The Seven Books on the Art of War by Niccolo Machiavelli (1520)
I believe that it is necessary, once the men are found, to arm them; and in wanting to do this, I believe it is necessary to examine what arms the ancients used, and from them select the best. The Romans divided their infantry into the heavily and lightly armed. The light armed they gave the name Veliti. Under this name they included all those who operated with the sling, cross-bow, and darts: and the greater part of them carried a helmet (head covering) and a shield on the arm for their defense. These men fought outside the regular ranks, and apart from the heavy armor, which was a Casque that came up to the shoulders, they also carried a Cuirass which, with the skirt, came down to the knees, and their arms and legs were covered by shin-guards and bracelets; they also carried a shield on the arm, two arms in length and one in width, which had an iron hoop on it to be able to sustain a blow, and another underneath, so that in rubbing on the ground, it should not be worn out. For attacking, they had cinched on their left side a sword of an arm and a half length, and a dagger on the right side. They carried a spear, which they called Pilus, and which they hurled at the enemy at the start of a battle. These were the important Roman arms, with which they conquered the world. And although some of the ancient writers also gave them, in addition to the aforementioned arms, a shaft in the hand in the manner of a spit, I do not know how a staff can be used by one who holds a shield, for in managing it with two hands it is impeded by the shield, and he cannot do anything worthwhile with one hand because of its heaviness. In addition to this, to combat in the ranks with the staff (as arms) is useless, except in the front rank where there is ample space to deploy the entire staff, which cannot be done in the inner ranks, because the nature of the battalions ((as I will tell you in their organization)) is to press its ranks continually closer together, as this is feared less, even though inconvenient, than for the ranks to spread further apart, where the danger is most apparent. So that all the arms which exceed two arms in length are useless in tight places; for if you have a staff and want to use it with both hands, and handled so that the shield should not annoy you, you cannot attack an enemy with it who is next to you. If you take it in one hand in order to serve yourself of the shield, you cannot pick it up except in the middle, and there remains so much of the staff in the back part, that those who are behind impede you in using it. And that this is true, that the Romans did not have the staff, or, having it, they valued it little, you will read in all the engagements noted by Titus Livius in his history, where you will see that only very rarely is mention made of the shaft, rather he always says that, after hurling the spears, they put their hands on the sword. Therefore I want to leave this staff, and relate how much the Romans used the sword for offense, and for defense, the shield together with the other arms mentioned above.
The Greeks did not arm so heavily for defense as did the Romans, but in the offense relied more on this staff than on the sword, and especially the Phalanxes of Macedonia, who carried staffs which they called Sarisse, a good ten arms in length, with which they opened the ranks of the enemy and maintained order in the Phalanxes. And although other writers say they also had a shield, I do not know ((for the reasons given above)) how the Sarisse and the shield could exist together. In addition to this, in the engagement that Paulus Emilius had with Perseus, King of Macedonia, I do not remember mention being made of shields, but only of the Sarisse and the difficulty the Romans had in overcoming them. So that I conjecture that a Macedonian Phalanx was nothing else than a battalion of Swiss is today, who have all their strength and power in their pikes. The Romans ((in addition to the arms)) ornamented the infantry with plumes; which things make the sight of an army beautiful to friends, and terrible to the enemy. The arms for men on horseback in the original ancient Roman (army) was a round shield, and they had the head covered, but the rest (of the body) without armor. They had a sword and a staff with an iron point, long and thin; whence they were unable to hold the shield firm, and only make weak movements with the staff, and because they had no armor, they were exposed to wounds. Afterwards, with time, they were armed like the infantry, but the shield was much smaller and square, and the staff more solid and with two iron tips, so that if the one side was encumbered, they could avail themselves of the other. With these arms, both for the infantry and the cavalry, my Romans occupied all the world, and it must be believed, from the fruits that are observed, that they were the best armed armies that ever existed.
And Titus Livius, in his histories, gives many proofs, where, in coming to the comparison with enemy armies, he says, "but the Romans were superior in virtu, kinds of arms, and discipline". And, therefore, I have discussed more in particular the arms of the victors than those of the losers. It appears proper to me to discuss only the present methods of arming. The infantry have for their defense a breast plate of iron, and for offense a lance nine armlengths long, which they call a pike, and a sword at their side, rather round in the point than sharp. This is the ordinary armament of the infantry today, for few have their arms and shins (protected by) armor, no one the head; and those few carry a halberd in place of a pike, the shaft of which ((as you know)) is three armlengths long, and has the iron attached as an axe. Among them they have three Scoppettieri (Exploders, i.e., Gunners), who, with a burst of fire fill that office which anciently was done by slingers and bow-men. This method of arming was established by the Germans, and especially by the Swiss, who, being poor and wanting to live in freedom, were, and are, obliged to combat with the ambitions of the Princes of Germany, who were rich and could raise horses, which that people could not do because of poverty: whence it happened that being on foot and wanting to defend themselves from enemies who were on horseback, it behooved them to search the ancient orders and find arms which should defend them from the fury of horses. This necessity has caused them to maintain or rediscover the ancient orders, without which, as every prudent man affirms, the infantry is entirely useless. They therefore take up pikes as arms, which are most useful not only in sustaining (the attacks of) horses, but to overcome them. And because of the virtu of these arms and ancient orders, the Germans have assumed so much audacity, that fifteen or twenty thousand of them would assault any great number of horse, and there have been many examples of this seen in the last twenty five years. And this example of their virtu founded on these arms and these orders have been so powerful, that after King Charles passed into Italy, every nation has imitated them: so that the Spanish armies have come into a very great reputation.
COSIMO: What method of arms do you praise more, this German one or the ancient Roman?
FABRIZIO: The Roman without any doubt, and I will tell you the good and the bad of one and the other. The German infantry can sustain and overcome the cavalry. They are more expeditious in marching and in organizing themselves, because they are not burdened with arms. On the other hand, they are exposed to blows from near and far because of being unarmed. They are useless in land battles and in every fight where there is stalwart resistance. But the Romans sustained and overcame the cavalry, as these (Germans) do. They were safe from blows near and far because they were covered with armor. They were better able to attack and sustain attacks having the shields. They could more actively in tight places avail themselves of the sword than these (Germans) with the pike; and even if the latter had the sword, being without a shield, they become, in such a case, (equally) useless. They (the Romans) could safely assault towns, having the body covered, and being able to cover it even better with the shield. So that they had no other inconvenience than the heaviness of the arms (armor) and the annoyance of having to carry them; which inconveniences they overcame by accustoming the body to hardships and inducing it to endure hard work. And you know we do not suffer from things to which we are accustomed. And you must understand this, that the infantry must be able to fight with infantry and cavalry, and those are always useless who cannot sustain the (attacks of the) cavalry, or if they are able to sustain them, none the less have fear of infantry who are better armed and organized than they. Now if you will consider the German and the Roman infantry, you will find in the German ((as we have said)) the aptitude of overcoming cavalry, but great disadvantages when fighting with an infantry organized as they are, and armed as the Roman. So that there will be this advantage of the one over the other, that the Romans could overcome both the infantry and the cavalry, and the Germans only the cavalry.
