Discourses on Livy/First Book/Chapters XI-XX

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Discourses on Livy by Niccolò Machiavelli
First Book (Chapters XI-XX)

CHAPTER XI[edit]

OF THE RELIGIONS OF THE ROMANS

Although Rome had Romulus as its original organizer and, like a daughter, owed her birth and education to him, none the less the heavens, judging that the institutions of Romulus were not sufficient for so great an Empire, put it into the breasts of the Roman Senate to elect Numa Pompilius as successor to Romulus, so that those things that he had omitted, would be instituted by Numa. Who, finding a very ferocious people and wanting to reduce them to civil obedience by the acts of peace, turned to religion as something completely necessary in wanting to maintain a civilization, and he established it in such a manner that for many centuries there never was more fear of God than in that Republic, which facilitated any enterprise which the Senate or those of great Roman men should plan to do. And whoever should discuss the infinite actions of the people of Rome (taken) all together, and of many Romans (individually) by themselves, will see that those citizens feared much more the breaking of an oath than the laws, like those men who esteem more the power of God than that of man, as is manifestly seen in the examples of Scipio and of Manlius Torquatus, for after the defeat that Hannibal had inflicted on the Romans at Cannae, many citizens had gathered together (and) frightened and fearful (and) had agreed to abandon Italy and take themselves to Sicily: when Scipio heard of this, he went to meet them, and with bared sword in hand he constrained them to swear not to abandon their country. Lucius Manlius, father of Titus Manlius, who was later called Torquatus, had been accused by Marcus Pomponius, a Tribune of the Plebs: and before the day of judgment arrived, Titus went to meet Marcus, and threatening to kill him if he did not swear to withdraw the accusation against his father, constrained him to swear, and he (Marcus) from fear of having sworn withdrew the accusation from him (Lucius). And thus those citizens whom (neither) the love of their country and of its laws could keep in Italy, were kept there by an oath that they were forced to take, and the Tribune put aside the hatred that he had for his father, the injury that his son had done him, and his honor, in order to obey the oath taken; which did not result from anything else than from that religion which Numa had introduced in that City. And whoever considers well Roman history will see how much Religion served in commanding the armies, in reuniting the plebs, both in keeping men good, and in making the wicked ashamed. So that if it were discussed as to which Prince Rome should be more obligated, Romulus or Numa, I believe that Numa would (rather) attain the higher rank; for where Religion exists it is easily possible to introduce arms, but where there are arms and not religion, it (religion) can only be introduced there with difficulty. And it is seen that for Romulus to institute the Senate and to make the other civil and military arrangements, the authority of God was not necessary, but it was very necessary for Numa, who pretended he had met with a Nymph who advised him of that which he should counsel the people; and all this resulted because he wanted to introduce new ordinances and institutions in that City, and was apprehensive that his authority was not enough. And truly there never was any extraordinary institutor of laws among a people who did not have recourse to God, because otherwise he would not have been accepted; for they (these laws) are very well known by prudent men, but which by themselves do not contain evident reasons capable of persuading others. Wise men who want to remove this difficulty, therefore, have recourse to God. Thus did Lycurgus, thus Solon, thus many others who had the same aims as they.

¶ The Roman people, therefore, admiring his (Numa's) goodness and prudence, yielded to his every decision. It is indeed true that those times were full of Religion, and those men with whom he (Numa) had to work were coarse (which) gave him great facility to pursue his designs, being able easily to impress upon them any new form. And without doubt whoever should want to establish a Republic in the present era, would find it more easy to do so among men of the mountains where there is no civilization, than among those who are used to living in the City, where civilization is corrupt, as a sculptor more easily extracts a beautiful statue from crude marble than of one badly sketched out by others. Considering all this I conclude therefore, that the Religion introduced by Numa was among the chief reasons for the felicity of that City, for it caused good ordinances, good ordinances make good fortune, and from good fortune there arises the happy successes of the enterprises. And as the observance of divine institutions is the cause of the greatness of Republics, so the contempt of it is the cause of their ruin, for where the fear of God is lacking it will happen that that kingdom will be ruined or that it will be sustained through fear of a Prince, which may supply the want of Religion. And because Princes are short lived, it will happen that that Kingdom will easily fall as he (Prince) fails in virtu. Whence it results that Kingdoms which depend solely on the virtu of one man, are not durable for long, because that virtu fails with the life of that man, and it rarely happens that it is renewed in (his) successor, as Dante prudently says:

Rarely there descends from the branches (father to son) Human probity, and this is the will (of the one) who gives it, because it is asked alone from him.

The welfare of a Republic or a Kingdom, therefore, is not in having a Prince who governs prudently while he lives, but one who organizes it in a way that, if he should die, it will still maintain itself. And although crude men are more easily persuaded by new ordinances and opinions, yet it is not impossible because of this to persuade civilized men, (and) who presume themselves not to be crude. The people of Florence did not seem either crude or ignorant, none the less Brother Girolamo Savonarola was persuaded that he talked with God. I do not want to judge whether that was true or not, because one ought not to talk of so great a man except with reverence. But I may well say that an infinite (number) believed him without they having seen anything extraordinary which would make them believe, because his life, the doctrine, the subjects he took up were sufficient to make them have faith. Let no one be dismayed, therefore, if he is not able to attain that which had been attained by others, for men (as was said in our preface) are born, live, and die, always in the same way.

