2. When your men are well trained in all these points, they must, of course, understand some plan of formation, that in which they will show to greatest advantage in the sacred processions and at manoeuvres, fight, if need be, with the greatest courage, and move along roads and cross rivers with perfect ease in unbroken order. So I will now try to explain the formation that I think will give the best results in these various circumstances.  Now the state has divided the cavalry into ten separate regiments. I hold that within these you should, to begin with, appoint file-leaders1 after consulting each of the colonels, choosing sturdy men, who are bent on winning fame by some brilliant deed. These should form the front rank.  Next you should choose an equal number of the oldest and most sensible to form the rear rank. To use an illustration, steel has most power to cut through steel when its edge is keen and its back reliable.  To fill the ranks between the front and rear, the file-leaders should choose the men to form the second line, and these in turn the men to form the third, and so on throughout. In this way every man will naturally have complete confidence in the man behind him.  You must be very careful to appoint a competent man as leader in the rear.2 For if he is a good man, his cheers will always hearten the ranks in front of him in case it becomes necessary to charge; or, should the moment come to retreat, his prudent leadership will, in all probability, do much for the safety of his regiment.  An even number of file-leaders has this advantage over an odd, that it is possible to divide the regiment into a larger number of equal parts.The reasons why I like this formation are these. In the first place, all the men in the front rank are officers; and the obligation to distinguish themselves appeals more strongly to men when they are officers than when they are privates. Secondly, when anything has to be done, the word of command is much more effective if it is passed to officers rather than to privates.  Let us assume that this formation has been adopted: every file-leader must know his position in the line of march by word passed along by the colonel, just as every colonel is informed by the commander of his proper place in the charge. For when these instructions are given there will be much better order than if the men hamper one another like a crowd leaving the theatre.  And in the event of a frontal attack, the men in the van are far more willing to fight when they know that this is their station; so is the rear-rank in the event of a surprise attack in the rear, when the men there understand that it is disgraceful to leave their post.  But if no order is kept there is confusion whenever the roads are narrow or rivers are being crossed; and when an action is fought no one voluntarily takes his post in the fighting line.All these preliminaries must be thoroughly mastered by all the cavalry, if they are to give their leader unflinching support.
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On the Cavalry Commander
2 i.e., the last man of each file, cf. 3, who in some cases would have to act as leader. In the Spartan infantry he was the man with the longest service in the file.
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