Men ever praise the olden time, and find fault with the present, though often without reason. They are such partisans of the past that they extol not only the times which they know only by the accounts left of them by historians, but, having grown old, they also laud all they remember to have seen in their youth. Their opinion is generally erroneous in that respect, and I think the reasons which cause this illusion are various. The first I believe to be the fact that we never know the whole truth about the past, and very frequently writers conceal such events as would reflect disgrace upon their century, whilst they magnify and amplify those that lend lustre to it. The majority of authors obey the fortune of conquerors to that degree that, by way of rendering their victories more glorious, they exaggerate not only the valiant deeds of the victor, but also of the vanquished; so that future generations of the countries of both will have cause to wonder at those men and times, and are obliged to praise and admire them to the utmost. Another reason is that men’s hatreds generally spring from fear or envy. Now, these two powerful reasons of hatred do not exist for us with regard to the past, which can no longer inspire either apprehension or envy. But it is very different with the affairs of the present, in which we ourselves are either actors or spectators, and of which we have a complete knowledge, nothing being concealed from us; and knowing the good together with many other things that are displeasing to us, we are forced to conclude that the present is inferior to the past, though in reality it may be much more worthy of glory and fame. I do not speak of matters pertaining to the arts, which shine by their intrinsic merits, which time can neither add to nor diminish; but I speak of such things as pertain to the actions and manners of men, of which we do not possess such manifest evidence.
I repeat, then, that this practice of praising and decrying is very general, though it cannot be said that it is always erroneous; for sometimes our judgment is of necessity correct, human affairs being in a state of perpetual movement, always either ascending or declining. We see, for instance, a city or country with a government well organized by some man of superior ability; for a time it progresses and attains a great prosperity through the talents of its lawgiver. Now, if any one living at such a period should praise the past more than the time in which he lives, he would certainly be deceiving himself; and this error will be found due to the reasons above indicated. But should he live in that city or country at the period after it shall have passed the zenith of its glory and in the time of its decline, then he would not be wrong in praising the past. Reflecting now upon the course of human affairs, I think that, as a whole, the world remains very much in the same condition, and the good in it always balances the evil; but the good and the evil change from one country to another, as we learn from the history of those ancient kingdoms that differed from each other in manners, whilst the world at large remained the same. The only difference being, that all the virtues that first found a place in Assyria were thence transferred to Media, and afterwards passed to Persia, and from there they came into Italy and to Rome. And if after the fall of the Roman Empire none other sprung up that endured for any length of time, and where the aggregate virtues of the world were kept together, we nevertheless see them scattered amongst many nations, as, for instance, in the kingdom of France, the Turkish empire, or that of the Sultan of Egypt, and nowadays the people of Germany, and before them those famous Saracens, who achieved such great things and conquered so great a part of the world, after having destroyed the Roman Empire of the East. The different peoples of these several countries, then, after the fall of the Roman Empire, have possessed and possess still in great part that virtue which is so much lamented and so sincerely praised. And those who live in those countries and praise the past more than the present may deceive themselves; but whoever is born in Italy and Greece, and has not become either an Ultramontane in Italy or a Turk in Greece, has good reason to find fault with his own and to praise the olden times; for in their past there are many things worthy of the highest admiration, whilst the present has nothing that compensates for all the extreme misery, infamy, and degradation of a period where there is neither observance of religion, law, or military discipline, and which is stained by every species of the lowest brutality; and these vices are the more detestable as they exist amongst those who sit in the tribunals as judges, and hold all power in their hands, and claim to be adored.
But to return to our argument, I say that, if men’s judgment is at fault upon the point whether the present age be better than the past, of which latter, owing to its antiquity, they cannot have such perfect knowledge as of their own period, the judgment of old men of what they have seen in their youth and in their old age should not be false, inasmuch as they have equally seen both the one and the other. This would be true, if men at the different periods of their lives had the same judgment and the same appetites. But as these vary (though the times do not), things cannot appear the same to men who have other tastes, other delights, and other considerations in age from what they had in youth. For as men when they age lose their strength and energy, whilst their prudence and judgment improve, so the same things that in youth appeared to them supportable and good, will of necessity, when they have grown old, seem to them insupportable and evil; and when they should blame their own judgment they find fault with the times. Moreover, as human desires are insatiable, (because their nature is to have and to do everything whilst fortune limits their possessions and capacity of enjoyment,) this gives rise to a constant discontent in the human mind and a weariness of the things they possess; and it is this which makes them decry the present, praise the past, and desire the future, and all this without any reasonable motive. I know not, then, whether I deserve to be classed with those who deceive themselves, if in these Discourses I shall laud too much the times of ancient Rome and censure those of our own day. And truly, if the virtues that ruled then and the vices that prevail now were not as clear as the sun, I should be more reticent in my expressions, lest I should fall into the very error for which I reproach others. But the matter being so manifest that everybody sees it, I shall boldly and openly say what I think of the former times and of the present, so as to excite in the minds of the young men who may read my writings the desire to avoid the evils of the latter, and to prepare themselves to imitate the virtues of the former, whenever fortune presents them the occasion. For it is the duty of an honest man to teach others that good which the malignity of the times and of fortune has prevented his doing himself; so that amongst the many capable ones whom he has instructed, some one perhaps, more favored by Heaven, may perform it.
Having in the preceding Book treated of the conduct of the Romans in matters relating to their internal affairs, I shall in this Book speak of what the Roman people did in relation to the aggrandizement of their empire.
Many authors, amongst them that most serious writer Plutarch, have held the opinion that the people of Rome were more indebted in the acquisition of their empire to the favors of Fortune than to their own merits. And amongst other reasons adduced by Plutarch is, that by their own confession it appears that the Roman people ascribed all their victories to Fortune, because they built more temples to that goddess than to any other deity. It seems that Livius accepts that opinion, for he rarely makes a Roman speak of valor without coupling fortune with it. Now I do not share that opinion at all, and do not believe that it can be sustained; for if no other republic has ever been known to make such conquests, it is admitted that none other was so well organized for that purpose as Rome. It was the valor of her armies that achieved those conquests, but it was the wisdom of her conduct and the nature of her institutions, as established by her first legislator, that enabled her to preserve these acquisitions, as we shall more fully set forth in the succeeding chapters. But it is said that the fact that the Roman people never had two important wars on hand at the same time was due more to their good fortune than their wisdom; for they did not engage in war with the Latins until they had beaten the Samnites so completely that the Romans themselves had to protect them with their arms; nor did they combat the Tuscans until after they had subjugated the Latins, and had by repeated defeats completely enervated the Samnites. Doubtless if these two powerful nations had united against Rome whilst their strength was yet unbroken, it may readily be supposed that they could have destroyed the Roman republic.
But however this may have been, certain it is that the Romans never had two important wars to sustain at the same time; but it rather appears that the beginning of one caused the termination of the other, or that the ending of one gave rise to the next. This is readily seen by examining the succession of their wars; for, leaving aside the one they were engaged in before the capture of Rome by the Gauls, we see that whilst they fought against the Equeans and the Volscians at a time when these nations were still powerful, no other people rose up to attack them at the same time. But when these were subdued, then occurred the war against the Samnites; and although the Latins revolted before that war was concluded, yet when this revolt broke out the Samnites had already formed a league with the Romans, and it was by the aid of their army that they broke down the pride of the Latins. And when these were subdued, the war with the Samnites was renewed; but the repeated defeats inflicted upon them by the Romans had so enfeebled their forces, that, when the war with the Tuscans occurred, that also was quickly terminated. But the Samnites rose up once more when Pyrrhus came into Italy; and when he was beaten and driven back to Greece, the first war with the Carthaginians was begun, which was hardly terminated before the combined Gauls conspired against Rome, and poured down through the various passes of the Alps in great numbers, but were defeated with terrible carnage between Popolonia and Pisa, where now stands the tower of San Vincenti. After this war was finished, the Romans were not engaged in any other of importance during a period of twenty years; for they only fought the Ligurians and a remnant of Gauls who were in Lombardy. And thus they remained until the second Carthaginian war broke out, and occupied them for sixteen years. When this had been most gloriously concluded, the Macedonian war occurred; and after that the war with Antiochus and Asia. When these had been victoriously terminated, there remained in the whole world neither prince nor republic that could, alone or unitedly, have resisted the Roman power. Considering now the succession of these wars, prior to the last victory, and the manner in which they were conducted, we cannot fail to recognize in them a combination of good fortune with the greatest valor and prudence. And if we examine into the cause of that good fortune we shall readily find it; for it is most certain that when a prince or a people attain that degree of reputation that all the neighboring princes and peoples fear to attack him, none of them will ever venture to do it except under the force of necessity; so that it will be, as it were, at the option of that potent prince or people to make war upon such neighboring powers as may seem advantageous, whilst adroitly keeping the others quiet. And this he can easily do, partly by the respect they have for his power, and partly because they are deceived by the means employed to keep them quiet. And other powers that are more distant and have no immediate intercourse with him, will look upon this as a matter too remote for them to be concerned about, and will continue in this error until the conflagration spreads to their door, when they will have no means for extinguishing it except their own forces, which will no longer suffice when the fire has once gained the upper hand. I will say nothing of how the Samnites remained indifferent spectators when they saw the Volscians and Equeans defeated by the Romans; and not to be too prolix I will at once come to the Carthaginians, who had already acquired great power and reputation when the Romans were fighting with the Samnites and the Tuscans; for they were masters of all Africa, they held Sardinia and Sicily, and had already a foothold in Spain. Their own power, and the fact that they were remote from the confines of Rome, made them indifferent about attacking the Romans, or succoring the Samnites and Tuscans, but they did what men are apt to do with regard to a growing power, they rather sought by an alliance with the Romans to secure their friendship. Nor did they become aware of the error they had committed until after the Romans, having subjugated all the nations situated between them and the Carthaginians, began to contest the dominion of Sicily and Spain with them. The same thing happened to the Gauls as to the Carthaginians, and also to King Philip of Macedon and to Antiochus. Each one of these believed that, whilst the Romans were occupied with the other, they would be overcome, and that then it would be time enough either by peace or war to secure themselves against the Romans. So that I believe that the good fortune which followed the Romans in these parts would have equally attended other princes who had acted as the Romans did, and had displayed the same courage and sagacity.
It would be proper and interesting here to show the course which the Romans adopted when they entered the territory of an enemy, but that we have already explained this at length in our treatise of “The Prince.” I will only say in a few words that they always endeavored to have some friend in these new countries who could aid them by opening the way for them to enter, and also serve as a means for retaining their possession. Thus we see that by the aid of the Capuans they entered Samnium, and through the Camertini they got into Tuscany; the Mamertini helped them into Sicily, the Saguntines into Spain, Masinissa into Africa, and the Massilians and Eduans into Gaul. And thus they never lacked similar support to facilitate their enterprises, both in the acquisition and preservation of new provinces. And those people who will observe the same mode of proceeding will find that they have less need of fortune than those who do not. And to enable everybody to know how much more the valor and ability of the Romans served them in the conquest of their empire than Fortune, we will discuss in the following chapter the characters of the different peoples whom the Romans had to encounter, and with what obstinate courage they defended their liberty.
Nothing required so much effort on the part of the Romans to subdue the nations around them, as well as those of more distant countries, as the love of liberty which these people cherished in those days; and which they defended with so much obstinacy, that nothing but the exceeding valor of the Romans could ever have subjugated them. For we know from many instances to what danger they exposed themselves to preserve or recover their liberty, and what vengeance they practised upon those who had deprived them of it. The lessons of history teach us also, on the other hand, the injuries people suffer from servitude. And whilst in our own times there is only one country in which we can say that free communities exist, in those ancient times all countries contained numerous cities that enjoyed entire liberty. In the times of which we are now speaking, there were in Italy from the mountains that divide the present Tuscany from Lombardy, down to the extreme point, a number of independent nations, such as the Tuscans, the Romans, the Samnites, and many others, that inhabited the rest of Italy. Nor is there ever any mention of there having been other kings besides those that reigned in Rome, and Porsenna, king of the Tuscans, whose line became extinct in a manner not mentioned in history. But we do see that, at the time when the Romans went to besiege Veii, Tuscany was free, and so prized her liberty and hated the very name of king, that when the Veienti had created a king in their city for its defence, and applied to the Tuscans for help against the Romans, it was resolved, after repeated deliberations, not to grant such assistance to the Veienti so long as they lived under that king; for the Tuscans deemed it not well to engage in the defence of those who had voluntarily subjected themselves to the rule of one man. And it is easy to understand whence that affection for liberty arose in the people, for they had seen that cities never increased in dominion or wealth unless they were free. And certainly it is wonderful to think of the greatness which Athens attained within the space of a hundred years after having freed herself from the tyranny of Pisistratus; and still more wonderful is it to reflect upon the greatness which Rome achieved after she was rid of her kings. The cause of this is manifest, for it is not individual prosperity, but the general good, that makes cities great; and certainly the general good is regarded nowhere but in republics, because whatever they do is for the common benefit, and should it happen to prove an injury to one or more individuals, those for whose benefit the thing is done are so numerous that they can always carry the measure against the few that are injured by it. But the very reverse happens where there is a prince whose private interests are generally in opposition to those of the city, whilst the measures taken for the benefit of the city are seldom deemed personally advantageous by the prince. This state of things soon leads to a tyranny, the least evil of which is to check the advance of the city in its career of prosperity, so that it grows neither in power nor wealth, but on the contrary rather retrogrades. And if fate should have it that the tyrant is enterprising, and by his courage and valor extends his dominions, it will never be for the benefit of the city, but only for his own; for he will never bestow honors and office upon the good and brave citizens over whom he tyrannizes, so that he may not have occasion to suspect and fear them. Nor will he make the states which he conquers subject or tributary to the city of which he is the despot, because it would not be to his advantage to make that city powerful, but it will always be for his interest to keep the state disunited, so that each place and country shall recognize him only as master; thus he alone, and not his country, profits by his conquests. Those who desire to have this opinion confirmed by many other arguments, need but read Xenophon’s treatise “On Tyranny.”
It is no wonder, then, that the ancients hated tyranny and loved freedom, and that the very name of Liberty should have been held in such esteem by them; as was shown by the Syracusans when Hieronymus, the nephew of Hiero, was killed. When his death became known to his army, which was near Syracuse, it caused at first some disturbances, and they were about committing violence upon his murderers; but when they learnt that the cry of Liberty had been raised in Syracuse, they were delighted, and instantly returned to order. Their fury against the tyrannicides was quelled, and they thought only of how a free government might be established in Syracuse. Nor can we wonder that the people indulge in extraordinary revenge against those who have robbed them of their liberty; of which we could cite many instances, but will quote only one that occurred in Corcyra, a city of Greece, during the Peloponnesian war. Greece was at that time divided into two parties, one of which adhered to the Athenians, and the other to the Spartans, and a similar division of parties existed in most of the Greek cities. It happened that in Corcyra the nobles, being the stronger party, seized upon the liberties of the people; but with the assistance of the Athenians the popular party recovered its power, and, having seized the nobles, they tied their hands behind their backs, and threw them into a prison large enough to hold them all. They thence took eight or ten at a time, under pretence of sending them into exile in different directions; but instead of that they killed them with many cruelties. When the remainder became aware of this, they resolved if possible to escape such an ignominious death; and having armed themselves as well as they could, they resisted those who attempted to enter the prison; but when the people heard this disturbance, they pulled down the roof and upper portion of the prison, and suffocated the nobles within under its ruins. Many such notable and horrible cases occurred in that country, which shows that the people will avenge their lost liberty with more energy than when it is merely threatened.
Reflecting now as to whence it came that in ancient times the people were more devoted to liberty than in the present, I believe that it resulted from this, that men were stronger in those days, which I believe to be attributable to the difference of education, founded upon the difference of their religion and ours. For, as our religion teaches us the truth and the true way of life, it causes us to attach less value to the honors and possessions of this world; whilst the Pagans, esteeming those things as the highest good, were more energetic and ferocious in their actions. We may observe this also in most of their institutions, beginning with the magnificence of their sacrifices as compared with the humility of ours, which are gentle solemnities rather than magnificent ones, and have nothing of energy or ferocity in them, whilst in theirs there was no lack of pomp and show, to which was superadded the ferocious and bloody nature of the sacrifice by the slaughter of many animals, and the familiarity with this terrible sight assimilated the nature of men to their sacrificial ceremonies. Besides this, the Pagan religion deified only men who had achieved great glory, such as commanders of armies and chiefs of republics, whilst ours glorifies more the humble and contemplative men than the men of action. Our religion, moreover, places the supreme happiness in humility, lowliness, and a contempt for worldly objects, whilst the other, on the contrary, places the supreme good in grandeur of soul, strength of body, and all such other qualities as render men formidable; and if our religion claims of us fortitude of soul, it is more to enable us to suffer than to achieve great deeds.
These principles seem to me to have made men feeble, and caused them to become an easy prey to evil-minded men, who can control them more securely, seeing that the great body of men, for the sake of gaining Paradise, are more disposed to endure injuries than to avenge them. And although it would seem that the world has become effeminate and Heaven disarmed, yet this arises unquestionably from the baseness of men, who have interpreted our religion according to the promptings of indolence rather than those of virtue. For if we were to reflect that our religion permits us to exalt and defend our country, we should see that according to it we ought also to love and honor our country, and prepare ourselves so as to be capable of defending her. It is this education, then, and this false interpretation of our religion, that is the cause of there not being so many republics nowadays as there were anciently; and that there is no longer the same love of liberty amongst the people now as there was then. I believe, however, that another reason for this will be found in the fact that the Roman Empire, by force of arms, destroyed all the republics and free cities; and although that empire was afterwards itself dissolved, yet these cities could not reunite themselves nor reorganize their civil institutions, except in a very few instances.
Be that, however, as it may, the Romans found everywhere a league of republics, well armed for the most obstinate defence of their liberties, showing that it required the rare ability and extreme valor of the Romans to subjugate them. And to give but one example of this, we will confine ourselves to the case of the Samnites, which really seems marvellous. This people Titus Livius himself admits to have been so powerful and valiant in arms that, until the time of the Consul Papirius Cursor, grandson of the first Papirius, a period of forty years, they were able to resist the Romans, notwithstanding their many defeats, the destruction of their cities, and much slaughter. That country, which was then so thickly inhabited and contained so many cities, is now almost a desert; and yet it was originally so powerful and well governed that it would have been unconquerable by any other than Roman valor. It is easy to discover the cause of this different state of things, for it all comes from this, that formerly that people enjoyed freedom, and now they live in servitude; for, as I have already said above, only those cities and countries that are free can achieve greatness. Population is greater there because marriages are more free and offer more advantages to the citizen; for people will gladly have children when they know that they can support them, and that they will not be deprived of their patrimony, and where they know that their children not only are born free and not slaves, but, if they possess talents and virtue, can arrive at the highest dignities of the state. In free countries we also see wealth increase more rapidly, both that which results from the culture of the soil and that which is produced by industry and art; for everybody gladly multiplies those things, and seeks to acquire those goods the possession of which he can tranquilly enjoy. Thence men vie with each other to increase both private and public wealth, which consequently increase in an extraordinary manner. But the contrary of all this takes place in countries that are subject to another; and the more rigorous the subjection of the people, the more will they be deprived of all the good to which they had previously been accustomed. And the hardest of all servitudes is to be subject to a republic, and this for these reasons: first, because it is more enduring, and there is no hope of escaping from it; and secondly, because republics aim to enervate and weaken all other states so as to increase their own power. This is not the case with a prince who holds another country in subjection, unless indeed he should be a barbarous devastator of countries and a destroyer of all human civilization, such as the princes of the Orient. But if he be possessed of only ordinary humanity, he will treat all cities that are subject to him equally well, and will leave them in the enjoyment of their arts and industries, and measurably all their ancient institutions. So that if they cannot grow the same as if they were free, they will at least not be ruined whilst in bondage; and by this is understood that bondage into which cities fall that become subject to a stranger, for of that to one of their own citizens we have already spoken above.
