Aeneas Tacticus 15.1-7: Expeditions into the Countryside

Aeneas discusses how to gather together an expedition force at short notice. Note in particular his ideas of what can be expected of such a citizen army.






1. ... If after this a message arrives by hand or fire-signal, asking for help in the country, an expedition should be made to the district attacked. 2. The generals should be present on the spot to marshal the force, and to prevent small parties from marching out one after another to rescue their own property; for such ill-organized and ill-timed exertions would lead to disaster by affording an easy prey to ambushes. 3. The men should be assembled at the gates as they come up, till a certain number, say one or two companies, has arrived; then, after they have been properly formed up and a capable leader placed in command, they should be sent on as fast as they can go without losing their formation. 4. In this way one detachment after another should be dispatched without delay, until the expeditionary force is considered sufficiently strong: the object is to keep several detachments in touch with one another on the march, and, in case one detachment should require another’s assistance or the whole force be compelled to engage, to make concentration easy, so that no troops will have to come up at the double from a distance. 5. Any cavalry and light troops available should be sent out first in advance, also in good order, and should reconnoitre and occupy commanding positions, in order that the main body may have as much notice as possible of the enemy’s plans, and thus be secure from a sudden attack. 6. At bends in the road, at the foot of hills, and at turnings – wherever there is a choice of roads – signals should be placed, to prevent stragglers who do not know the way from taking a wrong turning. 7. In returning to the city every precaution should be taken, especially against ambushes; ...






Note Aeneas' attempts to avoid chaos: some citizens can apparently be expected to venture out on their own (presumably with private aims in mind), but on the other hand, he also expects people to arrive late.

The notion that stragglers will need signs to point them in the right direction seems particularly surprising, considering that Greek city territories were usually small. Moreover, most citizens, particularly those who could afford their own set of armour, owned some farm land, which would often mean a number of small pieces of land in different parts of the city's territory. One would therefore expect that most people knew their territory well - yet, Aeneas clearly does not trust this local knowledge.




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