bunn (bunn) wrote,

I'd previously considered this sort of thing melodramatic fiction, rather than genuine espionage...

"In conducting espionage, Scipio seems to stand out as an exception among Roman commanders.  When his siege of Utica was stalled, he sent a legation to the camp of the Numidian King Syphax.  Scipio's emissaries were accompanied by centurions disguised as slaves.

The legate Gaius Laelius was fearful that one of these men, Lucius Statorius, might be recognised since he had visited the camp before.  To protect his agent's cover, Laelius caned him publicly.  This episode plays upon the known Roman practice of subjecting only social inferiors  to corporal punishment, and is of particular interest because it specifically identifies centurions and tribunes as active participants in espionage missions.

While the legates were in conference, the "slaves" were to wander about the camp in different directions and reconnoiter the premises, taking note of entrances, exits and the location of each division."

- Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome : Trust in the Gods, but Verify by Rose Mary Sheldon.

Clearly concerned that the Romans were pulling ahead in the field of melodrama, Hannibal responded by inventing Snakes on a Ship.  Which is where you fill a lot of pots with venomous snakes and fling them at your enemies' ships, hoping that their barefooted sailors will all jump into the sea in horror.
Tags: history, romans, things that make you go hmmm
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