by David Whitehead
London: Bristol Classical Press / Dulles, Va.: International Publishers' Marketing, 2003. Pp. xx, 218.
Addenda, notes, index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 1853996270
How to Survive Under Siege is t
oldest military handbook to survive from Classical Antiquity
It is the only surviving work of the Fourth Century BC author called Aineias Tacticus (“Aineias the
Tactician”) whom other ancient authors tell us wrote several military
handbooks, and is believed by some to have been the Arcadian general Aineias of
Stymphalus who fought in the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC).
gives the reader numerous tips on how to prepare a city for a siege, using numerous
historical examples, most of events largely undocumented elsewhere. Much of his advice is obvious in hindsight,
but perhaps not so obvious beforehand.
So he discusses the laying in of supplies, securing sewers and aqueducts,
getting messages through enemy lines, and the uses of passwords and secret. He’s also an excellent source on the ruses of
war, from having women in armor patrol the walls to make it seem there are more
troops present than is the case to how to keep up morale, and form dealing with
panic to ferreting out traitors.
earlier English versions exist, but in his version Professor Whitehead (Queen’s
University, Belfast) has added a very detailed commentary. In his commentary Whitehead clarifies some
confusing passages, phrases, and works, discusses some of the references and
allusions made in the book, explains some of the details of the military
practice of the times, provides cross-references to other passages in the book
or in other ancient works, and cites examples beyond those given by Aineias. This makes Whitehead’s translation far more
useful and interesting, and reminds us that this and similar handbooks were the
equivalent of the manuals published by modern armed forces to help teach their
volume in the series “Bristol Classical Studies” (now published by BloomsburyPress), Aineias the Tactician: How to Survive Under Siege is a very useful book for those doing ancient
military history, and a good, often amusing read for anyone curious about siege