Discourses on Livy/Third Book/Chapters XXII-XXVIII

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Discourses on Livy by Niccolò Machiavelli
Third Book (Chapters XXII-XXVIII)



There were in Rome at the same time two excellent Captains, Manlius Torquatus and Valerius Corvinus, who, of equal virtu and of equal triumphs and glory, were living in Rome; and each of them, as far as pertained to the enemy, acquired them by equal virtu, but, as far as pertained to the armies and their treatment of soldiers, they proceeded most differently; for Manlius commanded his with every kind of severity, (subjecting them) without intermission to hard work and punishment; Valerius, on the other hand, treated them with every kind and degree of humanity, and full of affability. Thus it is seen that in order to obtain the obedience of his soldiers, one put to death even his own son, and the other never harmed anyone. None the less, in such difference of procedure, each reaped the same fruit, both against the enemy and in favor of the Republic, as well as in their own interests. For no soldier refused to fight, or rebelled against them, or was in any way opposed to their will; although the commands of Manlius were so harsh that all other decrees which exceeded the ordinary were called Manlian Decrees. Here it is to be considered, first, whence it came that Manlius was constrained to proceed so rigidly; next, whence it happened that Valerius was able to proceed so humanely; another, what was the reason that these different methods obtain the same result; and lastly, which of them is it better and more useful to imitate.

If anyone well considers the nature of Manlius, from when T. Livius began to make mention of him, he will see him a very strong man, gentle toward his father and his country, and most respectful to his elders. These things we know from the defense of his father against a Tribune, and from the slaying of that Gaul, and how before he went to fight the Gaul he went to the Consul with these words: I will never fight the enemy without your order, not even if certain victory is in view. When a man thus constituted comes to the rank of command, he desires to find all men like himself, and his strong spirit makes his commands as strong, and these same ((once they are commanded)) he wants observed. And it is a true ruler, that when harsh things are commanded, they must be made to be observed with harshness, otherwise you will find yourself deceived. Here it is to be noted that in wanting to be obeyed, it is necessary to know how to command, and those who know how to command are those who make a comparison of their strength with that of those who have to obey; and when they are seen to be in proper proportion, then they command, when out of proper proportion, they abstain. And, therefore, it was said by a prudent man, that to hold a Republic by violence it must be necessary that there be a proper proportion between he who forces and he who is forced. And anytime this proportion exists, it can be believed that that violent (regime) will endure. But when the oppressed is stronger than the oppressor, it can be feared that the violent (regime) should cease any day.

But returning to our discussion, I say that to give vigorous orders, one must be strong, and he who is of this strength and commands them, cannot then make them to be observed by gentle means: But he who is not of this strength of mind ought to guard himself from extraordinary decrees; but in the ordinary ones he can use his humanity, for ordinary punishments are not imputed to a Prince, but to laws and institutions. It ought therefore, to be believed that Manlius was constrained to proceed so rigorously by the extraordinary decrees of his, to which his nature inclined him, and which are useful in a Republic as it brings her back to her ancient virtu. And if one Republic should be so fortunate as to have often ((as we said above)) men who by their example restore the laws, and not only retain those which should not incur her ruin, but carry her in the opposite direction and perpetuate her existence. So that Manlius was one of those who by the harshness of his decrees retained the military discipline in Rome, constrained first by his nature, then by the desire he had for the observance of those (orders) which his natural temperament had made ordinary for him. On the other hand, Valerius was able to proceed humanely, as one to whom it sufficed that those things be observed which customarily were observed in the Roman armies. Which custom ((because it was good)) was enough to have him honored, and was not hard to be observed, and did not necessitate Valerius punishing the transgressors, as much because there weren't any, as also, if there were any, they imputed ((as was said)) their punishment to the ordinances and not to the cruelty of the Prince. So that Valerius was able to arouse in himself every humaneness, from which he acquired the good will of his soldiers and their contentment. Whence it happens that both obtaining the same obedience, they were able to act differently and obtain the same results. Those who may want to imitate these men can be exposed to those vices of contempt and hatred, which as I have said above of Scipio and Hannibal, can be avoided by an excessive virtu which is in you, and not otherwise.

