Aeneas Tacticus 26: Dealing with the guards.

Various pieces of advice on how to handle the guards and how to make sure that they do their job properly. Particularly note Aeneas' attention to the peoples' morale, and his advice on how to adjust the behaviour of the commander accordingly.






26. Rounds

1. In time of danger rounds are necessary. And first two of the companies stationed in the market-place should take turns to go to the rounds under the city-wall, equipped with their ordinary armour, and instructed in signs which will enable them to distinguish each other with certainty from a distance. 2. The men on duty in the first watch must go their rounds before their dinner: for men on patrol in the first watch are apt to be lazy and insubordinate if they have come straight from their dinner. 3. Rounds should be made without lanterns, except on very dark and stormy nights; if one is carried, it should be screened so as not to shed any light upwards, but only on the ground in front of the men’s feet. 4. In a city which keeps horses and where the ground is fit for their use, rounds should be made on horseback in winter; for in the cold and mud of the long nights they will be sooner over this way.
5. If men are going their rounds on the wall as well, so that a lookout is being kept on both sides of it, 6. those on duty should on dark nights have stones to throw down one after another to the ground outside the walls; though some object to this, for the reasons I have given above [22.13]. 7. When there is fear of treachery, the rounds should be made under the wall, and no-one allowed on the top except the sentinels.
If the army is in a bad state owing to a reverse in the field, or to heavy loss from casualties or desertion by allies, or is disheartened and humiliated by any other mishap, and the presence of the enemy is a continual menace, the arrangement of the watches mentioned above should be carried out. 8. At these times the rounds should be made frequently, but you should not be too anxious on the rounds to detect patrols who are asleep at their posts or to worn out to keep proper guard; for it is unwise to depress still further an army in this condition, and a man is sure to lose heart if he is caught neglecting his duty: you should rather set about attending to their wants and restoring their morale. 9. At such times the approach of rounds should be indicated from a greater distance by speaking loudly some way off, so that if a sentinel is asleep he may wake up and prepare himself to answer the challenge. 10. It is best under such circumstances for the general in person to make each round carefully with his own regular bodyguard.
On the other hand, when your force is overconfident, the supervision of the guards must be stricter. 11. The general should never keep to the same time for his rounds, but choose his own time, to prevent the soldiers’ knowing long beforehand the moment at which their general will arrive, and keeping especially careful watch at that hour. 12. Some adopt the following plan, which certain people suggest and recommend. In case the governor of the city, from fear of danger or ill health, is reluctant to make the rounds in person, but nevertheless wishes to discover which men in any watch are neglecting their duty, he may do as follows. 13. A lantern signal may be prearranged with all the guards on the wall: and all patrols must answer this signal by raising their own lanterns. This signal should be made on the spot from which all on duty on the wall will be able to see it; 14. if there is no such place, a raised platform must be constructed somehow, as high as is practicable. From this a lantern should be raised, and every man at each post must acknowledge the signal. The number should then be counted: hence you can discover whether all the patrols have acknowledged your signal, or whether there are any defaulters.









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