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Polyaenus - Philip

Polyaenus. Stratagems of War 4.2 Philip

(1) Philip once broke a Tarentine of rank, who had a command in his army, because he used warm baths, saying: “You seem a stranger to the Macedonian customs, which do not indulge the use of warm water even to a woman in childbed.

(2) Engaging the Athenians at Chaeronea, Philip made a sham retreat: when Stratocles, the Athenian general, ordered his men to push forwards, crying out, “We will pursue them to the heart of Macedon.” Philip coolly observed, “The Athenians know not how to conquer:” and ordered his phalanx to keep close and firm, and to retreat slowly, covering themselves with their shields from the attacks of the enemy. As soon as he had by the manoeuvre drawn them from their advantageous ground, and gained an eminence, he halted; and encouraging his troops to a vigorous attack, made such an impression on the enemy, as soon determined a brilliant victory in his favour.

(3) Philip, while encamped against the Thebans, was informed that two of his generals, Aeropus and Damasippus had taken from the stews a singing girl, and introduced her into the camp: and the fact being proved, he banished both of them [from] the kingdom.

(4) Having blocked up a city of Thrace, Philip sent to the besieged a flag of truce: who convened an assembly, and introduced to it the flag, anxious to know the enemy’s proposals. Philip in the mean time directed a vigorous attack, and carried the city: while the people were more attentive to the supposed conditions of peace, than the real attacks of war.

(5) After an engagement with the Illyrians, Philip proposed a truce with them, for he purpose of burying their dead: which being agreed to, as soon as the last man was buried, his army being drawn up and waiting the signal to engage, he instantly ordered them to charge; and put the enemy, who were unprepared, to a general rout.

(6) While Philip was trying his strength with Menagetes in wrestling: the soldiers around were clamorous for their pay; in which he was much in arrears to them, and had not wherewith at the present to make it good. Dropping with sweat, and covered as he was with dust, he ran up to them with a laugh; “You are right,” said he, “my dear lads; and I have been perfuming [1] myself with that barbarian, in order to pay my respects to you, for the credit you have been so obliging as to give me.” Having thus said, he ran through the midst of them, and plunged into a fish pond. The Macedonians laughed at the humour of the prince: who continued amusing himself in the water, till the soldiers were tired out with the neglect he paid to their remonstrances, and went away. In his hours of gaiety Philip often used to mention this device, by which he had with a stroke of buffoonery got rid of demands, that no arguments could have reasoned away.
[1] The humour expressed by Philip on this occasion lies in the custom ,which with the ancients prevailed, of washing and perfuming themselves, previous to going to an entertainment, where form or respect was required.

(7) Philip, at Chaeronea, knowing the Athenians were hot [2] and inexperienced, and the Macedonians inured to fatigues and exercise, contrived to prolong the action: and reserving his principal attack to the latter end of the engagement, the enemy weak and exhausted were unable to sustain the charge.
[2] The word which I have translated “hot,” implies in this place, “active and impressive in the attack.”

(8) Having marched against the Amphissensians, Philip found himself obstructed by the Athenians and Thebans; who had made themselves masters of a defile, which thus secured he was unable to force; and therefore had resource to stratagem. He wrote a letter to Antipater in Macedonia, informing him that the Thracians were in rebellion, and that he was obliged for the present to defer his expedition against the Amphissensians, and to march into Thrace. This letter he dispatched by a way, where he knew it would be intercepted: which accordingly was the case; and Chares and Proxenus the generals, who commanded against him, after they had deliberated on the contents of the letter, quitted the post they possessed. Of their movements Philip immediately availed himself; and passing the defile without opposition, afterwards defeated the allies, and took Amphissa.

(9) Philip was not more successful in his arms, than he was in treaties and negotiations: and indeed he piqued himself more on advantages gained by these, than by dint of arms. For in the latter he observed his soldiers shared in the glory, but in the other it was all his own.

(10) Philip accustomed the Macedonians to constant exercise, as well in peace, as in actual service: so that he would frequently make them march three hundred furlongs, carrying with them their helmets, shields, greaves, and spears; and, besides those arms, their provisions likewise, and utensils for common use.

(11) When Philip advanced to Larissa, he pretended a fit of illness; in order to decoy the Aleuadians to visit him: intending to seize them, and for their liberty oblige them to give up their towns. But Baescus apprised the Aleuadians of the stratagem: which thereby fell to the ground.

