by Niccolo Machiavelli, Translated by Ninian Hill Thomson, M.A. (1883)
Men do always, but not always with reason, commend the past and condemn the present, and are so much the partisans of what has been, as not merely to cry up those times which are known to them only from the records left by historians, but also, when they grow old, to extol the days in which they remember their youth to have been spent. And although this preference of theirs be in most instances a mistaken one, I can see that there are many causes to account for it; chief of which I take to be that in respect of things long gone by we perceive not the whole truth, those circumstances that would detract from the credit of the past being for the most part hidden from us, while all that gives it lustre is magnified and embellished. For the generality of writers render this tribute to the good fortune of conquerors, that to make their achievements seem more splendid, they not merely exaggerate the great things they have done, but also lend such a colour to the actions of their enemies, that any one born afterwards, whether in the conquering or in the conquered country, has cause to marvel at these men and these times, and is constrained to praise and love them beyond all others.
Again, men being moved to hatred either by fear or envy, these two most powerful causes of dislike are cancelled in respect of things which are past, because what is past can neither do us hurt, nor afford occasion for envy. The contrary, however, is the case with the things we see, and in which we take part; for in these, from our complete acquaintance with them, no part of them being hidden from us, we recognize, along with much that is good, much that displeases us, and so are forced to pronounce them far inferior to the old, although in truth they deserve far greater praise and admiration. I speak not, here, of what relates to the arts, which have such distinction inherent in them, that time can give or take from them but little of the glory which they merit of themselves. I speak of the lives and manners of men, touching which the grounds for judging are not so clear.
I repeat, then, that it is true that this habit of blaming and praising obtains, but not always true that it is wrong applied. For sometimes it will happen that this judgment is just; because, as human affairs are in constant movement, it must be that they either rise or fall. Wherefore, we may see a city or province furnished with free institutions by some great and wise founder, flourish for a while through his merits, and advance steadily on the path of improvement. Any one born therein at that time would be in the wrong to praise the past more than the present, and his error would be occasioned by the causes already noticed. But any one born afterwards in that city or province when the time has come for it to fall away from its former felicity, would not be mistaken in praising the past.
When I consider how this happens, I am persuaded that the world, remaining continually the same, has in it a constant quantity of good and evil; but that this good and this evil shift about from one country to another, as we know that in ancient times empire shifted from one nation to another, according as the manners of these nations changed, the world, as a whole, continuing as before, and the only difference being that, whereas at first Assyria was made the seat of its excellence, this was afterwards placed in Media, then in Persia, until at last it was transferred to Italy and Rome. And although after the Roman Empire, none has followed which has endured, or in which the world has centred its whole excellence, we nevertheless find that excellence diffused among many valiant nations, the kingdom of the Franks, for example, that of the Turks, that of the Soldan, and the States of Germany at the present day; and shared at an earlier time by that sect of the Saracens who performed so many great achievements and gained so wide a dominion, after destroying the Roman Empire in the East.
In all these countries, therefore, after the decline of the Roman power, and among all these races, there existed, and in some part of them there yet exists, that excellence which alone is to be desired and justly to be praised. Wherefore, if any man being born in one of these countries should exalt past times over present, he might be mistaken; but any who, living at the present day in Italy or Greece, has not in Italy become an ultramontane or in Greece a Turk, has reason to complain of his own times, and to commend those others, in which there were many things which made them admirable; whereas, now, no regard being had to religion, to laws, or to arms, but all being tarnished with every sort of shame, there is nothing to redeem the age from the last extremity of wretchedness, ignominy, and disgrace. And the vices of our age are the more odious in that they are practised by those who sit on the judgment seat, govern the State, and demand public reverence.
But, returning to the matter in hand, it may be said, that if the judgment of men be at fault in pronouncing whether the present age or the past is the better in respect of things whereof, by reason of their antiquity, they cannot have the same perfect knowledge which they have of their own times, it ought not to be at fault in old men when they compare the days of their youth with those of their maturity, both of which have been alike seen and known by them. This were indeed true, if men at all periods of their lives judged of things in the same way, and were constantly influenced by the same desires; but since they alter, the times, although they alter not, cannot but seem different to those who have other desires, other pleasures, and other ways of viewing things in their old age from those they had in their youth. For since, when they grow old, men lose in bodily strength but gain in wisdom and discernment, it must needs be that those things which in their youth seemed to them tolerable and good, should in their old age appear intolerable and evil. And whereas they should ascribe this to their judgment, they lay the blame upon the times.
But, further, since the desires of men are insatiable, Nature prompting them to desire all things and Fortune permitting them to enjoy but few, there results a constant discontent in their minds, and a loathing of what they possess, prompting them to find fault with the present, praise the past, and long for the future, even though they be not moved thereto by any reasonable cause.
I know not, therefore, whether I may not deserve to be reckoned in the number of those who thus deceive themselves, if, in these Discourses of mine, I render excessive praise to the ancient times of the Romans while I censure our own. And, indeed, were not the excellence which then prevailed and the corruption which prevails now clearer than the sun, I should proceed more guardedly in what I have to say, from fear lest in accusing others I should myself fall into this self-deception. But since the thing is so plain that every one sees it, I shall be bold to speak freely all I think, both of old times and of new, in order that the minds of the young who happen to read these my writings, may be led to shun modern examples, and be prepared to follow those set by antiquity whenever chance affords the opportunity. For it is the duty of every good man to teach others those wholesome lessons which the malice of Time or of Fortune has not permitted him to put in practice; to the end, that out of many who have the knowledge, some one better loved by Heaven may be found able to carry them out.
Having spoken, then, in the foregoing Book of the various methods followed by the Romans in regulating the domestic affairs of their city, in this I shall speak of what was done by them to spread their Empire.
CHAPTER I. Whether the Empire acquired by the Romans was more due to Valour or to Fortune.
Many authors, and among others that most grave historian Plutarch, have thought that in acquiring their empire the Romans were more beholden to their good fortune than to their valour; and besides other reasons which they give for this opinion, they affirm it to be proved by the admission of the Romans themselves, since their having erected more temples to Fortune than to any other deity, shows that it was to her that they ascribed their success. It would seem, too, that Titus Livius was of the same mind, since he very seldom puts a speech into the mouth of any Roman in which he discourses of valour, wherein he does not also make mention of Fortune. This, however, is an opinion with which I can in no way concur, and which, I take it, cannot be made good. For if no commonwealth has ever been found to grow like the Roman, it is because none was ever found so well fitted by its institutions to make that growth. For by the valour of her armies she spread her empire, while by her conduct of affairs, and by other methods peculiar to herself and devised by her first founder, she was able to keep what she acquired, as shall be fully shown in many of the following Discourses.
The writers to whom I have referred assert that it was owing to their good fortune and not to their prudence that the Romans never had two great wars on their hands at once; as, for instance, that they waged no wars with the Latins until they had not merely overcome the Samnites, but undertook in their defence the war on which they then entered; nor ever fought with the Etruscans until they had subjugated the Latins, and had almost worn out the Samnites by frequent defeats; whereas, had any two of these powers, while yet fresh and unexhausted, united together, it may easily be believed that the ruin of the Roman Republic must have followed. But to whatsoever cause we ascribe it, it never so chanced that the Romans engaged in two great wars at the same time. On the contrary, it always seemed as though on the breaking out of one war, another was extinguished; or that on the termination of one, another broke out. And this we may plainly see from the order in which their wars succeeded one another.
For, omitting those waged by them before their city was taken by the Gauls, we find that during their struggle with the Equians and the Volscians, and while these two nations continued strong, no others rose against them. On these being subdued, there broke out the war with the Samnites; and although before the close of that contest the Latin nations had begun to rebel against Rome, nevertheless, when their rebellion came to a head, the Samnites were in league with Rome, and helped her with their army to quell the presumption of the rebels; on whose defeat the war with Samnium was renewed.
When the strength of Samnium had been drained by repeated reverses, there followed the war with the Etruscans; which ended, the Samnites were once more stirred to activity by the coming of Pyrrhus into Italy. When he, too, had been defeated, and sent back to Greece, Rome entered on her first war with the Carthaginians; which was no sooner over than all the Gallic nations on both sides of the Alps combined against the Romans, by whom, in the battle fought between Populonia and Pisa, where now stands the fortress of San Vincenzo, they were at last routed with tremendous slaughter.
This war ended, for twenty years together the Romans were engaged in no contest of importance, their only adversaries being the Ligurians, and the remnant of the Gallic tribes who occupied Lombardy; and on this footing things continued down to the second Carthaginian war, which for sixteen years kept the whole of Italy in a blaze. This too being brought to a most glorious termination, there followed the Macedonian war, at the close of which succeeded the war with Antiochus and Asia. These subdued, there remained not in the whole world, king or people who either singly or together could withstand the power of Rome.
But even before this last victory, any one observing the order of these wars, and the method in which they were conducted, must have recognized not only the good fortune of the Romans, but also their extraordinary valour and prudence. And were any one to search for the causes of this good fortune, he would have little difficulty in finding them, since nothing is more certain than that when a potentate has attained so great a reputation that every neighbouring prince or people is afraid to engage him single-handed, and stands in awe of him, none will ever venture to attack him, unless driven to do so by necessity; so that it will almost rest on his will to make war as he likes on any of his neighbours, while he studiously maintains peace with the rest; who, on their part, whether through fear of his power, or deceived by the methods he takes to dull their vigilance, are easily kept quiet. Distant powers, in the mean time, who have no intercourse with either, treat the matter as too remote to concern them in any way; and abiding in this error until the conflagration approaches their own doors, on its arrival have no resource for its extinction, save in their own strength, which, as their enemy has by that time become exceedingly powerful, no longer suffices.
I forbear to relate how the Samnites stood looking on while the Romans were subjugating the Equians and the Volscians; and, to avoid being prolix, shall content myself with the single instance of the Carthaginians, who, at the time when the Romans were contending with the Samnites and Etruscans, were possessed of great power and held in high repute, being already masters of the whole of Africa together with Sicily and Sardinia, besides occupying territory in various parts of Spain. And because their empire was so great, and at such a distance from the Roman frontier, they were never led to think of attacking the Romans or of lending assistance to the Etruscans or Samnites. On the contrary, they behaved towards the Romans as men behave towards those whom they see prosper, rather taking their part and courting their friendship. Nor did they discover their mistake until the Romans, after subduing all the intervening nations, began to assail their power both in Spain and Sicily. What happened in the case of the Carthaginians, happened also in the case of the Gauls, of Philip of Macedon, and of Antiochus, each of whom, while Rome was engaged with another of them, believed that other would have the advantage, and that there would be time enough to provide for their own safety, whether by making peace or war. It seems to me, therefore, that the same good fortune which, in this respect, attended the Romans, might be shared by all princes acting as they did, and of a valour equal to theirs.
As bearing on this point, it might have been proper for me to show what methods were followed by the Romans in entering the territories of other nations, had I not already spoken of this at length in my Treatise on Princedoms, wherein the whole subject is discussed. Here it is enough to say briefly, that in a new province they always sought for some friend who should be to them as a ladder whereby to climb, a door through which to pass, or an instrument wherewith to keep their hold. Thus we see them effect their entrance into Samnium through the Capuans, into Etruria through the Camertines, into Sicily through the Mamertines, into Spain through the Saguntans, into Africa through Massinissa, into Greece through the Etolians, into Asia through Eumenes and other princes, into Gaul through the Massilians and Eduans; and, in like manner, never without similar assistance in their efforts whether to acquire provinces or to keep them.
The nations who carefully attend to this precaution will be seen to stand in less need of Fortune's help than others who neglect it. But that all may clearly understand how much more the Romans were aided by valour than by Fortune in acquiring their empire, I shall in the following Chapter consider the character of those nations with whom they had to contend, and show how stubborn these were in defending their freedom.
CHAPTER II. With what Nations the Romans had to contend, and how stubborn these were in defending their Freedom.
In subduing the countries round about them, and certain of the more distant provinces, nothing gave the Romans so much trouble, as the love which in those days many nations bore to freedom, defending it with such obstinacy as could not have been overcome save by a surpassing valour. For we know by numberless instances, what perils these nations were ready to face in their efforts to maintain or recover their freedom, and what vengeance they took against those who deprived them of it. We know, too, from history, what hurt a people or city suffers from servitude. And though, at the present day, there is but one province which can be said to contain within it free cities, we find that formerly these abounded everywhere. For we learn that in the ancient times of which I speak, from the mountains which divide Tuscany from Lombardy down to the extreme point of Italy, there dwelt numerous free nations, such as the Etruscans, the Romans, and the Samnites, besides many others in other parts of the Peninsula. Nor do we ever read of there being any kings over them, except those who reigned in Rome, and Porsenna, king of Etruria. How the line of this last-named prince came to be extinguished, history does not inform us; but it is clear that at the time when the Romans went to besiege Veii, Etruria was free, and so greatly rejoiced in her freedom, and so detested the regal name, that when the Veientines, who for their defence had created a king in Veii, sought aid from the Etruscans against Rome, these, after much deliberation resolved to lend them no help while they continued to live under a king; judging it useless to defend a country given over to servitude by its inhabitants.
It is easy to understand whence this love of liberty arises among nations, for we know by experience that States have never signally increased, either as to dominion or wealth, except where they have lived under a free government. And truly it is strange to think to what a pitch of greatness Athens came during the hundred years after she had freed herself from the despotism of Pisistratus; and far stranger to contemplate the marvellous growth which Rome made after freeing herself from her kings. The cause, however, is not far to seek, since it is the well-being, not of individuals, but of the community which makes a State great; and, without question, this universal well-being is nowhere secured save in a republic. For a republic will do whatsoever makes for its interest; and though its measures prove hurtful to this man or to that, there are so many whom they benefit, that these are able to carry them out, in spite of the resistance of the few whom they injure.
But the contrary happens in the case of a prince; for, as a rule, what helps him hurts the State, and what helps the State hurts him; so that whenever a tyranny springs up in a city which has lived free, the least evil which can befall that city is to make no further progress, nor ever increase in power or wealth; but in most cases, if not in all, it will be its fate to go back. Or should there chance to arise in it some able tyrant who extends his dominions by his valour and skill in arms, the advantage which results is to himself only, and not to the State; since he can bestow no honours on those of the citizens over whom he tyrannizes who have shown themselves good and valiant, lest afterwards he should have cause to fear them. Nor can he make those cities which he acquires, subject or tributary to the city over which he rules; because to make this city powerful is not for his interest, which lies in keeping it so divided that each town and province may separately recognize him alone as its master. In this way he only, and not his country, is the gainer by his conquests. And if any one desire to have this view confirmed by numberless other proofs, let him look into Xenophon's treatise De Tirannide.
No wonder, then, that the nations of antiquity pursued tyrants with such relentless hatred, and so passionately loved freedom that its very name was dear to them, as was seen when Hieronymus, grandson of Hiero the Syracusan, was put to death in Syracuse. For when word of his death reached the army, which lay encamped not far off, at first it was greatly moved, and eager to take up arms against the murderers. But on hearing the cry of liberty shouted in the streets of Syracuse, quieted at once by the name, it laid aside its resentment against those who had slain the tyrant, and fell to consider how a free government might be provided for the city.
Nor is it to be wondered at that the ancient nations took terrible vengeance on those who deprived them of their freedom; of which, though there be many instances, I mean only to cite one which happened in the city of Corcyra at the time of the Peloponnesian war. For Greece being divided into two factions, one of which sided with the Athenians, the other with the Spartans, it resulted that many of its cities were divided against themselves, some of the citizens seeking the friendship of Sparta and some of Athens. In the aforesaid city of Corcyra, the nobles getting the upper hand, deprived the commons of their freedom; these, however, recovering themselves with the help of the Athenians, laid hold of the entire body of the nobles, and cast them into a prison large enough to contain them all, whence they brought them forth by eight or ten at a time, pretending that they were to be sent to different places into banishment, whereas, in fact, they put them to death with many circumstances of cruelty. Those who were left, learning what was going on, resolved to do their utmost to escape this ignominious death, and arming themselves with what weapons they could find, defended the door of their prison against all who sought to enter; till the people, hearing the tumult and rushing in haste to the prison, dragged down the roof, and smothered the prisoners in the ruins. Many other horrible and atrocious cruelties likewise perpetrated in Greece, show it to be true that a lost freedom is avenged with more ferocity than a threatened freedom is defended.
When I consider whence it happened that the nations of antiquity were so much more zealous in their love of liberty than those of the present day, I am led to believe that it arose from the same cause which makes the present generation of men less vigorous and daring than those of ancient times, namely the difference of the training of the present day from that of earlier ages; and this, again, arises from the different character of the religions then and now prevailing. For our religion, having revealed to us the truth and the true path, teaches us to make little account of worldly glory; whereas, the Gentiles, greatly esteeming it, and placing therein their highest good, displayed a greater fierceness in their actions.
This we may gather from many of their customs, beginning with their sacrificial rites, which were of much magnificence as compared with the simplicity of our worship, though that be not without a certain dignity of its own, refined rather than splendid, and far removed from any tincture of ferocity or violence. In the religious ceremonies of the ancients neither pomp nor splendour were wanting; but to these was joined the ordinance of sacrifice, giving occasion to much bloodshed and cruelty. For in its celebration many beasts were slaughtered, and this being a cruel spectacle imparted a cruel temper to the worshippers. Moreover, under the old religions none obtained divine honours save those who were loaded with worldly glory, such as captains of armies and rulers of cities; whereas our religion glorifies men of a humble and contemplative, rather than of an active life. Accordingly, while the highest good of the old religions consisted in magnanimity, bodily strength, and all those other qualities which make men brave, our religion places it in humility, lowliness, and contempt for the things of this world; or if it ever calls upon us to be brave, it is that we should be brave to suffer rather than to do.
This manner of life, therefore, seems to have made the world feebler, and to have given it over as a prey to wicked men to deal with as they please; since the mass of mankind, in the hope of being received into Paradise, think more how to bear injuries than how to avenge them. But should it seem that the world has grown effeminate and Heaven laid aside her arms, this assuredly results from the baseness of those who have interpreted our religion to accord with indolence and ease rather than with valour. For were we to remember that religion permits the exaltation and defence of our country, we would see it to be our duty to love and honour it, and would strive to be able and ready to defend it.
This training, therefore, and these most false interpretations are the causes why, in the world of the present day, we find no longer the numerous commonwealths which were found of old; and in consequence, that we see not now among the nations that love of freedom which prevailed then; though, at the same time, I am persuaded that one cause of this change has been, that the Roman Empire by its arms and power put an end to all the free States and free institutions of antiquity. For although the power of Rome fell afterwards into decay, these States could never recover their strength or resume their former mode of government, save in a very few districts of the Empire.
But, be this as it may, certain it is that in every country of the world, even the least considerable, the Romans found a league of well-armed republics, most resolute in the defence of their freedom, whom it is clear they never could have subdued had they not been endowed with the rarest and most astonishing valour. To cite a single instance, I shall take the case of the Samnites who, strange as it may now seem, were on the admission of Titus Livius himself, so powerful and so steadfast in arms, as to be able to withstand the Romans down to the consulship of Papirius Cursor, son to the first Papirius, a period of six and forty years, in spite of numerous defeats, the loss of many of their towns, and the great slaughter which overtook them everywhere throughout their country. And this is the more remarkable when we see that country, which once contained so many noble cities, and supported so great a population, now almost uninhabited; and reflect that it formerly enjoyed a government and possessed resources making its conquest impossible to less than Roman valour.
There is no difficulty, therefore, in determining whence that ancient greatness and this modern decay have arisen, since they can be traced to the free life formerly prevailing and to the servitude which prevails now. For all countries and provinces which enjoy complete freedom, make, as I have said, most rapid progress. Because, from marriage being less restricted in these countries, and more sought after, we find there a greater population; every man being disposed to beget as many children as he thinks he can rear, when he has no anxiety lest they should be deprived of their patrimony, and knows not only that they are born to freedom and not to slavery, but that they may rise by their merit to be the first men of their country. In such States, accordingly, we see wealth multiply, both that which comes from agriculture and that which comes from manufactures. For all love to gather riches and to add to their possessions when their enjoyment of them is not likely to be disturbed. And hence it happens that the citizens of such States vie with one another in whatever tends to promote public or private well-being; in both of which, consequently, there is a wonderful growth.
But the contrary of all this takes place in those countries which live in servitude, and the more oppressive their servitude, the more they fall short of the good which all desire. And the hardest of all hard servitudes is that wherein one commonwealth is subjected to another. First, because it is more lasting, and there is less hope to escape from it; and, second, because every commonwealth seeks to add to its own strength by weakening and enfeebling all beside. A prince who gets the better of you will not treat you after this fashion, unless he be a barbarian like those eastern despots who lay countries waste and destroy the labours of civilization; but if influenced by the ordinary promptings of humanity, will, as a rule, regard all his subject States with equal favour, and suffer them to pursue their usual employments, and retain almost all their ancient institutions, so that if they flourish not as free States might, they do not dwindle as States that are enslaved; by which I mean enslaved by a stranger, for of that other slavery to which they may be reduced by one of their own citizens, I have already spoken.
