Discourses on Livy/First Book/Chapters XXXI-XL

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Discourses on Livy by Niccolò Machiavelli
First Book (Chapters XXXI-XL)

CHAPTER XXXI[edit]

THAT ROMAN CAPTAINS WERE NEVER EXTRAORDINARILY PUNISHED FOR ERRORS COMMITTED; NOR WERE THEY YET PUNISHED WHEN, BY THEIR IGNORANCE OR BAD PROCEEDINGS UNDERTAKEN BY THEM, HARM ENSUED TO THE REPUBLIC

The Romans were ((as we discussed above)) not only less ungrateful than other Republics, but were even more merciful and considerate in punishing their Captains of the armies than any other. For if their error had been from malice, they castigated them humanely: if it was through ignorance, they did not punish them but rewarded and honored them. This manner of proceeding was well considered by them, for they judged that it was of great importance to those who commanded their armies to have their minds free and prompt and without any outside regard as to how they took up their duties, that they did not want to add anything, which in itself was difficult and dangerous, believing that if these were added no one would be able to operate with virtu. For instance, they sent an army into Greece against Philip of Macedonia, and into Italy against those people who first overcame them. This Captain who was placed in charge of such an expedition would be deeply concerned of all the cares that go on behind those activities, which are grave and very important. Now, if to such cares should be added the many examples of the Romans who had been crucified or otherwise put to death for having lost the engagement, it would be impossible for that Captain, among such suspicions, to be able to proceed vigorously. Judging, therefore, that the ignominy of having lost would be a great punishment for such a one, they did not want to frighten him with other greater penalties.

As to errors committed through ignorance, here is an example. Sergius and Virginius were besieging Veii, each in charge of part of the army, of which Sergius was on the side whence the Tuscans could come, and Virginius on the other side. It happened that Sergius being assaulted by the Faliscans among other people, preferred being routed and put to flight before sending to Virginius for help: And on the other hand, Virginius waiting for him (Sergius) to be humiliated, would rather see the dishonor of his country and the ruin of the army, than to succor him. A truly bad case, and worthy to be noted, and of creating a poor conjecture of the Roman Republic, if both of them had not been castigated. It is true that where another Republic would have punished them with a capital penalty, it (Rome) punished them with a monetary fine. Which was done, not because their errors merited greater punishment, but because the Romans wanted in this case, for the reasons already mentioned, to maintain their ancient customs.

As to errors (committed) through ignorance, there is no more striking example than that of Varro, through whose temerity the Romans were routed at Cannae by Hannibal, where that Republic was brought in danger of its liberty, none the less because it was ignorance and not malice, they not only did not castigate him, but honored him, and on his return to Rome, the whole Senatorial order went to meet him, (and) not being able to thank him for the battle, they thanked him for returning to Rome and for not having despaired of Roman affairs.

When Papirus Cursor wanted to have Fabius put to death for having, against his command, combatted with the Samnites, among the other reasons which were assigned by the father of Fabius against the obstinacy of the Dictator was this, that in any defeat of its Captains, the Roman People never did that which Papirus in victory wanted to do.

CHAPTER XXXII[edit]

A REPUBLIC OR A PRINCE OUGHT NOT TO DEFER BENEFITING MEN IN THEIR NECESSITY

Although the Romans succeeded happily in being liberal to people, yet when danger came upon them from Porsenna coming to assault Rome in order to restore thy Tarquins, the Senate apprehensive of the plebs who might want to accept the Kings than to sustain a war, in order to assure themselves (of the plebs), relieved them of the salt gabelle and all other taxes, saying that the poor did much for the public benefit if they reared their children, and that because of this benefice that people should submit itself to endure siege, famine, and war: let no one who trusts in this example defer in gaming the people over to himself until the time of danger, for it will not succeed for him as it succeeded for the Romans; for the people in general will judge not to have gotten that benefit from you, but from your adversaries, and becoming afraid that once the necessity is past, you would take back from them that which by force you gave them, they will have no obligation to you. And the reason why this proceeding turned out well for the Romans was because the State was new, and not yet firm, and that the people had seen that other laws had been made before for their benefit, such as that of the appeal to the Plebs: so that they could persuade themselves that that good which was done, was not caused so much by the coming of the enemy as much as the disposition of the Senate to benefit them: In addition to this the memory of the Kings, by whom they had been ill-used and injured in many ways, was fresh. And as similar occasions rarely occur, so it rarely occurs that similar remedies do good. Therefore Republics as well as Princes ought to think ahead what adversities may befall them, and of which men in adverse times they may have need of, and then act toward them as they might judge necessary ((supposing some case)) to live. And he who governs himself otherwise, whether Prince or Republic, and especially a Prince, and then on this fact believes that if danger comes upon him, he may regain the people for himself by benefits, deceives himself, because he not only does not assure himself, but accelerates his ruin.

