Discourses on Livy/Third Book/Chapters XV-XXI

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Discourses on Livy by Niccolò Machiavelli
Third Book (Chapters XV-XXI)

CHAPTER XV[edit]

THAT AN ARMY SHOULD HAVE ONE, AND NOT MANY, IN CHARGE, AND THAT MANY COMMANDERS ARE HARMFUL

The Fidenati having revolted, and having killed the Colony that the Romans had sent to Filene, the Roman, in order to remedy this insult, created four Tribunes with Consular power, one of whom they left to guard Rome, and the other three were sent against the Fidenati and the Veienti; who (the Tribunes), because they were divided among themselves and disunited, gained dishonor but experienced no injury. For this dishonor they themselves were the cause, the virtu of the soldiers was the cause of their not receiving injury. Whence the Romans, seeing this disaster, had recourse to the creation of a Dictator, so that one alone would restore that which three had destroyed. Whence the uselessness of many commanders in an army, or in a town that has to be defended is recognized: and Titus Livius could not more clearly state it with these forcible words: Three Tribunes with Consular power, proved how useless it was to give the conduct of the war to any; for each having his own counsel, each different from the others, they afforded the enemy (hosts) an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. And although this is a good example to prove the disorder which a plurality of commanders create in a war, I want to cite some others, both modern and ancient, to clarify this further. In the year one thousand five hundred (1500), after King Louis XII of France had retaken Milan, he sent his forces to Pisa to restore her to the Florentines; where (Florence) sent as Commissioners Giovanbattista Ridolfi and Luca Antonio Degli Albizzi. And as Giovanbattista was a man of reputation and the older (of the two), Luca left the management of everything to him: and although he did not show his ambition by opposing him, he showed it by his silence and by the indifference and contempt toward everything, so that he did not aid him in the actions in the field either with deeds or counsel, as if he had been a man of no importance. But then the very opposite was seen when Giovanbattista, because of certain incidents that occurred, had to return to Florence; then Luca remaining alone showed how much he was worth by his courage, industry, and counsel, all of which were lost as long as there was a colleague. I want again to cite in confirmation of this the words of Titus Livius, who, referring to the Romans sending of Quintus and Agrippa, his colleague, against the Equeans, tells of how Agrippa wanted the entire administration of the war be given to Quintius, and said: For the success of the administration of great things, the principal authority is to exist in one man. Which is contrary to that which is done by our Republics and Princes today, who sent more than one Commissioner or more than one Head to (different) places in order to administer them better, which created an inestimable confusion. And if the causes of the ruin of the Italian and French armies of our times should be sought, this would be found to have been the most powerful of (all the) causes. And it may be truly concluded that it is better to send only one man of prudence on an expedition, than two most valiant men together with the same authority.

CHAPTER XVI[edit]

THAT TRUE VIRTU IS DIFFICULT TO FIND IN DIFFICULT TIMES, AND IN EASY TIMES IT IS NOT MEN OF VIRTU THAT PREVAIL, BUT THOSE WHO HAVE MORE FAVOR BECAUSE OF RICHES OR (POWERFUL) RELATION

It has always been, and always will be, that rare and great men are neglected in a Republic in times of peace; for through envy of their reputation which that virtu has given them, there are in such times many other citizens, who want to be, not only their equals, but their superiors. And of this, there is a good account by Thucydides, the Greek historian, who shows that the Athenian Republic having become superior in the Peloponnesian war, and having checked the pride of the Spartans, and almost subjected all of Greece, arose in reputation so much that she designed to occupy Sicily. This enterprise came to be debated in Athens. Alcibiades and some other Citizens counselled that it be done, as they thought more of honor and little of the public good, and planning to be heads of such an enterprise. But Nicias, who was first among men of reputation in Athens, dissuaded her, and the major reason he cited in addressing the people ((as they had faith in him)) was this, that in counselling her not to undertake this war, he was counselling something that was not being done for his interest, for as long as Athens was at peace he knew there were an infinite number of men who wanted to take precedence over him, but in making war he knew no citizen would be his equal or superior. It is seen, therefore, that in Republics there is this evil of having little esteem for men of valor in tranquil times. Which thing causes them to be indignant in two ways: the one, to see themselves deprived of their rank; the other, to see unworthy men (and) of less capacity than they become their colleagues and superiors. This defect in Republics has caused much ruin, for those Citizens who see themselves deprecated undeservedly, and knowing that the reasons for it are the easy and unperilous times, endeavor to disturb the Republic by setting new wars in motion to its detriment.

