There is nothing more true than that all the things of this world have a limit to their existence; but those only run the entire course ordained for them by Heaven that do not allow their body to become disorganized, but keep it unchanged in the manner ordained, or if they change it, so do it that it shall be for their advantage, and not to their injury. And as I speak here of mixed bodies, such as republics or religious sects, I say that those changes are beneficial that bring them back to their original principles. And those are the best-constituted bodies, and have the longest existence, which possess the intrinsic means of frequently renewing themselves, or such as obtain this renovation in consequence of some extrinsic accidents. And it is a truth clearer than light that, without such renovation, these bodies cannot continue to exist; and the means of renewing them is to bring them back to their original principles. For, as all religious republics and monarchies must have within themselves some goodness, by means of which they obtain their first growth and reputation, and as in the process of time this goodness becomes corrupted, it will of necessity destroy the body unless something intervenes to bring it back to its normal condition. Thus, the doctors of medicine say, in speaking of the human body, that “every day some ill humors gather which must be cured.”
This return of a republic to its original principles is either the result of extrinsic accident or of intrinsic prudence. As an instance of the first, we have seen how necessary it was that Rome should be taken by the Gauls, as a means of her renovation or new birth; so that, being thus born again, she might take new life and vigor, and might resume the proper observance of justice and religion, which were becoming corrupt. This is clearly seen from the history of Livius, where he shows that, in calling out her army against the Gauls, and in the creation of Tribunes with consular powers, the Romans observed no religious ceremonies whatsoever. In the same way they not only did not deprive the three Fabii of their rank for having, “contrary to the law of nations,” fought against the Gauls, but actually raised them to the dignity of Tribunes. And we may readily presume that they made less account of the good institutions and laws established by Romulus and other wise princes, than what was reasonable and necessary to preserve their liberties. It needed, then, this blow from without to revive the observance of all the institutions of the state, and to show to the Roman people, not only the necessity of maintaining religion and justice, but also of honoring their good citizens, and making more account of their virtue than of the ease and indulgence of which their energy and valor seemed to deprive them. This admonition succeeded completely; for no sooner was Rome retaken from the Gauls than they renewed all their religious institutions, punished the Fabii for having fought the Gauls contrary to the law of nations; and then they appreciated so highly the valor and excellence of Camillus that the Senate and the other orders in the state laid aside all envy and jealousy, and confided to him all the burden of the affairs of the republic.
It is necessary then (as has been said) for men who live associated together under some kind of regulations often to be brought back to themselves, so to speak, either by external or internal occurrences. As to the latter, they are either the result of a law, that obliges the citizens of the association often to render an account of their conduct; or some man of superior character arises amongst them, whose noble example and virtuous actions will produce the same effect as such a law. This good then in a republic is due either to the excellence of some one man, or to some law; and as to the latter, the institution that brought the Roman republic back to its original principles was the creation of the Tribunes of the people, and all the other laws that tended to repress the insolence and ambition of men. But to give life and vigor to those laws requires a virtuous citizen, who will courageously aid in their execution against the power of those who transgress them.
The most striking instances of such execution of the laws, anterior to the capture of Rome by the Gauls, were the death of the sons of Brutus, that of the Decemvirs, and that of the corn-dealer, Spurius Mælius; and after the taking of Rome by the Gauls, the death of Manlius Capitolinus, that of the son of Manlius Torquatus, the punishment inflicted by Papirius Cursor upon his master of cavalry, Fabius, and the accusation of the Scipios. As these were extreme and most striking cases they caused on each occasion a return of the citizens to the original principles of the republic; and when they began to be more rare, it also began to afford men more latitude in becoming corrupt, and the execution of the laws involved more danger and disturbances. It would be desirable therefore that not more than ten years should elapse between such executions, for in the long course of time men begin to change their customs, and to transgress the laws; and unless some case occurs that recalls the punishment to their memory and revives the fear in their hearts, the delinquents will soon become so numerous that they cannot be punished without danger.
In relation to this subject it was said by the magistrates who governed Florence from the year 1434 until 1494 that it was necessary every five years to resume the government, and that otherwise it would be difficult to maintain it. By “resuming the government” they meant to strike the people with the same fear and terror as they did when they first assumed the government, and when they had inflicted the extremest punishment upon those who, according to their principles, had conducted themselves badly. But as the recollection of these punishments fades from men’s minds, they become emboldened to make new attempts against the government, and to speak ill of it, and therefore it is necessary to provide against this, by bringing the government back to its first principles. Such a return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man, without depending upon any law that incites him to the infliction of extreme punishments; and yet his good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example. Those particularly, who in Rome effected such beneficial results were Horatius Cocles, Scævola, Fabricius, the two Decii, Regulus Attilius, and some others, who by their rare and virtuous example produced the same effect upon the Romans as laws and institutions would have done. And certainly if at least some such signal punishments as described above, or noble examples, had occurred in Rome every ten years, that city never would have become so corrupt; but as both became more rare, corruption increased more and more. In fact, after Marcus Regulus we find not a single instance of such virtuous example; and although the two Catos arose, yet there was so long an interval between Regulus and them, and between the one Cato and the other, and they were such isolated instances, that their example could effect but little good; and especially the latter Cato found the citizens of Rome already so corrupt that he utterly failed to improve them by his example. Let this suffice so far as regards republics.
Now with regard to religions we shall see that revivals are equally necessary, and the best proof of this is furnished by our own, which would have been entirely lost had it not been brought back to its pristine principles and purity by Saint Francis and Saint Dominic; for by their voluntary poverty and the example of the life of Christ, they revived the sentiment of religion in the hearts of men, where it had become almost extinct. The new orders which they established were so severe and powerful that they became the means of saving religion from being destroyed by the licentiousness of the prelates and heads of the Church. They continued themselves to live in poverty; and by means of confessions and preachings they obtained so much influence with the people, that they were able to make them understand that it was wicked even to speak ill of wicked rulers, and that it was proper to render them obedience and to leave the punishment of their errors to God. And thus these wicked rulers do as much evil as they please, because they do not fear a punishment which they do not see nor believe. This revival of religion then by Saint Francis and Saint Dominic has preserved it and maintains it to this day. Monarchies also have need of renewal, and to bring their institutions back to first principles. The kingdom of France shows us the good effects of such renewals; for this monarchy more than any other is governed by laws and ordinances. The Parliaments, and mainly that of Paris, are the conservators of these laws and institutions, which are renewed by them from time to time, by executions against some of the princes of the realm, and at times even by decisions against the king himself. And thus this kingdom has maintained itself up to the present time by its determined constancy in repressing the ambition of the nobles; for if it were to leave them unpunished, the disorders would quickly multiply, and the end would doubtless be either that the guilty could no longer be punished without danger, or that the kingdom itself would be broken up.
We may conclude, then, that nothing is more necessary for an association of men, either as a religious sect, republic, or monarchy, than to restore to it from time to time the power and reputation which it had in the beginning, and to strive to have either good laws or good men to bring about such a result, without the necessity of the intervention of any extrinsic force. For although such may at times be the best remedy, as in the case of Rome (when captured by the Gauls), yet it is so dangerous that it is in no way desirable. But to show how the actions of some men in particular made Rome great, and produced the most excellent effects in that city, I will make them the subject of the discourses of this Third Book, with which I shall close my reflections upon the first Ten Books of the history of Titus Livius. And although the actions of some of the kings were great and remarkable, yet as history treats of them very fully I shall leave them aside, and not speak of them, excepting so far as regards some things which they did for their personal advantage; and shall begin with Junius Brutus, the father of Roman liberty.
No one over displayed so much sagacity, or was esteemed so wise on account of any distinguished act, as Junius Brutus deserves to be esteemed for his simulation of folly. And although Titus Livius gives but one reason that induced him to this simulation, namely, that he might live in greater security and preserve his patrimony, yet if we well consider his conduct we are led to believe that he had another reason, which was that by thus avoiding observation he would have a better chance of destroying the kings, and of liberating his country, whenever an opportunity should offer. And that such was really his thought may be seen, first, from his interpretation of the oracle of Apollo, when he pretended to have fallen and kissed the earth, hoping thereby to propitiate the gods to his projects; and afterwards, when on the occasion of the death of Lucretia, in the midst of the father, husband, and other relatives, he was the first to pluck the dagger from her breast and to make all present swear henceforth to suffer no king to reign in Rome.
All those who are dissatisfied with their ruler should take a lesson from this example of Brutus; they should measure and weigh well their strength, and if sufficiently powerful to be able to declare themselves his enemies, and to make open war against the prince, then they should take that course as the least dangerous and most honorable. But if their condition be such that their forces do not suffice for open war against the prince, then they should seek by every art to win his friendship, and for this purpose employ all possible means, such as adopting his tastes, and taking delight in all things that give him pleasure. Such intimacy will insure you tranquillity without any danger, and enable you to share the enjoyment of the prince’s good fortune with him, and at the same time afford you every convenience for satisfying your resentment. True, some people say that one should not keep so close to princes as to be involved in their ruin, nor so far away but what in case of their ruin you might thereby advance your own fortunes. This middle course would undoubtedly be the best to pursue, but as I believe that impossible, one of the above-described modes must be adopted, – either to go away from them entirely, or to attach yourself very closely to them; and whoever attempts any other way, even though he be a personage of distinction, exposes himself to constant danger. Nor will it do for him to say, “I do not care for anything; I desire neither honor nor profit; all I want is to live quietly and without trouble,” – for such excuses would not be admitted. Men of condition cannot choose their way of living, and even if they did choose it sincerely and without ambition, they would not be believed; and were they to attempt to adhere to it, they would not be allowed to do so by others.
It is advisable then at times to feign folly, as Brutus did; and this is sufficiently done by praising, speaking, seeing, and doing things contrary to your way of thinking, and merely to please the prince. And as I have spoken of the sagacity of Brutus in recovering the liberty of Rome, let me now speak of his severity in maintaining it.
The severity of Brutus was not only useful, but necessary for the maintenance of that liberty in Rome which he had restored to her; and certainly it is one of the rarest examples within the memory of man for a father not only to sit in judgment and condemn his own sons, but actually to be present at their execution. Every student of ancient history well knows that any change of government, be it from a republic to a tyranny, or from a tyranny to a republic, must necessarily be followed by some terrible punishment of the enemies of the existing state of things. And whoever makes himself tyrant of a state and does not kill Brutus, or whoever restores liberty to a state and does not immolate his sons, will not maintain himself in his position long. Having already in another place treated this subject at length, I refer to what I have there said, and confine myself now to citing a single and most remarkable example, taken from the history of our own country. It is that of Pietro Soderini, who believed that he would be able by patience and gentleness to overcome the determination of the new sons of Brutus to return to another form of government; in which, however, he greatly deceived himself. And although his natural sagacity recognized the necessity of destroying them, and although the quality and ambition of his adversaries afforded him the opportunity, yet he had not the courage to do it. For he thought, and several times acknowledged it to his friends, that boldly to strike down his adversaries and all opposition would oblige him to assume extraordinary authority, and even legally to destroy civil equality; and that, even if he should not afterwards use this power tyrannically, this course would so alarm the masses that after his death they would never again consent to the election of another Gonfalonier for life, which he deemed essential for the strengthening and maintaining of the government. This respect for the laws was most praiseworthy and wise on the part of Soderini. Still one should never allow an evil to run on out of respect for the law, especially when the law itself might easily be destroyed by the evil; and he should have borne in mind, that as his acts and motives would have to be judged by the result, in case he had been fortunate enough to succeed and live, everybody would have attested that what he had done was for the good of his country, and not for the advancement of any ambitious purposes of his own. Moreover, he could have regulated matters so that his successors could not have employed for evil the means which he had used for beneficent purposes. But Soderini was the dupe of his opinions, not knowing that malignity is neither effaced by time, nor placated by gifts. So that by failing to imitate Brutus he lost at the same time his country, his state, and his reputation.
In the following chapter I propose to show that it is equally difficult to save a monarchy as to save a republic.
The assassination of Tarquinius Priscus by the sons of Ancus, and the death of Servius Tullus caused by Tarquinius Superbus, prove how difficult and dangerous it is to deprive any one of a kingdom and leave him his life, even though you try to conciliate him by benefits. We see how Tarquinius Priscus was deceived by the seemingly lawful possession of the sovereignty of Rome, which had been bestowed upon him by the people and confirmed by the Senate. He could not believe that resentment would so master the sons of Ancus that they would not be satisfied to submit to him, to whom all Rome yielded obedience. Servius Tullus in like manner deceived himself in supposing that he could win the sons of Tarquin with benefits. Thus the first may serve as a warning to all princes that they will never be safe so long as those live whom they have deprived of their possessions; and as to the second, it should remind every potentate that old injuries can never be cancelled by new benefits, and the less so when the benefits are small in proportion to the injury inflicted. Certainly Servius Tullus showed little sagacity when he supposed that the sons of Tarquin would remain content to be the sons-in-law of him whose kings they felt themselves entitled to be. And this desire to reign is so powerful that it not only dominates the minds of those born with the expectation of a throne, but also that of those who have no such expectations. This was well illustrated by the wife of Tarquin the younger, daughter of Servius, who, urged on by this mad desire, regardless of all filial piety, stirred up her husband to deprive her father of his life and kingdom; so much more did she value being a queen than being the daughter of a king. If, then, Tarquinius Priscus and Servius Tullus lost the kingdom from not knowing how to assure themselves of those whose thrones they had usurped, Tarquinius Superbus lost it by a disregard of the laws established by his predecessors, as we shall show in the next chapter.
Servius Tullus, having been assassinated by Tarquinius Superbus, left no heirs; so the latter could reign with entire security, not having to fear the dangers to which his predecessors had fallen victims. And although the manner in which he had obtained possession of the kingdom was irregular and odious, still, if he had conformed to the ancient institutions of the former kings, neither the Senate nor the people would ever have risen against him to deprive him of the throne. Tarquin was driven from Rome, not because his son Sextus had violated Lucretia, but because he had disregarded the laws of the kingdom and governed it tyrannically; having deprived the Senate of all authority, which he appropriated to himself, and having diverted the funds intended for the improvement of the public places and buildings, which the Senate had carried on with so much satisfaction, to the construction of his own palace, greatly to the disgust of the Senate; despoiling Rome in a short time of all the liberties which she had enjoyed under previous kings. And not content with having incurred the enmity of the Senate, he also aroused the people against himself, unlike his predecessors, by obliging them to perform all sorts of mechanical labor. So that, having disgusted all Rome by his many acts of cruelty and pride, he disposed the minds of the Romans to revolt against him on the first occasion that might offer. And if the incident of Lucretia had not occurred, some other would have produced the same effect; for had Tarquin conducted himself like the previous kings, when his son Sextus committed that crime Brutus and Collatinus would have appealed to Tarquin for vengeance against Sextus, instead of stirring up the Roman people as they did.
Princes should remember, then, that they begin to lose their state from the moment when they begin to disregard the laws and ancient customs under which the people have lived contented for a length of time. And if, having thus lost their state, they should ever become wise enough to see with what facility princes preserve their thrones who conduct themselves prudently, they would regret their loss the more, and would condemn themselves to greater punishments than that to which others have doomed them. For it is much easier to be beloved by the good than the wicked, and to obey the laws than to enforce them; and if kings desire to know what course they have to pursue to do this, they need take no other trouble than to follow the example of the lives of good rulers, such as Timoleon of Corinth, Aratus of Sicyon, and the like, whose lives they will find to have afforded as much security and satisfaction to him who ruled as to those who were governed; which should make kings desire to imitate them, as is easily done. For when men are well governed, they neither seek nor desire any other liberty; as was experienced by the two above-named princes, whom their people constrained to reign to the end of their lives, though they often wished to retire to private life.
Having discussed in the preceding chapters the evil dispositions that are apt to be stirred up against princes, and the conspiracy set on foot by the sons of Brutus against their country, and those formed against Tarquinius Priscus and Servius Tullus, it seems to me nevertheless not amiss to treat this subject at length in the following chapter, it being a matter well worthy of the attention of princes and subjects.
It seems to me proper now to treat of conspiracies, being a matter of so much danger both to princes and subjects; for history teaches us that many more princes have lost their lives and their states by conspiracies than by open war. But few can venture to make open war upon their sovereign, whilst every one may engage in conspiracies against him. On the other hand, subjects cannot undertake more perilous and foolhardy enterprises than conspiracies, which are in every respect most difficult and dangerous; and thence it is that, though so often attempted, yet they so rarely attain the desired object. And therefore, so that princes may learn to guard against such dangers, and that subjects may less rashly engage in them, and learn rather to live contentedly under such a government as Fate may have assigned to them, I shall treat the subject at length, and endeavor not to omit any point that may be useful to the one or the other. And certainly that is a golden sentence of Cornelius Tacitus, where he says “that men should honor the past and obey the present; and whilst they should desire good princes, they should bear with those they have, such as they are”; – and surely whoever acts otherwise will generally involve himself and his country in ruin.
In entering upon the subject, then, we must consider first against whom conspiracies are formed; and it will be found generally that they are made either against the country or against the prince. It is of these two kinds that I shall speak at present; for conspiracies that have for their object the surrender of any town to an enemy that besieges it, or that have some similar purpose, have already been sufficiently discussed above. In the first instance we will treat of those that are aimed against the sovereign, and examine the causes that provoke them; these are many, though one is more important than all the rest, namely, his being hated by the mass of the people. For when a prince has drawn upon himself universal hatred, it is reasonable to suppose that there are some particular individuals whom he has injured more than others, and who therefore desire to revenge themselves. This desire is increased by seeing the prince held in general aversion. A prince, then, should avoid incurring such universal hatred; and, as I have spoken elsewhere of the way to do this, I will say no more about it here. If the prince will avoid this general hatred, the particular wrongs to individuals will prove less dangerous to him; partly because men rarely attach sufficient importance to any wrong done them to expose themselves to great danger for the sake of avenging it, and partly because, even if they were so disposed and had the power to attempt it, they would be restrained by the general affection for the prince. The different wrongs which a prince can inflict upon a subject consist either in an attempt upon his possessions, his person, or his honor. In matters of personal injury, threats are worse than the execution; in fact, menaces involve the only danger, there being none in the execution, for the dead cannot avenge themselves, and in most cases the survivors allow the thought of revenge to be interred with the dead. But he who is threatened, and sees himself constrained by necessity either to dare and do or to suffer, becomes a most dangerous man to the prince, as we shall show in its proper place. Besides this kind of injury, a man’s property and honor are the points upon which he will be most keenly sensitive. A prince, then, should be most careful to avoid touching these; for he can never despoil a man so completely but what he will cherish a determined desire for revenge. As to attacking men’s honor, that of their wives is what they feel most, and after that their being themselves treated with indignity. It was an outrage of this nature that armed Pausanias against Philip of Macedon, and such indignities have caused many others to rise against their princes. In our day, Julius Belanti would not have conspired against Pandolfo, tyrant of Sienna, had it not been that the latter, having accorded him one of his daughters in marriage, afterwards took her away from him, as we shall relate in its place. The principal cause of the conspiracy of the Pazzi against the Medici was the inheritance of Giovanni Borromeo, of which they had been deprived by an order of the Medici.
There is another and still more powerful motive that makes men conspire against their princes, and that is the desire to liberate their country from the tyranny to which it has been subjected by the prince. It was this that stirred up Brutus and Cassius against Cæsar; it was this that excited others against the Falari, the Dionysii, and other usurpers. And no tyrant can secure himself against such attacks, except by voluntarily giving up his usurpation. But as none of them ever take this course, there are but few that do not come to a bad end; and thence this verse of Juvenal’s: –
“Ad generum Cereris sine cæde et vulnere pauci
Descendunt reges, et sicca morte tyranni.”
The perils incurred by conspirators are great, as I have said above, because they present themselves at every moment. There is danger in plotting and in the execution of the plot, and even after it has been carried into effect. A plot may be formed by a single individual or by many; the one cannot be called a conspiracy, but rather a determined purpose on the part of one man to assassinate the prince. In such case the first of the three dangers to which conspiracies are exposed is avoided; for the individual runs no risk before the execution of his plot, for as no one possesses his secret, there is no danger of his purpose coming to the ears of the prince. Any individual, of whatever condition, may form such a plot, be he great or small, noble or plebeian, familiar or not familiar with the prince; for every one is permitted on occasions to speak to the prince, and has thus the opportunity of satisfying his vengeance. Pausanias, of whom I have spoken elsewhere, killed Philip of Macedon as he was proceeding to the temple, surrounded by a thousand armed men, and having his son and his son-in-law on either side. But Pausanias was a noble, and well known to the prince. A poor and abject Spaniard stabbed King Ferdinand of Spain in the neck; the wound was not mortal, but it showed nevertheless that this man had the audacity as well as the opportunity of striking the prince. A Turkish Dervish drew a scymitar upon Bajazet, the father of the present Grand Turk; he did not wound him, but it shows that this man too had the audacity and the opportunity to have done it, had he so chosen. I believe it is not uncommon to find men who form such projects (the mere purpose involving neither danger nor punishment), but few carry them into effect; and of those who do, very few or none escape being killed in the execution of their designs, and therefore but few are willing to incur such certain death.
But let us leave the plots formed by single individuals, and come to conspiracies formed by a number of persons. These, I say, have generally for their originators the great men of the state, or those on terms of familiar intercourse with the prince. None other, unless they are madmen, can engage in conspiracies; for men of low condition, who are not intimate with the prince, have no chance of success, not having the necessary conveniences for the execution of their plots. In the first place, men of no position have not the means of assuring themselves of the good faith of their accomplices, as no one will engage in their plot without the hope of those advantages that prompt men to expose themselves to great dangers. And thus, so soon as they have drawn two or three others into their scheme, some one of them denounces and ruins them. But supposing even that they have the good fortune not to be betrayed, they are nevertheless exposed to so many difficulties in the execution of the plot, from being debarred free access to the prince, that it seems almost impossible for them to escape ruin in the execution. For if the great men of a state, who are in familiar intercourse with the prince, succumb under the many difficulties of which we have spoken, it is natural that these difficulties should be infinitely increased for the others. And therefore those who know themselves to be weak avoid them, for where men’s lives and fortunes are at stake they are not all insane; and when they have cause for hating a prince, they content themselves with cursing and vilifying him, and wait until some one more powerful and of higher position than themselves shall avenge them. Still, if one of this class of persons should be daring enough to attempt such an undertaking, he would merit praise rather for his intention than for his prudence.