It remains now to be considered which of these methods of proceeding is more laudable, and this I believe is disputable, as writers praise both methods. None the less, those who write about how a Prince has to govern approach more toward Valerius than to Manlius, and Xenophon whom I have quoted before, in giving many examples of the humaneness of Cyrus, greatly conforms to what T. Livius says of Valerius. For when he was made Consul against the Samnites, and the day arriving when he was to do battle, he spoke to his soldiers with that humanity with which he governed them, and after relating this speech T. Livius says these words. No other leader was so familiar with his soldiers, sharing all burdens cheerfully, amongst even the lowest soldiers. In military exercises, he contested equally with his men, in tests of speed, and whether he won or was defeated, it was the same to him; nor did he ever object to any one who offered; in his actions he was benign in all things; in speech, he was no less concerned with the liberty of others, as of his own dignity; and in the arts of the magistrate, he acted as if he was their petitioner ((even though not of the people)). T. Livius similarly speaks honorably of Manlius, showing that the severity in putting his son to death made the army so obey the Consul, that it was the cause of the Roman people obtaining the victory over the Latins; and in fact he goes on to praise him, that after such a victory, he describes all the orders of battle and shows all the dangers to which the Roman people were exposed, and the difficulties that were encountered in the winning, and makes this conclusion, that only the virtu of Manlius gave the victory to the Romans: And making a comparison of the strengths of both armies, he affirms that the portion which had Manlius as Consul had gained the victory. So that considering everything that the writers have said, it is difficult to judge. None the less, so as not to leave this part undecided, I say, that in a citizen who lives under the laws of a Republic, I believe the procedure of Manlius is more praiseworthy and less dangerous, because this method is all in favor of the public, and does not regard in any part private ambitions; for by such a method, partisans cannot be acquired; showing himself harsh to everyone and loving only the common good, a (commander) does not acquire particular friends ((as we said above)), such as we call partisans, So that such methods of procedure cannot be more useful or of more value in a Republic, as it does not lack usefulness to the public, and there not being able to be any suspicion of private power. But in the method of procedure of Valerius the contrary is the case; for although the same effects are produced as far as the public is concerned, none the less, many apprehensions spring up because of the particular (individual) good will which he acquires with the soldiers having, in a long rule, had effects against (public) liberty. And if these bad effects did not happen with (Valerius) Publicola, the reason was that the minds of the Romans were not yet corrupt, and he had not been long and continuously governing them.

But if we have to consider a Prince, as Xenophon considers it, we must come near to Valerius in everything, and leave Manlius; for a Prince ought to seek obedience and love in his soldiers and subjects. Obedience will obtain for him their observance of the ordinances, and his being held a man of virtu: love will give him that affability, humanity, mercy, and all those other qualities which existed in Valerius, and which Xenophon writes also existed in Cyrus. For, a Prince being individually greatly desired, and having the army as his partisan, conforms with the other interests of the State. But in a citizen who has the army as his partisan, this part does not conform to the other institutions, which cause him to live under the laws and obey the Magistrates. Among the other ancient history of the Venetian Republic, it is to be read that when the Venetian galleys returned to Venice, a certain difference arose between the men of the galleys and the people, whereupon it came to tumults and arms; and the matter not being able to be quelled, either by the power of the ministers, or by the respect for the (principal) citizens, or by fear of the Magistrates, but as soon as a Gentleman who had been their captain the previous year appeared before the sailors, because of their love for him, they departed and left the fight. Which obedience excited the suspicions of the Senate so much, that soon afterwards the Venetians assured themselves of him by imprisonment and putting him to death.

I conclude, therefore, that the procedure of Valerius is useful in a Prince, but pernicious in a citizen, not only towards the country, but towards himself: to the country because these methods prepare the way for Tyranny: to himself, because his city becoming suspicious of the method of his proceeding, is constrained to assure itself with injury to him. And, on the other hand, I affirm the procedure of Manlius to be harmful in a Prince, but useful in a citizen and especially to the country; and although it rarely harms him, unless this hatred which it engenders be made more severe by the suspicions which your other virtues and great reputation inspire, as we will discuss below (speaking) of Camillus.



We have concluded above that proceeding as Valerius did is harmful to the country and to oneself, and proceeding as Manlius did is beneficial to the country, but sometimes harmful to oneself. This is very well proved by the example of Camillus, who in his proceedings resembled Manlius rather than Valerius. Whence T. Livius, speaking of him, says that He was hated by the soldiers, but was admired for his virtues, what kept him admired was the solicitude, the prudence, the greatness of mind, that good organization he observed in the operation and the command of the armies. What made him admired was his being more severe in castigating them than liberal in rewarding them. And T. Livius cites these reasons for the hatred: the first, that the money which was brought in from the goods of the Veienti which were sold, he applied to the public (treasury) and did not divide it with the plunder: the other, that in the triumph he had his triumphal carriage drawn by four white horses, where they said that from pride he had wanted to rival the sun: the third, that he made a vow to give Apollo the tenth part of the plunder from the Veienti, and which ((wanting to satisfy the vow)) he had to take from the hands of the soldiers who had already appropriated it.