COSIMO: I would desire that you give some more particular example, so that we might understand it better.
FABRIZIO: I say thusly, that in many places in our histories you will find the Roman infantry to have defeated numberless cavalry, but you will never find them to have been defeated by men on foot because of some defect they may have had in their arms or because of some advantage the enemy had in his. For if their manner of arming had been defective, it was necessary for them to follow one of two courses: either when they found one who was better armed than they, not to go on further with the conquest, or that they take up the manner of the foreigner, and leave off theirs: and since neither ensued, there follows, what can be easily conjectured, that this method of arming was better than that of anyone else. This has not yet occurred with the German infantry; for it has been seen that anytime they have had to combat with men on foot organized and as obstinate as they, they have made a bad showing; which results from the disadvantage they have in trying themselves against the arms of the enemy. When Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan, was assaulted by eighteen thousand Swiss, he sent against them Count Carmingnuola, who was his Captain at that time. This man with six thousand cavalry and a few infantry went to encounter them, and, coming hand to hand with them, was repulsed with very great damage. Whence Carmingnuola as a prudent man quickly recognized the power of the enemy arms, and how much they prevailed against cavalry, and the weakness of cavalry against those on foot so organized; and regrouping his forces, again went to meet the Swiss, and as they came near he made his men-at-arms descend from their horses, and in that manner fought with them, and killed all but three thousand, who, seeing themselves consumed without having any remedy, threw their arms on the ground and surrendered.
COSIMO: Whence arises such a disadvantage?
FABRIZIO: I have told you a little while ago, but since you have not understood it, I will repeat it to you. The German infantry ((as was said a little while ago)) has almost no armor in defending itself, and use pikes and swords for offense. They come with these arms and order of battle to meet the enemy, who ((if he is well equipped with armor to defend himself, as were the men-at-arms of Carmingnuola who made them descend to their feet)) comes with his sword and order of battle to meet him, and he has no other difficulty than to come near the Swiss until he makes contact with them with the sword; for as soon as he makes contact with them, he combats them safely, for the German cannot use the pike against the enemy who is next to him because of the length of the staff, so he must use the sword, which is useless to him, as he has no armor and has to meet an enemy that is (protected) fully by armor. Whence, whoever considers the advantages and disadvantages of one and the other, will see that the one without armor has no remedy, but the one well armored will have no difficulty in overcoming the first blow and the first passes of the pike: for in battles, as you will understand better when I have demonstrated how they are put together, the men go so that of necessity they accost each other in a way that they are attacked on the breast, and if one is killed or thrown to the ground by the pike, those on foot who remain are so numerous that they are sufficient for victory. From this there resulted that Carmingnuola won with such a massacre of the Swiss, and with little loss to himself.
COSIMO: I see that those with Carmingnuola were men-at-arms, who, although they were on foot, were all covered with iron (armor), and, therefore, could make the attempt that they made; so that I think it would be necessary to arm the infantry in the same way if they want to make a similar attempt.
FABRIZIO: If you had remembered how I said the Romans were armed, you would not think this way. For an infantryman who has his head covered with iron, his breast protected by a cuirass and a shield, his arms and legs with armor, is much more apt to defend himself from pikes, and enter among them, than is a man-at-arms (cavalryman) on foot. I want to give you a small modem example. The Spanish infantry had descended from Sicily into the Kingdom of Naples in order to go and meet Consalvo who was besieged in Barletta by the French. They came to an encounter against Monsignor D'Obigni with his men-at-arms, and with about four thousand German infantry. The Germans, coming hand to hand with their pikes low, penetrated the (ranks of the) Spanish infantry; but the latter, aided by their spurs and the agility of their bodies, intermingled themselves with the Germans, so that they (the Germans) could not get near them with their swords; whence resulted the death of almost all of them, and the victory of the Spaniards. Everyone knows how many German infantry were killed in the engagement at Ravenna, which resulted from the same causes, for the Spanish infantry got as close as the reach of their swords to the German infantry, and would have destroyed all of them, if the German infantry had not been succored by the French Cavalry: none the less, the Spaniards pressing together made themselves secure in that place. I conclude, therefore, that a good infantry not only is able to sustain the (attack) of cavalry, but does not have fear of infantry, which ((as I have said many times)) proceeds from its arms (armor) and organization (discipline).
COSIMO: Tell us, therefore, how you would arm them.
FABRIZIO: I would take both the Roman arms and the German, and would want half to be armed as the Romans, and the other half as the Germans. For, if in six thousand infantry ((as I shall explain a little later)) I should have three thousand infantry with shields like the Romans, and two thousand pikes and a thousand gunners like the Germans, they would be enough for me; for I would place the pikes either in the front lines of the battle, or where I should fear the cavalry most; and of those with the shield and the sword, I would serve myself to back up the pikes and to win the engagement, as I will show you. So that I believe that an infantry so organized should surpass any other infantry today.
COSIMO: What you have said to us is enough as regards infantry, but as to cavalry, we desire to learn which seems the more strongly armed to you, ours or that of the ancients?
FABRIZIO: I believe in these times, with respect to saddles and stirrups not used by the ancients, one stays more securely on the horse than at that time. I believe we arm more securely: so that today one squadron of very heavily (armed) men-at-arms comes to be sustained with much more difficulty than was the ancient cavalry. With all of this, I judge, none the less, that no more account ought to be taken of the cavalry than was taken anciently; for ((as has been said above)) they have often in our times been subjected to disgrace by the infantry armed (armored) and organized as (described) above. Tigranus, King of Armenia, came against the Roman army of which Lucullus was Captain, with (an army) of one hundred fifty thousand cavalry, among whom were many armed as our men-at-arms, whom they called Catafratti, while on the other side the Romans did not total more than six thousand (cavalry) and fifteen thousand infantry; so that Tigranus, when he saw the army of the enemy, said: "These are just about enough horsemen for an embassy". None the less, when they came to battle, he was routed; and he who writes of that battle blames those Catafratti, showing them to be useless, because, he says, that having their faces covered, their vision was impaired and they were little adept at seeing and attacking the enemy, and as they were heavily burdened by the armor, they could not regain their feet when they fell, nor in any way make use of their persons. I say, therefore, that those People or Kingdoms which esteem the cavalry more than the infantry, are always weaker and more exposed to complete ruin, as has been observed in Italy in our times, which has been plundered, ruined, and overrun by foreigners, not for any other fault than because they had paid little attention to the foot soldiers and had mounted all their soldiers on horses. Cavalry ought to be used, but as a second and not the first reliance of an army; for they are necessary and most useful in undertaking reconnaissance, in overrunning and despoiling the enemy country, and to keep harassing and troubling the enemy army so as to keep it continually under arms, and to impede its provisions; but as to engagements and battles in the field, which are the important things in war and the object for which armies are organized, they are more useful in pursuing than in routing the enemy, and are much more inferior to the foot soldier in accomplishing the things necessary in accomplishing such (defeats).
COSIMO: But two doubts occur to me: the one, that I know that the Parthians did not engage in war except with cavalry, yet they divided the world with the Romans: the other, that I would like you to tell me how the (attack of) the cavalry can be sustained by the infantry, and whence arises the virtu of the latter and the weakness of the former?