Considering now all that has been said, we need not wonder at the power which the Samnites possessed, so long as they were free, nor at the feeble condition to which they afterwards became reduced when they were subjugated. Titus Livius testifies to this in several instances, and mainly in speaking of the war with Hannibal, where he states that the Samnites, pressed by a legion of Romans which was at Nola, sent messengers to Hannibal to implore his assistance. These said in their address that for a hundred years they had combated the Romans with their own soldiers and generals, and had many times sustained the contest against two consular armies and two Consuls at once; but that now they had been reduced so low that they were hardly able to defend themselves against the one small Roman legion that was stationed at Nola.
“Crescit interea Roma, Albæ ruinis.” Those who desire a city to achieve great empire must endeavor by all possible means to make her populous; for without an abundance of inhabitants it is impossible ever to make a city powerful. This may be done in two ways; either by attracting population by the advantages offered, or by compulsion. The first is to make it easy and secure for strangers to come and establish themselves there, and the second is to destroy the neighboring cities, and to compel their inhabitants to come and dwell in yours. These principles were so strictly observed by the Romans, that, in the time of the sixth king, Rome had already eighty thousand inhabitants capable of bearing arms. The Romans acted like a good husbandman, who for the purpose of strengthening a tree and making it produce more fruit and to mature it better, cuts off the first shoots it puts out, so that by retaining the sap and vigor in the trunk the tree may afterwards put forth more abundant branches and fruit. And that this is a good plan for aggrandizing a city and extending its empire, is proved by the example of Sparta and Athens, both most warlike republics, and regulated by most excellent laws; and yet they did not attain the same greatness as Rome, which was far less well regulated. No other reason can be assigned for this than the above; for Rome, from having by the above two methods increased its population, was enabled to put two hundred thousand men into the field, whilst Sparta and Athens could not raise more than twenty thousand each. And this resulted not from Rome’s being more favorably situated, but solely from the difference in their mode of proceeding. For Lycurgus, the founder of the Spartan republic, believing that nothing would more readily destroy his laws than the admixture of new inhabitants, did everything possible to prevent strangers from coming into the city. Besides prohibiting their obtaining citizenship by marriage, and all other intercourse and commerce that bring men together, he ordered that in his republic only leather money should be used, so as to indispose all strangers from bringing merchandise into Sparta, or exercising any kind of art or industry there, so that the city never could increase in population. Now, as all the actions of men resemble those of nature, it is neither natural nor possible that a slender trunk should support great branches; and thus a small republic cannot conquer and hold cities and kingdoms that are larger and more powerful than herself, and if she does conquer them, she will experience the same fate as a tree whose branches are larger than the trunk, which will not be able to support them, and will be bent by every little breeze that blows. Such was the case with Sparta when she had conquered all the cities of Greece; but no sooner did Thebes revolt, than all the other cities revolted likewise, and the trunk was quickly left without any branches. This could not have happened to Rome, whose trunk was so strong that it could easily support all its branches. The above modes of proceeding, then, together with others of which we shall speak hereafter, made Rome great and most powerful, which Titus Livius points out in these few words: “Rome grew, whilst Alba was ruined.”
Whoever has studied ancient history will have found that the republics had three methods of aggrandizement. One of these was that observed by the ancient Tuscans, namely, to form a confederation of several republics, neither of which had any eminence over the other in rank or authority; and in their conquests of other cities they associated these with themselves, in a similar manner to that practised by the Swiss nowadays, and as was done anciently in Greece by the Achaians and the Ætolians. But as the Romans had many wars with the Tuscans, I will (by way of illustrating the first method) give a more particular account of these people. Before the establishment of the Roman empire, the Tuscans were very powerful in Italy, both by land and by sea; and although we have no particular history of them, yet there are some traditions and vestiges of their greatness; and it is known that they sent a colony to the shores of the sea north of them, which they called Adria, and which became so important that it gave its name to that sea, which is still called the “Adriatic.” It is also known that they subjected to their authority the entire country stretching from the Tiber to the foot of the Alps, comprising the main body of Italy; although two hundred years before the Romans became so powerful the Tuscans lost their dominion over that part of the country which is now called Lombardy. This province had been seized and occupied by the Gauls, who either from necessity, or attracted by the soft climate and the fruits of Italy, and especially the wine, came there led by their chief Bellovesus; and having routed and driven out its inhabitants, they established themselves there and built numerous cities, and gave that country their own name of Gallia, which it bore until subjugated by the Romans. The Tuscans then lived in perfect equality, and employed for their aggrandizement the first method mentioned above. Their confederation consisted of twelve cities, amongst which were Clusium, Veii, Fiesole, Volterra, and others, who governed their empire; their conquests, however, could not extend beyond Italy, a considerable part of which remained still independent of them for reasons which we will state further on.
The second method employed by the ancient republics for their aggrandizement was to make associates of other states; reserving to themselves, however, the rights of sovereignty, the seat of empire, and the glory of their enterprises. This was the method observed by the Romans. The third method was to make the conquered people immediately subjects, and not associates, and was practised by the Spartans and Athenians. Of these three methods the latter is perfectly useless, as was proved by these two republics, who perished from no other cause than from having made conquests which they could not maintain. For to undertake the government of conquered cities by violence, especially when they have been accustomed to the enjoyment of liberty, is a most difficult and troublesome task; and unless you are powerfully armed, you will never secure their obedience nor be able to govern them. And to enable you to be thus powerful it becomes necessary to have associates, by whose aid you can increase the population of your own city; and as neither Sparta nor Athens did either of these things, their conquests proved perfectly useless. Rome, on the contrary, followed the second plan, and did both things, and consequently rose to such exceeding power; and as she was the only state that persistently adhered to this system, so she was also the only one that attained such great power. Having created for herself many associates throughout Italy, she granted to them in many respects an almost entire equality, always, however, reserving to herself the seat of empire and the right of command; so that these associates (without being themselves aware of it) devoted their own efforts and blood to their own subjugation. For so soon as the Romans began to lead their armies beyond the limits of Italy, they reduced other kingdoms to provinces, and made subjects of those who, having been accustomed to live under kings, were indifferent to becoming subjects of another; and from having Roman governors, and having been conquered by Roman arms, they recognized no superior to the Romans. Thus the associates of Rome in Italy found themselves all at once surrounded by Roman subjects, and at the same time pressed by a powerful city like Rome; and when they became aware of the trap into which they had been led, it was too late to remedy the evil, for Rome had become too powerful by the acquisition of foreign provinces, as also within herself by the increased population which she had armed. And although these associates conspired together to revenge the wrongs inflicted upon them by Rome, yet they were quickly subdued, and their condition made even worse; for from associates they were degraded to subjects. This mode of proceeding (as has been said) was practised only by the Romans; and a republic desirous of aggrandizement should adopt no other plan, for experience has proved that there is none better or more sure.
The first method of which we have spoken, that of forming confederations like those of the Tuscans, Achaians, and Ætolians, or the Swiss of the present day, is next best after that practised by the Romans; for if it does not admit of extensive conquests, it has at least two other advantages: the one, not to become easily involved in war, and the other, that whatever conquests are made are easily preserved. The reason why a confederation of republics cannot well make extensive conquests is, that they are not a compact body, and do not have a central seat of power, which embarrasses consultation and concentrated action. It also makes them less desirous of dominion, for, being composed of numerous communities that are to share in this dominion, they do not value conquests as much as a single republic that expects to enjoy the exclusive benefit of them herself. Furthermore, they are governed by a council, which naturally causes their resolutions to be more tardy than those that emanate from a single centre. Experience has also shown that this system of confederation has certain limits, which they have in no instance transgressed; being composed of twelve or fourteen states at most, they cannot well extend beyond that number, as their mutual defence would become difficult, and therefore they seek no further extension of their dominion, – either because necessity does not push them to it, or because they see no advantage in further conquests, for the reason given above. For in such case they would have to do one of two things: either to continue adding other states to their confederation, which would then become so numerous as to create confusion, or they would have to make the conquered people subjects. And as they see the difficulties of this, and the little advantage that would result from it, they attach no value to an extension of their dominion. When therefore these confederations have become sufficiently strong by their number, so that they consider themselves secure, they are apt to do two things: one, to take smaller states under their protection, and thus to obtain money from them which they can easily divide amongst themselves; and the other is to engage in the military service and pay of one prince or another, as the Swiss do nowadays, and as we read in history was done by those mentioned above. Titus Livius gives us proof of this when he relates how Philip, king of Macedon, being engaged in negotiations with Titus Quintius Flaminius in presence of one of the prætors of the Ætolians, addressed that prætor and reproached him with the avarice and lack of good faith of the Ætolians; saying that “they were not ashamed to take military service under any one, and at the same time supply troops to his enemy, so that the Ætolian colors were often seen in both opposing armies.” We see therefore that this system of confederations has always been the same, and has ever produced the same results. We also see that to make conquered people subjects has ever been a source of weakness and of little profit, and that when carried too far it has quickly proved ruinous to the conqueror. And if this system of making subjects is disadvantageous to warlike republics, how much more pernicious must it be for such as have no armies, as is the case with the Italian republics of our day?
All this proves, therefore, the excellence of the plan adopted by the Romans, which is the more to be admired as they had no previous example to guide them, and which has not been followed by any other state since Rome. As to the system of confederations, that has been followed only by the Swiss, and by the Suabian league. In conclusion, we will state that many wise institutions of the Romans, both as regards the government of their internal and external affairs, have not only not been imitated in our times, but have not even been taken into account by any one, being deemed by some not to have been founded in truth, by some to be impossible, and by others inapplicable and useless; so that by remaining in this ignorance Italy has become the prey of whoever has chosen to attack her. But if it has seemed too difficult to imitate the example of the Romans, certainly that of the ancient Tuscans should not be deemed so, especially by the Tuscans of the present day. For if they failed to acquire that power in Italy which the Roman method of proceeding would have given them, they at least lived for a long time in security, with much glory of dominion and of arms, and high praise for their manners and religion. This power and glory of the ancient Tuscans was first checked by the Gauls, and afterwards crushed by the Romans; and was so completely annihilated, that, although two thousand years ago the power of the Tuscans was very great, yet now there is scarcely any memento or vestige of it. And this has caused me to consider as to whence this oblivion of things arises, which I propose to discuss in the following chapter.
To those philosophers who maintain that the world has existed from eternity, we might reply, that, if it were really of such antiquity, there would reasonably be some record beyond five thousand years, were it not that we see how the records of time are destroyed by various causes, some being the acts of men and some of Heaven. Those that are the acts of men are the changes of religion and of language; for when a new sect springs up, that is to say a new religion, the first effort is (by way of asserting itself and gaining influence) to destroy the old or existing one; and when it happens that the founders of the new religion speak a different language, then the destruction of the old religion is easily effected. This we know from observing the proceedings of the Christians against the heathen religion; for they destroyed all its institutions and all its ceremonies, and effaced all record of the ancient theology. It is true that they did not succeed in destroying entirely the record of the glorious deeds of the illustrious men of the ancient creed, for they were forced to keep up the Latin language by the necessity of writing their new laws in that tongue; but if they could have written them in a new language (bearing in mind their other persecutions), there would have been no record whatever left of preceding events. Whoever reads the proceedings of St. Gregory, and of the other heads of the Christian religion, will see with what obstinacy they persecuted all ancient memorials, burning the works of the historians and of the poets, destroying the statues and images and despoiling everything else that gave but an indication of antiquity. So that, if they had added a new language to this persecution, everything relating to previous events would in a very short time have been sunk in oblivion.
It is reasonable to suppose that what the Christians practised towards the Pagans, these practised in like manner upon their predecessors. And as the religions changed two or three times in six thousand years, all memory of the things done before that time was lost; and if nevertheless some vestiges of it remain, they are regarded as fabulous, and are believed by no one; as is the case with the history of Diodorus Siculus, who gives an account of some forty or fifty thousand years, yet is generally looked upon as being mendacious, and I believe with justice.
As to causes produced by Heaven, they are such as destroy the human race, and reduce the inhabitants of some parts of the world to a very few in number; such as pestilence, famine, or inundations. Of this the latter are the most important, partly because they are most universal, and partly because the few that escape are chiefly ignorant mountaineers, who, having no knowledge of antiquity themselves, cannot transmit any to posterity. And should there be amongst those who escape any that have such knowledge, they conceal or pervert it in their own fashion, for the purpose of gaining influence and reputation; so that there remains to their successors only just so much as they were disposed to write, and no more. And that such inundations, pestilences, and famines occur cannot be doubted, both because all history is full of accounts of them, and because we see the effects of them in the oblivion of things, and also because it seems reasonable that they should occur. For in nature as in simple bodies, when there is an accumulation of superfluous matter, a spontaneous purgation takes place, which preserves the health of that body. And so it is with that compound body, the human race; when countries become overpopulated and there is no longer any room for all the inhabitants to live, nor any other places for them to go to, these being likewise all fully occupied, – and when human cunning and wickedness have gone as far as they can go, – then of necessity the world must relieve itself of this excess of population by one of those three causes; so that mankind, having been chastised and reduced in numbers, may become better and live with more convenience. Tuscany then, as I have said above, was once powerful, religious, and virtuous; it had its own customs and language; but all this was destroyed by the Roman power, so that there remained nothing of it but the memory of its name.
Having explained the means which the Romans employed for their aggrandizement, we will now show how they conducted their wars; and we shall see with how much prudence they deviated in all their actions from the methods universally adopted by other nations, so as to make their road to supreme power easy. The object of those who make war, either from choice or ambition, is to conquer and to maintain their conquests, and to do this in such a manner as to enrich themselves and not to impoverish the conquered country. To do this, then, the conqueror should take care not to spend too much, and in all things mainly to look to the public benefit; and therefore he should imitate the manner and conduct of the Romans, which was first of all to “make the war short and sharp,” as the French say; for as they always put powerful armies into the field, they brought all the wars which they had with the Latins, the Samnites, and the Tuscans to a very speedy conclusion. And if we note all they did from the foundation of Rome until the siege of Veii, we shall observe that all their expeditions were completed in six, ten, or at most twenty days. For it was their custom so soon as war was declared to take the field immediately with their armies, and promptly to meet the enemy and give him battle; and when they had gained it, the enemy (to save his country from being devastated) came to terms, and the Romans condemned him to cede a portion of his territory, which they converted into private possessions, or established colonies upon it, and which, from being situated upon their confines, served as a guard to the Roman frontier, with equal benefit to the colonists who received these possessions and to Rome, which was thus guarded without expense. Nor can any plan be more effectual, secure, or more beneficial; for so long as the enemy remained quiet, so long did that guard suffice; and if he came out in force to threaten the colony, the Romans also took the field in force and quickly engaged him in battle and defeated him, and, having imposed upon him heavier conditions than before, they returned home. And thus they increased from day to day their reputation with their enemies, as well as their strength within their own state. They adhered closely to this system until after the siege of Veii, when they changed it. And to enable them to carry on longer wars, and at greater distances, they began to pay their soldiers, which until then they had not done, not deeming it necessary for short wars. But notwithstanding their paying their troops so as to enable them to keep the field longer, yet they never varied from their original system of finishing the wars as quickly as possible, according to time and place; nor did they ever omit the establishment of colonies. For apart from their usual custom, the ambition of the Consuls also contributed to make the wars short, for being elected only for one year, the half of which they were obliged to remain in quarters, they naturally wanted to finish the wars quickly, so as to enable them to have the honors of triumph; and the establishment of colonies proved of the greatest public advantage and convenience. In the distribution of the booty the Romans, however, made some changes. In this they were not so liberal as they had been at first, partly because it did not seem to them so necessary since the soldiers received regular pay, and partly because the booty was so much larger that they applied it to the enriching of the public treasury, so that they might be able to carry on their enterprises without subjecting the city to any contributions; and in this way the public treasury became in a short time very rich. These two ways, then, of disposing of the booty and of establishing colonies caused the Romans to become enriched by their wars, whilst less wise states were impoverished by theirs; and this at last came to such a point that a Consul was not considered as having merited the honors of triumph if he did not bring home to the treasury large quantities of gold and silver, and all sorts of other booty.
And by their above-described conduct in terminating each war promptly, but exhausting at the same time their enemies by the constant renewal of the wars, and by defeating their armies and devastating their territories, and imposing conditions that were most advantageous to themselves, the Romans steadily increased their wealth and power.
It is difficult to find out the truth as to the precise extent of land which the Romans conceded to each colonist. I believe they gave them more or less, according to the locality where they established the colony; but I judge that, under all circumstances and in all localities, the quantity of land bestowed was small. For the reasons, first, that they might send a greater number of men to the colonies, who were to serve as a guard to the country; and, secondly, because the Romans were poor at home, and it would not have been reasonable that they should have wished their colonists to become accustomed to too much abundance.
Titus Livius tells us that, after the taking of Veii, the Romans established a colony there, and distributed to each man three and seven twelfths jugers, equal to two and two thirds acres English measure. For besides the above considerations, they judged that it was not the extent of land, but its good cultivation, that made wealth. It is necessary also that each colony should have public pastures for their cattle, and forests to supply wood for fuel, without which no colony could exist.
Since we have discussed above the manner in which the Romans conducted their wars, and how the Tuscans were attacked by the Gauls, it seems to me not foreign to the subject to point out that there are two different kinds of war. The one springs from the ambition of princes or republics that seek to extend their empire; such were the wars of Alexander the Great, and those of the Romans, and those which two hostile powers carry on against each other. These wars are dangerous, but never go so far as to drive all its inhabitants out of a province, because the conqueror is satisfied with the submission of the people, and generally leaves them their dwellings and possessions, and even the enjoyment of their own institutions. The other kind of war is when an entire people, constrained by famine or war, leave their country with their families for the purpose of seeking a new home in a new country, not for the purpose of subjecting it to their dominion as in the first case, but with the intention of taking absolute possession of it themselves and driving out or killing its original inhabitants. This kind of war is most frightful and cruel; and it is of this kind of war that Sallust speaks at the end of the history of Jugurtha, when he says that, after Jugurtha was vanquished, they heard of the movements of the Gauls, who were coming into Italy. He then tells us that the Romans had combated all the other nations only for the purpose of subjecting them to their empire, but that in their contest with the Gauls each side fought for its very existence. A prince or a republic that assails another country is satisfied merely to kill its chiefs, but when an entire people aims to possess itself of a country and to live upon that which gives support to its original inhabitants, it must necessarily destroy them all.
The Romans had three such most dangerous wars to sustain. The first was when Rome itself was taken by the same Gauls, who, as we have said, had taken Lombardy from the Tuscans, and established themselves in that country. Titus Livius assigns two causes for this invasion: the first, which I have already mentioned, was that the Gauls were tempted by the delicious fruits, and especially the wine of Italy, which they had not in their own country; the second was that Gaul was so overpopulated that the country could not support all its inhabitants, and therefore its chiefs deemed it necessary that a portion of them should go in search of a new country for their dwelling-place. Having formed that resolution they chose as captains of those who were to leave Bellovesus and Sicovesus, two of their princes, of whom the first came into Italy and the other went to Spain. It was this descent of Bellovesus into Italy that led to the occupation of Lombardy, and afterwards to the first attack of the Gauls upon Rome. The second war with the Gauls occurred soon after the first Carthaginian war, and it was then that the Romans slaughtered over two hundred thousand Gauls between Piombino and Pisa. The third war of this kind was when the Teutons and the Cimbrians came into Italy, who, after having defeated several Roman armies, were themselves utterly vanquished by Marius. The Romans then were victorious in these three most perilous wars; and it required all their energy to enable them to be successful; for we see that when their armies afterwards lost their ancient valor, the Roman Empire was destroyed by similar hordes, such as the Goths, Vandals, and others, who made themselves masters of the whole Western Empire.