Here those things can surely and easily be noted which make a Prince odious to his people, the principal one of which is to deprive them of something useful to them: which thing is of the greatest importance, because when a man is deprived of those things which are useful in themselves, he never forgets it, and every least necessity makes him remember; and because necessities happen every day, they remind you of them every day. The other thing is to appear haughty and presumptuous, which cannot be more odious to a people, and especially to a free people. And although this pomp and pride may not give rise to any inconvenience to them, none the less, it makes those who use them to be hated. From which a Prince ought to guard against as from a rock; for to draw hatred upon himself without profit to him, is entirely reckless and imprudent.



If the proceedings of the Roman Republic is considered well, two things will be seen to have been the causes of the dissolution of that Republic: the one was the contentions that arose from the Agrarian law, the other the prolongation of the (military) Commands; if these matters had been well understood from the beginning, and proper remedies taken she would have existed free longer, and perhaps more tranquil. And although it is seen that the prolongation of Commands never caused any tumult to arise, none the less facts show how much that authority which the citizens took because of such decisions was harmful to the City. And if the other citizens for whom the Magistracy was prolonged had been wise and good, as was L. Quintius, this inconvenience would not have incurred. His goodness is a notable example; for when the terms of an accord were completed between the Plebs and the Senate, and the Plebs having prolonged the Commands of the Tribunes for a year, because they judged it would help to enable them to resist the ambitions of the Nobles, the Senate wanted, in competition with the Plebs not to appear less (powerful) than they, to prolong the Consulship of L. Quintius; but he completely negated this decision, saying that they should seek to destroy the evil example not to increase their number with other worse examples, and he desired they create new Consuls. If this goodness and prudence had existed in all the Roman citizens, they would never have allowed that custom of prolonging the Magistracies to be introduced, which in time ruined that Republic.

The first to whom the Command was extended was P. Philo, who being at the siege of the City of Paleopolis, and the end of his Consulship having arrived, and as it appeared to the Senate that he had the victory in hand, they did not send him a successor but made him Proconsul. So that he was the first Proconsul. Which thing ((although it was moved by the Senate as being useful to the public)) was what in time brought Rome to servitude. For the further away the Romans sent their armies (from Rome), so much more did such prolongations appear necessary, and the more they employed them. This caused two evils. The one, that a smaller number of men were given experience in the Command (of armies), and, because of this, reputation (authority) came to be restricted to a few: the other, that a citizen being a command of an army for a long time, he gained it over to himself and made it his partisan, for that army in time forgot the Senate and recognized him as chief. Because of this Sulla and Marius were able to find soldiers willing to follow them against the public good. Because of this Caesar was able to seize the country. Thus, if the Romans had not prolonged the Magistracies and Commands, although she would not have come to so great power, and her conquests would have been slower, she would also have come to her servitude more slowly.



We have argued elsewhere that the most useful thing which is established in a republic is that its Citizens are to be kept poor. And although there did not appear to be those ordinances in Rome which would have that effect ((the Agrarian law especially having had so much opposition)) none the less, from experience, it is seen that even after four hundred years after Rome had been founded, there still existed a very great poverty; nor can it be believed that any other great institution caused this effect than to observe that poverty did not impede the way (to you) to any rank or honor, and that merit and virtu could be found in any house they lived in. Which manner of living made riches less desirable. This is manifestly seen when the Consul Minitius with his army was besieged by the Equeans, Rome was full of apprehension that the army should be lost, so that they had recourse to the creation of a Dictator, their last remedy in times of affliction. And they created L. Quintius Cincinnatus (Dictator), who was then to be found on his little farm, which he worked with his own hands. Which event is celebrated in words of gold by T. Livius, saying, Let everyone not listen to those who prefer riches to everything else in the world and who think there is neither honor nor virtu where wealth does not flow. Cincinnatus was working on his little farm, which did not exceed beyond four jugeri, when the Legate came from Rome to announce to him his election to the Dictatorship, and to show him in what peril the Roman Republic found itself. He put on his toga, went to Rome and gathered an army, and went to liberate Minitius; and having routed and despoiled the army, and freed that man (Minitius), he did not want the besieged army to share in the booty, saying these words to them: I do not want you to share in the booty of those to whom you had been about to become prey; and he deprived Minitius of the Consulship, and made him Legate, saying to him: You will remain in this grade until you have learned to be Consul.