FABRIZIO: Either I have told you, or I meant to tell you, that my discussion on matters of war is not going beyond the limits of Europe. Since this is so, I am not obliged to give reasons for that which is the custom in Asia. Yet, I have this to say, that the army of Parthia was completely opposite to that of the Romans, as the Parthians fought entirely on horseback, and in the fighting was about confused and disrupted, and was a way of fighting unstable and full of uncertainties. The Romans, it may be recalled, were almost all on foot, and fought pressed closely together, and at various times one won over the other, according as the site (of the battle) was open or tight; for in the latter the Romans were superior, but in the former the Parthians, who were able to make a great trial with that army with respect to the region they had to defend, which was very open with a seacoast a thousand miles distant, rivers two or three days (journey) apart from each other, towns likewise, and inhabitants rare: so that a Roman army, heavy and slow because of its arms and organization, could not pursue him without suffering great harm, because those who defended the country were on horses and very speedy, so that he would be in one place today, and tomorrow fifty miles distant. Because of this, the Parthians were able to prevail with cavalry alone, and thus resulted the ruin of the army of Crassus, and the dangers to those of Marcantonio. But ((as I have said)) I did not intend in this discussion of mine to speak of armies outside of Europe; and, therefore, I want to continue on those which the Romans and Greeks had organized in their time, and that the Germans do today.
¶ But let us come to the other question of yours, in which you desire to know what organization or what natural virtu causes the infantry to be superior to the cavalry. And I tell you, first, that the horses cannot go in all the places that the infantry do, because it is necessary for them either to turn back after they have come forward, or turning back to go forward, or to move from a stand-still, or to stand still after moving, so that, without doubt, the cavalry cannot do precisely thus as the infantry. Horses cannot, after being put into disorder from some attack, return to the order (of the ranks) except with difficulty, and even if the attack does not occur; the infantry rarely do this. In addition to this, it often occurs that a courageous man is mounted on a base horse, and a base man on a courageous horse, whence it must happen that this difference in courage causes disorders. Nor should anyone wonder that a Knot (group) of infantry sustains every attack of the cavalry, for the horse is a sensible animal and knows the dangers, and goes in unwillingly. And if you would think about what forces make him (the horse) go forward and what keep him back, without doubt you will see that those which hold him back are greater than those which push him; for spurs make him go forward, and, on the other hand, the sword and the pike retain him. So that from both ancient and modem experiences, it has been seen that a small group of infantry can be very secure from, and even actually insuperable to, the cavalry. And if you should argue on this that the Elan with which he comes makes it more furious in hurling himself against whoever wants to sustain his attack, and he responds less to the pike than the spur, I say that, as soon as the horse so disposed begins to see himself at the point of being struck by the points of the pikes, either he will by himself check his gait, so that he will stop as soon as he sees himself about to be pricked by them, or, being pricked by them, he will turn to the right or left. If you want to make a test of this, try to run a horse against a wall, and rarely will you find one that will run into it, no matter with what Elan you attempt it. Caesar, when he had to combat the Swiss in Gaul, dismounted and made everyone dismount to their feet, and had the horses removed from the ranks, as they were more adept at fleeing than fighting.
¶ But, notwithstanding these natural impediments that horses have, the Captain who leads the infantry ought to select roads that have as many obstacles for horses as possible, and rarely will it happen that the men will not be able to provide for their safety from the kind of country. If one marches among hills, the location of the march should be such that you may be free from those attacks of which you may be apprehensive; and if you go on the plains, rarely will you find one that does not have crops or woods which will provide some safety for you, for every bush and embankment, even though small, breaks up that dash, and every cultivated area where there are vines and other trees impedes the horses. And if you come to an engagement, the same will happen to you as when marching, because every little impediment which the horse meets cause him to lose his fury. None the less, I do not want to forget to tell you one thing, that although the Romans esteemed much their own discipline and trusted very much on their arms (and armor), that if they had to select a place, either so rough to protect themselves from horses and where they could not be able to deploy their forces, or one where they had more to fear from the horses but where they were able to spread out, they would always take the latter and leave the former.
¶ But, as it is time to pass on to the training (of the men), having armed this infantry according to the ancient and modem usage, we shall see what training they gave to the Romans before the infantry were led to battle. Although they were well selected and better armed, they were trained with the greatest attention, because without this training a soldier was never any good. This training consisted of three parts. The first, to harden the body and accustom it to endure hardships, to act faster, and more dexterously. Next, to teach the use of arms: The third, to teach the trainees the observance of orders in marching as well as fighting and encamping. These are the three principal actions which make an army: for if any army marches, encamps, and fights, in a regular and practical manner, the Captain retains his honor even though the engagement should not have a good ending. All the ancient Republics, therefore, provided such training, and both by custom and law, no part was left out. They therefore trained their youth so as to make them speedy in running, dextrous in jumping, strong in driving stakes and wrestling. And these three qualities are almost necessary in a soldier; for speed makes him adept at occupying places before the enemy, to come upon him unexpectedly, and to pursue him when he is routed. Dexterity makes him adept at avoiding blows, jumping a ditch and climbing over an embankment. Strength makes him better to carry arms, hurl himself against an enemy, and sustain an attack. And above all, to make the body more inured to hardships, they accustom it to carry great weights. This accustoming is necessary, for in difficult expeditions it often happens that the soldier, in addition to his arms, must carry provisions for many days, and if he had not been accustomed to this hard work, he would not be able to do it, and, hence, he could neither flee from a danger nor acquire a victory with fame.
¶ As to the teaching of the use of arms, they were trained in this way. They had the young men put on arms (armor) which weighed more than twice that of the real (regular) ones, and, as a sword, they gave them a leaded club which in comparison was very heavy. They made each one of them drive a pole into the ground so that three arm-lengths remained (above ground), and so firmly fixed that blows would not drive it to one side or have it fall to the ground; against this pole, the young men were trained with the shield and the club as against an enemy, and sometime they went against it as if they wanted to wound the head or the face, another time as if they wanted to puncture the flank, sometimes the legs, sometime they drew back, another time they went forward. And in this training, they had in mind making themselves adept at covering (protecting) themselves and wounding the enemy; and since the feigned arms were very heavy, the real ones afterwards seemed light. The Romans wanted their soldiers to wound (the enemy) by the driving of a point against him, rather than by cutting (slashing), as much because such a blow was more fatal and had less defense against it, as also because it left less uncovered (unprotected) those who were wounding, making him more adept at repeating his attack, than by slashing. Do you not wonder that those ancients should think of these minute details, for they reasoned that where men had to come hand to hand (in battle), every little advantage is of the greatest importance; and I will remind you of that, because the writers say of this that I have taught it to you. Nor did the ancients esteem it a more fortunate thing in a Republic than to have many of its men trained in arms; for it is not the splendor of jewels and gold that makes the enemy submit themselves to you, but only the fear of arms. Moreover, errors made in other things can sometimes be corrected afterwards, but those that are made in war, as the punishment happens immediately, cannot be corrected. In addition to this, knowing how to fight makes men more audacious, as no one fears to do the things which appear to him he has been taught to do. The ancients, therefore, wanted their citizens to train in every warlike activity; and even had them throw darts against the pole heavier than the actual ones: which exercise, in addition to making men expert in throwing, also makes the arm more limber and stronger. They also taught them how to draw the bow and the sling, and placed teachers in charge of doing all these things: so that when (men) were selected to go to war, they were already soldiers in spirit and disposition. Nor did these remain to teach them anything else than to go by the orders and maintain themselves in them whether marching or combatting: which they easily taught by mixing themselves with them, so that by knowing how to keep (obey) the orders, they could exist longer in the army.