Whoever, therefore, shall well consider what has been said above, will not be astonished at the power possessed by the Samnites while they were still free, nor at the weakness into which they fell when they were subjugated. Of which change in their fortunes Livius often reminds us, and particularly in connection with the war with Hannibal, where he relates that the Samnites, being ill-treated by a Roman legion quartered at Nola, sent legates to Hannibal to ask his aid; who in laying their case before him told him, that with their own soldiers and captains they had fought single handed against the Romans for a hundred years, and had more than once withstood two consuls and two consular armies; but had now fallen so low, that they were scarce able to defend themselves against one poor legion.
CHAPTER III. That Rome became great by destroying the Cities which lay round about her, and by readily admitting strangers to the rights of Citizenship.
"Crescit interea Roma AlbĂ¦ ruinis"â€”Meanwhile Rome grows on the ruins of Alba. They who would have their city become a great empire, must endeavour by every means to fill it with inhabitants; for without a numerous population no city can ever succeed in growing powerful. This may be effected in two ways, by gentleness or by force. By gentleness, when you offer a safe and open path to all strangers who may wish to come and dwell in your city, so as to encourage them to come there of their own accord; by force, when after destroying neighbouring towns, you transplant their inhabitants to live in yours. Both of these methods were practised by Rome, and with such success, that in the time of her sixth king there dwelt within her walls eighty thousand citizens fit to bear arms. For the Romans loved to follow the methods of the skilful husbandman, who, to insure a plant growing big and yielding and maturing its fruit, cuts off the first shoots it sends out, that the strength remaining in the stem, it may in due season put forth new and more vigorous and more fruitful branches. And that this was a right and a necessary course for Rome to take for establishing and extending her empire, is proved by the example of Sparta and Athens, which, although exceedingly well-armed States, and regulated by excellent laws, never reached the same greatness as the Roman Republic; though the latter, to all appearance, was more turbulent and disorderly than they, and, so far as laws went, not so perfectly governed. For this we can offer no other explanation than that already given. For by augmenting the numbers of her citizens in both the ways named, Rome was soon able to place two hundred and eighty thousand men under arms; while neither Sparta nor Athens could ever muster more than twenty thousand; and this, not because the situation of these countries was less advantageous than that of Rome, but simply from the difference in the methods they followed.
For Lycurgus, the founder of the Spartan Republic, thinking nothing so likely to relax his laws as an admixture of new citizens, did all he could to prevent intercourse with strangers; with which object, besides refusing these the right to marry, the right of citizenship, and all such other social rights as induce men to become members of a community, he ordained that in this republic of his the only money current should be of leather, so that none might be tempted to repair thither to trade or to carry on any art.
Under such circumstances the number of the inhabitants of that State could never much increase. For as all our actions imitate nature, and it is neither natural nor possible that a puny stem should carry a great branch, so a small republic cannot assume control over cities or countries stronger than herself; or, doing so, will resemble the tree whose boughs being greater than its trunk, are supported with difficulty, and snapped by every gust of wind. As it proved with Sparta. For after she had spread her dominion over all the cities of Greece, no sooner did Thebes rebel than all the others rebelled likewise, and the trunk was left stripped of its boughs. But this could not have happened with Rome, whose stem was mighty enough to bear any branch with ease.
It was, therefore, by adding to her population, and by, adopting certain other methods presently to be noticed, that Rome became so great and powerful. And this is well expressed by Titus Livius, in the words, "Crescit interea Roma Albae ruinis."
CHAPTER IV. That Commonwealths have followed three Methods for extending their Power.
Any one who has read ancient history with attention, must have observed that three methods have been used by republics for extending their power. One of these, followed by the old Etruscans, is to form a confederation of many States, wherein none has precedence over the rest in authority or rank, and each allows the others to share its acquisitions; as do the States of the Swiss League in our days, and as the Achaians and Etolians did in Greece in earlier times. And because the Etruscans were opposed to the Romans in many wars, that I may give a clearer notion of this method of theirs, I shall enlarge a little in my account of the Etruscan people.
In Italy, before the Romans became supreme, the Etruscans were very powerful, both by sea and land; and although we have no separate history of their affairs, we have some slight records left us of them, and some indications of their greatness. We know, for instance, that they planted a colony, to which they gave the name of Hadria, on the coast of the upper sea; which colony became so renowned that it lent its name to the sea itself, which to this day by the Latins is called the Hadriatic. We know, too, that their arms were obeyed from the Tiber to the foot of the mountains which enclose the greater part of the Italian peninsula; although, two hundred years before Rome grew to any great strength, they had lost their supremacy in the province now known as Lombardy, of which the French had possessed themselves. For that people, whether driven by necessity, or attracted by the excellence of the fruits, and still more of the wine of Italy, came there under their chief, Bellovesus; and after defeating and expelling the inhabitants of the country, settled themselves therein, and there built many cities; calling the district Gallia, after the name they then bore: and this territory they retained until they were subdued by the Romans.
These Etruscans, therefore, living with one another on a footing of complete equality, when they sought to extend their power, followed that first method of which I have just now spoken. Their State was made up of twelve cities, among which were Chiusi, Veii, Friuli, Arezzo, Volterra, and the like, and their government was conducted in the form of a league. They could not, however, extend their conquests beyond Italy; while even within the limits of Italy, much territory remained unoccupied by them for reasons presently to be noticed.
The second method is to provide yourself with allies or companions, taking heed, however, to retain in your own hands the chief command, the seat of government, and the titular supremacy. This was the method followed by the Romans.
The third method is to hold other States in direct subjection to you, and not merely associated with you as companions; and this was the plan pursued by the Spartans and Athenians.
Of these three methods, the last is wholly useless, as was seen in the case of the two States named, which came to ruin from no other cause than that they had acquired a dominion greater than they could maintain. For to undertake to govern cities by force, especially such cities as have been used to live in freedom, is a difficult and arduous task, in which you never can succeed without an army and that a great one. But to have such an army you must needs have associates who will help to swell the numbers of your own citizens. And because Athens and Sparta neglected this precaution, whatever they did was done in vain; whereas Rome, which offers an instance of the second of the methods we are considering, by attending to this precaution reached a power that had no limit. And as she alone has lived in this way, so she alone has attained to this pitch of power. For joining with herself many States throughout Italy as her companions, who in most respects lived with her on a footing of equality, while, as has been noted, always reserving to herself the seat of empire and the titular command, it came about that these States, without being aware of it, by their own efforts, and with their own blood, wrought out their own enslavement.
For when Rome began to send armies out of Italy, for the purpose of reducing foreign kingdoms to provinces, and of subjugating nations who, being used to live under kings, were not impatient of her yoke, and who, receiving Roman governors, and having been conquered by armies bearing the Roman name, recognized no masters save the Romans, those companions of Rome who dwelt in Italy suddenly found themselves surrounded by Roman subjects, and weighed down by the greatness of the Roman power; and when at last they came to perceive the mistake in which they had been living, it was too late to remedy it, so vast was the authority which Rome had then obtained over foreign countries, and so great the resources which she possessed within herself; having by this time grown to be the mightiest and best-armed of States. So that although these her companions sought to avenge their wrongs by conspiring against her, they were soon defeated in the attempt, and remained in a worse plight than before, since they too became subjects and no longer associates. This method, then, as I have said, was followed by the Romans alone; but no other plan can be pursued by a republic which desires to extend its power; experience having shown none other so safe and certain.
The method which consists in forming leagues, of which I have spoken above as having been adopted by the Etruscans, the Achaians, and the Etolians of old, and in our own days by the Swiss, is the next best after that followed by the Romans, for as in this way there can be no great extension of power, two advantages result: first, that you do not readily involve yourself in war; and, second, that you can easily preserve any little acquisition which you may make. The reason why you cannot greatly extend your power is, that as your league is made up of separate States with distinct seats of government, it is difficult for these to consult and resolve in concert. The same causes make these States careless to enlarge their territories; because acquisitions which have to be shared among many communities are less thought of than those made by a single republic which looks to enjoy them all to itself. Again, since leagues govern through general councils, they must needs be slower in resolving than a nation dwelling within one frontier.
Moreover, we find from experience that this method has certain fixed limits beyond which there is no instance of its ever having passed; by which I mean that some twelve or fourteen communities may league themselves together, but will never seek to pass beyond that limit: for after associating themselves in such numbers as seem to them to secure their safety against all besides, they desire no further extension of their power, partly because no necessity compels them to extend, and partly because, for the reasons already given, they would find no profit in extending. For were they to seek extension they would have to follow one of two courses: either continuing to admit new members to their league, whose number must lead to confusion; or else making subjects, a course which they will avoid since they will see difficulty in making them, and no great good in having them. Wherefore, when their number has so increased that their safety seems secured, they have recourse to two expedients: either receiving other States under their protection and engaging for their defence (in which way they obtain money from various quarters which they can easily distribute among themselves); or else hiring themselves out as soldiers to foreign States, and drawing pay from this or the other prince who employs them to carry out his enterprises; as we see done by the Swiss at the present day, and as we read was done in ancient times by certain of those nations whom we have named above. To which we have a witness in Titus Livius, who relates that when Philip of Macedon came to treat with Titus Quintius Flamininus, and while terms were being discussed in the presence of a certain Etolian captain, this man coming to words with Philip, the latter taunted him with greed and bad faith; telling him that the Etolians were not ashamed to draw pay from one side, and then send their men to serve on the other; so that often the banner of Etolia might be seen displayed in two hostile camps.
We see, therefore, that the method of proceeding by leagues has always been of the same character, and has led always to the same results. We see, likewise, that the method which proceeds by reducing States to direct subjection has constantly proved a weak one, and produced insignificant gains; and that whenever these gains have passed a certain limit, ruin has ensued. And if the latter of these two methods be of little utility among armed States, among those that are unarmed, as is now the case with the republics of Italy, it is worse than useless. We may conclude, therefore, that the true method was that followed by the Romans; which is the more remarkable as we find none who adopted it before they did, and none who have followed it since. As for leagues, I know of no nations who have had recourse to them in recent times except the Swiss and the Suevians.
But to bring my remarks on this head to an end, I affirm that all the various methods followed by the Romans in conducting their affairs, whether foreign or domestic, so far from being imitated in our day, have been held of no account, some pronouncing them to be mere fables, some thinking them impracticable, others out of place and unprofitable; and so, abiding in this ignorance, we rest a prey to all who have chosen to invade our country. But should it seem difficult to tread in the footsteps of the Romans, it ought not to appear so hard, especially for us Tuscans, to imitate the Tuscans of antiquity, who if, from the causes already assigned, they failed to establish an empire like that of Rome, succeeded in acquiring in Italy that degree of power which their method of acting allowed, and which they long preserved in security, with the greatest renown in arms and government, and the highest reputation for manners and religion. This power and this glory of theirs were first impaired by the Gauls, and afterwards extinguished by the Romans, and so utterly extinguished, that of the Etruscan Empire, so splendid two thousand years ago, we have at the present day barely a record. This it is which has led me to inquire whence this oblivion of things arises, a question of which I shall treat in the following Chapter.
CHAPTER V. That changes in Sects and Tongues, and the happening of Floods and Pestilences, obliterate the Memory of the Past.
To those philosophers who will have it that the world has existed from all eternity, it were, I think, a good answer, that if what they say be true we ought to have record of a longer period than five thousand years; did it not appear that the memory of past times is blotted out by a variety of causes, some referable to men, and some to Heaven.
Among the causes which have a human origin are the changes in sects and tongues; because when a new sect, that is to say a new religion, comes up, its first endeavour, in order to give itself reputation, is to efface the old; and should it so happen that the founders of the new religion speak another tongue, this may readily be effected. This we know from observing the methods which Christianity has followed in dealing with the religion of the Gentiles, for we find that it has abolished all the rites and ordinances of that worship, and obliterated every trace of the ancient belief. True, it has not succeeded in utterly blotting out our knowledge of things done by the famous men who held that belief; and this because the propagators of the new faith, retaining the Latin tongue, were constrained to use it in writing the new law; for could they have written this in a new tongue, we may infer, having regard to their other persecutions, that no record whatever would have survived to us of past events. For any one who reads of the methods followed by Saint Gregory and the other heads of the Christian religion, will perceive with what animosity they pursued all ancient memorials; burning the works of poets and historians; breaking images; and destroying whatsoever else afforded any trace of antiquity. So that if to this persecution a new language had been joined, it must soon have been found that everything was forgotten.
We may believe, therefore, that what Christianity has sought to effect against the sect of the Gentiles, was actually effected by that sect against the religion which preceded theirs; and that, from the repeated changes of belief which have taken place in the course of five or six thousand years, the memory of what happened at a remote date has perished, or, if any trace of it remain, has come to be regarded as a fable to which no credit is due; like the Chronicle of Diodorus Siculus, which, professing to give an account of the events of forty or fifty thousand years, is held, and I believe justly, a lying tale.
As for the causes of oblivion which we may refer to Heaven, they are those which make havoc of the human race, and reduce the population of certain parts of the world to a very small number. This happens by plague, famine, or flood, of which three the last is the most hurtful, as well because it is the most universal, as because those saved are generally rude and ignorant mountaineers, who possessing no knowledge of antiquity themselves, can impart none to those who come after them. Or if among the survivors there chance to be one possessed of such knowledge, to give himself consequence and credit, he will conceal and pervert it to suit his private ends, so that to his posterity there will remain only so much as he may have been pleased to communicate, and no more.
That these floods, plagues, and famines do in fact happen, I see no reason to doubt, both because we find all histories full of them, and recognize their effect in this oblivion of the past, and also because it is reasonable that such things should happen. For as when much superfluous matter has gathered in simple bodies, nature makes repeated efforts to remove and purge it away, thereby promoting the health of these bodies, so likewise as regards that composite body the human race, when every province of the world so teems with inhabitants that they can neither subsist where they are nor remove elsewhere, every region being equally crowded and over-peopled, and when human craft and wickedness have reached their highest pitch, it must needs come about that the world will purge herself in one or another of these three ways, to the end that men, becoming few and contrite, may amend their lives and live with more convenience.
Etruria, then, as has been said above, was at one time powerful, abounding in piety and valour, practising her own customs, and speaking her own tongue; but all this was effaced by the power of Rome, so that, as I have observed already, nothing is left of her but the memory of a name.
CHAPTER VI. Of the Methods followed by the Romans in making War.
Having treated of the methods followed by the Romans for increasing their power, we shall now go on to consider those which they used in making war; and in all they did we shall find how wisely they turned aside from the common path in order to render their progress to supreme greatness easy.
Whosoever makes war, whether from policy or ambition, means to acquire and to hold what he acquires, and to carry on the war he has undertaken in such a manner that it shall enrich and not impoverish his native country and State. It is necessary, therefore, whether for acquiring or holding, to consider how cost may be avoided, and everything done most advantageously for the public welfare. But whoever would effect all this, must take the course and follow the methods of the Romans; which consisted, first of all, in making their wars, as the French say, great and short. For entering the field with strong armies, they brought to a speedy conclusion whatever wars they had with the Latins, the Samnites, or the Etruscans.
And if we take note of all the wars in which they were engaged, from the foundation of their city down to the siege of Veii, all will be seen to have been quickly ended some in twenty, some in ten, and some in no more than six days. And this was their wont: So soon as war was declared they would go forth with their armies to meet the enemy and at once deliver battle. The enemy, on being routed, to save their country from pillage, very soon came to terms, when the Romans would take from them certain portions of their territory. These they either assigned to particular persons, or made the seat of a colony, which being settled on the confines of the conquered country served as a defence to the Roman frontier, to the advantage both of the colonists who had these lands given them, and of the Roman people whose borders were thus guarded at no expense to themselves. And no other system of defence could have been at once so safe, so strong, and so effectual. For while the enemy were not actually in the field, this guard was sufficient; and when they came out in force to overwhelm the colony, the Romans also went forth in strength and gave them battle; and getting the better of them, imposed harder terms than before, and so returned home. And in this way they came gradually to establish their name abroad, and to add to their power.
These methods they continued to employ until they changed their system of warfare, which they did during the siege of Veii; when to enable them to carry on a prolonged war, they passed a law for the payment of their soldiers, whom, up to that time they had not paid, nor needed to pay, because till then their wars had been of brief duration. Nevertheless, while allowing pay to their soldiers that they might thus wage longer wars, and keep their armies longer in the field when employed on distant enterprises, they never departed from their old plan of bringing their campaigns to as speedy an end as place and circumstances allowed, nor ever ceased to plant colonies.
Their custom of terminating their wars with despatch, besides being natural to the Romans, was strengthened by the ambition of their consuls, who, being appointed for twelve months only, six of which they had to spend in the city, were eager to bring their wars to an end as rapidly as they could, that they might enjoy the honours of a triumph. The usage of planting colonies was recommended by the great advantage and convenience which resulted from it. In dealing with the spoils of warfare their practice, no doubt, in a measure changed, so that in this respect they were not afterwards so liberal as they were at first; partly, because liberality did not seem so necessary when their soldiers were in receipt of pay; and, partly, because the spoils themselves being greater than before, they thought by their help so to enrich the public treasury as to be able to carry on their wars without taxing the city; and, in fact, by pursuing this course the public revenues were soon greatly augmented. The methods thus followed by the Romans in dividing plunder and in planting colonies had, accordingly, this result, that whereas other less prudent princes and republics are impoverished by war, Rome was enriched by it; nay, so far was the system carried, that no consul could hope for a triumph unless he brought back with him for the public treasury much gold and silver and spoils of every kind.
By methods such as these, at one time bringing their wars to a rapid conclusion by invasion and actual defeat, at another wearing out an enemy by protracted hostilities, and again by concluding peace on advantageous terms, the Romans continually grew richer and more powerful.
CHAPTER VII. Of the Quantity of Land assigned by the Romans to each Colonist.
It would, I think, be difficult to fix with certainty how much land the Romans allotted to each colonist, for my belief is that they gave more or less according to the character of the country to which they sent them. We may, however, be sure that in every instance, and to whatever country they were sent, the quantity of land assigned was not very large: first, because, these colonists being sent to guard the newly acquired country, by giving little land it became possible to send more men; and second because, as the Romans lived frugally at home, it is unreasonable to suppose that they should wish their countrymen to be too well off abroad. And Titus Livius tells us that on the capture of Veii, the Romans sent thither a colony, allotting to each colonist three jugera and seven unciae of land, which, according to our measurement would be something under two acres.
Besides the above reasons, the Romans may likely enough have thought that it was not so much the quantity of the land allotted as its careful cultivation that would make it suffice. It is very necessary, however, that every colony should have common pasturage where all may send their cattle to graze, as well as woods where they may cut fuel; for without such conveniences no colony can maintain itself.
CHAPTER VIII. Why certain Nations leave their ancestral Seats and overflow the Countries of others.
Having spoken above of the methods followed by the Romans in making war, and related how the Etruscans were attacked by the Gauls, it seems to me not foreign to these topics to explain that of wars there are two kinds. One kind of war has its origin in the ambition of princes or republics who seek to extend their dominions. Such were the wars waged by Alexander the Great, and by the Romans, and such are those which we see every day carried on by one potentate against another. Wars of this sort have their dangers, but do not utterly extirpate the inhabitants of a country; what the conqueror seeks being merely the submission of the conquered people, whom, generally speaking, he suffers to retain their laws, and always their houses and goods.
The other species of war is when an entire people, with all the families of which it is made up, being driven out by famine or defeat, removes from its former seat, and goes in search of a new abode and a new country, not simply with the view to establish dominion over it, but to possess it as its own, and to expel or exterminate the former inhabitants. Of this most terrible and cruel species of warfare Sallust speaks at the end of his history of the war with Jugurtha, where in mentioning that after the defeat of Jugurtha the movement of the Gauls into Italy began to be noticed, he observes that "in the wars of the Romans with other nations the struggle was for mastery; but that always in their wars with the Gauls the struggle on both sides was for life." For a prince or commonwealth, when attacking another State, will be content to rid themselves of those only who are at the head of affairs; but an entire people, set in motion in the manner described, must destroy all who oppose them, since their object is to subsist on that whereon those whom they invade have hitherto subsisted.