And in thinking of what those remedies could be, there are two to be found: the one, to keep the Citizens poor so that their wealth and lack of virtu should not enable them to corrupt either themselves or others; the other, to organize themselves for war in a way that war may always be undertaken and that there would always be undertaken and that their would always be need for Citizens of reputation, as did Rome in her early times. For as that City always kept armies (outside) in the field, there was always a place for men of virtu; nor could rank be taken away from one who merited it, and given to one who did not merit it. For, even if this was done some time either by mistake or by way of trial, so many disorders and dangers would occur to it that they quickly returned to the true course. But other Republics, which are not organized as she (Rome) was, and who wage war only when necessity constrains them to, cannot defend themselves from such inconvenience, but rather always run into them; and disorders will always arise when that virtuous but neglected Citizen is vindictive, and has reputation and adherents in that City. And if the City of Rome was defended from this (evil) for a time, and ((after she had overcome Carthage and Antioch, as was said elsewhere)) no longer fearing war, she seemed to be able to commit (the conduct of) the armies to whoever wanted it, not regarding virtu as much as the other qualities which would obtain for him the good will of the people. For it is seen that Paulus Emilius was refused the Consulship many times, nor was he made Consul until the Macedonian war had sprung up, which being thought perilous, (the command of the army) was committed to him by the consent of all the City.

Many wars having occurred in our City of Florence after (the year) one thousand four hundred ninety four (1494), and the Florentine Citizens all having given bad proof (of their ability), by chance there was found in the City one who showed in what manner the army should be commanded; this was Antonio Giacomini: and as long as they had dangerous wars to wage, all the ambition of her citizens ceased, and he had no one as competition in the choice as Commissary and Head of the armies: but when a war was to be waged where there was no doubt (of the outcome), and where there were to be only honors and rank (obtained), many competitors were to be found; so that having to select three Commissaries to besiege Pisa, he (Antonio) was left out. And although the evil that should ensue to the public for not having sent Antonio was not evident, none the less a conjecture of it could be made most easily; for the Pisans not having provisions with which to defend themselves, would have been in such straits that they quickly would have given themselves up to the

discretion of the Florentines, if Antonio had not been there (in command). But being besieged by Heads who did not know either how to press them or force them, they were so long delayed, that the City of Florence purchased it (Pisa). Such an indignity might well have had an effect on Antonio and it was necessary that he should have been good and very patient not to have desired to avenge himself either by the ruin of the City ((he being able to)) or by the injury of some particular citizen. From which a Republic ought to guard itself, as will be discussed in the ensuing chapter.

CHAPTER XVII[edit]

THAT ONE WHO HAS BEEN OFFENDED OUGHT NOT TO BE PLACED IN ANY ADMINISTRATION AND GOVERNMENT OF IMPORTANCE

A Republic ought to take great care not to promote anyone to any important administration who has been done a notable injury by someone. Claudius Nero ((who had left the army which he had confronting Hannibal, and with a part of it went into the Marca to meet the other Consul in order to combat Hasdrubal before he could join up with Hannibal)) found himself in Spain in front of Hasdrubal, and having locked him with his army in a place where he had to fight Hasdrubal at a disadvantage to himself, or to die of hunger; but he was so astutely detained by Hasdrubal with certain proposals of an accord, that he escaped and took away his (Nero's) opportunity of crushing him. Which thing being known in Rome, the Senate and the People became greatly saddened, and he was discussed in shame throughout the entire City, not without great dishonor and indignity to him. But after having been made Consul and sent to encounter Hannibal, he took the above mentioned proceeding, which was most dangerous: so that all Rome remained troubled and in doubt until there came the news of the rout of Hasdrubal. And Claudius, afterwards being asked what the reason was why he had taken so dangerous a proceeding, in which without any extreme necessity he had almost gambled away the liberty of Rome, he answered that he had done so because he knew that if it succeeded, he would reacquire that glory that he had lost in Spain; and if he did not succeed, and their proceeding had had a contrary ending, he knew he would be avenged against that City and those Citizens who had so ungratefully and indiscreetly offended him. And if these passions could so exist in a Roman Citizen, and in those times when Rome was yet incorrupt, one ought to think how much they could exist in a Citizen of a City that was not like she was. And as similar disorders which arise in Republics cannot be given a certain (adequate) remedy, if follows that it is impossible to establish a perpetual Republic, because in a thousand unforeseen ways its ruin may be caused.

