Polyaenus: Stratagems

    - BOOK 8, Chapters 1-25

Adapted from the translation by R.Shepherd (1793). See key to translations for an explanation of the format. Click on the G symbols to go to the Greek text of each section.

CONTENTS:   1 Amulius ; 2 Numitor ; 3 Romulus ; 4 Numa ; 5 Tullus ; 6 Tarquinius ; 7 Camillus ; 8 Mucius ; 9 Sulla ; 10 Marius ; 11 Marcellus ; 12 Atilius ; 13 Gaius ; 14 Fabius ; 15 Quintus ; 16 Scipio ; 17 Porcius Cato ; 18 Daunus ; 19 Titus ; 20 Gaius ; 21 Pinarius ; 22 Sertorius ; 23 Caesar ; 24 Augustus ; 25 The Romans ; → Following Chapters (26-71)

[Preface] This eighth book of stratagems I address to your most sacred majesties, Antoninus and Verus. And having with it finished the collection I promised, I have only to wish you success in the wars, in which you are at present engaged, equal to your military merits, and to myself your favourable opinion, that amidst my civil employments I have devoted my leisure hours to such pursuits, as may serve the Roman empire, and the Greeks, in conducting wars, and regulating treaties of peace. What is won in the field, must be secured in the council-house; and he, that excels in both, deserves immortal glory, and his country's thanks.

[1]   Amulius.

G  Amulius and Numitor were brothers. Amulius the younger kept his brother in captivity, and himself mounted the throne of Alba. And to prevent Numitor, who had an only daughter Sylvia, from having any posterity capable of taking revenge on his usurpation, he appointed her priestess of Vesta; who in consequence of that office became devoted to perpetual virginity.

[2]   Numitor.

G  Remus and Romulus, sons of Mars and Sylvia, formed a design against Amulius, possessed themselves of the citadel, and from thence attacked the city. Numitor, who was privy to the conspiracy, summoned the citizens; he told them that the enemy meant to attack the city, that Amulius had betrayed the interests of it, and fled; but bade them meet him in the market place. The citizens accordingly armed, and assembled; when Remus and Romulus, after having slain Amulius, marched out of the citadel, harangued the citizens, and told them, who they were, how they had been injured, and the resolution they had taken to avenge the injustice which had been done to their grandfather. The people applauded the act, and placed Numitor on the throne.

[3]   Romulus.

G  When the Romans were in need of wives, Romulus ordered a proclamation to be made throughout the neighbouring cities, that he intended to make a sacrifice to Equestrian Neptune; on which occasion he meant to exhibit sports, and games, and athletic exercises, and to reward the victors with magnificent presents. From the adjacent towns this drew numbers of people of all ranks; men, women, and maidens. Romulus strictly ordered his people to offer no violence either to the men, or matrons, but when a particular signal was given, to seize the maidens; and that not for purposes of lust, but to contract marriages with them. And from these marriages the first Romans were born. [see also: Livy, 1.9]

2   Romulus encamped about ten stades from Fidenae, and in the night marched out his forces, forming a narrow front with one half of his troops; and the rest he posted in ambush, having given his orders to the officers, who commanded the ambuscade. As soon as it was dawn, he advanced with his little army against the gates; which he ordered his light troops, furnished with hatchets and pick-axes, to break down. The Fidenates, enraged at his presumption and temerity, opened their gates, and without any order rushed out, and attacked the enemy, who slowly and in good ordered retreated before them. The Fidenates, suspecting nothing of an ambush, and despising the paucity of the troops they saw, pressed closely on him, presuming on a cheap and easy victory. The commanders of the troops that formed the ambush made their men crouch down behind the others, so as not to be observed by the enemy; while the rest of the Roman army continued retreating, and then wheeled round beside them to face the Fidenates. The ambuscade, as soon as the enemy reached them, stood up; and with a great shout they charged down on them. The Fidenates were already exhausted by the long pursuit, and were easily defeated. Those, who before had fled, snatched the palm of victory from their pursuers, and made themselves master of the city. [see also: Livy, 1.14]

[4]   Numa.

G  To turn the Romans from war and slaughter to a life of peace and law, Numa retired into the sacred temple of the nymphs; and there shut himself up alone for several days. And when he returned from there to the people, he produced certain oracles, which he said had been delivered to him by the nymphs, and persuaded them to receive as laws: to which they accordingly paid a most careful observance. And the body of those religious institutions, feasts, supplications, sacrifices and ceremonies, which are at this day in use among the Romans, were framed by Numa; and by the people originally received as the institutions of the nymphs. And in this device I have always thought that he had an eye to Minos and Lycurgus. For they received, or at least professed to have received, their laws, the one from Zeus, and the other from Apollo, which the former prevailed on the Cretans, and the latter on the Lacedaemonians, to accept and observe.

[5]   Tullus.

G  In the reign of Tullus, an engagement was fought between the Fidenates and the Romans; in which the Albans, who were posted in the left wing of the Roman army, deserted their post at the moment of action, and retired to the mountains. A horseman rode full speed up to Tullus, to inform him of the treachery of the Albans; but he replied in a loud and resolute tone of voice, "Go back to your post; what the Albans have done, they have done by my order, with intention to surround the enemy". On hearing this the Romans set up a loud shout. Their exultation struck terror into the Fidenates, who, suspecting the movement of the Albans to be in reality what Tullus pretended, a design to surround them, sought to elude the manoeuvre by a precipitate flight. [see also: Livy, 1.27]

[6]   Tarquinius.