CHAPTER XII[edit]

OF HOW MUCH IMPORTANCE SHOULD BE GIVEN RELIGION; AND HOW ITALY, BECAUSE THE MEDIUM OF THE ROMAN CHURCH WAS LACKING, WAS RUINED

Those Princes or those Republics that want to maintain themselves uncorrupted, have above everything else to maintain uncorrupted the servances of Religion, and hold them always in veneration. For no one can have a better indication of the ruin of a province than to see the divine institutions held in contempt. This is easy to understand, when it is known upon what the Religion of the fatherland is founded; for every Religion has the foundation of its existence on some one of its principal institutions. The life of the Gentile Religion was founded upon the responses of the Oracles and upon the tenets of the Augurs and Aruspices; all their other ceremonies, sacrifices, rites, depended on these. For they readily believed that that God who could predict your future good or evil, should also be able to concede it to you. From this arose their temples, their sacrifices, their supplication, and all the other ceremonies venerating him; for the Oracle of Delphi, the Temple of Jupiter Ammon, and other celebrated Oracles kept the world in admiration and devotion. As soon as these began to speak in the manner of the Potentates, and this falsity was discovered by the people, men became incredulous and disposed to disturb every good institution. The Princes of a Republic or a Kingdom ought therefore to maintain their Republic's religions, and in consequence well and united. And therefore they ought in all things which arise to foster it (even if they should judge them false) to favor and encourage it: and the more prudent they are, and the more they understand natural things, so much more ought they to do this. And because this practice has been observed by wise men, there has arisen the beliefs in the miracles that are celebrated in Religion, however false; for the prudent ones have increased (their importance) from whatever origin they may have derived and their authority gives them credence with the people. There were many of these miracles in Rome, and among others was that (which occurred) when the Roman soldiers were sacking the City of Veienti, some of whom entered the Temple of Juno, and, standing in front of her statue, and saying "WILL YOU COME TO ROME?", it appeared to some that she had made a sign (of assent), and to others that she had said yes. For these men, being full of Religion, (which T. Livius demonstrated) when they entered the Temple went in without tumult and completely devoted and full of reverence, seemed to hear that response to their question which perhaps they had presupposed: which opinion and belief was favored and magnified by Camillus and by the other Princes of the City.

If the Princes of the Republic had maintained this Christian religion according as it had been established by the founder, the Christian States and Republics would have been more united and much more happy than they are. Nor can any greater conjecture be made of its decline, than to see that those people who are nearer to the Church of Rome, the head of our Religion, have less Religion. And whoever should give consideration to its foundations, and observe how much different present usage is from them, should judge that without doubt her ruin or flagellation (chastisement) is near. And because some are of the opinion that the well-being of Italian affairs depend on the Church of Rome, I want to discuss those reasons against them that occur to me, and I will present two most powerful ones, which according to me are not controvertible. The first is, that by the evil example of that court, this province has lost all devotion and all Religion: so that it brings (with it) infinite troubles and infinite disorders; for where there is Religion every good is presupposed, so too where it is lacking the contrary is presupposed. We Italians therefore have this obligation with the Church and with the Priests of having become bad and without Religion; but we also have a greater one, which is the cause of our ruin. This is that the Church has kept and still keeps this province (country) of ours divided: and Truly any country never was united or happy, except when it gave its obedience entirely to one Republic or one Prince, as has happened to France and Spain. And the reason that Italy is not in the same condition, and is not also governed by one Republic or one Prince, is solely the Church, for having acquired and held temporal Empire, she has not been so powerful or of such virtu that she was able to occupy the rest of Italy and make herself its Prince. And on the other hand, she has not been so weak that the fear of losing her dominion of temporal things has made her unable to call in a power that could defend her against those who had become too powerful in Italy, as was seen anciently by many experiences, when through the medium of Charles the Great she drove out the Lombards who already were the kings of almost all Italy, and when in our times she took away the power of Venetians with the aid of France; afterwards she drove out the French with the aid of the Swiss. The church therefore not being powerful (enough) to occupy Italy, and not having permitted that another should occupy her, has been the cause why she (Italy) has not been able to be united under one head, but has been under so many Princes and Lords, from which there has resulted so much disunion and so much weakness, that she became prey not only to the powerful Barbarians, but to anyone who should assault her. This we other Italians owe to the Church of Rome, and to none others. And anyone who should want to observe the truth of this more readily through experience, should need to be of such great power that he should be sent to live at the Roman Court, with all the power it has in Italy, over the towns of the Swiss, who today are the only People who live accordingly to ancient customs both as far as Religion and military institutions (are concerned) and he would see that in a little time the evil customs of that Court would cause more disorders in that province (country) than could spring up from any other incident in any other time.