The Romans had to pass through three of these desperate wars; the first being that in which their city was actually captured by those Gauls who, as already mentioned, had previously taken Lombardy from the Etruscans and made it their seat, and for whose invasion Titus Livius has assigned two causes. First, that they were attracted, as I have said before, by the fruitful soil and by the wine of Italy which they had not in Gaul; second, that their population having multiplied so greatly that they could no longer find wherewithal to live on at home, the princes of their land decided that certain of their number should go forth to seek a new abode; and so deciding, chose as leaders of those who were to go, two Gaulish chiefs, Bellovesus and Siccovesus; the former of whom came into Italy while the latter passed into Spain. From the immigration under Bellovesus resulted the occupation of Lombardy, and, subsequently, the first war of the Gauls with Rome. At a later date, and after the close of the first war with Carthage, came the second Gallic invasion, when more than two hundred thousand Gauls perished in battle between Piombino and Pisa. The third of these wars broke out on the descent into Italy of the Todi and Cimbri, who, after defeating several Roman armies, were themselves defeated by Marius.
In these three most dangerous contests the arms of Rome prevailed; but no ordinary valour was needed for their success. For we see afterwards, when the spirit of the Romans had declined, and their armies had lost their former excellence, their supremacy was overthrown by men of the same race, that is to say by the Goths, the Vandals, and others like them, who spread themselves over the whole of the Western Empire.
Nations such as these, quit, as I have said, their native land, when forced by famine, or by defeat in domestic wars, to seek a new habitation elsewhere. When those thus driven forth are in large numbers, they violently invade the territories of other nations, slaughtering the inhabitants, seizing on their possessions, founding new kingdoms, and giving new names to provinces; as was done by Moses, and by those tribes who overran the Roman Empire. For the new names which we find in Italy and elsewhere, have no other origin than in their having been given by these new occupants; as when the countries formerly known as Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Transalpina took the names of Lombardy and France, from the Lombards and the Franks who settled themselves there. In the same way Sclavonia was formerly known as Illyria, Hungary as Pannonia, and England as Britain; while many other provinces which it would be tedious to enumerate, have similarly changed their designations; as when the name JudĂ¦a was given by Moses to that part of Syria of which he took possession.
And since I have said above that nations such as those I have been describing, are often driven by wars from their ancestral homes, and forced to seek a new country elsewhere, I shall cite the instance of the Maurusians, a people who anciently dwelt in Syria, but hearing of the inroad of the Hebrews, and thinking themselves unable to resist them, chose rather to seek safety in flight than to perish with their country in a vain effort to defend it. For which reason, removing with their families, they went to Africa, where, after driving out the native inhabitants, they took up their abode; and although they could not defend their own country, were able to possess themselves of a country belonging to others. And Procopius, who writes the history of the war which Belisarius conducted against those Vandals who seized on Africa, relates, that on certain pillars standing in places where the Maurusians once dwelt, he had read inscriptions in these words: "We Maurusians who fled before Joshua, the robber, the son of Nun;" giving us to know the cause of their quitting Syria. Be this as it may, nations thus driven forth by a supreme necessity, are, if they be in great number, in the highest degree dangerous, and cannot be successfully withstood except by a people who excel in arms.
When those constrained to abandon their homes are not in large numbers, they are not so dangerous as the nations of whom I have been speaking, since they cannot use the same violence, but must trust to their address to procure them a habitation; and, after procuring it, must live with their neighbours as friends and companions, as we find Aeneas, Dido, the Massilians, and others like them to have lived; all of whom contrived to maintain themselves in the districts in which they settled, by securing the good will of the neighbouring nations.
Almost all the great emigrations of nations have been and continue to be from the cold and barren region of Scythia, because from the population there being excessive, and the soil ill able to support them, they are forced to quit their home, many causes operating to drive them forth and none to keep them back. And if, for the last five hundred years, it has not happened that any of these nations has actually overrun another country, there are various reasons to account for it. First, the great clearance which that region made of its inhabitants during the decline of the Roman Empire, when more than thirty nations issued from it in succession; and next, the circumstance that the countries of Germany and Hungary, whence also these nations came, are now so much improved that men can live there in comfort, and consequently are not constrained to shift their habitations. Besides which, since these countries are occupied by a very warlike race, they serve as a sort of bulwark to keep back the neighbouring Scythians, who for this reason do not venture to attack them, nor attempt to force a passage. Nevertheless, movements on a great scale have oftentimes been begun by the Tartars, and been at once withstood by the Hungarians and Poles, whose frequent boast it is, that but for them, Italy and the Church would more than once have felt the weight of the Tartar arms.
Of the nations of whom I have been speaking, I shall now say no more.
[Footnote 1: Nos Maurusii qui fugimus a facie Jesu latronis filii Navae. Procop. Hist. Bell. Vand. II.]
CHAPTER IX. Of the Causes which commonly give rise to Wars between States.
The occasion which led to war between the Romans and Samnites, who for long had been in league with one another, is of common occurrence in all powerful States, being either brought about by accident, or else purposely contrived by some one who would set war a-foot. As between the Romans and the Samnites, the occasion of war was accidental. For in making war upon the Sidicinians and afterwards on the Campanians, the Samnites had no thought of involving themselves with the Romans. But the Campanians being overpowered, and, contrary to the expectation of Romans and Samnites alike, resorting to Rome for aid, the Romans, on whose protection they threw themselves, were forced to succour them as dependants, and to accept a war which, it seemed to them, they could not with honour decline. For though they might have thought it unreasonable to be called on to defend the Campanians as friends against their own friends the Samnites, it seemed to them shameful not to defend them as subjects, or as a people who had placed themselves under their protection. For they reasoned that to decline their defence would close the gate against all others who at any future time might desire to submit themselves to their power. And, accordingly, since glory and empire, and not peace, were the ends which they always had in view, it became impossible for them to refuse this protectorship.
A similar circumstance gave rise to the first war with the Carthaginians, namely the protectorate assumed by the Romans of the citizens of Messina in Sicily, and this likewise came about by chance. But the second war with Carthage was not the result of chance. For Hannibal the Carthaginian general attacked the Saguntans, who were the friends of Rome in Spain, not from any desire to injure them, but in order to set the arms of Rome in motion, and so gain an opportunity of engaging the Romans in a war, and passing on into Italy. This method of picking a quarrel is constantly resorted to by powerful States when they are bound by scruples of honour or like considerations. For if I desire to make war on a prince with whom I am under an ancient and binding treaty, I shall find some colour or pretext for attacking the friend of that prince, very well knowing that when I attack his friend, either the prince will resent it, when my scheme for engaging him in war will be realized; or that, should he not resent it, his weakness or baseness in not defending one who is under his protection will be made apparent; either of which alternatives will discredit him, and further my designs.
We are to note, therefore, in connection with this submission of the Campanians, what has just now been said as to provoking another power to war; and also the remedy open to a State which, being unequal to its own defence, is prepared to go all lengths to ruin its assailant,â€”that remedy being to give itself up unreservedly to some one whom it selects for its defender; as the Campanians gave themselves up to the Romans, and as the Florentines gave themselves up to King Robert of Naples, who, after refusing to defend them as his friends against Castruccio of Lucca by whom they were hard pressed, defended them as his subjects.
CHAPTER X. That contrary to the vulgar opinion, Money is not the Sinews of War.
Since any man may begin a war at his pleasure, but cannot at his pleasure bring it to a close, a prince before he engages in any warlike enterprise ought to measure his strength and govern himself accordingly. But he must be prudent enough not to deceive himself as to his strength, which he will always do, if he measure it by money, by advantage of position, or by the good-will of his subjects, while he is unprovided with an army of his own. These are things which may swell your strength but do not constitute it, being in themselves null and of no avail without an army on which you can depend.
Without such an army no amount of money will meet your wants, the natural strength of your country will not protect you, and the fidelity and attachment of your subjects will not endure, since it is impossible that they should continue true to you when you cannot defend them. Lakes, and mountains, and the most inaccessible strongholds, where valiant defenders are wanting, become no better than the level plain; and money, so far from being a safeguard, is more likely to leave you a prey to your enemy; since nothing can be falser than the vulgar opinion which affirms it to be the sinews of war.
This opinion is put forward by Quintus Curtius, where, in speaking of the war between Antipater the Macedonian and the King of Sparta, he relates that the latter, from want of money, was constrained to give battle and was defeated; whereas, could he have put off fighting for a few days the news of Alexander's death would have reached Greece, and he might have had a victory without a battle. But lacking money, and fearing that on that account his soldiers might desert him, he was forced to hazard an engagement. It was for this reason that Quintus Curtius declared money to be the sinews of war, a maxim every day cited and acted upon by princes less wise than they should be. For building upon this, they think it enough for their defence to have laid up great treasures; not reflecting that were great treasures all that is needed for victory, Darius of old had conquered Alexander, the Greeks the Romans, and in our own times Charles of Burgundy the Swiss; while the pope and the Florentines together would have had little difficulty in defeating Francesco Maria, nephew of Pope Julius II., in the recent war of Urbino; and yet, in every one of these instances, the victory remained with him who held the sinews of war to consist, not in money, but in good soldiers.
Croesus, king of Lydia, after showing Solon the Athenian much besides, at last displayed to him the boundless riches of his treasure-house, and asked him what he thought of his power. Whereupon Solon answered that he thought him no whit more powerful in respect of these treasures, for as war is made with iron and not with gold, another coming with more iron might carry off his gold. After the death of Alexander the Great a tribe of Gauls, passing through Greece on their way into Asia, sent envoys to the King of Macedonia to treat for terms of accord; when the king, to dismay them by a display of his resources, showed them great store of gold and silver. But these barbarians, when they saw all this wealth, in their greed to possess it, though before they had looked on peace as settled, broke off negotiations; and thus the king was ruined by those very treasures he had amassed for his defence. In like manner, not many years ago, the Venetians, with a full treasury, lost their whole dominions without deriving the least advantage from their wealth.
I maintain, therefore, that it is not gold, as is vulgarly supposed, that is the sinews of war, but good soldiers; or while gold by itself will not gain you good soldiers, good soldiers may readily get you gold. Had the Romans chosen to make war with gold rather than with iron all the treasures of the earth would not have sufficed them having regard to the greatness of their enterprises and the difficulties they had to overcome in carrying them out. But making their wars with iron they never felt any want of gold; for those who stood in fear of them brought gold into their camp.
And supposing it true that the Spartan king was forced by lack of money to risk the chances of a battle, it only fared with him in respect of money as it has often fared with others from other causes; since we see that where an army is in such straits for want of victual that it must either fight or perish by famine, it will always fight, as being the more honourable course and that on which fortune may in some way smile. So, too, it has often happened that a captain, seeing his enemy about to be reinforced, has been obliged either to trust to fortune and at once deliver battle, or else, waiting till the reinforcement is complete, to fight then, whether he will or no, and at whatever disadvantage. We find also, as in the case of Hasdrubal when beset, in the March of Ancona, at once by Claudius Nero and by the other Roman consul, that a captain, when he must either fight or fly, will always fight, since it will seem to him that by this course, however hazardous, he has at least a chance of victory, while by the other his ruin is certain.
There are many circumstances, therefore, which may force a captain to give battle contrary to his intention, among which the want of money may sometimes be one. But this is no ground for pronouncing money to be the sinews of war, any more than those other things from the want of which men are reduced to the same necessity. Once more, therefore, I repeat that not gold but good soldiers constitute the sinews of war. Money, indeed, is most necessary in a secondary place; but this necessity good soldiers will always be able to supply, since it is as impossible that good soldiers should lack money, as that money by itself should secure good soldiers. And that what I say is true is shown by countless passages in history. When Pericles persuaded the Athenians to declare war against the whole Peloponnesus, assuring them that their dexterity, aided by their wealth, was sure to bring them off victorious, the Athenians, though for a while they prospered in this war, in the end were overpowered, the prudent counsels and good soldiers of Sparta proving more than a match for the dexterity and wealth of Athens. But, indeed, there can be no better witness to the truth of my contention than Titus Livius himself. For in that passage of his history wherein he discusses whether if Alexander the Great had invaded Italy, he would have succeeded in vanquishing the Romans, three things are noted by him as essential to success in war; to wit, many and good soldiers, prudent captains, and favourable fortune; and after examining whether the Romans or Alexander would have had the advantage in each of these three particulars, he arrives at his conclusion without any mention of money.
The Campanians, therefore, when asked by the Sidicinians to arm in their behalf, must have measured their strength by wealth and not by soldiers; for after declaring in their favour and suffering two defeats, to save themselves they were obliged to become tributary to Rome.
CHAPTER XI. That it were unwise to ally yourself a Prince who has Reputation rather than Strength.
To mark the mistake made by the Sidicinians in trusting to the protection of the Campanians, and by the Campanians in supposing themselves able to protect the Sidicinians, Titus Livius could not have expressed himself in apter words than by saying, that "the Campanians rather lent their name to the Sidicinians than furnished any substantial aid towards their defence."
Here we have to note that alliances with princes who from dwelling at a distance have no facility, or who from their own embarrassments, or from other causes, have no ability to render aid, afford rather reputation than protection to those who put their trust in them. As was the case in our own times with the Florentines, when, in the year 1479, they were attacked by the Pope and the King of Naples. For being friends of the French king they drew from that friendship more reputation than help. The same would be the case with that prince who should engage in any enterprise in reliance on the Emperor Maximilian, his being one of those friendships which, in the words of our historian, nomen magis quam praesidium adferunt.
On this occasion, therefore, the Campanians were misled by imagining themselves stronger than they really were. For often, from defect of judgment, men take upon them to defend others, when they have neither skill nor ability to defend themselves. Of which we have a further instance in the Tarentines, who, when the Roman and Samnite armies were already drawn up against one another for battle, sent messengers to the Roman consul to acquaint him that they desired peace between the two nations, and would themselves declare war against whichsoever of the two first began hostilities. The consul, laughing at their threats, in the presence of the messengers, ordered the signal for battle to sound, and bade his army advance to meet the enemy; showing the Tarentines by acts rather than words what answer he thought their message deserved.
Having spoken in the present Chapter of unwise courses followed by princes for defending others, I shall speak in the next, of the methods they follow in defending themselves.
CHAPTER XII. Whether when Invasion is imminent it is better to anticipate or to await it.
I have often heard it disputed by men well versed in military affairs, whether, when there are two princes of nearly equal strength, and the bolder of the two proclaims war upon the other, it is better for that other to await attack within his own frontier, or to march into the enemy's country and fight him there; and I have heard reasons given in favour of each of these courses.
They who maintain that an enemy should be attacked in his own country, cite the advice given by Croesus to Cyrus, when the latter had come to the frontiers of the MassagetĂ¦ to make war on that people. For word being sent by Tomyris their queen that Cyrus might, at his pleasure, either enter her dominions, where she would await him, or else allow her to come and meet him; and the matter being debated, Croesus, contrary to the opinion of other advisers, counselled Cyrus to go forward and meet the queen, urging that were he to defeat her at a distance from her kingdom, he might not be able to take it from her, since she would have time to repair her strength; whereas, were he to defeat her within her own dominions, he could follow her up on her flight, and, without giving her time to recover herself, deprive her of her State. They cite also the advice given by Hannibal to Antiochus, when the latter was meditating a war on the Romans. For Hannibal told him that the Romans could not be vanquished except in Italy, where an invader might turn to account the arms and resources of their friends, whereas any one making war upon them out of Italy, and leaving that country in their hands, would leave them an unfailing source whence to draw whatever reinforcement they might need; and finally, he told him, that the Romans might more easily be deprived of Rome than of their empire, and of Italy more easily than of any of their other provinces. They likewise instance Agathocles, who, being unequal to support a war at home, invaded the Carthaginians, by whom he was being attacked, and reduced them to sue for peace. They also cite Scipio, who to shift the war from Italy, carried it into Africa.
Those who hold a contrary opinion contend that to have your enemy at a disadvantage you must get him away from his home, alleging the case of the Athenians, who while they carried on the war at their convenience in their own territory, retained their superiority; but when they quitted that territory, and went with their armies to Sicily, lost their freedom. They cite also the fable of the poets wherein it is figured that AntĂ¦us, king of Libya, being assailed by the Egyptian Hercules, could not be overcome while he awaited his adversary within the bounds of his own kingdom; but so soon as he was withdrawn from these by the craft of Hercules, lost his kingdom and his life. Whence the fable runs that AntĂ¦us, being son to the goddess Earth, when thrown to the ground drew fresh strength from the Earth, his mother; and that Hercules, perceiving this, held him up away from the Earth.
Recent opinions are likewise cited as favouring this view. Every one knows how Ferrando, king of Naples, was in his day accounted a most wise prince; and how two years before his death there came a rumour that Charles VIII of France was meditating an attack upon him; and how, after making great preparations for his defence, he sickened; and being on the point of death, among other counsels left his son Alfonso this advice, that nothing in the world should tempt him to pass out of his own territory, but to await the enemy within his frontier, and with his forces unimpaired; a warning disregarded by Alfonso, who sent into Romagna an army, which he lost, and with it his whole dominions, without a battle.
Other arguments on both sides of the question in addition to those already noticed, are as follows: He who attacks shows higher courage than he who stands on his defence, and this gives his army greater confidence. Moreover, by attacking your enemy you deprive him of many opportunities for using his resources, since he can receive no aid from subjects who have been stripped of their possessions; and when an enemy is at his gates, a prince must be careful how he levies money and imposes taxes; so that, as Hannibal said, the springs which enable a country to support a war come to be dried up. Again, the soldiers of an invader, finding themselves in a foreign land, are under a stronger necessity to fight, and necessity, as has often been said, is the parent of valour.
On the other hand, it may be argued that there are many advantages to be gained by awaiting the attack of your enemy. For without putting yourself much about, you may harass him by intercepting his supplies, whether of victual or of whatsoever else an army stands in need: from your better knowledge of the country you can impede his movements; and because men muster more willingly to defend their homes than to go on distant expeditions, you can meet him with more numerous forces, if defeated you can more easily repair your strength, because the bulk of your army, finding shelter at hand, will be able to save itself, and your reserves will have no distance to come. In this way you can use your whole strength without risking your entire fortunes; whereas, in leaving your country, you risk your entire fortunes, without putting forth your whole strength. Nay, we find that to weaken an adversary still further, some have suffered him to make a march of several days into their country, and then to capture certain of their towns, that by leaving garrisons in these, he might reduce the numbers of his army, and so be attacked at greater disadvantage.
But now to speak my own mind on the matter, I think we should make this distinction. Either you have your country strongly defended, as the Romans had and the Swiss have theirs, or, like the Carthaginians of old and the King of France and the Italians at the present day, you have it undefended. In the latter case you must keep the enemy at a distance from your country, for as your strength lies not in men but in money, whenever the supply of money is cut off you are undone, and nothing so soon cuts off this supply as a war of invasion. Of which we have example in the Carthaginians, who, while their country was free from invasion, were able by means of their great revenues to carry on war in Italy against the Romans, but when they were invaded could not defend themselves even against Agathocles. The Florentines, in like manner, could make no head against Castruccio, lord of Lucca, when he attacked them in their own country; and to obtain protection, were compelled to yield themselves up to King Robert of Naples. And yet, after Castruccio's death, these same Florentines were bold enough to attack the Duke of Milan in his own country, and strong enough to strip him of his dominions. Such valour did they display in distant wars, such weakness in those that were near.
But when a country is armed as Rome was and Switzerland now is, the closer you press it, the harder it is to subdue; because such States can assemble a stronger force to resist attack than for attacking others. Nor does the great authority of Hannibal move me in this instance, since resentment and his own advantage might lead him to speak as he spoke to Antiochus. For had the Romans suffered in Gaul, and within the same space of time, those three defeats at the hands of Hannibal which they suffered in Italy, it must have made an end of them; since they could not have turned the remnants of their armies to account as they did in Italy, not having the same opportunity for repairing their strength; nor could they have met their enemy with such numerous armies. For we never find them sending forth a force of more than fifty thousand men for the invasion of any province; whereas, in defending their own country against the inroad of the Gauls at the end of the first Carthaginian war, we hear of them bringing some eighteen hundred thousand men into the field; and their failure to vanquish the Gauls in Lombardy as they had vanquished those in Tuscany arose from their inability to lead a great force so far against a numerous enemy, or to encounter him with the same advantages. In Germany the Cimbrians routed a Roman army who had there no means to repair their disaster; but when they came into Italy, the Romans could collect their whole strength, and destroy them. Out of their native country, whence they can bring no more than thirty or forty thousand men, the Swiss may readily be defeated; but in their own country, where they can assemble a hundred thousand, they are well-nigh invincible.
In conclusion, therefore, I repeat that the prince who has his people armed and trained for war, should always await a great and dangerous war at home, and never go forth to meet it. But that he whose subjects are unarmed, and whose country is not habituated to war, should always carry the war to as great a distance as he can from home. For in this way each will defend himself in the best manner his means admit.
CHAPTER XIII. That Men rise from humble to high Fortunes rather by Fraud than by Force.