COSIMO: Would you have them train this way now?
FABRIZIO: Many of those which have been mentioned, like running wrestling, making them jump, making them work hard under arms heavier than the ordinary, making them draw the crossbow and the sling; to which I would add the light gun, a new instrument ((as you know)), and a necessary one. And I would accustom all the youth of my State to this training: but that part of them whom I have enrolled to fight, I would (especially) train with greater industry and more solicitude, and I would train them always on their free days. I would also desire that they be taught to swim, which is a very useful thing, because there are not always bridges at rivers, nor ships ready: so that if your army does not know how to swim, it may be deprived of many advantages, and many opportunities, to act well are taken away. The Romans, therefore, arranged that the young men be trained on the field of Mars, so that having the river Tiber nearby, they would be able after working hard in exercises on land to refresh themselves in the water, and also exercise them in their swimming.
¶ I would also do as the ancients and train those who fight on horseback: which is very necessary, for in addition to knowing how to ride, they would know how to avail themselves of the horse (in maneuvering him). And, therefore, they arranged horses of wood on which they straddled, and jumped over them armed and unarmed without any help and without using their hands: which made possible that in a moment, and at a sign from the Captain, the cavalry to become as foot soldiers, and also at another sign, for them to be remounted. And as such exercises, both on foot and horseback, were easy at that time, so now it should not be difficult for that Republic or that Prince to put them in practice on their youth, as is seen from the experience of Western Cities, where these methods similar to these institutions are yet kept alive.
¶ They divide all their inhabitants into several parts, and assign one kind of arms of those they use in war to each part. And as they used pikes, halberds, bows, and light guns, they called them pikemen, halberdiers, archers, and gunners. It therefore behooved all the inhabitants to declare in what order they wanted to be enrolled. And as all, whether because of age or other impediment, are not fit for war (combat), they make a selection from each order and they call them the Giurati (Sworn Ones), who, on their free days, are obliged to exercise themselves in those arms in which they are enrolled: and each one is assigned his place by the public where such exercises are to be carried on, and those who are of that order but are not sworn, participate by (contributing) money for those expenses which are necessary for such exercises. That which they do, therefore, we can do, but our little prudence does not allow us to take up any good proceeding.
From these exercises, it resulted that the ancients had good infantry, and that now those of the West have better infantry than ours, for the ancients exercised either at home as did those Republics, or in the armies as did those Emperors, for the reasons mentioned above. But we do not want to exercise at home, and we cannot do so in the field because they are not our subjects and we cannot obligate them to other exercises than they themselves want. This reason has caused the armies to die out first, and then the institutions, so that the Kingdoms and the Republics, especially the Italian, exist in such a weak condition today.
¶ But let us return to our subject, and pursuing this matter of training, I say, that it is not enough in undertaking good training to have hardened the men, made them strong, fast and dextrous, but it is also necessary to teach them to keep discipline, obey the signs, the sounds (of the bugle), and the voice of the Captain; to know when to stand, to retire, to go forward, and when to combat, to march, to maintain ranks; for without this discipline, despite every careful diligence observed and practiced, an army is never good. And without doubt, bold but undisciplined men are more weak than the timid but disciplined ones; for discipline drives away fear from men, lack of discipline makes the bold act foolishly. And so that you may better understand what will be mentioned below, you have to know that every nation has made its men train in the discipline of war, or rather its army as the principal part, which, if they have varied in name, they have varied little in the numbers of men involved, as all have comprised six to eight thousand men. This number was called a Legion by the Romans, a Phalanx by the Greeks, a Caterna by the Gauls. This same number, by the Swiss, who alone retain any of that ancient military umbrage, in our times is called in their language what in ours signifies a Battalion. It is true that each one is further subdivided into small Battaglia (Companies), and organized according to its purpose. It appears to me, therefore, more suitable to base our talk on this more notable name, and then according to the ancient and modern systems, arrange them as best as is possible. And as the Roman Legions were composed of five or six thousand men, in ten Cohorts, I want to divide our Battalion into ten Companies, and compose it of six thousand men on foot; and assign four hundred fifty men to each Company, of whom four hundred are heavily armed and fifty lightly armed: the heavily armed include three hundred with shields and swords, and will be called Scudati (shield bearers), and a hundred with pikes, and will be called pikemen: the lightly armed are fifty infantry armed with light guns, cross-bows, halberds, and bucklers, and these, from an ancient name, are called regular (ordinary) Veliti: the whole ten Companies, therefore, come to three thousand shield bearers; a thousand ordinary pikemen, and one hundred fifty ordinary Veliti, all of whom comprise (a number of) four thousand five hundred infantry. And we said we wanted to make a Battalion of six thousand men; therefore it is necessary to add another one thousand five hundred infantry, of whom I would make a thousand with pikes, whom I will call extraordinary pikemen, (and five hundred light armed, whom I will call extraordinary Veliti): and thus my infantry would come ((according as was said a little while ago)) to be composed half of shield bearers and half among pikemen and other arms (carriers). In every Company, I would put in charge a Constable, four Centurions, and forty Heads of Ten, and in addition, a Head of the ordinary Veliti with five Heads of Ten. To the thousand extraordinary pikemen, I would assign three Constables, ten Centurions, and a hundred Heads of Ten: to the extraordinary Veliti, two Constables, five Centurions, and fifty Heads of Ten. I would also assign a general Head for the whole Battalion. I would want each Constable to have a distinct flag and (bugle) sound.
¶ Summarizing, therefore, a Battalion would be composed of ten Companies, of three thousand shield bearers, a thousand ordinary pikemen, a thousand extraordinary pikemen, five hundred ordinary Veliti, and five hundred extraordinary Veliti: thus they would come to be six thousand infantry, among whom there would be one thousand five hundred Heads of Ten, and in addition fifteen Constables, with fifteen Buglers and fifteen flags, fifty five Centurions, ten Captains of ordinary Veliti, and one Captain for the whole Battalion with its flag and Bugler. And I have knowingly repeated this arrangement many times, so that then, when I show you the methods for organizing the Companies and the armies, you will not be confounded.
