Aeneas Tacticus: Introduction

This passage is Aeneas' introduction to the Poliorketika.
He states dramatically just how important it is to withstand a siege, which explains why a work on defending a city is essential.





1. When men leave their country and engage in warfare and encounter perils beyond their own frontiers, and disaster occurs by land or sea, the survivors still have their own country and city and fatherland between them and utter destruction; 2. but for those who have to fight for all that is most dear to them, for temples and fatherland, for parents and children and all they posses, the struggle is of a wholly different kind: a successful and stout resistance to the enemy will make them dreaded by their foes and more secure from future invasion, while any weakness in meeting the peril will leave them no hope for safety. 3. When, therefore, men have to fight for all these precious stakes, they must omit no preparation and no personal effort: rather they must think beforehand of every possible precaution, that the world may never see them beaten through their own fault, 4. and if disaster does come, the survivors may be able later on to make good the loss, like certain of the Hellenes who have been reduced to the direst straits and yet have recovered.






The author makes clear what a community faces when an enemy is determined to take a city. This was still comparatively rare: Greek wars were often decided by battles in the countryside, well away from the cities. Fighting in built-up areas was considered dangerous, and the Poliorketika itself demonstrates what could be done to make intruders' advance through a city difficult and dangerous.

However, sieges were getting more common in the late fifth and fourth century. Nothing less than the survival or freedom of every individual in the city was at stake: the population of captured cities was often sold or executed; exile was a mild alternative, and that, too, meant a loss of all possessions, status, ancestral religion and culture - for ancient Greeks, in short, this was almost everything which defined their sense of identity.




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