These tribes migrated from their own countries, as we have said above, driven by hunger, or war, or some other scourge, which they had experienced at home and which obliged them to seek new dwelling-places elsewhere. Sometimes they came in overwhelming numbers, making violent irruptions into other countries, killing the inhabitants and taking possession of their goods, establishing new kingdoms and changing the very names of the countries. This was done by Moses, and equally by those Barbarian tribes that took possession of the Roman Empire. In fact, the new names which we find in Italy and in other countries have no other origin than in the fact of being so called by their new occupants; such for instance as Lombardy, which was called Cisalpine Gaul, whilst France was called Transalpine Gaul, and now it is called after the Franks who conquered it. Slavonia was called Illyria, Hungary Pannonia, England Britannia; and thus many other countries have changed names, to enumerate which would be tedious. Moses also changed the name of that part of Syria which he occupied into Judæa. And as I have said above that peoples are sometimes driven from their own countries by war, which obliges them to seek new dwelling-places, I will cite the example of the Maurusians, originally inhabiting Syria, who, when they heard of the coming of the Hebrews, considered themselves not strong enough to resist them, and therefore deemed it best to leave their country and save themselves, rather than to attempt to save the former and be themselves destroyed. They therefore left Syria with their families and went into Africa, where they established themselves, after driving away the original inhabitants whom they found there. And thus the same people, who were incapable of defending their own country, yet could seize and occupy that of others. Procopius, who wrote an account of the war which Belisarius carried on against the Vandals who had taken possession of Africa, relates that he himself had seen inscriptions on certain columns in the places that were inhabited by these Maurusians, in these words: “We Maurusians who fled from before Jesus the Robber, son of Nava,” – whence we see the reason of their having left Syria. Those people, therefore, who are driven from their own country by the extremest necessity are the most dangerous, and can be resisted only when opposed by formidable armies. But when such as are obliged to leave their own country are not numerous, then of course they are less dangerous than a whole people such as we have spoken of; for they cannot then effect anything by force, but must employ cunning and address to obtain possession of some abiding-place; and having succeeded in this, they must seek to maintain themselves there by friendships and alliances. It was thus that Æneas did, and Dido and the Massilians and others, who all maintained themselves in the places where they had established themselves with the consent of the inhabitants of those countries.
The great hordes of Barbarians that have overrun other countries have nearly all come from Scythia, a cold and sterile country, whence they were compelled to migrate, the population being very great and the country too poor to support it; there being many causes that drove them away, and none to retain them. And if there have been no similar irruptions of Barbarians during the past few hundred years, it is owing to a variety of reasons. The first was the great migration that occurred at the time of the decline of the Roman Empire, when more than thirty entire tribes left Scythia. The second was that Germany and Hungary, whence also similar swarms of people had issued, have so improved their countries that their population can exist there with comfort, and therefore have no occasion for migrating. And furthermore the men of these two nations are most warlike, and thus serve as a dike and bulwark to keep the Scythians, whose country joins theirs, from presuming to pass them. There have been also at times great movements amongst the Tartar hordes, but these have been checked by the Hungarians and the Poles, who have often boasted that had it not been for their armies both Italy and the Church would many a time have felt the pressure of these Tartar hordes. Let this suffice of those people.
The cause of the war between the Romans and the Samnites, who had for a long time been allies, was that which generally produces ruptures between great powers. This cause is sometimes due to accident, or it results from the policy of the party that desires to make the war. Between the Romans and the Samnites the cause of war was accidental; for the intention of the Samnites in attacking the Sidicians, and afterwards the Campanians, was not to provoke war with the Romans. But the Campanians, being hard pressed, appealed for help to Rome, against the wishes both of the Romans and the Samnites, and gave themselves entirely to the Romans, who for their defence had to take the war upon themselves, believing that they could not with honor avoid it. For although they felt that it was not reasonable that they should defend the Campanians against the Samnites, who were their own allies, yet it seemed to them that it would be disgraceful in them not to defend them as voluntary subjects; persuaded that, if they did not undertake their defence, it would have the effect of alienating forever all those who might desire to come voluntarily under their dominion. And as the aim of Rome was empire and glory, and not repose, they could not decline this opportunity.
A similar occasion gave rise to the first war against the Carthaginians, when the Romans undertook the defence of the Messenians in Sicily, which may also be attributed to accident. But the second war between the Romans and Carthaginians was not accidental; for Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, assailed the Saguntines, who were the allies of the Romans in Spain, not so much for the purpose of injuring the Saguntines as to provoke the Romans to arms, so as to have occasion to combat them and pass into Italy. This mode of provoking new wars has always been common amongst potentates, who want at least to make a show of respect for treaties. For if I desire to make war upon any prince with whom I have concluded treaties that have been faithfully observed for a length of time, I shall attack some friend or ally of his under some color of justification, well knowing that, in thus attacking his friend, he will resent it, and I shall then have grounds for declaring war against him; or, if he does not resent it, he will thereby manifest his weakness and lack of fidelity in not defending an ally entitled to his protection. And one or the other of these means will make him lose his reputation, and facilitate the execution of my designs.
We must note, in relation to the course of the Campanians in giving themselves as voluntary subjects to the Romans by way of inducing these to assume the war against the Samnites, that the best remedy which a city has, that is unable to defend herself alone, and is yet resolved anyhow to resist her aggressor, is to give herself freely to whomever she desires for her defender; as the Campanians did to the Romans, and the Florentines to King Robert of Naples, who, though unwilling to defend them as friends, yet defended them afterwards as subjects against the power of Castruccio of Lucca, when he pressed them hard.
Every one may begin a war at his pleasure, but cannot so finish it. A prince, therefore, before engaging in any enterprise should well measure his strength, and govern himself accordingly; and he must be very careful not to deceive himself in the estimate of his strength, which he will assuredly do if he measures it by his money, or by the situation of his country, or the good disposition of his people, unless he has at the same time an armed force of his own. For although the above things will increase his strength, yet they will not give it to him, and of themselves are nothing, and will be of no use without a devoted army. Neither abundance of money nor natural strength of the country will suffice, nor will the loyalty and good will of his subjects endure, for these cannot remain faithful to a prince who is incapable of defending them. Neither mountains nor lakes nor inaccessible places will present any difficulties to an enemy where there is a lack of brave defenders. And money alone, so far from being a means of defence, will only render a prince the more liable to being plundered. There cannot, therefore, be a more erroneous opinion than that money is the sinews of war. This was said by Quintus Curtius in the war between Antipater of Macedon and the king of Sparta, when he tells that want of money obliged the king of Sparta to come to battle, and that he was routed; whilst, if he could have delayed the battle a few days, the news of the death of Alexander would have reached Greece, and in that case he would have remained victor without fighting. But lacking money, and fearing the defection of his army, who were unpaid, he was obliged to try the fortune of battle, and was defeated; and in consequence of this, Quintus Curtius affirms money to be the sinews of war. This opinion is constantly quoted, and is acted upon by princes who are unwise enough to follow it; for relying upon it, they believe that plenty of money is all they require for their defence, never thinking that, if treasure were sufficient to insure victory, Darius would have vanquished Alexander, and the Greeks would have triumphed over the Romans; and, in our day, Duke Charles the Bold would have beaten the Swiss; and, quite recently, the Pope and the Florentines together would have had no difficulty in defeating Francesco Maria, nephew of Pope Julius II., in the war of Urbino. All that we have named were vanquished by those who regarded good troops, and not money, as the sinews of war. Amongst other objects of interest which Crœsus, king of Lydia, showed to Solon of Athens, was his countless treasure; and to the question as to what he thought of his power, Solon replied, “that he did not consider him powerful on that account, because war was made with iron, and not with gold, and that some one might come who had more iron than he, and would take his gold from him.” When after the death of Alexander the Great an immense swarm of Gauls descended into Greece, and thence into Asia, they sent ambassadors to the king of Macedon to treat with him for peace. The king, by way of showing his power, and to dazzle them, displayed before them great quantities of gold and silver; whereupon the ambassadors of the Gauls, who had already as good as signed the treaty, broke off all further negotiations, excited by the intense desire to possess themselves of all this gold; and thus the very treasure which the king had accumulated for his defence brought about his spoliation. The Venetians, a few years ago, having also their treasury full, lost their entire state without their money availing them in the least in their defence.
I maintain, then, contrary to the general opinion, that the sinews of war are not gold, but good soldiers; for gold alone will not procure good soldiers, but good soldiers will always procure gold. Had the Romans attempted to make their wars with gold instead of with iron, all the treasure of the world would not have sufficed them, considering the great enterprises they were engaged in, and the difficulties they had to encounter. But by making their wars with iron, they never suffered for the want of gold; for it was brought to them, even into their camp, by those who feared them. And if want of money forced the king of Sparta to try the fortune of battle, it was no more than what often happened from other causes; for we have seen that armies short of provisions, and having to starve or hazard a battle, will always prefer the latter as the more honorable course, and where fortune may yet in some way favor them. It has also often happened that a general, seeing that his opposing enemy is about to receive reinforcements, has preferred to run the risk of a battle at once, rather than wait until his enemy is reinforced and fight him then under greater disadvantage. We have seen also in the case of Asdrubal, when he was attacked upon the river Metaurus by Claudius Nero, together with another Roman Consul, that a general who has to choose between battle or flight will always prefer to fight, as then, even in the most doubtful case, there is still a chance of victory, whilst in flight his loss is certain anyhow.
There are, then, an infinity of reasons that may induce a general to give battle against his will, and the want of money may in some instances be one of them; but that is no reason why money should be deemed the sinews of war, which more than anything else will influence him to that course. I repeat it again, then, that it is not gold, but good soldiers, that insure success in war. Certainly money is a necessity, but a secondary one, which good soldiers will overcome; for it is as impossible that good soldiers should not be able to procure gold, as it is impossible for gold to procure good soldiers. History proves in a thousand cases what I maintain, notwithstanding that Pericles counselled the Athenians to make war with the entire Peloponnesus, demonstrating to them that by perseverance and the power of money they would be successful. And although it is true that the Athenians obtained some successes in that war, yet they succumbed in the end; and good counsels and the good soldiers of Sparta prevailed over the perseverance and money of the Athenians. But the testimony of Titus Livius upon this question is more direct than any other, where, in discussing whether Alexander the Great, had he come into Italy, would have vanquished the Romans, he points out that there are three things pre-eminently necessary to success in war, – plenty of good troops, sagacious commanders, and good fortune; and in examining afterwards whether the Romans or Alexander excelled most in these three points, he draws his conclusion without ever mentioning the subject of money. The Campanians, when requested by the Sidicians to take up arms in their behalf against the Samnites, may have measured their strength by their money, and not by their soldiers; for having resolved to grant the required assistance, they were constrained after two defeats to become tributary to the Romans to save themselves.
Titus Livius, wishing to show the error of the Sidicians in trusting to the aid of the Campanians, and the mistake of the latter in thinking themselves able to help them, could not have expressed this idea more forcibly than in these words: “The Campanians brought a greater name in aid of the Sidicians than forces for their protection.” Whence we should conclude that the alliances made with princes who on account of their remoteness cannot conveniently come to your assistance, or who lack the power to do so from internal dissensions or from any other cause, bring more reputation than substantial help to those who rely upon them. This happened in our day to the Florentines, when they were assailed in 1479 by the Pope and the king of Naples, and when they derived from their alliance with the king of France “more reputation than protection.” The same thing would also happen to any one who should engage in any enterprise relying upon the friendship of the Emperor Maximilian; for that would be one of those alliances that would bring to him who made it “more reputation than protection,” like what we have said of the Campanians and the Sidicians.
The Campanians, then, made a mistake in imagining themselves more powerful than they were in reality; and thus a want of proper judgment sometimes causes men, who are incompetent to defend themselves, to engage in war for the defence of others. This was done also by the Tarentines, who, when the Roman army was opposing that of the Samnites, sent ambassadors to the Roman Consul to let him know that they wanted peace between the two nations, and that they were ready to make war upon the one that should refuse peace. Whereupon the Consul, laughing at their proposition, caused his bugles to sound to battle in presence of the ambassadors, and commanded his army to attack the enemy; thus showing to the Tarentines by act and not by words of what answer he deemed their proposal worthy.
Having discussed in the present chapter the wrong course which princes sometimes take for the defence of others, I will in the next speak of the means they should employ for their own defence.
I have heard men of much practical experience in the art of war discuss the question whether, supposing there to be two princes of nearly equal power, one of whom, being the most spirited, has declared war against the other, it be better for the latter to await the attack within his own territory, or to march directly into the country of the former and attack him; and I have heard them give good reasons in favor of either proceeding. Those favoring the latter course cited the advice given by Crœsus to Cyrus, to whom, upon arriving at the confines of the Messagetes, their queen, Tamiris, sent to ask which course he preferred, whether to come into her kingdom and attack her there, in which case she would await him, or that she should come out to meet him beyond her confines. When the matter was under discussion, Crœsus, contrary to the opinion of the others, advised Cyrus to attack Tamiris within her own possessions, alleging that, if he were to defeat her away from her country, he would not be able to take her kingdom from her, as she would in that case have time to recover; but if he vanquished her within her dominions, he would be able to follow her in her flight, and thus, without giving her time to recover, he could deprive her of her state. They cited also the advice which Hannibal gave to Antiochus, when that king contemplated war against the Romans, on which occasion that general pointed out to him that the Romans could never be beaten except in Italy, for there he could turn against them their arms, their allies, and their wealth; but if he combated them away from Italy, leaving them that country undisturbed, he would leave them a never-failing source of supply of forces whenever they might need them; and he concluded that it would be easier to take the city of Rome from the Romans than their empire, and all Italy sooner than her provinces. They furthermore adduced the case of Agathocles, who, not being able to sustain the attacks of the Carthaginians at home, became the assailant himself, and reduced them to the necessity of suing for peace. They also cited Scipio, who, to relieve Italy, carried the war into Africa.
Those of the opposite opinion maintained that the greatest evil that can be inflicted upon an enemy is to draw him away from his own country; and, in support of that opinion, quoted the Athenians, who, so long as they made war at their convenience at home, were always victorious, but when they sent their army to a distance from home into Sicily, lost their liberty. They cited the poetic fable, according to which Antæus, king of Libya, being attacked by Hercules the Egyptian, proved unconquerable so long as he remained within the limits of his own kingdom, but when he was drawn away from home by the artfulness of Hercules lost his state and his life. This gave rise to the fable that the giant Antæus, in his contest with Hercules, recovered his strength whenever thrown to the ground, the earth being his mother; and therefore Hercules, upon observing this, lifted him high in the air and crushed him. Amongst modern instances they cited the well-known case of King Ferdinand of Naples, esteemed one of the wisest princes of his time. When, two years before his death, the report came to him that Charles VIII., king of France, intended to attack him, he at once set to work to prepare for the war; but falling sick and about to die, he left, amongst other instructions to his son Alfonso, the advice to await the enemy within his kingdom, and on no account to move his forces outside of his own dominions. Alfonso, however, did not heed this advice, but sent his army into the Romagna, and, without fighting, lost it and his state. Besides the instances quoted, the reasons brought forward in favor of one or the other opinion were, that he who attacks acts with more spirit than he who awaits the attack, and so inspires the troops with greater confidence; by attacking the enemy in his own country, you deprive him also of many advantages in availing of his resources; his subjects, who are plundered, can afford him no assistance, and the presence of the enemy constrains the prince to be more considerate in exacting money or too many other services from them; so that, as Alexander said, the very sources that enable him to sustain the war will be dried up. Besides, the attacking troops, being in a strange country, feel the necessity of fighting, which very necessity inspires them with greater courage.
On the other hand, it is said that by awaiting the enemy many advantages are gained, for without inconveniencing your own people you may cause great inconvenience to the enemy in the supply of provisions and all the other things that an army requires. By the better knowledge of the country you can impede the enemy’s designs; and the facility of uniting all your troops enables you to oppose him with greater numbers, whilst he has not been able to withdraw all his forces from his own country. And then in case of defeat you can more readily reorganize your army, because many of your soldiers will escape, finding ready places of refuge near at hand. Nor have you to send to a distance for reinforcements, so that you are enabled to employ all your forces without risking all your fortune, whilst in a distant war you risk all your fortune without being able to employ all your forces. Some by way of more effectually weakening the enemy permit him to enter some days’ march into their country, and allow him to take a number of places, so that his army may be weakened by his having to garrison those places, and then they may be able to combat him the more easily.
But to say now what I think on the subject, I believe that we must make this distinction. A country is either well armed, as that of the Romans was, or as that of the Swiss is nowadays; or it is not well armed, as was the case with the Carthaginians, and is at present with France and Italy. In the latter case you must keep the enemy at a distance; for as your strength consists in your money, and not in soldiers, you are lost whenever you are prevented from availing of your financial resources, and nothing interferes so much with that as war within your own territory. The Carthaginians are an instance of this: so long as they were undisturbed at home, their revenues enabled them to carry on the war against the Romans; but when they were attacked in their own country, they were not able even to resist Agathocles. The Florentines could not defend themselves against Castruccio, lord of Lucca, who had attacked them at home, so that they were obliged to give themselves to Robert of Naples to obtain his protection. But after the death of Castruccio these same Florentines had the courage to attack the Duke of Milan within his own dominions, and to deprive him of his state. As much courage as they displayed in the war at a distance, just so much weakness did they exhibit in the war at home. But when nations are armed as the Romans were and the Swiss are, then it becomes the more difficult to overcome them the nearer home they are attacked; for then these states can unite more forces to resist an invasion than to attack an enemy at a distance. Nor does the authority of Hannibal affect my opinion upon that point; for his passions and his interests dictated the counsel he had given to Antiochus. For if the Romans had experienced in Gaul three such defeats as they suffered at the hands of Hannibal in Italy, they would certainly have been ruined; for they could not have availed of the fragments of their armies as they did in Italy, and could not have reorganized them with the same ease; nor could they have resisted the enemy so well with the same forces. They never sent more than fifty thousand men to invade any province; but to defend themselves at home against the Gauls after the first Punic war, they put eighteen hundred thousand men under arms. Nor could they have vanquished the Gauls in Lombardy as they did in Tuscany, for they could not have moved so large a force against that numerous enemy at so great a distance, nor carried on the war there with the same advantages. The Cimbrians routed a Roman army in Germany, and the Romans could not repair the disaster; but when the Cimbrians came into Italy, the Romans were able to unite all their forces and destroyed the Cimbrians. The Swiss are easily beaten when away from home, where they cannot send more than thirty or forty thousand men; but it is most difficult to overcome them at home, where they are able to gather together a hundred thousand men.
I conclude then, again, that a prince who has his people well armed and disciplined for war should always await a powerful and dangerous enemy at home, and should not go to meet him at a distance. But a prince whose subjects are unarmed, and the country unaccustomed to war, should always keep it as far away from home as possible; and thus both one and the other will best defend themselves, each in his own way.