CHAPTER XXXIII[edit]

WHEN AN EVIL HAS SPRUNG UP EITHER WITHIN A STATE OR AGAINST A STATE, IT IS A MORE SALUTARY PROCEEDING TO TEMPORIZE WITH IT THAN TO ATTACK IT RASHLY

The Roman Republic growing in reputation, strength, and empire, its neighbors which at first had not thought how much harm that new Republic would be able to bring to them, commenced ((but too late)) to recognize their error, and wanting to remedy that which at first they had not remedied, they (arranged) for forty peoples (tribes) to conspire against Rome: whence the Romans among the usual remedies made by them in urgent perils, wanted to create a Dictator, that is, to give power to one man who, without any consultation, should be able to decide, and without any appeal should be able to execute his decisions: This remedy which formerly was useful and a means of overcoming imminent perils, was also always most useful in all those incidents which sprung up at any time against the Republic in the expansion of the Empire. On which subject it will first be discussed, that when an evil springs up either within a Republic or against a Republic, whether from intrinsic or extrinsic causes, and has become so great that it begins to make (everyone) afraid, it is a much more safe procedure to temporize with it than to try to extinguish it. For almost always those who try to crush it, make its force greater, and make that evil which is suspected from it to be accelerated. And incidents similar to these arise more frequently in a Republic from intrinsic and extrinsic causes, as it often occurs that it allows a Citizen more power than is reasonable, or the corrupting of a law is begun which is the nerve and life of a free society: and this error is allowed to run so far, that it is a more harmful procedure to want to remedy it than to let it go on. And it is so much more difficult to recognize these evils when they first arise, as it seems more natural to men always to favor the beginning of things: And such favors are accorded more to those accomplishments which have in them some virtu or are done by young men, than to any other thing: for if some young noble is seen to spring up in a Republic who has in him some extraordinary virtu, the eyes of all the Citizens begin to turn toward him, and they agree without regard (to consequences) to honor him: so that if there is any stitch of ambition in him, the assemblage of favors which nature and these incidents give him, he will soon come to a place that when the Citizens see their error, they will have few remedies to stop him, and they wanting so much to employ that which they have, do nothing other than to accelerate his power.

Of this many examples can be cited, but I want to give only one of our City (of Florence). Cosimo De'Medici, from whom the house of Medici in our City owed the beginning of its greatness, came into such reputation by the favor which his prudence and the ignorance of the other Citizens gave him, that he begun to bring fear to the State, so that the other Citizens judged it dangerous to offend him and still more dangerous to allow him to go on. But Niccolo Da Uzzano living in those times, who was held to be a man most expert in civil affairs, and having made the first error in not recognizing the dangers that could arise from the reputation of Cosimo, never permitted while he lived that a second (error) be made, that is, that it should be attempted (to want) to destroy him, judging that such an attempt would be the ruin of their State, as in fact was seen after his death; for those Citizens (who remained) not observing these counsels of his, made themselves strong against Cosimo and drove him out of Florence. Whence there resulted that, his party resentful of this injury, a little later called him back and made him Prince of the Republic, to which rank he could never have ascended without that manifest opposition. This same thing happened in Rome to Caesar who was favored by Pompey and the others for his virtu; which favor a little while later was converted to fear: to which Cicero gives testimony, saying that Pompey had too late begun to fear Caesar. Which fear caused them to think of remedies, and the remedies they took accelerated the ruin of the Republic.

I say, therefore, that since it is difficult to recognize these evils when they spring up, this difficulty caused by the deception which things give in the beginning, it is the wiser proceeding to temporize with them when they are recognized than to oppose them. For by temporizing with them, they will either extinguish themselves, or the evil will at least be deferred for a longer time. And Princes ought to open their eyes to all these things which they plan to do away with, and be careful by their strength and drive not to increase them instead of decreasing them, and not believe that by blowing at a thing, it can be done away with, or rather to suffocate the plant by blowing on it. But the force of the evil ought to be well considered, and when they see themselves sufficient to oppose it, to attack it without regard (to consequences), otherwise they should let it be, and in no way attempt it. For it will happen as was discussed above, and as it did happen to the neighbors of Rome, to whom after Rome had grown so much in power, it was more salutary to seek to placate her and hold her back with methods of peace, than with methods of war to make her think of new institutions and new defenses. For their conspiracy did nothing other than to make them united, more stalwart, and to think of new ways by which in a short time they expanded their power: Among which was the creation of a Dictator, by which new institution they not only overcame the imminent dangers, but was the cause of obviating infinite evils in which, without that remedy, that Republic would have been involved.