¶ I say, therefore, that any King or Republic which would want to organize its subjects in arms, would provide them with these parties and these arms, and create as many battalions in the country as it is capable of doing: and if it had organized it according to the division mentioned above, and wanting to train it according to the orders, they need only to be trained Company by Company. And although the number of men in each of them could not be themselves provide a reasonably (sized) army, none the less, each man can learn to do what applies to him in particular, for two orders are observed in the armies: the one, what men ought to do in each Company: the other, what the Company ought to do afterwards when it is with others in an army: and those men who carry out the first, will easily observe the second: but without the first, one can never arrive at the discipline of the second. Each of these Companies, therefore, can by themselves learn to maintain (discipline in) their ranks in every kind and place of action, and then to know how to assemble, to know its (particular bugle) call, through which it is commanded in battle; to know how to recognize by it ((as galleys do from the whistle)) as to what they have to do, whether to stay put, or go forward, or turn back, or the time and place to use their arms. So that knowing how to maintain ranks well, so that neither the action nor the place disorganizes them, they understand well the commands of the leader by means of the (bugle) calls, and knowing how to reassemble quickly, these Companies then can easily ((as I have said)), when many have come together, learn to do what each body of them is obligated to do together with other Companies in operating as a reasonably (sized) army. And as such a general practice also is not to be esteemed little, all the Battalions can be brought together once or twice in the years of peace, and give them a form of a complete army, training it for several days as if it should engage in battle, placing the front lines, the flanks, and auxiliaries in their (proper) places.
¶ And as a Captain arranges his army for the engagement either taking into account the enemy he sees, or for that which he does not see but is apprehensive of, the army ought to be trained for both contingencies, and instructed so that it can march and fight when the need arises; showing your soldiers how they should conduct themselves if they should be assaulted by this band or that. And when you instruct them to fight against an enemy they can see, show them how the battle is enkindled, where they have to retire without being repulsed, who has to take their places, what signs, what (bugle) calls, and what voice they should obey, and to practice them so with Companies and by mock attacks, that they have the desire for real battle. For a courageous army is not so because the men in it are courageous, but because the ranks are well disciplined; for if I am of the first line fighters, and being overcome, I know where I have to retire, and who is to take my place, I will always fight with courage seeing my succor nearby: If I am of the second line fighters, I would not be dismayed at the first line being pushed back and repulsed, for I would have presupposed it could happen, and I would have desired it in order to be he who, as it was not them, would give the victory to my patron. Such training is most necessary where a new army is created; and where the army is old (veteran), it is also necessary for, as the Romans show, although they knew the organization of their army from childhood, none the less, those Captains, before they came to an encounter with the enemy, continually exercised them in those disciplines. And Joseph in his history says, that the continual training of the Roman armies resulted in all the disturbance which usually goes on for gain in a camp, was of no effect in an engagement, because everyone knew how to obey orders and to fight by observing them. But in the armies of new men which you have to put together to combat at the time, or that you caused to be organized to combat in time, nothing is done without this training, as the Companies are different as in a complete army; for as much discipline is necessary, it must be taught with double the industry and effort to those who do not have it, and be maintained in those who have it, as is seen from the fact that many excellent Captains have tired themselves without any regard to themselves.
COSIMO: And it appears to me that this discussion has somewhat carried you away, for while you have not yet mentioned the means with which Companies are trained, you have discussed engagements and the complete army.
FABRIZIO: You say the truth, and truly the reason is the affection I have for these orders, and the sorrow that I feel seeing that they are not put into action: none the less, have no fear, but I shall return to the subject. As I have told you, of first importance in the training of the Company is to know how to maintain ranks. To do this, it is necessary to exercise them in those orders, which they called Chiocciole (Spiralling). And as I told you that one of these Companies ought to consist of four hundred heavily armed infantry, I will stand on this number. They should, therefore, be arranged into eighty ranks (files), with five per file. Then continuing on either strongly or slowly, grouping them and dispersing them; which, when it is done, can be demonstrated better by deeds than by words: afterwards, it becomes less necessary, for anyone who is practiced in these exercises knows how this order proceeds, which is good for nothing else but to accustom the soldiers to maintain ranks. But let us come and put together one of those Companies.
I say that these can be formed in three ways: the first and most useful is to make it completely massive and give it the form of two squares: the second is to make the square with a homed front: the third is to make it with a space in the center, which they call Piazza (plaza). The method of putting together the first form can be in two steps. The first is to have the files doubled, that is, that the second file enters the first, the fourth into the third, and sixth into the fifth, and so on in succession; so that where there were eighty files and five (men) per file, they become forty files and ten per file. Then make them double another time in the same manner, placing one file within the other, and thus they become twenty files of twenty men per file. This makes almost a square, for although there are so many men on one side (of the square) as the other, none the less, on the side of the front, they come together so that (the side of) one man touches the next; but on the other side (of the square) the men are distant at least two arm lengths from each other, so that the square is longer from the front to the back (shoulders), then from one side (flank) to the other. (So that the rectangle thus formed is called two squares).
¶ And as we have to talk often today of the parts in front, in the rear, and on the side of this Company, and of the complete army, you will understand that when I will say either head or front, I mean to say the part in front; when I say shoulder, the part behind (rear); when I say flanks, the parts on the side.
¶ The fifty ordinary Veliti of the company are not mixed in with the other files, but when the company is formed, they extend along its flanks.
¶ The other method of putting together (forming) the company is this; and because it is better than the first, I want to place in front of your eyes in detail how it ought to be organized. I believe you remember the number of men and the heads which compose it, and with what arms it is armed. The form, therefore, that this company ought to have is ((as I have said)) of twenty files, twenty men per file, five files of pikemen in front, and fifteen files of shield bearers on the shoulders (behind); two centurions are in front and two behind in the shoulders who have the office of those whom the ancients called Tergiduttori (Rear-leaders): The Constable, with the flag and bugler, is in that space which is between the five files of pikemen and the fifteen of shield-bearers: there is one of the Captains of the Ten on every flank, so that each one is alongside his men, those who are on the left side of his right hand, those on the right side on his left hand. The fifty Veliti are on the flanks and shoulders (rear) of the company. If it is desired, now, that regular infantry be employed, this company is put together in this form, and it must organize itself thusly: Have the infantry be brought to eighty files, five per file, as we said a little while ago; leaving the Veliti at the head and on the tail (rear), even though they are outside this arrangement; and it ought to be so arranged that each Centurion has twenty files behind him on the shoulders, and those immediately behind every Centurion are five files of pikemen, and the remaining shield-bearers: the Constable, with his flag and bugler, is in that space that is between the pikemen and the shield-bearers of the second Centurion, and occupies the places of three shield-bearers: twenty of the Heads of Ten are on the Flanks of the first Centurion on the left hand, and twenty are on the flanks of the last Centurion on the right hand. And you have to understand, that the Head of Ten who has to guide (lead) the pikemen ought to have a pike, and those who guide the shield-bearers ought to have similar arms.
¶ The files, therefore, being brought to this arrangement, and if it is desired, by marching, to bring them into the company to form the head (front), you have to cause the first Centurion to stop with the first file of twenty, and the second to continue to march; and turning to the right (hand) he goes along the flanks of the twenty stopped files, so that he comes head-to-head with the other Centurion, where he too stops; and the third Centurion continues to march, also turning to the right (hand), and marches along the flanks of the stopped file so that he comes head-to-head with the other two Centurions; and when he also stops, the other Centurion follows with his file, also going to the right along the flanks of the stopped file, so that he arrives at the head (front) with the others, and then he stops; and the two Centurions who are alone quickly depart from the front and go to the rear of the company, which becomes formed in that manner and with those orders to the point which we showed a little while ago. The Veliti extend themselves along its flanks, according as they were disposed in the first method; which method is called Doubling by the straight line, and this last (method) is called Doubling by the flanks.
