Aeneas Tacticus 17: Festivals are dangerous.

Aeneas rates festivals as highly dangerous opportunities for conspirators to start an uprising. He advises caution and adds a few cautionary tales, too.






17. [Precautions During Festivals]

1. Where the citizens are not of one mind, but suspicious of one another, careful watch must be kept on occasions when the crowds go out to see torch races, horse races, or other games that is all public celebrations and armed processions outside the walls; and also the public docking of ships and at public funerals: for even on these occasions loyal citizens may be involved in disaster, 2. as I shall proceed to show by an actual instance.
At Argos a public festival took place outside the city, at which there was an armed procession of all the men of military age; and a number of the conspirators made ready and joined in the demand for arms to carry in the procession. 3. Their attempt was made close by the temple and the altar: most of the company piled their arms at some distance from the temple and went to the service of prayer at the altar; but some of the conspirators remained by the arms, while others, armed with daggers, took their places at the ceremony next to the magistrates and most prominent citizens, each picking his man. 4. After these had been struck down, others ran off with the arms to the city; while another party of conspirators, who had remained in the city, occupied points of vantage, armed with the extra weapons they had collected, so as to allow only those whom they wished to enter the city.
At no time, therefore, should you neglect to be on your guard against such plots. 5. When the people of Chios celebrate their Dionysiac festival with a splendid procession to the altar of Dionysus, they line the streets leading to the market place with guards and pickets in force, thus making things very difficult for would-be revolutionaries. 6. The best plan is for the magistrates to conduct the celebrations first, attended by the bodyguard I mentioned earlier, and not to allow the general public to assemble until the officials are clear of the crowd.









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