Strategikon of Maurice
The Strategikon or Strategicon (Greek: Στρατηγικόν) is a manual of war traditionally regarded as written in the late 6th century and usually attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Maurice. It is moreover a practical manual, "a rather modest elementary handbook" in the words of its introduction, "for those devoting themselves to generalship". This book gives a general guide, handbook, of the Byzantine military's strategies. In his introduction to his 1984 translation of the text, George T. Dennis noted "The Strategikon is written in a very straightforward and generally uncomplicated Greek."
The Strategikon may have been written in an effort to codify the military reforms brought about by the soldier-emperor Maurice. There is debate in academic circles as to the true author of the Strategikon. Maurice may have only commissioned it; perhaps his brother Peter, or another general of his court, was the true author. The dating is also debated. If it was written in the 6th century, the Strategikon may have been produced to codify the experience of the Balkan and Persian campaigns, or the campaigns may have been carried out in compliance with the manual. However, starting in the late 19th century, some historians have argued for a later date in the eighth or ninth century, on philological or technological grounds. In any case, it is considered one of the most important military texts of the medieval years, along with the 10th century military treatises attributed to the Byzantine emperors Leo VI (Tactica) and Nicephorus Phocas (De velitatione and Praecepta Militaria); Leo's Tactica in particular drew heavily from the Strategikon.
The text consists of 12 chapters, or "books", on various aspects of the tactics employed by the Byzantine military of the 6th and 7th century A.D. It is primarily focused on cavalry tactics and formations, yet it also elaborates on matters of infantry, sieges, baggage trains, drilling and marching. The author was familiar with classical military treatises, especially Onasander and Aelian, which he used as conceptional models rather than sources of content. Each book has a general topic to be discussed, and each book goes into great detail even separating each book further into subsections and including maps. These maps are not large and extravagant but more symbols to show positions and a standard design of the formations the Byzantine military used at this time. Books seven and eight contain practical advice to the General in the form of instructions and maxims. The eleventh book has ethnographic interest, with its portrayal of various Byzantine enemies (Franks, Lombards, Avars, Turks, and Slavs). The Strategikon also belongs to Byzantine legal literature, since it contains a list of military infractions and their suitable penalties.
- Book I – Introduction
- Book II – The Cavalry Battle Formation
- Book III – Formations of the Tagma
- Book IV – Ambushes
- Book V – On Baggage Trains
- Book VI – Various Tactics and Drills
- Book VII – Strategy. The Points Which the General Must Consider
- Book VIII – [General Instructions and Maxims]
- Book IX – Surprise Attacks
- Book X – [Sieges]
- Book XI – Characteristics and Tactics of Various Peoples
- Book XII – [Mixed Formations, Infantry, Camps and Hunting]
Book I - Introduction
This book contains a great deal of detail on the origin of the Byzantine Military, and specific information of selections, organization, crimes, and punishment. They go into a great deal of detail on the topics listed below to make sure that there are no confusion on general topics of the Byzantine military. The topics that this book discusses include: training and drilling of soldiers as individuals, the armament of the cavalryman and the basic equipment to be furnished, the various titles of the officers and soldiers, the organization of the army and the assignment of officers, how the tagmatic commanders should select their subordinate officers and combat leaders and organize the Tagma into squads, the regulations about military crimes to be given to the troops, the regulations about military crimes to be given to the tagmatic commanders, military punishments, and the orderly way of marching through our own country when there is no hostile activity.
Book II - The Cavalry Battle Formation and Book III - Formations of the Tagma
These books cover the formations of the cavalry and Tagma. They include maps to show what these formations appeared on a smaller scale to help people visually. These maps have many shapes and characters that some will not understand but through further readings can make sense of them due to the amount of that character on the map. These books cover every topic from the recruitment, creation of squads, the strategy of using block formation instead of the one lengthy line of military. This also discusses the importance of having a cavalry and the importance of the cavalry in their specific military style.
Book IV - Ambushes
This book discusses what each part of the formations of the cavalry and tagma would do in the case of an ambush as well as each implement in place to deter the ambush from taken place. They have certain spacing between squads to prevent ambushes from the ability to reach a squad without intervention from a quad further behind. This method was also used to help prevent retreats from any member of the military because there is always someone watching them.
Book V - On Baggage Trains
Baggage trains should be regarded with utmost care as they contain the ingredients to make a forward operating base function, including servants and children. Baggage trains should be kept away from areas of battle to avoid dispiriting soldier morale in the event of capture. Reserve horses should be kept with the baggage train at the onset of battle, their utility is not needed at the front line and will only add to the confusion in battle. The encampment area for the baggage train should be stationed in a defensible area with water and grass readily available at a distance of approximately 30 to 50 miles away from the location of the main battle and should be staffed with a force of two Banda; the encampment should forage for food and hay equivalent to four days of necessity. The defense force should select known and capable men to form a communication chain from the baggage train encampment to the front line. An intermediate encampment, closer to the front line, should be established between the battle area and the baggage train; the camp should be fortified and supplied with food for a day at the camp for each bandon. While in transit, the baggage train should be kept separate from the soldiers' marching lines; when enemies are present, the baggage train should be in the middle of the caravan to avoid harassment by enemies.
Book VI - Various Tactics and Drills, Book VII - Strategy. The Points Which the General Must Consider, and Book VIII - [General Instructions and Maxims]
Book six contains the tactics and drills that the military had at the time and put the soldiers through to properly train the individuals. This gave them all of the knowledge that they would need with weapons, tactics, actions, and strategies they needed to use in battles. Then book seven focuses on the different strategic points that the generals must consider prior to engaging in a battle, not necessarily a war. Book eight then covers the details of the instructions that the generals had been given from Emperor Maurice and his administrative people.
Book IX - Surprise Attacks and Book X - [Sieges]
These books cover the surprise attacks and siege strategies that the Byzantine Military used at this point in time. It covers how the military would use different strategies to surprise attack the enemy or siege the enemy land than when they would when in just a battle.
Book XI - Characteristics and Tactics of Various Peoples and Book XII - [Mixed Formations, Infantry, Camps and Hunting]
Books eleven and twelve cover the mixed uses of non cavalry and tagma groups and their various formations. This explains what the rest of the military would do with while the Tagmas and cavalry had in formation and use.
- Thomas, Dennis T. (1984). Maurice's Strategikon. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press. p. xviii. ISBN 0-8122-1772-1.
- Lynn White, Jr., Medieval Technology and Social Change, Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 20-21, gives the argument for a later date on technological grounds; his notes on p. 144 list some of the works arguing for a later date on philological grounds.
- P. Rance, "Maurice's Strategicon and the Ancients: the Late Antique Reception of Aelian and Arrian" in P. Rance and N.V. Sekunda (edd.), Greek Taktika. Ancient Military Writing and its Heritage (Gdańsk 2017) 217-255.
- Petersen, Charles. "The Strategikon: A forgotten military classic". Air War College. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Dennis, George (1984). Maurice's Strategikon: Handbook of Byzantine military strategy. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 58–63. ISBN 978-0812278996.