Aeneas Tacticus 3: Organizing Guard Duty

Aeneas discusses ways of organizing guards; his preferred system ensures that they can mobilize quickly.






3. Another System of Organizing City Guards

1. When an unforeseen danger threatens a city whose inhabitants have not been previously organized, the quickest way to organize them for the defence of the city will be to assign by lot a section of the wall to each tribe; each tribe will then at once proceed to its station and there mount guard; the number of men in the different tribes will determine the length of wall assigned to each. 2. Then those from each tribe who are capable of hard work must be chosen for duty in the market place and on rounds, or for any service for which such men are required. 3. So, too, when a fort is held by allies, a portion of the wall should be assigned to each contingent of the allies to guard. If the citizens suspect one another of treachery, trustworthy men should be stationed at each place where the wall can be ascended, to prevent unauthorized persons from mounting.
4. But the citizens should have been already organized on time of peace on the following plan. First of all, there should be appointed as commander for each street a man selected for his character and ability, whose house will serve as a rallying point in the event of any sudden night alarm. 5. The commanders of the streets nearest to the market place should lead their men to the market place, those of the streets nearest the theatre to the theatre, and similarly all the other commanders should assemble at the open spaces nearest to them with the armed men who have reported to them. 6. In this way each party will arrive at its proper post without loss of time, and the men will be near their own homes; they will thus be able to send domestic instructions to their households their children and wives , being still close at hand. Lots should have been cast before hand to decide the spot to which each of the magistrates is to go, that he may send detachments of the troops there assembled to the battlements and see to the taking of such other measures as are required, when once the commands have been apportioned as above.






The citizen population of ancient Greek cities was usually organised by tribes (phylai) - in many cases, these were three or four sub-divisions, some cities had more tribes (e.g. ten tribes in Athens). Membership in these tribes was usually inherited, and in most cities had little to do with where in the city or the territory a family lived. These tribes provided the traditional sub-divisions for the army. The advantage of tribal divisions, therefore, is that they are readily available, and that every citizen would not only be aware of his tribal affiliation, but would probably also be used to fighting alongside his fellow tribesmen.

However, Aeneas prefers to organize troops by street, perhaps also reminding us of the kind of microcosm of close relationships which would exist in the neighbourhoods of a small city, informal structures which could be exploited to increase efficiency.




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