I believe it to be most true that it seldom happens that men rise from low condition to high rank without employing either force or fraud, unless that rank should be attained either by gift or inheritance. Nor do I believe that force alone will ever be found to suffice, whilst it will often be the case that cunning alone serves the purpose; as is clearly seen by whoever reads the life of Philip of Macedon, or that of Agathocles the Sicilian, and many others, who from the lowest or most moderate condition have achieved thrones and great empires. Xenophon shows in his Life of Cyrus the necessity of deception to success: the first expedition of Cyrus against the king of Armenia is replete with fraud, and it was deceit alone, and not force, that enabled him to seize that kingdom. And Xenophon draws no other conclusion from it than that a prince who wishes to achieve great things must learn to deceive. Cyrus also practised a variety of deceptions upon Cyaxares, king of the Medes, his maternal uncle; and Xenophon shows that without these frauds Cyrus would never have achieved the greatness which he did attain. Nor do I believe that there was ever a man who from obscure condition arrived at great power by merely employing open force; but there are many who have succeeded by fraud alone, as, for instance, Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti in taking the state and sovereignty of Lombardy from his uncle, Messer Bernabo. And that which princes are obliged to do in the beginning of their rise, republics are equally obliged to practise until they have become powerful enough so that force alone suffices them. And as Rome employed every means, by chance or choice, to promote her aggrandizement, so she also did not hesitate to employ fraud; nor could she have practised a greater fraud than by taking the course we have explained above of making other peoples her allies and associates, and under that title making them slaves, as she did with the Latins and other neighboring nations. For first she availed of their arms to subdue their mutual neighbors, and thus to increase her state and reputation; and after having subdued these, her power increased to that degree that she could subjugate each people separately in turn. The Latins never became aware that they were wholly slaves until they had witnessed two defeats of the Samnites, and saw them obliged to accept the terms of peace dictated to them. As this victory greatly increased the reputation of the Romans with the more distant princes, who felt the weight of their name before experiencing that of their arms, so it excited envy and apprehension in those who had seen and felt their arms, amongst whom were the Latins. And this jealousy and fear were so powerful that not only the Latins, but also the colonies which the Romans had established in Latium, together with the Campanians, whose defence the Romans had but a short time previously undertaken, conspired together against the Romans. The Latins began the war in the way we have shown that most wars are begun, not by attacking the Romans, but by defending the Sidicians from the Samnites, against whom the latter were making war with the permission of the Romans. And that it is true that the Latins began the war because they had at last become aware of the bad faith of the Romans is demonstrated by Titus Livius, when at an assembly of the Latin people he puts the following words into the mouth of Annius Setinus, a Latin Prætor: “For if now we can bear servitude under the specious name of equal confederates,” &c.
We see therefore that the Romans in the early beginning of their power already employed fraud, which it has ever been necessary for those to practise who from small beginnings wish to rise to the highest degree of power; and then it is the less censurable the more it is concealed, as was that practised by the Romans.
We often see that humility not only is of no service, but is actually hurtful, especially when employed towards insolent men, who from jealousy or some other motive have conceived a hatred against you. Of this our historian gives proof on the occasion of the war between the Romans and Latins. For when the Samnites complained to the Romans that the Latins had attacked them, the Romans, unwilling to irritate the Latins, declined to forbid them to continue that war: this not only had the desired effect of not irritating them, but actually encouraged them to that degree that they almost immediately displayed open enmity towards the Romans. This appears from the words employed by the same Latin Prætor Annius, at the same assembly mentioned above, when he said: “You have put their patience to the proof in refusing them troops; who can doubt that this would have excited their resentment, and yet they have quietly borne this vexation. They have heard that we are arming against their allies the Samnites, and yet have not stirred from their city. Whence then comes their great modesty, but from their knowledge of our power and their own?” These words show in the clearest manner to what degree the patience of the Romans increased the insolence of the Latins. And therefore no prince should ever forego his rank, nor should he ever voluntarily give up anything (wishing to do so honorably) unless he is able or believes himself able to hold it. For it is almost always better (matters having come to the point that he cannot give it up in the above manner) to allow it to be taken from him by force, rather than by the apprehension of force. For if he yields it from fear, it is for the purpose of avoiding war, and he will rarely escape from that; for he to whom he has from cowardice conceded the one thing will not be satisfied, but will want to take other things from him, and his arrogance will increase as his esteem for the prince is lessened. And, on the other hand, the zeal of the prince’s friends will be chilled on seeing him appear feeble or cowardly. But if, so soon as he discerns his adversary’s intention, he prepares his forces, even though they be inferior, the enemy will begin to respect him, and the other neighboring princes will appreciate him the more; and seeing him armed for defence, those even will come to his aid who, seeing him give up himself, would never have assisted him.
This reasoning applies to the case when there is only one enemy; but when there are several, it will always be a wise plan for the prince to yield something of his possessions to some one of them, either for the purpose of gaining him over if war has already been declared, or to detach him from the enemies that are leagued against him.
In connection with this war between the Latins and the Romans, and its origin, we should observe that it is well in all deliberations to come at once to the essential point, and not always to remain in a state of indecision and uncertainty. This was evidenced in the council which the Latins held on the occasion when they contemplated detaching themselves from the Romans. For the Romans, being apprised of the evil disposition of the Latin people, wished to assure themselves upon that point, and to see whether they might regain their friendship without resorting to arms, and therefore requested the Latins to send eight of their citizens to Rome for a conference. When the Latins were informed of this, conscious of having done many things that were displeasing to the Romans, they convoked a council to decide as to who should go to Rome, and to instruct them as to what they should say. And whilst discussing the matter, their Prætor Annius said these words: “I hold it to be of the highest importance for our interests that we should think rather of what we shall do than what we shall say; when we have decided upon that, it will be easy to accommodate our words to our acts.” Certainly a most correct maxim, and one that should be borne in mind by all princes and republics; for it is impossible to explain one’s self properly when in doubt and indecision as to what is to be done; but once resolved and decided, it is easy to find suitable words. I have the more willingly remarked upon this point as I have often known such indecision to interfere with proper public action, to the detriment and shame of our republic. And it will always happen that in doubtful cases, where prompt resolution is required, there will be this indecision when weak men have to deliberate and resolve. Slow and dilatory deliberations are not less injurious than indecision, especially when you have to decide in favor of an ally; for tardiness helps no one, and generally injures yourself. It ordinarily arises from lack of courage or force, or from the evil disposition of those who have to deliberate, being influenced by passion to ruin the state or to serve some personal interests, and who therefore do not allow the deliberations to proceed, but thwart and impede them in every way. Good citizens therefore never impede deliberations, especially in matters that admit of no delay, even if they see the popular impulse tending to a dangerous course.
After the death of Hieronymus, tyrant of Syracuse, and whilst the war between the Carthaginians and Romans was at its height, a difference arose amongst the Syracusans whether they should declare in favor of the Romans or the Carthaginians. And party feeling ran so high that the matter remained undecided, and they came to no conclusion until finally Apollonides, one of the first men of Syracuse, in a speech full of good sense, showed them “that those were to blame who were of the opinion that they should adhere to the cause of the Romans, and not those who wanted them to support the Carthaginians; but that their indecision and tardiness in determining either one way or the other was greatly to be deprecated, because that indecision would assuredly lead to the ruin of the republic; but when they once had decided upon a course, whatever it might be, they might then hope to derive some advantage from it.” Titus Livius could not have shown the disadvantages of indecision more strikingly than by this example. He shows it also in the case of the Latins, when they had asked the Lavinians for help against the Romans. These delayed so long before determining upon it, that, when they had finally just marched out of the city to render the wished for succor, the news came that the Latins were routed; this caused their Prætor Milonius to say, “that this short march would cost them dear with the Romans; for if they had decided at once either to assist the Latins or not, they would in the latter case not have irritated the Romans; and in the former case, their help, having come in time, might by the junction of their forces have enabled the Latins to be victorious; but that, by delaying their decision, they could but lose in either case,” – as indeed it happened.
If the Florentines had acted upon this principle they would not have suffered so much trouble and injury from the French, when King Louis XII. of France came into Italy to attack Lodovico, Duke of Milan. For when that king meditated this descent, he sought the alliance of the Florentines; and their ambassadors to the king agreed with him that Florence should remain neutral, on condition that the king after arriving in Italy should take their state under his protection, and that the republic should have one month’s time to ratify this treaty. But this ratification was protracted so long by those who most imprudently favored the cause of Duke Lodovico, that before it was done the king had already been victorious; and when finally the Florentines wished to ratify the treaty, he declined it, seeing that the friendship of the Florentines was not a voluntary but a forced one. This cost the Florentines a great deal of money, and came near losing them their state, as happened to them another time afterwards from a similar cause. And this course was the more reprehensible as it was not even of service to Duke Lodovico, who, had he been victorious, would have shown even more resentment against the Florentines than King Louis did.
Although I have already in another chapter treated of the evils resulting to republics from such weakness, yet, as the opportunity presented itself anew, I wished to repeat it, because it seems to me one of the things which republics similar to ours should note especially.
The most important battle ever fought by the Romans in any war was that with the Latins during the consulate of Torquatus and Decius. As by the loss of this battle the Latins, as a matter of course, became slaves to the Romans, so would the latter have become slaves to the Latins if these had been victorious. Titus Livius is also of the same opinion; and represents the two armies to have been in all respects equal as regards numbers, discipline, bravery, and obstinacy, the only difference having been in the commanders, those of the Roman army having displayed more skill and heroism than those of the Latins. We also observe, in the course of this battle, two unprecedented occurrences, the like of which have hardly ever been known since; for to sustain the courage of their soldiers, and render them obedient to command and more determined in action, one of the two Consuls killed himself, and the other slew his son. The equality which Titus Livius says existed between the two armies resulted from the fact that they had for a long time combated together, spoke the same language, had the same discipline and the same arms; and therefore their order of battle was the same, and the very names of the divisions of their armies and their officers were identical. Being then of equal strength and courage, it was necessary that something extraordinary should occur to give greater steadiness and obstinacy to the courage of the one than the other; for, as we have said elsewhere, victory depends upon this stubbornness, for so long as that endures in the combatants, no army will ever turn its back. And to make that spirit more enduring in the hearts of the Romans than with the Latins, partly chance and partly the heroism of the Consuls gave occasion to Torquatus to sacrifice his son, and Decius to kill himself.
In demonstrating this equality of the two contending armies, Titus Livius gives the whole organization of the Roman armies, and their order of battle; as he has explained this very fully, I shall not repeat it here, but will only remark upon such points as seem to me especially noteworthy, and the neglect of which by all the commanders of our times has given rise to great disorders in the armies during battle. I say, then, that from the evidence of Titus Livius we gather that the Roman armies were composed of three main divisions; the first was called “Hastati,” the second “Principi,” and the third “Triarii,” and each of these divisions had its cavalry. In the ordering of a battle they placed the Hastati in front, directly behind came the Principi, and the third rank was formed of the Triarii. The cavalry of all of them were placed to the right and left of each line, and these squadrons, from their form and the place they occupied, were called “Alæ,” or wings, because they seemed like two wings of the body of the army. The division of the Hastati, which was in front, was closely serried, so that they might more effectually strike the enemy, or sustain the shock of his attack. The line of the Principi (not being the first to engage in the fight, and bound to support the first line when it was struck or in danger of being overcome) was not closely serried like the first, but kept its ranks open so as to receive within them the first, without being thrown into confusion by it, whenever the pressure of the enemy obliged them to retreat. The third line, or the Triarii, had to keep its ranks even more open than the second, so that in case of need it might receive within them the lines of both the Hastati and the Principi. These three lines thus deployed began the battle, and if the line of the Hastati was forced or beaten, they retreated within the open ranks of the Principi, and the two lines thus united into one renewed the fight; and if these were also forced and repulsed, they all fell back within the open ranks of the Triarii, and all three lines, now forming but one body, again resumed the battle; and if they were overpowered (having no further reserve to fall back upon) the day was lost. And as every time that the line of the Triarii became engaged, the army was considered in danger, it gave rise to the saying, “The matter has come to the Triarii,” which was as much as to say, “We have come to our last resource.”
The commanders of our day, having entirely abandoned the ancient military organization and discipline, have also abandoned this plan of order of battle, which is none the less a most important one. For a general who disposes his army in such manner that it can rally three several times in the course of a battle, must have fortune against him three times before being defeated, and must have an enemy opposed to him sufficiently superior to overcome him three times. But if an army can resist only a single shock, as is the case nowadays with the Christian armies, it may easily lose the battle; for with the slightest disorder even the most mediocre courage may carry off the victory. And what prevents our armies from being able to rally three times is the abandonment of the old Roman method of receiving one rank within another; and this has arisen from the present system of order of battle, which has one of these two defects: either the troops are formed shoulder to shoulder in one line, so as to present a very wide front and very little depth, which makes the order of battle very weak, being so thin; or, by way of making it stronger, they reduce the width of front, and form their troops according to the Roman fashion. In the latter case, if the first rank is broken, it will be unable to fall back into the second rank, which has no open spaces to receive it, and they will fall into utter confusion, and be disorganized; for if the front rank be struck, it will recoil upon the second line, and if the second line wishes to come to the front, it is impeded by the first. Thus the first line pushing upon the second, and the second upon the third, there ensues such confusion that the slightest accident may cause the loss of the whole army.
At the battle of Ravenna, which according to our modern ideas was a well-contested battle, in which the French commander, Gaston de Foix, was killed, the French and Spanish troops formed in the manner first above described, that is to say, the two armies were placed side by side, so as to present a very wide front and but little depth. And this is the order generally adopted by modern commanders when they have a large plain for their battle-ground, as at Ravenna; for they are so convinced of the disorder produced by the falling back of the first line upon the second, that they avoid as much as possible the system of several successive lines, and form a wide front, as we have explained. But when the nature of the country restricts them in this, they are obliged to adopt the other system, without thinking of preventing its disadvantages. In similar disorder their cavalry rides through the enemy’s country for the purpose of plunder, or some other hostile purpose. At Santo Regolo and elsewhere, in the war which the Florentines carried on against the Pisans on account of their rebellion, after the coming into Italy of Charles VIII., king of France, the Florentines owed their defeat to nothing but their own cavalry, which being in front was repulsed by the enemy, and, being thrown back upon the Florentine infantry, broke through their lines; whereupon all the rest of the army turned their backs and took to flight. Messer Criaco del Borgo, general of the Florentine infantry, has repeatedly assured me himself that he would never have been routed but for his own cavalry. The Swiss, who are masters in the modern art of war, whenever they serve with the French, are above all careful to place themselves at the wings, so that, in case the cavalry of their allies is repulsed, it may not be thrown back upon them.
Although this would seem easy to understand, and even more easy to do, yet there has been thus far not one of our modern commanders who has imitated the method of the ancient Romans, and corrected the faults of the modern system. They divide their armies also into three corps, calling the first the “Vanguard,” the second the “Corps of Battle,” and the third the “Rear-guard”; but this division is of little use to them, except in providing quarters for them separately; for in active service it is rare that they do not unite them all into one body, so that all share the same fortune of battle. And generally, by way of excusing their ignorance, they allege that the force of the artillery will not allow them in the present day to follow the ancient practices; but this point we will discuss in the following chapter, where we shall examine the question whether the use of artillery really prevents the adoption of the ancient method.
Considering the many open field fights, or pitched battles as they are called in our day, that were fought by the Romans at various times, I have reflected upon the opinion so universally entertained, that, if artillery had existed in ancient times, the Romans would not have been allowed so easily to conquer provinces and make other peoples tributary to themselves; nor would they in any way have been able to extend their dominions so largely. It is further said, that the use of these fire-arms prevents men from displaying the same personal valor as they could in ancient times; that it is more difficult to join battle than formerly, and that the same organization and discipline of armies cannot be preserved; and that henceforth the battles will be fought mainly by artillery. I deem it, therefore, not from our purpose to examine whether these opinions are correct, and in how far the introduction of artillery has increased or diminished the strength of armies, and whether it gives or takes away from good commanders the opportunity of acting valiantly.
I shall begin by examining the first proposition, that the Romans never could have carried their conquests so far if artillery had been in use in their time. To this I reply, that wars are either defensive or aggressive, and thus we must inquire first whether artillery be most useful for attack or for defence. Whatever may be said on either side of the question, I believe that it is beyond comparison more damaging to him who has to defend himself than to him who attacks. My reason for saying this is, that he who is on the defensive is either within some fortified place, or he is in camp protected by intrenchments. If he is within a fortified place, it is either a small one, such as they generally are, or it is a large one. In the first case he is certainly lost, for the power of artillery is such that even the strongest walls will in a few days be battered down by it; and if he who is within has not a considerable space for retreat, and cannot protect himself by new ditches and earthworks, he is lost, and will not be able to resist the enemy, who will rush in through the breach in the wall, and whatever artillery he may have will in that case be of no use to him, for it is a maxim that artillery cannot resist an assault of troops in mass; and thus the fury of the Ultramontanes has never been resisted by those defending fortified places. The assaults of the Italians in battle are easily resisted when made, not in serried masses, but in small detachments, which assaults they very properly call skirmishes; and when they deliberately attempt in this disorderly manner to enter a breach where there is artillery, they go to manifest destruction, for in such case the artillery within is effective. But when a breach is assaulted by troops in dense masses, where one pushes upon the other, unless impeded by ditches and earthworks, they will succeed in entering any place; and although some will be killed, yet not so many as to prevent the victory. The truth of this has been demonstrated by many captures of strong places by the Ultramontanes in Italy, and especially that of Brescia; for when that city had revolted against the French, the citadel being still held by the king of France, the Venetians, by way of resisting the attacks of those who might enter the place, had mounted artillery in every convenient place, in front and flank, along the streets that lead from the citadel to the city. The French commander, Gaston de Foix, however, paid no attention to this, but marched down on foot with his troops, through the midst of the artillery, and took the city; and according to report his troops did not suffer seriously. Thus, whoever is besieged in a small place, having no space to enable him to retreat behind ditches and earthworks, after the walls are breached, and having to rely for his further defence solely upon his artillery, will quickly be lost. But supposing that you have to defend a large place, with ample space for convenient retreat, even then I maintain that the employment of artillery is without comparison more advantageous for the besiegers than the besieged. For to make artillery damage the besieger it must necessarily be placed higher than the level of the surrounding country, otherwise every little earthwork that the enemy may throw up will secure him against all your efforts to injure him; so that being obliged to raise your artillery upon your walls, or to elevate it in some other way above the level of the country, you expose yourself to two difficulties: the first, that you cannot thus place artillery of the same caliber and power as the besieger’s, as that requires considerable space; the second is, that even if you should be able thus to place your guns, you cannot make your batteries secure against the artillery of the assailant, who has the advantage of being able to place his on higher ground, having all the convenience of space for manœuvring his guns which the besieged lacks. So that it is impossible for him who defends the place to keep his guns in an elevated position if the besieger has plenty and powerful artillery; and if his batteries are too low, then they are to a great extent useless, as we have said above. Thus the defence of fortified cities depends upon the arms and valor of the garrison, the same as in ancient times, and upon artillery of small caliber, and the little advantage derived from that is almost entirely counterbalanced by disadvantages; for it obliges you to give but little elevation to your walls and to bury them, as it were, in the ditches; so that when you come to a hand-to-hand fight after the walls are breached or the ditches filled up, you will be at greater disadvantage than before; and therefore, as we have said above, the use of artillery is of greater advantage to the besieger than to the besieged.
In the third case, when you intrench yourself in camp, so as not to be forced to deliver battle except at your convenience or advantage, I maintain that under those circumstances you have generally no better means for defence or combat than what the ancients had; and often even your artillery operates to your disadvantage, for if the enemy turns your intrenchments so as to get into your rear, and has but slightly the advantage of you in the ground, which may easily happen, so as to place him but a little higher than you are, or should he attack you before your intrenchments are sufficiently completed to cover you effectually, he may quickly dislodge you, and thus there is nothing left you but to issue from your intrenchments and come to battle. This happened to the Spaniards at the battle of Ravenna, who, being posted between the river Ronco and an earthwork which had not been raised high enough, and the French having slightly the advantage of the ground, were forced by the latter to leave their intrenchments and come to open battle. But supposing, as must often happen, that you have chosen the highest ground in the neighborhood for your camp, and that your intrenchments are good and sufficient, so that owing to your position and your other preparations the enemy does not venture to attack you, in that case he will resort to the same means as the ancients did when the adversary had placed himself in an impregnable position; that is, he will scour the country, plunder the towns and villages of your allies, and cut off your supplies of provisions, so that you will be forced to abandon your intrenchments and come to battle, where your artillery will avail you but little, as we shall show further on. If now we recall to mind the manner in which the Romans made war, and remember that all their wars were aggressive and not defensive, we must see (from all that has been said above) that they would have had even greater advantages if they had had the use of artillery, and that their conquests would have been even more rapid than they were.