CHAPTER XXXIV[edit]

THE DICTATORIAL AUTHORITY DID GOOD AND NOT HARM TO THE ROMAN REPUBLIC; AND THAT THE AUTHORITY WHICH CITIZENS TAKE AWAY, NOT THOSE ARE GIVEN THEM BY FREE SUFFRAGE, ARE PERNICIOUS TO CIVIL SOCIETY

Those Romans who introduced into that City the method of creating a Dictator have been condemned by some writers, as something that was in time the cause of tyranny in Rome; alleging that the first tyrant who existed in that City commanded her under this title of Dictator, saying if it had not been for this, Caesar could not under any public (title) have imposed his tyranny. Which thing was not well examined by those who held this opinion and was believed beyond all reason. For it was not the name or the rank of Dictator that placed Rome in servitude, but it was the authority taken by the Citizens to perpetuate themselves in the Empire (government): and if the title of Dictator did not exist in Rome, they would have taken another; for it is power that easily acquires a name, not a name power. And it is seen that the Dictatorship while it was given according to public orders and not by individual authority, always did good to the City. For it is the Magistrates who are made and the authority that is given by irregular means that do injury to Republics, not those that come in the regular way. As is seen ensued in Rome where in so much passage of time no Dictator did anything that was not good for the Republic. For which there are very evident reasons: First, because if a Citizen would want to (offend and ) take up authority in an irregular manner, it must happen that he have many qualities which he can never have in an uncorrupted Republic, for he needs to be very rich and to have many adherents and partisans, which he cannot have where the laws are observed: and even if he should have them, such men are so formidable that free suffrage would not support them. In addition to this, a Dictator was made for a (limited) time and not in perpetuity, and only to remove the cause for which he was created; and his authority extended only in being able to decide by himself the ways of meeting that urgent peril, (and) to do things without consultation, and to punish anyone without appeal; but he could do nothing to diminish (the power) of the State, such as would have been the taking away of authority from the Senate or the people, to destroy the ancient institutions of the City and the making of new ones. So that taking together the short time of the Dictatorship and the limited authority that he had, and the Roman People uncorrupted, it was impossible that he should exceed his limits and harm the City: but from experience it is seen that it (City) always benefited by him.

And truly, among the other Roman institutions, this is one that merits to be considered and counted among those which were the cause of the greatness of so great an Empire: For without a similar institution, the Cities would have avoided such extraordinary hazards only with difficulty; for the customary orders of the Republic move to slowly ((no council or Magistrate being able by himself to do anything, but in many cases having to act together)) that the assembling together of opinions takes so much time; and remedies are most dangerous when they have to apply to some situation which cannot await time. And therefore Republics ought to have a similar method among their institutions. And the Venetian Republic ((which among modern Republics is excellent)) has reserved authority to a small group (few) of citizens so that in urgent necessities they can decide on all matters without wider consultation. For when a similar method is lacking in a Republic, either observing the institutions (strictly) will ruin her, or in order not to ruin her, it will be necessary to break them. And in a Republic, it should never happen that it be governed by extraordinary methods. For although the extraordinary method would do well at that time, none the less the example does evil, for if a usage is established of breaking institutions for good objectives, then under that pretext they will be broken for evil ones. So that no Republic will be perfect, unless it has provided for everything with laws, and provided a remedy for every incident, and fixed the method of governing it. And therefore concluding I say, that those Republics which in urgent perils do not have resort either to a Dictatorship or a similar authority, will always be ruined in grave incidents. And it is to be noted in this new institution how the method of electing him was wisely provided by the Romans. For the creation of a Dictator being of some discredit to the Consuls, as the Chiefs of the City had to come to the same obedience as others, (and) wanting that the authority for such election should remain in the consuls, believing that if an incident should arise that Rome would have need of this Regal power, by doing this voluntarily by themselves (Consuls), it would reflect on them less. For the wounds and every other evil that men inflict on themselves spontaneously and by choice, pain less in the long run than do those that are inflicted by others. In later times, however, the Romans, in place of a Dictator, used to give such authority to the Consul, in these words: Let the Consuls see that the Republic suffers no detriment. But to return to our subject, I conclude, that the neighbors of Rome seeking to oppress her, caused her to institute methods not only enabling her to defend herself, but enabling her with more strength, better counsels, and greater authority to attack them.

CHAPTER XXXV[edit]

THE REASON WHY THE CREATION OF THE DECEMVIRS IN ROME WAS HARMFUL TO THE LIBERTY OF THAT REPUBLIC, NOTWITHSTANDING THAT IT WAS CREATED BY PUBLIC AND FREE SUFFRAGE

The election of the Ten citizens (Decemvirs) created by the Roman people to make the laws in Rome, who in time became Tyrants, and without any regard took away her liberty, appears to be contrary to what was discussed above, that that authority which is taken by violence, not that which is given by suffrage, harms the Republics. Here, however, the methods of giving authority and the time for which it is given, ought to be considered. For when free authority is given for a long time ((calling a long time a year or more)) it is always dangerous and will produce effects either good or bad, according as those upon whom it is conferred are good or bad. And if the authority given to the Ten and that which the Dictators have are considered, it will be seen beyond comparison that that of the Ten is greater. For when a Dictator was created there remained the Tribunes, Consuls, (and) the Senate, with all their authority, and the Dictator could not take it away from them; and even if he should have been able to remove anyone from the Consulship, or from the Senate, he could not suppress the Senatorial order and make new laws. So that the Senate, the Consuls, and the Tribunes, remaining with their authority, came to be as his guard to prevent him form going off from the right road. But in the creation of the Ten all the contrary occurred, for they annulled the Consuls and the Tribunes, and they were given authority to make laws and do every other thing as the Roman People had. So that, finding themselves alone, without Consuls, without Tribunes, without the appeal to the People, and because of this not having anyone to observe them, moved by the ambitions of Appius, they were able in the second year to become insolent. And because of this, it ought to be noted that when (we said) an authority given by free suffrage never harmed any Republic, it presupposed that a People is never led to give it except with limited powers and for limited times: but when either from having been deceived or for some other reason it happens that they are induced to give it imprudently and in the way in which the Roman people gave it to the Ten, it will always happen as it did to them (Romans). This is easily proven, considering the reasons that kept the Dictators good and that made the Ten bad: and considering also how those Republics which have been kept well ordered have done in giving authority for a long (period of) time, as the Spartans gave to their King, and how the Venetians give to their Doges; for it will be seen in both these methods, guardians were appointed who watched that the Kings (and the Doges) could not ill use that authority. Nor is it of any benefit in this case that the people are not corrupted, for an absolute authority in a very brief time corrupts the people, and makes friends and partisans for itself. Nor is it harmful either to be poor or not to have relatives, for riches and every other favor quickly will run after power, as we will discuss in detail in the creation of the said Ten.