CHAPTER XIII[edit]

HOW THE ROMANS SERVED THEMSELVES OF RELIGION TO ESTABLISH THE CITY AND TO CARRY OUT THEIR ENTERPRISES AND STOP TUMULTS

And it does not appear to me outside my purpose to refer to some examples where the Romans served themselves of Religion in order to reorganize the City and to further their enterprises. And although there are many in (the writings of) Titus Livius, none the less I want to content myself with these. The Roman people having created the Tribunes with Consular Power, and all but one (selected from the) Plebs, and pestilence and famine having occurred there that year, and certain prodigies coming to pass, the Nobles used this occasion of the creation of the new Tribunes, saying that the Gods were angered because Rome had ill-used the majesty of its Empire, and that there was no other remedy to placate the Gods than by returning the election of the Tribunes to its own (original) place; from which there resulted that the Plebs frightened by this Religion created all the Tribunes from the (class of the) Nobles.

¶ It was also seen at the capture of the City of the Veienti, that the Captains of the armies availed themselves of Religion to keep them disposed to an enterprise, when lake Albano had risen astonishingly that year, and the soldiers being weary from the long siege (and) wanted to return to Rome, the Romans insinuated that Apollo and certain other (oracles) had given replies that that year the City of the Veienti should be captured when Lake Albano should overflow: which event made the soldiers endure the weariness of the war and the siege, being taken by this hope of capturing the town, and they remained content to pursue the enterprise so much that Camillus who had been made Dictator captured that City after it had been besieged for ten years. And thus Religion well used was helpful both in the capture of that City and for the restoration of the Tribuneships to the Nobility, that without the said means either would have been accomplished only with difficulty.

¶ I do not want to miss referring to another example to this purpose. Many tumults had arisen in Rome caused by Terentillus the Tribune, (because of) his wanting to promulgate a certain law for the reasons which will be given in their place below: and among the first remedies that were used by the Nobility was Religion, of which they served themselves in two ways. In the first, they caused the sibylline books to be exhibited, and to give a reply to the City, that through the medium of civil sedition, there was impending that year the danger of (the City) losing its liberty; which thing (although it was discovered by the Tribunes) none the less put so much terror into the breasts of the Plebs that it cooled (their desire) to follow them. The other mode was when one Appius Erdonius with a multitude of bandits and servants numbering four thousand men occupied the Campidoglio (Capitol) by night, so that it was feared that the Equians and Volscians, perpetual enemies of the Roman name, should have come to Rome and attacked her; and the Tribunes because of this did not cease insisting in their pertinacity of promulgating the Terentillan law, saying that that fear was fictitious and not true; (and) one Publius Rubetius, a grave citizen of authority, went out from the Senate, (and) with words partly lovingly and partly menacing, showed them (the people) the danger to the City and the unreasonableness of their demands, so that he constrained the Plebs to swear not to depart from the wishes of the Consul. Whence the Plebs, forced to obey, reoccupied the Campidoglio: but the Consul Publius Valerius being killed in that attack, Titus Quintius was quickly made Consul, who in order not to allow the Plebs to rest, or to give them time to think again of the Terentillan law, commanded them to go out from Rome and go against the Volscians, saying that because of that oath they had taken not to abandon the Consul they were obligated to follow him: to which the Tribunes opposed themselves saying that that oath was given to the dead Consul and not to him. None the less Titus Livius shows that the Plebs for fear of Religion wanted more readily to obey the Consul than believe the Tribunes, saying in favor of the ancient Religion these words: "He feared that the age had not yet come, when the Gods were to be neglected, nor to make interpretations of their oaths and laws to suit themselves." Because of which thing, the Tribunes, apprehensive of their losing all their liberty, made an accord with the Consul to remain in obedience to him and that for one year there should be no discussion of the Terentillan law and the Consuls, on the other hand, should not draw on the Plebs for war outside (of Rome). And thus Religion enabled the Senate to overcome that difficulty which without it, they could never overcome.

CHAPTER XIV[edit]

THE ROMANS INTERPRETED THE AUSPICES ACCORDING TO NECESSITY, AND WITH THEIR PRUDENCE MADE A SHOW OF OBSERVING RELIGION, EVEN WHEN THEY WERE FORCED NOT TO OBSERVE IT, AND IF ANYONE RECKLESSLY DISPARAGED IT THEY PUNISHED HIM