We see, then, that conspiracies have generally been set on foot by the great, or the friends of the prince; and of these, as many have been prompted to it by an excess of benefits as by an excess of wrongs. Such was the cause of the conspiracy of Perennius against Commodus, of Plautianus against Severus, and of Sejanus against Tiberius. All these men had been so loaded with riches, honors, and dignities by their Emperors that nothing seemed wanting to complete their power and to satisfy their ambition but the Empire itself; and to obtain that they set conspiracies on foot against their masters, which all resulted, however, as their ingratitude deserved. More recently, however, we have seen the conspiracy of Jacopo Appiano succeed against Piero Gambacorte, prince of Pisa; this Jacopo owed his support, education, and reputation to Piero, and yet he deprived him of his state. The conspiracy of Coppola against Ferdinand of Aragon, in our own day, was of the same character; Coppola had attained such greatness that he seemed to lack nothing but the throne, and to obtain this he risked his life, and lost it. And certainly if any conspiracy of the great against a prince is likely to succeed, it should be one that is headed by one, so to say, almost himself a king, who can afford the conspirators every opportunity to accomplish his design; but, blinded by the ambition of dominion, they are equally blind in the conduct of the conspiracy, for if their villany were directed by prudence, they could not possibly fail of success. A prince, then, who wishes to guard against conspiracies should fear those on whom he has heaped benefits quite as much, and even more, than those whom he has wronged; for the latter lack the convenient opportunities which the former have in abundance. The intention of both is the same, for the thirst of dominion is as great as that of revenge, and even greater. A prince, therefore, should never bestow so much authority upon his friends but that there should always be a certain distance between them and himself, and that there should always be something left for them to desire; otherwise they will almost invariably become victims of their own imprudence, as happened to those whom we have mentioned above.
But to return to our subject. Having said that conspiracies are generally made by the great, who have free access to the prince, let us see now what their results have been, and what the causes were that influenced their success or their failure. As we have said above, there are in all conspiracies three distinct periods of danger. The first is in the organization of the plot, and as but few have a successful issue, it is impossible that all should pass happily through this first stage, which presents the greatest dangers; and therefore I say that it requires the extremest prudence, or great good fortune, that a conspiracy shall not be discovered in the process of formation. Their discovery is either by denunciation or by surmises. Denunciation is the consequence of treachery or of want of prudence on the part of those to whom you confide your designs; and treachery is so common that you cannot safely impart your project to any but such of your most trusted friends as are willing to risk their lives for your sake, or to such other malcontents as are equally desirous of the prince’s ruin. Of such reliable friends you may find one or two; but as you are necessarily obliged to extend your confidence, it becomes impossible to find many such, for their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment. Moreover, men are very apt to deceive themselves as to the degree of attachment and devotion which others have for them, and there are no means of ascertaining this except by actual experience; but experience in such matters is of the utmost danger. And even if you should have tested the fidelity of your friends on other occasions of danger, yet you cannot conclude from that that they will be equally true to you on an occasion that presents infinitely greater dangers than any other. If you attempt to measure a man’s good faith by the discontent which he manifests towards the prince, you will be easily deceived, for by the very fact of communicating to him your designs, you give him the means of putting an end to his discontent; and to insure his fidelity, his hatred of the prince or your influence over him must be very great. It is thus that so many conspiracies have been revealed and crushed in their incipient stage; so that it may be regarded almost as a miracle when so important a secret is preserved by a number of conspirators for any length of time. Such however was the case in the conspiracy of Piso against Nero, and in our times that of the Pazzi against Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, of which more than fifty persons were cognizant, and which yet remained undiscovered till the moment of its execution.
Discovery from lack of prudence occurs when any one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a servant or third person overhears it, as happened to the sons of Brutus, who in the arranging of their plot with the messengers of Tarquin were overheard by a slave, who denounced them. Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when some one communicates the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person, as was done by Dinnus, one of the conspirators with Philotas against Alexander, who confided the plot to Nicomachus, a lad of whom he was enamored, who told it to his brother Ciballinus, who at once communicated it to the king. As to discovery by conjecture, we have an instance of it in the Pisonian conspiracy against Nero. The day before he was to have killed Nero, Scevinus, one of the conspirators, made his testament; he ordered his freedman Melichius to sharpen an old, rusty poniard, enfranchised all his slaves and distributed money amongst them, and had bandages made for tying up wounds. Melichius surmised from these various acts what was going on, and denounced it to Nero. Scevinus was arrested, and with him Natales, another conspirator, with whom he had been seen to converse secretly for a length of time. As their depositions respecting that conversation did not agree, they were forced to confess the truth, and thus the conspiracy was discovered to the ruin of all that were implicated. When the number of accomplices in a conspiracy exceeds three or four, it is almost impossible for it not to be discovered, either through treason, imprudence, or carelessness. The moment more than one of the conspirators is arrested, the whole plot is discovered; for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements. If only one be arrested, and he be a man of courage and firmness, he may be able to conceal the names of his accomplices; but then the others, to remain safe, must be equally firm, and not lay themselves open to discovery by flight, for if any one of them proves wanting in courage, whether it be the one that is arrested or one of those that are at liberty, the conspiracy is sure to be discovered. Titus Livius cites a very remarkable instance that occurred in connection with the conspiracy against Hieronymus, king of Syracuse. Theodorus, one of the conspirators, having been arrested, concealed with the utmost firmness the names of the other conspirators, and charged the matter upon the friends of the king; and, on the other hand, all the other conspirators had such confidence in the courage of Theodorus, that not one of them left Syracuse, or betrayed the least sign of fear. The conduct of a conspiracy then is exposed to all such dangers before it can be carried into execution; and to avoid these perils the following remedies present themselves. The first and most certain, I should rather say the only one, is not to afford your associates in the plot any time to betray you; and therefore you should confide your project to them at the moment of its execution, and not sooner. Those who act thus are most likely to escape the first of the three dangers, and frequently also the others; and therefore have their enterprises almost always succeeded. And any man of prudence will always be able to govern himself in this wise.
I will cite two examples of this. Nelematus, unable to bear the tyranny of Aristotimus, tyrant of Epirus, assembled in his house a number of friends and relatives, and urged them to liberate their country from the yoke of the tyrant. Some of them asked for time to consider the matter, whereupon Nelematus made his slaves close the door of his house, and then said to those he had called together, “You must either go now and carry this plot into execution, or I shall hand you all over as prisoners to Aristotimus.” Moved by these words, they took the oath demanded of them, and immediately went and carried the plot of Nelematus successfully into execution. A Magian having by craft usurped the throne of Persia, and the fraud having been discovered by Ortanus, one of the grandees of the realm, he conferred with six other princes of the state as to the means of ridding themselves of this usurper. When one of them inquired as to the time when they should act, Darius, one of the six assembled by Ortanus, arose and said, “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all,” whereupon they all arose, and, without affording any one time to repent, they carried their design into execution without difficulty. The Ætolians acted much in the same way in ridding themselves of Nabis, tyrant of Sparta. They sent Alexamenes, one of their citizens, with thirty horse and two hundred infantry, to Nabis, on pretence of rendering him assistance; but they gave secret instructions to Alexamenes to slay Nabis, and enjoined the others, on pain of exile, strictly and most implicitly to obey the orders of Alexamenes, who accordingly went to Sparta, and kept the secret until the moment when he succeeded in killing Nabis. In this manner then did Nelematus, Ortanus, and Alexamenes avoid the dangers that attend the conduct of conspiracies before their execution, and whoever follows their example will be equally fortunate in escaping them. And to prove that it is in the power of every one to act in the same way, I will cite the case of Piso, to which I have already referred above. Piso was a man of the highest consideration and distinction in Rome, and the familiar companion of Nero, who reposed entire confidence in him, and often went to dine with him at his villa. Piso then might have attached to himself a few men of intelligence and courage, well qualified for such an attempt as he contemplated. This would have been an easy thing to do for a man of such high position; and then, when Nero was in his gardens, he might have communicated his project to them and have stirred them by a few words to do what they would not have had time to refuse, and which could not have failed of success.
And thus, if we examine all the other instances, but few will be found where the conspirators might not have acted in the same way; but men not accustomed to the affairs of this world often commit the greatest mistakes, and especially in matters that are so much out of the ordinary course as conspiracies. One should therefore never open himself on the subject of a conspiracy except under the most pressing necessity, and only at the moment of its execution; and then only to one man, whose fidelity he has thoroughly tested for a long time, and who is animated by the same desire as himself. One such is much more easily found than many, and therefore there is much less danger in confiding your secret to him; and then, even if he were to attempt to betray you, there is some chance of your being able to defend yourself, which you cannot when there are many conspirators. I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing the “yes” of one man is worth as much as the “no” of another; and therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting. Plautianus, wishing to have the Emperor Severus and his son Antoninus killed, committed the matter to the Tribune Saturninus; he however, instead of obeying Plautianus, resolved to betray him, and, fearing that in accusing him he would be less believed than Plautianus, he exacted from him an order in his own handwriting to attest his authority. Plautianus, blinded by his ambition, gave him such a written order, which the Tribune used to accuse and convict him. Plautianus denied his guilt with such audacity, that without this written order and other indications he never would have been convicted. You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give. In the Pisonian conspiracy there was a woman named Epicaris, who had formerly been a mistress of Nero’s. She deemed it advisable to have amongst the conspirators the commander of a trireme, who was one of Nero’s body-guards. She communicated the plot to him, but without naming the conspirators. The commander, however, betrayed her confidence, and denounced Epicaris to Nero; but she denied it with such audacity as to confuse Nero, who did not condemn her.
There are two risks, then, in communicating a plot to any one individual: the first, lest he should denounce you voluntarily; the second, lest he should denounce you, being himself arrested on suspicion, or from some indications, and being convicted and forced to it by the torture. But there are means of escaping both these dangers: the first, by denial and by alleging personal hatred to have prompted the accusation; and the other, by denying the charge, and alleging that your accuser was constrained by the force of torture to tell lies. But the most prudent course is not to communicate the plot to any one, and to act in accordance with the above-cited examples; and if you cannot avoid drawing some one into your confidence, then to let it be not more than one, for in that case the danger is much less than if you confide in many.
Another necessity may force you to do unto the prince that which you see the prince about to do to you; the danger of which may be so pressing as not to afford you the time to provide for your own safety. Such a necessity ordinarily insures success, as the following two instances will suffice to prove. The Emperor Commodus had amongst his nearest friends and intimates Letus and Electus, two captains of the Prætorian soldiers; he also had Marcia as his favorite concubine. As these three had on several occasions reproved him for the excesses with which he had stained his own dignity and that of the Empire, he resolved to have them killed, and wrote a list of the names of Marcia, Letus, and Electus, and of some other persons, whom he wanted killed the following night. Having placed this list under his pillow, he went to the bath; a favorite child of his, who was playing in the chamber and on the bed, found this list, and on going out with it in his hand was met by Marcia, who took the list from the child. Having read it, she immediately sent for Letus and Electus, and when these three had thus become aware of the danger that threatened them, they resolved to forestall the Emperor, and without losing any time they killed Commodus the following night. The Emperor Antoninus Caracalla was with his armies in Mesopotamia, and had for his prefect Macrinus, a man more fit for civil than military matters. As is always the case with bad rulers, they are in constant fear lest others are conspiring to inflict upon them the punishment which they are conscious of deserving; thus Antoninus wrote to his friend Maternianus in Rome to consult the astrologers as to whether any one was aspiring to the Empire, and to advise him of it. Maternianus wrote back that Macrinus was thus aspiring; and this letter fell into the hands of Macrinus before it reached the Emperor. He at once directed his trusted friend, the Centurion Martialis, whose brother had been slain by Caracalla a few days before, to assassinate him, which he succeeded in doing. From this we see that the necessity which admits of no delay produces the same effect as the means employed by Nelematus in Epirus, of which I have spoken above. It also proves the truth of what I said in the beginning of this discourse, that to threaten is more dangerous for princes, and more frequently causes conspiracies, than the actual injury itself; and therefore princes should guard against indulging in menaces. For you must bind men to you by benefits, or you must make sure of them in some other way, but never reduce them to the alternative of having either to destroy you or perish themselves.
As to the dangers that occur in the execution of a conspiracy, these result either from an unexpected change in the order of proceeding, or from the lack of courage in those who are charged with the execution of the plot, or from some error on their part, owing to want of foresight in leaving some of those alive whom it was intended to have killed. There is nothing that disturbs or impedes the actions of men more than when suddenly, and without time to reflect, the order of things agreed upon has to be entirely changed. And if such a change causes embarrassment in ordinary affairs, it does so to an infinitely greater degree in war or in conspiracies; for in such matters nothing is more essential than that men should firmly set their minds on performing the part that has been assigned to them. And if men have their minds fixed for some days upon a certain order and arrangement, and this be suddenly changed, it is impossible that this should not disturb them so as to defeat the whole plot. So that it is much better to carry out any such project according to the original plan, even if it should present some inconveniences, rather than to change the order agreed upon and incur a thousand embarrassments. And this will occur, if there be not time to reorganize the project entirely; for when there is time for that, men can suit themselves to the new order of things.
The conspiracy of the Pazzi against Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici is well known. These were to dine on the appointed day with the Cardinal of San Giorgio, and it was agreed amongst the conspirators to kill the Medici at this dinner. They had distributed amongst themselves the several roles, as to who was to kill them, who was to seize the palace, and who was to scour the city to rouse the people to liberty. It happened that whilst the Medici, the Pazzi, and the Cardinal were at some great solemnity in the cathedral church of Florence, it became known that Giuliano would not dine with the Cardinal on that day. Hereupon the conspirators hastily met, and resolved to do in the church what they had intended to do in the house of the Cardinal. This disarranged all their plans, for Giambattisto Montesecco refused to consent to the murder in the church, which obliged them to make an entire change and distribute the roles to different persons, who, not having time fully to prepare themselves, committed such mistakes as to cause themselves to be crushed in the execution.
Want of firmness in the execution arises either from respect, or from the innate cowardice of him who is to commit the act. Such is the majesty and reverence that ordinarily surrounds the person of a prince, that it may easily mitigate the fury of a murderer, or fill him with fear. Marius having been taken prisoner by the Minturnians, they sent a slave to kill him, who was so overcome by the presence of this great man, and by the memory of his glory, that his courage and strength failed him at the thought of killing Marius. Now if a man in chains, in prison, and overwhelmed by misfortune can still exert such an influence, how much more is to be feared from a prince who is free, and clothed in all the pomp and ornaments of royalty, and surrounded by his court? And whilst all this pomp is calculated to inspire fear, an affable and courteous reception may equally disarm you.
Some of the subjects of Sitalces, king of Thrace, conspired against him. The day for the execution of their plot being fixed, they went to the place agreed upon where the king was, but not one of them made a movement to strike him; so that they returned without having made the attempt, and without knowing what had prevented them, and reproached each other. They committed the same fault several times, so that the conspiracy was discovered, and they suffered punishment for the crime which they might have committed, but did not.
Two brothers of Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, plotted against his life, and employed for the execution of their plot one Giannes, the Duke’s almoner and musician, who several times at their request brought the Duke to them; so that they might on each occasion have killed him, but neither of them had the courage to do it. The conspiracy was discovered, and they bore the penalty of their wickedness and their imprudence. Their neglect to profit by the opportunities afforded them for the execution of their design could have arisen only from two causes; either the presence of the prince imposed upon them and filled them with fear, or they were disarmed by some act of kindness on his part. Failure in the execution of such designs results from lack of prudence or courage; men are seized by one or the other of these feelings, which confuse their brains and make them say and do things that they ought not.
And nothing can better prove the fact that men’s minds are thus seized and confounded than the fact stated by Titus Livius of Alexamenes the Ætolian, who wanted to kill Nabis of Sparta, of whom I have already spoken. When the time for the execution of his design had come, and he was about to make known to his soldiers what they would have to do, as Titus Livius says, “He collected his own spirits, which were confused by the greatness of the undertaking.” For it is impossible that one should not be confused at such a moment, even though possessed of firmness and courage, and accustomed to the use of the sword and to seeing men killed. Therefore only men experienced in such affairs should be chosen as the instruments of execution, and none other should be trusted, though they be reputed to be most courageous; for you cannot be sure of any man’s courage in great affairs, unless it has been tested by actual experience. For the confusion of the mind at the important moment may cause the sword to drop from a man’s hand, or may make him say things that will be equally ruinous.
Lucilla, the sister of the Emperor Commodus, ordered Quintianus to kill him. He lay in wait for Commodus at the entrance of the amphitheatre; and on stepping up to him with drawn dagger, he cried, “The Senate sends you this!” which caused Quintianus to be arrested before he had time to strike Commodus. Messer Antonio da Volterra, having been appointed to kill Lorenzo de’ Medici, as we have related above, called out, on approaching him, “Ah, traitor!” This mere word saved Lorenzo and defeated the attempt.
Conspiracies against single individuals are generally apt to fail, for the reasons I have adduced; but when undertaken against two or more persons, they fail much easier. Such conspiracies present so many difficulties that it is almost impossible they should succeed. In fact, to strike two blows of this kind at the same instant and in different places is impracticable, and to attempt to do so at different moments of time would certainly result in the one’s preventing the other. So that, if it is imprudent, rash, and doubtful to conspire against a single prince, it amounts to folly to do so against two at the same time. And were it not for the respect which I have for the historian, I should not be able to believe possible what Herodianus relates of Plautianus, when he charged the centurion Saturninus by himself to kill Severus and Caracalla, who lived separately in different places; for it is so far from being reasonable, that nothing less than the authority of Herodianus could make me believe it. Some young men of Athens conspired against Diocles and Hippias, tyrants of Athens; they succeeded in killing Diocles, but missed Hippias, who avenged him. Chion and Leonidas, of Heraclea, disciples of Plato, conspired against the tyrants Clearchus and Satirus; they slew Clearchus, but Satirus, who remained, avenged him. The Pazzi, whom I have mentioned several times, succeeded only in killing Giuliano. Thus conspiracies against several persons at the same time should be avoided; they do no good to the conspirators, nor to the country, nor to any one, but rather cause the tyrants that survive to become more cruel and insupportable than before, as was the case with those of Florence, Athens, and Heraclea, already mentioned above. It is true that the conspiracy of Pelopidas to deliver his country, Thebes, from her tyrants, succeeded most happily, despite of all those obstacles; and he conspired not only against two, but against ten tyrants, and, so far from having ready access to them, he had been declared a rebel and had been banished. With all this, he was enabled to come to Thebes to slay the tyrants and free his country. But he succeeded thus mainly through the assistance of a certain Charon, privy counsellor of the tyrants, who facilitated his access to them and the consequent execution of his plot. Let no one, however, be seduced by this example; for it was an almost impossible enterprise, and its success was a marvel, and was so regarded by the historians, who speak of it as a most extraordinary and unprecedented event. The execution of such a plot may be interrupted by the least false alarm, or by some unforeseen accident at the moment of its execution.
The morning of the day when Brutus and his fellow-conspirators intended to kill Cæsar, it happened that the latter had a long conversation with Cn. Popilius Lena, one of the conspirators. This was observed by the other conspirators, who at once imagined that Popilius had denounced the conspiracy to Cæsar, and were tempted to assassinate Cæsar on the spot, and not to wait until he should reach the Senate; and they would have done so, had they not observed that after the conversation Cæsar made no extraordinary movement, which reassured them. These false apprehensions are not to be disregarded and should be carefully considered, the more so as it is very easy to be surprised by them; for a man who has a guilty conscience readily thinks that everybody is speaking of him. You may overhear a word spoken to some one else that will greatly disturb you, because you think it has reference to you, and may cause you either to discover the conspiracy by flight, or embarrass its execution by hastening it before the appointed time. And this will happen the more easily the more accomplices there are in the conspiracy.
As to the unforeseen accidents, of course no idea can be given of them; they can only be illustrated by examples that should serve as a caution. Julio Belanti of Sienna (of whom I have already made mention) hated Pandolfo for having taken his daughter away from him after having first given her to him as his wife. He resolved to kill him, and thus chose his time. Pandolfo went almost daily to visit a sick relative, and in going there he passed before Julio’s house, who, having observed it, arranged to have the conspirators there to assassinate Pandolfo when he passed. He concealed them, well armed, behind the house door, whilst one of them was stationed at the window to watch for the coming of Pandolfo, and to give a signal when he should be near the door. Pandolfo came, and the signal was given by the conspirator at the window; but at that moment a friend met and stopped Pandolfo, whilst some who were with him moved on, and, upon hearing the noise of arms within the door of Julio, they discovered the ambush, so that Pandolfo was enabled to save himself, and Julio, with his accomplices, was obliged to fly from Sienna. This accidental meeting with a friend prevented the execution of the plot, and thwarted the designs of Julio. Such accidents, being rare, cannot be foreseen nor prevented; though one should endeavor to foresee all that can happen, so as to guard against it.
It only remains for us now to speak of the dangers that follow the execution of a plot; of which there is really but one, namely, when some one is left who will avenge the prince that is killed. He may have brothers or sons, or other relatives, who inherit the principality, and who have been spared by your negligence or for some of the reasons we have mentioned above, and who will avenge the prince. This happened to Giovan Andrea da Lampognano, who, together with other conspirators, had killed the Duke of Milan, who left a son and two brothers, who in time avenged the murdered Duke. But truly in such cases the conspirators are not to be blamed, because there is no help for it. There is no excuse for them, however, when from want of foresight or negligence they permit any one to escape. Some conspirators of Furli killed the Count Girolamo, their lord, and took his wife and children, who were of tender age, prisoners. Believing, however, that they could not be secure if they did not obtain possession of the castle, which the castellan refused to surrender, the Lady Catharine, as the Countess was called, promised to the conspirators to procure its surrender if they would allow her to enter it, leaving them her children as hostages. Upon this pledge the conspirators consented to let her enter the castle; but no sooner was she within than she reproached them for the murder of the Count, and threatened them with every kind of vengeance. And to prove to them that she cared not for her children, she pointed to her sexual parts, calling out to them that she had wherewith to have more children. Thus the conspirators discovered their error too late, and suffered the penalty of their imprudence in perpetual exile. But of all the perils that follow the execution of a conspiracy, none is more certain and none more to be feared than the attachment of the people to the prince that has been killed. There is no remedy against this, for the conspirators can never secure themselves against a whole people. As an instance of this, I will cite the case of Julius Cæsar, who, being beloved by the people, was avenged by them; for having driven the conspirators from Rome, they were the cause of their being all killed at various times and places.
