A saying from Polyaenus’ Strategems

I’ve been looking at the Strategems of Polyaenus.  These exist in eight books, dedicated to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.  In book 8 I find the following:

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 beneficence and humanity he ingratiated himself with his soldiers, and restored her exiled citizens to Rome.

31.  The statues of Pompey and Sulla, which had been demolished by their enemies, Caesar ordered to be replaced: an act of moderation which gained him much esteem.

These strategems reflect well the mind of C. Julius Caesar, who knew how to bind men to him.  Cicero records such political mildness, together with the ruthlessness that lay underneath it.

The translation that I found dates from 1793.  Is it really the case that no translation has been made since?

Mind you… I have yet to discover any edition of the Tactica of Aelian from later than 1855!  There must be one … mustn’t there?


11 thoughts on “A saying from Polyaenus’ Strategems

  1. Thank you! I see the modern English translation: “Polyaenus: Strategems of war”, tr. Peter Krentz, Everett L. Wheeler, 2 vols, Ares, 1994. Some 1094 pages (!)

  2. Apparently, the version of the text on Attalus has been adapted somewhat for accuracy:

    Polyaenus’ Greek text was translated into English in 1793 by R.Shepherd, who hoped that the Stratagems would help the generals who were at that time establishing the British Empire in India. Shepherd’s translation is antiquated and inaccurate in parts, and therefore many changes have been made in this version of it.

  3. There is a more recent translation of Aelian’s Tactica:

    A.M. Devine, “Aelian’s manual of Hellenistic military tactics. A new translation from the Greek with an introduction.” Ancient World 19 (1989), 31-64.

  4. In the article mentioned, Devine does announce that he is (was) preparing a new critical edition of the text, which he claimed would be published by Ares in 1989. But there’s no trace of this edition on Ares’ website, and even Worldcat isn’t much more helpful (http://www.worldcat.org/title/aelian-commentary-on-the-poliorceticus/oclc/248516122&referer=brief_results). So I have no idea what happened with it! Devine’s article does at least have a good bibliography on further work on the text and manuscript tradition of Aelian.

  5. Yes, “gentleman’s translation” is a good description! It’s nice to think that in those days people read and translated Ancient Greek in the expectation of gaining some practical benefit from it, as well as from antiquarian interest. So they tended to be less pedantic. But this gentleman would admit to being outranked by the 1814 translator of Aelian’s Tactica, Henry Augustus Viscount Dillon. Viscount Dillon must have been a busy young man – Colonel of the Irish Brigade at the age of 17, and Member of Parliament at the age of 22 – but he managed to find time to write about Greek military tactics in between all of this.

  6. Thank you for updating that translation on your website – a very worthwhile idea.

    It’s quite interesting to get translations of military texts made by professional soldiers, particularly in the pre-modern era. They bring a certain professional knowledge to the subject, at least.

Leave a Reply