The Auguries not only ((as was discussed above)) were the foundation in good part of the ancient Religion of the Gentiles, but they were also the causes of the well-being of the Roman Republic. Whence the Romans cared more for this than any other institution, and used it in their Consular Comitii, in starting their enterprises, in sending out their armies, in fighting engagements, and in every important activity of theirs, whether civil or military: and they never would go on an expedition unless they had persuaded the soldiers that the Gods promised them the victory. And among the Aruspices there were in the armies certain orders of Aruspices which they called Pollari (guardians of the Sacred Fowls). And anytime they were ordered to fight an engagement with the enemy they desired these Pollari make their Aruspices; and if the fowls pecked away, they fought with a good augury: if they did not peck away, they abstained from battle. None the less, when reason showed them that a thing ought to be done, not withstanding the Aruspices should be adverse, they did it anyway: but then they turned these (aruspices) with conditions and in such a manner so adeptly, that it should not appear they were doing so with disparagement to their Religion: which method was used by Consul Papirus in a most important battle which he waged against the Samnites, which afterward left them entirely weak and afflicted. For Papirus being in the field encountered the Samnites, and as victory in battle appeared certain to him, and because of this wanting to come to an engagement, he commanded the Pollari that they make their Aruspices: but the fowls did not peck away, and the Prince of the Pollari seeing the great disposition of the army to fight and the thoughts to win which were in the Captain and all the soldiers, and in order not to take away this opportunity from the army of doing well, reported to the Consul that the Aruspices were proceeding well, so that Papirus ordered out his squadrons; but some of the Pollari having told certain soldiers that the fowls had not pecked away, they in turn told it to Spurius Papirus nephew of the Consul; and when he reported this to the Consul, he (the Consul) quickly replied that he should attend to doing his duty well, and that as to himself and the army the Aruspices were correct, and if the Pollarius had told a lie, it would come back on him to his prejudice. And so that the result should correspond to the prognostication, he commanded his legates that they should place the Pollari in the front ranks of the battle. Whence it resulted that in going against the enemy, a Roman soldier drawing a dart by chance killed the Prince of the Pollari: which thing becoming known, the Consul said that every thing was proceeding well and with the favor of the Gods, for the army through the death of that liar was purged of every blame and of whatever anger (the Gods) should have had against him. And thus by knowing well how to accommodate his designs to the Aruspices, he (Papirus) took steps to give battle without his army perceiving that he had in any part neglected the institutions of their Religion.

Appius Pulcher acted in a contrary fashion in Sicily in the first Punic war; for wanting to give battle to the Carthaginian army, he caused the Pollari to make Aruspices, and when they reported to him that those fowl did not peck away, he said "Let us see if they would drink," and had them thrown into the sea: whence that giving battle he lost the engagement; for which he was condemned at Rome, and Papirus honored, not so much for the one having lost and the other having won, but because the one had gone against the Aruspices in a prudent manner, and the other fearfully. Nor did this method of making Aurispices have any other object than to have the soldiers go into battle with confidence, from which confidence almost always victory resulted. Which institution was not only used by the Romans, but by those outsiders; of which it seems to me proper to adduce an example in the following chapter.

CHAPTER XV[edit]

HOW THE SAMNITES HAD RECOURSE TO RELIGION AS AN EXTREME REMEDY FOR THE THINGS AFFLICTING THEM

The Samnites having been routed many times by the Romans, and having lastly been defeated in Tuscany, and their armies destroyed and Captains killed, and their allies such as the Tuscans, French (Gauls), and Umbrians having also been defeated, so that "They were not able to continue any longer with their own men or with those from outside, yet would not abstain from the war, and instead of giving up the unsuccessful defense of liberty, they would undertake one more attempt at victory before being overcome". Whence they decided to make one last try: and since they knew that to want to win it was necessary to induce obstinacy into the courage of the soldiers, and that to induce it there was no better means than Religion, they decided to repeat their ancient sacrifices through the medium of Ovius Paccius their Priest, who arranged it in this form: that a solemn sacrifice being made, (and), in the midst of the slain victims and burning altars make all the heads of the army swear never to abandon the fight; then they summoned the soldiers one by one and in the midst of those altars and surrounded by many centurions with bared swords in their hands, they made them first swear that they would not reveal the things they saw or heard, then with execrable phrases and words full of terror they made them swear and promise the Gods that they would go readily wherever the Emperor should command them, and never to flee in battle, and to kill whomever they should see fleeing; which oath if not observed would be visited on the head of his family and on his descendants. And some of them being frightened, (and) not wanting to swear, were quickly put to death by the centurions: so that the others who followed, terrified by the ferocity of the spectacle, all swore. And in order to make this gathering of theirs more imposing, there being forty thousand men there, they dressed half of them in white clothes with crests and plumes on the helmets, and thus arrayed they took position at Aquilonia: Papirius came against them, who in encouraging his soldiers said, "Those crests cannot inflict wounds, and paint and gilding keep Roman javelins from transfixing shields". And to weaken the opinion that his soldiers had of the enemy because of the oath they had taken, he said that it (the oath) was to inspire fear, and not courage, in those (who had taken it), for it made them at the same time fear their own Citizens, their Gods, and their enemies. And coming to the fight, the Samnites were defeated; for the virtu of the Romans, and the fear conceived from the past routs overcame whatever obstinacy they were able to assume by virtu of their Religion and by the oath they had taken. None the less it is seen that they (the Samnites) did not appear to have any other refuge, nor try other remedies to be able to revive hope and reestablish their lost virtu. Which fully testifies how much confidence can be obtained by means of Religion well used. And although this part might perhaps be rather placed among affairs of outside (peoples), none the less as this refers to one of the most important institutions of the Republic of Rome, it has appeared to me proper to commit this in this place so as not to divide this material and have to return to it many times.