I hold it as most certain that men seldom if ever rise to great place from small beginnings without using fraud or force, unless, indeed, they be given, or take by inheritance the place to which some other has already come. Force, however, will never suffice by itself to effect this end, while fraud often will, as any one may plainly see who reads the lives of Philip of Macedon, Agathocles of Sicily, and many others like them, who from the lowest or, at any rate, from very low beginnings, rose either to sovereignty or to the highest command.
This necessity for using deceit is taught by Xenophon in his life of Cyrus; for the very first expedition on which Cyrus is sent, against the King of Armenia, is seen to teem with fraud; and it is by fraud, and not by force, that he is represented as having acquired his kingdom; so that the only inference to be drawn from his conduct, as Xenophon describes it, is, that the prince who would accomplish great things must have learned how to deceive. Xenophon, moreover, represents his hero as deceiving his maternal grandsire Cyaxares, king of the Medians, in a variety of ways; giving it to be understood that without such deceit he could not have reached the greatness to which he came. Nor do I believe that any man born to humble fortunes can be shown to have attained great station, by sheer and open force, whereas this has often been effected by mere fraud, such as that used by Giovanni Galeazzo to deprive his uncle Bernabo of the State and government of Lombardy.
The same arts which princes are constrained to use at the outset of their career, must also be used by commonwealths, until they have grown powerful enough to dispense with them and trust to strength alone. And because Rome at all times, whether from chance or choice, followed all such methods as are necessary to attain greatness, in this also she was not behindhand. And, to begin with, she could have used no greater fraud than was involved in her method above noticed, of making for herself companions; since under this name she made for herself subjects, for such the Latins and the other surrounding nations, in fact, became. For availing herself at first of their arms to subdue neighbouring countries and gain herself reputation as a State, her power was so much increased by these conquests that there was none whom she could not overcome. But the Latins never knew that they were enslaved until they saw the Samnites twice routed and forced to make terms. This success, while it added greatly to the fame of the Romans among princes at a distance, who were thereby made familiar with the Roman name though not with the Roman arms, bred at the same time jealousy and distrust among those who, like the Latins, both saw and felt these arms; and such were the effects of this jealousy and distrust, that not the Latins only but all the Roman colonies in Latium, along with the Campanians whom a little while before the Romans had defended leagued themselves together against the authority of Rome. This war was set on foot by the Latins in the manner in which, as I have already explained, most wars are begun, not by directly attacking the Romans, but by defending the Sidicinians against the Samnites who were making war upon them with the permission of the Romans. And that it was from their having found out the crafty policy of the Romans that the Latins were led to take this step, is plain from the words which Titus Livius puts in the mouth of Annius Setinus the Latin prĂ¦tor, who, in addressing the Latin council, is made to say, "For if even now we can put up with slavery under the disguise of an equal alliance, etc"
We see, therefore, that the Romans, from the time they first began to extend their power, were not unfamiliar with the art of deceiving, an art always necessary for those who would mount to great heights from low beginnings; and which is the less to be condemned when, as in the case of the Romans, it is skilfully concealed.
CHAPTER XIV. That Men often err in thinking they can subdue Pride by Humility.
You shall often find that humility is not merely of no service to you, but is even hurtful, especially when used in dealing with insolent men, who, through envy or other like cause, have conceived hatred against you. Proof whereof is supplied by our historian where he explains the causes of this war between the Romans and the Latins. For on the Samnites complaining to the Romans that the Latins had attacked them, the Romans, desiring not to give the Latins ground of offence, would not forbid them proceeding with the war. But the endeavour to avoid giving offence to the Latins only served to increase their confidence, and led them the sooner to declare their hostility. Of which we have evidence in the language used by the same Latin praetor, Annius Setinus, at the aforesaid council, when he said:â€”"You have tried their patience by refusing them, soldiers. Who doubts but that they are offended? Still they have put up with the affront. They have heard that we are assembling an army against their allies the Samnites; and yet they have not stirred from their city. Whence this astonishing forbearance, but from their knowing our strength and their own weakness?" Which words give us clearly to understand how much the patience of the Romans increased the arrogance of the Latins.
A prince, therefore, should never stoop from his dignity, nor should he if he would have credit for any concession make it voluntarily, unless he be able or believe himself able to withhold it. For almost always when matters have come to such a pass that you cannot give way with credit it is better that a thing be taken from you by force than yielded through fear of force. For if you yield through fear and to escape war, the chances are that you do not escape it; since he to whom, out of manifest cowardice you make this concession, will not rest content, but will endeavour to wring further concessions from you, and making less account of you, will only be the more kindled against you. At the same time you will find your friends less zealous on your behalf, since to them you will appear either weak or cowardly. But if, so soon as the designs of your enemy are disclosed, you at once prepare to resist though your strength be inferior to his, he will begin to think more of you, other neighbouring princes will think more; and many will be willing to assist you, on seeing you take up arms, who, had you relinquished hope and abandoned yourself to despair, would never have stirred a finger to save you.
The above is to be understood as applying where you have a single adversary only; but should you have several, it will always be a prudent course, even after war has been declared, to restore to some one of their number something you have of his, so as to regain his friendship and detach him from the others who have leagued themselves against you.
CHAPTER XV. That weak States are always dubious in their Resolves; and that tardy Resolves are always hurtful.
Touching this very matter, and with regard to these earliest beginnings of war between the Latins and the Romans, it may be noted, that in all our deliberations it behoves us to come quickly to a definite resolve, and not to remain always in dubiety and suspense. This is plainly seen in connection with the council convened by the Latins when they thought to separate themselves from the Romans. For the Romans suspecting the hostile humour wherewith the Latins were infected, in order to learn how things really stood, and see whether they could not win back the malcontents without recourse to arms, gave them to know that they must send eight of their citizens to Rome, as they had occasion to consult with them. On receiving which message the Latins, knowing that they had done many things contrary to the wishes of the Romans, called a council to determine who of their number should be sent, and to instruct them what they were to say. But Annius, their praetor, being present in the council when these matters were being discussed, told them "that he thought it of far greater moment for them to consider what they were to do than what they were to say; for when their resolves were formed, it would be easy to clothe them in fit words." This, in truth, was sound advice and such as every prince and republic should lay to heart. Because, where there is doubt and uncertainty as to what we may decide on doing, we know not how to suit our words to our conduct; whereas, with our minds made up, and the course we are to follow fixed, it is an easy matter to find words to declare our resolves. I have noticed this point the more readily, because I have often found such uncertainty hinder the public business of our own republic, to its detriment and discredit. And in all matters of difficulty, wherein courage is needed for resolving, this uncertainty will always be met with, whenever those who have to deliberate and decide are weak.
Not less mischievous than doubtful resolves are those which are late and tardy, especially when they have to be made in behalf of a friend. For from their lateness they help none, and hurt ourselves. Tardy resolves are due to want of spirit or want of strength, or to the perversity of those who have to determine, who being moved by a secret desire to overthrow the government, or to carry out some selfish purpose of their own, suffer no decision to be come to, but only thwart and hinder. Whereas, good citizens, even when they see the popular mind to be bent on dangerous courses, will never oppose the adoption of a fixed plan, more particularly in matters which do not brook delay.
After Hieronymus, the Syracusan tyrant, was put to death, there being at that time a great war between the Romans and the Carthaginians, the citizens of Syracuse fell to disputing among themselves with which nation they should take part; and so fierce grew the controversy between the partisans of the two alliances, that no course could be agreed on, and they took part with neither; until Apollonides, one of the foremost of the Syracusan citizens, told them in a speech replete with wisdom, that neither those who inclined to hold by the Romans, nor those who chose rather to side with the Carthaginians, were deserving of blame; but that what was utterly to be condemned was doubt and delay in taking one side or other; for from such uncertainty he clearly foresaw the ruin of their republic; whereas, by taking a decided course, whatever it might be, some good might come. Now Titus Livius could not show more clearly than he does in this passage, the mischief which results from resting in suspense. He shows it, likewise, in the case of the Lavinians, of whom he relates, that being urged by the Latins to aid them against Rome, they were so long in making up their minds, that when the army which they at last sent to succour the Latins was issuing from their gates, word came that the Latins were defeated. Whereupon Millionius, their praetor, said, "With the Romans this short march will cost us dear." But had the Lavinians resolved at once either to grant aid or to refuse it, taking a latter course they would not have given offence to the Romans, taking the former, and rendering timely help, they and the Latins together might have had a victory. But by delay they stood to lose in every way, as the event showed.
This example, had it been remembered by the Florentines, might have saved them from all that loss and vexation which they underwent at the hands of the French, at the time King Louis XII. of France came into Italy against Lodovico, duke of Milan. For when Louis first proposed to pass through Tuscany he met with no objection from the Florentines, whose envoys at his court arranged with him that they should stand neutral, while the king, on his arrival in Italy, was to maintain their government and take them under his protection; a month's time being allowed the republic to ratify these terms. But certain persons, who, in their folly, favoured the cause of Lodovico, delayed this ratification until the king was already on the eve of victory; when the Florentines suddenly becoming eager to ratify, the king would not accept their ratification, perceiving their consent to be given under constraint and not of their own good-will. This cost the city of Florence dear, and went near to lose her freedom, whereof she was afterwards deprived on another like occasion. And the course taken by the Florentines was the more to be blamed in that it was of no sort of service to Duke Lodovico, who, had he been victorious, would have shown the Florentines many more signs of his displeasure than did the king.
Although the hurt which results to republics from weakness of this sort has already been discussed in another Chapter, nevertheless, since an opportunity offered for touching upon it again, I have willingly availed myself of it, because to me it seems a matter of which republics like ours should take special heed.
CHAPTER XVI. That the Soldiers of our days depart widely from the methods of ancient Warfare.
In all their wars with other nations, the most momentous battle ever fought by the Romans, was that which they fought with the Latins when Torquatus and Decius were consuls. For it may well be believed that as by the loss of that battle the Latins became subject to the Romans, so the Romans had they not prevailed must have become subject to the Latins. And Titus Livius is of this opinion, since he represents the armies as exactly equal in every respect, in discipline and in valour, in numbers and in obstinacy, the only difference he draws being, that of the two armies the Romans had the more capable commanders. We find, however, two circumstances occurring in the conduct of this battle, the like of which never happened before, and seldom since, namely, that to give steadiness to the minds of their soldiers, and render them obedient to the word of command and resolute to fight, one of the consuls put himself, and the other his son, to death.
The equality which Titus Livius declares to have prevailed in these two armies, arose from this, that having long served together they used the same language, discipline, and arms; that in disposing their men for battle they followed the same system; and that the divisions and officers of their armies bore the same names. It was necessary, therefore, that as they were of equal strength and valour, something extraordinary should take place to render the courage of the one army more stubborn and unflinching than that of the other, it being on this stubbornness, as I have already said, that victory depends. For while this temper is maintained in the minds of the combatants they will never turn their backs on their foe. And that it might endure longer in the minds of the Romans than of the Latins, partly chance, and partly the valour of the consuls caused it to fall out that Torquatus slew his son, and Decius died by his own hand.
In pointing out this equality of strength, Titus Livius takes occasion to explain the whole system followed by the Romans in the ordering of their armies and in disposing them for battle; and as he has treated the subject at length, I need not go over the same ground, and shall touch only on what I judge in it most to deserve attention, but, being overlooked by all the captains of our times, has led to disorder in many armies and in many battles.
From this passage of Titus Livius, then, we learn that the Roman army had three principal divisions, or battalions as we might now call them, of which they named the first hastati, the second principes, and the third triarii, to each of which cavalry were attached. In arraying an army for battle they set the hastati in front. Directly behind them, in the second rank, they placed the principes; and in the third rank of the same column, the triarii. The cavalry of each of these three divisions they disposed to the right and left of the division to which it belonged; and to these companies of horse, from their form and position, they gave the name wings (alĂ¦), from their appearing like the two wings of the main body of the army. The first division, the hastati, which was in front, they drew up in close order to enable it to withstand and repulse the enemy. The second division, the principes, since it was not to be engaged from the beginning, but was meant to succour the first in case that were driven in, was not formed in close order but kept in open file, so that it might receive the other into its ranks whenever it was broken and forced to retire. The third division, that, namely, of the triarii, had its ranks still more open than those of the second, so that, if occasion required, it might receive the first two divisions of the hastati and principes. These divisions, therefore, being drawn up in this order, the engagement began, and if the hastati were overpowered and driven back, they retired within the loose ranks of the principes, when both these divisions, being thus united into one, renewed the conflict. If these, again, were routed and forced back, they retreated within the open ranks of the triarii, and all three divisions, forming into one, once more renewed the fight, in which, if they were overpowered, since they had no further means of recruiting their strength, they lost the battle. And because whenever this last division, of the triarii, had to be employed, the army was in jeopardy, there arose the proverb, "Res redacta est ad triarios," equivalent to our expression of playing a last stake.
The captains of our day, as they have abandoned all the other customs of antiquity, and pay no heed to any part of the ancient discipline, so also have discarded this method of disposing their men, though it was one of no small utility. For to insure the defeat of a commander who so arranges his forces as to be able thrice during an engagement to renew his strength, Fortune must thrice declare against him, and he must be matched with an adversary able three times over to defeat him; whereas he whose sole chance of success lies in his surviving the first onset, as is the case with all the armies of Christendom at the present day, may easily be vanquished, since any slight mishap, and the least failure in the steadiness of his men, may deprive him of victory.
And what takes from our armies the capacity to renew their strength is, that provision is now no longer made for one division being received into the ranks of another, which happens because at present an army is arranged for battle in one or other of two imperfect methods. For either its divisions are placed side by side, so as to form a line of great width but of no depth or solidity; or if, to strengthen it, it be drawn up in columns after the fashion of the Roman armies, should the front line be broken, no provision having been made for its being received by the second, it is thrown into complete disorder, and both divisions fall to pieces. For if the front line be driven back, it jostles the second, if the second line endeavour to advance, the first stands in its way: and thus, the first driving against the second, and the second against the third, such confusion follows that often the most trifling accident will cause the ruin of an entire army.
At the battle of Ravenna, where M. de Foix, the French commander, was slain, although according to modern notions this was a well-fought field, both the French and the Spanish armies were drawn up in the first of the faulty methods above described; that is to say, each army advanced with the whole of its battalions side by side, so that each presented a single front much wider than deep; this being always the plan followed by modern armies when, as at Ravenna, the ground is open. For knowing the disorder they fall into on retreat, forming themselves in a single line, they endeavour, as I have said, as much as possible to escape confusion by extending their front. But where the ground confines them they fall at once into the disorder spoken of, without an effort to prevent it.
Troops traversing an enemy's country, whether to pillage or carry out any other operation of war, are liable to fall into the same disorder; and at S. Regolo in the Pisan territory, and at other places where the Florentines were beaten by the Pisans during the war which followed on the revolt of Pisa after the coming of Charles of France into Italy, our defeat was due to no other cause than the behaviour of our own cavalry, who being posted in front, and being repulsed by the enemy, fell back on the infantry and threw them into confusion, whereupon the whole army took to flight; and Messer Ciriaco del Borgo, the veteran leader of the Florentine foot, has often declared in my presence that he had never been routed by any cavalry save those who were fighting on his side. For which reason the Swiss, who are the greatest proficients in modern warfare, when serving with the French, make it their first care to place themselves on their flank, so that the cavalry of their friends, if repulsed, may not throw them into disorder.
But although these matters seem easy to understand and not difficult to put in practice, none has yet been found among the commanders of our times, who attempted to imitate the ancients or to correct the moderns. For although these also have a tripartite division of their armies into van-guard, main-body, and rear-guard, the only use they make of it is in giving orders when their men are in quarters; whereas on active service it rarely happens that all divisions are not equally exposed to the same onset.
And because many, to excuse their ignorance, will have it that the destructive fire of artillery forbids our employing at the present day many of the tactics used by the ancients, I will discuss this question in the following Chapter, and examine whether artillery does in fact prevent us from using the valiant methods of antiquity.
CHAPTER XVII. What importance the Armies of the present day should allow to Artillery; and whether the commonly received opinion concerning it be just.
Looking to the number of pitched battles, or what are termed by the French journĂ©es, and by the Italians fatti d'arme, fought by the Romans at divers times, I am led further to examine the generally received opinion, that had artillery been in use in their day, the Romans would not have been allowed, or at least not with the same ease, to subjugate provinces and make other nations their tributaries, and could never have spread their power in the astonishing way they did. For it is said that by reason of these fire-arms men can no longer use or display their personal valour as they could of old; that there is greater difficulty now than there was in former times in joining battle; that the tactics followed then cannot be followed now; and that in time all warfare must resolve itself into a question of artillery.
Judging it not out of place to inquire whether these opinions are sound, and how far artillery has added to or taken from the strength of armies, and whether its use lessens or increases the opportunities for a good captain to behave valiantly, I shall at once address myself to the first of the averments noticed above, namely, that the armies of the ancient Romans could not have made the conquests they did, had artillery then been in use.
To this I answer by saying that, since war is made for purposes either of offence or defence, we have first to see in which of these two kinds of warfare artillery gives the greater advantage or inflicts the greater hurt. Now, though something might be said both ways, I nevertheless believe that artillery is beyond comparison more hurtful to him who stands on the defensive than to him who attacks. For he who defends himself must either do so in a town or in a fortified camp. If within a town, either the town will be a small one, as fortified towns commonly are, or it will be a great one. In the former case, he who is on the defensive is at once undone. For such is the shock of artillery that there is no wall so strong that in a few days it will not batter down, when, unless those within have ample room to withdraw behind covering works and trenches, they must be beaten; it being impossible for them to resist the assault of an enemy who forces an entrance through the breaches in their walls. Nor will any artillery a defender may have be of any service to him; since it is an established axiom that where men are able to advance in numbers and rapidly, artillery is powerless to check them.
For this reason, in storming towns the furious assaults of the northern nations prove irresistible, whereas the attacks of our Italian troops, who do not rush on in force, but advance to the assault in small knots of skirmishers (scaramouches, as they are fitly named), may easily be withstood. Those who advance in such loose order, and with so little spirit, against a breach covered by artillery, advance to certain destruction, and as against them artillery is useful. But when the assailants swarm to the breach so massed together that one pushes on another, unless they be brought to a stand by ditches and earthworks, they penetrate everywhere, and no artillery has any effect to keep them back; and though some must fall, yet not so many as to prevent a victory.
The frequent success of the northern nations in storming towns, and more particularly the recovery of Brescia by the French, is proof sufficient of the truth of what I say. For the town of Brescia rising against the French while the citadel still held out, the Venetians, to meet any attack which might be made from the citadel upon the town, ranged guns along the whole line of road which led from the one to the other, planting them in front, and in flank, and wherever else they could be brought to bear. Of all which M. de Foix making no account, dismounted with his men-at-arms from horseback, and, advancing with them on foot through the midst of the batteries, took the town; nor do we learn that he sustained any considerable loss from the enemy's fire. So that, as I have said, he who has to defend himself in a small town, when his walls are battered down and he has no room to retire behind other works, and has only his artillery to trust to, is at once undone.
But even where the town you defend is a great one, so that you have room to fall back behind new works, artillery is still, by a long way, more useful for the assailant than for the defender. For to enable your artillery to do any hurt to those without, you must raise yourself with it above the level of the ground, since, if you remain on the level, the enemy, by erecting any low mound or earth-work, can so secure himself that it will be impossible for you to touch him. But in raising yourself above the level of the ground, whether by extending yourself along the gallery of the walls, or otherwise, you are exposed to two disadvantages; for, first, you cannot there bring into position guns of the same size or range as he who is without can bring to bear against you, since it is impossible to work large guns in a confined space; and, secondly, although you should succeed in getting your guns into position, you cannot construct such strong and solid works for their protection as those can who are outside, and on level ground, and who have all the room and every other advantage which they could desire. It is consequently impossible for him who defends a town to maintain his guns in position at any considerable height, when those who are outside have much and powerful artillery; while, if he place it lower, it becomes, as has been explained, to a great extent useless. So that in the end the defence of the city has to be effected, as in ancient times, by hand to hand fighting, or else by means of the smaller kinds of fire-arms, from which if the defender derive some slight advantage, it is balanced by the injury he sustains from the great artillery of his enemy, whereby the walls of the city are battered down and almost buried in their ditches; so that when it comes once more to an encounter at close quarters, by reason of his walls being demolished and his ditches filled up, the defender is now at a far greater disadvantage than he was formerly. Wherefore I repeat that these arms are infinitely more useful for him who attacks a town than for him who defends it.