Now, as to the second proposition, that, since the introduction of artillery men cannot display the same personal bravery as anciently, I maintain that, where men have to present themselves to the fire in small and scattered numbers, they are exposed to greater danger than when in ancient times they had to escalade a place, or make similar assaults, in which they had to act, not in a compact body, but singly and one after the other. It is also true that the lives of the commanders and principal officers of the armies are more exposed now than formerly; for as they can be reached everywhere by the artillery, it is of no use for them to place themselves in the rear ranks, protected by their best men. Nevertheless, we see that these dangers rarely cause any extraordinary losses; for places that are well supplied with artillery are not taken by escalade, nor are they attempted to be taken by feeble assaults, but are regularly besieged, as was done in ancient days. And even with such places as can be taken by assault, the danger is not much greater now than then; for even in those days the ancients did not lack means of defending their places by throwing projectiles upon the enemy, which, although not so noisy as cannon, yet were equally effective in the killing of men. As to the danger of death to which commanders and leaders of bands are said to be more exposed nowadays, the twenty-four years during which the last war in Italy was protracted furnish fewer examples of generals killed than any ten years of war of the ancients. For with the exception of the Count Louis de Mirandola, who was killed at Ferrara when the Venetians besieged that city a few years ago, and the Duke of Nemours, who was killed at Cirignuola, none were killed by artillery; for Gaston de Foix was killed by the sword, and not by a bullet. So that if men nowadays give less proof of valor than formerly, it is not chargeable to the introduction of artillery, but to bad discipline and the feebleness of the armies, which being in the aggregate deficient in courage and vigor, cannot show it in their individual parts.
As to the other proposition advanced, that there are nowadays no more hand-to-hand fights, and that hereafter war will be made altogether with artillery, I maintain that this opinion is wholly erroneous, and will be so regarded by all those generals who desire to manage their armies in the manner of the ancients. For whoever wishes to form a good army must, by real or sham fights, train his troops to attack the enemy sword in hand, and to seize hold of him bodily; and he must rely more upon infantry than upon cavalry, for reasons which I will explain further on. And by thus relying upon the infantry, and upon the above-indicated mode of training them, artillery will prove entirely useless. For the infantry, in engaging the enemy hand to hand, can more easily escape the effects of the artillery than it could in ancient times the rush of the elephants and the scythe chariots, and other now obsolete means of attack which the Roman infantry had to encounter, and against which they knew how to defend themselves. And they would most probably have found also the means of escaping the effects of the artillery, as the time during which its fire is most damaging is so much less than that during which the elephants and the scythe chariots were dangerous. For whilst these carried disorder into the ranks in the very midst of the fight, the artillery interferes with you only at the beginning of the battle, and then it is easily avoided by the infantry, either by availing of the natural cover of the ground, or by lying down during the fire. And experience has shown even this to be hardly necessary, especially with regard to heavy artillery, which cannot be so accurately directed; for when aimed too high the balls pass over you, and when too low they do not reach you. And when you have engaged the enemy hand to hand, then it is perfectly evident that neither light nor heavy artillery can do you any more damage; for if the enemy has planted his guns in the front, they will fall into your hands, and if in the rear, then they will damage his own troops sooner than yours; and if he places his guns on the flank, they cannot injure you to that degree but that you can rush up and capture them, the same as in the first case. All this cannot be gainsaid, for we have seen how the Swiss at Novara, in 1513, without cavalry or artillery, went to encounter the French, who were well provided in their intrenchments with artillery, and routed them without suffering much from the effect of the guns. And the reason of this is, that, besides the other things mentioned above, the artillery, to be well served, needs to be protected by walls, ditches, or earthworks; and if it lacks this protection it is either captured or becomes useless, as generally happens in open field battles, when it is protected only by men. On the flank the artillery cannot be employed differently from what the ancients did their catapults and other engines of war, which were always placed outside of the squadrons, so that they should not break the ranks; and whenever they were hard pushed by cavalry or other troops, they promptly took shelter behind the legions. And whoever employs artillery differently does not understand the matter well, and relies upon that which may easily disappoint him. And if the Turks by means of their artillery gained the victory over the Persians and the Egyptians, it resulted from no other merit than the unusual noise, which frightened the cavalry. I will conclude this chapter, therefore, by saying that artillery is useful in an army when the soldiers are animated by the same valor as that of the ancient Romans, but without that it is perfectly inefficient, especially against courageous troops.
It can be clearly demonstrated by many arguments and facts, that in all their military operations the Romans valued foot soldiers more than cavalry, and that they based all their plans upon the former. This is proved by many instances, one of the most striking of which occurred at the battle with the Latins near the Lake Regillus; when the Roman army had already begun to give way, they made their cavalry dismount to assist the infantry, and, thus supported, they renewed the fight and carried off the victory. This shows clearly that the Romans relied more upon the same men when on foot than on horseback. They employed the same expedient in several other combats, and found it always of greatest value in moments of danger. I care not for the opinion of Hannibal upon this point, who, on seeing at the battle of Cannæ that the Roman Consul made the cavalry dismount, by way of deriding this manœuvre, said, “I would rather they should deliver them to me bound.” Although this was the opinion of a most distinguished soldier, yet, if we have to decide the question upon authority, I would rather trust to that of the Roman republic, and the many eminent commanders which she produced, than to the single opinion of Hannibal; although even without referring to authorities there are plenty of manifest reasons. For a man on foot can go into many places where he could not penetrate on horseback; infantry can be made to preserve their ranks, and can be taught to reform them when broken; whilst it is difficult to make horses keep their ranks, and impossible to reform them when once broken. Besides this we find amongst horses (the same as amongst men) some that lack spirit and some that have too much. And it often happens that a spirited horse is ridden by a coward, or a timid horse by a man of courage; however this disparity may arise, it renders both useless, and invariably causes disorder. Well-disciplined infantry can easily break a squadron of cavalry, but it is with the greatest difficulty that cavalry can break the ranks of infantry. This opinion is corroborated not only by many examples of ancient and modern times, but is also sustained by the authority of those who study and direct the affairs of civilized societies; from which it appears that at first war was made exclusively with cavalry, because disciplined infantry had not yet been organized; but no sooner was this done than it was at once found to be more useful than cavalry, which, however, is also very necessary in armies, for the purposes of reconnoissance, to secure and ravage the country, to pursue a flying enemy, and to oppose the adversary’s cavalry. But the infantry must ever be regarded and valued as the very foundation and nerve of an army.
And thus amongst the greatest faults of the Italian princes, which have made Italy slave to the foreigner, is that they have made too little account of infantry, having given all their care and attention to mounted troops. This error has been caused by the evil disposition of the commanders and the ignorance of the rulers; for during the past twenty-five years the Italian armed forces have been entirely under the control of men who held no government or state, who were in a measure mere soldiers of fortune, whose chief thought was to promote their own influence and reputation by their arms, whilst the princes themselves were wholly without any armed force of their own. And as these adventurers could not keep a large force of foot soldiers in their pay, having no subjects of whom they could avail for that purpose, and as a small number would not have had the effect of making them formidable, they employed mounted men; for the pay of two or three hundred horse kept a condottiere in credit, and this payment was not so large but what princes possessing states could conveniently meet it. And to facilitate this and maintain their own credit, they did all they could to destroy all affection for and reputation of the infantry, and to transfer it to their mounted men; and so increased this disorder, that the infantry constituted the smallest part of some of the largest armies. This practice, together with other disorders which occurred at the same time, so enfeebled our armies that Italy has remained ever since an easy victim of the Ultramontanes. This error of preferring cavalry to infantry is proved still more palpably by another Roman example. The Romans were besieging Sora, and a squadron of cavalry having issued from the city for the purpose of harassing the Roman camp, the master of the Roman horse went to meet it with his cavalry, and came to a hand-to-hand fight with them. Chance would have it that at the first shock both captains were killed; the combat continued nevertheless, though both parties were left without any one to direct them, when the Romans, the more easily to overcome the enemy, dismounted, thus forcing the others to do the same in self-defence; the Romans, however, carried off the victory.
Nothing could more conclusively prove the superiority of infantry over cavalry than this instance; for in the other cases cited, the Consuls caused the cavalry to dismount for the purpose of assisting the infantry, which was suffering and needed support, but here it was neither to help their own nor to combat the enemy’s infantry, but it was a combat of cavalry against cavalry, and despairing of success the Romans judged that by dismounting victory would be more easy, and the result proved their judgment correct. I maintain further that a well-disciplined body of infantry can only be overcome with greatest difficulty, and then only by another body of infantry. Crassus and Mark Antony invaded Parthia, and advanced many days’ journey into the interior with a Roman army composed of a large body of infantry and but few horse. They had to encounter the innumerable cavalry of the Parthians, and Crassus with a portion of the army was slain; but Mark Antony saved himself and the remainder of the army in the most gallant manner. But even in this mishap of the Romans we see how greatly superior infantry is to cavalry; for although being in a wide and open country, where there are but few mountains and still fewer rivers, remote from the sea and far from all conveniences, yet Mark Antony saved himself most skilfully, according to the judgment of the Parthians themselves; and the entire Parthian cavalry never ventured to attack his ranks. And the loss of Crassus is shown by a careful examination of the history of this expedition to have been more the result of deception than because he was overpowered, for even in his greatest straits the Parthians never dared to attack him in front, but hovered upon his flank, and by interrupting his supplies and deluding him by false promises of provisions they reduced him to the last extremity.
I believe I should have greater difficulty in proving the superiority of infantry over cavalry, were it not that there are plenty of modern examples which bear amplest testimony upon this point. We have seen nine thousand Swiss at Novara attack and defeat ten thousand horse and as many infantry, for the cavalry could do them no harm, and, the infantry being for the most part Gascons and ill-disciplined, the Swiss made no account of them. We have subsequently seen twenty-six thousand Swiss at Marignan attack Francis I., king of France, whose army consisted of twenty thousand horse and forty thousand infantry, and one hundred pieces of artillery; and if they were not victorious, as at Novara, they nevertheless fought most bravely during two entire days, and though defeated in the end, yet they saved the half of their army. Marcus Attilius Regulus risked with his infantry not only the attack of the Numidian cavalry, but also the charge of the elephants; and although unsuccessful in carrying out his designs, yet it was not because his infantry was not such but what he believed it capable of overcoming those difficulties. I repeat, therefore, that to be able to overcome a well-ordered infantry, it is necessary to oppose to them one even better organized and disciplined, otherwise defeat is certain.
In the time of Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan, some sixteen thousand Swiss descended into Lombardy. The Duke, having at that time Carmignuola in his service as captain, sent him with about five thousand horse and a small body of infantry to meet the Swiss. This commander, not knowing the Swiss method of fighting, went to meet them with his mounted men, presuming that he would be able to rout them at the first shock; but he found them immovable, and, having lost a large number of his men, he retreated. Being however a most able and courageous soldier, and full of resources in every emergency, he reformed his men and renewed the attack, after having first made all his men-at-arms dismount, whom he placed in front of his infantry, and thus assailed the Swiss, who were unable to defend themselves against them. The men-at-arms of Carmignuola being now on foot and well armed, and protected by armor, easily penetrated the ranks of the Swiss, without themselves suffering much harm; and having once broken the ranks of the adversary they did them great damage, so that of all the Swiss none escaped except such as were spared by the humanity of Carmignuola.
I believe that many recognize the superiority of infantry over cavalry, but the times are unhappily such that neither the example of the ancients or the moderns, nor the admission of their having been in error, will suffice to induce the princes of the present day to alter their minds, or to make them think that to give reputation to the army of any state it is necessary to revive the discipline of the ancients, cherish and honor it, and give it life, so that in return it may give life and reputation to the state. And as they deviate from this, so they deviate from the other matters referred to above; and thus it is that their conquests become a burden to the state, instead of contributing to its greatness, as we shall show further on.
The false opinions, founded upon bad examples, that have been introduced amongst us in this corrupt century, prevent men from liberating themselves from the force of their accustomed habits. Would it have been possible thirty years ago to have persuaded an Italian that ten thousand infantry could have attacked, in an open plain, ten thousand cavalry and as many infantry? and not only to have fought, but actually to have defeated them, as we have seen that the Swiss did at the battle of Novara, already referred to? And although history is full of such examples, yet they would not have believed it; and if they had, they would have said that nowadays the troops are better armed, and that a squadron of mounted men would be able to charge a solid wall of rock, and therefore could not be resisted by mere infantry. And with such erroneous arguments their judgments are corrupted, forgetting that Lucullus, with a comparatively small body of infantry, routed one hundred and fifty thousand cavalry of King Tigranes, amongst which there was a corps perfectly similar to the men-at-arms of the present day. The fallacy of these opinions had to be demonstrated by the example of the troops of the Ultramontanes. And as we have to admit the truth of what history tells us in regard to the infantry of the ancients, so we ought also to believe in the truth and utility of their other institutions; thus republics and princes would have committed fewer errors, and would have been stronger in resisting the assaults of any enemy that might unawares have come upon them. They would not have put their hope in flight, and those who had the direction of the government of states would have been better able to point out the means of aggrandizement, or the means of preservation. They would have believed that to increase the number of their citizens, to gain allies instead of subjects, to establish colonies to guard the conquered territories, to turn all booty over to the public treasury, to subdue the enemy by incursions and battles and by sieges, to keep the state rich and the individual citizen poor, and above all to maintain a well-disciplined army, – that all these are the true means of aggrandizing a republic and founding a great empire. And if these means had not suited them, they would at least have been convinced that acquisitions by any other means would lead to the ruin of a state; they would have put a curb upon all ambition by regulating the internal affairs of their city by good laws and customs, prohibiting all conquests and confining themselves merely to providing for their security and defence; as is done by the republics of Germany, who live in that manner, and have thus enjoyed their liberty for a long time.
Nevertheless (as I have said when discussing the difference between a state organized for conquest and one that aims only at its own preservation) it is impossible for a republic to remain long in the quiet enjoyment of her freedom within her limited confines; for even if she does not molest others, others will molest her, and from being thus molested will spring the desire and necessity of conquests, and even if she has no foreign foes, she will find domestic enemies amongst her own citizens, for such seems to be the inevitable fate of all large cities. The fact that the free cities of Germany have been able to exist in this fashion for a length of time, is owing to certain conditions prevailing in that country, such as are not found elsewhere, and without which they could not have maintained their institutions and existence. That part of Germany of which I speak was formerly subject to the Roman Empire, the same as France and Spain; but during the decadence of that empire, when its dominion was reduced to Germany, the more powerful cities of that country began to free themselves by purchase, according to the weakness or necessity of the Emperors, by the payment of a small annual quit-rent. And gradually all the cities that held directly from the Emperor, and were not subject to any prince, purchased their liberty in like manner. It happened at about the same time when these cities bought their freedom, that certain communities subject to the Duke of Austria revolted against him; amongst these were Fribourg, the Swiss, and others, who, prospering from the start, gradually became formidable to their neighbors; and this was particularly the case with the Swiss communities. And thus Germany is now divided between the Emperor, certain princes, the republics called free or imperial cities, and the Swiss communities; and the reason why amongst these states with such a diversity of forms of government we see no wars, or only wars of short duration, is that this shadow of an Emperor, although having no direct power, yet has so much influence over them that, by interposing his authority as a conciliator and mediator, he quickly puts an end to any differences that occur between them. The most important wars, and those that have lasted longest, were those between the Swiss and the Duke of Austria; and although for a long while past the Emperor and the Duke of Austria have been one and the same person, yet he has never been able to overcome the courage of the Swiss, and force alone has been able to bring about treaties of peace between them. Nor has the rest of Germany afforded him much help against the Swiss, partly because the free cities do not wish to interfere with those who desire to live in freedom like themselves, and partly because the princes are unable to assist him from poverty, or unwilling, from jealousy of his power. The free cities of Germany, then, can live in the tranquil enjoyment of their small domain, having no occasion for wishing to increase it, because of the protection of the Imperial authority; and they live united within their walls because they have an enemy near who would quickly avail himself of any internal dissension to seize and occupy their cities. But if Germany were differently constituted, they would have to seek to aggrandize themselves, and would have to abandon their quiet life.
As the same conditions do not exist in other countries they cannot adopt the same system as these free imperial cities, but must seek to increase their power by leagues and alliances, or to extend it like the Romans. And whoever attempts any other mode will quickly come to ruin, for in a thousand ways, and for many reasons, acquisitions of territory may prove injurious; for one may well extend one’s dominion without increasing one’s power, but the acquisition of dominion without power is sure to bring with it ruin. Whoever impoverishes himself by war acquires no power, even though he be victorious, for his conquests cost him more than they are worth. This the Venetians did, and the Florentines, who were much weaker when they held, the one Lombardy, and the other Tuscany, than they were when the one was satisfied with the dominion of the sea, and the other with her six miles of territory. All of which resulted from their desire of aggrandizement, without the knowledge of the proper means. And they deserve the more blame, as they had less excuse, having before their eyes the method practised by the Romans, which they might have followed, whilst the Romans, having no precedents to guide them, had to develop the system exclusively by their own sagacity. Moreover acquisitions sometimes prove most injurious even to a well-regulated republic, when they consist either in a city or province that has been enervated by pleasures and luxury; for these indulgences and habits become contagious by intercourse with the inhabitants. This happened to the Romans when they took Capua, and afterwards also to Hannibal; and if this city had been at a greater distance from Rome, and if the excesses of the soldiers had not been so promptly corrected, or if Rome herself had at that time been in the least degree corrupted, the acquisition of Capua would undoubtedly have proved the ruin of the Roman republic. Titus Livius bears witness to this in the following words: “Capua, the seat of all sensual pleasures and least conducive to military discipline, had already turned the captivated spirits of the soldiers from the remembrance of their own country.” And truly cities or provinces of similar character revenge themselves upon their conquerors without battles and without blood; for by communicating to them their own corrupt habits and manners, they expose them to being vanquished by whoever chooses to attack them. Juvenal well understood this when he says in one of his satires that the conquest of foreign countries had caused the Romans to adopt foreign manners and customs, and that, in exchange for their accustomed frugality and other most admirable virtues, “Gluttony and luxury dwell there, and will avenge the conquered universe.” If then conquests proved so very nearly pernicious to Rome, in the days when she displayed so much wisdom and virtue in her conduct, what would the consequence be to those who deviate so far from that example? And what would it be, if to the other errors (which we have discussed so fully above) they add the employment of mercenaries or auxiliary troops? The dangers so frequently resulting from that we will point out in the next chapter.
Were it not that I have in another work of mine treated at length of the uselessness of mercenaries and auxiliaries, and of the advantage of having national troops, I should discuss that subject more fully here; as it is, however, I shall refer to it but briefly, for I do not think that I ought to pass it over entirely, having found a most striking example of it related by Titus Livius. I understand by auxiliary troops such as a prince or republic sends to your aid, but which are paid, and the commander of which is appointed by the prince or republic. Titus Livius relates the following. The Romans had on different occasions defeated the Samnites with the troops which had been sent from Rome to aid the Capuans; and having relieved these of the war of the Samnites, they returned to Rome, leaving, however, two legions in the country for the protection of the Capuans, who had been deprived of their garrison, so as to save their city from falling again a prey to the Samnites. These legions, plunged in idleness, became so fond of Capua that, forgetful of their own country and of the respect due to the Senate, they conspired to make themselves masters of that country, which they had defended with their valor, deeming the inhabitants, who were incapable of protecting themselves, unworthy of its possession. When this plot became known to the Romans, they suppressed and punished it, as we shall more fully relate when we come to speak of conspiracies.