G  Tarquinius, tired out with a long war against Gabii, in the course of which he had besieged the city, but had not been able to capture it, scourged his youngest son Sextus; and sent him over to the enemy in the character of a deserter. Seeing the marks of cruelty and ignominy, that he carried about him, they did not doubt not his sincerity, but received him as a friend. He promised to help them against his father; and at first he did so. He ravaged the Roman territories, and defeated the enemy in frequent skirmishes; he took some prisoners, and returned laden with spoils. The inhabitants of Gabii, convinced of his great valour, made him general of their armies, and commander in chief. When he had been invested with this power, he secretly dispatched a messenger to his father, to enquire what he would have him do. Tarquinius, as they were conversing in the garden, struck off the heads of some of the tallest poppies; then turning to the messenger he said, tell my son, I would have him do thus. Following his instructions, Sextus found a way to rid himself of the most powerful men in Gabii. After the city had been thus reduced to weakness, and robbed of its natural protectors, he betrayed it to the Romans. [see also: Livy, 1.54]

[7]   Camillus.

G  When Camillus commanded against the Falerians, the master, to whose care the instruction of the Falerian boys was committed, led them out of the city, under pretence of exercising them; and delivered them up to the Romans. Camillus, who detested the treachery of the teacher, ordered his hands to be tied behind him; and told the boys to conduct him back in disgrace to their parents. The Falerians whipped him to death; and struck by the exemplary regard to justice and duty, which Camillus had displayed, they surrendered themselves to him without risking a battle. By this act of generosity he subdued those, who had proved themselves invincible by arms. [see also: Plutarch, Cam.10]

2   The Gauls, under the leadership of their king Brennus, made themselves masters of Rome; and kept possession of it seven months. Then Camillus, having collected the forces that were dispersed in different parts of the country, defeated Brennus, and recovered the city. Thirteen years later the Gauls again ventured to invade the Roman territories, and encamped at the river Anio, not far from the city. Camillus was on this occasion created dictator a fifth time; and took the command of the army. Against the broad swords of the Gauls, with which they aimed their blows at the enemy's head, he made his men wear smooth iron helmets, by which the swords were soon blunted, and broken; and because the Roman shield, which was of wood, was not proof against the stroke, he directed them to border it round with a thin plate of brass. He also taught them the use of the long spear; with which they engaged in close fighting, and receiving the blow of the sword on their shield, made their thrust with the spear. The Gallic iron was soft and poorly beaten; the edge of the sword was soon bent by means of the brass plate, and the weapon became unserviceable. By this improvement in their weapons, the Romans obtained a cheap and easy victory; many of the Gauls were cut to pieces, and the rest saved themselves by flight. [see also: Plutarch, Cam.40]

[8]   Mucius.

G  In a war between the Etruscans and Romans, when Porsenna was king of the Etruscans, and Publicola, then in his third consulship, commanded the Romans; Mucius, a Roman citizen of proved valour, formed a design against the life of Porsenna; and for that purpose he entered the Etruscan camp, spoke in the Etruscan dialect, and dressed in Etruscan clothes. And, while the king was seated on his throne, attended by his officers, Muscius advanced towards it; and not knowing the king's person, plunged his sword in the breast of one who sat near him, whom he mistook for the king. He was instantly seized; and confessed his intention, and who he was; and while a sacrifice, according to immediate orders, was offered for Porsenna's safety, he thrust his errant hand into the fire; and with an intrepid voice, and without emotion, conversed with the king, his hand in the mean time burning in the flames. When Porsenna expressing astonishment at the bravery which he displayed, Mucius bade him not be surprised. "For," said he, "there are at this instant three hundred Romans, possessed of as much courage and resolution as myself, wandering about your camp, and with the same intention of killing you." The king believed his assertion; and, alarmed for his own safety, immediately put an end to the war. [see also: Plutarch, Publ.17]

[9]   Sulla.

G   In the Social War Albinus, a legate and ex-praetor, was murdered by some of his own men, who set upon him with stones and clubs. Great as the offence was, Sulla neglected to punish it, on the principle of making them behave with the greater courage in future; observing, that to expiate a great offence, a much greater display of military merit would be necessary; and in the following battles they fought so bravely, that their crime against Albinus was forgotten.

2   In an engagement at Orchomenus with Archelaus the general of Mithridates, Sulla, perceiving the Romans give ground, leaped from his horse; and seizing a standard, advanced with it through the fleeing squadrons, and called aloud to them, "My death, O Romans, will be glorious; and when you are asked, where you betrayed Sulla, say at Orchomenus." The reproof so stung the Romans, that they faced about, vigorously attacked the enemy, and changed the fortune of the day.

[10]   Marius.

