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"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.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
14th Apr, 2013 22:03 (UTC)
"Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome" does not specify, but I can't help feeling that there is something odd about a scenario where they don't just leave Lucius at home on this particular mission, but instead *hold a public caning* so he can come along. o_O
15th Apr, 2013 09:36 (UTC)
Clearly he was a PC, and so the party had to find a way of bringing him along even though it made no real sense.
14th Apr, 2013 22:20 (UTC)
I think if a pot of venomous snakes landed on my ship, I might jump into the sea even if I had shoes on. Ick!

Lucius must have been a superspy or something. Why not just leave him at home and take someone else?
15th Apr, 2013 21:30 (UTC)
You'd never feel entirely sure you'd managed to get all the snakes off the ship again, would you... :-/
15th Apr, 2013 21:35 (UTC)
It would be like the ship version of having a bat in the house. Except you would worry about venom rather than rabies.
14th Apr, 2013 23:44 (UTC)
I think my favorite thing about that book was the sacred chicken keeper who took it upon himself to manipulate the outcome of the chicken-feed divination by underfeeding the chickens.
15th Apr, 2013 06:37 (UTC)
I have to admit my favorite bit is probably the juxtaposition of centurions and Le Carre references. But I've not got past Hannibal yet!
15th Apr, 2013 05:37 (UTC)
Of course, we (the USA and the UK) can talk. There were the dead exploding rate to be placed in coal to be fed into boilers by the Germans in WW2 to start with.
15th Apr, 2013 06:11 (UTC)
Explosive rats is definitely in the category of
"Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack"

Whereas Snakes on a Ship? I think that is more Quinquireme of Nineveh territory!
15th Apr, 2013 06:48 (UTC)
Somewhere or other I have a book on the activities of a British Intelligence department in WW2 entirely devoted to this kind of thing. The rats were the first thing that came to mind, but now I can't find the book. (*Goes away muttering*)
15th Apr, 2013 09:13 (UTC)
Exploding rats and exploding coal, I think.
15th Apr, 2013 21:42 (UTC)
I'm worrying about the practicalities of this now. Did they specially select very large rats? Or is it possible to hide more powerful explosive in a small rat than I think it is?

If an average-sized rat exploded at the end of a shovel, I can't help feeling the shoveller might be unpleasantly covered in dead rat, but *would it kill you*?

Also I have a flashback to the time I opened a tin of bad catfood and it EXPLODED ALL OVER ME STINKILY.
16th Apr, 2013 08:34 (UTC)
I think it's possible to hide more powerful explosive in a rat than you think it is. A few ounces of plastic explosive will do an awful lot of damage, especially if they go off in a confined space like a boiler. It's not just the rat going off that's the problem, it's the bursting of the boiler and sending of burning coals all over the place. That could very well kill you.

Not to mention the fact that it would disable whatever the boiler was powering, and perhaps make your erstwhile colleagues a little less enthusiastic about their jobs...
15th Apr, 2013 07:37 (UTC)
If only my long-ago O-level Latin were good enough to translate "I've had it with these motherf*****g snakes on this motherf*****g ship." (Censored for the sake of work internet access. Although my work filter is prone to say, "pass, friend" at pages cluttered with swearing, but bellow, "You shall not pass!" at children's book pages full of fairies and bunny rabbits, so I'm not sure why I'm bothering.)
15th Apr, 2013 09:12 (UTC)
Hmm ... I'm not entirely sure they teach "motherf*****g" in O-level languages ...
(Deleted comment)
15th Apr, 2013 21:31 (UTC)
16th Apr, 2013 07:17 (UTC)
Heh, I didn't know about that :-)
15th Apr, 2013 09:14 (UTC)
How is your cold now, BTW?
15th Apr, 2013 21:32 (UTC)
Still feeling a bit tired, but could be worse, thanks - you?
16th Apr, 2013 07:20 (UTC)
Well, my nose is a lot clearer than it was; but my cough is still very definitely present, and I've been getting some bad headaches.

I am going to try going back to work today, after taking Friday and Monday off.
15th Apr, 2013 21:01 (UTC)
That's fascinating. Thanks for sharing...
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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