As to the remaining method, which consists in your taking up your position in an entrenched camp, where you need not fight unless you please, and unless you have the advantage, I say that this method commonly affords you no greater facility for avoiding an engagement than the ancients had; nay, that sometimes, owing to the use of artillery, you are worse off than they were. For if the enemy fall suddenly upon you, and have some slight advantage (as may readily be the case from his being on higher ground, or from your works on his arrival being still incomplete so that you are not wholly sheltered by them), forthwith, and without your being able to prevent him, he dislodges you, and you are forced to quit your defences and deliver battle: as happened to the Spaniards at the battle of Ravenna. For having posted themselves between the river Ronco and an earthwork, from their not having carried this work high enough, and from the French having a slight advantage of ground, they were forced by the fire of the latter to quit their entrenchments come to an engagement.
But assuming the ground you have chosen for your camp to be, as it always should, higher than that occupied by the enemy, and your works to be complete and sufficient, so that from your position and preparations the enemy dare not attack you, recourse will then be had to the very same methods as were resorted to in ancient times when an army was so posted that it could not be assailed; that is to say, your country will be wasted, cities friendly to you besieged or stormed, and your supplies intercepted; until you are forced, at last, of necessity to quit your camp and to fight a pitched battle, in which, as will presently appear, artillery will be of little service to you.
If we consider, therefore, for what ends the Romans made wars, and that attack and not defence was the object of almost all their campaigns, it will be clear, if what I have said be true, that they would have had still greater advantage, and might have achieved their conquests with even greater ease, had artillery been in use in their times.
And as to the second complaint, that by reason of artillery men can no longer display their valour as they could in ancient days, I admit it to be true that when they have to expose themselves a few at a time, men run more risks now than formerly; as when they have to scale a town or perform some similar exploit, in which they are not massed together but must advance singly and one behind another. It is true, also, that Captains and commanders of armies are subjected to a greater risk of being killed now than of old, since they an be reached everywhere by the enemy's fire; and it is no protection to them to be with those of their men who are furthest from the enemy, or to be surrounded by the bravest of their guards. Still, we do not often find either of these two dangers occasioning extraordinary loss. For towns strongly fortified are not attacked by escalade, nor will the assailing army advance against them in weak numbers; but will endeavour, as in ancient times, to reduce them by regular siege. And even in the case of towns attacked by storm, the dangers are not so very much greater now than they were formerly; for in those old days also, the defenders of towns were not without warlike engines, which if less terrible in their operation, had, so far as killing goes, much the same effect. And as for the deaths of captains and leaders of companies, it may be said that during the last twenty-four years of war in Italy, we have had fewer instances of such deaths than might be found in a period of ten years of ancient warfare. For excepting the Count Lodovico della Mirandola, who fell at Ferrara, when the Venetians a few years ago attacked that city, and the Duke de Nemours, slain at Cirignuola, we have no instance of any commander being killed by artillery. For, at Ravenna, M. de Foix died by steel and not by shot. Wherefore I say that if men no longer perform deeds of individual prowess, it results not so much from the use of artillery, as from the faulty discipline and weakness of our armies, which being collectively without valour cannot display it in particular instances.
As to the third assertion, that armies can no longer be brought to engage one another, and that war will soon come to be carried on wholly with artillery, I maintain that this allegation is utterly untrue, and will always be so held by those who are willing in handling their troops to follow the usages of ancient valour. For whosoever would have a good army must train it, either by real or by mimic warfare, to approach the enemy, to come within sword-thrust, and to grapple with him; and must rely more on foot soldiers than on horse, for reasons presently to be explained. But when you trust to your foot-soldiers, and to the methods already indicated, artillery becomes powerless to harm you. For foot-soldiers, in approaching an enemy, can with more ease escape the fire of his artillery than in ancient times they could have avoided a charge of elephants or of scythed chariots, or any other of those strange contrivances which had to be encountered by the Romans, and against which they always devised some remedy. And, certainly, as against artillery, their remedy would have been easier, by as much as the time during which artillery can do hurt is shorter than the time during which elephants and chariots could. For by these you were thrown into disorder after battle joined, whereas artillery harasses you only before you engage; a danger which infantry can easily escape, either by advancing so as to be covered by the inequalities of the ground, or by lying down while the firing continues; nay, we find from experience that even these precautions may be dispensed with, especially as against great artillery, which can hardly be levelled with such precision that its fire shall not either pass over your head from the range being too high, or fall short from its being too low.
So soon, however, as the engagement is begun, it is perfectly clear that neither small nor great artillery can harm you any longer; since, if the enemy have his artillerymen in front, you take them; if in rear, they will injure him before they injure you; and if in flank, they can never fire so effectively as to prevent your closing, with the result already explained. Nor does this admit of much dispute, since we have proof of it in the case of the Swiss at Novara, in the year 1513, when, with neither guns nor cavalry, they advanced against the French army, who had fortified themselves with artillery behind entrenchments, and routed them without suffering the slightest check from their fire. In further explanation whereof it is to be noted, that to work artillery effectively it should be protected by walls, by ditches, or by earth-works; and that whenever, from being left without such protection it has to be defended by men, as happens in pitched battles and engagements in the open field, it is either taken or otherwise becomes useless. Nor can it be employed on the flank of an army, save in the manner in which the ancients made use of their warlike engines, which they moved out from their columns that they might be worked without inconvenience, but withdrew within them when driven back by cavalry or other troops. He who looks for any further advantage from artillery does not rightly understand its nature, and trusts to what is most likely to deceive him. For although the Turk, using artillery, has gained victories over the Soldan and the Sofi, the only advantage he has had from it has been the terror into which the horses of the enemy, unused to such sounds, are thrown by the roar of the guns.
And now, to bring these remarks to a conclusion, I say briefly that, employed by an army wherein there is some strain of the ancient valour, artillery is useful; but employed otherwise, against a brave adversary, is utterly useless.
CHAPTER XVIII. That the authority of the Romans and the example of ancient Warfare should make us hold Foot Soldiers of more account than Horse.
By many arguments and instances it can be clearly established that in their military enterprises the Romans set far more store on their infantry than on their cavalry, and trusted to the former to carry out all the chief objects which their armies were meant to effect. Among many other examples of this, we may notice the great battle which they fought with the Latins near the lake Regillus, where to steady their wavering ranks they made their horsemen dismount, and renewing the combat on foot obtained a victory. Here we see plainly that the Romans had more confidence in themselves when they fought on foot than when they fought on horseback. The same expedient was resorted to by them in many of their other battles, and always in their sorest need they found it their surest stay.
Nor are we to condemn the practice in deference to the opinion of Hannibal, who, at the battle of CannĂ¦, on seeing the consuls make the horsemen dismount, said scoffingly, "Better still had they delivered their knights to me in chains." For though this saying came from the mouth of a most excellent soldier, still, if we are to regard authority, we ought rather to follow the authority of a commonwealth like Rome, and of the many great captains who served her, than that of Hannibal alone. But, apart from authority, there are manifest reasons to bear out what I say. For a man may go on foot into many places where a horse cannot go; men can be taught to keep rank, and if thrown into disorder to recover form; whereas, it is difficult to keep horses in line, and impossible if once they be thrown into disorder to reform them. Moreover we find that with horses as with men, some have little courage and some much; and that often a spirited horse is ridden by a faint-hearted rider, or a dull horse by a courageous rider, and that in whatever way such disparity is caused, confusion and disorder result. Again, infantry, when drawn up in column, can easily break and is not easily broken by cavalry. This is vouched, not only by many ancient and many modern instances, but also by the authority of those who lay down rules for the government of States, who show that at first wars were carried on by mounted soldiers, because the methods for arraying infantry were not yet understood, but that so soon as these were discovered, the superiority of foot over horse was at once recognized. In saying this, I would not have it supposed that horsemen are not of the greatest use in armies, whether for purposes of observation, for harrying and laying waste the enemy's country, for pursuing a retreating foe or helping to repulse his cavalry. But the substance and sinew of an army, and that part of it which ought constantly to be most considered, should always be the infantry. And among sins of the Italian princes who have made their country the slave of foreigners, there is none worse than that they have held these arms in contempt, and turned their whole attention to mounted troops.
This error is due to the craft of our captains and to the ignorance of our rulers. For the control of the armies of Italy for the last five and twenty years resting in the hands of men, who, as having no lands of their own, may be looked on as mere soldiers of fortune, these fell forthwith on contriving how they might maintain their credit by being supplied with the arms which the princes of the country were without. And as they had no subjects of their own of whom they could make use, and could not obtain constant employment and pay for a large number of foot-soldiers, and as a small number would have given them no importance, they had recourse to horsemen. For a condottiere drawing pay for two or three hundred horsemen was maintained by them in the highest credit, and yet the cost was not too great to be met by the princes who employed him. And to effect their object with more ease, and increase their credit still further, these adventurers would allow no merit or favour to be due to foot-soldiers, but claimed all for their horsemen. And to such a length was this bad system carried, that in the very greatest army only the smallest sprinkling of infantry was to be found. This, together with many other ill practices which accompanied it, has so weakened the militia of Italy, that the country has easily been trampled upon by all the nations of the North.
That it is a mistake to make more account of cavalry than of infantry, may be still more clearly seen from another example taken from Roman history. The Romans being engaged on the siege of Sora, a troop of horse a sally from the town to attack their camp; when the Roman master of the knights advancing with his own horsemen to give them battle, it so chanced that, at the very first onset, the leaders on both sides were slain. Both parties being thus left without commanders, and the combat, nevertheless, continuing, the Romans thinking thereby to have the advantage of their adversaries, alighted from horseback, obliging the enemy's cavalry, in order to defend themselves, to do the like. The result was that the Romans had the victory. Now there could be no stronger instance than this to show the superiority of foot over horse. For while in other battles the Roman cavalry were made by their consuls to dismount in order to succour their infantry who were in distress and in need of such aid, on this occasion they dismounted, not to succour their infantry, nor to encounter an enemy contending on foot, but because they saw that though they could not prevail against the enemy fighting as horsemen against horsemen, on foot they readily might. And from this I conclude that foot-soldiers, if rightly handled, can hardly be beaten except by other soldiers fighting on foot.
With very few cavalry, but with a considerable force of infantry, the Roman commanders, Crassus and Marcus Antonius, each for many days together overran the territories of the Parthians, although opposed by the countless horsemen of that nation. Crassus, indeed, with the greater part of his army, was left there dead, and Antonius only saved himself by his valour; but even in the extremities to which the Romans were then brought, see how greatly superior foot-soldiers are to horse. For though fighting in an open country, far from the sea-coast, and cut off from his supplies, Antonius proved himself a valiant soldier in the judgment even of the Parthians themselves, the whole strength of whose cavalry never ventured to attack the columns of his army. And though Crassus perished there, any one who reads attentively the account of his expedition must see that he was rather outwitted than defeated, and that even when his condition was desperate, the Parthians durst not close with him, but effected his destruction by hanging continually on the flanks of his army, and intercepting his supplies, while cajoling him with promises which they never kept.
It might, I grant, be harder to demonstrate this great superiority of foot over horse, had we not very many modern examples affording the clearest proof of it. For instance, at the battle of Novara, of which we have already spoken, nine thousand Swiss foot were seen to attack ten thousand cavalry together with an equal number of infantry, and to defeat them; the cavalry being powerless to injure them, while of the infantry, who were mostly Gascons, and badly disciplined, they made no account. On another occasion we have seen twenty-six thousand Swiss march on Milan to attack Francis I. of France, who had with him twenty thousand men-at-arms, forty thousand foot, and a hundred pieces of artillery; and although they were not victorious as at Novara, they nevertheless fought valiantly for two days together, and, in the end, though beaten, were able to bring off half their number. With foot-soldiers only Marcus Attilius Regulus ventured to oppose himself, not to cavalry merely, but to elephants; and if the attempt failed it does not follow that he was not justified by the valour of his men in believing them equal to surmount this danger.
I repeat, therefore, that to prevail against well-disciplined infantry, you must meet them with infantry disciplined still better, and that otherwise you advance to certain destruction. In the time of Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan, some sixteen thousand Swiss made a descent on Lombardy, whereupon the Duke, who at that time had Il Carmagnola as his captain, sent him with six thousand men-at-arms and a slender following of foot-soldiers to meet them. Not knowing their manner of fighting, Carmagnola fell upon them with his horsemen, expecting to put them at once to rout; but finding them immovable, after losing many of his men he withdrew. But, being a most wise captain, and skilful in devising new remedies to meet unwonted dangers, after reinforcing his company he again advanced to the attack; and when about to engage made all his men-at-arms dismount, and placing them in front of his foot-soldiers, fell once more upon the Swiss, who could then no longer withstand him. For his men, being on foot and well armed, easily penetrated the Swiss ranks without hurt to themselves; and getting among them, had no difficulty in cutting them down, so that of the entire army of the Swiss those only escaped who were spared by his humanity.
Of this difference in the efficiency of these two kinds of troops, many I believe are aware; but such is the unhappiness and perversity of the times in which we live, that neither ancient nor modern examples, nor even the consciousness of error, can move our present princes to amend their ways, or convince them that to restore credit to the arms of a State or province, it is necessary to revive this branch of their militia also, to keep it near them, to make much of it, and to give it life, that in return, it may give back life and reputation to them. But as they have departed from all those other methods already spoken of, so have they departed from this, and with this result, that to them the acquisition of territory is rather a loss than a gain, as presently shall be shown.
CHAPTER XIX. That Acquisitions made by ill-governed States and such as follow not the valiant methods of the Romans, tend rather to their Ruin than to their Aggrandizement.
To these false opinions, founded on the pernicious example first set by the present corrupt age, we owe it, that no man thinks of departing from the methods which are in use. It had been impossible, for instance, some thirty years ago, to persuade an Italian that ten thousand foot-soldiers could, on plain ground, attack ten thousand cavalry together with an equal number of infantry; and not merely attack, but defeat them; as we saw done by the Swiss at that battle of Novara, to which I have already referred so often. For although history abounds in similar examples, none would have believed them, or, believing them, would have said that nowadays men are so much better armed, that a squadron of cavalry could shatter a rock, to say nothing of a column of infantry. With such false pleas would they have belied their judgment, taking no account that with a very scanty force of foot-soldiers, Lucullus routed a hundred and fifty thousand of the cavalry of Tigranes, among whom were a body of horsemen very nearly resembling our own men-at-arms. Now, however, this error is demonstrated by the example of the northern nations.
And since what history teaches as to the superiority of foot-soldiers is thus proved to be true, men ought likewise to believe that the other methods practised by the ancients are in like manner salutary and useful. And were this once accepted, both princes and commonwealths would make fewer blunders than they do, would be stronger to resist sudden attack, and would no longer place their sole hope of safety in flight; while those who take in hand to provide a State with new institutions would know better what direction to give them, whether in the way of extending or merely of preserving; and would see that to augment the numbers of their citizens, to assume other States as companions rather than reduce them to subjection, to send out colonies for the defence of acquired territories, to hold their spoils at the credit of the common stock, to overcome enemies by inroads and pitched battles rather than by sieges, to enrich the public purse, keep down private wealth, and zealously, to maintain all military exercises, are the true ways to aggrandize a State and to extend its empire. Or if these methods for adding to their power are not to their mind, let them remember that acquisitions made in any other way are the ruin of republics, and so set bounds to their ambition, wisely regulating the internal government of their country by suitable laws and ordinances, forbidding extension, and looking only to defence, and taking heed that their defences are in good order, as do those republics of Germany which live and for long have lived, in freedom.
And yet, as I have said on another occasion, when speaking of the difference between the methods suitable for acquiring and those suitable for maintaining, it is impossible for a republic to remain long in the peaceful enjoyment of freedom within a restricted frontier. For should it forbear from molesting others, others are not likely to refrain from molesting it; whence must grow at once the desire and the necessity to make acquisitions; or should no enemies be found abroad, they will be found at home, for this seems to be incidental to all great States. And if the free States of Germany are, and have long been able to maintain themselves on their present footing, this arises from certain conditions peculiar to that country, and to be found nowhere else, without which these communities could not go on living as they do.
The district of Germany of which I speak was formerly subject to the Roman Empire, in the same way as France and Spain; but on the decline of the Empire, and when its very name came to be limited to this one province, its more powerful cities taking advantage of the weakness and necessities of the Emperors, began to free themselves by buying from them their liberty, subject to the payment of a trifling yearly tribute; until, gradually, all the cities which held directly from the Emperor, and were not subject to any intermediate lord, had, in like manner, purchased their freedom. While this went on, it so happened that certain communities subject to the Duke of Austria, among which were Friburg, the people of Schweitz, and the like, rose in rebellion against him, and meeting at the outset with good success, by degrees acquired such accession of strength that so far from returning under the Austrian yoke, they are become formidable to all their neighbours These are the States which we now name Swiss.
Germany is, consequently, divided between the Swiss, the communities which take the name of Free Towns, the Princes, and the Emperor; and the reason why, amid so many conflicting interests, wars do not break out, or breaking out are of short continuance, is the reverence in which all hold this symbol of the Imperial authority. For although the Emperor be without strength of his own, he has nevertheless such credit with all these others that he alone can keep them united, and, interposing as mediator, can speedily repress by his influence any dissensions among them.
The greatest and most protracted wars which have taken place in this country have been those between the Swiss and the Duke of Austria; and although for many years past the Empire and the dukedom of Austria have been united in the same man, he has always failed to subdue the stubbornness of the Swiss, who are never to be brought to terms save by force. Nor has the rest of Germany lent the Emperor much assistance in his wars with the Swiss, the Free Towns being little disposed to attack others whose desire is to live as they themselves do, in freedom; while the Princes of the Empire either are so poor that they cannot, or from jealousy of the power of the Emperor will not, take part with him against them.
These communities, therefore, abide contented within their narrow confines, because, having regard to the Imperial authority, they have no occasion to desire greater; and are at the same time obliged to live in unity within their walls, because an enemy is always at hand, and ready to take advantage of their divisions to effect an entrance. But were the circumstances of the country other than they are these communities would be forced to make attempts to extend their dominions, and be constrained to relinquish their present peaceful mode of life. And since the same conditions are not found elsewhere, other nations cannot adopt this way of living, but are compelled to extend their power either by means of leagues, or else by the methods used by the Romans; and any one who should act otherwise would find not safety but rather death and destruction. For since in a thousand ways, and from causes innumerable, conquests are surrounded with dangers, it may well happen that in adding to our dominions, we add nothing to our strength; but whosoever increases not his strength while he adds to his dominions, must needs be ruined. He who is impoverished by his wars, even should he come off victorious, can add nothing to his strength, since he spends more than he gains, as the Venetians and Florentines have done. For Venice has been far feebler since she acquired Lombardy, and Florence since she acquired Tuscany, than when the one was content to be mistress of the seas, and the other of the lands lying within six miles from her walls. And this from their eagerness to acquire without knowing what way to take. For which ignorance these States are the more to be blamed in proportion as there is less to excuse them; since they had seen what methods were used by the Romans, and could have followed in their footsteps; whereas the Romans, without any example set them, were able by their own prudence to shape a course for themselves.
But even to well-governed States, their conquests may chance to occasion much harm; as when some city or province is acquired abounding in luxury and delights, by whose manners the conqueror becomes infected; as happened first to the Romans, and afterwards to Hannibal on taking possession of Capua. And had Capua been at such a distance from Rome that a ready remedy could not have been applied to the disorders of the soldiery, or had Rome herself been in any degree tainted with corruption, this acquisition had certainly proved her ruin. To which Titus Livius bears witness when he says, "Most mischievous at this time to our military discipline was Capua; for ministering to all delights, she turned away the corrupted minds of our soldiers from the remembrance of their country." And, truly, cities and provinces like this, avenge themselves on their conquerors without blood or blow; since by infecting them with their own evil customs they prepare them for defeat at the hands of any assailant. Nor could the subject have been better handled than by Juvenal, where he says in his Satires, that into the hearts of the Romans, through their conquests in foreign lands, foreign manners found their way; and in place of frugality and other admirable virtuesâ€”
Â "Came luxury more mortal than the sword,
And if their conquests were like to be fatal to the Romans at a time when they were still animated by great virtue and prudence, how must it fare with those who follow methods altogether different from theirs, and who, to crown their other errors of which we have already said enough, resort to auxiliary and mercenary arms, bringing upon themselves those dangers whereof mention shall be made in the Chapter following.
Â SĂ¦vior armis
CHAPTER XX. Of the Dangers incurred by Princes or Republics who resort to Auxiliary or Mercenary Arms.
Had I not already, in another treatise, enlarged on the inutility of mercenary and auxiliary, and on the usefulness of national arms, I should dwell on these matters in the present Discourse more at length than it is my design to do. For having given the subject very full consideration elsewhere, here I would be brief. Still when I find Titus Livius supplying a complete example of what we have to look for from auxiliaries, by whom I mean troops sent to our assistance by some other prince or ruler, paid by him and under officers by him appointed, it is not fit that I should pass it by in silence.