G   When the Cimbri and Teutones, a people savage in their manners, of immense stature, with horrid countenances, and a language scarcely human, penetrated into Italy; Marius would not at first enter into a close engagement, but ordered his men to advance no further than the trenches, and within a javelin's throw skirmish with them at a distance. The Romans, after having been thus familiarised with their appearance, soon learned to despise them as savages; and desired Marius to lead them out, and give them an opportunity of distinguishing themselves against the barbarous invaders. He did so; and of a hundred thousand of the enemy few escaped; the greater part being either taken prisoners, or slain.

2   Previous to an engagement with the Teutones and Cimbri, Marius ordered Marcellus with three thousand heavy-armed troops in the night to take a circuit round the mountains, and endeavour to make good their march over the more inaccessible parts of them, in the enemy's rear. When this was achieved, Marius ordered his troops to fall back from the higher ground onto the plain; that the enemy presuming on their inferiority might pursue them, and be thus decoyed onto level ground. The manoeuvre succeeded; and Marius attacking them in front, and Marcellus in the rear, obtained a brilliant victory.

3   Marius in his war with the Cimbri, who came out of a cold country, realising that they could bear frost and snow much better than heat and sun, took the field against them in the month of August, and harassed their rear. And when the barbarians faced about, they met in front not only the enemy, but a hot beaming sun; to protect against the heat and glare of which, they endeavoured to shade their faces with their shields. This left their bodies bare, at which the Romans aimed; they slew a hundred and twenty thousand of them, and sixty thousand were taken prisoners.

[11]   Marcellus.

G   Marcellus at the siege of Syracuse, having been repeatedly beaten off from the walls by the machines of Archimedes, desisted for a time from his attempts to storm the town; till having taken prisoner Damippus the Spartan, who had sailed from Syracuse, he gained intelligence from him of a particular tower on the walls, capable of containing a great number of men, and carelessly guarded, and thus the walls also in that quarter were very accessible. Marcellus ordered suitable ladders to be made for an ascent, and, while the Syracusans were engaged in celebrating a festival in honour of Artemis, and giving way to banqueting and merriment, he made himself master of the tower; and lining the parapet with his troops, early in the morning he broke down the Hexapyla, and possessed himself of the city. The men, who had behaved with great gallantry, required the city to be given up to them to be plundered. Marcellus, wishing to preserve the inhabitants from acts of outrage, yet at the same time unwilling to disappoint the soldiers, allowed his men to take the money and the slaves; but forbade them to injure any of the free citizens and priests.

[12]   Atilius.

G   Atilius, when a prisoner of the Carthaginians, engaged himself by an oath, if they would give him leave to go on his parole to Rome, to endeavour to persuade the senate, to put an end to the war; and, if he did not succeed in the negotiation, to return. As soon as he arrived at Rome, he advised the senate to the direct contrary; he revealed to them the weakness of the Carthaginians, and pointed out to them in what part, and in what manner they were most open to attacks. The senate were convinced that his advice was right, and they requested him to remain with them, and consider an oath extorted from him by necessity as no oath at all. To the entreaties of the senate his wife, his children, friends, and relations, tenderly embracing him, added theirs. But, deaf to all their pleadings, he disdained to violate his oath, and returned to Carthage; where he informed the Carthaginians of the stratagem he had employed for the service of his country, and the determination of the Romans. In revenge, they threw him into a dungeon; and after scourging, and exercising various cruelties on him, they put him to death.

[13]   Gaius.

G  Gaius had given express orders for everyone to continue under arms, and not to stir out of the camp; but, in the heat of the day, his son led out his horse to water at a river, that ran close by. His father immediately ordered him to be beheaded for disobeying orders; thus enforcing discipline by the sacrifice of his son.

[14]   Fabius.

G   Fabius, when he commanded against Hannibal, after having been censured in the senate for not bringing the enemy to an engagement, was pressed by his son to wipe off the aspersion, and proceed to action. Fabius then, leading him through the army, pointed out to him every part of it, and explained the apparent mysteriousness of his conduct. "Observe", said he, "how many infirm men, how many unfit for action, contribute to form this army; and who would in prudence risk the hazard of a battle on the prowess of such troops as these? Every man, that has had any experience in military affairs, knows that we can never depend on bringing our whole force into action; and if the parts where these men are posted are attacked, we must be defeated. For this reason I study to avoid a general action; contenting myself with harassing the enemy in his march, by securing advantageous posts, and by secret negotiations winning over cities to revolt from him." This conduct of his was at first censured as timidity, but afterwards received its full praise. The Romans, after other generals had lost great armies, had recourse to Fabius, whom they appointed general, and afterwards dictator, and also surnamed Maximus, which means Greatest.

2   Fabius was honoured with the surname of Maximus [Greatest], and Scipio only with that of Magnus [Great]. Scipio, with some degree of pique at the superior distinction of Fabius, asked him how it was that he, who had only saved the Roman armies, should be surnamed Maximus, while himself, who in close action had engaged Hannibal, and defeated him, should have no higher distinction than that of Magnus. "Why", replied Fabius, "if I had not preserved the men, you would have had no soldiers, with whom to have fought and conquered him."

