Aeneas Tacticus 27: Dealing with panic.

Suggestions on how to deal with panic among an army or among the population of a city. Note in particular Aeneas' comments on how such panics break out in the first place.






27. Of Panics

1. For dealing with sudden alarms or attacks of terror occurring by day or night in the city or camps, sometimes called panics (a Peloponnesian word, especially common in Arcadia), the following measures have been recommended. 2. Signals should be pre-arranged which the troops in the city will recognize, and perceive that a panic has occurred; there should also be a beacon-fire, in accordance with a pre-concerted plan, and on a spot visible, as far as may be, from all quarters of the city. 3. It is best to have issued orders in advance that wherever the alarm takes place, all troops are to remain at their posts and raise a paean, or pass the word round from man to man that it is only a panic. 4. If in any part of the force the paean is not raised in answer, you may assume that the panic has occurred there. If the general sees some real ground for apprehension, the bugle should be sounded: this should be the recognised alarm-signal.
Panics generally take place after a defeat in battle, occasionally in the day time, at night frequently. 5. To prevent their occurring so often, all the troops should have orders for the night to remain by their arms as far as possible, in readiness for emergencies: 6. this warning will probably prevent them, when emergency does arise, from being taken by surprise and thrown into confusion by a sudden panic, with disastrous results.
7. Euphratas, the Spartan governor in Thrace, finding night alarms of very frequent occurrence in his army, and being unable to stop them in any other way, issued the following orders for the night. 8. In the event of an alarm, the men were to sit up at once on their beds and to reach for their arms, but no-one was to stand up. Anyone standing upright he publicly ordered them to treat as an enemy. 9. Everyone, he thought, would take care to remember this order from fear of the consequences. And to show that he really meant what he said, when a panic did occur, one of his best men was struck down, though not killed, and some of the less valuable men actually lost their lives. 10. After this the men obeyed orders, and took care to have no more panics, and never again to leave their beds in a fright.
11. Another way of stopping a panic was this. While the camp was in an uproar one night, the herald called for silence and made the following proclamation: ‘Whosoever reports the person who let loose the horse which has caused this commotion…’
12. If an army is subject to this sort of thing at night, men of each company or regiment should in each watch be posted on the flanks and in the centre, so that if anyone is seen waking in a fright or otherwise beginning to make a disturbance, one of them will be immediately at hand to check and restrain him. 13. One man from each mess in the rest of the army should also be on guard to look out for groundless alarms and check panics in his own section. 14. You yourself should alarm the enemy’s forces at night by giving your heifers or other beasts wine to drink, and then driving them into the enemy’s camp with bells round their necks.









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