Conspiracies against the state are less dangerous for those engaged in them than plots against the life of the sovereign. In their conduct there is not so much danger, in their execution there is the same, and after execution there is none. In the conduct of the plot the danger is very slight, for a citizen may aspire to supreme power without manifesting his intentions to any one; and if nothing interferes with his plans, he may carry them through successfully, or if they are thwarted by some law, he may await a more favorable moment, and attempt it by another way. This is understood to apply to a republic that is already partially corrupted; for in one not yet tainted by corruption such thoughts could never enter the mind of any citizen. Citizens of a republic, then, may by a variety of ways and means aspire to sovereign authority without incurring great risks. If republics are slower than princes, they are also less suspicious, and therefore less cautious; and if they show more respect to their great citizens, these in turn are thereby made more daring and audacious in conspiring against them.
Everybody has read the account written by Sallust of the conspiracy of Catiline, and knows that, after it was discovered, Catiline not only stayed in Rome, but actually went to the Senate, and said insulting things to the Senate and the Consul; so great was the respect in which Rome held the citizens. And even after his departure from Rome, and when he was already with the army, Lentulus and the others would not have been seized if letters in their own handwriting had not been found, which manifestly convicted them. Hanno, one of the most powerful citizens of Carthage, aspired to the tyranny of the state, and arranged to poison the whole Senate on the occasion of his daughter’s marriage, and then to make himself sovereign. When this plot was discovered, the Senate did nothing more than to pass a decree limiting the expense of feasts and weddings; such was the respect which the Carthaginians had for so great a citizen as Hanno.
It is true that in the execution of a conspiracy against one’s country there are greater difficulties and dangers to surmount. For it is very rare that the forces of a conspirator suffice against so many; and it is not every one that controls an army, like Cæsar, or Agathocles, or Cleomenes, and the like, who by a single blow made themselves masters of their country. For such men the execution is sure and easy, but others who have not the support of such forces must employ deceit and cunning, or foreign aid.
As to the employment of deceit and cunning, I give the following instances. Pisistratus, after the victory which he had gained over the people of Megara, was greatly beloved by the people of Athens. One morning he went forth from his house wounded, and charged the nobility with having attacked him from jealousy, and demanded permission to keep a guard of armed followers for his protection, which was accorded him. This first step enabled him easily to attain such power that he soon after made himself tyrant of Athens. Pandolfo Petrucci returned with other exiles to Sienna, where he was appointed to the command of the guard of the government palace, a subordinate employ which others had refused. Nevertheless, this command gave him in time such influence and authority that in a little while he became prince of the state. Many others have employed similar means, and have in a short time, and without danger, acquired sovereign power. Those who have conspired against their country with their own forces, or by the aid of foreign troops, have had various success, according to their fortune. Catiline, whose conspiracy we have already spoken of, succumbed. Hanno, whom we have also mentioned, having failed in his attempt with poison, armed his partisans to the number of many thousands, and perished with them. Some of the first citizens of Thebes, wishing to obtain absolute control of the state, called to their aid a Spartan army, and seized the government. Thus, if we examine all the conspiracies attempted by men against their country, we find none, or but very few, that have failed in their conduct; but in their execution they have either met with success or failure. Once, however, carried into effect, they involve no other dangers but such as are inherent to absolute power; for he who has become a tyrant is exposed only to the natural and ordinary dangers which tyranny carries with it, and against which there are no other remedies than those indicated above.
Those are the considerations that have presented themselves to me in treating the subject of conspiracies; and if I have noted only those where the sword is the instrument employed, and not poison, it is because the course of both is absolutely the same. It is true that the latter are in proportion more dangerous, as their success is more uncertain, for it is not every one that has the means of employing poison; it must, therefore, be intrusted to such as have, and that very necessity causes the dangers. Furthermore, many reasons may prevent a poison from proving mortal, as in the case of Commodus. Those who had conspired against him, seeing that he would not take the poisoned draught they had offered to him, and yet being resolved upon his death, were obliged to strangle him.
There is, then, no greater misfortune for a prince than that a conspiracy should be formed against him; for it either causes his death, or it dishonors him. If the conspiracy succeeds, he dies; if it be discovered, and he punishes the conspirators with death, it will always be believed that it was an invention of the prince to satisfy his cruelty and avarice with the blood and possessions of those whom he had put to death. I will, therefore, not omit offering an advice to princes or republics against whom conspiracies may have been formed. If they discover that a conspiracy exists against them, they must, before punishing its authors, endeavor carefully to know its nature and extent, – to weigh and measure well the means of the conspirators, and their own strength. And if they find it powerful and alarming, they must not expose it until they have provided themselves with sufficient force to crush it, as otherwise they will only hasten their own destruction. They should therefore try to simulate ignorance of it, for if the conspirators should find themselves discovered, they will be forced by necessity to act without consideration. As an instance of this, we have the case of the Romans, who had left two legions at Capua to protect its inhabitants against the Samnites. The commanders of these legions (as we have related elsewhere) conspired to make themselves masters of the city. When this became known at Rome, the new Consul Rutilius was directed to see to its being prevented; and by way of lulling the conspirators into security, he published that the Senate had resolved to continue the legions in garrison at Capua. The captains and soldiers, believing this, and thinking, therefore, that they had ample time for the execution of their design, made no attempt to hasten it, and thus waited until they perceived that the Consul was separating them from each other. This excited their suspicions, and caused them to expose their intentions, and to proceed to the execution of their plot. There could not be a more forcible example than this for both parties; for it shows how dilatory men are when they think that they have time enough, and, on the other hand, how prompt they are in action when impelled by necessity. A prince or a republic who, for their own advantage, wish to defer the disclosure of a conspiracy, cannot use a more effectual means for that purpose than artfully to hold out to the conspirators the prospect of an early and favorable opportunity for action; so that, whilst waiting for that, or persuaded that they have ample time, the prince or republic will themselves gain time to overwhelm the conspirators. Those who act differently will accelerate their own ruin, as was the case with the Duke of Athens and Guglielmo de’ Pazzi. The Duke, having become tyrant of Florence, and being apprised that there was a conspiracy on foot against him, had one of the conspirators seized without further inquiry into the matter. This caused the others at once to take to arms, and to wrest the government from him. Guglielmo de’Pazzi was commissary in the Val de Chiano in the year 1501. Having heard that a conspiracy had been organized in Arezzo in favor of the Vitelli, for the purpose of taking that place from the Florentines, he immediately went there, and without considering the strength of the conspirators or measuring his own, and wholly without any preparation, he had one of the conspirators seized by the advice of his son, the Bishop of Arezzo. Hereupon the others immediately took to arms, declared the independence of Arezzo, and made Guglielmo prisoner.
But when conspiracies are feeble, they can and ought to be crushed as promptly as possible; in such case, however, the two instances we shall quote, and which are almost the direct opposites of each other, should not in any way be imitated. The one is that of the above-named Duke of Athens, who, to prove his confidence in the attachment of the Florentines to him, had the man who denounced the conspiracy to him put to death. The other is that of Dion of Syracuse, who by way of testing the fidelity of some one whom he suspected ordered Callippus, in whom he had entire confidence, to pretend to be conspiring against him. Both, however, ended badly; the first discouraged the accusers, and encouraged those who were disposed to conspire; and the other paved the way for his own destruction, and was, as it were, the chief of the conspiracy against himself, as was proved by experience, for Callippus, being able to conspire with impunity against Dion, plotted so well that he deprived him of his state and his life.
The question may suggest itself to some persons why it is that, in the many changes that carry a state from freedom to tyranny, and from servitude to liberty, some are effected by bloodshed, and others without any. In fact, history shows that in such changes sometimes an infinite number of lives are sacrificed; whilst at other times it has not cost the life of a single person. Such was the revolution in Rome which transferred the government from the kings to the consuls, where only the Tarquins were expelled, and no one else suffered injury. This depends upon whether the state that changes its form of government does so by violence, or not. When effected by violence the change will naturally inflict suffering upon many; these in turn will desire to revenge themselves, and from this desire of revenge results the shedding of blood. But when such a change is effected by the general consent of the citizens, who have made the state great, then there is no reason why the people should wish to harm any one but the chiefs of the state. Such was the case with the government of the kings in Rome, and the expulsion of the Tarquins; and such was that of the Medici in Florence, whose ruin and expulsion in the year 1494 involved none but themselves. Such revolutions are very rarely dangerous. But those that are effected by men from motives of revenge are most dangerous, and have ever been of a nature to make us tremble with fear and horror in reading of them. History is so full of these that I will not dilate upon them here.
We have already shown that an evil-disposed citizen cannot effect any changes for the worse in a republic, unless it be already corrupt. Besides the reasons elsewhere given, this conclusion is confirmed by the examples of Spurius Cassius and Manlius Capitolinus. This Spurius, being an ambitious man and wishing to obtain the supreme power in Rome, endeavored to gain the favor of the people by numerous benefits, such as the selling to them the lands taken from the Hernicians. This opened the eyes of the Senate to his ambitious projects, and he became suspected, even by the people, to that point, that when he offered them the proceeds of the sale of the grain which the government had caused to be brought from Sicily, the people refused it altogether; for it seemed to them as though Spurius offered it as the price of their liberty. But if this people had been corrupt, they would, so far from refusing this offer, have accepted it, and thus have opened the way for Spurius to the tyranny which now they closed against him.
The example of Manlius is even more forcible, and proves how this evil ambition to rule cancels the noblest qualities of mind and body, and the most important services rendered to a state. We see that this ambition had its origin with Manlius in his jealousy of the honors bestowed upon Camillus; and so blinded was he by it, that, regardless of the manners and customs of Rome, and without examining the condition of the state, which was not yet prepared to accept a vicious form of government, he set to work to stir up disturbances in Rome against the Senate and the institutions of his country. Here we recognize the perfection of the constitution of Rome, and the excellent character of its population; for on the occasion of the fall of Manlius, not one of the nobility (so ardent generally in their mutual support and defence) made the slightest effort in his favor; nor did any of his relatives make any attempt to support him. And whilst the families of others accused were in the habit of showing themselves near them, all covered with dust and in deep mourning and sadness, for the purpose of exciting the commiseration of the people for the accused, not one of the family of Manlius appeared near him. The Tribunes of the people, so accustomed always to favor every measure that seemed for the advantage of the people, and the more so in proportion as it was adverse to the interests of the nobility, in this instance united with the nobles for the purpose of suppressing a common enemy. And finally the people of Rome, ever most jealous of its own interests, and eagerly in favor of everything that was adverse to the nobles, had at first shown themselves well disposed towards Manlius; but the moment the Tribunes summoned him and brought his case before them, the same people, having now from defenders become judges, condemned him, without regard to his former services, to suffer the death penalty. I therefore think that there is no fact in history that more effectually shows the excellence of the Roman constitution than this example, where not a single person of the whole city stirred to defend a citizen gifted with the best qualities, and who had rendered the most signal services to the public, as well as to private individuals. For the love of country had more power over them than any other sentiment; and they thought so much more of its present dangers, to which the ambition of Manlius exposed them, than of his past services, that they saw no other way of relieving themselves of those dangers than by his death. And Titus Livius says: “Thus ended the career of this man, who would have been memorable had he not been born in a free community.”
This brings us to two important considerations: the first, that the means of attaining glory are different in a republic that is corrupt from what they are in a republic that still preserves its institutions pure; and the second, (which is in a measure comprised in the first,) that men in their conduct, and especially in their most prominent actions, should well consider and conform to the times in which they live. And those who, from an evil choice or from natural inclination, do not conform to the times in which they live, will in most instances live unhappily, and their undertakings will come to a bad end; whilst, on the contrary, success attends those who conform to the times. And doubtless we may conclude from the words of our historian that, if Manlius had been born in the times of Marius and Sylla, when the people were already corrupt, and when he could have moulded them according to his ambition, he would have achieved the same results and successes as Marius and Sylla, and the others who after them aspired to the tyranny. And in the same way, if Sylla and Marius had lived in the times of Manlius, they would have been crushed in their first attempt. For a man may well by his conduct and evil ways begin to corrupt a people, but it is impossible for him to live long enough to enjoy the fruits of it. And even if it were possible that by length of time he should succeed, the natural impatience of the people, which cannot brook delay in the indulgence of their passion, would prove an obstacle to his success, so that by too much haste, or from error, he would be led to engage in his attempt at the wrong time, and thus end in failure.
To usurp supreme and absolute authority, then, in a free state, and subject it to tyranny, the people must have already become corrupt by gradual steps from generation to generation. And all states necessarily come to this, unless (as we have shown above) they are frequently reinvigorated by good examples, and brought back by good laws to their first principles. Manlius thus would have been regarded as a rare and memorable man if he had lived in a corrupt republic. And therefore all such as desire to make a change in the government of a republic, whether in favor of liberty or in favor of tyranny, must well examine the condition of things, and from that judge of the difficulties of their undertaking. For it is as difficult to make a people free that is resolved to live in servitude, as it is to subject a people to servitude that is determined to be free. Having argued above that in any such attempts men should well consider the state of the times and govern themselves accordingly, I will develop this subject more fully in the next chapter.
I have often reflected that the causes of the success or failure of men depend upon their manner of suiting their conduct to the times. We see one man proceed in his actions with passion and impetuosity; and as in both the one and the other case men are apt to exceed the proper limits, not being able always to observe the just middle course, they are apt to err in both. But he errs least and will be most favored by fortune who suits his proceedings to the times, as I have said above, and always follows the impulses of his nature. Every one knows how Fabius Maximus conducted the war against Hannibal with extreme caution and circumspection, and with an utter absence of all impetuosity or Roman audacity. It was his good fortune that this mode of proceeding accorded perfectly with the times and circumstances. For Hannibal had arrived in Rome whilst still young and with his fortunes fresh; he had already twice routed the Romans, so that the republic was as it were deprived of her best troops, and greatly discouraged by her reverses. Rome could not therefore have been more favored by fortune, than to have a commander who by his extreme caution and the slowness of his movements kept the enemy at bay. At the same time, Fabius could not have found circumstances more favorable for his character and genius, to which fact he was indebted for his success and glory. And that this mode of proceeding was the result of his character and nature, and not a matter of choice, was shown on the occasion when Scipio wanted to take the same troops to Africa for the purpose of promptly terminating the war. Fabius most earnestly opposed this, like a man incapable of breaking from his accustomed ways and habits; so that, if he had been master, Hannibal would have remained in Italy, because Fabius failed to perceive that the times were changed. But Rome was a republic that produced citizens of various character and dispositions, such as Fabius, who was excellent at the time when it was desirable to protract the war, and Scipio, when it became necessary to terminate it. It is this which assures to republics greater vitality and more enduring success than monarchies have; for the diversity of the genius of her citizens enables the republic better to accommodate herself to the changes of the times than can be done by a prince. For any man accustomed to a certain mode of proceeding will never change it, as we have said, and consequently when time and circumstances change, so that his ways are no longer in harmony with them, he must of necessity succumb. Pietro Soderini, whom we have mentioned several times already, was in all his actions governed by humanity and patience. He and his country prospered so long as the times favored this mode of proceeding; but when afterwards circumstances arose that demanded a course of conduct the opposite to that of patience and humanity, he was unfit for the occasion, and his own and his country’s ruin were the consequence. Pope Julius II. acted throughout the whole period of his pontificate with the impetuosity and passion natural to his character; and as the times and circumstances well accorded with this, he was successful in all his undertakings. But if the times had changed so that different counsels would have been required, he would unquestionably have been ruined, for he could not have changed his character or mode of action.
That we cannot thus change at will is due to two causes; the one is the impossibility of resisting the natural bent of our characters; and the other is the difficulty of persuading ourselves, after having been accustomed to success by a certain mode of proceeding, that any other can succeed as well. It is this that causes the varying success of a man; for the times change, but he does not change his mode of proceeding. The ruin of states is caused in like manner, as we have fully shown above, because they do not modify their institutions to suit the changes of the times. And such changes are more difficult and tardy in republics; for necessarily circumstances will occur that will unsettle the whole state, and when the change of proceeding of one man will not suffice for the occasion.
Having made mention of Fabius Maximus, and the manner in which he held Hannibal at bay, it seems to me opportune in the next chapter to examine the question whether a general who is resolved anyhow to give battle to the enemy can be prevented by the latter from doing so.
“ Cneius Sulpitius, appointed Dictator against the Gauls, protracted the war by refusing to commit himself to the fortunes of battle against an enemy whose position was being daily made worse by time and the disadvantages of the country.” When an error is very generally adopted, I believe it to be advantageous often to refute it; and therefore, although I have already several times pointed out how much we differ in our important actions from the ancients, yet it seems to me not superfluous once more to repeat it here. It is especially in matters relating to the art of war that we deviate from the practice of the ancients, for in this respect we do not observe any of the principles that were so much esteemed by them. And this defect arises from this, that the republics and princes of the present day abandon the charge of their armies to others, so as to avoid themselves the cares and dangers attending it. And if we nevertheless occasionally see a king in our times march in person with his army, it must not be supposed that he will introduce a more laudable system; for even if he does expose himself to the fatigue, it is for the sake of pomp only, and not from any praiseworthy motive. And yet these princes in only occasionally showing themselves with their armies, whilst reserving to themselves the title of commander, are less in fault than republics, and most especially those of Italy. These, trusting entirely to others, understand themselves nothing of what pertains to war, and yet wish to decide upon everything, so as to preserve at least the appearance of sovereignty, and in their decisions they commit a thousand errors. And although I have already elsewhere spoken of some, yet I will not refrain here from referring to one of the most important instances.
When these indolent princes or effeminate republics send a general with an army into the field, the wisest order they think they can give him is never to risk a battle, and above all things to avoid a general action. In this they think they imitate the salutary prudence of Fabius Maximus, who by delaying battle saved the Roman republic; but they do not understand that in most cases such a commission is either impracticable or dangerous. For we must hold it as a principle that a general who wishes to keep the field cannot avoid a battle when the enemy is determined upon fighting. And thus such orders are as much as to say to him, “Give battle at your enemy’s convenience, but not at your own.” To keep the field and yet to avoid a battle there is no other safe way than to keep at least fifty thousand men at a good distance from the enemy, and to keep good watch so that in case of his approach you may have time to retreat farther. Another way is to shut yourself up in a city. But both the one and the other of these courses are replete with danger. In the first case you leave the country open to be pillaged by the enemy; and certainly a brave prince would prefer the fortune of battle rather than to prolong the war with such damage to his people. The second plan will manifestly ruin you; for if you shut yourself up with your army in a city you will be besieged, and in a short time hunger will compel you to surrender. Therefore, to avoid battle by either of these means is equally dangerous. The course taken by Fabius in occupying naturally strong positions is good when you have an army so formidable that the enemy dares not attack you. Nor can it be said that Fabius sought to avoid a battle; all he wanted was to fight when it should be to his advantage. In fact, if Hannibal had attacked him, Fabius would have met and fought him; but Hannibal never dared to offer him battle in the manner that suited Fabius. Thus the one and the other equally avoided a combat; but if either one of them had been resolved to bring it on anyhow, the other would have had but three ways of avoiding it, – the two we have just mentioned, or flight.
A thousand examples attest the truth of what I have advanced, and especially the war which the Romans carried on against Philip of Macedon, father of Perseus. Philip, attacked by the Romans, wished to avoid the combat, and for this purpose, in imitation of Fabius Maximus in Italy, posted himself with his army on the summit of a mountain, where he strongly fortified himself, judging that the Romans would never venture to come and attack him there. But they did attack and drive him from that position, and forced him to fly with the greater part of his troops. And what saved him from being entirely cut to pieces was the irregularity of the country, which prevented the Romans from pursuing him. Philip then resolved not to fight, but, being posted near the Romans, was obliged to fly; and having learnt by this experience that keeping on the heights did not avail him in his wish to avoid a battle, and unwilling to shut himself up in a city, he resolved to adopt the other plan of keeping at many miles’ distance from the Roman camp. Thus, when they marched into one province he moved off to another, and whenever the Romans left one country he entered it. But finding in the end that the prolonging of the war by these means only made his condition worse, and that his own subjects were by turns oppressed by the enemy and by himself, he resolved to try the chance of combat, and thus came to a regular battle with the Romans.
It is advantageous, then, not to fight when your army is in the condition of that of Fabius, or that of Cn. Sulpicius; that is to say, when you have so formidable an army that the enemy dares not come to attack you in your intrenchments; or that he is upon your territory without having gained a foothold, so that he suffers from want of provisions. In such cases it is a wise course to follow, for the reason given by Titus Livius; namely, “It is well for a general not to risk the chance of battle with an enemy whose position is daily made worse by time and the disadvantages of the country.” But in any other case a battle cannot be avoided without dishonor and danger; for to fly like Philip is the same as being defeated, and is the more humiliating the less proof you have given of your courage. And if Philip succeeded in saving himself by flight, another, unless equally favored by the country, will fail. No one will pretend to say that Hannibal was not a master in the art of war; and if, when he was opposed to Scipio in Africa, he had found it to his advantage to prolong the war, he certainly would have done so. And perhaps, being a good general, and having a good army, he might have done as Fabius did in Italy; but as he did not do so we must suppose that he was influenced by important considerations. But a prince who has an army composed of various materials, and finds that from want of money or friendly support he can no longer keep his army together, must be utterly demented if he does not take his chance of battle before his army shall have fallen to pieces; for by waiting he is sure to lose, but by trying a battle he may possibly be victorious. Another point deserving consideration is, that even in losing a battle a commander should at least endeavor to save his glory; and surely there is more glory in being overcome by force than in losing from any other cause. It was this consideration that must have influenced Hannibal. Scipio, on the other hand, even if Hannibal had wished to protract the war and had lacked the courage to attack him in his strongholds, was not suffering any privations, for he had already defeated Syphax, and had made himself master of so great a part of Africa that he could have held his ground there with as much security and convenience as in Italy. Such was not the position of Hannibal when opposed to Fabius, nor of the Gauls when they were opposed to Sulpicius. Still less can a general avoid coming to battle when he attempts to penetrate with his army into the interior of the enemy’s country; if the enemy opposes him he will be obliged to fight, and still more will he be obliged to give battle if he should attempt to besiege a town. This happened in our day to Charles, Duke of Burgundy, who, having pitched his camp before Morat, a town belonging to the Swiss, was attacked and routed by them. The same thing occurred to the French army when encamped before Novara, where they were equally defeated by the Swiss.