CHAPTER XVI[edit]

A PEOPLE ACCUSTOMED TO LIVING UNDER A PRINCE, IF BY SOME ACCIDENT BECOMES FREE, MAINTAINS ITS LIBERTY WITH DIFFICULTY

Many examples derived from the records of ancient history will show how difficult it is for a people used to living under a Prince to preserve their liberty after they had by some accident acquired it, as Rome acquired it after driving out the Tarquins. And such difficulty is reasonable; because that people is nothing else other than a brute animal, which ((although by nature ferocious and wild)) has always been brought up in prison and servitude, (and) which later being left by chance free in a field, (and) not being accustomed to (obtain) food or not knowing where to find shelter for refuge, becomes prey to the first one who seeks to enchain it again. This same thing happens to a people, who being accustomed to living under governments of others, not knowing to reason either on public defense or offense, not knowing the Princes or being known by them, return readily under a yoke, which often times is more heavy than that which a short time before had been taken from their necks: and they find themselves in this difficulty, even though the people is not wholly corrupt; for a people where corruption has not entirely taken over, cannot but live at all free even for a very brief time, as will be discussed below: and therefore our discussions concern those people where corruption has not expanded greatly, and where there is more of the good than of the bad (spoiled). To the above should be added another difficulty, which is that the state which becomes free makes enemy partisans, and not friendly partisans. All those men become its enemy partisans who avail themselves of the tyrannical state, feeding on the riches of the Prince, (and) who when they are deprived of the faculty of thus availing themselves, cannot live content, and some are forced to attempt to reestablish the tyrancy so as to recover their authority. It does not ((as I have said)) acquire friendly partisans, for a free society bestows honors and rewards through the medium of honest and predetermined rules, and outside of which does not honor or reward anyone; and when one receives those honors and rewards as appears to them he merits, he does not consider he has any obligation to repay them: in addition to this that common usefulness which free society brings with it, is not known by anyone ((while he yet possesses it)), which is to be able to enjoy his own possessions freely without any suspicion, not being apprehensive of the honor of his womenfolk, or that of his children, and not to fear offer himself; for no one will ever confess himself to have an obligation to one who only does not offend him.

Thus ((as was said above)) a free state that has newly sprung up comes to have enemy partisans and not friendly partisans. And wanting to remedy this inconvenience and these disorders which the above mentioned difficulties bring with them, there is no remedy more powerful, nor more valid, healthy, and necessary than (was) the killing of the sons of Brutus, who, as history shows, together with other Roman youths were induced to conspire against their country for no other reason than because they could not obtain extraordinary advantages for themselves under the Consuls as under the Kings; so that the liberty of that people appeared to have become their servitude. And whoever undertakes to govern a multitude either by the way of liberty (Republic) or by the way of a Principate, and does not make sure of those who are enemies of that new institution, establishes a short lived state. It is true that I judge those Princes unfelicitous who, to assure their state when the multitude is hostile, have to take extraordinary means; for he who has only a few enemies can easily and without great scandals make sure of them, but he who has the general public hostile to him can never make sure of them, and the more cruelty he uses, so much more weak becomes his Principate; so that the best remedy he has is to seek to make the People friendly. And although this discussion departs from that written above, in speaking of a Prince here and of a Republic there, none the less in order not to have to return again to this matter I want to speak a little more.

A Prince, therefore, wanting to gain over to himself a people who are hostile to him ((speaking of those Princes who have become Tyrants in their country)), I say that they ought first to look into that which the people desire, and he will find they always desire two things: the one, to avenge themselves against those who are the cause of their slavery: the other, to regain their liberty. The first desire the Prince is able to satisfy entirely, the second in part. As to the first, there is an example in point. When Clearchus, Tyrant of Heraclea, was in exile, a controversy arose between the people and the Nobles of Heraclea, (and) the Nobles seeing themselves inferior, turned to favor Clearchus, and conspiring with him they placed him in opposition to the disposition of the people of Heraclea, and (thus) took away the liberty from the people. So that Clearchus finding himself between the insolence of the Nobles, whom he could not in any way either content or correct, and the rage of the People who could not endure having lost their liberty, he decided suddenly to free himself from the nuisance of the Nobles, and to win the people over to himself. And on this, taking a convenient opportunity, he cut to pieces all the Nobles, to the extreme satisfaction of the People. And thus, in this way, he satisfied one of the desires people had, that is, to avenge themselves. But as to the desire of the people to regain their liberty, the Prince, not being able to satisfy it, ought to examine what are the reasons that make them desire to be free, and he will find that a small part of them desire to be free in order to command, but all the others, who are an infinite number, desire liberty also as to live in security. For in all Republics in whatever manner organized, there are never more than forty or fifty Citizens of a rank to command, and because this number is small, it is an easy matter to assure oneself of them, either by taking them out of the way, or by giving them a part of so many honors as, according to their condition, ought in good part to content them. The others, to whom it is enough to live in security, are easily satisfied by creating institutions and laws which, together with his power, gives realization to the general security of the people. And when a Prince does this, and the people see that no one breaks such laws by accident, they will begin in a very short time to live in security and contentment. In example for this, there is the Kingdom of France, which lives in security from nothing else other than those Kings being bound by an infinite number of laws in which the security of his people is realized. And whoever organized that state wanted that those Kings should do ((in their own way)) with the arms and the money as they wanted, but should not be able to dispose of any other thing otherwise than by the laws that were ordained. That Prince, therefore, or that Republic, that does not secure itself at the beginning of its state, should assure itself at the first opportunity, as the Romans did. And he who should allow this to pass will repent too late of not doing that which he ought to have done. The Roman people, therefore, being not yet corrupted when they recovered their liberty, were able to maintain it, after the sons of Brutus were put to death and the Tarquins destroyed, with all those remedies and institutions which have been discussed at another time. But if that people had been corrupted, there never would have been found valid remedies, in Rome or elsewhere, to maintain it (their liberty), as we shall show in the next chapter.