The first method is easier, while this latter is better organized, and is more adaptable, and can be better controlled by you, for it must be carried out by the numbers, that from five you make ten, ten twenty, twenty forty: so that by doubling at your direction, you cannot make a front of fifteen, or twenty five or thirty or thirty five, but you must proceed to where the number is less. And yet, every day, it happens in particular situations, that you must make a front with six or eight hundred infantry, so that the doubling by the straight line will disarrange you: yet this (latter) method pleases me more, and what difficulty may exist, can be more easily overcome by the proper exercise and practice of it.
¶ I say to you, therefore, that it is more important than anything to have soldiers who know how to form themselves quickly, and it is necessary in holding them in these Companies, to train them thoroughly, and have them proceed bravely forward or backward, to pass through difficult places without disturbing the order; for the soldiers who know how to do this well, are experienced soldiers, and although they may have never met the enemy face to face, they can be called seasoned soldiers; and, on the contrary, those who do not know how to maintain this order, even if they may have been in a thousand wars, ought always to be considered as new soldiers. This applies in forming them when they are marching in small files: but if they are formed, and then become broken because of some accident that results either from the location or from the enemy, to reorganize themselves immediately is the important and difficult thing, in which much training and practice is needed, and in which the ancients placed much emphasis. It is necessary, therefore, to do two things: first, to have many countersigns in the Company: the other, always to keep this arrangement, that the same infantry always remain in the same file. For instance, if one is commanded to be in the second (file), he will afterwards always stay there, and not only in this same file, but in the same position (in the file); it is to be observed ((as I have said)) how necessary are the great number of countersigns, so that, coming together with other companies, it may be recognized by its own men. Secondly, that the Constable and Centurion have tufts of feathers on their head-dress different and recognizable, and what is more important, to arrange that the Heads of Ten be recognized. To which the ancients paid very much attention, that nothing else would do, but that they wrote numbers on their bucklers, calling then the first, second, third, fourth, etc. And they were not above content with this, but each soldier had to write on his shield the number of his file, and the number of his place assigned him in that file. The men, therefore, being thus countersigned (assigned), and accustomed to stay within these limits, if they should be disorganized, it is easy to reorganize them all quickly, for the flag staying fixed, the Centurions and Heads of Ten can judge their place by eye, and bring the left from the right, or the right from the left, with the usual distances between; the infantry guided by their rules and by the difference in countersigns, can quickly take their proper places, just as, if you were the staves of a barrel which you had first countersigned, I would wager you would put it (the barrel) back together with great ease, but if you had not so countersigned them (the staves), it is impossible to reassemble (the barrel). This system, with diligence and practice, can be taught quickly, and can be quickly learned, and once learned are forgotten with difficulty; for new men are guided by the old, and in time, a province which has such training, would become entirely expert in war. It is also necessary to teach them to turn in step, and do so when he should turn from the flanks and by the soldiers in the front, or from the front to the flanks or shoulders (rear). This is very easy, for it is sufficient only that each man turns his body toward the side he is commanded to, and the direction in which they turned becomes the front. It is true that when they turn by the flank, the ranks which turn go outside their usual area, because there is a small space between the breast to the shoulder, while from one flank to the other there is much space, which is all contrary to the regular formation of the company. Hence, care should be used in employing it. But this is more important and where more practice is needed, is when a company wants to turn entirely, as if it was a solid body. Here, great care and practice must be employed, for if it is desired to turn to the left, for instance, it is necessary that the left wing be halted, and those who are closer to the halted one, march much slower then those who are in the right wing and have to run; otherwise everything would be in confusion.
But as it always happens when an army marches from place to place, that the companies not situated in front, not having to combat at the front, or at the flanks or shoulders (rear), have to move from the flank or shoulder quickly to the front, and when such companies in such cases have the space necessary as we indicated above, it is necessary that the pikemen they have on that flank become the front, and the Heads of the Ten, Centurions, and Constables belonging to it relocate to their proper places. Therefore, in wanting to do this, when forming them it is necessary to arrange the eighty files of five per file, placing all the pikemen in the first twenty files, and placing five of the Heads of Ten (of it) in the front of them and five in the rear: the other sixty files situated behind are all shield-bearers, who total to three hundred. It should therefore be so arranged, that the first and last file of every hundred of Heads of Ten; the Constable with his flag and bugler be in the middle of the first hundred (century) of shield-bearers; and the Centurions at the head of every century. Thus arranged, when you want the pikemen to be on the left flank, you have to double them, century by century, from the right flank: if you want them to be on the right flank, you have to double them from the left. And thus this company turns with the pikemen on the flank, with the Heads of Ten on the front and rear, with the Centurions at the front of them, and the Constable in the middle. Which formation holds when going forward; but when the enemy comes and the time for the (companies) to move from the flanks to the front, it cannot be done unless all the soldiers face toward the flank where the pikemen are, and then the company is turned with its files and heads in that manner that was described above; for the Centurions being on the outside, and all the men in their places, the Centurions quickly enter them (the ranks) without difficulty. But when they are marching frontwards, and have to combat in the rear, they must arrange the files so that, in forming the company, the pikes are situated in the rear; and to do this, no other order has to be maintained except that where, in the formation of the company ordinarily every Century has five files of pikemen in front, it now has them behind, but in all the other parts, observe the order that I have mentioned.
COSIMO: You have said ((if I remember well)) that this method of training is to enable them to form these companies into an army, and that this training serves to enable them to be arranged within it. But if it should occur that these four hundred fifty infantry have to operate as a separate party, how would you arrange them?
FABRIZIO: I will now guide you in judging where he wants to place the pikes, and who should carry them, which is not in any way contrary to the arrangement mentioned above, for although it may be the method that is observed when, together with other companies, it comes to an engagement, none the less, it is a rule that serves for all those methods, in which it should happen that you have to manage it. But in showing you the other two methods for arranging the companies, proposed by me, I will also better satisfy your question; for either they are never used, or they are used when the company is above, and not in the company of others.
