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8.

It is clear, however, that no troops will be able to inflict loss on a much stronger army with impunity, unless they are so superior in the practical application of horsemanship to war that they show like experts contending with amateurs. [2] This superiority can be attained first and foremost if your marauding bands are so thoroughly drilled in riding that they can stand the hard work of a campaign. For both horses and men that are carelessly trained in this respect will naturally be like women struggling with men. [3] On the contrary, those that are taught and accustomed to jump ditches, leap walls, spring up banks, leap down from heights without a spill, and gallop down steep places, will be as superior to the men and horses that lack this training as birds to beasts. Moreover, those that have their feet well hardened will differ on rough ground from the tender-footed as widely as the sound from the lame. And those that are familiar with the locality, compared with those to whom it is unfamiliar, will differ in the advance and retreat as much as men with eyes differ from the blind. [4]

It should also be realised that horses, to be well fettled, must be well fed and thoroughly exercised, so as to do their work without suffering from heaves. And since bits and saddle-cloths are fastened with straps, a cavalry leader must never be short of them, for at a trifling expense he will make men in difficulties efficient. [5]

In case anyone feels that his troubles will be endless if his duty requires him to practise horsemanship in this way, let him reflect that men in training for gymnastic contests face troubles far more numerous and exacting than the most strenuous votaries of horsemanship. [6] For most gymnastic exercises are carried out with sweat and drudgery, but nearly all equestrian exercises are pleasant work.1 For if it is true that any man would like to fly, no action of man bears a closer resemblance to flying. [7] And, remember, it is far more glorious to win a victory in war than in a boxing match, because, whereas the state as well as the victor has a considerable share in this glory,2 for a victory in war the gods generally crown states with happiness as well. For my part, therefore, I know not why any art should be more assiduously cultivated than the arts of war. [8] It should be noticed that a long apprenticeship to toil enables sea-pirates to live at the expense of much stronger folk. On land, too, pillage, though not for those who reap what they have sown, is the natural resource of men who are deprived of food. For either men must work or they must eat the fruits of other men's labour: else it is a problem how to live and to obtain peace. [9]

If you charge a superior force, you must remember never to leave behind you ground difficult for horses. For a fall in retreat and a fall in pursuit are very different things. [10]

I want to add a word of warning against another error. Some men, when they suppose themselves to be stronger than the enemy whom they are going to attack, take an utterly inadequate force with them.3 The consequence is that they are apt to incur the loss they expected to inflict. Or, when they know themselves to be weaker than the enemy, they use all their available strength in the attack. [11] The right procedure, in my opinion, is just the opposite: when the commander expects to win, he should not hesitate to use the whole of his strength: for an overwhelming victory never yet was followed by remorse. [12] But when he tries conclusions with a much stronger force, knowing beforehand that he is bound to retreat when he has done his best, I hold that it is far better in such a case to throw a small part of his strength into the attack than the whole of it; only horses and men alike should be his very best. For such a force will be able to achieve something and to retreat with less risk. [13] But when he has thrown the whole of his strength into an attack on a stronger force, and wants to retire, the men on the slowest mounts are bound to be taken prisoners; others to be thrown through lack of horsemanship; and others to be cut off owing to inequalities in the ground, since it is hard to find a wide expanse of country entirely to your liking. [14] Moreover, owing to their numbers they will collide and hinder and hurt one another frequently. But good horses and men will contrive to escape, especially if you manage to scare the pursuers by using your reserves. [15] Sham ambuscades, too, are helpful for this purpose. It is also useful to discover on what quarter your friends may suddenly reveal themselves in a safe position and make the pursuit slower. [16] Then again it is obvious that in point of endurance and speed the advantage is much more likely to rest with a small than with a large force. I do not mean that mere paucity of numbers will increase the men's powers of endurance and add to their speed; but it is easier to find few men than many who will take proper care of their horses and will practise the art of horsemanship intelligently on their own account. [17]

Should it happen at any time that the cavalry forces engaged are about equal, I think it would be a good plan to split each regiment into two divisions, putting one under the command of the colonel, and the other under the best man available. [18] The latter would follow in the rear of the colonel's division for a time; but presently, when the adversary is near, he would wheel on receiving the order and charge. This plan, I think, would make the blow delivered by the regiment more stunning and more difficult to parry. [19] Both divisions should have an infantry contingent; and if the infantry, hidden away behind the cavalry, came out suddenly and went for the enemy, I think they would prove an important factor in making the victory more decisive; for I have noticed that a surprise cheers men up if it is pleasant, but stuns them if it is alarming. [20] Anyone will recognise the truth of this who reflects that, however great their advantage in numbers, men are dazed when they fall into an ambuscade, and that two hostile armies confronting each other are scared out of their wits for the first few days. [21]

There is no difficulty in adopting these tactics; but only a good cavalry commander can find men who will show intelligence, reliability and courage in wheeling to charge the enemy. [22] For the commander must be capable both by his words and action of making the men under him realize that it is good to obey, to back up their leader, and to charge home; of firing them with a desire to win commendation; and of enabling them to carry out their intentions with persistence. [23]

Suppose now that the cavalry are busy in the no-man's-land that separates two battle lines drawn up face to face or two strategic positions, wheeling, pursuing and retreating. After such manoeuvres both sides usually start off at a slow pace, but gallop at full speed in the unoccupied ground. [24] But if a commander first feints in this manner, and then after wheeling, pursues and retreats at the gallop he will be able to inflict the greatest loss on the enemy, and will probably come through with the least harm, by pursuing at the gallop so long as he is near his own defence, and retreating at the gallop from the enemy's defences. [25] If, moreover, he can secretly leave behind him four or five of the best horses and men in each division, they will be at a great advantage in falling on the enemy as he is turning to renew the charge.


1 Cyropaedia 4.3.15.

2 He does not express himself clearly, but by “this glory” he means “the glory of a victory whether won in war or in the games.”

3 Hellenica 6.5.51.

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