CHAPTER XXXVI[edit]

CITIZENS WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE HIGHER HONORS OUGHT NOT TO DISDAIN THE LESSER

The Romans had made Marcus Fabius and C. Manlius Consuls, and had won a glorious engagement against the Veienti and the Etruscans, in which, however, Quintus Fabius brother of the Consul, who the previous year had himself been Consul, was killed. Here, then, ought to be considered how much the institutions of that City were adept at making her great, and how much the other Republics deceived themselves in deviating (themselves) from her methods. For although the Romans were great lovers of glory, none the less they did not esteem it a dishonorable thing to obey presently those whom at another time they had commanded, and to serve in that army of which they had been Princes. Which custom is contrary to the opinion, orders, and practices of the Citizen of our times: and in Venice this error still holds that a Citizen having had a high rank would be ashamed to accept a lesser, and the City consents to them what she cannot change. Which thing, however honorable it should be for a private (citizen) is entirely useless for the public. For a Republic ought to have more hope, and more confidence in a Citizen who descends from a high rank to govern a lesser, than in one who rises from a lower rank to govern a higher one. For the latter cannot reasonably be relied upon unless he is surrounded by men, who are of such respectability or of such virtu, that his inexperience can be moderated by their counsel and authority. And if in Rome there had been the same customs as are in Venice, and other modern Republics and Kingdoms, where he who had at one time been Consul should never want to enter the army except as Consul, there would have arisen infinite things prejudicial to a free society, both because of the errors that new men would make, and because of their ambition which they could have indulged in more freely, not having men around them in whose presence they should be afraid to err, and thus they would have come to be more unrestrained, which would have resulted entirely to the detriment of the public.

CHAPTER XXXVII[edit]

WHAT TROUBLES THE AGRARIAN LAW BROUGHT FORTH IN ROME; AND HOW TROUBLESOME IT IS TO MAKE A LAW IN A REPUBLIC WHICH GREATLY REGARDS THE PAST BUT CONTRARY TO THE ANCIENT CUSTOMS OF THE CITY

It was the verdict of ancient writers that men afflict themselves in evil and weary themselves in the good, and that the same effects result from both of these passions. For whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. The reason is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction to themselves from it. From this arises the changes in their fortunes; for as men desire, some to have more, some in fear of losing their acquisition, there ensues enmity and war, from which results the ruin of that province and the elevation of another. I have made this discussion because it was not enough for the Roman Plebs to secure themselves from the Nobles through the creation of the Tribunes, to which (desire) they were constrained by necessity, that they soon ((having obtained that)) begun to fight from ambition and to want to divide with the Nobles their honors and possessions, as things more esteemed by men. From this there arose the plague that brought forth the contentions about the Agrarian law, and in the end was the cause of the destruction of the Roman Republic. And because well-ordered Republics have to keep the public (State) rich and its Citizens poor, it was apparent that there was some defect in that law in the City of Rome, which either was now drawn in the beginning in such a way that it required to be redrawn every day, or that it was so long deferred in the making that it became troublesome in regard to the past, or if it had been well ordered in the beginning, it had become corrupted in its application. So that whatever way it may have been, this law could never be spoken of in Rome without that City going upside down (from turmoil). This law had two principal articles. Through the first it provided that each Citizen could not possess more than so many jugeri of land, through the other that the fields which were taken from the enemy should be divided among the Roman people. This, therefore, came to make two strong offenses against the Nobles, for those who possessed more land than the law permitted ((of whom the Nobles were the greater part)) had to be deprived of it, and by dividing the possessions of the enemy among the Plebs, it deprived them (Nobles) that means of enriching themselves. Since this offense came to be against the powerful men, and who thought that by going against it they were defending the public, whenever ((as I have said)) this was brought up, that City would go upside-down, and the Nobles with patience and industry temporized, either by calling out the army, or by having that Tribune who proposed it opposed by another Tribune, or sometimes by yielding in part, or even by sending a Colony to that place that was to be distributed, as happened in the countryside of Antium, about which a dispute spring up from this law; a Colony drawn from Rome was sent to that place, to whom the said countryside was assigned. Concerning which Titus Livius used a notable remark, saying that it was difficult to find in Rome one who would give his name to go to the said Colony; so much more ready were the Plebs to defend the things in Rome than to possess them in Antium.