(12) Philip desired permission in a full assembly to address the Sarnusians; which being granted, he directed the soldiers, who attended him, to carry cords under their arms. When reaching out his arm, as if to harangue them, the signal he had fixed on, his men immediately seized on all the Sarnusians present, bound them, and sent more than ten thousand prisoners into Macedonia.

(13) When closely pressed by the Thracians, Philip ordered that as soon as he sounded a retreat, the rear under cover of their shields, should sustain the enemy’s attack; and, by acting only on the defensive, retard their pursuit, and thus favor the retreat of the army.

(14) In an irruption into Boetia, Philip’s direct march was through a narrow pass, which the Boeotians had secured, and from whence he could not dislodge them; he therefore took another route, and laid waste the whole country before him. The Boeotians, not bearing to see their country thus desolated, quitted their post; and gave him an opportunity of passing the defile, and pursing the march he first projected.

(15) Philip had raised the scaling-ladders against the walls of the Methonensians; and a strong body of Macedonians advanced to the attack. As soon as they had mounted the walls, he ordered the ladders to be taken away: thereby leaving the assailants no hopes of safety, but in their courage.

(16) The country of the Arbelians, into which Philip had made an irruption, being rough, and craggy, and covered with wood, the Barbarians concealed themselves in the thickets: where Philip, a stranger to the country, knew not how to follow them, but by tracing their steps with blood-hounds.

(17) The Athenians demanding of Philip the restitution of Amphipolis, and he being at that time engaged in a war with the Illyrians, however unwilling to give it up to the Athenians, consented to make it free: with which though the Athenians appeared contented, they were not perfectly satisfied. Philip therefore, as soon as he had finished the Illyrian war, returned at the head of a powerful army to Amphipolis; and in defiance of the Athenians, who had before shewn themselves dissatisfied, made himself master of the place.

(18) Philip having besieged Phalcidon, a city of Thessaly, the Phalcidians capitulated; and his mercenaries entered the city to take possession. But an ambush being placed on the houses and towers, the mercenaries fell a sacrifice to a shower of darts and stones. While the attention of the citizens was thus directed to that part of the city, where the mercenaries entered, and the ambuscade was placed; Philip raised the scaling ladders against the walls on the opposite part of the town, and by a vigorous assault carried it; before the force, employed in the ambuscade, had time to recover their posts, and man the walls.

(19) Philip, when he formed the design of reducing Thessaly to the crown of Macedon, did not directly attack the Thessalians in the field. But when the Pallenensians were engaged in war with the Pharsalians, and the Pherensians with the Larissaeans; and the other states in Thessaly with each other: his practice was in those struggles to give assistance to which ever power applied to him for it. And his victories on those occasions were never marked with cruelty or devastations. He neither disarmed the conquered, nor destroyed their fortifications: but his great object was to create factions, rather than heal them; to protect the weak, and crush the powerful. He endeavoured always to ingratiate himself with the bulk of the people, and cultivated the favour of oratorical demagogues. By these stratagems Philip made himself master of Thessaly, and not by arms.

(20) Philip having long laid before Carae, a well-fortified town, which he was at last unable to carry, found his best exertions necessary to effect a safe retreat, and carry off with him his machines. For this purpose he availed himself of a very dark night; and ordered the smiths to take his machines in pieces, imitating in the noise, as much as they could, the fabrication of new ones. The Carians, hearing the sound of hammers, applied themselves to strengthen their gates, and to counter-work the effect of the enemy’s supposed operations by new erections. And while they were thus employed, Philip in the night struck his tents, and carried off his machines.

(21) When Philip advanced against the Byzantines, he found them strongly supported by various allies. To break the confederacy, he dispatched revolters into the enemy’s quarters, to propagate a report, that he had detached forces into the different countries of the allies; and that some of their cities were at that instant in danger of being taken. And to give colour to this intelligence, he made detachments from his army, which he ordered out on short marches different ways, without any intention to act offensively. These motions agreeing with the report of the revolters, the allies deserted the Byzantines, to repair to the assistance of their respective countries.

(22) [21] As Philip, after having reduced to his obedience the countries of the Aberdites and Maronites, was returning from his expedition with a great fleet, and powerful army; Chares placed an ambuscade of twenty ships near Neapolis to annoy him. Philip, suspecting such attempt, manned four of his best-sailing vessels with the stoutest and most experienced hands he could pick out: and ordered them to make what sail they could before the fleet, and to pass Neapolis, holding not far from the shore. In pursuit of those four sail, Chares pushed out with his twenty ships: with which however, being light, and well-manned, he was not able to come up. And while he was chasing them without effect, Philip slipped [slipt] safely by Neapolis with the rest of the fleet.

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