The power of the Tribunes of the people in Rome was very great, as has already been said several times, but it was necessary to restrain the ambition of the nobles, who would otherwise have corrupted the republic much more than it was already. Nevertheless, as all human institutions (as has been observed elsewhere) contain some inherent evil that gives rise to unforeseen accidents, it becomes necessary to provide against these by new measures. The Tribunes had become insolent and formidable to the nobility and to all Rome, and would have become dangerous to the liberties of the republic had not Appius Claudius pointed out the way for the Romans to protect themselves against the ambition of the Tribunes. As there was always to be found amongst them some one more easily intimidated or corrupted than the others, or some lover of the public good, Claudius advised that they should oppose such a one to his colleagues whenever these wanted to pass any act contrary to the wishes of the Senate. This expedient tempered the formidable authority of the Tribunes, and for a long while proved most advantageous to Rome; and it has caused me to reflect that the presumption of success should always be in favor of a single power contending against a combination, however superior in numbers and power. For independent of the infinity of circumstances of which an individual can take advantage better than a combination of many, the former will always have the opportunity, with a little address, to create divisions between the latter, and thus to weaken any powerful combination. I will not adduce here any examples of antiquity, of which there are many, but will confine myself to instances of our own times only. In the year 1484 all Italy leagued together against the Venetians; who, after losing everything, and being unable to keep the field any longer, succeeded in corrupting Ludovico Sforza, governor of Milan, and concluded a treaty with him by which they not only recovered all the territory they had lost, but actually seized a portion of the principality of Ferrara. And thus, although they had been losers in war, yet they proved to be gainers in peace. A few years since a general league was formed against France, but before the termination of the war Spain broke from the league, and made terms with France, so that the other confederates were soon afterwards constrained also to come to terms with her. We may therefore with reasonable certainty presume that when a number of princes combine to make war upon a single one, the latter will triumph over the combination, provided he has courage and strength enough to resist the first shock and bide events by temporizing. But if he cannot do this, he is exposed to a thousand dangers, as was the case with the Venetians in 1508. If at that time they could have held their own against the French army until they could gain over some of those who had combined against them, they would have escaped the disasters by which they were overwhelmed. But being without an army that could temporarily hold the French in check, and thus having no time to detach any one power from the league, they were crushed. In fact, we see that the Pope, after having recovered what belonged to him, became their friend; and so did Spain; and both of these powers would gladly have saved to the Venetians their possessions in Lombardy if they could have done it, so as to prevent France from becoming so powerful in Italy. The Venetians might, by sacrificing a part, have saved the rest; this would have been a wise course for them to pursue, provided they had done so before seeming to be forced to it by necessity; but after the war was actually begun, such a course would have been disgraceful, and probably of little advantage. Before the war only a few of the citizens of Venice could discern the danger, still fewer perceived the remedy, and none advised it. But to return to what I said at the beginning of this discourse, I conclude that, as the Roman Senate found the means for saving the country from the ambition of the Tribunes, who were many, so will any one prince find a remedy, when assailed by many enemies, provided he has wisdom and skill, by suitable means, to create such misunderstandings between them as will cause their disunion.
We have already pointed out the advantage of necessity in human actions, and to what glorious achievements it has given rise. Some moral philosophers have even maintained that without it neither the hand nor the tongue of man, the two noblest instruments of his glory, would have served his purpose perfectly, nor carried human works to that height of perfection which they have attained. The ancient commanders of armies, who well knew the powerful influence of necessity, and how it inspired the soldiers with the most desperate courage, neglected nothing to subject their men to such a pressure, whilst, on the other hand, they employed every device that ingenuity could suggest to relieve the enemy’s troops from the necessity of fighting. Thus they often opened the way for the enemy to retreat, which they might easily have barred; and closed it to their own soldiers for whom they could with ease have kept it open. Whoever then desires that a city should make an obstinate resistance, or that an army should fight with determination in the field, should above all things endeavor to inspire them with the conviction of the necessity for their utmost efforts. A skilful general, then, who has to besiege a city, can judge of the difficulties of its capture by knowing and considering to what extent the inhabitants are under the necessity of defending themselves. If he finds that to be very urgent, then he may deem his task in proportion difficult; but if the motive for resistance is feeble, then he may count upon an easy victory. Thence it comes that it is more difficult to reduce a country to subjection that has revolted, than it was to conquer it originally. For not having given any special offence before the conquest that would cause them to fear punishment, they yield easily; but having offended by the rebellion and fearing the penalty, they defend themselves with great obstinacy.
Such a determined resistance may also be caused by the natural hatred between neighboring princes and republics, which arises from rivalry and the thirst of dominion. The case of Tuscany proves that this is especially the case with republics. This spirit of rivalry and contention will ever make it difficult for republics to subjugate each other. Whoever, therefore, carefully examines the character of the neighboring powers of the republics of Florence and of Venice will not wonder, as many do, that Florence has expended more money and made fewer conquests than Venice. This is due to the fact that the Venetians have had to do with neighbors less obstinate in defence than those with whom Florence has had to contend, the cities in the vicinity of Venice being accustomed to live under the domination of princes, and not as free states; for those who live in servitude are indifferent to a change of masters, in fact in most cases they rather desire it. So that Venice (although she has had more powerful neighbors than Florence) found these neighboring cities less obstinate in defence than Florence, which is entirely surrounded by free states.
To return to my subject, then, I say that a captain who besieges a city should strive by every means in his power to relieve the besieged of the pressure of necessity, and thus diminish the obstinacy of their defence. He should promise them a full pardon if they fear punishment, and if they are apprehensive for their liberties he should assure them that he is not the enemy of the public good, but only of a few ambitious persons in the city who oppose it. Such a course will often facilitate the siege and capture of cities. Artifices of this kind are quickly appreciated by the wise, but the people are generally deceived by them. Blinded by their eager desire for present peace, they do not see the snares that are concealed under these liberal promises, and thus many cities have fallen into servitude. This was the case with Florence in our immediate times, and in ancient times with Crassus and his army. Crassus well knew that the promises of the Parthians were not to be trusted, and that they were made merely for the purpose of removing from the minds of the Roman soldiers the impression of the necessity of defending themselves. Yet so blinded were these by the offers of peace that had been made by the enemy, that Crassus could not induce them to make a vigorous resistance.
The Samnites, instigated by the ambition of a few, disregarded their treaties with the Romans; and made incursions upon and pillaged the territory of some of the Roman allies. After that, they sent ambassadors to Rome to ask for peace, offering restitution of what they had plundered, and to deliver up the authors of the disorders and the pillage. Their proposition was rejected by the Romans, and the ambassadors returned to Samnium hopeless of any accommodation. Thereupon Claudius Pontius, at that time commander of the Samnite army, pointed out to them in a remarkable speech that the Romans were resolved upon war under any circumstances, and that, although they themselves desired peace, yet they were thus forced to accept the war, adding these words: “War is just for those who are forced to it by necessity, and Heaven favors those who have no hope but in their arms.” It was upon this necessity that he based his hope of victory with his soldiers.
And not to be obliged to return to this subject, I think it well here to cite the most noteworthy examples from Roman history that illustrate my proposition. C. Manilius had led his army against the Veientes, and, a part of the troops of the latter having forced a passage into his intrenchments, Manilius rushed with a detachment to the support of his men, and closed up all the issues of his camp, so that the Veientes could not escape. Finding themselves thus shut in, they began to combat with such desperate fury that they killed Manilius, and would have destroyed the rest of the Roman army if one of the Tribunes had not the sagacity to open a way for them to escape. This shows that the Veientes, when constrained by necessity, fought with the most desperate valor; but when they saw the way open for their escape, they thought more of saving themselves than of fighting. The Volscians and Equeans having entered with their troops upon Roman territory, the Romans sent two Consuls with armies against them. Becoming engaged in battle, the Volscian army under command of Vettius Messius suddenly found itself shut in between their own intrenchments, which were occupied by the Romans, and the other Roman army. And seeing that they would have to perish or cut their way out with the sword, Messius addressed his soldiers in the following words: “Follow me! You have no walls nor ditches to encounter, but only men armed like yourselves. Equals in valor, you have the advantage of necessity, that last and most powerful of weapons!” It is thus that Titus Livius styles necessity “the last and most powerful weapon.” Camillus, the most experienced of the Roman generals, had penetrated with his army into the city of Veii, for the purpose of facilitating its capture; and to deprive the enemy of the extreme necessity of defending himself, he ordered his soldiers, in a voice loud enough to be heard by the Veientes, not to harm those that should be disarmed. This caused the latter to lay down their arms, and the city was taken almost without bloodshed. This example was afterwards imitated by several other generals.
Coriolanus, having been exiled from Rome, went to the Volscians, where he formed an army with which he returned to Rome to revenge himself upon his countrymen. But he soon withdrew again, influenced more by his affection for his mother than by the forces of the Romans. On this occasion Titus Livius says: “It became evident that the Roman republic was more indebted for her aggrandizement to the merit of her generals than to that of their armies, seeing that the Volscians had until then always been defeated, and that they became victorious only when led by Coriolanus.” And although Livius advances this opinion, yet we find many instances in history where the soldiers, deprived of their captains, have given wonderful proofs of valor, and displayed more order and intrepidity after the death of their Consuls than before. It was thus with the army which the Romans had in Spain under the Scipios, which, after the loss of both its commanders, not only saved itself by its bravery, but actually defeated the enemy, and saved that province to the republic. So that on the whole we shall find many instances of battles won solely by the valor of the soldiers, and many others where the same result was achieved by the courage of the general alone. So that we may conclude that they are equally dependent one upon the other.
It may be well here to consider which of the two is most to be feared, a good army badly commanded, or a good commander with a bad army. According to the judgment of Cæsar, neither one nor the other is worth much; for when he went into Spain against Afranius and Petreius, who had a good army under their orders, he said that he cared little about that, “as he was marching against an army without a chief,” meaning thereby the weakness of the commanders. And, on the other hand, when he went into Thessaly against Pompey, he said “that he was marching against a leader without an army.” We may consider here also another matter, namely, whether it be easier for a good captain to form a good army, or for a good army to form a good captain. Upon this point I say that the question would seem to be decided, inasmuch as it is much easier for the many who have merit to find or instruct one to be equally good, than for the one to form the many. Lucullus was wholly inexperienced in war when he was sent against Mithridates; nevertheless, being placed at the head of a good army that had already very superior officers, he soon became a good commander. The Romans, being in want of men, armed a number of slaves and gave them to Sempronius Gracchus to be trained, who in a brief time made a good army of them. After Pelopidas and Epaminondas had delivered their country, Thebes, from the yoke of the Spartans, they made in a very short time the best kind of soldiers out of the Theban peasants; so that they were not only able to sustain the shock of the Spartan troops, but actually to defeat them. Thus the matter is about even; for if either one of the two, the army or the commander, be good, they will be apt to make the other good likewise. But a good army without an able commander often becomes insolent and dangerous, as was the case with the Macedonian army after the death of Alexander, and with the veteran troops in the civil wars of Rome. And therefore I am disposed to believe that you can more safely rely upon a competent general, who has the time to instruct his men and the facilities for arming them, than upon an insolent army with a chief tumultuously chosen by them. Those generals, therefore, deserve double praise and glory who not only had to conquer, but had actually to form and train their troops before meeting the enemy. For in this they have shown that twofold merit the union of which is so rare that many commanders, if they had been obliged to perform the same task, would not have obtained that celebrity which they have achieved.
We have numerous instances of the important effect produced by some unforeseen incident caused by something new that is seen or heard in the midst of a conflict or heat of battle. One of the most striking examples of this occurred in the battle between the Romans and the Volscians, when Quintius saw one wing of his army give way, and cried out to them in a loud voice to stand firm, as the other wing was victorious. These words reanimated the courage of his soldiers, and caused dismay amongst those of the enemy, so that Quintius carried off the victory. And if such a cry can produce such an effect in a well-disciplined army, its influence is infinitely greater upon a tumultuous and undisciplined body, who are all moved by similar impulses. I will adduce a notable example of this, which occurred in our own times. A few years ago the city of Perugia was divided into two factions, the Oddi and the Baglioni. The latter held the government and had exiled the former, who, with the aid of their friends, gathered an army, and established themselves at a convenient place near Perugia. One night they entered the city by the aid of their partisans, and, without being perceived, succeeded in making themselves masters of the public square. As the streets were all barred with chains, they had a man precede them with an iron club to break the fastenings of these chains, so that horses might be able to pass. Only one more that closed the public square remained to be broken, and already the cry of “To arms!” had been raised in the city. Closely pressed by those that followed him, the man who was charged to break the chains, unable to raise his arms for the purpose, called out to those pressing upon him to fall back. This cry of “Fall back!” taken up from rank to rank, caused the hindmost to fly; the others, one by one, followed them with such a rush that it ended in a complete rout. And thus by this slight accident the whole project of the Oddi was thwarted. This shows the necessity of discipline in an army, not only to make them combat with order, but also to prevent any slight accident from creating confusion. And it is just for this reason that an undisciplined multitude is useless in war; for the least unexpected noise or word will throw them into confusion, and make them take to flight. And a good commander should therefore, amongst his other regulations, specially appoint persons to receive his orders and transmit them to the others; and he should accustom his soldiers not to listen to any but their regular officers, and direct the officers to give no orders but such as emanate from the commander. The non-observance of this rule has often caused the greatest misfortunes.
As to new stratagems, when the armies are engaged in conflict, every captain should endeavor to invent such as will encourage his own troops and dishearten those of the enemy. This is one of the most efficacious means of achieving victory. In proof of which I will cite the example of the Roman Dictator C. Sulpicius, who, being about to come to battle with the Gauls, armed all the teamsters and camp-followers, and mounted them upon the mules and other beasts of burden, and supplied them with standards, so as to seem like regular cavalry. These he placed behind a hill, with orders to show themselves to the enemy at a given signal during the heat of battle. This artifice, being carried out as ordered, so alarmed the Gauls as to cause them to lose the day. A good general, then, has to do two things; the one, to try by novel stratagems to create alarm amongst the enemy; and the other, to be on his guard to discover those that the enemy may attempt to practise upon him, and to render them fruitless. It was thus that the Indian king acted against Semiramis. This queen, seeing that the king had a great many elephants, tried to frighten him by showing him that she had quite as many. She therefore ordered a number of sham elephants made of the hides of buffaloes and cows, which she had placed upon camels and sent to the front. But the stratagem was discovered by the king, and proved, not only useless, but damaging to Semiramis. The Dictator Mamercus was carrying on the war against the Fidenati. These, for the purpose of frightening the Roman army, caused, in the midst of an action, a number of soldiers to issue forth from the city with burning torches at the end of their lances, hoping that the Roman soldiers, struck by the novelty of the thing, might break their ranks, and thus create confusion. Here it is well to observe that such artifices may safely and with advantage be employed when they have more the appearance of reality than of fiction; for then their seeming strength will prevent the prompt discovery of their weakness. But when they are manifestly rather fictitious than real, they should either not be employed, or they should be kept at such a distance that their real character cannot be so quickly discovered, as Sulpicius did with his muleteers. Otherwise, when too near, their real weakness will be quickly discovered, and then they do more harm than good, as was the case with the sham elephants of Semiramis, and the torches of the Fidenati. For although these did at the first moment somewhat disturb the Roman soldiers, yet when the Dictator discovered it he called out to them to be ashamed to fly from the smoke like insects. “Return to the combat,” he shouted to them, “and with their own torches burn their city of Fidena, which your benefits could not placate.” Thus was the artifice of the Fidenati rendered futile, and the battle won by the Romans.
The Fidenati, having revolted, massacred the colony which the Romans had established at Fidena. To avenge this outrage the Romans appointed four Tribunes with consular powers, one of whom remained to guard Rome, while the other three were sent against the Fidenati and Veientes. These three Tribunes gained nothing but dishonor in this expedition, in consequence of the dissensions that had arisen between them. For this dishonor they were themselves alone responsible; and it was only the valor of their soldiers that saved them from experiencing a serious check. The Romans, having perceived the cause of this disorder, resorted to the creation of a Dictator; so that one man might restore that order which the three Tribunes had destroyed. Thence we may see the uselessness of several commanders in one army, or in a city that is besieged. And Titus Livius could not more forcibly illustrate this than when he says: “Three Tribunes with consular powers proved how useless it is to confide the command of an army to several chiefs; for each one holding opinions of his own, which the others would not adopt, they afforded the enemy the opportunity to take advantage of their dissensions.” And although this example proves sufficiently the disadvantages resulting from a plurality of commanders for an army in time of war, yet by way of still further elucidating this truth, I will cite one or two other instances of both ancient and modern times. When Louis XII., king of France, had retaken Milan in the year 1500, he sent his troops to Pisa, with orders to restore that city to the Florentines; whereupon the government of Florence sent there as commissioners Giovanbattista Ridolfi and Luca d’Antonio degli Albizzi. As Giovanbattista enjoyed a great reputation, and was the older of the two, Luca left the entire management of affairs to him; and although he did not exhibit his ambition by opposing him, yet he manifested it by his silence and by the indifference and contempt with which he treated everything that was done, so that, neither aiding in the actions in the field nor in council, one would have supposed him to be a man destitute of all ability. But he soon proved the very opposite, when, in consequence of something that had occurred, Giovanbattista was obliged to return to Florence. Then Luca, remaining in sole command, displayed his worth by his great valor, skill, and wisdom; all of which were lost so long as he had a colleague who shared in the command. I will quote once more, in confirmation of what I have advanced, the authority of Titus Livius. This historian, referring to the circumstance that the Romans had sent Quintius and Agrippa against the Equeans, adds, that the latter begged his colleague to take upon himself the sole conduct of the war, saying to him, “In important affairs it is necessary for success that the principal authority should reside in one man only.” This is just the contrary of what is done by our princes and republics of the present day; who confide to several commissaries and chiefs the administration of places subject to them, which creates an inconceivable confusion. And if we seek for the causes of the reverses experienced by the Italian and French armies in our times, we shall find that to have been the most powerful of all the causes. So that we may truly conclude that it is better to confide any expedition to a single man of ordinary ability, rather than to two, even though they are men of the highest merit, and both having equal authority.
It ever has been, and ever will be the case, that men of rare and extraordinary merit are neglected by republics in times of peace and tranquillity; for jealous of the reputation which such men have acquired by their virtues, there are always in such times many other citizens, who want to be, not only their equals, but their superiors. The Greek historian Thucydides gives the following striking instance of this. The Athenian republic, having obtained the advantage in the Peloponnesian war, having checked the pride of the Spartans and subjected almost all Greece to their rule, acquired such reputation that she conceived the project of conquering Sicily. This enterprise was much debated in Athens. Alcibiades and some other citizens, thinking more of the honor they could gain by it than of the public good, were much in favor of it, and hoped that the direction of it would be intrusted to them. But Nicias, one of the most influential citizens of Athens, opposed it, and the principal reason which he adduced against it, when addressing the people (who had faith in him), was this: that in advising them against this war he counselled them to what was against his own interest, for he well knew that so long as Athens remained at peace there were many citizens who wanted to take precedence of him; but he also knew that there was not a citizen who would pretend to show himself his superior, or even his equal, in time of war. Thus showing that it is the common fault of republics in tranquil times to make small account of men of merit. And it is a twofold cause of indignation for such men to see themselves deprived of the rank to which they are entitled, and to be associated with, and often even subordinated to unworthy men, who are their inferiors in capacity. This defect in republics has often caused great evils; for those citizens who feel themselves so unjustly depreciated, and knowing it to be the result of the peace and tranquillity which the state enjoys, will stir up troubles and kindle fresh wars to the detriment of the republic.
In reflecting upon the means for remedying this evil, I believe I have found two. The first is to keep the citizens poor, so that their wealth and lack of virtue may neither corrupt themselves nor enable them to corrupt others; and the second, so to organize for war as to be ever prepared for it, and always to have need of men of merit and reputation, as Rome did in her early days. For as this city always kept armies in the field, there was constant opportunity for the employment of men of ability; nor could rank be withheld from a man who deserved it, neither could it be bestowed upon another who did not merit it. And if, notwithstanding this, it was at times done, either by mistake or by way of trial, it caused at once such disorders and dangers that they quickly returned to the regular course. But other republics, which are not constituted like Rome, and who engage in war only when compelled by necessity, cannot avoid this inconvenience, but are rather constantly led into it. And this will always produce evil consequences whenever the meritorious citizen, who has thus been neglected, is disposed to be vindictive, and has influence and partisans in the city. Rome avoided this evil practice for a time; but after she had conquered Carthage and Antiochus, (as we have said elsewhere,) and no longer fearing other wars, she also seems to have confided the conduct of her armies indifferently to whoever aspired to it, looking less to the merits and ability of the man than to such other qualifications as assured him favor with the people. For we see that the consulate was several times refused to Paulus Æmilius, and that he obtained it only when the war with the Macedonians occurred, which being deemed perilous, the command of the army was by general consent committed to him.
When after the year 1490 the city of Florence was involved in many wars, and her citizens had given but indifferent proof of their ability, the city by chance found a man who showed himself capable of commanding her armies. This was Antonio Giacomini; and so long as Florence had difficult wars on hand, all the ambition of her citizens ceased, and Antonio had no competitors for the part of commissary and chief of the army. But when there was a war that presented no dangers, and promised only honors and credit, then there were so many applicants that, in the appointment of three commissaries for the conduct of the siege of Pisa, Antonio was left out. And although the injury that resulted to the state from not having sent Antonio was not evident to all, yet it could most easily be conjectured. For Pisa, being destitute of munitions and provisions, would quickly have been forced to surrender at discretion to the Florentines, if Antonio had been in command. But the siege, being conducted by wholly incompetent men, was protracted to that degree that the Florentines had to resort to the purchase of the city, which they might otherwise have taken by force. Such an indignity might well have had an effect upon Antonio, and he must have been very good and forbearing not to have desired to revenge himself for it, either by the ruin of the state (which he could have occasioned) or by the destruction of some of his particular rivals. A republic should guard against similar dangers, as we will show more fully in the following chapter.
A republic should take great care not to intrust with an important administration one who has been gravely offended. Claudius Nero, who left the army with which he was confronting Hannibal, and, taking a portion of the same, went with it into La Marca to meet the other Consul, in order to engage Asdrubal before he could form a junction with Hannibal, found himself in front of Asdrubal, and surrounded him with his forces in a place where he had to fight at a disadvantage or die of starvation; but he was so craftily entertained by Asdrubal with propositions of an agreement, as to enable him to make his escape and defeat Nero’s opportunity of crushing him. This becoming known in Rome, the Senate and people deemed it a grievous blunder, making him the constant topic of conversation about the city, to his great disgrace and shame. But afterwards becoming Consul and being sent against Hannibal he acted in the manner above indicated, which involved such great danger that all Rome was troubled and in doubt until the news came of Asdrubal’s rout. Claudius, being subsequently interrogated as to the reasons for taking so dangerous a course, by which without extreme necessity he had jeoparded the liberty of Rome, answered that he did so, knowing that if successful he should regain the glory lost in Spain; and if unsuccessful, and his plan should have an adverse issue, he would be revenged on that city and those citizens who had so ungratefully and indiscreetly offended him. And if such an affront could rouse to such passion a citizen of Rome in those days when Rome was yet incorrupt, we can imagine what might be done by a citizen of a city in a condition unlike that of Rome at that time. Hence, no adequate remedies existing for similar disorders arising in republics, it follows that it is impossible to establish a perpetual republic, because in a thousand unforeseen ways its ruin may be accomplished.
