VIII
 

It stands to reason, however, that in order to be able to inflict real damage upon a greatly superior force, the weaker combatant must possess such a moral superiority over the other as shall enable him to appear in the position of an expert, trained in all the feats of cavalry performance in the field, and leave his enemy to play the part of raw recruits or amateurs.[1]

And this end may be secured primarily on this wise: those who are to form your guerilla bands[2] must be so hardened and inured to the saddle that they are capable of undergoing all the toils of a campaign.[3] That a squadron (and I speak of horse and man alike) should enter these lists in careless, disorderly fashion suggests the idea of a troop of women stepping into the arena to cope with male antagonists.

But reverse the picture. Suppose men and horses to have been taught and trained to leap trenches and scale dykes, to spring up banks, and plunge from heights without scathe, to gallop headlong at full speed adown a steep: they will tower over unpractised opponents as the birds of the air tower over creatures that crawl and walk.[4] Their feet are case-hardened by constant training, and, when it comes to tramping over rough ground, must differ from the uninitiated as the sound man from the lame. And so again, when it comes to charging and retiring, the onward-dashing gallop, the well-skilled, timely retreat, expert knowledge of the ground and scenery will assert superiority over inexpertness like that of eyesight over blindness.

Nor should it be forgotten, that in order to be in thorough efficiency the horses must not only be well fed and in good condition, but at the same time so seasoned by toil that they will go through their work without the risk of becoming broken-winded. And lastly, as bits and saddle-cloths (to be efficient)[5] need to be attached by straps, a cavalry general should never be without a good supply, whereby at a trifling expense he may convert a number of nonplussed troopers into serviceable fighting men.[6]

But if any one is disposed to dwell on the amount of trouble it will cost him, if he is required to devote himself to horsemanship so assiduously, let him console himself with the reflection that the pains and labours undergone by any man in training for a gymnastic contest are far larger and more formidable than any which the severest training of the horseman will involve; and for this reason, that the greater part of gymnastic exercises are performed "in the sweat of the brow," while equestrian exercise is performed with pleasure. Indeed, there is no accomplishment which so nearly realises the aspiration of a man to have the wings of a bird than this of horsemanship.[7] But further, to a victory obtained in war attaches a far greater weight of glory than belongs to the noblest contest of the arena.[8] Of these the state indeed will share her meed of glory,[9] but in honour of victory in war the very gods are wont to crown whole states with happiness.[10] So that, for my part, I know not if there be aught else which has a higher claim to be practised than the arts of war.

And this, too, is worth noting: that the buccaneer by sea, the privateersman, through long practice in endurance, is able to live at the expense of far superior powers. Yes, and the life of the freebooter is no less natural and appropriate to landsmen--I do not say, to those who can till and gather in the fruit of their fields, but to those who find themselves deprived of sustenance; since there is no alternative--either men must till their fields or live on the tillage of others, otherwise how will they find the means either of living or of obtaining peace?[11]

Here, too, is a maxim to engrave upon the memory: in charging a superior force, never to leave a difficult tract of ground in the rear of your attack, since there is all the difference in the world between a stumble in flight and a stumble in pursuit.

There is another precaution which I feel called upon to note. Some generals,[12] in attacking a force which they imagine to be inferior to their own, will advance with a ridiculously insufficient force,[13] so that it is the merest accident if they do not experience the injury they were minded to inflict. Conversely, in attacking any enemy whose superiority is a well-known fact, they will bring the whole of their force into action.

Now, my maxim would be precisely converse: if you attack with a prospect of superiority, do not grudge employing all the power at your command; excess of victory[14] never yet caused any conqueror one pang of remorse.

But in any attempt to attack superior forces, in full certainty that, do what you can, you must eventually retire, it is far better, say I, under these circumstances to bring a fraction only of your whole force into action, which fraction should be the pick and flower of the troops at your command, both horses and men. A body of that size and quality will be able to strike a blow and to fall back with greater security. Whereas, if a general brings all his troops into action against a superior force, when he wishes to retire, certain things must happen: those of his men who are worse mounted will be captured, others through lack of skill in horsemanship will be thrown, and a third set be cut off owing to mere difficulties of ground; since it is impossible to find any large tract of country exactly what you would desire. If for no other reason, through sheer stress of numbers there will be collisions, and much damage done by kicks through mutual entanglement; whereas a pick of horse and men will be able to escape offhand,[15] especially if you have invention to create a scare in the minds of the pursuers by help of the moiety of troops who are out of action.[16] For this purpose false ambuscades will be of use.

Another serviceable expedient will be to discover on which side a friendly force may suddenly appear and without risk to itself put a drag on the wheels of the pursuer. Nay, it is self-evident, I think, that, as far as work and speed are concerned, it is the small body which will assert its superiority more rapidly over the larger, and not vice versa--not of course that the mere fact of being a small body will enable them to endure toil or give them wings; but simply it is easier to find five men than five hundred, who will take the requisite care and pains with their horses, and personally practise of their own accord the art of horsemanship.

