The evolution of warfare has witnessed the rise and fall of countless tactics throughout history. Surprisingly, many ancient military strategies continue to influence and shape the modern battlefield of the 21st century. These time-tested tactics have proven their effectiveness across generations, demonstrating their adaptability and relevance even in today’s technologically advanced warfare.

In this article, we will explore some of these enduring military tactics, revealing how they have seamlessly transitioned from ancient battlefields to contemporary conflicts, leaving an indelible mark on the strategies employed by armed forces worldwide.

The Art of Deception

Deception has always been a powerful weapon in warfare, employed by ancient commanders and modern military leaders alike. From Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” to today’s psychological operations, the ability to deceive the enemy and manipulate their perceptions remains a vital strategy. Whether through camouflage, misinformation, or false flag operations, deception plays a crucial role in disrupting enemy plans, sowing discord, and gaining an advantage on the 21st-century battlefield.

Ancient tactics like the Trojan Horse relied on physical subterfuge, exploiting psychology and surprise. While these old-fashioned tactics focused on misdirecting physical movements, modern deception employs a broader spectrum. It targets information systems, disseminates disinformation, and manipulates enemy perception. Today’s military utilizes psychological operations and cyber warfare techniques to leverage misinformation and strategic manipulation. By adapting ancient tactics to the modern battlefield, deception remains a powerful tool.

Defensive Fortifications

The concept of defensive fortifications dates back centuries, yet it remains integral to modern military planning. From ancient citadels to today’s sophisticated bunkers and fortified positions, defensive structures provide essential protection for troops and strategic assets. Fortification design principles, including effective positioning, layered defenses, and obstacle placement, are still used to create formidable defensive positions in the 21st century.

Influence of ancient warfare
A stretch of Hadrian’s Wall near Housesteads / Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Roman Empire, for one, was known for its impressive defensive fortifications, such as Hadrian’s Wall in Britain and the extensive network of fortresses and walls throughout the empire. These structures showcased the strategic placement of walls, watchtowers, and fortified gates, designed to provide protection against invading forces. The principles of defense and fortification employed by the Romans have, in a way, influenced the basic design and construction elements of modern military bases and fortified positions. While adapted to current military needs, many of these principles, such as the strategic placement of walls and gates and the layout of internal structures, have their roots and, in some way, reflect lessons from Romans and other ancient civilizations.

Guerrilla Warfare

The concept of guerrilla warfare, developed by ancient civilizations, has proven to be a formidable strategy against conventional forces throughout history. Today, non-state actors and insurgent groups continue to employ guerrilla tactics to level the playing field against larger, better-equipped adversaries.

Modern military forces face ongoing challenges in countering adversaries who seamlessly blend into civilian populations, launch surprise attacks, and utilize hit-and-run tactics. To effectively respond to these challenges, adaptive counterinsurgency strategies are essential. Military forces must remain flexible, responsive, and adaptable to navigate the ever-evolving nature of asymmetric warfare and successfully overcome these obstacles.