I repeat, then, that of all kinds of troops, auxiliaries are the most dangerous; for the prince or republic that calls them to their assistance has no control or authority whatever over them, as that remains entirely with him who sends them; for, as I have said, auxiliary troops that are sent you by any prince are under officers appointed by him, under his banner, and are paid by him, as was the case with the army sent by the Romans to Capua. Such troops, when victorious, generally plunder as well him to whose assistance they were sent as the enemy against whom they have been employed; and this they do either from the perfidy of the prince who sends them, or from their own ambition. And although it was not the intention of the Romans to break the treaty and convention they had made with the Capuans, yet the opportunity and facility of taking the country from the Capuans seemed so great to the soldiers that it suggested the thought and prompted the attempt. We might cite many more examples, but this one suffices, together with that of the people of Rhegium, who lost their city and their lives by a legion which the Romans had sent there to garrison the place. A prince or republic, then, should adopt any other course rather than bring auxiliaries into their state for its defence, especially when their reliance is wholly upon them; for any treaty or convention with the enemy, however hard the conditions, will be less hard to bear than the danger from auxiliaries. And if we read carefully the history of the past, and observe the course of present events, we shall find that for one who derived benefit from auxiliaries there are an endless number who have been disappointed. And in truth no more favorable opportunity could be presented to an ambitious prince or republic for seizing a city or a province, than to be asked to send troops there to assist in its defence. And therefore any one whose ambition so far misleads him as to call in strangers to aid in his defence, or in an attack upon others, seeks to acquire that which he will not be able to hold, and which after acquiring will be easily taken from him. But the ambition of men is such that, to gratify a present desire, they think not of the evils which will in a short time result from it. Nor will they be influenced by the examples of antiquity, which I have cited upon this and other points; for if they were, they would see that the more liberality they show to their neighbors, and the less desire they manifest to rob them of their territory, the more readily will those neighbors throw themselves into their arms, as we shall see further on from the conduct of the Capuans.
We have shown very fully in preceding chapters how differently the Romans proceeded towards the peoples they conquered from what is done in the present day by those who extend their jurisdiction; and how they left the people of those places which they did not destroy in the enjoyment of their own laws and institutions, even when they made subjects of them, and not mere allies; and how they avoided leaving any evidence of the Roman authority there, but simply imposed upon the people certain conditions, and so long as these were faithfully complied with, so long did they maintain those people in their dignity and state. And we know that this system was practised by them until they carried their conquests beyond the confines of Italy, and began to reduce the conquered kingdoms and states to the condition of provinces. The most striking illustration of this was that the first Prætor whom they sent to any place was to Capua; and this was done not from any ambitious views of their own, but because they had been requested to do it by the Capuans themselves. For dissensions having arisen between them, they deemed it necessary to have some Roman citizen reside in their city who should restore order and union amongst them. Influenced by this example and impelled by a similar necessity, the people of Antium asked the Romans to send them also a Prætor. So that Titus Livius says, in relation to this incident, “that the Romans conquered as much by their justice as by their arms.” We see, therefore, how much this mode of proceeding facilitated the aggrandizement of the Roman Empire; for those cities mainly that are accustomed to enjoy liberty, and to be governed by their own citizens, remain more quiet and content under a government which they do not see (even should it involve some inconvenience) than under one which they have daily before their eyes, and which would seem constantly to remind them of their servitude. Another advantage resulting to a prince from being thus at a distance is his not having under his immediate control the judges and magistrates that decide civil and criminal causes, as no sentence pronounced by them will bring censure or odium upon him, and thus he escapes many occasions for calumny and hatred.
I might cite many examples of ancient times in support of the truth of what I say, but will only adduce one recent one in Italy. It is well known that Genoa has several times been taken by the French, and the king has always (with the exception of the present time) sent French governors there to administer it in his name. Only at the present time he has allowed the city to govern itself by a Genoese governor, not because the king preferred it, but from the force of circumstances. And most assuredly, if we examine which of these two modes gives most security to the king and satisfaction to the Genoese, we shall find it to be the latter. Besides this the people will the more readily throw themselves into your arms, the less disposition you manifest to subjugate them; and they will be the less apprehensive of any attempt on your part upon their liberties, the more humane and affable you show yourself towards them. It was this affability and liberality that caused the Capuans to apply to the Romans for a Prætor. If, on the other hand, the Romans had manifested the slightest desire to send one there, it would at once have excited jealousy in the minds of the Capuans, and would have alienated them from the Romans.
But why need we go to Capua and to Rome for examples, when we have plenty in Florence and in Tuscany? Every one knows how the city of Pistoja long since placed herself voluntarily under the dominion of the Florentines; and it is equally well known what bitter enmity exists between the Florentines, the Pisans, the Lucchese, and the Siennese. This diversity of affection has not arisen because the Pistojans do not value their liberty as highly as the others do theirs, or do not esteem themselves as much as the others do; but because the Florentines have always borne themselves like brothers towards the Pistojans, and like enemies towards the others. It was this that induced the Pistojans to place themselves voluntarily under the government of Florence, whilst the others always have made, and continue to make, the most strenuous efforts to avoid becoming subject to the Florentines. And doubtless, if the Florentines had attached their neighbors to themselves by treaties of amity, or by rendering them assistance, instead of frightening them off, they would now be the undisputed masters of Tuscany. I do not mean to say by this, however, that arms and force are never to be employed, but that they should be reserved as the last resort when other means fail.
Those who have been present at any deliberative assemblies of men will have observed how erroneous their opinions often are; and in fact, unless they are directed by superior men, they are apt to be contrary to all reason. But as superior men in corrupt republics (especially in periods of peace and quiet) are generally hated, either from jealousy or the ambition of others, it follows that the preference is given to what common error approves, or to what is suggested by men who are more desirous of pleasing the masses than of promoting the general good. When, however, adversity comes, then the error is discovered, and then the people fly for safety to those whom in prosperity they had neglected, as we shall show at length in its proper place. Certain events also easily mislead men who have not a great deal of experience, for they have in them so much that resembles truth that men easily persuade themselves that they are correct in the judgment they have formed upon the subject. Such was the error committed by the Latins when they followed the advice of the Prætor Numicius, after they had been defeated by the Romans; and such also was the error, so generally believed in a few years ago, when Francis I., king of France, attempted the conquest of Milan, which was defended by the Swiss.
When, after the death of Louis XII., Francis, Duke of Angoulême, succeeded to the throne of France, he desired to recover for his kingdom the Duchy of Milan, which a few years previously had been taken by the Swiss, with the aid of Pope Julius II. For this purpose he wanted to have allies in Italy to facilitate his enterprise; and besides the Venetians, whom King Louis had already gained over, he tried to secure the support of the Florentines and of Pope Leo X., deeming their alliance most important to his success, inasmuch as the king of Spain had troops in Lombardy, and the forces of the Emperor of Germany held Verona. The Pope, however, did not yield to the solicitations of the French king, but was persuaded by his counsellors (according to report) to remain neutral. These had demonstrated to him that the surest means of victory for the Church would be to have neither the king of France nor the Swiss too powerful in Italy, and that, if he wished to restore the Church to her former liberty, it was necessary to free her from the yoke of both the one and the other of these powers. And as it would be impossible to overcome either of them separately, and still less both of them together, it would be best to allow either of them to defeat the other, and that then the Church, with the aid of her friends, could with safety assail the one that had remained victorious. And certainly a more favorable opportunity than the present could not offer for the execution of this plan, as both parties were in the field face to face, and the Pope had his forces well organized, and might show himself on the confines of Lombardy, near to both armies, under color of wishing merely to protect his own possessions, where he could remain quietly until a battle should take place, which it was reasonable to suppose would be a bloody one, both armies being equally strong and brave; and that this would leave the victor so weakened that it would be easy for the Pope to attack and defeat him; and that thus he would, with great glory to himself, remain master of Lombardy and arbiter of all Italy. The result, however, proved how completely erroneous this judgment was. The Swiss were defeated after a most bloody fight; but the Spanish and Papal troops, so far from presuming to attack the victorious French, took to flight. Nor would that have availed for their safety, had it not been for the humanity or indifference of the French king, who cared not for a second victory, but was satisfied to conclude a treaty of peace with the Church.
The advice under which the Pope had acted in this matter was founded upon reasons which, taken separately, were sound enough, but viewed as a whole were entirely false. For it rarely happens that the victor in a battle loses many of his men; he loses only those that are killed in the fight, and none by flight; and in the heat of the action, when men are contending hand to hand, few are actually killed, because such a combat lasts but a short time. But even if it were continued longer, and many of the victorious army were slain, the prestige which follows victory and the terror which it brings with it are such that it greatly outweighs the loss which the conqueror suffers by the death of his men. So that an army that attacks him in the belief that he has been weakened, would find itself greatly mistaken, unless it should be sufficiently powerful to be able to have contended with him at any time even before the victory. In such case it may, according to its valor and fortune, either win or lose; but even then, the army that has already fought a battle and been victorious will have rather the advantage over the other. This was conclusively proved by the experience of the Latins, both because of the error committed by the Prætor Numicius and by the ills which those people suffered who believed him when, after the defeat of the Latins by the Romans, he went through all Latium crying that now was the time for attacking the Romans, because they had been so weakened by the battle which they had fought with the Latins, and because the victory which they had gained was really only such in name, inasmuch as their losses had been quite as great as though they had been defeated, and that the smallest force that were now to oppose them would completely destroy them. In consequence of which the people who accepted the advice of Numicius raised a new army, but were quickly beaten by the Romans, and suffered all the evils that will ever befall those who hold similar erroneous opinions.
“ Such was the state of things in Latium that they could neither bear peace nor war.” Of all the unhappy conditions to which princes or republics can be reduced, the most unhappy is that when they are unwilling to accept peace and incapable of sustaining war; and to this condition those are reduced who consider themselves oppressed by the terms of peace, and who, if they wished to make war, would have to yield themselves a prey to their allies, or victims to their enemies. And all this results from following evil counsels, and from taking a wrong course because of not having estimated their forces correctly, as has been shown above. Princes or republics who form a proper estimate of their forces will hardly ever be reduced to a condition similar to that of the Latins, who made terms with the Romans when they ought not to have done it, and declared war when they should not have done it; and so managed that both the friendship and the enmity of Rome proved equally injurious to them. The Latins were defeated and reduced to the greatest extremities, first by Manlius Torquatus, and afterwards by Camillus, who after having compelled them to surrender at discretion, and having placed Roman garrisons in all their towns and taken hostages from each, returned to Rome and reported to the Senate that all Latium was in the hands of the Roman people. And as the action of the Roman Senate on this occasion was very remarkable and worthy of being noted, so that it may serve as an example to any prince to whom a similar occasion may be presented, I shall quote the very words which Livius puts into the mouth of Camillus, which show both the manner in which the Romans proceeded in their aggrandizement, and how in all decisions of state they avoided half-way measures and always went to extremes. For government consists mainly in so keeping your subjects that they shall be neither able nor disposed to injure you; and this is done by depriving them of all means of injuring you, or by bestowing such benefits upon them that it would not be reasonable for them to desire any change of fortune. This will be best understood, first from the proposition of Camillus, and then from the decision of the Senate upon the subject. “The immortal gods thus leave you masters of the course you have to take, and have placed it in your hands to decide whether Latium shall exist or not. You can secure a perpetual peace with Latium by employing, according to your choice, either severity or clemency. Will you proceed with cruel severity against the vanquished who have surrendered to you at discretion? If so, you are at liberty to destroy all Latium; or will you rather, in accordance with the example of your ancestors, increase the power of the Roman republic by granting to the vanquished the rights of citizenship? If so, you have now the opportunity for most glorious increase. Certainly that empire is the most firm and assured where obedience is cheerfully rendered; whilst, therefore, the minds of these people are in a state of stupor and suspense between hope and fear, it behooves you to assure yourselves either by severity or by bestowing benefits upon them.” This proposition of Camillus was followed by the resolve of the Senate in conformity with the address of the Consul; so that they sought town after town of any importance in Latium, and either heaped benefits upon them or destroyed them; granting to some exemptions and privileges, giving them the rights of citizenship, and making in every way sure of them. The others were destroyed; colonies were sent there, and the inhabitants were transferred to Rome, or so entirely dispersed that they could neither by arms nor in any other way do any injury to Rome.
And it was thus that the Romans never took any undecided middle course in important affairs, as I have stated above. All princes and republics should imitate this example, and this is the course which the Florentines ought to have adopted when in 1502 Arezzo and the entire Val di Chiana revolted. Had they done so, they would have fairly established their dominion over them, and have greatly increased the city of Florence, and given her those fields which she lacked for her subsistence. But they took that middle course which is pernicious in the extreme, when the question to be decided affects the fate of men. They exiled a portion of the Aretines, and a portion of them they condemned to death; and all of them were deprived of their ancient rank and honors, which they had enjoyed in their city, and yet the city itself was left entire. And when some one in the public councils advised the destruction of Arezzo, those who were deemed the most prudent replied, that it would be but little honor for the republic to destroy that city, inasmuch as it would have the appearance of their having done it because Florence lacked the power to hold it. This was one of those specious reasons that seem true, but are not; on the same principle we should not be able to kill a parricide, or any other criminal or infamous person, lest it should be deemed dishonorable to the prince to show that he lacked force to restrain a single person. And those who reason thus do not see that often individual men, and sometimes a whole city, will act so culpably against the state that as an example to others and for his own security the prince has no other remedy but to destroy it entirely. Honor consists in being able, and knowing when and how, to chastise evil-doers; and a prince who fails to punish them, so that they shall not be able to do any more harm, will be regarded as either ignorant or cowardly. The propriety of the decisions of the Romans, when required to make any, is proved also by the judgment given against the Privernati. And here we must remark two things from the text of Livius; the one where he says, above, that rebellious subjects must either be conciliated by benefits or destroyed; and the other, where he points out the advantage of frankness and courage, especially when exhibited in the presence of judicious men. The Roman Senate was assembled to judge the inhabitants of Privernum, who had revolted, but had by force been brought back to obedience to the Romans. The Privernati had sent a number of their citizens to implore the clemency of the Roman Senate, and having been brought into the presence of that body, one of them was asked by a Senator, “What punishment he thought that his people had deserved?” To which the Privernate answered, “That punishment which men merit who believe themselves worthy of liberty.” Whereupon the Consul replied, “If we remit your punishment, what sort of a peace may we hope to conclude with you?” To which the other responded, “An eternal and sincere peace, if you grant us good conditions; but if otherwise it will be but of short duration.” And although this reply displeased some, yet the wiser part of the Senate said, “that this was the answer of a free and brave man, and that they could not believe that either a people or an individual would otherwise than from necessity remain in a condition that was painful to them; and that there could be no reliance upon any peace unless it was voluntary, and that it was hopeless to look for good faith from those who were treated as slaves.” After these words the Senate resolved that the Privernati should be admitted to the citizenship of Rome, and in conferring the honor of these privileges upon them, said, “that men who hold their liberty above everything else were worthy of being Roman citizens.” So much did the frank and high-minded reply of the Privernati please the magnanimous Romans; in fact, any other would have been false and cowardly. And those who believe men to be otherwise, especially such as are or consider themselves free, deceive themselves; and under this illusion they are apt to take a course that is neither good in itself nor satisfactory to those who are affected by it. And this occasions the frequent rebellions and the ruin of states.
But to come back to my proposition, I conclude from the two examples given that, when a decision has to be made involving the fate of powerful cities that are accustomed to free institutions, they must either be destroyed, or conciliated by benefits. Any other course will be useless; and, above all, half measures should be avoided, these being most dangerous, as was proved by the Samnites, who, when they had hemmed the Romans in between the Caudine forks, disregarded the advice of an old man, who counselled them either to let the Romans depart honorably, or to kill them all. And by taking the middle course of disarming them and obliging them to pass under a yoke, they let them depart with shame and rage in their hearts. So that the Samnites soon after found, to their cost, how salutary the old man’s advice had been, and how injurious the course which they had adopted, as we shall more fully show in another place.
It may perhaps seem to the learned men of our time that the Romans acted without proper consideration when, in their desire to make sure of the people of Latium and of the city of Privernum, they did not build some fortresses there to serve as a check, and as a guaranty of their fidelity; especially as it is a general saying of our wiseacres in Florence that Pisa and other similar cities should be held by citadels. Doubtless, if the Romans had been of the same composition, they would have constructed fortresses; but as they were men of very different courage, judgment, and power, they did not build them. And so long as Rome was free, and adhered to her old customs and admirable constitution, they never built fortresses to hold either cities or countries which they had conquered, although they preserved some of the strong places which they found already existing. Seeing, then, the mode of proceeding of the Romans in this respect, and that of the princes of our present time, it seems to me proper to examine whether it is well to build fortresses, and whether they are of benefit or injury to him who builds them. We must consider, then, the object of fortresses, with reference to their serving as a means of defence against a foreign enemy as well as against one’s own subjects.
In the first case, I maintain they are unnecessary, and in the second decidedly injurious. I will begin by explaining why they are injurious in the second case, and therefore say that whenever either princes or republics are afraid lest their subjects should revolt, it results mainly from the hatred of the subjects on account of the bad treatment experienced from those who govern them; and this comes either from the belief that they can best be controlled by force, or from lack of sound judgment in governing them. And one of the things that induce the belief that they can be controlled by force is the possession of fortresses with which to menace them; and thus the ill treatment that engenders hatred in the subjects arises in great measure from the fact that the prince or republic hold the fortresses, which (if this be true) are therefore by far more injurious than useful. For in the first instance (as has been said) they cause you to be more violent and audacious towards your subjects; and next, they do not afford the security which you imagine; for all the measures of force and violence that you employ to hold a people amount to nothing, except these two: either you must keep a good army always ready to take the field, as the Romans did; or you must scatter, disorganize, and destroy the people so completely that they can in no way injure you; for, were you merely to improverish them, “the spoliated still have their arms”; if you disarm them, “their fury will serve them instead of arms”; if you kill the chiefs and continue to oppress the others, new chiefs will spring up like the heads of the Hydra. If you build fortresses they may serve in time of peace to encourage you to oppress your subjects; but in time of war they are most useless, because they will be assailed by the enemy as well as by your subjects, and cannot possibly resist both. And if ever they were useless, it is now in our day, on account of the power of artillery, in consequence of which small places, where you cannot retreat behind second intrenchments, cannot possibly be defended, as has been explained above.
I will discuss this subject in a more familiar manner. Prince or republic, you would either keep the people of your own city in check by means of fortresses, or you wish to hold a city that has been taken in war. I shall turn to the prince, and say to him that “nothing can be more useless than such a fortress for keeping your own citizens in check, for the reasons given above; for it will make you more prompt and regardless in oppressing them, which will expose you to ruin by exciting your subjects against you to that degree that you will not be able to defend the very citadel that has provoked it.” A good and wise prince, desirous of maintaining that character, and to avoid giving the opportunity to his sons to become oppressive, will never build fortresses, so that they may place their reliance upon the good will of their subjects, and not upon the strength of citadels. And although Count Francesco Sforza, who had become Duke of Milan, and was reputed a sagacious man, caused a citadel to be built at Milan, yet I maintain that in that respect he did not prove himself wise, for the result demonstrated that that citadel, so far from giving security to his heirs, proved their ruin; for in the belief that, being perfectly secure by the protection which this citadel afforded, they might with impunity outrage and oppress their citizens, they indulged in all sorts of violence, which made them so odious that they lost their state at the first attack of an enemy; and the citadel, which during peace had done them so much harm, was of no service in defending them in war. For if they had not had it, and had not unwisely treated their citizens so harshly, they would sooner have discovered their danger, and would have retreated; and would then have been able to resist the impetuous assault of the French more bravely without the citadel, but supported by the good will of their people, than with the citadel and the hostility of their people.