3   Fabius by a stratagem, made himself master of the city of the Tarentines, then in alliance with Hannibal. In the army of Fabius was a Tarentine, whose sister, a young woman of exquisite beauty in Tarentum, possessed the affections of a Bruttian, to whom Hannibal had committed the charge of the walls. Fabius, informed of the circumstance, dispatched the Tarentine into the city; with instructions through his sister to cultivate an acquaintance with the Bruttian, and endeavour to bring him over to the interests of the Romans. This he effected; and after the Bruttian revealed to him, in what part the walls might most successfully be attacked, Fabius there applied his ladders, and took the town by storm. This exploit gained Fabius great reputation, in that by his stratagem he got the better of Hannibal, than whom no general had ever employed stratagems with greater success.

[15]   Quintus.

G  Quintus Fabius, when very advanced in years, in order to get his son appointed general, requested the Romans not to give him the command of their armies; which would in effect, said he, be calling his father out in extreme old age to attend him. The Romans wished for nothing more, than to have a man of Fabius' experience to superintend the operations of the army; and therefore appointed the youth to be their supreme commander. But as soon as he was appointed, Fabius excused himself from attending him in the field; lest his own authority should lessen the glory of his son's command.

[16]   Scipio.

G   Scipio, when in Spain, having received information that the enemy had advanced to action before they had eaten, drew up his army against them, and delayed them with various manoeuvres; then at about the seventh hour, when the enemy were tired, and were faint for want of refreshment, he vigorously attacked, and easily defeated them.

2   Scipio expelled all prostitutes from the camp; bidding them go, and exercise their trades in cities, which were abandoned to ease and luxury. He ordered also to be sent away all couches, tables, vases, and the whole apparatus of dinner, except a pot, a spit, and an earthen mug. And if any one desired to be allowed a silver cup, he limited the size of it to a pint. The use of baths he prohibited; and forbade those, who used unguents, to be attended by servants in their rubbings, observing that the servants might be much more usefully employed in taking care of the cattle. He obliged the army to eat cold dinners; allowing the preparation of hot meat only for suppers. He introduced the wearing of the Gallic cloak, and himself used to wear a black one; and in walking about the camp, if he saw any of the generals reclined on couches, he would lament the luxury of the army, and their love of ease.

3   Scipio observing a soldier bending under a huge piece of palisade, called out to him, "Fellow soldier, you seem overloaded." "Indeed I am," replied the man. "I see it," said Scipio; "and am afraid, that you place your hopes of safety more on your palisades, than on your sword." [see also: Plutarch, Mor.201]

4   Seeing a soldier very intent on displaying the elegance of his shield; "It is a shame," said Scipio, "for a Roman to pride himself more on the ornament of his left hand, than of his right."

5   Scipio, interrupted by a commotion of the people, called aloud to them, "The shout of an armed foe never terrified me; and the clamour of a mob never shall, to whom Italy is only a stepmother." The resolution, with which he expressed himself, silenced the rioters, and quashed the commotion.

6   After the capture of Oenyssa, a city in Spain, they who had the charge of the prisoners brought to Scipio a maiden of extraordinary beauty. He immediately enquired for her father, and restored his daughter to him. The presents also, which the father had brought to purchase her ransom, Scipio returned; desiring him to accept them in addition to his daughter. And whatever other women were taken, whether the wives or daughters of men of any consequence, he committed them to the care of two sober and aged Romans; with orders that they should be cared for in a manner suitable to their rank. By this remarkable display of self-control, Scipio won over to the Roman interests and alliance a great number of Spanish cities.

7   Scipio, having engaged Syphax king of the Massylii in an alliance with him, crossed over into Sicily. While he was there, Hasdrubal, who had a daughter of exquisite beauty, promised her to Syphax, on condition that he would renounce the Roman alliance. The marriage accordingly took place; and Syphax went over to the Carthaginians. He immediately dispatched a letter to Scipio, warning him not to land in Africa. Aware of the great confidence the Romans placed in the alliance of Syphax, and apprehensive that if they were informed of his revolt they would not venture to invade Africa, Scipio summoned a council, and laid before them Syphax's letter, but altered the purport of it to the direct contrary of what it actually said. He pretended that Syphax invited them into Africa, was surprised that they had deferred their expedition for so long, and observed that treaties of alliance should be promptly followed by action, or would soon be dissolved. This representation gave new confidence and alacrity to the Romans, who pressed him to fix a day for their embarkation.

8   When some Carthaginian spies were captured, instead of executing them as Roman law directed, Scipio ordered them to be conducted through every quarter of the camp. After having seen the men there, some exercised in launching missiles, other in hurling javelins, some again employed in furbishing their weapons, and others in sharpening their swords, they were again introduced to Scipio; who, after having entertained them at dinner, bade them go, and tell their master all they had seen. The report, which the spies made of the magnanimity of Scipio, and of the preparations for war which they observed in the Roman camp, alarmed Hannibal, and struck the Carthaginian army with consternation.

[17]   Porcius Cato.

G   When Porcius Cato invaded Spain, ambassadors met him from every city, with tenders of submission to him and the Roman people; those he directed within a fixed time to send hostages. And two of these hostages from each place he charged with a letter to their respective cities; directing them all to be delivered on the same day. The purpose of all the letters was the same: "The moment you receive this, demolish your walls." The orders, being immediate, gave no time for one city to consult another; and each fearing lest, if the rest complied with the orders, and they should not, they might be reduced to a state of slavery, obeyed the instruction; and in one day every city in Spain razed their walls.