Epaminondas the Theban said that nothing was more necessary and useful for a general than to know the intentions and projects of the enemy. And the more difficult it is to acquire such knowledge, the more praise he deserves who succeeds in conjecturing it correctly. Nor is it as difficult to understand the designs of the enemy as it is at times to comprehend his actions; and often it is less difficult to appreciate what he is doing at a distance, than what he does at the moment and near by. For it has happened many a time that, when a battle has lasted until nightfall, the victor thinks himself beaten, and the defeated imagines himself to have been victorious. Such errors have caused men to resolve upon acts that proved their ruin; as happened to Brutus and Cassius, the latter of whom perished in consequence of just such an error. For although the wing commanded by Brutus had been victorious, yet Cassius thought that it had been defeated, and that consequently the whole army was beaten; so that, despairing of his safety, he killed himself. We have an instance almost of the same kind in our own times, in the battle of Santa Cecilia (Marignan) in Lombardy, between Francis I., king of France, and the Swiss. Night having come on, that portion of the Swiss troops which had not been broken through believed themselves to be victorious, not knowing that the others had been routed and slain. This error was the cause of their not saving themselves; for they awaited the morning to renew the contest that proved so disastrous to them. And this same error came near causing the loss of the army of the Pope and of the king of Spain, which, upon the false news of victory, had crossed the Po, and, had it advanced any farther, would have become prisoners to the French, who were victorious.
The Roman and Equean armies fell into a similar error. The Consul Sempronius, having attacked the latter, the battle lasted all day until evening, with varying fortunes for both sides. When night came on, both armies, half beaten, did not return to their encampments, but retired to the neighboring heights, where they believed themselves secure. The Roman army divided into two parts; one followed the Consul, and the other a centurion named Tempanius, whose valor had saved the Roman army on that day from being entirely defeated. When morning came, the Roman Consul, without knowing anything more of the enemy, marched towards Rome, and the Equean army retreated likewise. Each of them believed the other to have been victorious, and therefore retreated, regardless of leaving their encampments a prey to the other. It happened that Tempanius, who with the remainder of the Roman army was also retreating, learnt from some wounded Equeans that their captain had withdrawn, and had abandoned their encampments. Upon this news, he returned to the Roman intrenchments, and saved them, and afterwards destroyed those of the Equeans, and then marched to Rome victorious. This victory, as we see, consisted only in his having been the first to learn the discomfiture of the enemy. And this should make us reflect that it may often happen that two armies opposed to each other may both be equally damaged, and suffering from the same necessity; in such case, the victory will be for him who is first informed of the condition of the other.
I will further cite upon this point the following domestic incident of modern times. In the year 1498 the Florentines had a powerful army before Pisa, and pressed that city very closely. The Venetians, having undertaken its protection, and seeing no other means of saving it, resolved to make a diversion by attacking the Florentine territory in the rear. They accordingly entered it by the Val di Lamona with a powerful army, occupied the Borgo di Marradi, and laid siege to the castle of Castiglione, which crowns the hill above. The Florentines, hearing of this, resolved at once to succor Marradi, without, however, reducing their force before Pisa. They organized new infantry and cavalry, and sent them, under command of Jacopo Quarto d’ Appiano, Lord of Piombino, and the Count Rinuccio da Marciano. When these forces reached the heights above Marradi, the Venetians withdrew from before Castiglione into the Borgo below. After the two armies had been facing each other for some days, both began to suffer from want of provisions and other necessaries; and neither daring to attack the other, and ignorant of their respective sufferings, both resolved to raise their camp and to withdraw, the Venetians towards Berzighella and Faenza, and the Florentines towards Casaglia and the Mugello. When morning came, and each army had commenced sending off its trains, it chanced that a woman came from the Borgo di Marradi into the camp of the Florentines, (deeming herself protected by her age and poverty,) desiring to see some of her people who served there. From her the Florentine commanders learnt that the Venetian troops were marching off. Encouraged by this news, they changed their intentions, and went in pursuit of the Venetians, as though they had driven them from their intrenchments; and wrote to Florence that they had repulsed the Venetians, and gained a victory. But this victory was due to nothing else than to their having by chance been the first to learn that the enemy was retreating; had this, on the other hand, been first known to the Venetians, it would have given the victory to them.
Whilst the Roman republic was disturbed by the dissensions between the nobles and the people, a war occurred; and they sent their armies into the field under the command of Quintius and Appius Claudius. Appius, naturally cruel and rude in his mode of commanding, was badly obeyed by his troops; so that he had to fly from his province as though he had been beaten. Quintius, on the other hand, being of a gentle and humane disposition, was cheerfully obeyed by his men, and returned to Rome victorious; whence it would seem that a multitude is more easily governed by humanity and gentleness than by haughtiness and cruelty. Nevertheless, Cornelius Tacitus (followed in this respect by many other writers) holds the opposite opinion, and says, “To govern the multitude, severity is worth more than gentleness.” In attempting to reconcile these two opposite opinions, we must consider whether the people to be governed are your equals or your subjects. If they are your equals, then you cannot entirely depend upon rigorous measures, nor upon that severity which Tacitus recommends. And as the people of Rome divided the sovereignty with the nobles, any one who had temporarily become chief of the state could not rule them with harshness and cruelty. And we have frequently seen those Roman generals who made themselves beloved by their armies, and managed them with gentleness, obtain more success than those who made themselves feared in an extraordinary manner, unless the latter were gifted with uncommon virtues, as was the case with Manlius Torquatus. But he who has to command subjects, such as Tacitus speaks of, should employ severity rather than gentleness, lest these subjects should become insolent, and trample his authority under foot, because of too great indulgence. This severity, however, should be employed with moderation, so as to avoid making yourself odious, for no prince is ever benefited by making himself hated. And the best way not to excite such hatred is to respect the property of the subjects; as to their lives, no prince ever desires those, unless secretly animated by the spirit of rapine. But when influenced by that spirit, bloodshed will ever occur; and in that case the desire and pretexts for it will not be wanting, as I have elsewhere demonstrated at length. Thus, Quintius was more entitled to praise than Appius; and the judgment of Tacitus can be approved only when confined within just limits, and not applied in the manner of Appius. Having spoken of the effects of severity and gentleness, it seems to me not superfluous to show how an act of humanity had more influence with the Faliscians than the power of arms.
Camillus was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it, when a teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city, for the purpose of ingratiating himself with Camillus and the Romans, led these children, on pretence of making them take exercise, into the Roman camp; and presenting them to Camillus, said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.” Camillus not only declined the offer, but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back, and then had a rod put into the hands of each of the children wherewith he directed them to whip him all the way back to the city. Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defence. This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity. It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies and no engines of war, nor any other efforts of human power, could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity, or generosity. History furnishes many other instances of this besides the one just cited. It tells us how the Roman arms could not drive Pyrrhus out of Italy, but that the magnanimity of Fabricius in making known to him the offer of his confidential servant to poison him caused Pyrrhus to leave it voluntarily. It also shows us that the taking of New Carthage, in Spain, did not give Scipio Africanus so much reputation as the example of chastity which he gave in restoring intact to her husband a young and beautiful wife, whose honor he had respected; which act gained him the hearts of all Spain. History also shows us how much the people desire to find such virtues in great men, and how much they are extolled by historians and biographers of princes, and by those who trace their proper course of conduct. Amongst these, Xenophon takes great pains to show how many victories, how much honor and fame, Cyrus gained by his humanity and affability, and by his not having exhibited a single instance of pride, cruelty, or luxuriousness, nor of any other of the vices that are apt to stain the lives of men. And yet we see that Hannibal, by following the very opposite course, achieved also great fame and great victories; it seems to me well, therefore, to discuss the causes of this in the following chapter.
I think it astonishing to see some generals achieve by the very opposite course of conduct the same results that have been attained by those who have conformed to the rules we have recommended above. This would make it seem that victories do not depend upon one or the other course of conduct, and that the virtues which we have extolled in the preceding chapter do not render you more happy nor more powerful, inasmuch as both glory and reputation are often acquired by the very opposite means. Let us return to the case of the two above-named generals for the purpose of better illustrating my idea. Scipio, from the moment he entered Spain, gained the affection and respect of the people of that province by his humanity and benevolence. Hannibal, on the contrary, conducted himself in Italy with violence, cruelty, rapine, and every kind of perfidy. Yet he obtained the same success that Scipio had in Spain. For nearly all the cities of Italy, and entire populations, revolted in his favor. In seeking for the causes of this difference, we find several. The first is the love of novelty, which manifests itself equally in those who are well off and in those who are not. For, as we have said elsewhere, and with truth, men get tired of prosperity, just as they are afflicted by the reverse. This love of change, then, so to speak, opens the way to every one who takes the lead in any innovation in any country. If he is a stranger they run after him, and if he is of the country they surround him, increase his influence, and favor him in every way; so that, whatever his mode of proceeding and conduct may be, he will succeed in making rapid progress. In the second place, men are prompted in their actions by two main motives, namely, love and fear; so that he who makes himself beloved will have as much influence as he who makes himself feared, although generally he who makes himself feared will be more readily followed and obeyed than he who makes himself beloved. It matters little, therefore, to any general by which of these two systems he proceeds, provided he be a man of sufficient courage and ability to have made a great reputation for himself. For when this is as great as was the case with Hannibal and Scipio, it cancels all the errors which a general may commit, either by an excess of gentleness or by too great severity. Either of these extremes may be productive of great evils, that will be apt to prove ruinous to a prince; for he who carries too far the desire to make himself beloved will soon become contemned, if he deviates in the slightest degree from the true path; and the other, who aims at making himself feared, will make himself hated, if he goes in the least degree too far; and our nature does not permit us always to keep the just middle course. Either extreme, therefore, must be compensated for by some extraordinary merits, such as those of Hannibal and Scipio; and yet we see how the conduct of both of these brought them disgrace as well as the highest success.
Of their successes we have already spoken; let us look now at the misfortunes which they experienced. That of Scipio occurred when his soldiers combined with some of his allies and revolted, for which there was no other cause than that they did not fear him. For men are so restless that the slightest opening for their ambition causes them quickly to forget all the affection for him with which the humanity of the prince had inspired them. This was the case with the soldiers and allies of Scipio; so that to arrest the evil he was obliged to adopt measures of the extremest severity, which until then he had so carefully avoided. As to Hannibal, there is no particular instance where his cruelty and perfidy caused him any immediate injury; but we may well presume that Naples and many other cities remained faithful to Rome solely from fear of Hannibal’s cruelty. This much is certain, that his ferocity made him more hated by the Roman people than any other enemy which that republic ever had. So that whilst they informed Pyrrhus, even whilst he was still in Italy with his army, of the offer made to them by his physician to poison him, yet they never forgave Hannibal; and, though disarmed and a fugitive, they pursued him so relentlessly that he killed himself to avoid falling into their hands. But if the impiousness, perfidy, and cruelty of Hannibal had such disastrous consequences for him in the end, he had on the other hand a very great advantage from it, and which has excited the admiration of all the historians; namely, that in his army, although composed of men of so many different nations, there never occurred any dissensions amongst themselves, or any sedition against him. This could only be ascribed to the terror which he personally inspired, and which was so great that, combined with his high reputation for courage and ability, it kept his soldiers quiet and united.
I conclude, then, that it matters little whether a general adopts the one or the other course, provided he be possessed of such high ability as to enable him to achieve success by either line of conduct; for, as has been said, both have their defects and their dangers, unless compensated for by extraordinary talent and courage. Having shown that Scipio and Hannibal, the one by most praiseworthy and the other by most detestable conduct, attained the same results, I think I ought not to omit speaking also of two other Roman citizens who acquired equal glory by different methods, though both most praiseworthy.
There were in Rome at the same time two distinguished generals, Manlius Torquatus and Valerius Corvinus. Equals in bravery, triumphs, and reputation, they achieved these advantages, so far as the enemy was concerned, by the same merits and conduct; but as regards their armies, and the treatment of their men, their manner differed widely. Manlius commanded with the utmost severity, and subjected his soldiers without intermission to great labor and fatigue. Valerius, on the other hand, treated his soldiers with the highest degree of humanity and affability. Thus the one, by way of securing the obedience of his troops, had his own son put to death, whilst the other never injured any one. Nevertheless, with such difference of manner, both obtained the same success against the enemy and in favor of the republic, as well as in their own interests. For no soldier ever resisted their orders to fight, or ever rebelled against them, or in the slightest way opposed their will; although Manlius commanded with such harshness, that the Romans gave the name of “Manlian decrees” to all such as exceeded the ordinary severity. We have to examine now, first, whence it came that Manlius deemed it necessary to be so rigid, whilst Valerius was so humane; and, next, how it was that both these opposite methods produced the same effect; and, finally, which of the two it is best and most advantageous to imitate.
If we carefully consider the character of Manlius from the time that Titus Livius first begins to mention him, we shall find that he was a man of exceeding courage, devoted to his father and to his country, and most respectful to his superiors. These things we know from his defence of his father against a Tribune; from his single combat with a Gaul, whom he slew; and from the words which he addressed to the Consul before engaging in that combat: “I will never fight against the enemy without your orders, not even if I were perfectly certain of victory.” When a man of this character comes to command, he desires to have all men like himself; his vigorous character is reproduced in his orders; and these once given, he will require their strict observance. For it is a certain rule, that he who gives severe orders must see them executed with severity, otherwise he will find himself deceived. And here we may note that he who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command; and those give proof of knowing this who properly estimate their own strength with reference to that of those who have to obey, and who commands only when he finds them to bear a proper proportion to each other, and who abstains from commanding when that proportion is wanting. And therefore it was said by a wise man, that to hold the government of a republic by violence, it was necessary that there should be a proper proportion between him who holds by force and those whom he thus subjects to his control. And whenever that just proportion exists, he may expect his tenure of power to be enduring. But when the oppressed is more powerful than the oppressor, then the latter will daily have occasion to fear his overthrow.
But to return to our subject, I say that to give vigorous orders requires a vigorous mind; and he who has that strength of mind, and commands, cannot enforce the execution of his orders by gentle means. And he who lacks such vigor of mind must be careful not to order anything extraordinary; but in ordinary matters he may act with his natural gentleness, for ordinary punishments are not imputed to the prince, but to the laws and to the necessity of preserving order. We must believe then that Manlius was constrained to the exercise of so much rigor by the excessive severity of his orders, to which he was impelled by his natural character. Such severity is useful in a republic, because it brings her back to her first principles, and to her ancient virtue. A republic would be perpetual that has the good fortune often to find men who by their example restore the laws to their original purity and force, (as we have said elsewhere,) and not only prevent her from falling into decadence, but rather carry her in the opposite direction. Thus Manlius was one of those who by the strictness of his commands kept up the military discipline in Rome; constrained to this, first by his natural character, and next by the desire for the strict observance of those orders which his innate temperament had caused him to issue. Valerius, on the other hand, was able to act according to his naturally gentle and humane character, for he asked nothing more of his troops than a compliance with those duties to which the Roman armies were accustomed. The enforcement of this discipline, being wisely regulated, and not being made onerous to the soldiers, sufficed to make him honored; so that Valerius had no occasion to punish, as there were none that transgressed this discipline; and if perchance there had been any, they would have imputed their punishment (as has been said) to the established regulations, and not to the cruelty of their chief. Valerius was thus enabled to indulge the promptings of his natural humanity, by which he secured the contentment and good will of his soldiers. Thus these two generals, being equally obeyed, achieved the same results by two entirely different methods. Those who attempt to imitate them expose themselves to contempt and hatred, which can only be avoided by the possession of extraordinary merits, as I have said when speaking of Hannibal and Scipio.
It remains for us now to examine which of these two methods is the best, and this I believe to be a debatable question, for both have been equally praised by the writers. Nevertheless, those who have written on the subject of the proper conduct of princes incline more to the method of Valerius than to that of Manlius; and Xenophon, whom I have already quoted, in relating several instances of the humanity of Cyrus, speaks of him very much as Titus Livius does of Valerius. When this distinguished Roman was named Consul and marched against the Samnites, he addressed his soldiers on the eve of battle in the same spirit of humanity that characterized all his acts. After reporting his address, Titus Livius says: “No other general was ever more familiar with his soldiers; he cheerfully shared all the fatigues with the lowest of his men. In the various military games, such as contests of strength or speed, he never objected to measuring himself with the first that offered; and whether victorious or defeated, he ever preserved the same countenance and the same affability. In his actions he was ever courteous and benign, and in speech, ever as mindful of the liberty of others as of his own dignity. In the exercise of the magistratures he was the same as when a solicitant for them, which best characterizes the true friend of popular government.” Titus Livius speaks no less honorably of Manlius, and shows that his severity in having his own son put to death rendered the army so obedient to him, that it enabled him to achieve the victory over the Latians; and he goes on to praise him to that degree, that, after having related all the particulars of the battle, and the difficulties and perils which the Roman troops had to encounter in the achievement of that victory, he concludes by attributing it exclusively to the valor of Manlius. And in comparing the forces of the Roman armies, he affirms again that the victory had been assured by that portion which was commanded by Manlius. Thus, in examining all that writers have said upon the subject of our discourse, it is difficult to arrive at a precise judgment. Nevertheless, so as not to leave the matter undecided, I say that the conduct of Manlius is more praiseworthy and less perilous for a citizen who lives under the laws of a republic; inasmuch as it operates entirely for the benefit of the state, and can never favor private ambition. For by such conduct a man can never create any partisans for himself; severe towards everybody, and devoted only to the public good, a commander by such means will never gain any particular friends, such as we have called partisans. Thus this course of conduct can only be of the greatest benefit and value in a republic, as it looks only to the public good, and is in no way open to the suspicion of individual usurpation. But with the system of Valerius, quite the contrary is the case; for although it produces the same effects so far as the public service is concerned, yet it is calculated to inspire doubts and mistrust, on account of the special devotion of the soldiers to their chief to which it will give rise, and which might be productive of bad effects against the public liberty, in case of his being continued in command for any length of time. And if no such evil results were caused by the humane conduct of Valerius Publicola, it must be attributed to the fact, that the minds of the Romans were not yet corrupt, and that he did not remain in continuous command for any great length of time.
But if the question were with regard to a prince, as Xenophon treats it, then we should in all respects take Valerius for a model, and not Manlius; for a prince should aim at having the obedience and affection of his soldiers, as well as of his subjects. His strict observance of the laws will insure him obedience and the reputation of being virtuous; and his affability, humanity, and benevolence, and the other good qualities of Valerius, and of those which Xenophon praise in Cyrus, will make him beloved. For the affections of the people for a prince, and the devotion to him of the army, accord perfectly well with all the other interests of the state. But in a republic, the exclusive devotion of the army to its chief does not accord with the other institutions, which oblige him to observe the laws and obey the civil magistrates. We read in the ancient history of the Venetian republic, that, on one occasion when their galleys returned to the city, a quarrel occurred between the sailors and the people, which increased to a tumult and a resort to arms. Neither the public force, nor the respect for the principal citizens, nor the fear of the magistrates, could quell this disturbance; but the sudden appearance of a gentleman who the year before had commanded these mariners, and had won their affection, caused them to desist from the fight and to depart. The prompt submission of the sailors to this gentleman excited the suspicions of the Senate to that degree, that they deemed it well to assure themselves of him by imprisonment and death.
I conclude, then, that the character and conduct of Valerius is advantageous in a prince, but pernicious in a citizen, not only as regards his country, but also in regard to himself; pernicious for the state, because they prepare the way for a tyranny; and for himself, because in rendering him suspect to his fellow-citizens, it constrains them to take precautions against him that will prove detrimental to him. And, on the other hand, I affirm that the severity of Manlius is dangerous to the interests of a prince, but favorable to a citizen, and above all to the country. And it seldom turns to his prejudice, unless the hatred which it excites should be embittered by the suspicions which his great reputation and other virtues may inspire; as we will show when speaking of Camillus in the next chapter.
We have shown above that a character like that of Valerius is apt to prove injurious to his country and himself, and that one like Manlius benefits his country, but at times also injures himself. This is clearly shown by the example of Camillus, who in his conduct resembled Manlius rather than Valerius. And therefore Titus Livius in speaking of him says, “The soldiers hated him, but admired his virtues.” His vigilance, prudence, magnanimity, and the good discipline and order which he observed in all his expeditions and in the command of his army, excited the admiration of his troops; whilst their hatred resulted from his being more severe in his punishments than generous in his rewards. Titus Livius gives the following as the causes of the dislike of Camillus by his soldiers. First, he did not divide with the other spoils the money resulting from the sale of the property of the Veientes, but turned it over to the public treasury. Secondly, on the occasion of his triumphal entry into Rome he had his triumphal car drawn by four white horses, which caused his men to say that his pride was so great that he wished to rival the Sun. And the third was, that he had made a vow to consecrate to Apollo the tenth part of all the booty taken from the Veientes; and to enable him to fulfil this sacred pledge he was obliged to make the soldiers surrender a portion of what they had already appropriated to themselves.
This example shows the causes that most easily render a prince odious to his people, the principal one of which is to deprive them of anything that is advantageous and useful to them; this they never forget, and the least occasion reminds them of it; and as these occur almost daily, their resentment is also daily revived. Another cause is to show yourself proud and presumptuous; this is most hateful to the people, especially to such as live under a free government; and although this pomp and pride may in no way inconvenience them, yet it renders those who indulge in it most odious. Princes, therefore, should carefully avoid this rock; for to incur hatred without any advantage is the greatest temerity and imprudence.
If we study carefully the conduct of the Roman republic, we discover two causes of her decadence; the one was the dissensions consequent upon the agrarian laws, and the other the prolongation of her military commands. If these matters had been better understood in the beginning, and proper remedies applied, the liberties of Rome would have endured longer, and she would probably have enjoyed greater tranquillity. And although the prolongation of these powers does not seem to have engendered any actual disturbances, yet the facts show how injurious the authority which citizens acquired thereby proved to civil liberty. But these inconveniences might have been avoided if those other citizens to whom the prolongation of the magistracies were conceded had been as wise and as virtuous as L. Quintius. His good qualities were indeed a notable example; for when an agreement had been concluded between the people and the Senate, and the military powers of the Tribunes had been extended by the people for one year in the belief that they would be able to restrain the ambition of the nobles, the Senate, from a spirit of rivalry and a desire not to appear less powerful than the people, wanted also to extend the term of the consulate of L. Quintius. But he absolutely opposed this determination, saying that they should strive rather to destroy the evil examples, than to add to their number by others and worse ones; and he demanded the creation of new Consuls. If the citizens of Rome generally had shared the virtue and prudence of L. Quintius, they would never have permitted the practice of the prolongation of the magistracies, which custom led to the prolongation of the military commands, which in time proved the ruin of this republic.