It is related, then, by our historian, that the Romans, after defeating on two different occasions armies of the Samnites with forces sent by them to succour the Capuans, whom they thus relieved from the war which the Samnites Were waging against them, being desirious to return to Rome, left behind two legions to defend the Capuans, that the latter might not, from being altogether deprived of their protection, once more become a prey to the Samnites. But these two legions, rotting in idleness began to take such delight therein, that forgetful of their country and the reverence due to the senate, they resolved to seize by violence the city they had been left to guard by their valour. For to them it seemed that the citizens of Capua were unworthy to enjoy advantages which they knew not how to defend. The Romans, however, getting timely notice of this design, at once met and defeated it, in the manner to be more fully noticed when I come to treat of conspiracies.
Once more then, I repeat, that of all the various kinds of troops, auxiliaries are the most pernicious, because the prince or republic resorting to them for aid has no authority over them, the only person who possesses such authority being he who sends them. For, as I have said, auxiliary troops are those sent to your assistance by some other potentate, under his own flag, under his own officers, and in his own pay, as were the legions sent by the Romans to Capua. Such troops, if victorious, will for the most part plunder him by whom, as well as him against whom, they are hired to fight; and this they do, sometimes at the instigation of the potentate who sends them, sometimes for ambitious ends of their own. It was not the purpose of the Romans to violate the league and treaty which they had made with Capua; but to their soldiers it seemed so easy a matter to master the Capuans, that they were readily led into this plot for depriving them of their town and territories. Many other examples might be given to the same effect, but it is enough to mention besides this instance, that of the people of Regium, who were deprived of their city and of their lives by another Roman legion sent for their protection.
Princes and republics, therefore, should resort to any other expedient for the defence of their States sooner than call in hired auxiliaries, when they have to rest their entire hopes of safety on them; since any accord or terms, however hard, which you may make with your enemy, will be carefully studied and current events well considered, it will be seen that for one who has succeeded with such assistance, hundreds have been betrayed. Nor, in truth, can any better opportunity for usurping a city or province present itself to an ambitious prince or commonwealth, than to be asked to send an army for its defence. On the other hand, he who is so greedy of conquest as to summon such help, not for purposes of defence but in order to attack others, seeks to have what he can never hold and is most likely to be taken from him by the very person who helps him to gain it. Yet such is the perversity of men that, to gratify the desire of the moment, they shut their eyes to those ills which must speedily ensue and are no more moved by example in this matter than in all those others of which I have spoken; for were they moved by these examples they would see that the more disposed they are to deal generously with their neighbours, and the more averse they are to usurp authority over them, the readier will these be to throw themselves into their arms; as will at once appear from the case of the Capuans.
CHAPTER XXI. That Capua was the first City to which the Romans sent a Praetor; nor there, until four hundred years after they began to make War.
The great difference between the methods followed by the ancient Romans in adding to their dominions, and those used for that purpose by the States of the present time, has now been sufficiently discussed. It has been seen, too how in dealing with the cities which they did not think fit to destroy, and even with those which had made their submission not as companions but as subjects, it was customary with the Romans to permit them to live on under their own laws, without imposing any outward sign of dependence, merely binding them to certain conditions, or complying with which they were maintained in their former dignity and importance. We know, further, that the same methods continued to be followed by the Romans until they passed beyond the confines of Italy, and began to reduce foreign kingdoms and States to provinces: as plainly appears in the fact that Capua was the first city to which they sent a prĂ¦tor, and him from no motive of ambition, but at the request of the Capuans themselves who, living at variance with one another, thought it necessary to have a Roman citizen in their town who might restore unity and good order among them. Influenced by this example, and urged by the same need, the people of Antium were the next to ask that they too might have a praetor given them; touching which request and in connection with which new method of governing, Titus Livius observes, "that not the arms only but also the laws of Rome now began to exert an influence;" showing how much the course thus followed by the Romans promoted the growth of their authority.
For those cities, more especially, which have been used to freedom or to be governed by their own citizens, rest far better satisfied with a government which they do not see, even though it involve something of oppression, than with one which standing constantly before their eyes, seems every day to reproach them with the disgrace of servitude. And to the prince there is another advantage in this method of government, namely, that as the judges and magistrates who administer the laws civil and criminal within these cities, are not under his control, no decision of theirs can throw responsibility or discredit upon him; so that he thus escapes many occasions of calumny and hatred. Of the truth whereof, besides the ancient instances which might be noted, we have a recent example here in Italy. For Genoa, as every one knows, has many times been occupied by the French king, who always, until lately, sent thither a French governor to rule in his name. Recently, however, not from choice but of necessity, he has permitted the town to be self-governed under a Genoese ruler; and any one who had to decide which of these two methods of governing gives the greater security to the king's authority and the greater content to the people themselves, would assuredly have to pronounce in favour of the latter.
Men, moreover, in proportion as they see you averse to usurp authority over them, grow the readier to surrender themselves into your hands; and fear you less on the score of their freedom, when they find you acting towards them with consideration and kindness. It was the display of these qualities that moved the Capuans to ask the Romans for a praetor; for had the Romans betrayed the least eagerness to send them one, they would at once have conceived jealousy and grown estranged.
But why turn for examples to Capua and Rome, when we have them close at hand in Tuscany and Florence? Who is there but knows what a time it is since the city of Pistoja submitted of her own accord to the Florentine supremacy? Who, again, but knows the animosity which down to the present day exists between Florence and the cities of Pisa, Lucca, and Siena? This difference of feeling does not arise from the citizens of Pistoja valuing their freedom less than the citizens of these other towns or thinking themselves inferior to them, but from the Florentines having always acted towards the former as brothers, towards the latter as foes. This it was that led the Pistojans to come voluntarily under our authority while the others have done and do all in their power to escape it. For there seems no reason to doubt, that if Florence, instead of exasperating these neighbours of hers, had sought to win them over, either by entering into league with them or by lending them assistance, she would at this hour have been mistress of Tuscany. Not that I would be understood to maintain that recourse is never to be had to force and to arms, but that these are only to be used in the last resort, and when all other remedies are unavailing.
CHAPTER XXII. That in matters of moment Men often judge amiss.
How falsely men often judge of things, they who are present at their deliberations have constant occasion to know. For in many matters, unless these deliberations be guided by men of great parts, the conclusions come to are certain to be wrong. And because in corrupt republics, and especially in quiet times, either through jealousy or from other like causes, men of great ability are often obliged to stand aloof, it follows that measures not good in themselves are by a common error judged to be good, or are promoted by those who seek public favour rather than the public advantage. Mistakes of this sort are found out afterwards in seasons of adversity, when recourse must be had to those persons who in peaceful times had been, as it were, forgotten, as shall hereafter in its proper place be more fully explained. Cases, moreover, arise in which those who have little experience of affairs are sure to be misled, from the matters with which they have to deal being attended by many deceptive appearances such as lead men to believe whatsoever they are minded to believe.
These remarks I make with reference to the false hopes which the Latins, after being defeated by the Romans, were led to form on the persuasion of their praetor Numitius, and also with reference to what was believed by many a few years ago, when Francis, king of France, came to recover Milan from the Swiss. For Francis of AngoulĂŞme, succeeding on the death of Louis XII. to the throne of France, and desiring to recover for that realm the Duchy of Milan, on which, some years before, the Swiss had seized at the instance of Pope Julius, sought for allies in Italy to second him in his attempt; and besides the Venetians, who had already been gained over by King Louis, endeavoured to secure the aid of the Florentines and Pope Leo X.; thinking that were he to succeed in getting these others to take part with him, his enterprise would be easier. For the forces of the Spanish king were then in Lombardy, and the army of the Emperor at Verona.
Pope Leo, however, did not fall in with the wishes of Francis, being, it is said, persuaded by his advisers that his best course was to stand neutral. For they urged that it was not for the advantage of the Church to have powerful strangers, whether French or Swiss, in Italy; but that to restore the country to its ancient freedom, it must be delivered from the yoke of both. And since to conquer both, whether singly or together, was impossible, it was to be desired that the one should overthrow the other, after which the Church with her friends might fall upon the victor. And it was averred that no better opportunity for carrying out this design could ever be found than then presented itself; for both the French and the Swiss were in the field; while the Pope had his troops in readiness to appear on the Lombard frontier and in the vicinity of the two armies, where, under colour of watching his own interests, he could easily keep them until the opposed hosts came to an engagement; when, as both armies were full of courage, their encounter might be expected to be a bloody one, and likely to leave the victor so weakened that it would be easy for the Pope to attack and defeat him; and so, to his own great glory, remain master of Lombardy and supreme throughout Italy.
How baseless this expectation was, was seen from the event. For the Swiss being routed after a protracted combat, the troops of the Pope and Spain, so far from venturing to attack the conqueror, prepared for flight; nor would flight have saved them, had not the humanity or indifference of the king withheld him from pursuing his victory, and disposed him to make terms with the Church.
The arguments put forward by the Pope's advisers had a certain show of reason in their favour, which looked at from a distance seemed plausible enough; but were in reality wholly contrary to truth; since it rarely happens that the captain who wins a victory loses any great number of his men, his loss being in battle only, and not in flight. For in the heat of battle, while men stand face to face, but few fall, chiefly because such combats do not last long; and even when they do last, and many of the victorious army are slain, so splendid is the reputation which attends a victory, and so great the terror it inspires, as far to outweigh any loss the victor suffers by the slaughter of his soldiers; so that an enemy who, trusting to find him weakened, should then venture to attack him, would soon be taught his mistake, unless strong enough to give him battle at any time, before his victory as well as after. For in that case he might, as fortune and valour should determine, either win or lose; though, even then, the army which had first fought and won would have an advantage. And this we know for a truth from what befell the Latins in consequence of the mistake made by Numitius their praetor, and their blindness in believing him. For when they had already suffered defeat at the hands of the Romans, Numitius caused it to be proclaimed throughout the whole country of Latium, that now was the time to fall upon the enemy, exhausted by a struggle in which they were victorious only in name, while in reality suffering all those ills which attend defeat, and who might easily be crushed by any fresh force brought against them. Whereupon the Latins believed him, and getting together a new army, were forthwith routed with such loss as always awaits those who listen to like counsels.
CHAPTER XXIII. That in chastising their Subjects when circumstances required it the Romans always avoided half-measures.
"Such was now the state of affairs in Latium, that peace and war seemed alike intolerable." No worse calamity can befall a prince or commonwealth than to be reduced to such straits that they can neither accept peace nor support war; as is the case with those whom it would ruin to conclude peace on the terms offered, while war obliges them either to yield themselves a spoil to their allies, or remain a prey to their foes. To this grievous alternative are men led by evil counsels and unwise courses, and, as already said, from not rightly measuring their strength. For the commonwealth or prince who has rightly measured his strength, can hardly be brought so low as were the Latins, who made war with the Romans when they should have made terms, and made terms when they should have made war, and so mismanaged everything that the friendship and the enmity of Rome were alike fatal. Whence it came that, in the first place, they were defeated and broken by Manlius Torquatus, and afterwards utterly subdued by Camillus; who, when he had forced them to surrender at discretion to the Roman arms, and had placed garrisons in all their towns, and taken hostages from all, returned to Rome and reported to the senate that the whole of Latium now lay at their mercy.
And because the sentence then passed by the senate is memorable, and worthy to be studied by princes that it may be imitated by them on like occasion, I shall cite the exact words which Livius puts into the mouth of Camillus, as confirming what I have already said touching the methods used by the Romans to extend their power, and as showing how in chastising their subjects they always avoided half-measures and took a decided course. For government consists in nothing else than in so controlling your subjects that it shall neither be in their power nor for their interest to harm you. And this is effected either by making such sure work with them as puts it out of their power to do you injury, or else by so loading them with benefits that it would be folly in them to seek to alter their condition. All which is implied first in the measures proposed by Camillus, and next in the resolutions passed on these proposals by the senate. The words of Camillus were as follows: "The immortal gods have made you so entirely masters in the matter you are now considering, that it lies with you to pronounce whether Latium shall or shall not longer exist. So far as the Latins are concerned, you can secure a lasting peace either by clemency or by severity. Would you deal harshly with those whom you have conquered and who have given themselves into your hands, you can blot out the whole Latin nation. Would you, after the fashion of our ancestors, increase the strength of Rome by admitting the vanquished to the rights of citizenship, here you have opportunity to do so, and with the greatest glory to yourselves. That, assuredly, is the strongest government which they rejoice in who obey it. Now, then, is your time, while the minds of all are bent on what is about to happen, to obtain an ascendency over them, either by punishment or by benefits."
Upon this motion the senate resolved, in accordance with the advice given by the consul, to take the case of each city separately, and either destroy utterly or else treat with tenderness all the more important of the Latin towns. To those cities they dealt with leniently, they granted exemptions and privileges, conferring upon them the rights of citizenship, and securing their welfare in every particular. The others they razed to the ground, and planting colonies in their room, either removed the inhabitants to Rome, or so scattered and dispersed them that neither by arms nor by counsels was it ever again in their power to inflict hurt. For, as I have said already, the Romans never, in matters of moment, resorted to half-measures. And the sentence which they then pronounced should be a pattern for all rulers, and ought to have been followed by the Florentines when, in the year 1502, Arezzo and all the Val di Chiana rose in revolt. For had they followed it, they would have established their authority on a surer footing, and added much to the greatness of their city by securing for it those lands which are needed to supply it with the necessaries of life. But pursuing that half-hearted policy which is most mischievous in executing justice, some of the Aretines they outlawed, some they condemned to death, and all they deprived of their dignities and ancient importance in their town, while leaving the town itself untouched. And if in the councils then held any Florentine recommended that Arezzo should be dismantled, they who thought themselves wiser than their fellows objected, that to do so would be little to the honour of our republic, since it would look as though she lacked strength to hold it. Reasons like this are of a sort which seem sound, but are not really so; for, by the same rule, no parricide should be put to death, nor any other malefactor, however atrocious his crimes; because, forsooth, it would be discreditable to the ruler to appear unequal to the control of a single criminal. They who hold such opinions fail to see that when men individually, or entire cities collectively, offend against the State, the prince for his own safety, and as a warning to others, has no alternative but to make an end of them; and that true honour lies in being able and in knowing how to chastise such offenders, and not in incurring endless dangers in the effort to retain them. For the prince who does not chastise offenders in a way that puts it out of their power to offend again, is accounted unwise or worthless.
How necessary it was for the Romans to execute Justice against the Latins, is further seen from the course took with the men of Privernum. And here the text of Livius suggests two points for our attention: first, as already noted, that a subjugated people is either to be caressed or crushed; and second, how much it is for our advantage to maintain a manly bearing, and to speak the truth fearlessly in the presence of the wise. For the senate being met to determine the fate of the citizens of Privernum, who after rebelling had been reduced to submission by the Roman arms, certain of these citizens were sent by their countrymen to plead for pardon. When these had come into the presence of the senate, one of them was asked by a senator, "What punishment he thought his fellow citizens deserved?" To which he of Privernum answered, "Such punishment as they deserve who deem themselves worthy of freedom." "But," said the consul, "should we remit your punishment, what sort of peace can we hope to have with you?" To which the other replied, "If granted on fair terms, a firm and lasting peace; if on unfair, a peace of brief duration." Upon this, though many of the senators were displeased, the wiser among them declared "that they had heard the voice of freedom and manhood, and would never believe that the man or people who so spoke ought to remain longer than was needful in a position which gave them cause for shame; since that was a safe peace which was accepted willingly; whereas good faith could not be looked for where it was sought to impose servitude." So saying, they decided that the people of Privernum should be admitted to Roman citizenship, with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining; declaring that "men whose only thought was for freedom, were indeed worthy to be Romans." So pleasing was this true and high answer to generous minds, while any other must have seemed at once false and shameful. And they who judge otherwise of men, and of those men, especially, who have been used to be free, or so to think themselves, are mistaken; and are led through their mistake to adopt courses unprofitable for themselves and affording no content to others. Whence, the frequent rebellions and the downfall of States.
But, returning to our subject, I conclude, as well from this instance of Privernum, as from the measures followed with the Latins, that when we have to pass sentence upon powerful States accustomed to live in freedom, we must either destroy them utterly, or else treat them with much indulgence; and that any other course we may take with them will be unprofitable. But most carefully should we avoid, as of all courses the most pernicious, such half-measures as were followed by the Samnites when they had the Romans shut up in the Caudine Forks, and would not listen to the counsels of the old man who urged them either to send their captives away with every honourable attention, or else put them all to death; but adopted a middle course, and after disarming them and making them pass under the yoke, suffered them to depart at once disgraced and angered. And no long time after, they found to their sorrow that the old man's warning was true, and that the course they had themselves chosen was calamitous; as shall, hereafter, in its place be shown.
CHAPTER XXIV. That, commonly, Fortresses do much more Harm than Good
To the wise men of our day it may seem an oversight on the part of the Romans, that, when they sought to protect themselves against the men of Latium and Privernum, it never occurred to them to build strongholds in their cities to be a curb upon them, and insure their fidelity, especially when we remember the Florentine saying which these same wise men often quote, to the effect that Pisa and other like cities must be held by fortresses Doubtless, had those old Romans been like-minded with our modern sages, they would not have neglected to build themselves fortresses, but because they far surpassed them in courage, sense, and vigour, they refrained. And while Rome retained her freedom, and adhered to her own wise ordinances and wholesome usages, she never built a single fortress with the view to hold any city or province, though, sometimes, she may have suffered those to stand which she found already built.
Looking, therefore, to the course followed by the Romans in this particular, and to that adopted by our modern rulers, it seems proper to consider whether or not it is advisable to build fortresses, and whether they are more likely to help or to hurt him who builds them In the first place, then, we are to remember that fortresses are built either as a defence against foreign foes or against subjects In the former case, I pronounce them unnecessary, in the latter mischievous. And to state the reasons why in the latter case they are mischievous, I say that when princes or republics are afraid of their subjects and in fear lest they rebel, this must proceed from knowing that their subjects hate them, which hatred in its turn results from their own ill conduct, and that again from their thinking themselves able to rule their subjects by mere force, or from their governing with little prudence. Now one of the causes which lead them to suppose that they can rule by mere force, is this very circumstance of their people having these fortresses on their backs So that the conduct which breeds hatred is itself mainly occasioned by these princes or republics being possessed of fortresses, which, if this be true, are really far more hurtful than useful First, because, as has been said already, they render a ruler bolder and more violent in his bearing towards his subjects, and, next, because they do not in reality afford him that security which he believes them to give For all those methods of violence and coercion which may be used to keep a people under, resolve themselves into two; since either like the Romans you must always have it in your power to bring a strong army into the field, or else you must dissipate, destroy, and disunite the subject people, and so divide and scatter them that they can never again combine to injure you For should you merely strip them of their wealth, spoliatis arma supersunt, arms still remain to them, or if you deprive them of their weapons, furor arma ministrat, rage will supply them, if you put their chiefs to death and continue to maltreat the rest, heads will renew themselves like those Hydra; while, if you build fortresses, these may serve in time of peace to make you bolder in outraging your subjects, but in time of war they will prove wholly useless, since they will be attacked at once by foes both foreign and domestic, whom together it will be impossible for you to resist. And if ever fortresses were useless they are so at the present day, by reason of the invention of artillery, against the fury of which, as I have shown already, a petty fortress which affords no room for retreat behind fresh works, cannot be defended.
But to go deeper into the matter, I say, either you are a prince seeking by means of these fortresses to hold the people of your city in check; or you are a prince, or it may be a republic, desirous to control some city which you have gained in war. To the prince I would say, that, for the reasons already given, nothing can be more unserviceable than a fortress as a restraint upon your subjects, since it only makes you the readier to oppress them, and less scrupulous how you do so; while it is this very oppression which moves them to destroy you, and so kindles their hatred, that the fortress, which is the cause of all the mischief, is powerless to protect you. A wise and good prince, therefore, that he may continue good, and give no occasion or encouragement to his descendants to become evil, will never build a fortress, to the end that neither he nor they may ever be led to trust to it rather than to the good-will of their subjects. And if Francesco Sforza, who was accounted a wise ruler, on becoming Duke of Milan erected a fortress in that city, I say that herein he was unwise, and that the event has shown the building of this fortress to have been hurtful and not helpful to his heirs. For thinking that by its aid they could behave as badly as they liked to their citizens and subjects, and yet be secure, they refrained from no sort of violence or oppression, until, becoming beyond measure odious, they lost their State as soon as an enemy attacked it. Nor was this fortress, which in peace had occasioned them much hurt, any defence or of any service them in war. For had they being without it, through thoughtlessness, treated their subjects inhumanely, they must soon have discovered and withdrawn from their danger; and might, thereafter, with no other help than that of attached subjects, have withstood the attacks of the French far more successfully than they could with their fortress, but with subjects whom they had estranged.