CHAPTER XVII[edit]

A CORRUPT PEOPLE COMING INTO THEIR LIBERTY CAN MAINTAIN ITSELF FREE ONLY WITH THE GREATEST DIFFICULTY

I judge that it was necessary that Kings should be eliminated in Rome, or (else) that Rome would in a very short time become weak and of no valor; for considering to what (degree of) corruption those Kings had come, if it should have continued so for two or three successions, (and) that that corruption which was in them had begun to spread through its members; (and) as the members had been corrupted it was impossible ever again to reform her (the state). But losing the head while the torso was sound, they were able easily to return to a free and ordered society. And it ought to be presupposed as a very true matter that a corrupted City which exists under a Prince, even though that Prince with all his lives (family) may be extinguished, can never become free; and that rather it should happen that one Prince destroy the other, for (these people) will never be settled without the creation of a new Lord, who by his goodness together with his virtu will then keep them free: but that liberty will last only during his life time, as happened at different times in Syracuse to Dion and Timoleon, whose virtu while they lived, kept that City free: but when they died, it returned to the ancient Tyranny. But there is no more striking example to be seen than that of Rome, which after the Tarquins had been driven out, was able quickly to resume and maintain that liberty; but after the death of Caesar, Caligula, and Nero, and after the extinction of all the line of Caesar, she could not only never maintain her liberty, but was unable to reestablish it. And so great a difference in events in the same City did not result from anything else other than (the fact that) the Roman People in the time of Tarquin was not yet corrupt, and in the latter time (Caesar's) it became very corrupt. For to keep her sound and disposed to keep away from Kings at that time, it was enough to make them swear that they should never consent that any of them should ever reign in Rome; but in the time of the other (Caesar) the authority of Brutus with all the Eastern legions was not enough to keep her disposed to want to maintain that liberty which he, in imitation of the first Brutus, had restored to her. Which resulted from that corruption which the party of Marius had spread among the people, at the head of which was Caesar, who was able so to blind the multitude that they did not recognize the yoke which they themselves were placing on their necks.

And although this example of Rome is to be preferred to any other example, none the less on this proposition I want to refer to people known before our times. I say, therefore, that no incident ((although grave and violent)) can ever restore Milan or Naples to freedom, because those people are entirely corrupt. Which was seen after the death of Filippo Visconti, who, wanting to restore liberty to Milan, did not know how and could not maintain it. It was therefore a great good fortune for Rome that no sooner had these Kings become corrupt than they were driven out, and that before their corruption should pass into the vitals of that City; which corruption was the cause of the infinite tumults which took place in Rome ((men having good intentions)) (and which) did no harm, but rather benefited the Republic. And this conclusion can be drawn, that where the people is not corrupted, tumults and other troubles do no harm; but where corruption exists, well ordered laws are of no benefit, unless they are administered by one who, with extreme strength, will make them be observed until the people become good (cured); I do not know if this ever happened, or whether it be possible that it could happen; for it is seen ((as I have said a little above)) that a City coming to decadence because of the corruption of its people, if it ever happens that she is raised up again, it happens through the virtu of one man who is then living, and not by the virtu of the general public, that the good institutions are sustained: and as soon as such a one is dead, they will return to their pristine habits, as happened at Thebes, which by the virtu of Epaminondas, while he was alive, was able to maintain the form of a Republic and Empire, but after his death returned to its first disorders: the reason is this, that one man cannot live so long that the time will be enough to bring a City back to good habits which for a long time has had evil habits. And if one of very long life or two continuous successors of virtu do not restore it (the state), so one which lacks them ((as was said above)) is quickly ruined, unless it should be made to be restored through many dangers and much bloodshed. For such corruption and little inclination for a free society result from an inequality that exists in that City; and wanting to bring them to equality, it is necessary to use the most extraordinary means, which few know or want to use, as will be described in more detail in another place.