And to come to the method of forming it with two horns (wings), I say, that you ought to arrange the eighty files at five per file in this way: place a Centurion in the middle, and behind him twenty five files that have two pikemen (each) on the left side, and three shield-bearers on the right: and after the first five, in the next twenty, twenty Heads of Ten be placed, all between the pikemen and shield-bearers, except that those (Heads) who carry pikes stay with the pikemen. Behind these twenty five files thusly arranged, another Centurion is placed who has fifteen files of shield-bearers behind him. After these, the Constable between the flag and the bugler, who also has behind him another fifteen files of shield-bearers. The third Centurion is placed behind these, and he has twenty five files behind him, in each of which are three shield-bearers on the left left side and two pikemen on the right: and after the first five files are twenty Heads of Ten placed between the pikemen and the shield-bearers. After these files, there is the fourth Centurion. If it is desired, therefore, to arrange these files to form a company with two horns (wings), the first Centurion has to be halted with the twenty five files which are behind him. The second Centurion then has to be moved with the fifteen shield-bearers who are on his rear, and turning to the right, and on the right flank of the twenty five files to proceed so far that he comes to the fifteen files, and here he halts. After, the Constable has to be moved with the fifteen files of shield bearers who are behind, and turning around toward the right, over by the right flank of the fifteen files which were moved first, marches so that he comes to their front, and here he halts. After, move the third Centurion with the twenty five files and with the fourth Centurion who is behind them, and turning to the right, march by the left flank of the last fifteen files of shield-bearers, and he does not halt until he is at the head of them, but continues marching up until the last files of twenty five are in line with the files behind. And, having done this, the Centurion who was Head of the first fifteen files of shield-bearers leaves the place where he was, and goes to the rear of the left angle. And thus he will turn a company of twenty five solid files, of twenty infantry per file, with two wings, on each side of his front, and there will remain a space between then, as much as would (be occupied by) by ten men side by side. The Captain will be between the two wings, and a Centurion in each corner of the wing. There will be two files of pikemen and twenty Heads of Ten on each flank. These two wings (serve to) hold between them that artillery, whenever the company has any with it, and the carriages. The Veliti have to stay along the flanks beneath the pikemen. But, in wanting to bring this winged (formed) company into the form of the piazza (plaza), nothing else need be done than to take eight of the fifteen files of twenty per file and place them between the points of the two horns (wings), which then from wings become the rear (shoulder) of the piazza (plaza). The carriages are kept in this plaza, and the Captain and the flag there, but not the artillery, which is put either in the front or along the flanks. These are the methods which can be used by a company when it has to pass by suspicious places by itself. None the less, the solid company, without wings and without the plaza, is best. But in wanting to make safe the disarmed ones, that winged one is necessary.
The Swiss also have many forms of companies, among which they form one in the manner of a cross, as in the spaces between the arms, they keep their gunners safe from the attacks of the enemy. But since such companies are good in fighting by themselves, and my intention is to show how several companies united together combat with the enemy, I do not belabor myself further in describing it.
COSIMO: And it appears to me I have very well comprehended the method that ought to be employed in training the men in these companies, but ((if I remember well)) you said that in addition to the ten companies in a Battalion, you add a thousand extraordinary pikemen and four hundred extraordinary Veliti. Would you not describe how to train these?
FABRIZIO: I would, and with the greatest diligence: and I would train the pikemen, group by group, at least in the formations of the companies, as the others; for I would serve myself of these more than of the ordinary companies, in all the particular actions, how to escort, to raid, and such things. But the Veliti I would train at home without bringing them together with the others, for as it is their office to combat brokenly (in the open, separately), it is not as necessary that they come together with the others or to train in common exercises, than to train them well in particular exercises. They ought, therefore, ((as was said in the beginning, and now it appears to me laborious to repeat it)) to train their own men in these companies so that they know how to maintain their ranks, know their places, return there quickly when either the evening or the location disrupts them; for when this is caused to be done, they can easily be taught the place the company has to hold and what its office should be in the armies. And if a Prince or a Republic works hard and puts diligence in these formations and in this training, it will always happen that there will be good soldiers in that country, and they will be superior to their neighbors, and will be those who give, and not receive, laws from other men. But ((as I have told you)) the disorder in which one exists, causes them to disregard and not to esteem these things, and, therefore, our training is not good: and even if there should be some heads or members naturally of virtue, they are unable to demonstrate it.
COSIMO: What carriages would you want each of these companies to have?
FABRIZIO: The first thing I would want is that the Centurions or the Heads of Ten should not go on horseback: and if the Constables want to ride mounted, I would want them to have a mule and not a horse. I would permit them two carriages, and one to each Centurion, and two to every three Heads of Ten, for they would quarter so many in each encampment, as we will narrate in its proper place. So that each company would have thirty six carriages, which I would have (them) to carry the necessary tents, cooking utensils, hatchets, digging bars, sufficient to make the encampment, and after that anything else of convenience.
COSIMO: I believe that Heads assigned by you in each of the companies are necessary: none the less, I would be apprehensive that so many commanders would be confusing.
FABRIZIO: They would be so if I would refer to one, but as I refer to many, they make for order; actually, without those (orders), it would be impossible to control them, for a wall which inclines on every side would need many and frequent supports, even if they are not so strong, but if few, they must be strong, for the virtu of only one, despite its spacing, can remedy any ruin. And so it must be that in the armies and among every ten men there is one of more life, of more heart, or at least of more authority, who with his courage, with words and by example keeps the others firm and disposed to fight. And these things mentioned by me, as the heads, the flags, the buglers, are necessary in an army, and it is seen that we have all these in our (present day) armies, but no one does his duty. First, the Heads of Ten, in desiring that those things be done because they are ordered, it is necessary ((as I have said)) for each of them to have his men separate, lodge with them, go into action with them, stay in the ranks with them, for when they are in their places, they are all of mind and temperament to maintain their ranks straight and firm, and it is impossible for them to become disrupted, or if they become disrupted, do not quickly reform their ranks. But today, they do not serve us for anything other than to give them more pay than the others, and to have them do some particular thing. The same happens with the flags, for they are kept rather to make a beautiful show, than for any military use. But the ancients served themselves of it as a guide and to reorganize themselves, for everyone, when the flag was standing firm, knew the place that he had to be near his flag, and always returned there. He also knew that if it were moving or standing still, he had to move or halt. It is necessary in an army, therefore, that there be many bodies, and that each body have its own flag and its own guide; for if they have this, it needs must be they have much courage and consequently, are livelier. The infantry, therefore, ought to march according to the flag, and the flag move according to the bugle (call), which call, if given well, commands the army, which proceeding in step with those, comes to serve the orders easily. Whence the ancients having whistles (pipes), fifes, and bugles, controlled (modulated) them perfectly; for, as he who dances proceeds in time with the music, and keeping with it does not make a miss-step, so an army obedient in its movement to that call (sound), will not become disorganized. And, therefore, they varied the calls according as they wanted to enkindle or quiet, or firm the spirits of men. And as the sounds were various, so they named them variously. The Doric call (sound) brought on constancy, Frigio, fury (boldness): whence they tell, that Alexander being at table, and someone sounding the Frigio call, it so excited his spirit that he took up arms. It would be necessary to rediscover all these methods, and if this is difficult, it ought not at least to be (totally) put aside by those who teach the soldier to obey; which each one can vary and arrange in his own way, so long as with practice he accustoms the ears of his soldiers to recognize them. But today, no benefit is gotten from these sounds in great part, other than to make noise.
COSIMO: I would desire to learn from you, if you have ever pondered this with yourself, whence such baseness and disorganization arises, and such negligence of this training in our times?