And, in truth, fortresses are unserviceable in every way, since they may be lost either by the treachery of those to whom you commit their defence, or by the overwhelming strength of an assailant, or else by famine. And where you seek to recover a State which you have lost, and in which only the fortress remains to you, if that fortress is to be of any service or assistance to you, you must have an army wherewith to attack the enemy who has driven you out. But with such an army you might succeed in recovering your State as readily without a fortress as with one; nay, perhaps, even more readily, since your subjects, had you not used them ill, from the overweening confidence your fortress gave you, might then have felt better disposed towards you. And the event shows that in times of adversity this very fortress of Milan has been of no advantage whatever, either to the Sforzas or to the French; but, on the contrary, has brought ruin on both, because, trusting to it, they did not turn their thoughts to nobler methods for preserving that State. Guido Ubaldo, duke of Urbino and son to Duke Federigo, who in his day was a warrior of much renown, but who was driven from his dominions by Cesare Borgia, son to Pope Alexander VI., when afterwards, by a sudden stroke of good fortune, he was restored to the dukedom caused all the fortresses of the country to be dismantled, judging them to be hurtful. For as he was beloved by his subjects, so far as they were concerned he had no need for fortresses; while, as against foreign enemies, he saw he could not defend them, since this would have required an army kept constantly in the field. For which reasons he made them be razed to the ground.
When Pope Julius II. had driven the Bentivogli from Bologna, after erecting a citadel in that town, he caused the people to be cruelly oppressed by his governor; whereupon, the people rebelled, and he forthwith lost the citadel; so that his citadel, and the oppressions to which it led, were of less service to him than different behaviour on his part had been. When Niccolo da Castello, the ancestor of the Vitelli, returned to his country out of exile, he straightway pulled down the two fortresses built there by Pope Sixtus IV., perceiving that it was not by fortresses, but by the good-will of the people, that he could be maintained in his government.
But the most recent, and in all respects most noteworthy instance, and that which best demonstrates the futility of building, and the advantage of destroying fortresses, is what happened only the other day in Genoa. Every one knows how, in 1507, Genoa rose in rebellion against Louis XII. of France, who came in person and with all his forces to recover it; and after recovering it built there a citadel stronger than any before known, being, both from its position and from every other circumstance, most inaccessible to attack. For standing on the extremity of a hill, named by the Genoese Codefa, which juts out into the sea, it commanded the whole harbour and the greater part of the town. But, afterwards, in the year 1512, when the French were driven out of Italy, the Genoese, in spite of this citadel, again rebelled, and Ottaviano Fregoso assuming the government, after the greatest efforts, continued over a period of sixteen months, at last succeeded in reducing the citadel by famine. By all it was believed that he would retain it as a rock of refuge in case of any reverse of fortune, and by some he was advised to do so; but he, being a truly wise ruler, and knowing well that it is by the attachment of their subjects and not by the strength of their fortifications that princes are maintained in their governments, dismantled this citadel; and founding his authority, not upon material defences, but on his own valour and prudence, kept and still keeps it. And whereas, formerly, a force of a thousand foot-soldiers could effect a change in the government of Genoa, the enemies of Ottaviano have assailed him with ten thousand, without being able to harm him.
Here, then, we see that, while to dismantle this fortress occasioned Ottaviano no loss, its construction gave the French king no sort of advantage. For when he could come into Italy with an army, he could recover Genoa, though he had no citadel there; but when he could not come with an army, it was not in his power to hold the city by means of the citadel. Moreover it was costly for the king to build, and shameful for him to lose this fortress; while for Ottaviano it was glorious to take, and advantageous to destroy it.
Let us turn now to those republics which build fortresses not within their own territories, but in towns whereof they have taken possession. And if the above example of France and Genoa suffice not to show the futility of this course, that of Florence and Pisa ought, I think, to be conclusive. For in erecting fortresses to hold Pisa, the Florentines failed to perceive that a city which had always been openly hostile to them, which had lived in freedom, and which could cloak rebellion under the name of liberty, must, if it were to be retained at all, be retained by those methods which were used by the Romans, and either be made a companion or be destroyed. Of how little service these Pisan fortresses were, was seen on the coming of Charles VIII. of France into Italy, to whom, whether through the treachery of their defenders or from fear of worse evils, they were at once delivered up; whereas, had there been no fortresses in Pisa, the Florentines would not have looked to them as the means whereby the town was to be held; the king could not by their assistance have taken the town from the Florentines; and the methods whereby it had previously been preserved might, in all likelihood, have continued sufficient to preserve it; and, at any rate, had served that end no worse than the fortresses.
These, then, are the conclusions to which I come, namely, that fortresses built to hold your own country under are hurtful, and that those built to retain acquired territories are useless; and I am content to rely on the example of the Romans, who in the towns they sought to hold by the strong hand, rather pulled down fortresses than built them. And if any, to controvert these views of mine, were to cite the case of Tarentum in ancient times, or of Brescia in recent, as towns which when they rebelled were recovered by means of their citadels; I answer, that for the recovery of Tarentum, Fabius Maximus was sent at the end of a year with an army strong enough to retake it even had there been no fortress there; and that although he availed himself of the fortress for the recovery of the town, he might, without it, have resorted to other means which would have brought about the same result. Nor do I see of what service a citadel can be said to be, when to recover the city you must employ a consular army under a Fabius Maximus. But that the Romans would, in any case, have recovered Tarentum, is plain from what happened at Capua, where there was no citadel, and which they retook, simply by the valour of their soldiers.
Again, as regards Brescia, I say that the circumstances attending the revolt of that town were such as occur but seldom, namely, that the citadel remaining in your hands after the defection of the city, you should happen to have a great army nigh at hand, as the French had theirs on this occasion. For M. de Foix being in command of the king's forces at Bologna, on hearing of the loss of Brescia, marched thither without an hour's delay, and reaching Brescia in three days, retook the town with the help of the citadel. But here, again, we see that, to be of any service, the citadel of Brescia had to be succoured by a de Foix, and by that French army which in three days' time marched to its relief. So that this instance cannot be considered conclusive as against others of a contrary tendency. For, in the course of recent wars, many fortresses have been taken and retaken, with the same variety of fortune with which open country has been acquired or lost; and this not only in Lombardy, but also in Romagna, in the kingdom of Naples, and in all parts of Italy.
And, further, touching the erection of fortresses as a defence against foreign enemies, I say that such defences are not needed by the prince or people who possess a good army; while for those who do not possess a good army, they are useless. For good armies without fortresses are in themselves a sufficient defence: whereas, fortresses without good armies avail nothing. And this we see in the case of those nations which have been thought to excel both in their government and otherwise, as, for instance, the Romans and the Spartans. For while the Romans would build no fortresses, the Spartans not merely abstained from building them, but would not even suffer their cities to be enclosed with walls; desiring to be protected by their own valour only, and by no other defence. So that when a Spartan was asked by an Athenian what he thought of the walls of Athens, he answered "that they were fine walls if meant to hold women only."
If a prince who has a good army has likewise, on the sea-front of his dominions, some fortress strong enough to keep an enemy in check for a few days, until he gets his forces together, this, though not necessary, may sometimes be for his advantage. But for a prince who is without a strong army to have fortresses erected throughout his territories, or upon his frontier, is either useless or hurtful, since they may readily be lost and then turned against him; or, supposing them so strong that the enemy is unable to take them by assault, he may leave them behind, and so render them wholly unprofitable. For a brave army, unless stoutly met, enters an enemy's country without regard to the towns or fortified places it leaves in its rear, as we read of happening in ancient times, and have seen done by Francesco Maria della Rovere, who no long while ago, when he marched against Urbino, made little of leaving ten hostile cities behind him.
The prince, therefore, who can bring together a strong army can do without building fortresses, while he who has not a strong army ought not to build them, but should carefully strengthen the city wherein he dwells, and keep it well stored with supplies, and its inhabitants well affected, so that he may resist attack till an accord be agreed on, or he be relieved by foreign aid. All other expedients are costly in time of peace, and in war useless.
Whoever carefully weighs all that has now been said will perceive, that the Romans, as they were most prudent in all their other methods, so also showed their wisdom in the measures they took with the men of Latium and Privernum, when, without ever thinking of fortresses, they sought security in bolder and more sagacious courses.
CHAPTER XXV. That he who attacks a City divided against itself, must not think to get possession of it through its Divisions.
Violent dissensions breaking out in Rome between the commons and the nobles, it appeared to the Veientines and Etruscans that now was their time to deal a fatal blow to the Roman supremacy. Accordingly, they assembled an army and invaded the territories of Rome. The senate sent Caius Manlius and Marcus Fabius to meet them, whose forces encamping close by the Veientines, the latter ceased not to reproach and vilify the Roman name with every sort of taunt and abuse, and so incensed the Romans by their unmeasured insolence that, from being divided they became reconciled, and giving the enemy battle, broke and defeated them. Here, again, we see, what has already been noted, how prone men are to adopt wrong courses, and how often they miss their object when they think to secure it. The Veientines imagined that they could conquer the Romans by attacking them while they were at feud among themselves; but this very attack reunited the Romans and brought ruin on their assailants. For the causes of division in a commonwealth are, for the most part, ease and tranquillity, while the causes of union are fear and war. Wherefore, had the Veientines been wise, the more divided they saw Rome to be, the more should they have sought to avoid war with her, and endeavoured to gain an advantage over her by peaceful arts. And the best way to effect this in a divided city lies in gaining the confidence of both factions, and in mediating between them as arbiter so long as they do not come to blows; but when they resort to open violence, then to render some tardy aid to the weaker side, so as to plunge them deeper in hostilities, wherein both may exhaust their forces without being led by your putting forth an excess of strength to suspect you of a desire to ruin them and remain their master. Where this is well managed, it will almost always happen that you succeed in effecting the object you propose to yourself.
The city of Pistoja, as I have said already in connection with another matter, was won over to the Florentine republic by no other artifice than this. For the town being split by factions, the Florentines, by now favouring one side and now the other, without incurring the suspicions of either, brought both to such extremities that, wearied out with their harassed life, they threw themselves at last of their own accord into the arms of Florence. The city of Siena, again, has never made any change in her government which has had the support of the Florentines, save when that support has been slight and insignificant; for whenever the interference of Florence has been marked and decided, it has had the effect of uniting all parties in support of things as they stood.
One other instance I shall add to those already given. Oftener than once Filippo Visconti, duke of Milan, relying on their divisions, set wars on foot against the Florentines, and always without success; so that, in lamenting over these failures, he was wont to complain that the mad humours of the Florentines had cost him two millions of gold, without his having anything to show for it. The Veientines and Etruscans, therefore, as I have said already, were misled by false hopes, and in the end were routed by the Romans in a single pitched battle; and any who should look hereafter to prevail on like grounds and by similar means against a divided people, will always find themselves deceived.
CHAPTER XXVI. That Taunts and Abuse breed Hatred against him who uses them, without yielding him any Advantage.
To abstain from threats and injurious language, is, methinks, one of the wisest precautions a man can use. For abuse and menace take nothing from the strength of an adversary; the latter only making him more cautious, while the former inflames his hatred against you, and leads him to consider more diligently how he may cause you hurt.
This is seen from the example of the Veientines, of whom I spoke in the last Chapter, who, to the injury of war against the Romans, added those verbal injuries from which all prudent commanders should compel their soldiers to refrain. For these are injuries which stir and kindle your enemy to vengeance, and yet, as has been said, in no way disable him from doing you hurt; so that, in truth, they are weapons which wound those who use them. Of this we find a notable instance in Asia, in connection with the siege of Amida. For Gabade, the Persian general, after besieging this town for a great while, wearied out at last by its protracted defence, determined on withdrawing his army; and had actually begun to strike his camp, when the whole inhabitants of the place, elated by their success, came out upon the walls to taunt and upbraid their enemies with their cowardice and meanness of spirit, and to load them with every kind of abuse. Stung by these insults, Gabade, changing his resolution, renewed the siege with such fury that in a few days he stormed and sacked the town. And the very same thing befell the Veientines, who, not content, as we have seen, to make war on the Romans with arms, must needs assail them with foul reproaches, advancing to the palisade of their camp to revile them, and molesting them more with their tongues than with their swords, until the Roman soldiers, who at first were most unwilling to fight, forced the consuls to lead them to the attack. Whereupon, the Veientines, like those others of whom mention has just now been made, had to pay the penalty of their insolence.
Wise captains of armies, therefore, and prudent governors of cities, should take all fit precautions to prevent such insults and reproaches from being used by their soldiers and subjects, either amongst themselves or against an enemy. For when directed against an enemy they lead to the mischiefs above noticed, while still worse consequences may follow from our not preventing them among ourselves by such measures as sensible rulers have always taken for that purpose.
The legions who were left behind for the protection of Capua having, as shall in its place be told, conspired against the Capuans, their conspiracy led to a mutiny, which was presently suppressed by Valerius Corvinus; when, as one of the conditions on which the mutineers made their submission, it was declared that whosoever should thereafter upbraid any soldier of these legions with having taken part in this mutiny, should be visited with the severest punishment. So likewise, when Tiberius Gracchus was appointed, during the war with Hannibal, to command a body of slaves, whom the Romans in their straits for soldiers had furnished with arms, one of his first acts was to pass an order making it death for any to reproach his men with their servile origin. So mischievous a thing did the Romans esteem it to use insulting words to others, or to taunt them with their shame. Whether this be done in sport or earnest, nothing vexes men more, or rouses them to fiercer indignation; "for the biting jest which flavours too much of truth, leaves always behind it a rankling memory."
[Footnote 1: Nam facetiĂ¦ asperĂ¦, quando nimium ex vero traxere, acrem sui memoriam relinquunt. Tacit. An. xv. 68.]
CHAPTER XXVII. That prudent Princes and Republics should be content to have obtained a Victory; for, commonly, when they are not, theft-Victory turns to Defeat.
The use of dishonouring language towards an enemy is mostly caused by an insolent humour, bred by victory or the false hope of it, whereby men are oftentimes led not only to speak, but also to act amiss. For such false hopes, when they gain an entry into men's minds, cause them to overrun their goal, and to miss opportunities for securing a certain good, on the chance of obtaining some thing better, but uncertain. And this, being a matter that deserves attention, because in deceiving themselves men often injure their country, I desire to illustrate it by particular instances, ancient and recent, since mere argument might not place it in so clear a light.
After routing the Romans at Cannae, Hannibal sent messengers to Carthage to announce his victory, and to ask support. A debate arising in the Carthaginian senate as to what was to be done, Hanno, an aged and wise citizen, advised that they should prudently take advantage of their victory to make peace with the Romans, while as conquerors they might have it on favourable terms, and not wait to make it after a defeat; since it should be their object to show the Romans that they were strong enough to fight them, but not to peril the victory they had won in the hope of winning a greater. This advice was not followed by the Carthaginian senate, but its wisdom was well seen later, when the opportunity to act upon it was gone.
When the whole East had been overrun by Alexander of Macedon, the citizens of Tyre (then at the height of its renown, and very strong from being built, like Venice, in the sea), recognizing his greatness, sent ambassadors to him to say that they desired to be his good servants, and to yield him all obedience, yet could not consent to receive either him or his soldiers within their walls. Whereupon, Alexander, displeased that a single city should venture to close its gates against him to whom all the rest of the world had thrown theirs open, repulsed the Tyrians, and rejecting their overtures set to work to besiege their town. But as it stood on the water, and was well stored with victual and all other munitions needed for its defence, after four months had gone, Alexander, perceiving that he was wasting more time in an inglorious attempt to reduce this one city than had sufficed for most of his other conquests, resolved to offer terms to the Tyrians, and to make them those concessions which they themselves had asked. But they, puffed up by their success, not merely refused the terms offered, but put to death the envoy sent to propose them. Enraged by this, Alexander renewed the siege, and with such vigour, that he took and destroyed the city, and either slew or made slaves of its inhabitants.
In the year 1512, a Spanish army entered the Florentine territory, with the object of restoring the Medici to Florence, and of levying a subsidy from the town; having been summoned thither by certain of the citizens, who had promised them that so soon as they appeared within the Florentine confines they would arm in their behalf. But when the Spaniards had come into the plain of the Arno, and none declared in their favour, being in sore need of supplies, they offered to make terms. This offer the people of Florence in their pride rejected, and so gave occasion for the sack of Prato and the overthrow of the Florentine Republic.
A prince, therefore, who is attacked by an enemy much more powerful than himself, can make no greater mistake than to refuse to treat, especially when overtures are made to him; for however poor the terms offered may be, they are sure to contain some conditions advantageous for him who accepts them, and which he may construe as a partial success. For which reason it ought to have been enough for the citizens of Tyre that Alexander was brought to accept terms which he had at first rejected; and they should have esteemed it a sufficient triumph that, by their resistance in arms, they had forced so great a warrior to bow to their will. And, in like manner, it should have been a sufficient victory for the Florentines that the Spaniards had in part yielded to their wishes, and abated something of their own demands, the purport of which was to change the government of Florence, to sever her from her allegiance to France, and, further, to obtain money from her. For if of these three objects the Spaniards had succeeded in securing the last two, while the Florentines maintained the integrity of their government, a fair share of honour and contentment would have fallen to each. And while preserving their political existence, the Florentines should have made small account of the other two conditions; nor ought they, even with the possibility and almost certainty of greater advantages before them, to have left matters in any degree to the arbitration of Fortune, by pushing things to extremes, and incurring risks which no prudent man should incur, unless compelled by necessity.
Hannibal, when recalled by the Carthaginians from Italy, where for sixteen years he had covered himself with glory, to the defence of his native country, found on his arrival that Hasdrubal and Syphax had been defeated, the kingdom of Numidia lost, and Carthage confined within the limits of her walls, and left without other resource save in him and his army. Perceiving, therefore, that this was the last stake his country had to play, and not choosing to hazard it until he had tried every other expedient, he felt no shame to sue for peace, judging that in peace rather than in war lay the best hope of safety for his country. But, when peace was refused him, no fear of defeat deterred him from battle, being resolved either to conquer, if conquer he might, or if he must fall, to fall gloriously. Now, if a commander so valiant as Hannibal, at the head of an unconquered army, was willing to sue for peace rather than appeal to battle when he saw that by defeat his country must be enslaved, what course ought to be followed by another commander, less valiant and with less experience than he? But men labour under this infirmity, that they know not where to set bounds to their hopes, and building on these without otherwise measuring their strength, rush headlong on destruction.
CHAPTER XXVIII. That to neglect the redress of Grievances, whether public or private, is dangerous for a Prince or Commonwealth.
Certain Gauls coming to attack Etruria, and more particularly Clusium its chief city, the citizens of Clusium sought aid from Rome; whereupon the Romans sent the three Fabii, as envoys to these Gauls, to notify to them, in the name of the Roman people, that they must refrain from making war on the Etruscans. From what befell the Romans in connection with this embassy, we see clearly how far men may be carried in resenting an affront. For these envoys arriving at the very moment when the Gauls and Etruscans were about to join battle, being readier at deeds than words, took part with the Etruscans and fought in their foremost ranks. Whence it came that the Gauls recognizing the Roman envoys, turned against the Romans all the hatred which before they had felt for the Etruscans; and grew still more incensed when on making complaint to the Roman senate, through their ambassador, of the wrong done them, and demanding that the Fabii should be given up to them in atonement for their offence, not merely were the offenders not given up or punished in any way, but, on the contrary, when the comitia met were created tribunes with consular powers. But when the Gauls found these men honoured who deserved to be chastised, they concluded that what had happened had been done by way of slight and insult to them, and, burning with fury and resentment, hastened forward to attack Rome, which they took with the exception of the Capitol.
Now this disaster overtook the Romans entirely from their disregard of justice. For their envoys, who had violated the law of nations, and had therefore deserved punishment, they had on the contrary treated with honour. And this should make us reflect, how carefully all princes and commonwealths ought to refrain from committing like wrongs, not only against communities, but also against particular men. For if a man be deeply wronged, either by a private hand or by a public officer, and be not avenged to his satisfaction, if he live in a republic, he will seek to avenge himself, though in doing so he bring ruin on his country; or if he live under a prince, and be of a resolute and haughty spirit, he will never rest until he has wreaked his resentment against the prince, though he knows it may cost him dear. Whereof we have no finer or truer example than in the death of Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander. For Pausanias, a handsome and high-born youth belonging to Philip's court, having been most foully and cruelly dishonoured by Attalus, one of the foremost men of the royal household, repeatedly complained to Philip of the outrage; who for a while put him off with promises of vengeance, but in the end, so far from avenging him, promoted Attalus to be governor of the province of Greece. Whereupon, Pausanias, seeing his enemy honoured and not punished, turned all his resentment from him who had outraged, against him who had not avenged him, and on the morning of the day fixed for the marriage of Philip's daughter to Alexander of Epirus, while Philip walked between the two Alexanders, his son and his son-in-law, towards the temple to celebrate the nuptials, he slew him.