This mood concerning this law thus troubled them for a time, so that the Romans begun to conduct their armies to the extreme parts of Italy, or outside of Italy, after which time it appeared that things settled down. This resulted because the fields that the enemies of Rome possessed being far removed from the eyes of the Plebs, and in a place where it was not easy to cultivate them, became less desirable; and also the Romans were less disposed to punish their enemies in such a way, and even when they deprived them of some land from their countryside, they distributed Colonies there. So that for these reasons this law remained, as it were, dormant up to the time of the Gracchi, by whom it being revived, wholly ruined the liberty of Rome; for it found the power of its adversaries redoubled, and because of this (revival) so much hate developed between the Plebs and the Senate, that it came to arms and bloodshed beyond every civil limit and custom. So that the public Magistrates not being able to remedy them, nor either faction having further confidence in them, recourse was had to private remedies, and each of thy factions decided to appoint a chief (for themselves) who would defend them. In these troubles and disorders the Plebs came and turned to Marius with his reputations, so that they made him Consul four times; and with few intervening intervals that his Consulship continued so that he was able by himself to make himself Consul another three times. Against which plague thy Nobility, not having any remedy, turned their favor to Sulla, and having made him Head of their party, arrived at civil war, and after much bloodshed and changes of fortune, the Nobility remained superior. Later, in the time of Caesar and Pompey, these moods were revived, for Caesar making himself Head of the party of Marius, and Pompey of that of Sulla; (and) coming to arms Caesar remained superior, who became the first Tyrant in Rome, so that City was never again free.

Such, therefore, was the beginning and the end of the Agrarian law. And although elsewhere we showed that the enmity in Rome between the Senate and the Plebs should maintain Rome free, because it gave rise to those laws which favored liberty, and therefore the result of this Agrarian law may seem different from such a conclusion, I say that I do not on that account change my opinion, for so great is the ambition of the Nobles, that if it is not beaten down in various ways and means in a City, it will soon bring that City to ruin. So that if the contentions about the Agrarian law took three hundred years in bringing Rome to servitude, she would perhaps have been brought to servitude much sooner if the Plebs with this law and their other desires had not always restrained the ambitions of the Nobles. It is also to be seen from this how much more men esteem property than honors, for the Roman Nobility, always yielded without extraordinary trouble to the Plebs in the matter of honors, but when it came to property, so great was its obstinacy in defending it, that the Plebs in order to give vent to their appetites had recourse to those extraordinary proceedings which were discussed above. The movers of these disorders were the Gracchi, whose intentions should be praised more than their prudence. For to want to remove an abuse that has grown up in a Republic, and enact a retrospective law for this, is a badly considered proceeding, and ((as was discussed above at length)) does nothing else than to accelerate that evil which leads to that abuse; but by temporizing with it, either the evil comes much later, or by itself in time ((before its end comes)) it will extinguish itself.

CHAPTER XXXVIII[edit]

WEAK REPUBLICS ARE IRRESOLUTE AND DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DECIDE; AND IF THEY TAKE UP ANY PROCEEDING, IT RESULTS MORE FROM NECESSITY THAN FROM ELECTION

Because of a very great pestilence occurring in Rome, it appeared to the Volscians and the Equeans that the time had come for them to be able to attack Rome, these two people raised a large army and assaulted the Latins and the Ernicians, and their country being laid waste, the Latins and Ernicians were constrained to make it (to be) known to Rome, and pray that they might be defended by the Romans, but the Romans being afflicted by the pestilence, answered them that they should take up the proceeding of defending themselves with arms, for they were not able to defend them. In which is recognized the generosity and prudence of that Senate, that in every circumstance they always wanted to be the one that should be Prince of (make) the decisions which her subjects had to take; nor were they ever ashamed to decide something contrary to their mode of living or to other decisions previously made by them, whenever necessity should compel them. I say this, because at other times the same them, whenever necessity should compel them. I say this, because at other times the same Senate had forbidden the said people to arm and defend themselves, so that to a less prudent Senate it would then have seemed to them a falling from their dignity to concede to them this defense. But that (Senate) always judged things as they ought to be judged, and always took the less objectionable proceeding as the better; for they knew the evil of not being able to defend their subjects, and they knew also the evil of letting them arm themselves without them (the Romans), for the reasons given and many others that are understood: none the less knowing that they (thy Latins and Ernicians) had in any case armed themselves from necessity, having the enemy upon them, they took the honorable course and decided to let them do what had to be done with their permission, so that having once disobeyed from necessity, they might not accustom themselves to disobeying from choice.

