The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Western Art of War

Readers of Cook Ding's Kitchen are well aware of The Art of War, the 36 Strategies and the 48 Laws of Power.

There was a western Art of War written in ancient times when the Roman empire was in decay. The writer put down his thoughts in hope of reviving the Roman military and with it, the empire.

Some of it says the same things as the other books, as you'd expect. But some of it takes a decidedly different perspective altogether. Like the rest of these classics, this book has lessons which we can apply to our individual daily lives.

Below is an excerpt from an article about this Western Art of War. which appeared at The Art of Manliness. The full post may be read here.

Sometime in the late 4th or early 5th century, as the late Roman Empire stumbled along in the twilight of its power, an author of whom almost nothing is known compiled a book on the art of war to present to the emperor.

Rome’s economy was soft, its politics corrupt, but what most concerned the author was the creeping disintegration of the one institution that at least kept those other two extant: the military.

Like the rest of Roman society, its once mighty fighting force had fallen victim to decadence. Whereas the army of the early empire had consisted of highly disciplined, well-trained Roman regulars, the standards of the legendary legionaries had fallen, as had their numbers; a much smaller standing army was now supplemented with auxiliary units composed of barbarian mercenaries.

Epitoma Rei Militaris (Epitome of Military Science) by Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus (known simply as Vegetius) was an attempt to get the emperor to remedy the military’s weaknesses before it was too late. “Epitome” here refers to a summary, as Vegetius’ work was not an entirely original composition, but rather a collection of “commentaries on the art of war abridged from authors of the highest repute.” The Epitome of Military Science collects the wisdom of Rome’s early military commanders on organization, equipment, arms, leadership, logistics, and more. The book contains both practical advice on how to recruit, train, and harden troops of excellence and courage, as well as pithy maxims on tactics and strategy. Vegetius said the work could be called a “Rule-Book of Battle” or the “Art of Victory.”

Vegetius sought to reach back into the history of the early empire in order to illuminate the principles in force when the Roman military had been at the height of its powers, and to demonstrate that those methods and tactics were what created its power in the first place. In reviving these principles, he argued, Rome’s greatness could be revived as well.

Vegetius’ call for reform ultimately went unheeded, failing to stem either the Roman military’s shift towards greater reliance on mercenaries, nor the laxity that permeated the remaining shell of its citizen-staffed army. However, as the only surviving Latin art of war, it remained a popular and influential guide book for officers and generals in the centuries that followed. In the Middle Ages, it was an essential part of a prince’s military education, and leaders up through the 19th century continued to consult its classic tips on gaining the upper hand in battle.

While Epitoma Rei Militaris is lesser known today than other works on the art of war, it’s still a worthy volume packed with advice that, like all martial strategies, can be applied to challenges and competitions beyond the battlefield — literally and metaphorically, on a personal as well as societal level.

Below you’ll find some of the most vital lessons from the book, which when carefully pondered, can be used to improve your approach and tactics in whatever fight you’re facing.

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