[18]   Daunus.

G  In honour of Diomedes, who died in Italy, Daunus instituted funeral games. On the first day he proposed to the Greeks to form a procession in arms. The next day he commanded the barbarians to do the same; directing them, for the purpose, to borrow the weapons of the Greeks; with which they were no sooner furnished, than they fell upon the Greeks, and slew them with their own weapons.

[19]   Titus.

G   Cleonymus having made Titus prisoner, demanded for his ransom two cities, Epidamnus and Apollonia. The father of Titus refused to give them up to him; bidding him keep his prisoner. Under these circumstances Titus procured a model to be made of himself in an attitude of sleep, which he placed in his house; and having contrived means, while the sentinels were guarding the room where he had placed the model, to get secretly on board a ship, he made his escape before the deception was discovered.

[20]   Gaius.

G   While the Carthaginian fleet, consisting of eighty large ships, lay at Tyndaris, Gaius with two hundred triremes endeavoured in vain to bring them to a engagement, because they were deterred by the superior number of his fleet. Furling therefore the sails of one hundred of his vessels, and setting those of the rest, he concealed one half on his fleet behind the expanded sails of the other half; and, his line thus formed, showed himself to the enemy, who, supposing the number of his ships to be only in proportion to the number of sails they saw, advanced against him, determined to hazard a battle. Gaius lay by, until they had approached too near him to escape; and then bearing down upon them with all his force obtained an easy victory.

[21]   Pinarius.

G   The Ennaeans, who had decided to renounce the alliance of the Romans, asked Pinarius, the commander of the garrison, to give them the keys to the gates. "If," said he, "the people will assemble tomorrow, and a public decree sanctions the revolt, I will readily obey it, and give up the keys." The next day they accordingly assembled, but in the night he placed many soldiers in ambush at the citadel, and detached different parties, to surround the theatre, post themselves in the narrow streets, and attentively look out for the signal that should be given them. The Ennaeans assembled, according to their arrangement, and passed a decree confirming the revolt. The commander of the garrison then gave the signal; at which the men, who were posted on the high points near the citadel, let fly a shower of missiles; and those, who were posted in the narrow streets, with drawn swords attacked the people; and such a general carnage prevailed, that none escaped, except some few who let themselves down from the walls, or made their way through subterranean passages.

[22]   Sertorius.

G   Sertorius when in Spain had a present made him by some huntsmen of a white fawn, which he brought up so tame, that it would follow him wherever he went. When he mounted the tribunal, it mounted with him; and it would move its mouth to him, when he passed judgement on a case. From this he took occasion to persuade the barbarians, that the fawn was sacred to Diana; that through it the goddess foretold all events to him; and under her auspices he waged and conducted his wars. And whatever secrets he obtained through his envoys and spies, he pretended to have been informed of them by this fawn. He gave out that this messenger of the goddess never failed to provide him early warning of hostile attacks, ambushes, and sudden incursions; and he asserted that his future victories had been revealed to him by his fawn. Seized with astonishment, the barbarians paid him abject homage, and supported him as a particular favourite of the gods.

[23]   Caesar.

G   On his voyage to Nicomedes, Caesar was captured by some Cilician pirates near Malea. When they demanded a very large sum for his ransom, he promised to double it. As soon as they had reached Miletus, and landed there, he dispatched Epicrates a Milesian servant to the Milesians, asking them to lend him the sum he required; which was immediately sent. Epicrates was also commanded by Caesar, at the same when he brought the money, to bring likewise every preparation for a magnificent feast, together with a water-pot filled with swords, and wine with mandrake steeped in it. Caesar then paid them the double sum, as he had promised; and made them partake of the banquet he had prepared. In high spirits at the large sum they had received, they gave loose to their appetite, and drank freely of the drugged wine, which presently sent them to sleep. In that state Caesar ordered them to be slain, and he immediately repaid the money to the Milesians.

2   Caesar, when in Gaul, arrived at the foot of the Alps, and found the mountains occupied by the barbarians, who were prepared to dispute his passage. By a careful observation of the nature of the place, beneath those mountains he observed a great number of streams, which were of considerable depth; and the exhalations, which ascended from them every morning, formed a thick cloud. Under that cover, Caesar with half his army made a circuit round the mountains and reached the heights; the enemy because of the thickness of the cloud were not able to see his movement, but supposed him to be still in his camp. As soon as he found himself above the enemy, he set up a loud shout, which was returned by the other half of the army below; while the mountains re-echoing with the sound threw the barbarians into a general consternation; they precipitately quitted their posts, and fled, leaving Caesar to pass the Alps without molestation.

3   Caesar fought against the Helvetii, of whom eighty thousand, twenty thousand of them bearing arms, had penetrated into the Roman territories in Gaul. As was his usual method in his engagements with the barbarians, on the first day he retreated before the enemy, suffering a kind of defeat. This imaginary success gave them fresh confidence; and they determined to cross the Rhone in pursuit of him, while he encamped some little distance from it. The stream was rough; about thirty thousand of the barbarians crossed it with great difficulty and fatigue, and the rest of the army waited to cross it the next day. Those who had crossed over, worn out with the labour of the day, threw themselves down on the banks to rest; but Caesar attacked them in the night, and cut every man to pieces, who had neither time nor opportunity to cross back over the river.