CHAPTER XVIII[edit]

NOTHING IS MORE WORTHY OF A CAPTAIN THAN TO PENETRATE THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE ENEMY

Epaminondas the Theban said nothing was more necessary and more useful for a Captain, than to know the decisions and proceedings of the enemy. And as such knowledge is difficult (to obtain), so much more praise does he merit who acts in a way that he conjectures it. And it is not so difficult to learn the designs of the enemy as it is sometimes difficult to understand his actions, and not as much his actions that he does at a distance, as those he does at the moment and near by. For it has happened many times that ((the battle having lasted until nightfall)) he who had won believed he had lost, and he who had lost believed he had won. Such an error had made men decide things contrary to the welfare of the one who made the decision; as happened to Brutus and Cassius, who by such an error lost the war, for Brutus having won on his wing, Cassius thought it had lost, and that the whole army had been routed, and despairing of his safety because of this error, killed himself. And in our times in the engagement which Francis, King of France, made in Lombardy at Santa Cecilia against the Swiss, night having fallen, that part of the Swiss who had not been broken believed themselves to have won, not knowing that the others had been routed and killed: which error caused them not to save themselves, for they awaited the morning to fight at such a disadvantage to them, that they also made another error; and this same error came near ruining the army of the Pope and of Spain, which, on the false news of victory, crossed the Po, and, if it had advanced any further, would have become prisoners of the French, who were victorious.

Such a similar error occurred in the camps of the Romans and those of the Equeans, where Sempronius the Consul with his army having come to an encounter with the enemy, and the battle having been enkindled, they fought all day until night with varying fortunes for the one and the other: the one went with the Consul, the other with one Tempanius, a Centurion, through whose virtu that day the Roman army was not entirely routed. When morning had come, the Roman Consul ((without knowing anything more of the enemy)) withdrew himself toward Rome, and the army of the Equeans did similarly; for each of these believed that the enemy had won, and therefore each one retreated without regard to leaving their encampment a prey (to the other). It happened that Tempanius, who was with the rest of the army and also retreating, learned from certain wounded of the Equeans that their Captains had departed and had abandoned their encampments; whence he, on this news, returned to the Roman encampments, and saved them, and afterwards sacked those of the Equeans, and returned to Rome victorious. Which victory ((as is seen)) consisted only in which of them first learned of the disorder of the enemy. Here it ought to be noted that it can often occur that two armies confronting themselves, are in the same disorder, and suffering from the same necessity; and he will become the victor who is the first to learn of the necessity of the other.

I want to give a domestic and modern example of this. In the year one thousand four hundred ninety eight (1498), when the Florentines had a big army before Pisa and pressed that city strongly; the Venetians having undertaken its protection and seeing no other way of saving her, decided to make a diversion from that war by assaulting from another side the dominion of the Florentines, and raising a powerful army, they entered it by was of the Val Di Lamona, and occupied the Borgo Di Marradi, and besieged the Rock (Fort) of Castiglione, which is on the top of the hill. The Florentines hearing of this, decided to succor Marradi, without diminishing the force they had before Pisa: and raising new infantry and organizing new cavalry forces, they sent them there, of which the heads were Jacopo Quarto D'Appian, Lord of Piombino, and the Count Rinuccio Da Marciano, When these forces were brought to the hill above Marradi, the enemy (Venetians) withdrew from around Castiglione and retired into the Borgo: and both of these armies having been facing each other for several days, both suffered from (lack of) provision and every other necessary thing; and one not daring to face the other, nor one knowing of the disorganization of the other, both decided to raise their camp the following morning and withdraw, the Venetians toward Berzighelli and Faenza, the Florentines toward Casaglia and the Mugello. When morning came, therefore, and each of the camps had commenced to send away its baggage, by chance a woman departed from the Borgo Da Marradi, and came toward the Florentine camp, being secure because of her old age and poverty, and desired to see certain of her people who were in the camp: from whom the Captains of the Florentine forces learning that the Venetian camp was departing, they were encouraged by this news, and changing their counsel, went after them, as if they had dislodged the enemy; and wrote to Florence that they had repulsed (the Venetians) and won the war. Which victory did not result from anything else other than to have learned before the enemy that they were departing, which news, if it had first gone to the other side, it would have had the same result against us.