But suppose the chance should occur of entering the lists against an equal number of the enemy's cavalry, according to my judgment it were no bad plan to split the squadron into divisions,[17] the first of which should be commanded by the squadron-leader, and the other by the ablest officer to be found. This second-officer will for the time being follow in rear of the leading division with the squadron leader; and by and by, when the antagonist is in near proximity, and when the word of command is passed, form squadron to the front and charge the hostile ranks[18]--a manouvre calculated, as I conceive, to bring the whole mass down upon the enemy with paralysing force, and to cause him some trouble to extricate himself. Ideally speaking, both divisions[19] will be backed by infantry kept in rear of the cavalry; these will suddenly disclose themselves, and rushing to close quarters, in all probability clench the nail of victory.[20] So at any rate it strikes me, seeing as I do the effects of what is unexpected-- how, in the case of good things, the soul of man is filled to overflowing with joy, and again, in the case of things terrible, paralysed with amazement. In proof of what I say, let any one reflect on the stupor into which a body of men with all the weight of numerical advantage on their side will be betrayed by falling into an ambuscade; or again, on the exaggerated terror mutually inspired in belligerents during the first few days, of finding themselves posted in face of one another.

To make these dispositions is not hard; the difficulty is to discover a body of men who will dash forward[21] and charge an enemy as above described intelligently and loyally, with an eager spirit and unfailing courage. That is a problem for a good cavalry general to solve. I mean an officer who must be competent to so assert himself in speech or action[22] that those under him will no longer hesitate. They will recognise of themselves that it is a good thing and a right to obey,[23] to follow their leader, to rush to close quarters with the foe. A desire will consume them to achieve some deed of glory and renown. A capacity will be given them patiently to abide by the resolution of their souls.

To turn to another matter, take the case in which you have two armeis facing one another in battle order, or a pair of fortresses[24] belonging to rival powers, and in the space between all kinds of cavalry manouvres are enacted, wheelings and charges and retreats.[25] Under such circumstances the custom usually is for either party after wheeling to set off at a slow pace and to gallop full speed only in the middle of the course. But now suppose that a commander, after making feint[26] in this style, presently on wheeling quickens for the charge and quickens to retire--he will be able to hit the enemy far harder, and pull through absolutely without scathe himself most likely; through charging at full speed whilst in proximity to his own stronghold (or main body), and quickening to a gallop as he retires from the stronghold (or main body) of the enemy. If further, he could secretly contrive to leave behind four or five troopers, the bravest and best mounted of the squadron, it would give them an immense advantage in falling upon the enemy whilst wheeling to return to the charge.[27]

[1] Cf. "Cyrop." I. v. 11; "Mem." III. vii. 7.

[2] Or, add, "for buccaneers and free-lances you must be."

[3] Lit. "every toil a soldier can encounter."

[4] See "Horse." viii. 6; cf. "Hunting," xii. 2; "Cyrop." I. vi. 28 foll.

[5] [{khresima}] L.D. For the {upomnema} itself cf. "Cyrop." VI. ii. 32.

[6] Or, "thus at a trifling outlay he will be able to render so many non-efficients useful." Al. "make the articles as good as new."

[7] Cf. "Cyrop." IV. iii. 15; Herod. iv. 132; Plat. "Rep." v. 467 D.

[8] Cf. Eur. "Autolycus," fr. 1, trans. by J. A. Symonds, "Greek Poets," 2nd series, p. 283.

[9] Cf. Plut. "Pelop." 34 (Clough, ii. p. 235): "And yet who would compare all the victories in the Pythian and Olympian games put together, with one of these enterprises of Pelopidas, of which he successfully performed so many?"

[10] "To bind about the brows of states happiness as a coronal."

[11] Cf. "Econ." v. 7.

[12] Or, "one knows of generals," e.g. Iphicrates at Oneion, 369 B.C. Cf. "Hell." VI. v. 51.

[13] Lit. "an absolutely weak force."

[14] Or, "a great and decided victory." Cf. "Hiero," ii. 16.

[15] Or, "by themselves," reading {ex auton}, as L. Dind. suggests. Cf. Polyb. x. 40. 6, or if as vulg. {ex auton} (sub. {kheiron}, Weiske), transl. "to slip through their fingers."

[16] Zeune and other commentators cf Liv. v. 38 (Diod. xiv. 114), but the part played by the Roman subsidiarii at the battle of the Allia, if indeed "una salus fugientibus," was scarcely happy. Would not "Hell." VII. v. 26 be more to the point? The detachment of cavalry and infantry placed by Epaminondas "on certain crests, to create an apprehension in the minds of the Athenians" in that quarter of the field at Mantinea was a {mekhanema} of the kind here contemplated.

[17] Or, "troops."

[18] Possibly on flank. See Courier, p. 35, on Spanish cavalry tactics.

[19] Lit. "supposing both divisions to be backed by footmen," etc.

[20] Or, "achieve a much more decisive victory." Cf. "Cyrop." III. iii. 28.

[21] {parelontas}, in reference to S. 18 above, {parelaunoi}, "form squadron to the front."

[22] "To be this, he must be able as an orator as well as a man of action." Cf. "Mem." II. ii. 11.

[23] Cf. Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade":

Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die.

[24] Al. "fields and farmsteads between."

[25] Or, "retirements," see "Horsemanship," viii. 12; "Cyrop." V. iv. 8; "Hell." IV. ii. 6; "Ages." ii. 3.

[26] Or, "having precluded in this fashion. See Theocr. xxii. 102:

{ton men anax ataraxen etosia khersi prodeiknus Pantothen},

"feinting on every side" (A. Lang). Al. "having given due warning of his intention." Cf. Aristot. "H. A." ix. 37.

[27] Cf. Aristoph. "Knights," 244 (Demosthenes calls to the hipparchs[?]):

{andres eggus . all' amunou, kapanastrephou palin}.