And although this would appear to be a proceeding that every Republic ought to have taken, none the less weak and ill-advised Republics do not know how to assume it, nor how to gain honor in a similar necessity. The Duke of Valentino had taken Faenza and made Bologna submit to his terms. Afterwards wanting to return to Rome by way of Tuscany, he sent one of his men to Florence to ask passage for himself and his army. In Florence they consulted how this thing should be managed, but everyone counselled that it not be conceded to them. The Roman way was not followed in this, for the Duke being very well armed, and the Florentines disarmed so that they could not prohibit the passage, it was much more to their honor that it should appear that he (the Duke) passed with their permission than by force; for as it was they had nothing but shame, which would have in part been less if they had managed otherwise. But the worst part that weak Republics have, is to be irresolute; so that all the proceedings they take are taken by force, and if anything good should be done by them, they do it by force and not by their prudence. I want to give two other examples of this which occurred in our times in the State (Government) of our City in the year one thousand five hundred (1500).

King Louis XII of France having retaken Milan, wanting to restore Pisa in order to obtain the fifty thousand ducats that had been promised him by the Florentines after such restitution, he sent his armies toward Pisa captained by Monsignor De Beaumont, who, although French, was none the less a man in whom the Florentines had great confidence. This Captain placed himself and his army between Cascina and Pisa in order (to go) to assail the walls, where delaying several days to organize themselves for the capture, Pisan Orators (Ambassadors) came to Beaumont and offered to give up the City to the French army, with terms that under the pledge of the King he promise not to put them into the hands of the Florentines until four months after (the surrender). This proceeding was completely refused by the Florentines, so that after beginning the siege, it followed that (he had to raise it and) he had to retire in shame. Nor was the proceeding refused for any other reason than the mistrust of the faith of the King, into whose hands they had been forced to place themselves because of their weak counsel; and on the other hand, while they did not trust him, neither were they able to see that it would have been easier for the King to restore Pisa to them after he had gone inside the City, and if he did not restore it to expose his mind (perfidy); but not having (the City) he could promise it to them and they would be forced to buy that promise: So that it would have been much more useful to them to have consented that Beaumont should have taken it (Pisa) under any promise, as was seen in the subsequent experience in the year MDII (1502) when Arezzo having rebelled, Monsignor Imbault was sent by the King of France to the succor of the Florentines with French forces, who, arriving near Arezzo, soon began to negotiate an accord with the Arentines who were (willing) to give up the town under certain pledges similar to those (asked) by the Pisans. This proposal was rejected in Florence: when Monsignor Imbault learned of this, and it appeared to him that the Florentines little understood him, he began to hold negotiations for the treaty (of surrender) on his own without the participation of the Commissioners so that he could conclude it in his own way; and under it, he entered with his forces into Arezzo, making the Florentines understand that they were fools and did not understand the things of the world: that if they wanted Arezzo, they should let the King know, who was much better able to give it to them with his forces inside that City rather than (with them) outside. In Florence they did not cease abusing and censuring the said Imbault, nor did they stop until they realized that if Beaumont had been like Imbault, they would have had Pisa as (they had) Arezzo.

And so to return to the subject, irresolute Republics never take up good proceedings except by force; for their weakness never allows them to decide where there is any doubt, and if that doubt is not dispelled by some violence which pushes the, they always remain in suspense.

CHAPTER XXXIX[edit]

THE SAME INCIDENTS OFTEN HAPPEN TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE

And it is easily recognized by those who consider present and ancient affairs that the same desires and passions exist in all Cities and people, and that they always existed. So that to whoever with diligence examines past events, it is an easy thing to foresee the future in any Republic, and to apply those remedies which had been used by the ancients, or, not finding any of those used, to think of new ones from the similarity of events. But as these considerations are neglected or not understood by those who govern, it follows that the same troubles will exist in every time.

The City of Florence, having after the year XCIV (1494) lost part of her Empire, such as Pisa and other lands, was obliged to make war against those who occupied them: and because he who occupied them was powerful, there followed that they spent much in the war without any fruit: from the great spending there resulted great taxes, from the taxes infinite complaints from the people: and as this war was managed by a Magistracy of Ten Citizens who were called the "Ten of the War", the general public begun to hold them in aversion as those who were the cause of the war, and its expenses, and began to persuade themselves that if the said Magistracy were remoted, the path for war would be removed: so that if they had to do it (reappoint the Ten) again, they would allow their (terms) to expire without making changes and commit their functions to the Signoria. Which decision was so pernicious that it not only did not end the war as the general public had persuaded itself it would, but removed those who were managing it with prudence, and there followed so great disorders that in addition to Pisa, Arezzo, and many other places were lost: so that the people perceiving their error, (and) that the cause of the malady was the fever and not the doctor, re-established the Magistracy of the Ten.