In truth, fortresses are of no advantage to you in any way, for they are lost either by the treachery of those who are put to guard them, or by the violence of the assailants, or by famine. And if you want to have any benefit from fortresses, and have them serve you in recovering the state that you may have lost, when the only thing that remains to you is the citadel, you must have an army with which you can attack the enemy that has dispossessed you of your state; and if you have such an army you would recover your state anyhow, even if there were no such citadel, – in fact, even more easily, for the people would be more friendly to you, because they would not have received bad treatment at your hands when you were relying upon your fortress. And experience has shown that the citadel of Milan was of no use, either to the Sforzas or to the French, in times of adversity for either the one or the other; but that it rather wrought harm and ruin to both, because in consequence of their reliance upon it they gave no thought to holding that state by means of more just and proper government. Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino, son of Frederick, who in his day was esteemed one of the most distinguished captains, was driven from his state by Cesar Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI. When afterwards in the course of events he regained his possessions, he caused all the fortresses in the state to be destroyed, because he believed them to be injurious. For, being beloved by his subjects, he did not need them on their account, and with regard to his enemies, he had seen that he could not hold them without an army in the field, and therefore he resolved to destroy them. Pope Julius II., after having driven the Bentivogli out of Bologna, built a citadel there, and then caused one of his governors to have some of the people assassinated. This caused a revolt, and the Pope quickly lost the citadel; so that it proved to have been of no use to him, but rather an injury, the more so as it might have been of some service had he borne himself differently towards the people. Niccolo da Castello, father of the Vitelli, having returned to his country whence he had been exiled, promptly razed two fortresses that had been built by Sixtus IV., deeming that it was only the good will of the people, and not the fortresses, that could maintain him in that state. But the most recent and most notable instance, and the one most fit to prove the futility of building and the advantage of destroying fortresses, is that which occurred at Genoa in our immediate time. It is well known that in 1507 Genoa revolted against Louis XII., king of France, who came with all his forces to recover that city, and, having succeeded in this, he caused the construction of the most formidable citadel that had ever been built; for owing to its situation and other circumstances, it seemed actually impregnable, being placed upon the point of a high hill that extended into the sea, called by the Genoese Codefa, and thus commanding the entire port of Genoa, and a considerable portion of the surrounding country. It happened afterwards, in the year 1512, that the French, being driven out of Italy, Genoa revolted in spite of the citadel (which remained in the hands of the French). The government was seized by Ottaviano Fregoso, who, after sixteen months of great effort, took the city by famine. Every one believed, and many advised, that he would preserve the citadel as a refuge in any event; but being a very sagacious man, and knowing that it was the good will of the people, and not fortresses, that maintain princes in their states, he had the citadel destroyed. And thus, instead of founding his state upon the strength of the fortress, but upon his valor and prudence, he has held it ever since to this day. And where formerly a thousand foot soldiers sufficed to overturn the government of Genoa, more than ten thousand could not now injure him; which shows that the destruction of the citadel did no more injure Ottaviano than the building of it protected the king of France; for when the latter was able to come into Italy at the head of an army, he recovered Genoa without the aid of a citadel; but without such an army he could not hold Genoa, although he had the support of a citadel, the building of which caused him great expense and its loss much disgrace, whilst to Ottaviano the taking of it brought much glory and its destruction great advantage.
But let us come now to republics that build fortresses, not within their own territory, but in that which they conquer. And if the example of France and Genoa does not suffice to expose the fallacy of this, the case of Florence and Pisa certainly will; for the Florentines built a citadel to hold that city, ignorant of the principle that to hold a city that had always hated everything that bore the name of Florentine, that had enjoyed free institutions, and that had resorted to rebellion as a refuge for liberty, it was necessary to follow the practice of the old Romans, either to convert her into an ally and associate, or to destroy her entirely. How much reliance can be placed upon fortresses was shown when King Charles came into Italy, to whom they all surrendered, either through the treachery of their governors, or from fear of a worse fate. If there had been no citadel the Florentines would not have based their hopes of holding Pisa upon this means, and the king of France never would have been able in that way to deprive the Florentines of that city. The means which they in that case would have employed to hold Pisa until then, would perhaps have sufficed to preserve it altogether, and certainly would have stood the test better than the citadel.
I conclude, then, that to hold one’s own country fortresses are injurious, and to hold conquered territory they are useless. The authority of the Romans is enough for me: they razed the strong places in the countries which they wished to hold, and never built any new ones. And if the example of Tarentum in ancient times, and that of Brescia in modern times, be quoted in opposition to my opinion, both of which places were recovered from their revolted inhabitants by means of their citadels, I reply, that for the recovery of Tarentum Fabius Maximus was sent at the beginning of the year with the entire army, and he would have succeeded in retaking that city independent of the citadel, although he made use of it; for if the citadel had not existed, he would have found other means of accomplishing the same end. And truly I do not see of what sort of advantage a fortress can be, if to recover possession of your country it is necessary to send a consular army with a Fabius Maximus to command it. That the Romans would have retaken Tarentum anyhow is proved by the example of Capua, where there was no citadel, and which they recovered by the mere valor of their army. But let us come to Brescia. I say that it rarely happens, as it did in this case, that when a city revolts, and whilst the citadel remains in your hands, you should have a powerful army near at hand, like that of the French; for Gaston de Foix was with his army at Bologna, and the moment he heard of the loss of Brescia he marched his army there, and, having arrived, recovered the place by means of the citadel. But the citadel of Brescia to be thus of service needed a Gaston de Foix with the French army to come to its support within three days. Thus this example does not suffice to controvert the instances I have adduced; for a number of fortresses have been taken and retaken in the wars of our times, according as the one or the other party were the stronger or the weaker in the field; not only in Lombardy, but also in the Romagna, in the kingdom of Naples, and in fact throughout all Italy. But as to the building of fortresses for defence against foreign enemies, I say that they are not needed by those peoples or kingdoms that have good armies; for good armies suffice for their defence without fortresses, but fortresses without good armies are incompetent for defence. Experience proves this to be the case with those who manage their government and other affairs well, as was the case with the Romans and Spartans; for whilst the Romans built no fortresses, the Spartans not only refrained from doing so, but even did not permit their city to be protected by walls, for they wanted to rely solely upon the valor of their men for their defence, and upon no other means. And therefore when a Spartan was asked by an Athenian whether he did not think the walls of Athens admirable, he replied, “Yes, if the city were inhabited by women.”
The prince, then, who has a good army, may have upon his frontiers, or on the sea, some fortresses that may for some days hold an enemy in check, to enable the prince to gather his forces; such fortresses may occasionally be useful to him, but not necessary. But when the prince has not a good army, then fortresses whether within his territory or upon the frontiers are either injurious or useless to him; injurious, because they are easily lost, and when lost are turned against him; and even if they are so strong that the enemy cannot take them, he will march by with his army and leave them in the rear; and thus they are of no benefit, for good armies, unless opposed by equally powerful ones, march into the enemy’s country regardless of cities or fortresses, which they leave in their rear. We have many instances of this in ancient history; and Francesco Maria did the same thing quite recently, when, marching to attack Urbino, he left ten hostile cities behind him without paying the least attention to them. A prince then, who can raise a good army, need not build any fortresses; and one who cannot should not build any. It is proper enough that he should fortify the city in which he resides, so as to be able to resist the first shock of an enemy, and to afford himself the time to negotiate, or to obtain aid from without for his relief; but anything more is mere waste of money in time of peace, and useless in time of war. And thus whoever reflects upon all I have said upon the subject will see that the same wisdom which inspired the Romans in all other matters equally guided them in their decisions respecting the Latins and the Privernati, when, instead of relying upon fortresses, they secured the allegiance of these people by wiser and more magnanimous means.
The dissensions between the people and the nobility in the Roman republic were so great, that the Veienti together with the Tuscans, thought the opportunity favorable for crushing out the name of Rome entirely; and having formed an army and made incursions into the Roman territory, the Senate sent Cn. Manlius and M. Fabius against them; and when they had moved their army near to that of the Veienti, these began with insults and attacks to abuse and offend the Romans, with such a degree of temerity and insolence that it caused the Romans to forget their dissensions and to become united; so that when it came to a regular battle between them and the Veienti and Tuscans, the Romans completely defeated and routed them. This shows how apt men are to deceive themselves (as we have shown above) in deciding upon what course they are to take, and how frequently they lose where they had confidently hoped to win. The Veienti thought that, by assailing the Romans at a moment when they were divided by internal dissensions, they would have an easy victory over them; but their very attack restored union amongst the Romans, and that caused the defeat of the Veienti. These dissensions in republics are generally the result of idleness and peace, whilst apprehension and war are productive of union; and therefore if the Veienti had been wise, the more they had seen the Romans divided amongst themselves, the more they would have kept war away from them, and should have tried to subjugate them by the arts of peace. The way to do this is to try and win the confidence of the citizens that are divided amongst themselves, and to manage to become the arbiter between them, unless they should have come to arms; but having come to arms, then sparingly to favor the weaker party, so as to keep up the war and make them exhaust themselves, and not to give them occasion for the apprehension, by a display of your forces, that you intend to subjugate them and make yourself their prince. And if this course be well carried out, it will generally end in your obtaining the object you aim at. The city of Pistoja (as I have said in another chapter) did not come to the republic of Florence by any other than the above means; for its people being divided amongst themselves, the Florentines favored first one party and then the other, and brought them to that point that, wearied of their disturbed existence, they threw themselves spontaneously into the arms of Florence. The city of Sienna changed her government through the influence of the Florentines only when these aided her with small and unimportant favors; for had these favors been large and of importance, the Siennese would immediately have united in defence of the existing government. I will add one more example to the above. Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan, often made war upon Florence, relying upon her internal dissensions, but was always the loser; so that he said, in lamenting his unsuccessful attempts, that “the follies of the Florentines have cost him two millions in gold.”
The Veienti and the Tuscans then (as I have said above) were deluded by the hope of being able to take advantage of the dissensions of the Romans, and were in the end defeated by them in battle. And in the same way will all those be deceived who in a similar manner and for similar reasons believe that they can subjugate a people.
I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy; but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you. This was seen in the case of the Veienti, of whom we have spoken in the preceding chapter, who added insulting words against the Romans to the injuries of war, which no prudent captain should permit his soldiers to indulge in, for they inflame and excite the enemy to revenge, and in no way impede his attacking you (as has been said), so that they are in fact so many weapons that will be turned against you. A striking instance of this occurred in Asia, when Gabades, commander of the Persians, having for a long time besieged Amida and becoming weary of the siege, resolved to abandon it; and having already broken up his camp, the inhabitants of the place came upon the walls, and, inflated with the thought of victory, assailed his army with every kind of insult, vilifying them and accusing and reproaching them for their cowardice and poltroonery. Gabades, irritated by this, changed his mind and resumed the siege, and his indignation at these insults so stimulated his efforts, that he took the city in a few days, and gave it up to sack and pillage. The same thing happened to the Veienti, who, not content with making war upon the Romans, outraged them with insulting words, advancing up to the very stockade of their camp to fling insults at them, thus irritating the Romans more by their words than their arms; so that the soldiers, who at first had fought unwillingly, now constrained the Consuls to bring on a battle, in which they made the Veienti suffer the penalties of their insolence. It is the duty, therefore, of every good general of an army, or chief of a republic, to use all proper means to prevent such insults and reproaches from being indulged in by citizens or soldiers, either amongst themselves or against the enemy; for if used against an enemy they give rise to the above-described inconveniences, and between the soldiers and the citizens it is even worse, unless they are promptly put a stop to, as has ever been done by prudent rulers. The Roman legion that had been left at Capua, having conspired against the Capuans, (as we shall relate in its place,) and this conspiracy having given rise to a sedition which was quelled by Valerius Corvinus, one of the stipulations of the convention that was concluded with them provided the severest penalties against whoever should at any time reproach the soldiers with this selection. Tiberius Gracchus, who in the war with Hannibal had been called to the command of a certain number of slaves, who had been armed because of the scarcity of freemen, ordered amongst the first things that the penalty of death should be inflicted upon whoever reproached any of them with their former servitude; so dangerous did the Romans esteem it to treat men with contempt, or to reproach them with any previous disgrace, because nothing is more irritating and calculated to excite greater indignation than such reproaches, whether founded upon truth or not; “for harsh sarcasms, even if they have but the least truth in them, leave their bitterness rankling in the memory.”
The use of insulting language towards an enemy arises generally from the insolence of victory, or from the false hope of victory, which latter misleads men as often in their actions as in their words; for when this false hope takes possession of the mind, it makes men go beyond the mark, and causes them often to sacrifice a certain good for an uncertain better. And as this matter well merits consideration, it seems to me better to demonstrate it by ancient and modern examples, rather than attempt to do so by arguments, which will not do as well. After Hannibal had defeated the Romans at Cannæ, he sent messengers to Carthage to announce his victory and to ask for support. The question as to what should be done was warmly discussed in the Senate of Carthage. Hanno, an old and sagacious citizen, advised that they should prudently avail of the victory to make peace with the Romans, which, he argued, they could do now with much more favorable conditions, having been victorious, than they could possibly have expected if they had been defeated; and that the object of the Carthaginians should be to show to the Romans that, whilst they were able to combat them, yet having won a victory they were not disposed to risk losing the fruits of it by the hope of still further successes. The Carthaginian Senate did not adopt this course, though they recognized the wisdom of it after the opportunity was lost. After Alexander the Great had conquered the entire Orient, the republic of Tyre, (most eminent and powerful in those days, the city being situated upon the water like that of the Venetians,) seeing the success and power of Alexander, sent ambassadors to him to assure him of their friendly disposition, and of their readiness to render him obedience, but that they could not consent to receive him or his forces within their city. Whereupon Alexander became indignant that a city should attempt to close her gates to him when all the rest of the world had thrown open theirs; he declined to receive the ambassadors, and, refusing the terms offered to him, he began to lay siege to the city. Tyre being surrounded by water, and abundantly supplied with provisions and all munitions necessary for her defence, Alexander found after four months of siege that the taking of the city would require more of his time and glory than most of his other conquests had done, and therefore resolved to try negotiations and to concede to the Tyrians all they themselves had asked. But the Tyrians on their part, having become elated, now refused to make terms, and killed the messengers whom Alexander had sent to them. This so enraged Alexander that he assaulted the city with such vigor that he captured and destroyed her, and made slaves of her men. In the year 1502 a Spanish army came into the Florentine dominions for the purpose of reinstating the Medici in the government of Florence, and to levy contributions from the city; the Spaniards had been called there by the citizens themselves, who had encouraged them with the hope that they would take up arms in their favor so soon as they should have entered the Florentine territory. But when the Spaniards had arrived in the plains of Florence, they found no one coming to their support, and having run out of provisions they attempted to open negotiations; but the citizens of Florence had become insolent, and declined all terms. The loss of Prato and the ruin of their own state were the consequence of this conduct. Princes that are attacked cannot then commit a greater error, especially when their assailant greatly exceeds them in power, than to refuse all accommodation, and more particularly when it has been offered; for no terms will ever be so hard but what they will afford some advantage to him who accepts them, so that he really obtains thereby a share of the victory. And therefore the people of Tyre should have been satisfied to have Alexander accept the propositions which he had at first refused; for it would have been victory enough for them to have made so great a conqueror, with arms in hand, come to their own terms. And so it should also have sufficed the Florentines, and it would have been a great victory for them, if the Spaniards had yielded in something to their will, without accomplishing all their own designs, which had for their object to change the government of Florence, to detach it from France, and to levy contributions from it. If out of these three objects the Spaniards had gained two, leaving to the people of Florence the first, namely its government, it would have been to some extent an honorable and satisfactory arrangement for both parties, and the people ought not to have cared about the two last points provided they preserved their liberty; nor should they (even if they had seen a chance of a greater and almost certain victory) have exposed their independence to the hazards of fortune, because that was their last stake, which no prudent man will ever risk except from extreme necessity.
Hannibal left Italy after sixteen years of triumphs, having been recalled by the Carthaginians to come to the rescue of his own country; he found Asdrubal and Syphax utterly beaten, the kingdom of Numidia lost, Carthage confined to the limits of her walls, and having no other resources to look to but him and his army. Knowing that this was the last resource of his country, Hannibal did not want to risk it without having first tried all other means, and was not ashamed to ask for peace, convinced that peace and not war was the only means of saving his country. The Romans having refused his request, he resolved to fight, though almost certain of defeat, judging that there might possibly be a chance of his being victorious, and that at least he should lose gloriously. And if so great and valiant a general as Hannibal, with his entire army, sought peace rather than risk a battle, seeing that his defeat would expose his country to enslavement, what should any less valiant and experienced generals do? But men always commit the error of not knowing where to limit their hopes, and by trusting to these rather than to a just measure of their resources, they are generally ruined.
What men will do from indignation and resentment is clearly seen from what happened to the Romans when they had sent the three Fabii as ambassadors to the Gauls, who had come to attack the Tuscans, and more especially the city of Clusium. The inhabitants having sent to Rome for assistance, the Romans sent ambassadors to the Gauls to notify them to abstain from making war upon their allies, the Tuscans. These ambassadors being more accustomed to act than to speak, and having arrived at the place at the very moment when the Tuscans and Gauls were engaged in battle, threw themselves upon the latter to combat them. Having been recognized by these, all the resentment which before they had felt towards the Tuscans was now turned against the Romans; and was increased even, because the Gauls complained through their ambassadors to the Romans of this wrong, and having demanded as a reparation therefor that the three Fabii should be delivered up to them, the Romans not only did not surrender or punish them in any way, but at the next assembling of the Comitii they were made Tribunes, with consular powers. When the Gauls saw the very men who should have been chastised thus rewarded with honors, they regarded it as an intentional insult and disgrace to themselves; and, exasperated by anger and indignation, they attacked Rome and captured the whole city, excepting only the Capitol. This misfortune was brought upon themselves by the Romans, through nothing but their disregard of justice, and because their ambassadors, who had violated the laws of nations, instead of being punished, had been rewarded with high honors.
This shows how careful republics and princes should be to avoid similar wrongs, either to an entire people or to an individual; for if any man be grievously wronged, either by a state or by another individual, and satisfactory reparation be not made to him, if he lives in a republic he will revenge himself, even if it involves the ruin of the state, and if he lives under a prince, and be at all high-spirited, he will never rest until he have revenged himself upon him in some way, though he may see that it will cause his own ruin. To prove the truth of this, we have a most flagrant and authentic instance in the case of Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Amongst the followers of his court was Pausanias, a noble youth of rare beauty, of whom Attalus, one of the chief officers of Philip, had become greatly enamored; and having several times pressed Pausanias to yield to his unnatural desires, which the youth had indignantly repelled, Attalus resolved by perfidy and force to obtain what he could not have otherwise. He therefore gave a grand banquet, to which he invited Pausanias, amongst a number of other nobles. After all had feasted and were filled with wine, he had Pausanias seized and carried to a retired place; and after having vented his own unnatural lust upon him; by way of subjecting him to still greater shame he caused a number of his other guests to subject him to a similar abuse. Pausanias repeatedly complained to Philip of this outrage, who for a while indulged him with the promise of revenge; but he not only failed to perform it, but promoted Attalus to the governorship of one of the Greek provinces. Whereupon Pausanias, seeing his enemy honored instead of being chastised, turned his whole resentment from him who had wronged him against Philip, for not having avenged him; and one morning, on the solemn occasion of the nuptials of the daughter of Philip with Alexander of Epirus, whilst Philip, accompanied by the two Alexanders, his son and son-in-law, was on his way to the temple to celebrate the marriage of his daughter, Pausanias slew him. This example, very similar to that of the Romans, should make all rulers remember never to esteem a man so lightly as to believe that, having heaped injuries and insults upon him, he will not seek to revenge himself, even at the risk of his own life.
