VII
 

If prudence may be spoken of as the one quality distinctive of true generalship, there are two respects in which a general of cavalry at Athens should pre-eminently excel. Not only must he show a dutiful submission to the gods; but he must possess great fighting qualities, seeing that he has on his borders a rival cavalry equal to his own in number and backed by a large force of heavy infantry.[1] So that, if he undertake to invade the enemy's territory unsupported by the other forces of the city[2]--in dealing with two descriptions of forces single-handed, he and his cavalry must look for a desperate adventure; or to take the converse case, that the enemy invades the soil of Attica, to begin with, he will not invade at all, unless supported by other cavalry besides his own and an infantry force sufficient to warrant the supposition that no force on our side can cope with him.

Now, to deal with this vast hostile array, if only the city will determine to sally out en masse to protect her rural districts, the prospect is fair. Under God, our troopers, if properly cared for, are the finer men; our infantry of the line are no less numerous, and as regards physique, if it comes to that, not one whit inferior, while in reference to moral qualities, they are more susceptible to the spur of a noble ambition, if only under God's will they be correctly trained. Or again, as touching pride of ancestry, what have Athenians to fear as against Boeotians on that score?[3]

But suppose the city of Athens determine to betake herself to her navy, as in the old days when the Lacedaemonians, leagued with the rest of Hellas, brought invasion;[4] and is content once more simply to protect her walls through thick and thin. As to protecting what lies outside the city wall she looks to her cavalry for that; and single-handed her troopers must do desperate encounter against the united forces of the enemy. I say, under these circumstances, we shall need in the first place the strong support of Heaven; and in the second place, well will it be for us if our cavalry commander prove himself a consummate officer.[5] Indeed, he will have need of large wisdom to deal with a force so vastly superior in numbers, and of enterprise to strike when the critical moment comes.

He must also, as it appears to me, be capable of great physical endurance;[6] since clearly, if he has to run full tilt against an armament present, as we picture, in such force that not even our whole state cares to cope with it, it is plain he must accept whatever fate is due, where might is right, himself unable to retaliate.

If, on the contrary, he elect to guard the territory outside the walls[7] with a number just sufficient to keep a look-out on the enemy, and to withdraw into safe quarters from a distance whatever needs protection--a small number, be it observed, is just as capable of vedette duty, as well able, say, to scan the distant horizon, as a large; and by the same token men with no great confidence in themselves or in their horses are not ill-qualified to guard, or withdraw within shelter[8] the property of friends; since fear, as the proverb has it, makes a shrewd watchman. The proposal, therefore, to select from these a corps of observation will most likely prove true strategy. But what then of the residue not needed for outpost duty? If any one imagines he has got an armament, he will find it miserably small, and lacking in every qualification necessary to risk an open encounter.

But let him make up his mind to employ it in guerilla war, and he will find the force quite competent for that, I warrant. His business, so at least it seems to me, will be to keep his men perpetually in readiness to strike a blow, and without exposing himself, to play sentinel, waiting for any false move on the part of the hostile armament. And it is a way with soldiers, bear in mind, the more numerous they are, the more blunders they commit. They must needs scatter of set purpose[9] in search of provisions; or through the disorder incidental to a march, some will advance and others lag behind, beyond a proper limit. Blunders like these, then, our hipparch must not let pass unpunished (unless he wishes the whole of Attica to become a gigantic camp);[10] keeping his single point steadily in view, that when he strikes a blow he must be expeditious and retire before the main body has time to rally to the rescue.

Again, it frequently happens on the march, that an army will get into roads where numbers are no advantage. Again, in the passage of rivers, defiles, and the like, it is possible for a general with a head on his shoulders to hang on the heels of an enemy in security, and to determine with precision[11] the exact number of the enemy he will care to deal with. Occasionally the fine chance occurs to atack the foe while encamping or breakfasting or supping, or as the men turn out of bed: seasons at which the soldier is apt to be unharnessed--the hoplite for a shorter, the cavalry trooper for a longer period.[12]

As to vedettes and advanced outposts, you should never cease planning and plotting against them. For these in their turn, as a rule, are apt to consist of small numbers, and are sometimes posted at a great distance from their own main body. But if after all it turns out that the enemy are well on their guard against all such attempts, then, God helping, it would be a feat of arms to steal into the enemy's country, first making it your business to ascertain[13] his defences, the number of men at this, that, and the other point, and how they are distributed throughout the country. For there is no booty so splendid as an outpost so overmastered; and these frontier outposts are especially prone to be deceived, with their propensity to give chase to any small body they set eyes on, regarding that as their peculiar function. You will have to see, however, in retiring that your line of retreat is not right into the jaws of the enemy's reliefs hastening to the scene of action.

[1] The reference is doubtless to the Thebans. Unfortunately we do not know, on good authority, how many troops of either arm they had in the field at Leuctra or at Mantinea.

[2] Lit. "without the rest of the city," i.e. the hoplites, etc.

[3] See "Mem." III. v. 3, where it is contended that in pride of ancestry Athenians can hold their own against Boeotians.

[4] See Thuc. ii. 13, 14, 22, etc., and in particular iv. 95, Hippocrates' speech before the battle of Delium, 424 B.C.

[5] A "parfait marechal."

[6] So Jason, "Hell." VI. i. 4.

[7] Or, "His better plan would be to."

[8] Reading {anakhorizein}. Cf. "Cyrop." II. ii. 8; "Anab." V. ii. 10; or if {anakhorein eis}, transl. "or retire into safe quarters." See "Hell." IV. vi. 44.

[9] {epimeleia}. Cf. "Cyrop." V. iii. 47.

[10] Lit. "or else the whole of Attica will be one encampment." As at the date of the fortification of Decelea (413 B.C.), which permanently commanded the whole country. See Thuc. vii. 27. Al. Courier, "autrement vous n'avez plus de camp, ou pour mieux dire, tout le pays devient votre camp."

[11] See "Anab." II. v. 18; "Cyrop." III. iii. 47; IV. i. 18. {tamieusasthai}, "with the precision of a controller."

[12] Cf. "Hell." II. iv. 6; VII. i. 16.

[13] Or, "having first studied." Cf. "Mem." III. vi. 10.