4   Caesar not thinking himself strong enough to engage the Germans, who had offered him battle, contented himself with acting on the defensive; till, having learned that their augurs had forbidden them to fight before the new moon, he took the first opportunity to advance and attack them, supposing they would fight with less spirit and alacrity, when it was contrary to the instructions of their augurs. The event justified his expectations; and, by availing himself of an advantageous time for engaging, without any other advantage he gained a complete victory.

5   When Caesar's passage over a large river in Britain was disputed by the British king Cassivellaunus, at the head of a strong body of cavalry and a great number of chariots, he ordered an elephant, an animal till then unknown to the Britons, to enter the river first, mailed in scales of iron, with a tower on its back, on which archers and slingers were stationed. If the Britons were terrified at so extraordinary a spectacle, what shall I say of their horses? Amongst the Greeks, the horses fly at the sight of an unarmed elephant; but armoured, and with a tower on its back, from which missiles and stones are continually hurled, it is a sight too formidable to be borne. The Britons accordingly with their cavalry and chariots abandoned themselves to flight, leaving the Romans to pass the river unmolested, after the enemy had been routed by the appearance of a single beast.

6   Caesar having received intelligence, that Cicero, who was besieged by the Gauls, would be forced to surrender, if he was not speedily relieved, dispatched a soldier with orders to hurl a javelin over the walls in the night, with a letter tied to it. The letter was carried to Cicero, as soon as it was discovered; the contents of it were as follows: "Caesar bids Cicero hold out. Expect assistance." Very soon after, a cloud of smoke and dust was seen, the harbinger of his approach, ravaging the country as he advanced. The siege was immediately raised; and Cicero had the satisfaction not only to find himself relieved, but to see his besiegers defeated.

7   Caesar was advancing with an army of seven thousand men against the Gauls. In order to make his force appear to the enemy less than it really was, he fixed his camp on a confined spot of ground; and with a considerable detachment posted himself on a hill covered with woods, and there lay concealed. A small body of cavalry marched out of the camp, and skirmished with the enemy; who in confidence of their superiority pursued them to their trenches, and began, some to fill the ditch, and others to pull down the palisades. In the mean time, a sudden charge was sounded; the foot soldiers in an entire body sallied out of the camp, and the concealed troops poured down from the heights, where they had been posted, against the enemy's rear. The barbarians, thus vigorously attacked on all sides, were most of them cut to pieces.

8   Caesar had laid close siege to a fort in Gaul, which the barbarians defended with great resolution. But when a heavy storm of rain and hail happened to fall, Caesar observed that the guards had been driven by it from the walls and battlements. He availed himself of this opportunity, and ordered his men instantly to arm, and mount the walls; which they found undefended, and without loss made themselves masters of the place.

9   When Caesar undertook an expedition against Gergovia, the largest city in Gaul, Vercingetorix, king of the Gauls, took the field, and encamped against him. Between the two armies lay a large navigable river, which it was impracticable to ford. Convinced of this, Caesar made no open attempt to cross it; which drew on him the contempt of the barbarians, and made them confident that they were safe from attack. But in the night, he detached two legions into some thick woods, who marched up the river, while Caesar distracted the Gauls. Finding the old piles, on which a bridge had formerly been constructed, they rapidly cut down a quantity of timber from the wood where they had been posted, which they threw over the remains of the old bridge, that were still there; and over this temporary bridge they effected a safe passage. They advanced immediately against the Gauls, and easily routed them, because they were astonished at the unexpected approach of an enemy, and unprepared for battle. Caesar with the rest of his army effected a passage by the same way; and by the rapidity of this movement, struck terror into the Gauls.

10   Caesar advanced to the siege of Gergovia, but found it strongly fortified both by design and nature. The city was situated on a steep hill, that had a flat top. The left side of the hill was covered with thick trees and undergrowth; the right was too steep to be accessible; and one narrow pass led to it, which the defenders of Gergovia commanded with a powerful force. Caesar armed some of the most active and resolute men that he could pick out, and in the night he secretly posted them in the wood, equipped with short javelins, and such small swords as might not inconvenience them by being entangled among the trees. He ordered them not to attempt to advance upright, but to observe all possible silence and creep upon their hands and knees. By break of day they had made good their passage through the wood, and reached the summit of the hill. Caesar then advanced with the rest of his army against the right side, and drew thither the attention of the barbarians; while the troops emerged from the wood formed without being noticed, and made themselves masters of the hill

11 G   When Caesar lay before Alesia, the Gauls advanced against him with an army of two hundred and fifty thousand men. In the night he detached three thousand heavy-armed infantry, and all his cavalry, directing them to take different routes, and at about the second hour of the next day to fall upon the enemy's rear, and bring them to a engagement. He himself, as soon as it was light, drew up his army, and offered them battle; a challenge which the barbarians, relying on their numbers, treated with ridicule and contempt. But the detachments, who appeared in their rear and advanced with a shout of exultation, struck them with terror and consternation, when they saw their retreat thus cut off; and there ensued the greatest carnage, which the Gauls till then had ever experienced.