He (Cincinnatus) had made L. Tarquinius master of his cavalry, who because of his poverty fought on foot. It is to be noted here ((as has been said)) the honor which was given to poverty in Rome, and how to a good and valiant man, as was Cincinnatus, four jugeri of land was enough to support him. Which poverty was also seen (to be honored) in the times of Marcus Regulus, for when he was in Africa with the armies, he asked permission of the Senate to be able to return to look after his farm, which was being spoiled by his laborers. Here two notable things are to be observed: one, how they were content to remain in such poverty, and that it was enough for those citizens to obtain honors from war, and to leave all the useful things to the public; for if they thought of enriching themselves from the war, they would have given little concern to their fields being spoiled. The other is to consider the generosity of spirit of those citizens who, when placed in charge of an army, rose above every Prince through the greatness of their souls; they not esteeming Kings or Republics, nor did anything dismay or frighten them, and afterwards when they returned to private life, they became frugal, humble, carers of their small facilities, obedient to the Magistrates, reverent to their elders, so that it appears almost impossible that the same mind should be able to bear such changes. This poverty lasted even up to the times of Paulus Emilius, which were about the last of the happy times of that Republic, when a citizen who had enriched Rome with his triumph, none the less kept himself poor. And so much was this poverty still esteemed, that Paulus in honoring those who conducted themselves well in the war, presented his son-in-law with a silver cup, which was the first (piece of) silver that came into his house.

And I could demonstrate with a long discussion how many better fruits are produced by poverty than are by riches; and that the first has honored Cities, Provinces, Sects, while the other has ruined them, — if this matter had not been many times illustrated by other men.



A difference arose in the City of Ardea between the Patricians and the Plebians, because of a marriage contract, in which an heiress about to be married, was asked for at the same time by a Plebeian and a Noble; and as she did not have a father, her guardians wanted to unite her to the Plebeian, her mother to the Noble: and such a tumult arose from this that they came to arms; in which all the Nobility armed themselves in favor of the Noble, and all the Plebeians in favor of the Plebeian. So that the Plebs being overcome, they went out from Ardea and sent to the Volscians for aid, while the Nobles sent to Rome. The Volscians arriving first, surrounded Ardea and besieged it. When the Romans arrived, they shut in the Volscians between the town and themselves, so that they constrained them ((being pressed by hunger)) to surrender themselves at discretion. And when the Roman entered the City, they put to death all the heads of the sedition, and restored order in that City. There are several things to note in this text. First it is seen that Women have been the cause of many ruinations, and have done great damage to those who govern a City, and have caused many divisions in them: and ((as has been seen in our history)) the excess committed against Lucretia deprived the Tarquins of their State; and the other committed against Virginia deprived the Ten (Decemvirs) of their authority. And Aristotle, among the first causes of the ruin of the Tyrants, places the injury they committed on Women, either by seduction, by violence, or corruption of marriages, as we have discussed this subject at length in the Chapter in which we treated of Conspiracies.

I say, therefore, that absolute Princes and governors of Republics do not have to take little account of this subject, but ought to consider the disorders which may arise from such incidents, and remedy them in time that it does not injure and disgrace their State or Republic; as happened to the Ardeans, who, for allowing the rivalry to increase among their citizens, were led to become divided among themselves, and wanting to reunite, had to send for outside succor, which is a great beginning to a sure servitude. But let us come to another notable way of reuniting a City, of which we will treat in the next chapter.



From the example of the Roman Consuls who reconciled together the Ardeans, the method is to be noted of how a divided City ought to have its order restored, which is none other than to kill the leaders of the tumults, and it is not otherwise to be cured, and it is necessary to take one of three ways: either to kill them as the Romans did, or to remove them from the City, or for them to make peace together under an obligation not to offend each other again. Of these three methods this last is the most harmful, less certain, and more useless; for it is impossible where much blood has run or other similar injuries inflicted that a peace made by force should endure; for seeing themselves together face to face each day, it is difficult that they should abstain from injuring each other, as new causes for quarrel can arise among themselves because of their intercourse every day. A better example of this cannot be given than that of the City of Pistoia.

Fifteen years before, that City was divided ((as it is now)) into the Panciatichi and Cancellieri, but at that time they were under arms, and today they have laid them down. And after many disputes among themselves they came to bloodshed, to the razing of houses, at plundering possessions, and to every other kind of enmity. And the Florentines who had to restore order to them, always employed this third method, and always there arose serious tumults and troubles: so that, becoming weary they came to employ the second method of removing the Leaders of the parties, of whom some they imprisoned and others they exiled to various places, in order that accord could exist, and has existed to this day. But without doubt, the most secure would have been the first method. But as this has need of power and courage, a weak Republic does not know how to accomplish it, and they go so far afield, that the effort required induces them to the second method.

