strategy and tactics: Through the Middle Ages

Through the Middle Ages

The towering figure in early military science was Alexander the Great, who destroyed the Persian Empire built by Cyrus the Great. He recognized the importance of maintaining reserves, pursuing the enemy, building up supplies (stockpiling), and making use of elaborate scouting (intelligence). In the 4th cent. b.c. Vegetius wrote a summary of military matters which is an important source of information on the Roman military. In the Punic Wars (between Rome and Carthage), Hannibal emerged as the outstanding field commander. His famous victory at Cannae (216 b.c.) over the Roman armies is still studied as an example of battlefield tactics. The study of military theory captured the imagination of several Byzantine emperors, who hoped to restore the glory of the Roman Empire. They studied the operations of the Roman legions and reduced the studies to what may be called the foundations of military science. Strategicon (c.578), compiled by Emperor Maurice, and Tactics (c.900), issued by Emperor Leo VI (Leo the Wise), are exhaustive treatises on the subject.

In Western Europe during the Middle Ages military science did not advance as quickly as its practice did, although siegecraft (see siege) was much studied. Although early military theorists thought the Crusaders completely ignorant of military principles, recent studies have shown that medieval warfare was not devoid of strategy and tactics. John Zizka, the leader of the Czech Hussites, in the early 15th cent. was particularly innovative. He adopted the wagon-fort as a unit of tactics, made artillery a maneuverable arm, and was the first commander to employ cavalry, infantry, and artillery in efficient tactical combination. He also espoused the principle that mobility is a better protection than armor.

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