12   Caesar wished to capture Dyrrachium, which then belonged to Pompeius' side, and was protected by a powerful body of cavalry. But great as their force was, Caesar found means to baffle it with a handful of men, and a clever stratagem. He ordered a small body of cavalry to attack them at a handsome gallop; having detached three companies of infantry before them, with orders to do nothing else, but to raise as great a dust with their feet as they possibly could. The immense cloud of dust that was raised, and the confidence with which the cavalry seemed to advance to the attack, convinced the enemy that they were coming in great force; and, struck with a sudden and general alarm, they immediately fled.

13   Caesar, obliged to retreat through a narrow defile, had a lake on his left, and on his right the sea. By occasional halts, quick turns, and sudden sallies he repulsed the enemy who hung upon his rear, without much loss. But on the sea side Pompeius' fleet, that kept alongside him in his march, caused him much harm with their missiles and javelins. Against this attack Caesar ordered his men to carry their shields on their right hands; which had the desired effect. [see also: Caesar, BCiv.3.75]

14   When Caesar and Pompeius were in Thessaly, the latter, who was well supplied with provisions, declined to come to battle; while Caesar, who was short of provisions, was accordingly anxious to engage. Caesar used every expedient to irritate the enemy; sometimes shifting his camp, to procure forage, and sometimes retreating. Pompeius' army, taking these frequent movements for signs of timidity, scarcely contained themselves; and pressed Pompeius to lead them against the foe. Caesar continued to retreat before them, till he had drawn them into an open plain; then he faced about, fought them gallantly, and obtained a victory. [see also: Caesar, BCiv.3.85]

15   When a sedition appeared to be forming in the camp, as the soldiers clamorously insisted on being discharged from service, Caesar with a composed and cheerful air went into the midst of them; "And what is it," said he, "my fellow-soldiers, that you want?" "To be discharged from service," they replied. "Very well," he said; "but be advised then, citizens, and refrain from sedition." Piqued at being called citizens, and not fellow-soldiers, they were more clamorous than before; altering their cry of grievance, and saying their title was not citizens, but fellow-soldiers. Caesar with a smile replied, "If we are fellow-soldiers, then let us fight together." [see also: Frontinus, Str.4.5.2]

16   In a engagement with the younger Pompeius, Caesar, seeing his men give way, jumped from his horse, and called aloud: "Are you not ashamed, my fellow-soldiers, to run away and leave me in the hands of the enemy?" The troops felt the reproof, rallied, and renewed the fight. [see also: Frontinus, Str.2.8.13]

17   Caesar ordered his men to be always in readiness; as in the midst of a festival, or of a storm, by night, or by day, if occasion required, he might at an hour's notice march them out; and therefore never fixed for his movements any distant period, or future day." [see also: Suetonius, Caes.65]

18   Caesar's practice was to make his sallies at full speed; thereby never giving the enemy time to assault his rear.

19   Whenever Caesar saw his men apprehensive of the enemy's superiority of force, he never attempted to diminish, but on the contrary exaggerated their strength; that the greater the force of the enemy, his army might see the greater necessity for a vigorous exertion. [see also: Suetonius, Caes.66]

20   Caesar encouraged his men to have their weapons richly ornamented with gold and silver; not only for the sake of a splendid appearance, but because the more valuable they were, their owners would the more reluctantly part with them. [see also: Suetonius, Caes.67]

21 G   Caesar was not very exact in observing, or scrupulous in punishing, petty offences in his men; supposing that to overlook, or pardon a fault, would be a spur to valour. But anyone, who was a leader in a sedition, or had deserted his ranks, was sure not to go unpunished.

22   Caesar used always to call his soldiers, fellow-soldiers; rendering them by that equality of title ready to face dangers, and execute his commands.

23   On receiving intelligence, that some troops had been butchered in Gaul, Caesar made a vow not to shave his face, till he had taken satisfaction on their murderers. This reaction won him universal esteem.

24   Caesar, when short of provisions, distributed to his men loaves, which were made of grass. One of these loaves fell into the hands of Pompeius, who was then engaged in war against him. Pompeius concealed it, unwilling to produce to his own troops such strong evidence of the resolution and hardiness of the enemy, with whom they were engaged. [see also: Suetonius, Caes.68]

25   In the battle fought between Caesar and Pompeius on the plains of Pharsalus, Caesar knowing that there were in the enemy's army a great number of elegant young men, who valued themselves on their personal attractions, ordered his men to aim their spears and javelins not at the bodies of their enemy, but at their faces. The dread of being disfigured drove them off the field, and contributed not a little to the success of the day. [see also: Plutarch, Caes.45]

26   After the defeat at Dyrrachium, Caesar's men surrendered themselves up to be decimated: a punishment however, which he would not suffer to be inflicted. Instead he exhorted them by their future behaviour to retrieve the honour which they had lost. They accordingly in every future engagement, though against superior forces, bore away the palm of victory. [see also: Suetonius, Caes.68]

27   While Pompeius declared, that he considered all, who attached themselves to neither party, as his enemies; Caesar on the contrary ordered it to be reported, that he esteemed all, who did not appear in arms against him, as his friends. [see also: Suetonius, Caes.75]

28   Caesar, when he commanded in Spain, made a truce with the enemy; notwithstanding which, they resumed hostilities, and cut many on his men to pieces. Instead of retaliating, he set free some prisoners which he had of theirs, and by that act of humanity much ingratiated himself with the foe.

