This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.


Leo VI, Tatika

Constitution 14: Preparation for War

About the Day of Battle, 1-3, 15-16, 21, 31-32 (ed. Dennis, 290-1, 298-301, 306-9)

 

1. We enjoin you, therefore, O general, before every other matter on the day of battle to ensure that the army is pure and to have priests offer fervent prayer through the night and to bless all so that they believe in word and deed that they have the aid of God, and by this token they will advance into battle with spendour and zeal. 2. On the day of battle you should not undertake too much so as not to exhaust yourself and forget essential matters through too many toils. Do not appear oppressed by worry, but ride splendidly and confidently along the battle line and inspire everyone with your words. 3. Do not engage in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy: that is the task of the soldier, not the general. Your role is to undertake all necessary preparations and then to station yourself where you can observe those fighting and others, perhaps, slacking off, so you can do what is necessary and take steps to direct reserve forces, namely the flank and rear guards, to assist those who are in need.

15. If on the first day the clash of battle results in a reverse – o that it should not be so – we believe is it most undesirable and pointless for those troops who have suffered defeat to engage in combat again at that time or for some days afterwards. On this account we advise you, O general, not to attempt this ... 16. If you succeed in inspiring re-engagement in battle after disappointment has been set aside, you must make the defeated promachos line into the second line and the second line into the promachos ...

21. Again, if the battle turns out favourably and with God's aid we achieve victory, we must not be satisfied merely with driving back the enemy ... You must keep at it until the enemy is annihilated.

31. It is your duty after the battle, O general, to console those soldiers wounded in it, and to honor those who fell in the battle with burial, and to consider them perpetually blessed (μακαριζειν διηνεκως), since they did not esteem their own lives above their faith and their brothers. This blessed act enhances the zeal of the living. 32. If they have children or a wife and it is clear that they died fighting with zeal, then provide adequate consolation.

 


Paul Stephenson, December 2010; January 2012