FABRIZIO: I will tell you willingly what I think. You know of the men excellent in war there have been many famed in Europe, few in Africa, and less in Asia. This results from (the fact that) these last two parts of the world have had a Principality or two, and few Republics; but Europe alone has had some Kingdoms and an infinite number of Republics. And men become excellent, and show their virtu, according as they are employed and recognized by their Prince, Republic, or King, whichever it may be. It happens, therefore, that where there is much power, many valiant men spring up, where there is little, few. In Asia, there are found Ninus, Cyrus, Artafersus, Mithradates, and very few others to accompany these. In Africa, there are noted ((omitting those of ancient Egypt)) Maximinius, Jugurtha, and those Captains who were raised by the Carthaginian Republic, and these are very few compared to those of Europe; for in Europe there are excellent men without number, and there would be many more, if there should be named together with them those others who have been forgotten by the malignity of the time, since the world has been more virtuous when there have been many States which have favored virtu, either from necessity or from other human passion. Few men, therefore, spring up in Asia, because, as that province was entirely subject to one Kingdom, in which because of its greatness there was indolence for the most part, it could not give rise to excellent men in business (activity). The same happened in Africa: yet several, with respect to the Carthaginian Republic, did arise. More excellent men come out of Republics than from Kingdoms, because in the former virtu is honored much of the time, in the Kingdom it is feared; whence it results that in the former, men of virtu are raised, in the latter they are extinguished. Whoever, therefore, considers the part of Europe, will find it to have been full of Republics and Principalities, which from the fear one had of the other, were constrained to keep alive their military organizations, and honor those who greatly prevailed in them. For in Greece, in addition to the Kingdom of the Macedonians, there were many Republics, and many most excellent men arose in each of them. In Italy, there were the Romans, the Samnites, the Tuscans, the Cisalpine Gauls. France and Germany were full of Republics and Princes. Spain, the very same. And although in comparison with the Romans, very few others were noted, it resulted from the malignity of the writers, who pursued fortune and to whom it was often enough to honor the victors. For it is not reasonable that among the Samnites and Tuscans, who fought fifty years with the Roman People before they were defeated, many excellent men should not have sprung up. And so likewise in France and Spain. But that virtu which the writers do not commemorate in particular men, they commemorate generally in the peoples, in which they exalt to the stars (skies) the obstinacy which existed in them in defending their liberty. It is true, therefore, that where there are many Empires, more valiant men spring up, and it follows, of necessity, that those being extinguished, little by little, virtu is extinguished, as there is less reason which causes men to become virtuous. And as the Roman Empire afterwards kept growing, and having extinguished all the Republics and Principalities of Europe and Africa, and in greater part those of Asis, no other path to virtu was left, except Rome. Whence it resulted that men of virtu began to be few in Europe as in Asia, which virtu ultimately came to decline; for all the virtu being brought to Rome, and as it was corrupted, so almost the whole world came to be corrupted, and the Scythian people were able to come to plunder that Empire, which had extinguished the virtu of others, but did not know how to maintain its own. And although afterwards that Empire, because of the inundation of those barbarians, became divided into several parts, this virtu was not renewed: first, because a price is paid to recover institutions when they are spoiled; another, because the mode of living today, with regard to the Christian religion, does not impose that necessity to defend it that anciently existed, in which at the time men, defeated in war, were either put to death or remained slaves in perpetuity, where they led lives of misery: the conquered lands were either desolated or the inhabitants driven out, their goods taken away, and they were sent dispersed throughout the world, so that those overcome in war suffered every last misery. Men were terrified from the fear of this, and they kept their military exercises alive, and honored those who were excellent in them. But today, this fear in large part is lost, and few of the defeated are put to death, and no one is kept prisoner long, for they are easily liberated. The Citizens, although they should rebel a thousand times, are not destroyed, goods are left to their people, so that the greatest evil that is feared is a ransom; so that men do not want to subject themselves to dangers which they little fear. Afterwards, these provinces of Europe exist under very few Heads as compared to the past, for all of France obeys a King, all of Spain another, and Italy exists in a few parts; so that weak Cities defend themselves by allying themselves with the victors, and strong States, for the reasons mentioned, do not fear an ultimate ruin.
COSIMO: And in the last twenty five years, many towns have been seen to be pillaged, and lost their Kingdoms; which examples ought to teach others to live and reassume some of the ancient orders.
FABRIZIO: That is what you say, but if you would note which towns are pillaged, you would not find them to be the Heads (Chief ones) of the States, but only members: as is seen in the sacking of Tortona and not Milan, Capua and not Naples, Brescia and not Venice, Ravenna and not Rome. Which examples do not cause the present thinking which governs to change, rather it causes them to remain in that opinion of being able to recover themselves by ransom: and because of this, they do not want to subject themselves to the bother of military training, as it appears to them partly unnecessary, partly a tangle they do not understand. Those others who are slave, to whom such examples ought to cause fear, do not have the power of remedying (their situation), and those Princes who have lost the State, are no longer in time, and those who have (the State) do not have (military training) and those Princes who have lost the State, are no longer in time, and those who have (the State) do not have (military training) or want it; for they want without any hardship to remain (in power) through fortune, not through their own virtu, and who see that, because there is so little virtu, fortune governs everything, and they want it to master them, not they master it. And that that which I have discussed is true, consider Germany, in which, because there are many Principalities and Republics, there is much virtu, and all that is good in our present army, depends on the example of those people, who, being completely jealous of their State ((as they fear servitude, which elsewhere is not feared)) maintain and honor themselves all us Lords. I want this to suffice to have said in showing the reasons for the present business according to my opinion. I do not know if it appears the same to you, or if some other apprehension should have risen from this discussion.
COSIMO: None, rather I am most satisfied with everything. I desire above, returning to our principal subject, to learn from you how you would arrange the cavalry with these companies, and how many, how captained, and how armed.
FABRIZIO: And it, perhaps, appears to you that I have omitted these, at which do not be surprized, for I speak little of them for two reasons: one, because this part of the army is less corrupt than that of the infantry, for it is not stronger than the ancient, it is on a par with it. However, a short while before, the method of training them has been mentioned. And as to arming them, I would arm them as is presently done, both as to the light cavalry as to the men-at-arms. But I would want the light cavalry to be all archers, with some light gunners among them, who, although of little use in other actions of war, are most useful in terrifying the peasants, and place them above a pass that is to be guarded by them, for one gunner causes more fear to them (the enemy) than twenty other armed men. And as to numbers, I say that departing from imitating the Roman army, I would have not less than three hundred effective cavalry for each battalion, of which I would want one hundred fifty to be men-at-arms, and a hundred fifty light cavalry; and I would give a leader to each of these parts, creating among them fifteen Heads of Ten per hand, and give each one a flag and a bugler. I would want that every ten men-at-arms have five carriages and every ten light cavalrymen two, which, like those of the infantry, should carry the tents, (cooking) utensils, hitches, poles, and in addition over the others, their tools. And do not think this is out of place seeing that men-at-arms have four horses at their service, and that such a practice is a corrupting one; for in Germany, it is seen that those men-at-arms are alone with their horses, and only every twenty have a cart which carries the necessary things behind them. The horsemen of the Romans were likewise alone: it is true that the Triari encamped near the cavalry and were obliged to render aid to it in the handling of the horses: this can easily be imitated by us, as will be shown in the distribution of quarters. That, therefore, which the Romans did, and that which the Germans do, we also can do; and in not doing it, we make a mistake. These cavalrymen, enrolled and organized together with a battalion, can often be assembled when the companies are assembled, and caused to make some semblance of attack among them, which should be done more so that they may be recognized among them than for any necessity. But I have said enough on this subject for now, and let us descend to forming an army which is able to offer battle to the enemy, and hope to win it; which is the end for which an army is organized, and so much study put into it.