CHAPTER XIX[edit]

WHETHER OBSEQUIES ARE MORE NECESSARY THAN PUNISHMENT IN RULING A MULTITUDE

The Roman Republic was disturbed by the enmity between the Nobles and the Plebs: none the less, when a war occurred (to them), they sent out Quintius and Appius Claudius with the armies. Appius, because he was cruel and rude in commanding, was ill obeyed by his soldiers, so that being almost overcome he fled from his province. Quintius, because he was if a benign and humane disposition, had his soldiers obedient to him, and brought back the victory. Whence it appears that it is better to be humane than haughty, gentle than cruel, when governing a multitude. None the less, Cornelius Tacitus ((with whom many other writers are in agreement)) in one of his opinions concludes the contrary, when he says: In governing the multitude Punishment is worth more than Obsequies. And in considering if it is possible to reconcile both of these opinions, I say that you have to rule men who ordinarily are colleagues, or men who are always your subjects. If they are your colleagues, punishment cannot entirely be used, nor that severity which Cornelius recommends: and as the Roman Pleb had equal sovereignty with the Nobility in Rome, anyone who had temporarily become a Prince could not manage them with cruelty and rudeness. And many times it is seen that better results were achieved by the Roman Captains who made themselves beloved by the armies, and who managed them with obsequies, than those who made themselves extraordinarily feared, unless they were already accompanied by an excessive virtu, as was Manlius Torquatus: But he who commands subjects ((of whom Cornelius talks about)), ought to turn rather to punishment than to gentleness, so that they should not become insolent and trample on you, because of your too great easiness. But this also ought to be moderate so that hatred is avoided, as making himself hated never returns good to a Prince. And the way of avoiding (hatred) is to let the property of the subjects alone; as to blood ((when one is not under the desire of rapine)), no Prince desires it unless it is necessary, and this necessity rarely arises; when it is mixed with rapine, it always arise, nor will there ever be reasons and the desire for shedding it lacking, as has been discussed at length in another treatise on this matter. Quintius, therefore, merits more praise than Appius; and the opinion of Cornelius within his own limitations, and not in the cases observed by Appius, merits to be approved. And as we have spoken of punishment and obsequies, it does not appear to me superfluous to show that an example of humanity can influence the Faliscians more than arms.

CHAPTER XX[edit]

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW HUMANITY DID INFLUENCE THE FALISCIANS MORE THAN ALL THE POWER OF ROME

When Camillus was with his army around the City of The Faliscians, and besieging it, a (school) teacher of the more noble children of that City, thinking to ingratiate himself with Camillus and the Roman people, under pretext of exercising them, went with them outside the City and led them all to the camp before Camillus, and presenting them to him said, that by means of them (the children) that town would be given into his hands: Which offer was not only not accepted by Camillus, but having had the teacher stripped and his hands bound behind his back, put a rod into the hands of each of the children, made him be beaten by them back to the town. When this was learned by those citizens, they liked the humanity and integrity of Camillus so much, that they decided to give up the town to him without wanting to defend themselves further. Whence it is to be observed by this true example how some times an act of humanity and full of charity can have more influence on the minds of men, than a ferocious and violent act; and that many times that province and that City, which, with arms, instruments of war, and every other human power, could not be conquered, was conquered by an example of humanity, of mercy, of chastity, or of generosity. Of which there are many other examples in the histories ((in addition to this)). And it is seen that Roman arms could not drive Pyrrhus out of Italy, but the generosity of Fabricus in making known to him the offer which his familiar (servant) had made to the Romans of poisoning him, did drive him out. It is also seen that the capture of New Carthage in Spain did not give Scipio Africanus so much reputation, as that example of chastity gave him, of having restored the young beautiful wife untarnished to her husband, the fame of which action made all Spain friendly to him. It is also to be seen how much people desired this virtu in great men, and how much it is praised by writers, and by the biographers of Princes, and by those who describe how they should live. Among whom Xenophon makes a great effort to show how many honors, how many victories, how much fame came to Cyrus by his being humane and affable, and by his not giving example of himself either of cruelty or haughtiness, or of luxuriousness, or of any other vice which stains the lives of men. Yet, none the less, seeing that Hannibal had acquired great victories and fame by contrary means, it appears proper to me to discuss in the following chapter whence this happens.

