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Bad Strategy of Aratus

But the leaders of the Achaeans, on learning the
The battle of Caphyae, B. C. 220.
arrival of the Aetolians, adopted a course of proceeding quite unsurpassable for folly. They left the territory of Cleitor and encamped at Caphyae; but the Aetolians marching from Methydrium past the city of Orchomenus, they led the Achaean troops into the plain of Caphyae, and there drew them up for battle, with the river which flows through that plain protecting their front. The difficulty of the ground between them and their enemy, for there were besides the river a number of ditches not easily crossed,1 and the show of readiness on the part of the Achaeans for the engagement, caused the Aetolians to shrink from attacking according to their original purpose; but they retreated in good order to the high ground of Oligyrtus, content if only they were not attacked and forced to give battle. But Aratus, when the van of the Aetolians was already making the ascent, while the cavalry were bringing up the rear along the plain, and were approaching a place called Propus at the foot of the hills, sent out his cavalry and light-armed troops, under the command of Epistratus of Acarnania, with orders to attack and harass the enemy's rear. Now if an engagement was necessary at all, they ought not to have attempted it with the enemy's rear, when they had already accomplished the march through the plain, but with his van directly it had debouched upon the plain: for in this way the battle would have been wholly confined to the plain and level ground, where the peculiar nature of the Aetolian arms and general tactics would have been least effective; while the Achaeans, from precisely opposite reasons, would have been most effective and able to act. As it was, they surrendered the advantages of time and place which were in their favour, and deliberately accepted the conditions which were in favour of the enemy.

1 Caphyae was on a small plain, which was subject to inundations from the lake of Orchomenus; the ditches here mentioned appear to be those dug to drain this district. They were in the time of Pausanias superseded by a high dyke, from the inner side of which ran the River Tragus (Tara). Pausan. 8, 23, 2.

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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), OLIGYRTUS
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