The first to whom such prolongation of a military command was granted was P. Philo, who was engaged in the siege of Palæpolis at the time when his consulate was about to expire. The Senate, believing that he would soon accomplish the capture of that city, instead of sending him a successor named him Proconsul; and thus he was the first who held that office. Although the Senate had been actuated in this matter only by considerations of public utility, yet it was this example which in time caused Rome the loss of her liberty. For the farther the Roman armies went from Rome, the more necessary did such prolongation of the military commands seem to the Senate, and the more frequently did they practise it. Two evils resulted from this: the first, that a less number of men became experienced in the command of armies, and therefore distinguished reputation was confined to a few; and the other, that, by the general remaining a long while in command of an army, the soldiers became so attached to him personally that they made themselves his partisans, and, forgetful of the Senate, recognized no chief or authority but him. It was thus that Sylla and Marius were enabled to find soldiers willing to follow their lead even against the republic itself. And it was by this means that Cæsar was enabled to make himself absolute master of his country. Thus, if Rome had not prolonged the magistracies and the military commands, she might not so soon have attained the zenith of her power; but if she had been slower in her conquests, she would have also preserved her liberties the longer.
We have argued elsewhere that it is of the greatest advantage in a republic to have laws that keep her citizens poor. Although there does not appear to have been any special law to this effect in Rome, (the agrarian law having met with the greatest opposition,) yet experience shows that even so late as four hundred years after its foundation there was still great poverty in Rome. We cannot ascribe this fact to any other cause than that poverty never was allowed to stand in the way of the achievement of any rank or honor, and that virtue and merit were sought for under whatever roof they dwelt; it was this system that made riches naturally less desirable. We have a manifest proof of this on the occasion when the Consul Minutius and his army were surrounded by the Equeans, and all Rome was full of apprehensions lest the army should be lost, so that they resorted to the creation of a Dictator, their last remedy in times of difficulty. They appointed L. Quintius Cincinnatus, who at the time was on his little farm, which he cultivated with his own hands. This circumstance is celebrated by Titus Livius in the following golden words: “After this let men not listen to those who prefer riches to everything else in this world, and who think that there is neither honor nor virtue where wealth does not flow.” Cincinnatus was engaged in ploughing his fields, which did not exceed four acres, when the messengers of the Senate arrived from Rome to announce his election to the dictatorship, and to point out to him the imminent danger of the Roman republic. He immediately put on his toga, gathered an army, and went to the relief of Minutius; and having crushed and despoiled the enemy, and freed the Consul and his army, he would not permit them to share the spoils, saying, “I will not allow you to participate in the spoils of those to whom you came so near falling a prey.” He deprived Minutius of the consulate, and reduced him to the rank of lieutenant, saying to him, “You will remain in this grade until you have learned to be Consul.”
Cincinnatus had chosen for his master of cavalry L. Tarquinius whose poverty had obliged him to fight on foot. Let us note here how Rome honored poverty, (as has been said,) and how four acres of land sufficed for the support of so good and great a citizen as Cincinnatus. We find also that poverty was still honored in the times of Marcus Regulus, who when commanding an army in Africa asked permission of the Roman Senate to return to look after his farm, which was being spoiled by the laborers in whose charge it had been left by him. These instances suggest two reflections: the one, that these eminent citizens were content to remain in such poverty, and that they were satisfied merely to win honor by their military achievements, and to leave all the profits of them to the public treasury; for if they had thought of enriching themselves by their wars, they would have cared little whether their fields were being spoiled or not; and the other, as to the magnanimity of these citizens, who, when placed at the head of an army, rose above all princes solely by the grandeur of their souls. They regarded neither kings nor republics; nothing astonished and nothing inspired them with fear. Having returned to private life, they were frugal, humble, and devoted to the care of their little properties, obedient to the magistrates, and respectful to their superiors, so that it seems almost impossible that the same mind should be able to bear such great changes. This state of things continued at the time of Paulus Æmilius, and these were the last bright days of the republic, when a citizen who had enriched Rome by his triumphs yet remained himself poor. And so much was this poverty still esteemed at that time, that Paulus, by way of rewarding some one who had distinguished himself in war, presented his son-in-law with a silver cup, which was the first piece of this metal that had ever come into his house.
I might demonstrate here at length that poverty produces better fruits than riches, – that the first has conferred honor upon cities, countries, and religions, whilst the latter have only served to ruin them, – were it not that this subject has been so often illustrated by other writers.
A difference arose in the city of Ardea between the patricians and plebeians, on account of a rich heiress, who had been demanded in marriage by a plebeian and a noble at the same time. The young woman, having lost her father, her guardians wanted to give her to the plebeian, but the mother preferred the noble. This gave rise to such disturbances that they actually came to arms; the entire nobility armed in support of the young noble, and all the people in favor of the plebeian. The latter, having been overcome, left Ardea, and sent to the Volscians for assistance, whilst the nobles applied to Rome. The Volscians, having arrived first, surrounded and besieged Ardea. When the Romans came, they shut in the Volscians between their army and the walls of the town, and pressed them so hard that, constrained by want of provisions, the Volscians were obliged to surrender at discretion. When the Romans entered the city, they put to death all the chiefs of the sedition, and re-established order. This occurrence suggests several points for reflection; first, we see that women have been the cause of great dissensions and much ruin to states, and have caused great damage to those who govern them. We have seen, in the history of Rome, that the outrage committed upon Lucretia deprived the Tarquins of their throne, and the attempt upon Virginia caused the Decemvirs the loss of their authority. Thus, Aristotle mentions as one of the first causes of the ruin of tyrants the outrages committed by them upon the wives and daughters of others, either by violence or seduction; and we have discussed this subject at length when treating of conspiracies. I say, therefore, that absolute princes and rulers of republics should not be indifferent to this subject, but should well reflect upon the disorders that may arise from such causes, and should see that proper remedies be applied in time, ere they involve their state or republic in loss and shame. This happened to the people of Ardea, who, after having permitted the quarrel amongst their citizens (which we have mentioned above) to grow to that degree that it led to civil war, were obliged afterwards, by way of restoring union, to ask the intervention of strangers, which is a great step to a loss of independence. But let us come to another subject for reflection, namely, the means of restoring union and harmony to a city, of which we shall treat in the following chapter.
We observe, from the example of the Roman Consuls in restoring harmony between the patricians and plebeians of Ardea, the means for obtaining that object, which is none other than to kill the chiefs of the opposing factions. In fact, there are only three ways of accomplishing it; the one is to put the leaders to death, as the Romans did, or to banish them from the city, or to reconcile them to each other under a pledge not to offend again. Of these three ways, the last is the worst, being the least certain and effective; for it is impossible that, after dissensions that have caused so much bloodshed and other outrages, a forced peace should be enduring. The parties meeting each other daily face to face will with difficulty abstain from mutual insults, and in their daily intercourse fresh causes for quarrel will constantly occur.
The city of Pistoja furnishes a most striking example in point. Fifteen years ago that city was divided into two factions, the Panciatichi and the Cancellieri, and this division continues to the present day; but then they were in arms, whilst now they have laid them down. After many disputes, they had come to bloodshed, to the pulling down of houses, plundering each other’s property, and every other kind of hostilities; and the Florentines, upon whom it devolved to restore order in that city, always employed for that purpose the third means, namely, conciliation, which, however, invariably led to greater troubles and disorders. So that, tired of this method, they resorted to the second; that is, they removed the chiefs of the factions by imprisoning some and exiling others to various places; and thus they succeeded in restoring order in a manner that could and does endure to this day. Doubtless, however, the first means (that of putting the chiefs of the factions to death) would have been the most effectual, but would have required a power and courage not to be expected from a feeble republic like Florence, which could with difficulty employ even the second method.
These, as I have said in the beginning, are some of the errors which the princes of our day are apt to commit. When they are called upon on great occasions to take decided measures, they ought to examine the conduct of the ancients on similar occasions. But the weakness of the princes of the present day, caused by an effeminate education and want of instruction, makes them regard the maxims of the ancients as inhuman, or impossible of application. And certainly modern opinions are very far from the truth when they maintain, as some wise men of our city did not long since, that “Pistoja must be controlled by means of factions, and Pisa by means of fortresses.” They do not see that both of these means would have been equally useless. I will say nothing here of fortresses, having discussed that subject at length in a former chapter; but I will show how nothing is to be gained by attempting to control cities by means of keeping alive factions. For it is impossible either for prince or republic to preserve an equal influence over both the old factions, it being in the nature of man in all differences of opinion to prefer either the one side or the other. Thus, one of the parties being malcontent, you will lose the city on the occasion of the first war, it being impossible to hold it against enemies from without and within. If the government of the city is a republic, then there is no surer way of corrupting the citizens, and to divide the city against itself, than to foment the spirit of faction that may prevail there; for each party will strive by every means of corruption to secure friends and supporters, which gives rise to two most serious evils: first, that a government which changes often, according to the caprice of the one or the other faction, can never be good, and consequently never can secure to itself the good will and attachment of its citizens; and, secondly, that such favoring of factions keeps the republic of necessity divided. The historian Biondo attests the truth of this when he says, in speaking of the Florentines and Pistojans: “The Florentines, whilst endeavoring to restore harmony in Pistoja, became divided amongst themselves.” The evils resulting from such a division are manifest. In the year 1501, Florence lost Arezzo, the Val di Tevere, and the Val di Chiana, which were taken from her by the Vitelli and the Duke Valentino. The king of France sent a Seigneur de Lant to cause a restitution to the Florentines of all the places they had lost. The Seigneur de Lant, finding in all the castles only men claiming to belong to the party of Marzocco, censured this division most severely, saying that, if in France any one of the subjects were to call himself of the king’s party, he would immediately be punished, because such a remark could have no other meaning than that there were people in the country who were opposed to the king, who wanted the whole realm to be his friends, and that it should be united and without parties. But all these diversities of opinion and modes of governing spring from the weakness of those who are at the head of governments, and who, lacking the requisite force and energy to preserve their states, resort to such expedients; which in times of tranquillity may occasionally be of service, but when trouble and adversity come, then their fallacy becomes manifest.
The city of Rome was afflicted by a famine; and as the public magazines were insufficient to supply the deficiency of food, a citizen named Spurius Melius, who was very rich for those times, resolved to lay in a private stock of grain and feed the people at his own expense. This liberality attracted crowds of people, and so won him the popular favor that the Senate, fearing the evil consequences that might arise from it, and for the purpose of putting an end to the evil before it should grow too great, created, expressly against Spurius, a Dictator, who had him put to death. This shows that very often actions that seem good on the surface, and which cannot reasonably be objected to, may become oppressive and highly dangerous to a republic, unless they are corrected betimes. To explain this matter more fully, I say that a republic that has no distinguished citizens cannot be well governed; but, on the other hand, it is often the great influence of such distinguished citizens that is the cause of states being reduced to servitude. And to prevent this the institutions of the state should be so regulated that the influence of citizens shall be founded only upon such acts as are of benefit to the state, and not upon such as are injurious to the public interests or liberty. And therefore attention must be given to the means employed by citizens for acquiring such influence; and these are twofold, either public or private. The former are when a citizen gains reputation and influence by serving the state well with his counsels or his actions. The way to such honors should be open to every citizen, and suitable rewards should be established, that will be satisfactory and honorable to those who merit them. Reputation and influence gained by such pure and simple means will never prove dangerous to any state. But when they are acquired by private means, then they become most dangerous and pernicious. These private ways consist in benefiting this or the other private individual, by lending them money, marrying their daughters, sustaining them against the authority of the magistrates, and bestowing upon them such other favors as to make partisans of them. This encourages those who are thus favored to corrupt the public and to outrage the laws. A well-regulated republic, therefore, should open the way to public honors to those who seek reputation by means that are conducive to the public good; and close it to those whose aim is the advancement of private ends. It was thus that Rome decreed the reward of triumphs and other honors to such of her citizens as had acted well for the public good; whilst, on the other hand, she ordered accusations to be brought against those who under various pretexts aimed to make themselves powerful for private ends. And when such accusations did not suffice, in consequence of the people’s being blinded by a sort of false and illusory advantage, they created a Dictator, who, armed with regal powers, caused them to return to the true path of duty from which they had strayed; as was seen in the punishment of Spurius Melius. And if one such transgression were allowed to go unpunished, it might lead to the ruin of the republic, for it would then be difficult to force back the ambitious to the true path of duty.
Let not princes complain of the faults committed by the people subjected to their authority, for they result entirely from their own negligence or bad example. In examining the people who in our day have been given to brigandage and other vices of that kind, we see that these arise entirely from the faults of their rulers, who were guilty of similar abuses. Before Pope Alexander VI. had crushed the petty tyrants that ruled the Romagna, that country presented an example of all the worst crimes. The slightest causes gave rise to murder and every species of rapine; and this was due exclusively to the wickedness of the princes, and not to the evil nature of the people, as alleged by the former. For these princes, being poor, yet wishing to live in luxury like the rich, were obliged to resort to every variety of robbery. And amongst other dishonest means which they employed was the making of laws prohibiting some one thing or another; and immediately after, they were themselves the first to encourage their non-observance, leaving such transgressions unpunished until a great number of persons had been guilty of it, and then suddenly they turned to prosecute the transgressors; not from any zeal for the law, but solely from cupidity, in the expectation of obtaining money for commuting the punishment. These infamous proceedings caused many evils; the worst of them was that the people became impoverished without being corrected, and that then the stronger amongst them endeavored to make good their losses by plundering the weaker. This gave rise to all the evils of which we have spoken above, and which are chargeable exclusively upon the princes. Titus Livius confirms this assertion when he relates how the Roman ambassadors, who were charged with carrying to Delphos a portion of the spoils taken at Veii and consecrated to Apollo, were captured by the corsairs of Lipari in Sicily, and carried on shore. The Prince Timasitheus, on being informed what gifts these ambassadors were carrying and their destination, conducted himself like a Roman, although a native of Lipari. He pointed out to his people how impious it would be to seize such a gift, and with the general consent allowed the ambassadors to depart with all their things. Upon which the historian remarks in the following terms: “Timasitheus inspired the multitude with a sentiment of religion, and they always imitate their rulers.” And Lorenzo de’ Medici confirms this idea by saying: “The example of the prince is followed by the masses, who keep their eyes always turned upon their chief.”
The Roman Senate, upon learning that new levies of troops had been made throughout Tuscany for the purpose of attacking Rome, and that the Latins as well as the Hernicians, who until then had been friends of the Romans, had now united with the Volscians, Rome’s implacable enemies, judged that this would be a most dangerous war. Camillus, who happened at the time to be Tribune with consular powers, thought that they might dispense with the creation of a Dictator, if his colleagues (the other Tribunes) would yield to him supreme authority. To this they promptly assented, “persuaded,” says Titus Livius, “that the adding to the authority of Camillus would not in the least detract from theirs.” Camillus at once availed of the powers thus conferred upon him, and ordered the immediate raising of three armies. The first he wanted to command himself against the Tuscans; of the second he made Quintus Servilius general, with orders to remain in the environs of Rome to oppose the Latins and Hernicians in case they should attempt any movement; and the third he placed under command of Lucius Quintus, with instructions to guard the city and defend the gates and the Senate in any event that might arise. In addition to this he ordered Horatius, one of his colleagues, to provide arms and provisions and all other supplies necessary in time of war. He furthermore confided to Cornelius, another colleague of his, the care of presiding over the Senate and public assemblies, so that he might propose the measures which it might be necessary to take from day to day. Thus were the Tribunes in those days equally disposed to command or to obey for the well-being of the state. This example shows us what great services a good and wise man can render to his country, when his virtues and goodness have silenced envy, which so often prevents men from being useful by depriving them of the authority necessary for important occasions.
Envy may be extinguished in two ways: either by some extraordinary and difficult occasion, when every one fears his own destruction, and therefore lays aside all ambition, and eagerly obeys any one whom he supposes capable of averting the danger by his virtues and talents. Such was the case with Camillus, who, having given so many proofs of his eminent merit, was three times made Dictator; and having always administered this high office for the public good and without any selfish views, other men did not fear his greatness and did not deem it discreditable to acknowledge their own inferiority to a man of such distinguished worth and reputation. The observation of Titus Livius upon this circumstance was therefore very just. The other way of destroying envy is, when either violence or a natural death carries off those of your rivals who on seeing you acquire such reputation and greatness cannot patiently bear your being more distinguished than themselves. If men of this kind live in a corrupt city, where education has not been able to infuse any spirit of good into their minds, it is impossible that they should be restrained by any chance, but they would be willing rather to see their country ruined than not to attain their purpose, or not to satisfy their perverse natures. To overcome such envy and evil passions there is no other remedy but the death of those who harbor them. And when fortune is so propitious to a virtuous man as to deliver him from such rivals by their natural death, he becomes glorious without violence, and may then display his virtues to their full extent without hindrance and without offence to anybody. But when he has not such good fortune, he must strive nevertheless by all possible means to overcome this difficulty, and relieve himself of such rivals before attempting any enterprise. And whoever reads the Bible attentively will find that Moses, for the purpose of insuring the observance of his laws and institutions, was obliged to have a great many persons put to death who opposed his designs under the instigation of no other feelings than those of envy and jealousy. Brother Girolamo Savonarola fully understood the necessity of this course, which was recognized also by Pietro Soderini, Gonfalonier of Florence. Savonarola, however, could not put it into practice for want of power and authority; still, he was not remiss in doing all he could, for his sermons abound with accusations and invectives against the wise of this world, for it was thus he styled the jealous opponents of his doctrines. The other, Soderini, believed that he would be able in time to silence envy by his affability and good fortune, and by bestowing benefits upon some of his adversaries. Feeling himself young, and being loaded with public favors on account of his conduct, he hoped to triumph over the jealousy of his rivals without any violence or public disturbance. But he forgot that in such matters nothing is to be expected from time, that goodness does not suffice, and that benefits will not placate envious malignity. So that both these men came to their ruin, which was caused by their lack of knowledge or power to crush envy.
Let us now come to the other part of our subject, namely, the orders given by Camillus, inside and outside of the city, for the safety of Rome. And it is truly with good reason that historians such as Titus Livius give a more exact and detailed account of certain events, so that future generations may learn therefrom how to defend themselves under similar circumstances. And here we must remark that there is not a more ineffectual and hazardous mode of defending a city than to do it in a disorderly and tumultuous manner. This is shown by the precaution which Camillus took to raise a third regular army for the protection of the city, which was then and may still be regarded by some to have been superfluous, inasmuch as the people of the city were warlike and used to arms. And therefore they considered it unnecessary to raise a special army, as it would have been sufficient to arm the citizens when occasion should require it. But Camillus thought differently, and every wise person will share his opinion; for he never would permit a multitude to take to arms without order or discipline. And according to his example, any one charged with the defence of a city should avoid, as a dangerous rock, the arming of a tumultuous multitude; but he should select and enroll those whom he wants to arm, and teach them whom they have to obey, the places for assembling, and where to march; and then he must order those who are not enrolled to remain at home to protect their houses. Those who adopt this system in a city that is attacked will easily be able to defend it, whilst those who act otherwise and disregard the example of Camillus will surely fail.
Amongst the admirable sayings and doings related of Camillus by our historian, Titus Livius, for the purpose of showing how a great man conducts himself, he puts the following words into his mouth: “My courage has neither been inflated by the dictatorship nor abated by exile.” These words show that a truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances; and if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that every one can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him. The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess, and this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile. Thence it comes that princes of this character think more of flying in adversity than of defending themselves, like men who, having made a bad use of prosperity, are wholly unprepared for any defence against reverses. These virtues and vices are met with in republics as well as in individuals.
Rome and Venice furnish us an example of this. No ill fortune ever made the former abject, nor did success ever make her insolent. This was clearly shown after the defeat which the Romans experienced at Cannæ, and after their victory over Antiochus. For this defeat, although most alarming, being the third, never discouraged them; but they put new armies into the field, and refused to violate their constitution by ransoming their prisoners. Nor did they sue for peace with either Hannibal or Carthage; and repelling all such base suggestions, they thought only of combating anew, and supplied their want of men by arming their old men and slaves. When the Carthaginian Hanno heard this, he pointed out to the Senate of Carthage of how little importance the defeat of the Romans at Cannæ really was. And thus we see that periods of difficulty neither alarmed nor discouraged the Romans. On the other hand, they were not made insolent by prosperity; for when Antiochus, before engaging in battle with them, in which he was defeated, sent messengers to Scipio to ask for peace, the latter named the conditions on which he was willing to grant it; which were, that Antiochus should retire beyond Syria, and leave the rest of the country to the control of the Romans. Antiochus declined these terms, but accepted battle, and was defeated; whereupon he sent his messengers back to Scipio with orders to accept the conditions previously offered by him. Scipio added no further conditions to those which he had named before his victory, saying: “The Romans do not lose their courage in defeat, nor does victory make them overbearing.”
The conduct of the Venetians was exactly the opposite of this; for in good fortune (which they imagined entirely the result of a skill and valor which they did not possess) they carried their insolence to that degree that they called the king of France a son of St. Mark. They had no respect for the Church, nor for any other power in all Italy; and had the presumption to think of creating another empire similar to that of the Romans. Afterwards, when their good fortune abandoned them, and they suffered a partial defeat at Vaila at the hands of the king of France, they not only lost the greater part of their state by a rebellion, but, under the influence of their cowardly and abject spirit, they actually made large concessions of territory to the Pope and the king of Spain, and were so utterly demoralized that they sent ambassadors to the Emperor, and made themselves tributary to him; and by way of moving the Pope to compassion, they addressed him the most humiliating letters of submission. And to this wretchedness were they reduced within the short space of four days, and after a but partial defeat. Their army, after having sustained a fight, retreated; about the half of it was attacked and beaten; but one of their Proveditori saved himself, and reached Verona with over twenty thousand men, horse and foot. If there had been but one spark of true valor in the Venetians, they could easily have recovered from this check, and faced Fortune anew; for they would still have been in time either to have conquered, or to have lost less ignominiously, or to have concluded a more honorable peace. But their miserable baseness of spirit, caused by a wretched military organization, made them lose at a single blow their courage and their state. And thus it will ever happen to those who are governed in the same way that the Venetians were; for insolence in prosperity and abjectness in adversity are the result of habit and education. If this be vain and feeble, then their conduct will likewise be without energy. But if the education be of an opposite nature, then it will produce men of a different character; it will enable them to know the world better, and will teach them to be less elated in good fortune, and less depressed by adversity. And what we say of individuals applies equally to the many who constitute a republic, and who will form themselves according to the manners and institutions that prevail there.