This same mood had arisen in Rome against the (name of the) Consuls; for that people, seeing one war arise from another, and not ever being able to have any repose, where they should have believed it had arisen from the ambition of neighbors who wanted to oppress them, they thought it had arisen form the ambition of the Nobles, who, being unable to castigate the Plebs within Rome where they were defended by the power of Tribunate, wanted to lead them outside Rome (where they were) under the Consuls in order to oppress them, (and) where they would not have any aid: And because of this, they thought that it was necessary either to remove the Consuls or somehow to regulate their power, so that they should not have authority over the People either at home or abroad. The first who tried (to introduce) this law was one Terentillus, a Tribune, who proposed that there ought to be created (a Council of) five men who should examine the power of the Consuls and to limit it. This greatly excited the Nobility, as it appeared to them the majesty of the Empire would decline completely, so that no rank in that Republic would remain to the Nobility. None the less, so great was the obstinacy of the Tribunes that the dignity of the Consuls was extinguished: and after some other regulations they were finally content rather to create Tribunes with Consular power than to continue the Consuls, holding so much more in hatred their dignity than their authority. And thus they continued for a long time, until they recognized their error and returned to the Ten as the Florentines (did), (and) also re-established the Consuls.

CHAPTER XL[edit]

THE CREATION OF THE DECEMVIRATE IN ROME, AND WHAT IS TO BE NOTED IN IT; AND WHERE IT WILL BE CONSIDERED AMONG MANY OTHER THINGS HOW A REPUBLIC CAN BE SAVED OR RUINED BECAUSE OF SIMILAR ACCIDENTS

As I want to discuss in detail the incidents that arose in Rome because of the creation of the Decemvirate, it does not appear to me superfluous to narrate first all that ensued because of such creations, and then to discuss those parts which are notable (actions) in it, which are many and (worthy) of much consideration, both by those who want to maintain a Republic free as well as by those who should plan to subjugate her. For in such a discussion will be seen the many errors made by the Senate and the Plebs prejudicial to liberty, and the many errors made by Appius, Chief of the Decemvirate, prejudicial to that Tyranny which he had intended to have established in Rome. After much discussion between the People and the Nobility concerning the adoption of new laws in Rome through which the liberty of that State should be firmly established, by agreement they sent Spurius Posthumus with two other Citizens to Athens for copies of those laws that Solon gave to that City, so as to be able to base the (new) Roman laws upon them. These men having gone and returned, they arrived at the appointing of the men who should examine and establish the said laws, and they created the Decemvir (Ten Citizens) for a year, among whom Appius Claudius, a sagacious but turbulent man, was appointed. And in order that they might create such laws without any regard (to authority), they removed all the other Magistracies from Rome, and particularly the Tribunes and the Consuls, and also took away the appeal to the people: so that this new Magistracy (of the Ten) became absolute Princes (Masters) of Rome. Next Appius took over to himself all the authority of his other colleagues because of the favor he exercised toward the Plebs; for he had made himself so popular with his demonstrations, that it seemed a wonder that he should have so readily taken on a new nature and new genius, having before that time been held to be a cruel persecutor of the Plebs. These Ten conducted themselves civilly, not having more than ten Lictors who walked before the one who had been placed in charge over them. And although they had absolute authority, none the less, having to punish a Roman Citizen for homicide, they cited him before (the sight of) the People and made them judge him.

They (The Ten) wrote the laws on ten tablet, and before confirming them exposed them to the public, so that all could read and discuss them, and so that they might know if there was any defect in order to be able to amend them before confirming them. Upon this Appius caused a rumor (to be spread) throughout Rome, that, if to these ten tablets there were to be added two others, perfection would be given to them, so that this opinion gave the People the opportunity to reappoint the Ten for another year: to which the People willingly agreed, as much so as not to reappoint the Consuls, as also because they hoped to remain without Tribunes, who were the judges of their causes, as was said above. Proceedings being taken, therefore, to re-establish it (The Ten), all the Nobility moved to seek these honors, and among the first was Appius: and he showed so much humanity toward the Plebs in asking for it, that he begun to be suspected by his companions: For they could not believe so much graciousness could exist with so much haughtiness. And being apprehensive of opposing him openly, they decided to do it by artifice: and although he was the youngest of them all, they gave him the authority to propose the future Ten to the People, believing that he would observe the limitations of the others of not proposing himself, it being an unaccustomed and ignominious thing in Rome. He in truth changed the impediment into an opportunity, and nominated himself among the first, to the astonishment and displeasure of all the Nobles. He then nominated nine others to his liking. Which new appointments made for another year, begun to show their error to the People and to the Nobility. For Appius quickly put an end to his alien character, and begun to show his innate haughtiness, and in a few days he filled his colleagues with his own spirits. And in order to frighten the people and the Senate, in place of the twelve Lictors, they created one hundred and twenty. For some days the fear was equal (on both sides), but then they begun to disregard the Senate and beat the Plebs, and if any beaten by one (Decemvir) appealed to another, he was treated worse in the appeal than he had in the first instance. So that the Plebs recognizing their error began, full of affliction, to look to the Nobles, And to capture the aura of liberty, where they had feared servitude, to which condition they had brought the Republic. And this affliction was welcome to the Nobility, That likewise weary of the present, they desired the Consuls. The days that ended the year had come: the two tables of the laws were made, but not published. From this, the Ten took the opportunity to continue their Magistracy, and begun to retain the State through violence and make satellites of the Noble youth, to whom they gave the possessions of those they had condemned: By which gifts these youths were corrupted, and preferred their license to their complete liberty.

