AELIAN (AELIANUS TACTICUS), (not to be confused with CLAUDIUS AELIANUS who is also named AELIAN), Greek military writer of the 2nd century A.D., resident at Rome. He is sometimes confused with Claudius Aelianus, the Roman writer referred to below. Aelian's military treatise, Taktike Theoria, is dedicated to Hadrian, though this is probably a mistake for Trajan, and the date A.D. 106 has been assigned to it. It is a handbook of Greek, i.e. Macedonian, drill and tactics as practised by the Hellenistic successors of Alexander the Great. The author claims to have consulted all the best authorities, the chief of which was a lost treatise on the subject by Polybius. Perhaps the chief value of Aelian's work lies in his critical account of preceding works on the art of war, and in the fulness of his technical details in matters of drill. Critics of the 18th century--Guichard Folard and the prince de Ligne-were unanimous in thinking Aelian greatly inferior to Arrian, but both on his immediate successors, the Byzantines, and on the Arabs, who translated the text for their own use, Aelian exercised a great influence. The emperor Leo VI. incorporated much of Aelian's text in his own work on the military art. The Arabic version of Aelian was made about 1350. In spite of its academic nature, the copious details to be found in the treatise rendered it of the highest value to the army organizers of the 16th century, who were engaged in fashioning a regular military system out of the semi-feudal systems of previous generations. The Macedonian phalanx of Aelian had many points of resemblance to the solid masses of pikemen and the "squadrons" of cavalry of the Spanish and Dutch systems, and the translations made in the 16th century formed the groundwork of numerous books on drill and tactics. Moreover, his works, with those of Xenophon, Polybius, Aeneas and Arrian, were minutely studied by every soldier of the 16th and 17th centuries who wished to be master of his profession. It has been suggested that Aellan was the real author of most of Arrian's Tactica, and that the Taktike Theoria is a later revision of this original, but the theory is not generally accepted.
The first edition of the Greek text is that of Robortelli (Venice, 1552); the Elzevir text (Leiden, 1613) has notes. The text in W. Rustow and H. Kochly's Gricchische Kriegsschriftsteller (1855) is accompanied by a translation, notes and reproductions of the original illustrations. A Latin translation by Theodore Gaza of Thessalonica was included in the famous collection Veteres de re mililari scriptores (Rome and Venice, 1487, Cologne, 1528, etc.). The French translation of Machault, included in his Milices des Grecs et Romains (Paris, 1615) and entitled De la Sergenterie des Grecs, a German translation from Theodore Gaza (Cologne, 1524), and the English version of Jo. B(ingham), which includes a drill-manual of the English troops in the Dutch service, Tacticks of Aelian (London, 1616) are of importance in the military literature of the period. A later French translation by Bouchard de Bussy. La Milice des Grecs on Tactique d'Elien (Paris 1737 and 1757); Baumgartner's German translation in his incomplete Sammlung aller Kriegsschriftsteller der Griechen (Mannheim and Frankenthal, 1779), reproduced in 1786 as Von Schlachtordnungen, and Viscount Dillon's English version (London, 1814) may also be mentioned. See also R. Forster, Studien zu den griechischen Taktikern (Hermes, xii., 1877, pp. 444-449); F. Wustenfeld, Das Heerwesen der Muhammedaner und die arabische Uebersetzung der Taktik des Aelianus (Gottingen, 1880); M. Jahns, Gesch. der Kriegswissenscharen, i. 95-97 (Munich, 1889); Rustow and Kochly, Gesch. des griechischen Kriegswesens (1852). A. de Lort-Serignan, La Phalange (1880); P. Serre, Etudes sur L'histoire militaire et maritime des Grecs et des Romains (1887); K. K. Muller, in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopadie (Stuttgart, 1894).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)