CHAPTER XXI[edit]

WHENCE IT HAPPENED THAT HANNIBAL, WITH A DIFFERENT METHOD OF PROCEEDING THAN SCIPIO, ACHIEVED THE SAME RESULT IN ITALY AS THE LATTER (DID IN SPAIN)

I think that some can marvel to see some Captains, not withstanding that they have employed contrary methods, to have none the less achieved the same results as those who have employed the methods described above; so that it appears the cause for victories does not depend on the aforesaid reason, rather it appears that those methods do not render you more powerful or more fortunate, as you are able by contrary methods to acquire glory and reputation. And so that I do not leave the above mentioned men, and to clarify more what I have wanted to show, I say that it is seen that as soon as Scipio entered Spain, he quickly made himself a friend of that province, and with that humanity and goodness of his, was adored and admired by the People. The contrary is seen when Hannibal entered Italy, and with every contrary method, that is, with violence, cruelty, rapine, and every kind of perfidy, obtained the same result that Scipio did in Spain; for all the Cities of Italy rebelled in favor of Hannibal, and all the people followed him. And in considering why this should result, many reasons are seen. The first is, that men are desirous of new things, which most of the times are desired as much by those who are well off as by those who are badly off; for ((as had been said another time, and is true)) men get tired of the good, and afflict themselves with the bad. This desire, therefore, opens the door to anyone in a province, who is the head of an innovation; and if he is a foreigner they run after him, if he is a provincial they surround him, favoring him and increasing his influence. So that in whatever way he proceeds, he will succeed in making great progress in those areas. In addition to this, men are pushed by two main things, either by love or by fear; so that he who makes himself loved commands as well as he who makes himself feared, although most of the times he who makes himself feared, although most of the times he who makes himself feared will be followed and obeyed (more readily) than he who makes himself loved. It matters little, therefore, to any Captain by which of these ways he proceeds, as long as he is a man of virtu, and that that virtu makes him reputed among men. For when this is great, as it was with Hannibal and Scipio, it cancels all those errors which are made either from making oneself loved too much or from making oneself feared too much. For from both of these two methods great evils may arise and apt to cause a Prince to be ruined. For he who desires too much to be loved becomes condemned every little he departs from the true path: the other who desires too much to be feared, becomes hated every little that he goes too far in that manner. And holding to the middle path cannot be done, because our nature does not permit this. But it is necessary to mitigate these extremes by an excessive virtu, as did Hannibal and Scipio. None the less it is seen that both of them were both hurt as well as exalted by this method of proceeding of theirs.

The exaltation of these two has been mentioned. The harm concerning Scipio, was that his soldiers in Spain rebelled with part of his friends, which resulted from nothing else other than they did not fear him: for men are so restless that with every little opening of the door to their ambitions, they quickly forget all the love that they had for the Prince because of his humanity, as the aforesaid soldiers and friends did; so that Scipio in order to remedy this evil was constrained to employ some of that cruelty which he had avoided. As to Hannibal, there is no particular example where his cruelty and perfidy caused him to be harmed. But it can indeed he presumed that Naples and many other towns which remained faithful to the Roman people, remained so because of fear of them (his cruelty and perfidy). This much is seen, that that method of his of acting unmercifully made him more odious to the Roman people than any other enemy which that Republic ever had. So that while they informed Pyrrhus ((while he was with the army in Italy)) of he who wanted to poison him, yet they never forgave Hannibal ((though disarmed and a fugitive)), so much so that they caused him to kill himself. This disaster happened to Hannibal, therefore, because of his being held unmerciful, cruel, and a breaker of the faith; but, on the other hand, he derived a great advantage from it, which is admired by all the writer, that in his army ((even though composed of various races of men)) there never arose any dissension, either among themselves, or against him. This could not derive from anything else other than from that terror which arose from his person, which was so great, and combined with that reputation which his virtu gave him, that he kept his soldiers quiet and united.

I conclude, therefore, that it does not matter much in what way a Captain proceeds, as long as there is in him such great virtu that it permits him to succeed with either method: for ((as has been said)) there are dangers and defects in both these methods, unless corrected by an extraordinary virtu. And if Scipio and Hannibal, one by praiseworthy means, the other by detestable ones, obtained the same results, it does not appear proper to me to omit the discussion also of two Roman Citizens who acquired the same glory by different methods, though both praiseworthy.