CHAPTER XVIII[edit]

IN WHAT WAY IN A CORRUPT CITY A FREE STATE CAN BE MAINTAINED, IF THERE IS ONE THERE, OR IF NOT, HOW TO ESTABLISH IT

I believe it is not outside the purpose of this discussion, nor too distant from that written above, to consider whether a free State can be maintained in a City that is corrupted, or, if there had not been one, to be able to establish one. On this matter I say that it is very difficult to do either one or the other: and although it is almost impossible to give rules ((because it will be necessary to proceed according to the degrees of corruption)), none the less, as it is well to discuss every thing, I do not want to omit this. And I will presuppose a City very corrupt, where such difficulties come to rise very fast, as there are found there neither laws or institutions that should be enough to check a general corruption. For as good customs have need of laws for maintaining themselves, so the laws, to be observed, have need of good customs. In addition to this, the institutions and laws made in a Republic at its origin when men were good, are not afterward more suitable, when they (men) have become evil. And if laws vary according to circumstances and events in a City, its institutions rarely or never vary: which results in the fact that new laws are not enough, for the institutions that remain firm will corrupt it. And in order to make this part better understood, I will tell how the Government was established in Rome, or rather the State, and the laws with which afterwards the Magistrates restrained the Citizens. The institution of the State included the authority of the People, the Senate, thy Tribunes, the Consuls, method of seeking and creating Magistrates, and the method of making laws. These institutions were rarely or never varied by events. The laws that restrained the Citizens varied, such as was the law of the Adulterers, the Sumptuary, that of Ambition, and many others, according as the Citizens from day to day became corrupt. But the institutions of the State becoming firm, although no longer good for the corrupt (people), those laws that were changed were not enough to keep men good, but would have been of benefit if with the changes of the law the institutions should have been modified.

And that it is true that such institutions in a City that had become corrupt were not good, is expressly seen in these two principal points. As to the creation of the Magistracies and the laws, the Roman People did not give the Consulship and other high offices of the City, except to those who asked for them. In the beginning these institutions were good because no one asked for these (offices) except those Citizens who judged themselves worthy, and having a refusal was ignominious: so that in order to judge himself worthy every one worked well. However, this system became pernicious in a corrupt City, for it was not those who had more virtu, but those who had more power, who asked for the Magistracies, and the less powerful ((no matter of how much virtu)) abstained from asking from fear. This evil did not come on suddenly, but by degrees, as happens with all other evils: for the Romans having subjugated Africa and Asia, and reduced almost all of Greece to their obedience, had become assured of their liberty, nor did they seem to have more enemies who should give them fear. This security, and this weakness of her enemies, caused the Roman people no longer to regard virtu in bestowing the Consulship, but graciousness, drawing to that dignity those who knew better how to handle men, not to those who knew better how to conquer their enemies: afterwards they descended from those who had more graciousness to give it to those who had more power. So that because of the defects of such institutions, the good were entirely excluded from everything. A Tribune or some other Citizen could propose a law to the people on which every Citizen could speak in favor or against it before it should be adopted. This institution was good when the Citizens were good, for it was always well that anyone who intended some good for the public was able to propose it, and it was well that everyone could speak his thoughts on it, so that the people, having listened to all sides, could then select the best. But when the Citizens had become bad such institutions became the worst, for only the powerful proposed laws, (and) not for the common liberty, but for their own power, and everyone for fear of them was not able to speak against them: so that the people came to be deceived or forced into deciding their own ruin.

It was necessary, therefore, if Rome wanted to maintain herself free in her corruption, that she should have made new institutions, just as she had made new laws in the process of her existence, for other institutions and modes of living ought to be established in a bad people as well as in a good one, nor can the form be the same in a people entirely different. But because these institutions when they are suddenly discovered no longer to be good have to be changed either completely, or little by little as each (defect) is known, I say that both of these two courses are almost impossible. For in the case of wanting to change little by little a prudent man is required who sees this evil from a distance and at its beginning. It is easily probable that no one such as these springs up in a City: and even if one should spring up he is never able to persuade others of that which he intends; for men living in one manner, do not want to change, and the more so as they do not see the evil face to face, but being shown to them as (mere) conjecture.

As to changing these institutions all at once when everyone recognizes they are not good, I say that the defect which is easily recognized is difficult to correct, for to do this it is not enough to use ordinary means, as ordinary means are bad, but it is necessary to come to the extraordinary, such as violence and arms, and before anything else to become Prince of that City, and to be able to dispose of it as he pleases. And as the re-organization of the political life of a City presupposes a good man, and the becoming of a Prince of a Republic by violence presupposes a bad man; for because of this it will be found that it rarely happens that a (good) men wants to become Prince through bad means, even though his objectives be good; or that a bad one, having become Prince, wants to work for good and that it should enter his mind to use for good that authority which he had acquired by evil means. From all the things written above, arises the difficulty or impossibility of maintaining a Republic in a City that has become corrupted, or to establish it there anew. And even if it should have to be created or maintained, it would be necessary to reduce it more to a Royal State (Monarchy) than to a Popular State (Republic), so that those men who because of their insolence cannot be controlled by laws, should be restrained by a Power almost Regal. And to want to make them become good by other means would be either a most cruel enterprise or entirely impossible; as I said above this is what Cleomenes did, who for wanting to be alone (in the Government) killed the Ephors, and if Romulus for the same reasons killed his brother and Titus Tatius, the Sabine, and afterwards they used their authority well, none the less, it ought to be noted that one and the other of these men did not have their subjects stained with that corruption of which we have discussed in this chapter, and therefore they could desire (good), and desiring it, conform their designs accordingly.