It happened at this time that the Sabines and Volscians moved war against the Romans, from the fear of which the Ten Began to discuss the weakness of their State, for without the Senate they could not wage war, and to assemble the Senate seemed to them they would lose their State. But being compelled to they took up this last proceeding, and assembling the Senate, many of the Senators spoke against the haughtiness of the Ten, and in particular Valerius and Horatius: and their authority would have been entirely extinguished except that the Senate, because of envy of the Plebs, was unwilling to show its authority, thinking that if the Ten resigned the magistracy voluntarily, it would be possible that the Tribune of the Plebs might be re-established. Deciding on war, therefore, they sent out two armies, led in part by the said Ten. Appius remained to govern the City: whereupon it happened that he became enamorated of Virginia, and wanting to take her off by force, her father Virginius killed her in order to save her from him: whence tumults ensued in Rome and in the armies, which, having come together with the remnants of the Roman Plebs, went to Mount Sacer, where they stayed until the Ten resigned the Magistracy and the Tribunes and Consuls were re-established, and Rome restored to the form of its ancient liberty.

It is to be noted from this text, therefore, that the evil of creating this Tyranny first arose in Rome for the same reasons that give rise to the greater part of Tyrannies in Cities: and this (results) from the too great desire of the people to be free, and from the too great desire of the Nobles to dominate. And if they do not agree to make a law in favor of liberty, but one of the parties throws its (influence) in favor of one man, then a Tyranny quickly springs up. The People and the Nobles of Rome agreed to create the Ten, and create them with such authority, from the desire which each of the parties had, one to extinguish to Consular office, the other (to extinguish that of) the Tribunate. The Ten having been created, it seemed to the Plebs that Appius had come to (the side of) the People and should beat down the Nobles, (and) the People turned to favor him. And when a People is led to commit this error of giving reputation to one man because he beats down those whom he hates, and if this man is wise, it will always happen that he will become Tyrant of that City. For (together) with the favor of the People he will attend to extinguishing the Nobility, and after they are extinguished he will turn to the oppression of the People until they are also extinguished; and by the time the People recognize they have become enslaved, they will not have any place to seek refuge. This is the path all those have taken who established Tyrannies in Republics: and if Appius had taken this path, his tyranny would have taken on more vitality and would not have been overthrown so readily. But he did everything to the contrary, nor could he have governed more imprudently, that in order to hold the tyranny he made enemies of those who had given it to him and who could maintain it for him, and made friends of those who were not in accord to give it to him and could not maintain it for him; and he lost those who were his friends, and sought to have as friends those who could not be his friends; for although the Nobles desired to tyrannize, yet that part of the Nobility which finds itself outside of the Tyrancy is always hostile to the Tyrant; nor can he ever win them all over to him because of the great ambition and avarice that exists in them, the Tyrant not having riches and honors enough to be able to satisfy them all. And thus Appius in leaving the People and attaching himself to the Nobles, made a most obvious error, both for the reasons mentioned above, and because, in wanting to hold a thing (government) by force, the one who does the forcing needs to be more powerful than he who is forced. Whence it arises that those Tyrants who have the general public as friends and the Nobles as enemies, are more secure, because their violence is sustained by a greater force than that of those men who have the People as an enemy and the Nobility as a friend. For with that favor (of the people) the internal forces are enough to sustain him, as they were enough for Nabis, Tyrant of Sparta, when Greece and the Roman People assaulted him; who, making sure of a few Nobles, and having the People as a friend, he defended himself with them; which he could not do if he had them as an enemy. But the internal forces of the other rank not being enough because there are few friends within it, he must seek (aid) outside. And this may be of three kinds; the one, foreigners as satellites who would guard your person; another, to arm the countryside (and) have them perform the duty that the Plebs should do; the third, to ally oneself with powerful neighbors who would defend you. Whoever has these means and observes them well, although he has the People as his enemy, is able in some way to save himself. But Appius could not accomplish this winning of the countryside over to himself, the countryside and Rome being one and the same thing, and he did not know how to do what he might have done; so that he was ruined at the outset. The Senate and the People made very great errors in this creation of the Decemvirs; for although in that discussion made above of the Dictator, that those Magistrates that are self-constituted, not those whom the People create, are harmful to liberty; none the less the People ought, when they create the Magistrates, do it in such a way that they should have some regard to becoming bad (abusing their power). But where they should have proposed safeguards for maintaining them good, the Romans removed them, (and) only created the Magistracy (of Ten) in Rome and annulled all the others because of the excessive desire ((as we said above)) that the Senate had to extinguish the Tribunes, and the Plebs to extinguish the Consuls; this blinded them so that they both contributed to such disorders. For men, as King Ferrando said, often act like certain smaller birds of prey, in whom there is so much desire to pursue their prey to which nature incites them, that they do not observe another larger bird which is above them about to kill them.

It is to be recognized through this discussion, therefore, as we proposed in the beginning, the error which the Roman people made in wanting to save their liberty, and the errors of Appius in wanting to seize the Tyrancy.