29   After his victory over Pompeius at Pharsalus, Caesar saw that his soldiers were slaughtering the defeated enemy without mercy, and cried out, "Spare your fellow-citizens."

30   After Caesar had seen all his enemies subdued, he empowered every one of his soldiers to save the life of any Roman he pleased. By this act of kindness and humanity he ingratiated himself with his soldiers, and restored the exiled citizens to Rome.

31 G   Caesar ordered that the statues of Pompeius and Sulla, which had been demolished by their enemies, should be replaced. This act of moderation gained him much esteem amongst the Romans.

32   When the auguries were pronounced adverse, to keep up the spirits of his men, Caesar used to say, he could render them auspicious whenever he pleased. [see also: Suetonius, Caes.77]

33   When a victim had been offered, in which no heart was found, "And where is the wonder," cried Caesar, "that a brute animal should be found without a heart?" His men, who had been alarmed at the inauspicious appearance of the sacrifice, recovered their spirits because of the amusing turn he gave to it.

[24]   Augustus.

G  Augustus did not order a general execution of those who evaded action in battle; but he punished them with decimation. [see also: Suetonius, Aug.24]

2   To those, who through cowardice suffered themselves to be left behind, he ordered barley to be distributed instead of wheat.

3   In order to punish those, who had committed offences in the army, he ordered them to stay standing before the general's tent without their weapons; and sometimes, to be employed for a whole day in carrying bricks.

4   Augustus directed his generals always to act with caution; and was continually repeating to them Festina lente - be active, but not rash; for a general had better be too cautious, than too confident. [see also: Suetonius, Aug.25]

5   Augustus always rewarded those, who had performed any signal exploit, with large gifts of silver and gold.

6   In respect to those, who without some good purpose wantonly exposed themselves to danger, Augustus use to say: it was like fishing with a golden hook.

7   Augustus, in his war with Brutus and Cassius, had occasion to cross the Adriatic, when the enemy's fleet under the command of Murcius was stationed at an island near Brundisium, ready to dispute his passage. Augustus advanced in line of battle, directing his course along the coast of Italy on the right of the Adriatic, as if he was heading towards the island with the intention of giving battle to Murcius; and on the transport ships he erected his towers and machines. Murcius concluded from those preparations for action that he intended to fight; and therefore stretched out into the open sea, where he might have room to form his line. But Augustus, instead of engaging, slipped into the port, which Murcius had left. Murcius, having no other port at hand where he could lie safe from storms, was obliged to sail forward to Thesprotis, leaving Augustus to cross the Adriatic without risk; and from there he crosed over into Macedonia. [see also: Appian, BCiv.4.86]

[25]   The Romans.

G  After the Celts had made themselves masters of the city, they concluded a treaty with the Romans on the following conditions: that they should pay them tribute, leave a gate open at all times, and give them a portion of land to cultivate. After these terms were acceded to, the Celts fixed their camp; and the Romans, treating them as friends, sent them various presents and supplied them with plenty of wine. The barbarians - for the Celts in particular are strongly addicted to liquor - indulged in the wine so freely, that there was scarcely a man amongst them who could stand upright. The Romans attacked them when they were in that condition, and cut every man to pieces. And that they might in effect appear to have fulfilled the conditions of the treaty, they constructed a gate which was left open on an inaccessible rock. [see also: Appian, Gall.5]

2   The Trojans, who had survived the destruction of Troy, with Aeneias as their leader anchored at the mouth of the Tiber; and landing there, went up into the country in various directions. In their absence the women held a consultation, and a Trojan woman called Roma thus addressed them: "Whither are we wandering? How long are we to be tossed on the sea? Come on, let us burn the ships; and thereby reduce our husbands to the necessity of settling here." After saying this, she instantly lit a torch, and set one of the ships on fire; the rest of the women followed her example, and demolished the whole fleet. Then the Trojans were forced to settle in Italy, because they had lost their ships. [see also: Plutarch, Rom.1]

3   Coriolanus, after he had been banished from Rome, offered his services to the Etruscans; they accepted, and appointed him general of their forces. Under his leadership they defeated the Romans in various engagements; and at last he advanced against Rome, determined to storm the city. A procession of Roman matrons, with Veturia the mother of Coriolanus at their head, advanced to meet the hostile army, and tried with the force of their entreaties to deflect Coriolanus from his purpose. They prostrated themselves before him, and embraced his knees. Veturia thus concluded their supplications: "If however you are determined not to spare your country, first slay your mother, and this venerable band of Roman matrons." Coriolanus was moved with compassion; he dropped a tear, and retreated, affording an eminent example of filial duty, but fatal to himself. For the Etruscans by a public decree sentenced him to death, for a breach of trust in failing to accomplish a victory which he had in his hands. [see also: Plutarch, Cor.36]

Following Chapters (26-71)

Attalus' home page   |   11.04.19   |   Any comments?