CHAPTER XIX[edit]

A WEAK PRINCE WHO SUCCEEDS AN EXCELLENT PRINCE CAN BE MAINTAINED, BUT ANY KINGDOM CANNOT BE MAINTAINED IF A WEAK ONE IS SUCCEEDED BY ANOTHER WEAK ONE

In considering the virtu and the mode of proceeding of Romulus, of Numa, and of Tullus, the first three Kings of Rome, it will be seen that Rome was favored by the greatest good fortune, having the first King most ferocious and warlike, the next quiet and religious, the third similar in ferocity to Romulus, and a greater lover of war than of peace. For it was necessary in Rome that in the beginning there should spring up an Organizer of civil institutions, but it then indeed was necessary that the other Kings should reassume the virtu of Romulus, otherwise that City would have become effeminate and prey to her neighbors. Whence it can be noted that a successor not having as much virtu as the first, is able to maintain a State which was erected by that man before him and can enjoy his labors; but if it happens either that his life is a long one, or that after him there should not spring up another who should reassume the virtu of the first one, that Kingdom of necessity will be ruined. And so, on the contrary, if two, one after the other, are of great virtu, it will often be seen that they achieve most great things and that they will rise with their fame to the heavens. David without doubt was a man most excellent in arms, in doctrine, and in judgment, and so great was his virtu, that having conquered and beaten down all his neighbors, he left a peaceful Kingdom to this son Solomon, which he was able to preserve with the arts of peace and of war, and he was able happily to enjoy the virtu of his father. But he could not thus leave it to his son Rehoboam, who not being like his grandfather in virtu, or like his father in fortune, remained heir to the sixth part of the Kingdom only with great effort. Bajazet, Sultan of the Turks, although he was more a lover of peace than of war, was able to enjoy the efforts of his father Mahomet, who having like David beaten his neighbors, left him a firm Kingdom and capable of being preserved easily with the arts of peace. But if his own son Soliman, the present lord, had been like his father and not his grandfather, that Kingdom would have been ruined: but it was seen that this man was to surpass the glory of his grandfather.

I say, therefore, through these examples, that it is possible for a weak Prince succeeding an excellent one to preserve any Kingdom, even if it should not be as that of France, which is maintained by its ancient institutions: and those Princes are weak who are not able to endure war. I conclude, therefore, with this discussion that the virtu of Romulus was so great, that it was able to give time to Numa Pompilius to be able to rule Rome with the arts of peace; but he was succeeded by Tullus, who by his ferocity reassumed the reputation of Romulus; after whom there followed Ancus, so gifted by nature that he was able to use peace and endure war. And first he addressed himself to want to hold the ways of peace, but he soon knew that his neighbors judging him effeminate esteemed him little, so that he decided that if he wanted to maintain Rome he needed to turn to war and imitate Romulus, and not Numa. Let all the Princes who have a State take example from this, that he who imitates Numa may keep it (the State) or not keep it, according as the times and fortune may turn his way; but he who imitates Romulus, and is like him armed with prudence and weapons, will keep it in any case, unless it is taken from him by an obstinate (and) excessive force. And certainly it can be though that, if Rome had not by chance had as her third King a man who had not known how to recover with arms her reputation, she would never then have been able, except with the greatest difficulty, to gain a foothold, nor to achieve the results that she did. And thus as long as she lived under Kings, she was subject to these dangers of being ruined under a weak or bad King.

CHAPTER XX[edit]

TWO CONTINUOUS SUCCESSIONS OF PRINCES OF VIRTU ACHIEVE GREAT RESULTS; AND THAT WELL ORGANIZED REPUBLICS OF NECESSITY HAVE SUCCESSIONS OF VIRTU; THEREFORE THEIR ACQUISITIONS AND EXPANSIONS ARE GREAT

After Rome had driven out her Kings, she was no longer exposed to those perils which were mentioned above, resulting from a succession of weak or bad Kings; for the highest (authority) was vested in the Consuls, who came to that Empire not by heredity or deceit or violent ambition, but by free suffrage, and were always most excellent men, from whose virtu and fortune Rome had benefited from time to time, (and) was able to arrive at her ultimate greatness in as many years as she had existed under her Kings. For it is seen that two continuous successions of Princes of virtu are sufficient to acquire the world, as was (the case of) Philip of Macedonia and Alexander the Great. A Republic ought to be able to do so much more, having the means of electing not only two successions, but an infinite number of Princes of great virtu who are successors one after the other: which succession of virtu is always well established in every Republic.