Although I have elsewhere maintained that the foundation of states is a good military organization, yet it seems to me not superfluous to repeat here that, without such a military organization, there can neither be good laws nor anything else good. The necessity of this appears on every page of Roman history. We also see that troops cannot be good unless they are well disciplined and trained, and this cannot be done with any troops other than natives of the country; for a state is not and cannot be always engaged in war, therefore troops must be trained and disciplined in time of peace, and this can only be done with subjects of the state, on account of the expense. Camillus had taken the field with his army against the Tuscans, as has been related above; and when his soldiers beheld the extent of the enemy’s army, they were alarmed by their own inferiority in numbers, believing that they would not be able to resist the enemy’s onset. When this apprehension of the troops came to the ears of Camillus, he showed himself to his army, and, going through the camp, he spoke personally to the men here and there; and then, without making any change in the disposition of his forces, he said, “Let every man do what he has learned, and is accustomed to do.” In reflecting upon the conduct and words of Camillus to reanimate his troops, we cannot but conclude that he would not have acted and spoken thus to his troops unless they had been disciplined and trained in time of peace as well as in war. For a commander cannot depend upon untrained soldiers who have learned nothing, nor can he expect them to do anything well. And if a second Hannibal were to command such troops, he would nevertheless be ruined, for a general cannot be everywhere during a battle. If he have not beforehand filled his soldiers with the same spirit that animates himself, and if he have not trained them promptly and precisely to obey his orders, he will inevitably be beaten. Now, any republic that adopts the military organization and discipline of the Romans, and strives by constant training to give her soldiers experience and to develop their courage and mastery over fortune, will always and under all circumstances find them to display a courage and dignity similar to that of the Romans. But a republic unprovided with such military force, and which relies more upon the chances of fortune than upon the valor of her citizens, will experience all the vicissitudes of fortune, and will have the same fate as the Venetians.
Two of the Roman colonies, Circea and Velitræ had revolted, hoping to be sustained by the Latins; but the defeat of these deprived them of that hope, and therefore a number of their citizens advised the sending of deputies to Rome to sue for peace and offer their submission to the Senate. The authors of the rebellion objected to this, fearing that all the punishment would fall upon their heads; and to put an end to all further discussions about peace they stirred up the multitude to take up arms and make incursions into the Roman territory. And certainly, if any one desires a people or a prince to abandon all idea of a peaceful settlement with another, then there is no more certain and effectual way than to make them commit some outrageous act against those with whom you wish to prevent them from making peace. For the fear of punishment which they are conscious of having deserved by that outrage will ever keep them from coming to terms. After the first Punic war the soldiers whom the Carthaginians had employed in Sicily and Sardinia returned to Africa when peace was concluded. Being dissatisfied with their pay, they rose against the Carthaginians, and having chosen two chiefs from amongst themselves, Mathus and Spendius, they seized a number of places belonging to the Carthaginians and sacked several of them. The Carthaginians, anxious to exhaust all other means for reducing these revolted troops to submission before coming to arms, sent their former commander, Asdrubal, to them, supposing him on that account to have some influence with them. Upon his arrival, Mathus and Spendius, for the purpose of destroying all hopes of reconciliation and to make war inevitable, persuaded the soliders to kill Asdrubal, together with all the other Carthaginian citizens whom they held prisoners. Whereupon they not only massacred them, but first subjected them to every kind of torment, and then crowned this villany by proclaiming that all the Carthaginians who might thereafter fall into their hands would be subjected to a similar death. This resolve, which they carried into execution, made the contest of these rebels with the Carthaginians most cruel and obstinate.
To make an army victorious in battle it is necessary to inspire them with confidence, so as to make them believe that the victory will be theirs under any circumstances. But to give an army such confidence they must be well armed and disciplined, and the men must know each other; such confidence and discipline, however, can exist only where the troops are natives of the same country, and have lived together for some time. It is necessary also that they should esteem their general, and have confidence in his ability; and this will not fail to be the case when they see him orderly, watchful, and courageous, and that he maintains the dignity of his rank by a proper reputation. All this he will do by punishing faults, by not fatiguing his troops unnecessarily, by strictly fulfilling his promises, by showing them that victory is easy, and by concealing or making light of the dangers which he discerns from afar. These maxims well observed are the best means of inspiring the troops with that confidence which is the surest pledge of victory. The Romans were in the habit of resorting to religion for the purpose of inspiring their armies with confidence; and availed of auspices and auguries in the creation of their consuls, in the levying of troops, and before sending their armies into the field or engaging in battle. Without this no prudent captain would ever have hazarded an action, fearful of defeat if his soldiers had not been assured beforehand that they would have the gods on their side. And any consul or general who would have dared to combat contrary to the auspices would have been punished, as was done in the case of Claudius Pulcher. And although we find evidences of this practice throughout the history of Rome, yet we have still more conclusive proof of it in the words which Titus Livius puts into the mouth of Appius Claudius; who, complaining to the people of the insolence of their Tribunes, points out how by their means the auguries and other religious observances had been neglected and corrupted, saying: “It pleases them now to deride these religious practices, for they care not whether the fowls eat, or whether they come slowly out of their cages, or whether a bird sings; these are trifles for them; but such small matters are not to be contemned, for it was by their strict observance that our ancestors made this republic great.” In fact it is little things of this kind that keep the soldiers united and confident, and these are essential elements of victory; though without courage they avail nothing.
The Prænestines, having taken the field against the Romans, took up a position on the river Allia, where the Romans had been defeated by the Gauls; hoping that the memories of that locality would inspire their own soldiers with confidence, and discourage the Romans. Although the probabilities were in favor of this for the reasons above given, yet the event showed that true courage is not affected by such trifling incidents. Our historian expresses this thought extremely well by the words which he puts into the mouth of the Dictator in speaking to his master of cavalry: “You see the enemy, trusting to fortune, has chosen his position on the Allia; do you, trusting to the arms and valor of your men, attack the very centre of their line of battle.” For real courage, good discipline, and confidence founded upon so many victories cannot be extinguished by matters of such slight moment; nor can a vain idea inspire men animated by such feelings with fear, or a momentary disorder seriously injure them. This was clearly proven in the war against the Volscians, where there were two Consuls, both named Manlius. Having imprudently sent a part of their army to pillage the country, it happened that those who had been thus sent and those who remained in camp were both surrounded by the enemy at the same time; and from this danger they were delivered by their own valor, and not by the prudence of the Consuls. Whereupon Titus Livius says, “The army, even without a chief, was saved by its own indomitable valor.” I will not omit mentioning here an expedient employed by Fabius the first time he led his army into Tuscany. Wishing to inspire them with confidence, which he felt to be the more necessary as they were in a country entirely new to them and opposed to an enemy whom they had not met before, he addressed his troops before going into battle; and after giving them many reasons for anticipating victory, he said “that he could give them other good reasons that would make their victory certain, but that it would be dangerous to reveal them at that moment.” This artifice so judiciously employed well deserves to be imitated.
We have related elsewhere how Titus Manlius, subsequently called Torquatus, saved his father, Lucius Manlius, from an accusation brought against him by Marcus Pomponius, Tribune of the people. And although the manner of it was somewhat violent and extraordinary, yet so far from censuring him for it, the people were so touched by this display of filial piety that, when they had to nominate military Tribunes, they appointed Titus Manlius as one of the two. This result, I think, should make us reflect upon the manner in which the people form their judgment of the men to be appointed to public offices; so that we may see whether our conclusion is correct, that the people show more wisdom in their selection than princes. I say, then, that the people are guided in their choice either by what is said of a man by the public voice and fame, even if by his open acts he appears different, or by the preconceptions or opinion which they may have formed of him themselves. And these are based either upon the character of the fathers of such men, who were so eminent and influential in the republic that the people suppose the sons will be like them unless by their actions they have given proof of the contrary, or that opinion is founded upon the individual conduct of the parties in question. The best means of judging of this is to ascertain whether they choose for their companions men of known respectability, good habits, and generally well reputed. For there is no better indication of a man’s character than the company which he keeps; and therefore very properly a man who keeps respectable company acquires a good name, for it is impossible that there should not be some similitude of character and habits between him and his associates. Or indeed a man acquires this good reputation by some extraordinary act, which, although relating to private matters, will still obtain him celebrity if it be honorably performed. And of these three things that give a man a good reputation, the last is the most influential. For the first, being founded upon the merits of a man’s father or relations, is so fallacious, that it makes no lasting impression and is soon effaced altogether, unless sustained by the individual merits of him who has to be judged. The second, which makes a man known by the company he keeps, and by his social conduct, is better than the first, but inferior to that which is founded upon his individual actions; for unless a man has by these given some proof of himself, his reputation will depend merely upon public opinion, which is most unstable. But the third course, being founded entirely upon a man’s own actions, will from the start give him such a name that it will require a long course of opposite conduct to destroy it. Men who are born in a republic, therefore, should adopt this last course, and strive to distinguish themselves by some remarkable action.
This is what many of the young men of Rome did, either by proposing some law that was for the general good, or by preferring charges against some powerful citizen as a transgressor of the laws; or by some similar and novel act that would cause them to be talked about. Such conduct is necessary not only for the purpose of achieving a name and fame, but also to preserve and increase it. To do this requires a frequent repetition of similar acts; as was done by Titus Manlius throughout the entire course of his life. For after having gained his first reputation by the gallant and extraordinary manner in which he defended his father, a few years later he slew a Gaul in single combat, and took from him that golden chain which afterwards gave him the name of Torquatus. Nor did this suffice him, for later, when already of mature age, he killed his own son for having engaged in fight without orders, although he had defeated the enemy. These three acts gave to Manlius, and will give him for all time to come, more celebrity than all the victories he won and all the triumphs with which he was honored, and which were not exceeded by any other Roman. And the reason of this is, that in his victories he had many rivals, but in these particular acts he had very few or none. The elder Scipio did not win as much glory by all his triumphs as by the courageous manner in which he, whilst still a youth, defended his father on the Ticino, and by his having, after the defeat at Cannæ, made a number of young Romans swear upon his ensanguined sword that they would not leave Italy, as they had contemplated doing. These two acts were the beginning of his glory, and paved the way for his triumphs in Spain and Africa. He added still greater lustre to his fame by his sending back in Spain a daughter to her father, and a young wife to her husband. Such conduct is necessary not only for those citizens who desire to achieve distinction for the purpose of obtaining honorable employment in their republics, but equally so for princes to enable them to maintain their dignity and reputation in their dominions. For nothing so certainly secures to a prince the public esteem as some such remarkable action or saying dictated by his regard for the public good, showing him to be magnanimous, liberal, and just, and which action or saying is of a nature to become familiar as a proverb amongst his subjects. But to return to our first proposition, I say that when the people begin to bestow office upon a citizen, influenced thereto by the three above-given reasons, they act wisely. They do still better, however, when they base their choice upon a number of good actions known to have been performed by him; for in that case they are never deceived. I speak only of such offices and grades as are given to men in the beginning before they have established their reputation by confirmed experience, and before they have time to fall into an opposite course of conduct. Thus the people are always less liable to the influence of erroneous opinions and corruption than princes; although it might happen that the people are deceived by public opinion and the fame and acts of a man, supposing him to be better than he really is, which would not happen to a prince, who would be informed of it by his counsellors. Therefore, so that the people might not lack similar counsel, the wise lawgivers of republics have ordered that, in the appointment of men to the highest positions, where it would be dangerous to place inefficient persons, every citizen should be allowed, and in fact it should be accounted honorable for him, to publish in the assemblies the defects of any one named for public office; so that the people, fully informed, might form a more correct judgment. That such was the established custom at Rome is proved by the speech which Fabius Maximus made to the people at the time of the second Punic war. When the Consuls were to be chosen, popular favor inclined towards T. Otacilius. Fabius deeming him unfit for that important post in such difficult times, spoke against him, and pointed out his insufficiency, so as to prevent the nomination of Otacilius, and caused the popular choice to fall upon one more worthy of that dignity. The people then are influenced in the choice of their magistrates by the best evidences they can obtain of the qualifications of the candidates, and are less liable to error than princes when equally counselled. Every citizen, therefore, who desires to win the favor of the people, should strive to merit it by some notable action, according to the example of Titus Manlius.
It is too lengthy and important a matter to attempt here to discuss the danger of becoming the chief promoter of any new enterprise that affects the interests of the many, and the difficulties of directing and bringing it to a successful conclusion, and then to maintain it. Leaving such a discussion, therefore, till a more convenient occasion, I shall speak here only of those dangers to which those expose themselves who counsel a republic or a prince to undertake some grave and important enterprise in such a manner as to take upon themselves all the responsibility of the same. For as men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it; whilst in case of success he receives commendations, but the reward never equals the punishment. The present Sultan Selim, called the Grand Turk, having prepared (according to the report of some who have come from that country) to make war upon Syria and Egypt, was advised by one of his Pashas, who was stationed on the borders of Persia, rather to march against the Shah. Influenced by this advice, the Sultan started upon that enterprise with a very powerful army. Having arrived in that country, where there are vast deserts and little water, he experienced all the same difficulties that had in ancient times caused the loss of several Roman armies there. These difficulties were so overwhelming, that, although always successful against the enemy, yet he saw a large part of his army destroyed by pestilence and famine. This so infuriated the Sultan against the Pasha who had advised this enterprise that he put him to death. History relates many instances of citizens having been sent into exile for having counselled enterprises that terminated unsuccessfully. Some Roman citizens were foremost in urging the selection of Consuls from amongst the people. It happened that the first one so chosen was defeated with his army in the field, and the originators of that system would certainly have been punished if the party to conciliate which it was adopted had not been so powerful. Certainly those who counsel princes and republics are placed between two dangers. If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty; and if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives; for all men are blind in this, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the result.
In reflecting as to the means for avoiding this dilemma of either disgrace or danger, I see no other course than to take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal; but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly. If then either the republic or the prince decides to follow it, they may do so, as it were, of their own will, and not as though they were drawn into it by your importunity. In adopting this course it is not reasonable to suppose that either prince or republic will manifest any ill will towards you on account of a resolution not taken contrary to the wishes of the many. For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction. And although by following the course which I advise you may fail to obtain that glory which is acquired by having been one against many in counselling an enterprise which success has justified, yet this is compensated for by two advantages. The first is, that you avoid all danger; and the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately. And although you cannot enjoy the glory acquired by the misfortunes of your republic or your prince, yet it must be held to be of some account.
I do not believe that I can give a better advice upon this point than the above; for to advise men to be silent and to withhold the expression of any opinion would render them useless to a republic, as well as to a prince, without avoiding danger. For after a while they would become suspect, and might even experience the same fate as that which befell a certain friend of King Perseus of Macedon. This king having been defeated by Paulus Æmilius, and having fled with a few adherents, it happened that, in discussing the late events, one of them began to point out to Perseus the many errors he had committed, to which he ascribed his ruin. “Traitor,” exclaimed the king, in turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it”; – and with these words he slew him with his own hands. Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent: his having withheld his counsel from the king did not save him from danger. I believe, therefore, that it is best to adopt the course I have advised above.
The audacity of that Gaul who defied to single combat any Roman of the army on the Arno, and his subsequent combat with T. Manlius, recalls to my mind the saying of Titus Livius, “that the Gauls at the beginning of a fight are more than men, but in the course of the combat they become less than women.” In reflecting upon the causes to which this is attributed, I believe the general opinion to be true, that it is owing to their natural temperament. But we must not infer from this that this temperament, which makes them so ferocious in the beginning, may not be so disciplined by training that they will preserve their valor up to the very end of the fight. And to prove this I maintain that there are three different characters of troops. One combines warlike ardor with discipline: this produces true valor, like that of the Romans. All history shows that a proper discipline prevailed in their armies, and had done so for a long time. For in a well-ordered army no one should do anything except in accordance with the regulations; and accordingly we find that the Roman armies (which having vanquished the world may well serve as an example to all others) neither ate nor slept, nor performed any other act, military or civil, unless according to the order of the Consul. And armies that do not observe such a system cannot in reality be called armies; and if nevertheless they sometimes seem to merit the name, it is more by their ardor and a sort of blind impulse than by their steady valor. But where that ardor is properly disciplined, it employs its impetuosity at the right time and with moderation; and no difficulties can abate or disconcert it. For good order sustains the courage and reanimates that ardor with the hope of victory, which will never fail if discipline be preserved. The reverse of this happens to armies that have ardor without discipline: such was the case with the Gauls, who were wholly wanting in discipline during combat. For if they did not overthrow the enemy by their first furious onset, upon which they relied for victory, not being sustained by a well-regulated valor, and having nothing besides their impetuosity to give them confidence, they failed when that first ardor was cooled. But with the Romans it was very different; less mindful of danger because of the good order which they preserved during battle, they felt assured of victory, and continued the fight with firm and obstinate courage, and manifested the same valor at the end as at the beginning of battle, the heat of the contest rather inflaming their courage than otherwise. The third kind of armies are such as have neither natural courage nor discipline. Of this kind are the Italian armies of our time, which are entirely useless. Unless they fall upon an enemy that by some accident has taken to flight, they are never victorious. Without citing any special instances, we have daily proofs of their total lack of valor. The testimony of Titus Livius shows us how good armies are formed, and how bad ones are made. Upon this latter point I will quote the remarks of the Dictator Papirius Cursor, when he wanted to punish Fabius, his master of cavalry. “Let none,” said he, “fear either men or the gods; let them disregard the orders of the commanders and the auspices; let the soldiers, unprovided with anything, roam loosely through the country of friend or foe, forgetful of their oaths, from which they absolve themselves at will; let them desert their colors, disregard the orders for assembling; let them fight indiscriminately by day or by night, in favorable or unfavorable positions, and with or without the orders of their commanders; let them be faithless to their flag and disregard all discipline, – and then we shall have a confused and blind assemblage, more like a vile rabble of brigands than a solemn and imposing army.”
This discourse will readily show whether our modern troops are a blind and chance rabble, or whether they constitute solemn and imposing armies; and how much they lack from deserving to be called armies, and how far they are from having the impetuous ardor and discipline of the Romans, or even the mere impetuosity of the Gauls.
It seems that in all the actions of men, besides the general difficulties of carrying them to a successful issue, the good is accompanied by some special evil, and so closely allied to it that it would seem impossible to achieve the one without encountering the other. This is evident in all human affairs, and therefore the good is achieved with difficulty, unless we are so aided by Fortune that she overcomes by her power the natural and ordinary difficulties.
I am reminded of the truth of this by the combat between Manlius Torquatus and the Gaul, of which Titus Livius says: “So decisive was the influence of this action upon the whole war, that the army of the Gauls, after having precipitately left their camp, retreated behind the Tiber, and thence into Campania.” I consider, then, on the one hand, that a good captain should avoid every unimportant action that may nevertheless produce a bad effect upon his army. For he must be altogether reckless to engage in any action in which he cannot employ his entire force, and where yet he hazards his whole fortune, as I have already demonstrated elsewhere in condemning the guarding of passes. On the other hand, I consider that a prudent general, who has to encounter a new and untried enemy that has a reputation, should, before engaging in a general action, afford his troops the opportunity of testing such an enemy by slight skirmishes; so that, by learning to know him somewhat, and how to meet him, they may be relieved of any fear which the fame and report of the enemy may have caused them. I look upon this as a most essential duty of a general; in fact, he will feel the necessity of it himself when he sees that he would be marching to certain defeat, unless by some such slight experience he first removes the terror which the enemy’s reputation may have engendered in the hearts of his troops. When Valerius Corvinus was sent by the Romans against the Samnites, who were new enemies, with whom his troops never before had measured themselves, he made them engage the Samnites first in some slight skirmishes, “lest,” as Titus Livius says, “a new war and a new enemy should cause them fear.” Nevertheless, there is great danger lest a defeat in such slight combats should increase that fear and apprehension in your soldiers, and thus produce the very opposite effect from what you designed; for in such event, instead of reassuring them, they will be discouraged. So that this is one of those cases where the evil lies so near the good, and is so commingled with it, that it is easy to encounter the one in thinking to take the other.
On this subject, then, I say that a skilful commander should avoid with the utmost care everything that can possibly tend to discourage his army. And as nothing is so likely to do this as a check in the beginning, a general should beware of small combats, and should not permit them unless he can engage in them with decided advantage and the certain hope of victory. He should not attempt to guard any passes where he cannot employ his whole force; nor should he hold any strong places except such as would involve his own destruction in their loss; and then he should manage their defence in such a manner that, in case of their being besieged, he may go to their relief with his entire force. All other places he should leave undefended; for the loss of any place that a general abandons, without his army having experienced any reverse, will neither dim the glory of his arms nor his hope of victory. But the loss becomes a danger and real misfortune when you had intended to defend it, and every one believes that you attempted to do so; it is then that a matter of so little moment may cause the loss of the whole war, as in the case of the Gauls. Philip of Macedon, father of Perseus, a man of warlike character and much renown in his day, having been attacked by the Romans, judged that he would not be able to defend all his possessions, and therefore abandoned a portion of them after having laid them waste, convinced that the loss of his reputation in having failed to defend them would be more pernicious to him than the loss of the country which he abandoned a prey to the enemy as a thing of little value. The Romans, after the defeat of Cannæ, when their affairs were in a very bad condition, refused all aid to a number of their allies, and even to some of their own subjects, advising them to defend themselves as best they were able. This was a much wiser course than to undertake a defence which they could not make good; for in that case they would have sacrificed both their friends and their own strength, whilst as it was they only lost their friends.
But to return to the subject of skirmishes. I say that if a general is unavoidably forced to engage in some against a new enemy, he should do so only with such advantages on his side as to expose him to no danger of defeat. Or rather, he should do as Marius did (which in fact would be the better way) when marching against the Cimbrians. This savage people, who came to plunder Italy, spread general terror before them by their numbers and ferocity, and because they had already defeated one Roman army. Marius, therefore, deemed it necessary, before engaging in battle with them, to do something to disabuse the minds of his army of the erroneous opinion which fear had caused them to form of the enemy. And, as a most sagacious commander, he encamped his army several times in positions where the Cimbrian hordes had to pass in view of them. Thus, he wanted his soldiers, from the security of their intrenchments, to become accustomed to the sight of that enemy; so that, seeing that irregular multitude, encumbered with all sorts of impediments, partly armed with useless weapons and partly without arms, they might be reassured, and become eager to meet them in battle. This was a wise proceeding on the part of Marius, and should be diligently imitated by others, so as to avoid the dangers which I have pointed out above, and not to be obliged to do as the Gauls, “who, alarmed by some slight cause, retreated behind the Tiber into Campania.” Having cited Valerius Corvinus in this discourse, I will, according to his own words, point out in the next chapter what a general should really be.
