Tactical Innovations of Epaminondas

Tue Jul 14 10:59:51 2009
In the mid fourth century Epaminondas makes incredible advances in the realm of battlefield tactics. It is interesting to wonder if changes in the way the Greeks approached understanding the world may have helped facilitate his thinking that led to these dramatic innovations. While he certainly had access to the descriptions of Thucydides and Herodotus I suspect there may have been much more for him to have read. As early as the fifth century we see the rise of the didactic handbook under influence of the Sophists in Athens. Surviving examples come from the early fourth century, e.g., Xenophon’s Cynegeticus (Dog hunting) and Hipparchikos (Horsemanship).

According to Polybius, Aeneas Tacitus at this same time wrote a series of books on I. Military Preparations, II. Military Finance, III. Encampments, IV. Strategems,” V. Historical Illustrations and VI. Naval Tactics. All of these are lost but his Conduct of Siege Operations survives. It is a very detailed and complete so it is not hard to imagine it was part of a tradition of similar works. It is similar in many respects to the approach used by Aristotle in his works on the natural sciences.

I think in general there is a tendency in the Greek world at this time write systematic practical treatises documented with examples. Even if there are only a few surviving examples, there probably were similar lost works and possibly some kind of oral or teaching tradition in military science at the time.

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~ by severalfourmany on July 14, 2009.

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