If we observe carefully the course of human affairs, we shall often notice accidents and occurrences against which it seems to be the will of Heaven that we should not have provided. And if the events to which I refer occurred at Rome, where there was so much virtue, so much religion, and such order, it is no wonder that similar circumstances occur even much more frequently in a city or province deficient in the above advantages. As the case in point is most remarkable in proving the power of Heaven over human affairs, Titus Livius relates it at length in the most effective language, saying that “Heaven, wishing to make the Romans feel its power, first caused the Fabii, who had been sent as ambassadors to the Gauls, to commit a grave error; and then, in consequence of this act, it excited the Gauls to make war upon Rome. Afterwards, Heaven ordained that nothing worthy of the Roman people should be done to meet this war, having first caused Camillus, the only citizen capable of averting so great an evil, to be exiled to Ardea; and afterwards, the same people who had repeatedly created a Dictator to check the impetuous attacks of the Volscians and other neighboring enemies, failed to do so when the Gauls were marching upon Rome.” They also displayed great lack of zeal and diligence in their levies of troops, which were very insufficient; and altogether they were so slow in taking up arms, that they were barely in time to encounter the Gauls upon the river Allia, ten miles from Rome. Here the Tribunes established their camp, without any sign of their customary diligence, without proper examination of the ground, without surrounding the camp with either ditch or stockade, and without any of those precautions which divine or human reason would prompt. And in their order of battle they formed their ranks open and feeble, so that neither the soldiers nor the captains did anything worthy of the Roman discipline; for they fought without bloodshed, and fled even before they were fairly attacked. The greater part of the army went off to Veii, and the rest retreated to Rome, where they went direct to the Capitol, without entering even their own houses. And the Senate, so far from defending Rome (any more than the others), did not even close its gates; a portion sought safety in flight, and a portion took refuge in the Capitol with the remnant of the army. It is true that in the defence of this citadel they employed some method and prudence; they did not encumber it with useless men; they supplied it with all the provisions possible, so as to be able to support a long siege; and the crowd of useless old men, women, and children fled and dispersed in great part to the neighboring places, and the others remained in Rome, a prey to the Gauls; so that any one who had read of the deeds done by this people so many years before, and had then witnessed their conduct on that occasion, could not possibly have believed them to be the same people. And Titus Livius, who has given an account of all the above troubles, concludes by saying, “Fortune thus blinds the minds of men when she does not wish them to resist her power.”
Nothing could be more true than this conclusion; and therefore men who habitually live in great adversity or prosperity deserve less praise or less blame. For it will generally be found that they have been brought to their ruin or their greatness by some great occasion offered by Heaven, which gives them the opportunity, or deprives them of the power, to conduct themselves with courage and wisdom. It certainly is the course of Fortune, when she wishes to effect some great result, to select for her instrument a man of such spirit and ability that he will recognize the opportunity which is afforded him. And thus, in the same way, when she wishes to effect the ruin and destruction of states, she places men at the head who contribute to and hasten such ruin; and if there be any one powerful enough to resist her, she has him killed, or deprives him of all means of doing any good. The instances cited show clearly how Fortune, by way of strengthening Rome and carrying her to that greatness to which she attained, deemed it necessary to subject her to defeat, (as we shall show in the beginning of the following Book,) but did not wish to ruin her entirely. And therefore we see how she caused Camillus to be exiled, but not killed; how she caused the city of Rome to be taken by the Gauls, but not the citadel; and in the same way she caused the Romans to do nothing well for the protection of the city, whilst in their preparations for the defence of the Capitol they omitted nothing. To permit Rome to be taken, Fortune caused the greater part of the troops who were beaten on the river Allia to go to Veii, and thus seemingly cut off all means for saving the city; and yet, at the same time whilst doing all this, she prepared everything for the recovery of Rome. She caused almost an entire army to go to Veii, and Camillus to be exiled to Ardea, so that, under the command of a general with a reputation untarnished by the disgrace of defeat, a sufficient body of troops might be brought together for the recapture of the city.
I might cite some modern examples in confirmation of the views I have advanced, but do not deem it necessary, as that of the Romans suffices. I repeat, then, as an incontrovertible truth, proved by all history, that men may second Fortune, but cannot oppose her; they may develop her designs, but cannot defeat them. But men should never despair on that account; for, not knowing the aims of Fortune, which she pursues by dark and devious ways, men should always be hopeful, and never yield to despair, whatever troubles or ill fortune may befall them.
The Romans were besieged in the Capitol, and although in expectation of succor from Veii and from Camillus, yet, driven by hunger, they came to terms with the Gauls, according to which they were to pay them a certain amount of gold; but whilst in the act of concluding this arrangement, the gold being already in the scales, Camillus arrived with his army, which according to Livius was caused by Fortune, “who did not want that the Romans should live as having purchased their freedom with gold.” It is noteworthy that not only in this instance, but also in the whole course of the existence of the Roman republic, the Romans never made any acquisitions by means of money; nor did they ever purchase a peace, but secured it always by the valor of their arms, which I do not believe can be said of any other republic.
Amongst the other indications by which the power of a republic may be recognized is the relation in which they live with their neighbors; if these are tributary to her by way of securing her friendship and protection, then it is a sure sign that that republic is powerful. But if these neighboring states, though they may be more feeble than herself, draw money from her, then it is a sure indication of great weakness on the part of the republic. Let any one read the whole history of Rome, and he will see that the Massilians, the Eduans, the isle of Rhodes, Hiero of Syracuse, the kings Eumenes and Masinissa, all living near the confines of the Roman Empire, for no other reason than to secure to themselves its friendship and protection, contributed materially to its needs and expenses by large tributes. On the other hand, we see in the case of feeble states, and to begin with our own Florence in the past century and at the period of her greatest glory, that there was not a petty lord in the Romagna that did not draw a pension from her, besides also allowing pensions to Perugia, Castello, and other neighboring cities. But the very reverse would have been the case if Florence had been warlike and powerful; for then they would have paid tribute to her for the advantage of having her protection, and instead of selling their friendship to Florence they would have had to purchase hers. The Florentines, however, are not the only ones that can be reproached with this habitual cowardice; the Venetians acted in the same way, and even the king of France, who with so great a kingdom became tributary to the Swiss and to the king of England; and this resulted solely from their having disarmed their peoples, and because the king of France and the other states mentioned preferred the immediate advantage of being able to oppress their subjects, and to avoid an imaginary rather than a real evil, to doing that which would have assured their own tranquillity and the permanent happiness of their states. Such a cowardly policy may for a time insure quiet, but will inevitably lead in the end to irretrievable injury and ruin.
It would be tedious to relate how many times the Florentines, the Venetians, and the kingdom of France have bought off wars with money; and how many times they subjected themselves to an ignominy to which the Romans submitted once only. It would be equally tedious to relate how many places the Florentines and the Venetians have purchased with money, which afterwards caused great disorders; showing that what has been purchased with gold cannot be defended with iron. The Romans continued their high-minded course so long as they enjoyed liberty, but when they submitted to the rule of Emperors, and these Emperors began to be corrupted, preferring the shade of the palace to the sun of the camp, then they also began to buy off the Parthians, the Germans, and other neighboring peoples, which was the beginning of the ruin of this great empire. These are some of the unhappy consequences of disarming the people; whence also results another and even greater evil, namely, that the more the enemy penetrates into your country, the more will he discover your weakness. For princes and republics who act thus will oppress the people of the interior of their states so as to procure men whom they can send to the frontiers to keep off the enemy. It gives rise also to the practice of giving subsidies to the princes and peoples that are near the confines of the state, to serve as a bulwark and keep the enemy at a distance. This enables the states that practise this system to make some resistance at their frontiers, yet when the enemy has once passed these, they can present no further obstacle to him. And yet they do not see how much their mode of proceeding is opposed to all good principles; for it is the heart and vital parts of the body that should be protected and defended, and not the extremities, for without the latter life is possible, but without the former death is certain; and states like those described above keep their hands and feet armed, but leave their heart unprotected. The evils which Florence has suffered from this system have often been seen, and may be seen any day; for whenever a hostile army passed the frontiers of the republic and approached the centre, all further resistance was vain. It is but a few years since that the Venetians afforded similar proof of the truth of what I say; and if their city were not surrounded by water, we should have seen the end of it. The same results have not been so often experienced in France, because that kingdom is so great that it has few enemies that are her superiors. Nevertheless, when the English attacked France in the year 1513, the whole country trembled, and the king, as well as everybody else, was of the opinion that the loss of a single battle would deprive him of his state.
With the Romans the very opposite was the case, for the nearer the enemy approached the city of Rome the more powerful he found the resistance. The coming of Hannibal into Italy shows that after three defeats, and after the loss of so many officers and men, the Romans not only were able to sustain the war, but actually proved victorious. All of which was the consequence of having the heart of the state well armed, and making little account of the extremities; for the foundation of the power of Rome consisted in the people of Rome itself, the Latin people, and the other allies and colonies of Rome in Italy, whence they drew soldiers enough to enable them to conquer and hold the world. The truth of this is shown by the question asked by Hanno, the Carthaginian, of the messengers whom Hannibal had sent to Carthage after the battle of Cannæ. These, having magnified the deeds of Hannibal, were asked by Hanno “whether any of the Roman people had come to sue for peace, and whether any of the cities of Latium or any of the colonies had revolted against Rome.” And when they replied in the negative to both these questions, Hanno said, “In that case the war is but begun.”
From what I have said in this and in preceding chapters, we see how very different the conduct of modern republics is from that of the ancients. In consequence of this we daily see remarkable losses, and still more wonderful conquests; for where men have but little wisdom and valor, Fortune more signally displays her power; and as she is variable, so the states and republics under her influence also fluctuate, and will continue to fluctuate until some ruler shall arise who is so great an admirer of antiquity as to be able to govern such states so that Fortune may not have occasion, with every revolution of the sun, to display her influence and power.
It seems to me not amiss to speak here of the danger of trusting to the representations of men who have been expelled from their country, this being a matter that all those who govern states have to act upon almost daily; and I touch upon it the more willingly, as Titus Livius gives a most memorable instance of it, though in a measure foreign to the subject he treats upon. When Alexander the Great went with his army into Asia, Alexander of Epirus, his brother-in-law and uncle, came with his army into Italy, having been called there by the banished Lucanians, who had held out the hope to him that by their means he would be able to seize that whole country; and when Alexander, upon their assurances and the hopes held out by them, had come into Italy, they killed him, because they had been promised by the citizens of Lucania permission to return to their homes if they would assassinate Alexander. We see, then, how vain the faith and promises of men are who are exiles from their own country. As to their faith, we have to bear in mind that, whenever they can return to their country by other means than your assistance, they will abandon you and look to the other means, regardless of their promises to you. And as to their vain hopes and promises, such is their extreme desire to return to their homes that they naturally believe many things that are not true, and add many others on purpose; so that, with what they really believe and what they say they believe, they will fill you with hopes to that degree that if you attempt to act upon them you will incur a fruitless expense, or engage in an undertaking that will involve you in ruin. The example of Alexander of Epirus, just cited, will suffice to prove the truth of this; but I will add that of Themistocles the Athenian, who, having been declared a rebel, fled to Darius in Asia, and made such representations and promises to him if he would attack Greece, that Darius allowed himself to be persuaded to undertake it. But when Themistocles found that he could not fulfil those promises, he poisoned himself, either from shame or from the fear of punishment. And if so eminent a man as Themistocles could commit so great an error, we may judge to what extent men of less virtue allow themselves to be misled by their desires and their passions. A prince therefore should be slow in undertaking any enterprise upon the representations of exiles, for he will generally gain nothing by it but shame and serious injury. And as cities are rarely taken by surprise or by means of secret intelligence with those within, it seems to me it will not be out of place if I treat of this in the following chapter, and at the same time give some account of the method practised by the Romans in taking cities.
The Romans, being much given to war, did everything relating to it in the most advantageous manner, as well in the providing of money as in every other requirement. And therefore they avoided all regular sieges of cities, deeming that the expense and inconveniences of a siege exceeded the advantages of the capture, and consequently they regarded every other mode of taking a city as more advantageous than a regular siege; and thus with all their wars, during so many years, there are but very few instances of regular sieges made by them. Their mode of taking cities was either by assault or by voluntary surrender on the part of the city, the capture by assault being either by open force and violence, or by a mixture of force and fraud. The capture by open force was by assault without breaking the walls; this was termed “attacking the city crown fashion,” because they surrounded the city with the entire army and assailed it from all sides at once; and they often succeeded by a single attack of this kind in taking even the strongest cities, as was the case when Scipio took New Carthage in Spain. But when this assault did not succeed, then they breached the walls with battering rams and other engines of war; sometimes they mined subterraneous passages by which they entered the city, and it was in this way that they took Veii; or to bring them on a level with those who defended the walls, they constructed wooden towers, or made earth embankments against the outside of the walls, so as to be at the same height with the defenders. By the first mode of attack the besieged were exposed to the greatest and most sudden dangers; for being attacked on all sides at once they could never have troops enough in any one place for defence, or to relieve those who had been on duty, or if they had, the resistance was not equal at all points, and if the besiegers succeeded in forcing a single point, all the rest was lost. And therefore, as I have said, the open assault was generally the most successful; but when it failed at the first attempt, it was rarely repeated, because it was dangerous for an army to extend itself so considerably that it would not be able to resist a sortie of the besieged; besides, an assault of that kind was very fatiguing to the soldiers, and apt to throw them into disorder, and therefore they usually tried this method of attack but once, and as a surprise to the besieged. The breaching of the walls was resisted by those within, by repairs and by throwing up new ramparts behind the wall that was breached, the same as is done at the present day. The mines were met by countermines, in which the besieged opposed the enemy with arms or other means, one of which was to fill barrels with feathers, which they placed in the mines and set fire to them, so that the stench and smoke might impede the entrance of the enemy. The attack by means of towers the besieged endeavored to thwart by setting them on fire; and as to the embankments against the exterior of the walls, these were counteracted by making openings in the lower part of the wall against which the embankment was being made, through which the earth which the besiegers heaped up against the wall was drawn away from within, thus preventing the raising of the embankment from the outside. This system of attacks cannot be continued long, and if not promptly successful other means must be adopted, or the siege abandoned. This was the course adopted by Scipio on his arrival in Africa; having made an unsuccessful attempt to take Utica, he raised the siege and went to meet the Carthaginian army in the field. And this is the proper course, unless a regular siege is undertaken, as was done by the Romans at Veii, Capua, Carthage, Jerusalem, and other similar places, which they took in that way.
The capture of cities by violence and stealth has been often attempted by the Romans and others, but has proved successful in but few instances. This was the case with Palæpolis, which the Romans carried by means of secret intelligence with the inhabitants. The slightest obstacles often disconcert this plan, and obstacles present themselves at almost every step. For either the secret communications are discovered before the execution of the plan, which happens very easily, either by the treachery of those to whom the secret has been communicated, or by difficulties in the execution, having to deal with enemies with whom it is not permitted to hold any communication. But even if the conspiracy is not discovered in its progress, yet a thousand difficulties will arise in its execution; for if you arrive a little before or a little after the appointed moment, all is spoilt. The least unusual noise, as the cackling of the geese of the Capitol, the slightest change in the order agreed upon, or the least fault or smallest error, will involve the whole enterprise in ruin. To these difficulties add the darkness of night, which naturally increases the apprehensions of those engaged in such hazardous enterprises; and as the greater part of the men employed in such expeditions are wholly unacquainted with the situation of the country or the place where they are led, the slightest unforeseen accident confounds them and fills them with fear and trouble, so that the merest shadow will cause them to turn back. No one has ever been more successful in these stealthy nocturnal expeditions than Aratus of Sicyon, who displayed as much courage in these as he showed cowardice in those that were carried on openly in broad daylight; which may be attributable to some special occult merit which he possessed, rather than to any natural facility in achieving success in such attempts, which are so often projected and but rarely put in practice, and which still more rarely prove successful.
In obtaining possession of cities by surrender, the rendition is either voluntary or forced. The first results from some extrinsic necessity that constrains a city to come to you for protection, as Capua did to the Romans, either from the desire of being well governed, or attracted by the good government which the prince bestows upon those who have voluntarily given themselves to him; it was in this way that the Rhodians, the Massilians, and others submitted voluntarily to the Romans. As to the compulsory surrender of a city, this occurs either in consequence of a long siege, or when a city finds her territory being ruined by incursions, depredations, and every kind of spoliation, which she is unable to prevent except by surrender. Of all the methods described, it was this of which the Romans made use most frequently; and during more than four and a half centuries they thus harassed their neighbors with constant incursions, battles, and depredations, and then by means of treaties obtained all possible advantages over them, as we have already said several times. And they always came back to this system, although they tried all the others, which they found more perilous and less advantageous. For a regular siege involves time and expense; an open assault is doubtful and fraught with danger, and the employment of fraud or conspiracy is most uncertain in its results. The Romans saw that by the defeat of an enemy’s army they conquered a kingdom in a day, whilst the siege of a city which is obstinately defended may consume many years.
I think that, to read the history of Livius with profit, we should carefully reflect upon all the principles that governed the conduct of the Senate and people of Rome. Amongst other things most worthy of consideration is the question as to the power and authority with which they clothed their Consuls, Dictators, and other commanders of the armies whom they sent into the field. This authority was of the most unlimited character, so that the Senate reserved to itself no other power than that of declaring new wars and ratifying treaties of peace, all other matters being remitted to the arbitrament and power of the Consul; so that, when the Senate and the people of Rome had resolved upon a war, (as, for instance, that against the Latins,) all the details of the campaign were left to the discretion and authority of the Consul, who could bring on a battle or not, and lay siege to this or that place, as seemed to him proper. The truth of this is established by very many examples, and more especially by that which occurred on the occasion of an expedition against the Tuscans. The Consul Fabius had defeated them near Sutrium, and intended after that to pass through the Ciminian forest and enter the Tuscan territory. Not only did he not consult the Senate upon this movement, but he did not even notify them of his intentions, although the war had to be carried on in a new, unknown country, full of difficulties and dangers. The course adopted by the Senate on this occasion proves it also; for having heard of the victory gained by Fabius, and fearing lest he might attempt to pass through the forest into Tuscany, they sent two legates to Fabius to advise him not to undertake to enter Tuscany in that way. But when these arrived, Fabius had already passed the forest, and had won a victory over the Tuscans; so that, instead of opposing his operations, they carried back the news of his conquest and of the glory he had achieved.
Now, if we reflect upon this conduct on the part of the Senate, we shall see that it was eminently wise; for if they had required the Consul to conduct the war under orders from them, so to say, from hand to hand, it would have made Fabius less circumspect, and more slow in his operations; for he would not have considered the glory of victory as all his own, but as being shared by the Senate, by whose orders and counsels he had been governed. Besides this, the Senate would have undertaken to advise upon a matter which they could not have understood; for although there were many of the Senators who had great experience in war, yet not being on the spot, and not knowing the endless particulars which it is necessary to know to counsel wisely, they would have been liable to commit the most serious errors in attempting to instruct the Consul. And therefore they were willing that he should act entirely upon his own responsibility, and that he should reap all the glory, the love of which, they judged, would be his best check and rule of conduct.
I have the more willingly remarked upon this subject because I see that the republics of the present day, such as the Venetians and the Florentines, act very differently, so that, if their generals, providers, or commissaries wish merely to place a battery of artillery, they want to know and direct it; a system which is worthy of about the same praise as their conduct in all other respects, and which has brought them to the condition in which they now find themselves.