And these are some of those errors, of which I spoke in the beginning, that the Princes of our time make, who, when they have to judge serious matters, ought to want to see how the ancients governed who had to judge in similar cases. But the weakness of present day men, caused by their feeble education and little knowledge of affairs, makes them regard the ancient judgments as partly inhuman, partly impossible of application. And certainly their modern opinions are very far from the truth, as those which the wise men of our City said at one time, that is, That it was necessary to hold Pistoia by parties, and Pisa by fortresses: and they do not see how useless are both of these methods. I want to omit talking of fortresses, as we have talked of them above at length, but I want to discuss the uselessness that results from the holding of towns by having a divided government. First it is impossible for a Prince or a Republic to maintain both old parties. For, by nature it is given to men to take sides in any difference of opinion, and for them to prefer the one more than the other. So that, having one party of the town discontented, the first occasion of war will cause you to lose it, for it is impossible to guard a City that has enemies outside and inside. If it is a government of a Republic, there is no better way to make your citizens bad, and to make your City divided, than to have a division of parties in the City; for each side seeks to obtain aid, and by corruption of every king to make friends for themselves. So that two very great evils arise. The one, that you do not make friends of them because you are not able to govern well, often changing the government, now with one humor, now with another. The other, that such favoring of parties of necessity keeps your Republic divided. And Biondo (the historian) speaking of the Florentines and Pistoians gives testimony when he says, While the Florentines were endeavoring to reunite Pistoia, they divided themselves. The evils that arise from such division, therefore, can easily be seen. In the year one thousand five hundred and one (1501) when Arezzo was lost, and all the Val Di Tevere and Val Di Chiana were occupied by the Vitelli and the Duke Valentino, there came a Monsignor Di Lante sent by the King of France to cause a restitution to be made of all the towns they had lost; and Lante finding in the castles only men who, in visiting them, said they were of the party of Marzocco[1], censured this division most severely, saying that, if in France any one of the subjects should say he was of the King's party, he would be castigated, because such a remark would signify nothing else other than there should be forces hostile to the King in that town, and that the King wanted all the towns to be friendly, united, and without parties. But all these methods and opinions that differ from the truth, arise from the weakness of those who are the Lords, who, seeing they are unable to hold the State by force and virtu, turn to similar expedients, which some times in times of tranquillity may be of some benefit, but with the advent of hard times, their fallacy is demonsrated.



The City of Rome was afflicted by a famine, and as the public provisions were not enough to end it, one Spurius Melius, who was very rich according to those times, had the mind of privately making a provision of grain and feed the plebs at his expense. For which thing a great assembly of people gave him their favor, that the Senate thinking of the evil that could arise from that liberality of his, and in order to suppress it before it should gather greater strength, created a Dictator against him, who had him put to death. Here it is to be noted that many times actions that appear merciful, and which cannot be reasonably condemned, may become cruel, and very dangerous to a Republic if not corrected at the proper time. And to discuss this matter in more detail, I say that a Republic cannot exist without Citizens of repute, nor govern itself well in any way. On the other hand, the reputation of such Citizens is the cause of tyranny in Republics. And in order to regulate this thing, it (the Republic) needs to be so organized, that the reputation of Citizens be based on the benefits it gives to the City and not on any harm to it and its liberty. And, therefore, the methods with which they assume reputation ought to be examined, and these, in effect, are two, either public or private. The public methods are when one acquires reputation by counselling well and acting well for the common benefit. The way to such honors ought to be opened to every Citizen, and rewards proposed for their good counsels and good works, so that they may obtain honors and be satisfied: and when such reputation is obtained through these pure and simple ways, it will never be dangerous: but when it is obtained through a private way ((which is the other method mentioned)) it is most dangerous and wholly harmful. The private ways are by doing good to this and that private individual by lending them money, marrying their daughters, defending them in front of Magistrates, and doing them similar private favors, which make men partisans, and give encouragement to whoever is thus favored to be able to corrupt the public and break the laws. A well organized Republic ought, therefore, to open the ways ((as has been said)) to whoever seeks favors through public means, and close them to whoever seeks them through public means, as was seen that Rome did; for as a reward to whoever acts well for the public she ordered triumphs and all the other honors which she gave to its Citizens; and she ordered accusations be brought against whoever, under various pretexts of theirs, by private means sought to make themselves powerful: and when these did not suffice because of the people being blinded by a species of false benefits, they ordered (the creation of) a Dictator, who, (armed) with Regal power made those who had gone astray to return within the fold, as she did in punishing Spurius Melius. And if one of these is allowed impunity, it is apt to ruin a Republic, as, with that as an example, it will be difficult to return later to the true path.