Aeneas Tacticus 16.16-20: Preparing for an attack on one's territory

Aeneas considers different kinds of territories, and suggests possible general approaches to their defence. Note that he particularly stresses local knowledge, a considerable factor particularly in a small city-state, where many would have known the topography in great detail.






16. If your country is not easy to invade, and the ways leading into it a few and narrow, these, as I have said, should be occupied in advance: then, with your detachments posted at the several entrances, you should resist the attack of the force moving on the city; your dispositions should be made in advance, and the fortunes of each detachment made known to the others by fire signals, to enable them to reinforce each other in case of need.
17. If, on the other hand, your country is not hard to enter, and can be invaded by a large force at several points, you must occupy positions within your territory that will make it difficult for the enemy to advance upon the city. 18. If this, too, is impracticable, your next resort is to occupy positions near the city which will help you to fight at an advantage, and to withdraw easily from your position when you desire to retire to the city; then, directly as the enemy enters the country and marches upon the city, you to must assume the offensive with these positions as your base. 19. Your familiarity with the ground must always be used to advantage in delivering attacks; you will gain a great deal by previous knowledge of the country, and by being able to entice the enemy into whatever sort of country suits you best, where you know your ground and are at liberty to act on the defensive, to pursue, retreat, or withdraw either secretly or openly to the city (especially as you will also know where to find your supplies); while the enemy, strangers in an unfamiliar country, can derive from it none of these advantages: 20. for it is well known that a man who does not know the ground is not only unable to carry out his own plans, but finds it hard enough to retreat in safety, if the defenders choose to attack him. Thus with no heart for anything and afraid to move, because they cannot foresee their opponents' movements, they are doomed to failure. For there will be as much difference between your position and theirs if they were fighting in the dark and you in broad daylight, supposing this could happen at once.









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