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This paper is an analysis of Polybius’ views on sieges. Contrary to the majority of other classical authors describing sieges, Polybius rarely used traditional literary clichés. In his account of sieges he downplayed the role of emotions of besiegers and besieged, paying more attention to narrating concrete circumstances and facts related to sieges. Such approach can be explained by the historian’s experience in besieging and capturing of Carthage during the Third Punic war and also by the specifi cs of his scientifi c method. Polybius paid a great attention to the actions made by both besiegers and defenders. He also recognized the role of different siege machines and siege engines (undermining, siege towers, rams). Polybius was also greatly interested in capturing of cities without the use military technics by using stratagems (mostly treachery and attacking non-protected sectors of walls). Polybian attention to such ways of capturing cities was caused by the hardships related prolonged sieges because it was hard to organize to supply. At the same time a surprise attacks gave an opportunity to use some weak places in the defenses of cities – fi rst of all, city’s internal confl icts and the lack of armament and human resources. The capturing of booty, food and supplement bases in cities was an effective mean to harden enemy’s strategic situation and change its plans. That’s why opposing armies used every opportunity for the fastest way of capturing the cities. Polybius’ s interest to the capturing of city through stratagems was caused also by the strategic aspects of the confl icts in Mediterranean world in the 3rd–2nd centuries BC.


Hellenism, historiography, Polybius, military science, military theory, antiquity, strategy, tactics.

Evgeniy G. Teytelbaum

Independent Researcher, Kazan, Russia

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