, and was calling in mercenary troops, the democratic leader, perceiving what was on foot, induced two of the hostile party which was meditating the attack to become his secret accomplices, and thus, while representing them to be his enemies and treating them as such in public, obtained from them privately information about the traitors’ plans. 8. The wealthy party was on the point of bringing in the mercenaries, accomplices in the city were ready, and the attempt was to be made on the following night, when the democratic leader saw fit to summon a special meeting of the assembly, and without disclosing the plot, which might have thrown the whole city into commotion, said in the course of his speech that it was expedient for all citizens to assemble by tribes and to remain under arms during the coming night: 9. and that anyone who conveyed his arms to any other point, or appeared with them anywhere else, was to be punished as a traitor and conspirator against the people. 10. Now the object of this was that the wealthy men, being divided according to their respective tribes, might be prevented from forming a united body and taking part with the mercenaries in the attack: for by this tribal arrangement they would be distributed in small groups among their fellow tribesmen. By this clever and effective plan the attempt was frustrated entirely without risk.






11.8 - tribes: subdivisions of ancient Greek cities' citizen bodies, usually also used as subdivisins of the army. Most cities had three or four, some had more; Argos had four tribes. Membership of a tribe was passed down within families, and usually, as in this case, each tribe would contain a representative cross-section of society. This is what the Argives exploited in this case, forcing the conspirators to go to different places, surrounded by armed citizens who did not share their ambitions, and therefore preventing them from united action.




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