Valerius Corvinus, as I have said above, was sent with an army against the Samnites, who were new enemies to the Romans. On this occasion, by way of reassuring his soldiers and to make them know the enemy, he caused them to engage in some slight skirmishes with the Samnites. Not satisfied with this, he harangued his troops before coming to a general battle; and after recalling their valor and his own, he pointed out to them, in the most effective manner, how little importance they should attach to such an enemy. From the words which Titus Livius makes him say, we may note what a general should really be in whom an army could have confidence. These words were as follows: “Consider, then, under whose lead and auspices you are about to go into battle, and whether he to whom you are listening is merely a magniloquent orator, terrible only in words; or whether he is skilled in military matters and himself able to deal blows, to lead on the banners, and to combat in the thickest of the fight. I want you to follow my actions, and not merely my words; not my orders only, but the example of him who by his right arm has thrice achieved the consulate and the highest glory.” These words, well considered, will teach any one how to bear himself so as properly to fill the position of general; and whoever acts differently will, instead of gaining fame, find himself in time deprived of that grade which he may have acquired by good fortune or ambition. For it is not titles that honor men, but men honor the titles. We should also bear in mind at the very outset, in treating of this subject, that, if great commanders have employed extraordinary means for reassuring veteran troops, much greater precautions are necessary with fresh troops that have never before met an enemy face to face. For if an unaccustomed enemy can inspire veteran troops with terror, that feeling must be infinitely greater with raw troops, who for the first time encounter an enemy of any kind. And yet we have seen many times able commanders by their prudence triumph over all these difficulties; as was the case with the Roman Gracchus and the Theban Epaminondas, of whom we have spoken elsewhere, who both with fresh troops vanquished the best-disciplined veterans. The course which they adopted to accomplish this was to exercise their raw levies for some months in sham battles, and to accustom them to obedience and order, so that afterwards they led them with the greatest confidence into actual battles. No commander, therefore, need despair of forming good troops so long as he does not lack men; and a prince who has plenty of men, and yet has not good soldiers, has to blame only his own indolence and want of skill, and not the cowardice of the men.
Amongst other essentials for a general is the knowledge of localities and countries, without which general and particular knowledge he cannot successfully undertake any enterprise. And although the acquirement of every science demands practice, yet to possess this one perfectly requires more than any other. This practice, or rather this special knowledge of localities, is better acquired by the chase than in any other exercise. And therefore the ancient writers say of those heroes who in their day ruled the world, that they were nursed in the forests and brought up to the chase. For, besides this special knowledge of localities, the chase also teaches many other things that are necessary in war. And Xenophon, in his Life of Cyrus, tells us that, when the latter was about to attack the king of Armenia, in assigning to his captains their several parts he recalled to them that this was nothing more than one of those hunting expeditions which they had so often made with him; comparing those whom he placed in ambush in the mountains to the men that are sent into the woods to spread the nets, and those who were sent to scour the plains to the men who rouse the game from its lair to drive it into the nets. I cite this to show that, according to Xenophon, the chase is an imitation of war; and therefore this exercise is honorable and necessary for rulers. Nor is there any better or more convenient means of acquiring a knowledge of countries than the chase; for it makes those who indulge in it perfectly familiar with the character of the country. And it is a fact that a man who has familiarized himself thoroughly with one country afterwards readily comprehends the nature of all other countries; for all countries resemble each other in their general conformation, so that the knowledge of one facilitates the knowledge of others. But a man who has never acquired a practical knowledge of one rarely or perhaps never attains the knowledge of another country, unless after a great length of time. But he who has that practice will at a glance know how such a plain lies, how such a mountain rises, or where such a valley leads; and all similar things which his former practice has taught him.
The truth of this Titus Livius shows by the example of Publius Decius, when he served as military Tribune in the army which the Consul Cornelius commanded against the Samnites. This Consul, having taken position with his army in a valley where they might easily have been shut in by the Samnites, Publius Decius, recognizing the danger, said to him, “Do you see yonder point, that rises above the enemy? That is our only hope of safety if we promptly seize upon it; for the Samnites have blindly neglected it.” Before reporting these words of Decius, Livius says: “Publius Decius, the military Tribune, had observed a hill rising above the enemy’s camp, difficult of access for an army with all its impediments, but easy for light troops.” Being thereupon sent by the Consul to occupy that point with three thousand soldiers, he saved the Roman army; and intending to take advantage of the night to get away, and save his men also, Titus Livius makes him say these words to his men: “‘Follow me, and whilst yet a little daylight remains, let us examine where the enemy’s outposts are placed, and by what passage we may escape.’ And lest he should be remarked by his dress of a general, he clothed himself in the garb of a simple soldier to make this reconnoissance.” Whoever reflects upon this passage in Livius will see how useful and necessary it is for a general to know the character of the country; for if Decius had not known and understood it, he would not have been able to judge of the importance for the Roman army to possess themselves of that hill; nor would he have been able to discern from a distance whether that hill was accessible or not. And after having obtained possession of it, he could not have reconnoitred from a distance the issues by which he could rejoin the Consul with the main body of the army, despite of the enemy, who was all around him, nor the places guarded by the enemy. It was therefore of the utmost importance that Decius had such a thorough knowledge of the country, which enabled him, by the taking of that hill, to save the Roman army, and afterwards to save himself and the troops he had with him by knowing how to escape the enemy by whom he was surrounded.
Although deceit is detestable in all other things, yet in the conduct of war it is laudable and honorable; and a commander who vanquishes an enemy by stratagem is equally praised with one who gains victory by force. This is proved by the judgment of those who have written the lives of great men, and who give much credit to Hannibal and others who were most remarkable in that respect. History gives so many examples of this that I need not cite any of them here. But I will say this, that I do not confound such deceit with perfidy, which breaks pledged faith and treaties; for although states and kingdoms may at times be won by perfidy, yet will it ever bring dishonor with it. But I speak of those feints and stratagems which you employ against an enemy that distrusts you, and in the employment of which properly consists the art of war. Such was that practised by Hannibal when he feigned flight on the lake of Perugia (Thrasimene), for the purpose of hemming in the Consul and the Roman army; and when he attached blazing fagots to the horns of his cattle to enable him to escape from the hands of Fabius Maximus. Such was also the stratagem of Pontius, general of the Samnites, to draw the Romans into the defiles of the Caudine Forks. Having concealed his army behind a mountain, he sent a number of his soldiers disguised as herdsmen with droves of cattle into the plains. These, on being captured and interrogated by the Romans as to the whereabouts of the Samnite army, answered, according to the instructions of Pontius, that it was engaged in the siege of the town of Nocera. The Consuls, believing it, entered the defiles of Caudium, where they were promptly hemmed in by the Samnites. This victory won by stratagem would have been most glorious for Pontius had he followed the advice of his father, who wanted him either to allow the Romans to pass out entirely free, or to kill them all; but not to take any half-way measures, which, as we have said elsewhere, are always pernicious, “and never make a friend nor rid you of an enemy.”
As stated above, the Roman Consul and his army were shut in by the Samnites, who proposed to him the most ignominious conditions, such as to pass under a yoke, and to send the army back to Rome disarmed; which filled the Consul and the army with despair. But the Legate Lentulus said, “That for the purpose of saving the country no propositions ought to be rejected. The safety of Rome depended upon that army, and he maintained that it ought to be saved at any price; that the defence of their country was always good, no matter whether effected by honorable or ignominious means. That if the army were saved, Rome would in time be able to wipe out that disgrace; but if the army were lost, even if they died most gloriously, Rome and her liberties would also be lost.” This advice of Lentulus was followed; and the case deserves to be noted and reflected upon by every citizen who finds himself called upon to counsel his country. For where the very safety of the country depends upon the resolution to be taken, no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, nor of glory or of shame, should be allowed to prevail. But putting all other considerations aside, the only question should be, What course will save the life and liberty of the country? The French follow this maxim by words and deeds in defending the majesty of their king and the greatness of France; for nothing excites their impatience more than to hear any one say that such or such a thing is discreditable to the king. For they say that their king can suffer no shame from any resolutions he may take, whether in good or in ill fortune; for whether he be victor or vanquished is a matter that only concerns the king.
When the Consuls returned to Rome with their troops disarmed and the insult to which they had been subjected at the Caudine Forks, the Consul Sp. Posthumius was the first who said in the Senate, that the peace agreed to at Caudium ought not to be observed. He maintained that this peace did not bind the Roman people, but only himself individually and those others who had assisted in concluding it. And therefore, if the people wished to free themselves from all its obligations, they need only send him and the others back as prisoners to the Samnites. He urged this advice so persistently that the Senate agreed to it, and sent him and the others as prisoners to the Samnites, protesting against the validity of the peace. And fortune so favored Posthumius in this matter that the Samnites declined to keep him, so that when he returned to Rome he was more honored there on account of the reverse he had suffered, than was Pontius by the Samnites for the victory he had gained. This case suggests two points for reflection: the one, that a general may acquire glory in any action; in victory it follows as a matter of course, and in defeat it may be acquired, either by showing that it was not due to any fault of his, or by promptly doing some act that neutralizes the effects of the defeat. The other point is, that there is no disgrace in disregarding promises that have been exacted by force. Promises touching public affairs, and which have been given under the pressure of force, will always be disregarded when that force no longer exists, and this involves no dishonor. History offers us many examples of this, and even in the present times we have daily instances of it. Not only do princes pay no attention to pledges which they have been forced to give, when that force has ceased to exist, but they frequently disregard equally all other promises, when the motives that induced them no longer prevail. Whether such conduct be praiseworthy or not on the part of princes, has been so fully discussed in our treatise of “The Prince,” that we will not touch upon that question any further here.
Wise men say, and not without reason, that whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who have been, and ever will be, animated by the same passions, and thus they must necessarily have the same results. It is true that men are more or less virtuous in one country or another, according to the nature of the education by which their manners and habits of life have been formed. It also facilitates a judgment of the future by the past, to observe nations preserve for a long time the same character; ever exhibiting the same disposition to avarice, or bad faith, or to some other special vice or virtue. Whoever reads attentively the history of our city of Florence, and observes the events of our more immediate times, will find that the Germans and the French are full of avarice, pride, cruelty, and bad faith, from which evil qualities our city has suffered greatly at various times. As to the want of good faith, everybody knows how often the Florentines have paid money to King Charles VIII., upon his promising to restore to them the citadel of Pisa; which promises, however, he never fulfilled, thereby exhibiting his want of good faith and his greed of money. Let us come, however, to more recent events. Everybody may have heard of what happened in the war which the Florentines carried on against the Visconti, Dukes of Milan; and how Florence, having no other resources left, thought of calling the Emperor into Italy, in the expectation that he would devote his reputation and forces to assailing Lombardy. The Emperor promised to come with a sufficient force to carry on the war against the Visconti, and to defend Florence against their power, on condition that the Florentines should pay him one hundred thousand ducats before starting, and a like sum after he should have entered Italy. The Florentines agreed to these terms and made both the first and the second payment; but when the Emperor had reached Verona, he turned back without doing anything, alleging as a reason that the Florentines had not fulfilled their part of the agreement.
Thus, if Florence had not been constrained by necessity, or carried away by passion, and had studied and known the ancient habits of the barbarians, she would not have allowed herself to have been deceived by them on this occasion, as well as on several others. For the Gauls have constantly preserved the same characteristics, and have on every occasion, and towards everybody, displayed the same conduct as according to history they did in ancient times towards the Tuscans. These being hard pressed by the Romans, having been several times routed and put to flight by them, and finding their own forces insufficient to resist the assaults of the Romans, called to their aid the Gauls from beyond the Alps, agreeing to give them a sum of money on condition that they should unite their forces to those of the Tuscans, and march together against the Romans. Thereupon the Gauls, after having received the money from the Tuscans, refused to take up arms in their behalf; pretending that they had received this money, not for the purpose of making war against the Romans, but to induce them to abstain from plundering the country of the Tuscans. And thus were the Tuscan people deprived, by the avarice and bad faith of the Gauls, both of their money and of the assistance upon which they had counted from them. So that we see from this example of the ancient Tuscans, and by that of the Florentines of the present day, that the Gauls of old and the modern French have ever conducted themselves in the same manner; and thus we may readily judge to what extent princes may place confidence in them.
The Samnites being hard pressed by the Romans, and unable to keep their army in the field against them, resolved, after having garrisoned their towns, to pass with their entire army into Tuscany. They hoped thus by the presence of their army to induce the Tuscans, notwithstanding the truce between them and the Romans, to take up arms against them, which they had refused to the ambassadors sent by the Samnites. In the interview which these had with the Tuscans, and especially in their efforts to explain the reasons that had induced them to take up arms again, they made use of a remarkable expression, saying, “that they had revolted against the Romans, because peace was more burdensome for men that are enslaved than war is for men that are free.” And thus partly by persuasion, and partly by the presence of their army, they induced the Tuscans also to take up arms. From this we should conclude that, when one prince wishes to obtain something from another, he must not, when the occasion permits, give him time for deliberation. But he must act so as to make the other see the necessity of prompt decision, and that a refusal or delay may cause an immediate and dangerous indignation.
We have seen this course successfully practised in our time by Pope Julius II. towards the French; and by Gaston de Foix, general of the king of France, towards the Marquis of Mantua. For Julius II., wishing to drive the Bentivogli from Bologna, deemed it would be necessary for him in this matter to secure the assistance of the French army and the neutrality of the Venetians. Having for some time solicited the one and the other, and having received only evasive answers, he resolved, by not giving them any further time, to force both the French and the Venetians to a compliance with his wishes. He therefore left Rome with as many troops as he could gather, and marched upon Bologna, and sent word to the Venetians to remain neutral, and to the king of France to send his forces to aid him. Pressed by the short time given them for deliberation, and seeing that, if they refused or temporized, they would excite the indignation of the Pope, they yielded to his wishes; the king of France sent him troops, and the Venetians remained neutral. The Count de Foix was with his army at Bologna, when he heard of the revolt of Brescia; and wishing to go to recover that city, there were two routes open to him. The one lay through the dominions of the king, but it was long and difficult; the other and shorter route was through the territory of the Marquis of Mantua. He was obliged not only to traverse the dominions of this Marquis, but to enter them he had to pass over certain dikes raised between the lakes and swamps of which that region is full, and which are closed and guarded by fortresses. Gaston de Foix resolved to take this shorter route, and by way of removing all obstacles, and not to give the Marquis time for deliberation, he at once put his army on the march, and signified to the Marquis to send him the keys to the fortresses that commanded this passage. The Marquis, surprised by this prompt and unexpected determination on the part of the Count de Foix, sent him the keys; which he would never have done if the French general had displayed less impetuosity. For the Marquis would have had a good excuse for refusing his demand, being in alliance with the Pope and the Venetians, and one of his sons being in the hands of the Pontiff. But being taken aback by the prompt action of Gaston de Foix, he yielded, for the reasons which we have given above. The Tuscans acted in the same way towards the Samnites, being forced by the presence of the Samnite army to take up arms against Rome, which till then they had refused.
The Roman Consuls Decius and Fabius were with their respective armies opposed to the Samnites and the Tuscans; and as they both delivered battle on the same day, it is well to examine which of the two different methods adopted by these Consuls was the best. Decius attacked the enemy with his entire force, and with the utmost impetuosity; whilst Fabius contented himself with merely sustaining the shock of the enemy, judging a slow and deliberate attack to be the most advantageous, and reserved the ardor of his troops for the last, when the enemy’s eagerness for combat and his fire had somewhat cooled down. The result proved the plan of Fabius much more successful than that of Decius. Exhausted by their first impetuous efforts, Decius saw his troops more disposed to flight than to combat; and to achieve by death that glory which he had failed to win by victory, he sacrificed himself for the Roman legions in imitation of his father’s example. When Fabius heard this, he determined to achieve no less glory living than what his colleague had acquired by dying; and throwing all his forces, which he had reserved for that purpose, upon the enemy, he gained a most signal victory. From this we see that the method of Fabius is the most certain and most worthy of imitation.
It seems that not only do cities differ from each other by their manners and institutions, producing either men of harsh or gentle character, but such differences are observable also between families of the same city. The proof of this may be found in every city; and we read of many instances of it in Rome. For we find that the men of the family of Manlius were severe and inflexible; the Publicoli were affable and lovers of the people, whilst the Appii were ambitious and hostile to the people; and so on, each family having its own distinctive characteristics. This cannot be attributed only to the blood, for that is necessarily modified by marriage; but must be the result of the difference of education in the several families. For it is of great importance whether a youth in his tender years hears any act praised or censured; this necessarily makes a lasting impression upon his mind, and becomes afterwards the rule of his life for all time. For if this were not so, it would not have been possible that the Appii should all have had the same inclinations, and have been agitated by the same passions. Titus Livius has observed this in several of them, and especially in that Appius who was made Censor. When his colleague, after the expiration of eighteen months, laid down that magistracy, in accordance with the provisions of the law, he declined to do the same, alleging that, according to the first law made by the Censors, he was entitled to hold that office for five years. And although several public meetings were held on the subject, and numerous disturbances occurred in consequence, yet they found no means to make him resign, and he held the office in opposition to the will of the people and the majority of the Senate. In reading his speech against P. Sempronius, the Tribune of the people, we cannot fail to note throughout the real Appian insolence, and at the same time we cannot but remark the goodness and gentleness displayed by an infinite number of citizens in respecting the auspices and obeying the laws of their country.
The Consul Manlius was wounded in a fight during the war against the Samnites, and as his army, in consequence of his being disabled, were exposed to great danger, the Roman Senate judged it necessary to send Papirius Cursor as Dictator to supply the place of the Consul. But as the law required that the Dictator should be named by Fabius, who was at that time at the head of the armies in Tuscany, and being known to be hostile to Papirius, the Senate feared that he might refuse to nominate him. They therefore sent two deputies to entreat him to put aside his personal hatreds, and to nominate Papirius Consul for the general good. Moved by his love of country, Fabius made that nomination, although he manifested, by his silence and other indications, his aversion to him. This should serve as an example to all who desire to be regarded as good citizens.
Fulvius, having been left as lieutenant of the Roman army in Tuscany, whilst the Consul had gone to assist at some religious ceremonies, the Tuscans attempted to draw him into an ambush which they had placed near the Roman camp. For this purpose they sent some soldiers, disguised as herdsmen, with a drove of cattle, who approached the intrenchments within sight of the Romans. The lieutenant, wondering at their presumption, which did not seem reasonable to him, suspected and discovered the deceit, and thus defeated the design of the Tuscans. This instance will serve to show that the commander of an army should always mistrust any manifest error which he sees the enemy commit, as it invariably conceals some stratagem. For it is not reasonable to suppose that men will be so incautious. But the desire of victory often blinds men to that degree that they see nothing but what seems favorable to their object. After their victory over the Romans on the Allia, the Gauls marched upon Rome, and, finding the gates open and unguarded, they remained a whole day and night without entering, fearing some stratagem, and unable to believe that the Romans were so cowardly and so ill-advised as to abandon their city. When the Florentines, in 1508, went to besiege Pisa, Alfonso del Mutolo, a citizen of that town, who had fallen into their hands, promised, if they would grant him his liberty, to deliver to them one of the gates of Pisa. His offer was accepted, and he was set free. Afterwards he came several times to confer on the subject with the deputies of the commissaries, but never concealed his visits, coming openly and accompanied by several Pisans, whom he left apart whilst conferring with the Florentines. From this circumstance his duplicity might readily have been conjectured; for it was not reasonable that he should have treated a matter of this kind so openly if he had been acting in good faith. But the eager desire to possess Pisa so blinded the Florentines that, under his guidance, they advanced to the gate of Lucca, where, by the double treason of the said Alfonso, they lost in a discreditable manner a number of their officers and men.
We have already said elsewhere, that in a great republic there are constantly evils occurring requiring remedies which must be efficacious in proportion to the importance of the occasion. And if ever any city experienced strange and unforeseen ills, it was Rome. Such, for instance, as the plot which the Roman ladies seem to have formed to kill their husbands, so that many had actually poisoned them, whilst others had prepared the poison for the purpose. Such was also the conspiracy of the Bacchanals, discovered at the time of the Macedonian war, in which many thousands of men and women were implicated. This conspiracy would have proved very dangerous to Rome had it not been discovered in time; and if the Romans had not been accustomed to punish the guilty, even if they were in great numbers. Even if we had not an infinity of other evidences of the greatness of this republic, it would be made manifest by the extent of her executions, and the character of the punishment she inflicted upon the guilty. Rome did not hesitate to have a whole legion put to death according to a judicial decision, or to destroy an entire city, or to send eight or ten thousand men into exile with such extraordinary conditions as could hardly be complied with by one man, much less by so many. It was thus she banished to Sicily the soldiers that had unfortunately allowed themselves to be defeated at Cannæ, imposing upon them the conditions not to live in any cities, and to take their meals standing. But the most terrible of her executions was the system of decimation in her armies, when, by lot, one soldier out of every ten was put to death. It was impossible to devise a more terrible punishment, where a great number were involved, than this. For when any crime is committed by a multitude, where the individual authors cannot be ascertained, it is impossible to punish them all, there being so many. To chastise a part, leaving the others unpunished, would be unjust to the first, whilst the others would feel encouraged to commit fresh crimes. But where all have merited death, and only every tenth man is punished by lot, these will have occasion to complain only of fate; whilst those who escape will be careful not to commit other crimes, for fear that the next time the lot might fall to them. The poisoners and the Bacchanals were punished as the greatness of their crimes merited.
Although the consequences of such evils in a republic are bad, yet they are not mortal, for there is always time to correct them. But it is not the same with such evils as affect the state itself; for unless they are checked and corrected by some wise hand, they will cause the ruin of the state. The liberality with which the Romans used to grant the privileges of citizenship to strangers had attracted a great many new families to Rome. These began to exercise so great an influence in the elections that it sensibly changed the government, and caused it to deviate from the institutions and principles of the men who had been accustomed to direct it. When Quintus Fabius, who was Censor at that time, observed this, he had all the new families that had caused this disorder enrolled into four tribes; so that, being confined to such narrow limits, they should not corrupt all Rome. Fabius had well comprehended the evil, and promptly and without difficulty applied a suitable remedy; which was so well received by the republic, that it earned him the surname of Maximus.