This instance nearly resembles that of the Roman envoys; and offers a warning to all rulers never to think so lightly of any man as to suppose, that when wrong upon wrong has been done him, he will not bethink himself of revenge, however great the danger he runs, or the punishment he thereby brings upon himself.
CHAPTER XXIX. That Fortune obscures the minds of Men when she would not have them hinder her Designs.
If we note well the course of human affairs, we shall often find things come about and accidents befall, against which it seems to be the will of Heaven that men should not provide. And if this were the case even in Rome, so renowned for her valour, religion, and wise ordinances, we need not wonder if it be far more common in other cities and provinces wherein these safeguards are wanting.
Having here a notable opportunity to show how Heaven influences men's actions, Titus Livius turns it to account, and treats the subject at large and in pregnant words, where he says, that since it was Heaven's will, for ends of its own, that the Romans should feel its power, it first of all caused these Fabii, who were sent as envoys to the Gauls, to act amiss, and then by their misconduct stirred up the Gauls to make war on Rome; and, lastly, so ordered matters that nothing worthy of their name was done by the Romans to withstand their attack. For it was fore-ordained by Heaven that Camillus, who alone could supply the remedy to so mighty an evil, should be banished to Ardea; and again, that the citizens, who had often created a dictator to meet attacks of the Volscians and other neighbouring hostile nations, should fail to do so when the Gauls were marching upon Rome. Moreover, the army which the Romans got together was but a weak one, since they used no signal effort to make it strong; nay, were so dilatory in arming that they were barely in time to meet the enemy at the river Allia, though no more than ten miles distant from Rome. Here, again, the Roman tribunes pitched their camp without observing any of the usual precautions, attending neither to the choice of ground, nor to surround themselves with trench or Palisade, nor to avail themselves of any other aid, human or Divine. In ordering their army for battle, moreover, disposed it in weak columns, and these far apart: so that neither men nor officers accomplished anything worthy of the Roman discipline. The battle was bloodless for the Romans fled before they were attacked; most of them retreating to Veii, the rest to Rome, where, without turning aside to visit their homes, they made straight for the Capitol.
Meanwhile, the senate, so far from bethinking themselves how they might defend the city, did not even attend to closing the gates; and while some of them made their escape from Rome, others entered the Capitol along with those who sought shelter there. It was only in the defence of the Capitol that any method was observed, measures being taken to prevent it being crowded with useless numbers, and all the victual which could be got, being brought into it to enable it to stand a siege. Of the women, the children, and the men whose years unfitted them for service, the most part fled for refuge to the neighbouring towns, the rest remained in Rome a prey to the invaders; so that no one who had heard of the achievements of the Romans in past years, on being told of what took place on this occasion, could have believed that it was of the same people that things so contrary were related.
Wherefore, Titus Livius, after setting forth all these disorders, concludes with the words, "So far does Fortune darken men's minds when she would not have her ascendency gainsaid." Nor could any juster observation be made. And hence it is that those who experience the extremes whether of good or of evil fortune, are, commonly, little deserving either of praise or blame; since it is apparent that it is from Heaven having afforded them, or denied them opportunities for acting worthily, that they have been brought to their greatness or to their undoing. Fortune, doubtless, when she seeks to effect great ends, will often choose as her instrument a man of such sense and worth that he can recognize the opportunities which she holds out to him; and, in like manner, when she desires to bring about great calamities, will put forward such men as will of themselves contribute to that result. And all who stand in her way, she either removes by death, or deprives of the means of effecting good. And it is well seen in the passage we are considering, how Fortune, to aggrandize Rome, and raise her to the height she reached, judged it necessary, as shall be more fully shown in the following Book, to humble her; yet would not have her utterly undone. For which reason we find her causing Camillus to be banished, but not put to death; suffering Rome to be taken, but not the Capitol; and bringing it to pass that, while the Romans took no wise precaution for the defence of their city, they neglected none in defending their citadel. That Rome might be taken, Fortune caused the mass of the army, after the rout at the Allia, to direct its flight to Veii, thus withdrawing the means wherewith the city might have been defended; but while thus disposing matters, she at the same time prepared all the needful steps for its recovery, in bringing an almost entire Roman array to Veii, and Camillus to Ardea, so that a great force might be assembled for the rescue of their country, under a captain in no way compromised by previous reverses, but, on the contrary, in the enjoyment of an untarnished renown. I might cite many modern instances to confirm these opinions, but since enough has been said to convince any fair mind, I pass them over. But once more I repeat what, from all history, may be seen to be most true, that men may aid Fortune, but not withstand her; may interweave their threads with her web, but cannot break it But, for all that, they must never lose heart, since not knowing what their end is to be, and moving towards it by cross-roads and untravelled paths, they have always room for hope, and ought never to abandon it, whatsoever befalls, and into whatsoever straits they come.
CHAPTER XXX. That really powerful Princes and, Commonwealths do not buy Friendships with Money, but with their Valour and the Fame of their Prowess.
When besieged in the Capitol, the Romans although expecting succour from Veii and from Camillus, nevertheless, being straitened by famine, entered into an agreement to buy off the Gauls with gold But at the very moment when, in pursuance of this agreement, the gold was being weighed out, Camillus came up with his army. This, says our historian, was contrived by Fortune, "that the Romans might not live thereafter as men ransomed for a price," and the matter is noteworthy, not only with reference to this particular occasion, but also as it bears on the methods generally followed by this republic. For we never find Rome seeking to acquire towns, or to purchase peace with money, but always confiding in her own warlike valour, which could not, I believe, be said of any other republic.
Now, one of the tests whereby to gauge the strength of any State, is to observe on what terms it lives with its neighbours: for when it so carries itself that, to secure its friendship, its neighbours pay it tribute, this is a sure sign of its strength, but when its neighbours, though of less reputation, receive payments from it, this is a clear proof of its weakness In the course of the Roman history we read how the Massilians, the Eduans, the Rhodians, Hiero of Syracuse, the Kings Eumenes and Massinissa, all of them neighbours to the Roman frontiers, in order to secure the friendship of Rome, submitted to imposts and tribute whenever Rome had need of them, asking no return save her protection. But with a weak State we find the reverse of all this happening And, to begin with our own republic of Florence, we know that in times past, when she was at the height of her renown, there was never a lordling of Romagna who had not a subsidy from her, to say nothing of what she paid to the Perugians, to the Castellans, and to all her other neighbours But had our city been armed and strong, the direct contrary would have been the case, for, to obtain her protection, all would have poured money into her lap, not seeking to sell their friendship but to purchase hers.
Nor are the Florentines the only people who have lived on this dishonourable footing The Venetians have done the same, nay, the King of France himself, for all his great dominions, lives tributary to the Swiss and to the King of England; and this because the French king and the others named, with a view to escape dangers rather imaginary than real, have disarmed their subjects; seeking to reap a present gain by wringing money from them, rather than follow a course which would secure their own safety and the lasting welfare of their country. Which ill-practices of theirs, though they quiet things for a time, must in the end exhaust their resources, and give rise in seasons of danger to incurable mischief and disorder. It would be tedious to count up how often in the course of their wars, the Florentines, the Venetians, and the kingdom of France have had to ransom themselves from their enemies, and to submit to an ignominy to which, once only, the Romans were very near being subjected. It would be tedious, too, to recite how many towns have been bought by the Florentines and by the Venetians, which, afterwards, have only been a trouble to them, from their not knowing how to defend with iron what they had won with gold. While the Romans continued free they adhered to this more generous and noble method, but when they came under the emperors, and these, again, began to deteriorate, and to love the shade rather than the sunshine, they also took to purchasing peace, now from the Parthians, now from the Germans, and at other times from other neighbouring nations. And this was the beginning of the decline of their great empire.
Such are the evils that befall when you withhold arms from your subjects; and this course is attended by the still greater disadvantage, that the closer an enemy presses you the weaker he finds you. For any one who follows the evil methods of which I speak, must, in order to support troops whom he thinks can be trusted to keep off his enemies, be very exacting in his dealings with those of his subjects who dwell in the heart of his dominions; since, to widen the interval between himself and his enemies, he must subsidize those princes and peoples who adjoin his frontiers. States maintained on this footing may make a little resistance on their confines; but when these are passed by the enemy no further defence remains. Those who pursue such methods as these seem not to perceive that they are opposed to reason and common sense. For the heart and vital parts of the body, not the extremities, are those which we should keep guarded, since we may live on without the latter, but must die if the former be hurt. But the States of which I speak, leaving the heart undefended, defend only the hands and feet. The mischief which has thus been, and is at this day wrought in Florence is plain enough to see. For so soon as an enemy penetrates within her frontiers, and approaches her heart, all is over with her. And the same was witnessed a few years ago in the case of the Venetians, whose city, had it not been girdled by the sea, must then have found its end. In France, indeed, a like result has not been seen so often, she being so great a kingdom as to have few enemies mightier than herself. Nevertheless, when the English invaded France in the year 1513, the whole kingdom tottered; and the King himself, as well as every one else, had to own that a single defeat might have cost him his dominions.
But with the Romans the reverse of all this took place. For the nearer an enemy approached Rome, the more completely he found her armed for resistance; and accordingly we see that on the occasion of Hannibal's invasion of Italy, the Romans, after three defeats, and after the slaughter of so many of their captains and soldiers, were still able, not merely to withstand the invader, but even, in the end, to come off victorious. This we may ascribe to the heart being well guarded, while the extremities were but little heeded. For the strength of Rome rested on the Roman people themselves, on the Latin league, on the confederate towns of Italy, and on her colonies, from all of which sources she drew so numerous an army, as enabled her to subdue the whole world and to keep it in subjection.
The truth of what I say may be further seen from the question put by Hanno the Carthaginian to the messengers sent to Carthage by Hannibal after his victory at CannĂ¦. For when these were vaunting the achievements of Hannibal, they were asked by Hanno whether any one had come forward on behalf of the Romans to propose terms of peace, and whether any town of the Latin league or of the colonized districts had revolted from the Romans. And when to both inquiries the envoys answered, "No," Hanno observed that the war was no nearer an end than on the day it was begun.
We can understand, therefore, as well from what has now been said, as from what I have often said before, how great a difference there is between the methods followed by the republics of the present times, and those followed by the republics of antiquity; and why it is that we see every day astounding losses alternate with extraordinary gains. For where men are weak, Fortune shows herself strong; and because she changes, States and Governments change with her; and will continue to change, until some one arise, who, following reverently the example of the ancients, shall so control her, that she shall not have opportunity with every revolution of the sun to display anew the greatness of her power.
CHAPTER XXXI. Of the Danger of trusting banished Men.
The danger of trusting those who are in exile from their own country, being one to which the rulers of States are often exposed, may, I think, be fitly considered in these Discourses; and I notice it the more willingly, because I am able to illustrate it by a memorable instance which Titus Livius, though with another purpose, relates in his history. When Alexander the Great passed with his army into Asia, his brother-in-law and uncle, Alexander of Epirus, came with another army into Italy, being invited thither by the banished Lucanians, who gave him to believe that, with their aid, he might get possession of the whole of that country. But when, confiding in the promises of these exiles, and fed by the hopes they held out to him, he came into Italy, they put him to death, their fellow-citizens having offered to restore them to their country upon this condition. It behoves us, therefore, to remember how empty are the promises, and how doubtful the faith, of men in banishment from their native land. For as to their faith, it may be assumed that whenever they can effect their return by other means than yours, notwithstanding any covenants they may have made with you, they will throw you over, and take part with their countrymen. And as for the empty promises and delusive hopes which they set before you, so extreme is their desire to return home that they naturally believe many things which are untrue, and designedly misrepresent many others; so that between their beliefs and what they say they believe, they fill you with false impressions, on which if you build, your labour is in vain, and you are led to engage in enterprises from which nothing but ruin can result.
To this instance of Alexander I shall add only one other, that, namely, of Themistocles the Athenian, who, being proclaimed a traitor, fled into Asia to Darius, to whom he made such lavish promises if he would only attack Greece, that he induced him to undertake the enterprise. But afterwards, when he could not fulfil what he had promised, either from shame, or through fear of punishment, he poisoned himself. But, if such a mistake as this was made by a man like Themistocles, we may reckon that mistakes still greater will be made by those who, being of a feebler nature, suffer themselves to be more completely swayed by their feelings and wishes Wherefore, let a prince be careful how he embarks in any enterprise on the representations of an exile; for otherwise, he is likely either to be put to shame, or to incur the gravest calamities.
Because towns are sometimes, though seldom, taken by craft, through secret practices had with their inhabitants, I think it not out of place to discuss the matter in the following Chapter, wherein I shall likewise show in how many ways the Romans were wont to make such acquisitions.
CHAPTER XXXII. In how many Ways the Romans gained Possession of Towns.
Turning their thoughts wholly to arms, the Romans always conducted their military enterprises in the most advantageous way, both as to cost and every other circumstance of war. For which reason they avoided attempting towns by siege, judging the expense and inconvenience of this method of carrying on war greatly to outweigh any advantage to be gained by it. Accordingly, they thought it better and more for their interest to reduce towns in any other way than this; and in all those years during which they were constantly engaged in wars we find very few instances of their proceeding by siege.
For the capture of towns, therefore, they trusted either to assault or to surrender. Assaults were effected either by open force, or by force and stratagem combined. When a town was assailed by open force, the walls were stormed without being breached, and the assailants were said "aggredi urbem corona," because they encircled the city with their entire strength and kept up an attack on all sides. In this way they often succeeded in carrying towns, and even great towns, at a first onset, as when Scipio took new Carthage in Spain. But when they failed to carry a town by storm, they set themselves to breach the walls with battering rams and other warlike engines; or they dug mines so as to obtain an entrance within the walls, this being the method followed in taking Veii; or else, to be on a level with the defenders, they erected towers of timber or threw up mounds of earth against the outside of the walls so as to reach the top.
Of these methods of attack, the first, wherein the city was entirely surrounded, exposed the defenders to more sudden perils and left them more doubtful remedies. For while it was necessary for them to have a sufficient force at all points, it might happen that the forces at their disposal were not numerous enough to be everywhere at once, or to relieve one another. Or if their numbers were sufficient, they might not all be equally resolute in standing their ground, and their failure at any one point involved a general defeat. Consequently, as I have said, this method of attack was often successful. But when it did not succeed at the first, it was rarely renewed, being a method dangerous to the attacking army, which having to secure itself along an extended line, was left everywhere too weak to resist a sally made from the town; nay, of itself, was apt to fall into confusion and disorder. This method of attack, therefore, could be attempted once only and by way of surprise.
Against breaches in the walls the defence was, as at the present day, to throw up new works; while mines were met by counter-mines, in which the enemy were either withstood at the point of the sword, or baffled by some other warlike contrivance; as by filling casks with feathers, which, being set on fire and placed in the mine, choked out the assailants by their smoke and stench. Where towers were employed for the attack, the defenders sought to destroy them with fire; and where mounds of earth were thrown up against the walls, they would dig holes at the base of the wall against which the mound rested, and carry off the earth which the enemy were heaping up; which, being removed from within as fast as it was thrown up from without, the mound made no progress.
None of these methods of attack can long be persisted in and the assailant, if unsuccessful, must either strike his camp and seek victory in some other direction, as Scipio did when he invaded Africa and, after failing in the attempt to storm Utica, withdrew from his attack on that town and turned his strength against the Carthaginian army in the field; or else recourse must be had to regular siege, as by the Romans at Veii, Capua, Carthage, Jerusalem, and divers other cities which they reduced in this way.
The capture of towns by stratagem combined with force is effected, as by the Romans at PalĂ¦opolis, through a secret understanding with some within the walls. Many attempts of this sort have been made, both by the Romans and by others, but few successfully, because the least hindrance disarranges the plan of action, and because such hindrances are very likely to occur. For either the plot is discovered before it can be carried out, as it readily may, whether from treachery on the part of those to whom it has been communicated, or from the difficulties which attend its inception, the preliminary arrangements having to be made with the enemy and with persons with whom it is not permitted, save under some pretext or other, to hold intercourse; or if it be not discovered while it is being contrived, a thousand difficulties will still be met with in its execution. For if you arrive either before or after the appointed time, all is ruined. The faintest sound, as of the cackling of the geese in the Capitol, the least departure from some ordinary routine, the most trifling mistake or error, mars the whole enterprise. Add to which, the darkness of night lends further terror to the perils of such undertakings; while the great majority of those engaged in them, having no knowledge of the district or places into which they are brought, are bewildered and disconcerted by the least mishap, and put to flight by every imaginary danger. In secret nocturnal enterprises of this sort, no man was ever more successful than Aratus of Sicyon, although in any encounter by day there never was a more arrant coward. This we must suppose due rather to some special and occult quality inherent in the man, than to success being naturally to be looked for in the like attempts. Such enterprises, accordingly, are often planned, but few are put into execution, and fewer still with success.
When cities are acquired by surrender, the surrender is either voluntary or under compulsion; voluntary, when the citizens appeal to you for protection against some threatened danger from without, as Capua submitted to the Romans; or where they are moved by a desire to be better governed, and are attracted by the good government which he to whom they surrender is seen exercising over others who have placed themselves in his hands; as was the case with the Rhodians, the Massilians, and others who for like causes gave themselves up to the Roman people. Compulsory surrenders take place, either as the result of a protracted siege, like those we have spoken of above; or from the country being continually wasted by incursions, forays, and similar severities, to escape which a city makes its submission.
Of the methods which have been noticed, the Romans, in preference to all others, used this last; and for four hundred and fifty years made it their aim to wear out their neighbours by invasion and by defeat in the open field, while endeavouring, as I have elsewhere said, to establish their influence over them by treaties and conventions. It was to this method of warfare therefore that they always mainly trusted, because, after trying all others, they found none so free from inconvenience and disadvantageâ€”the procedure by siege involving expense and delay, that by assault, difficulty and danger, and that by secret practice, uncertainty and doubt. They found, likewise, that while in subduing one obstinate city by siege many years might be wasted, a kingdom might be gained in a single day by the defeat of a hostile army in the field.
CHAPTER XXXIII. That the Romans intrusted the Captains of their Armies with the fullest Powers.
In reading this History of Titus Livius with a view to profit by it, I think that all the methods of conduct followed by the Roman people and senate merit attention. And among other things fit to be considered, it should be noted, with how ample an authority they sent forth their consuls, their dictators, and the other captains of their armies, all of whom we find clothed with the fullest powers: no other prerogative being reserved to itself by the senate save that of declaring war and making peace, while everything else was left to the discretion and determination of the consul. For so soon as the people and senate had resolved on war, for instance on a war against the Latins, they threw all further responsibility upon the consul, who might fight or decline battle as he pleased, and attack this or the other city as he thought fit.
That this was so, is seen in many instances, and especially from what happened during an expedition made against the Etruscans. For the consul Fabius having routed that people near Sutrium, and thinking to pass onward through the Ciminian forest into Etruria, so far from seeking the advice of the senate, gave them no hint whatever of his design, although for its execution the war had to be carried into a new, difficult, and dangerous country. We have further witness to the same effect, in the action taken in respect of this enterprise by the senate, who being informed of the victory obtained by Fabius, and apprehending that he might decide to pass onward through the aforesaid forest, and deeming it inexpedient that he should incur risk by attempting this invasion, sent two messengers to warn him not to enter Etruria. These messengers, however, did not come up with the consul until he had already made his way into that country and gained a second victory; when, instead of opposing his further advance, they returned to Rome to announce his good fortune and the glory which he had won.
Whoever, therefore, shall well consider the character of the authority whereof I speak, will see that it was most wisely accorded; since had it been the wish of the senate that a consul, in conducting a war, should proceed step by step as they might direct him, this must have made him at once less cautious and more dilatory; because the credit of victory would not then have seemed to be wholly his own, but shared by the senate on whose advice he acted. Besides which, the senate must have taken upon itself the task of advising on matters which it could not possibly understand; for although it might contain among its members all who were most versed in military affairs, still, since these men were not on the spot, and were ignorant of many particulars which, if they were to give sound advice, it was necessary for them to know, they must in advising have made numberless mistakes. For these reasons they desired that the consul should act on his own responsibility, and that the honours of success should be wholly his; judging that the love of fame would act on him at once as a spur and as a curb, making him do whatever he had to do well.
This matter I have the rather dwelt upon because I observe that our modern republics, such as the Venetian and the Florentine, view it in a different light; so that when their captains, commissaries, or provedditori have a single gun to place in position, the authorities at home must be informed and consulted; a course deserving the same approval as is due to all those other methods of theirs, which, one with another, have brought Italy to her present condition.