There Can Be No Rest Until the Enemy is Completely Destroyed (Strat 1)

That’s from The Strategikon, which may or may not
have been written by the Byzantine emperor Maurice. The foreword said it had a
lot of personal touches in the writing that seem to identify him, but I’m not
seeing it. Then again, just look up an image search of the guy. I see a man who
enjoys writing about his own ideas in that face.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in there, particularly
unexpected (to me) mentions of military morality. Really? All the way back then
people actually gave a damn about their enemies? Huh.


For instance, leaving gates open after a successful siege so
the occupants can escape, putting injured or weak soldiers in interior positions
so as to have them out of harm’s way, assigning recon patrols to escort
enemy deserters to safety, there’s more. And the tone that (the writer) takes
towards generals is instructing them to be generally compassionate towards the
soldiery, a doting father. And well, funny thing, Byzantine soldiers apparently
hated Maurice, so perhaps he was not that into the stuff he might have
put in this book.

There are a lot of mentions of God and prayer and all that,
but it’s always a qualifier that is right before the stuff that leaders have
control over. Over and over, (the author) says “something something, after the
grace and/or judgement of God, the most important thing is leadership and great
strategy.” I’m paraphrasing. This is great. My personal thoughts about the Almighty
aside, (Maurice?) upholds the status quo religious stuff, which was a pretty
big deal back in late 500s Byzantium as I understand it. But he gets it out of
the way immediately, and then goes on to go into great detail about things that
commanders actually have control over; here’s the stuff you need to do, but you
can’t have God’s grace¸unless you try really hard and take this very
salient advice from me, Maurice, your Emperor who may or may not have
personally written this handbook. So, you know, go ahead and pray and stuff
because you have to, but things are really going to suck if you don’t take

Nobiscum! (Don’t yell that when charging into battle, it’ll
make the guy next to you stupifyingly stoked for Byzantium and he’ll charge
into the enemy line and get killed instantly. That’s what Maurice says.)

I’m going to finish my thoughts on this tomorrow. You can
pick up this fine literature for yourself, great if you’re expecting a scrum
with Scythians or Germanic barbarians any time soon, don’t miss it.


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