Discourses on Livy/Second Book/Chapters XXIII-XXXIII
HOW MUCH THE ROMANS, IN JUDGING THE MATTERS FOR ANY INCIDENT THAT SHOULD NECESSITATE SUCH JUDGMENT, AVOIDED HALF-WAY MEASURES
Such was the state of things in Latium, that they could endure neither peace nor war. Of all the happy and unhappy states to which a Prince or a Republic can be reduced is to come to such terms that they cannot accept peace or sustain war; to which those are reduced who are oppressed too much by the conditions of the peace, and who, on the other hand, ((wanting to make war)) would have to throw themselves as prey to those who aid them, or to remain prey to the enemy. And all this comes from evil counsels and from the bad procedure of not having well measured their strength, as was said above. For that Republic or that Prince which should measure them well, will only with difficulty be brought to that condition which the Latins were brought, who made an accord with the Romans when they ought not to have, and declared war when they ought not to have, and thus they knew how to manage so that the enmity and friendship of the Romans were equally damaging to them. The Latins were therefore overcome and afflicted in the extreme, first by Manlius Torquatus, and afterwards by Camillus, who having constrained them to give themselves up and put themselves into the arms of the Romans, and having placed guards throughout the towns of Latium, and having taken hostages from all, returned to Rome and reported to the Senate that all Latium was in the hands of the Roman people. And as this judgment was notable and merits being observed so as to be able to be imitated when similar opportunities are given to Princes, I want to cite the words which Livius placed in the mouth of Camillus, which give witness both of the manner which the Romans held in expanding and how in the judgments of the State they always avoided half-way measures and turned to extremes. For a government consists only in so holding the subjects that they cannot or ought not want to injure you. This is done either by assuring yourself entirely by taking away from them all means of harming you, or by benefiting them so that it would not be reasonable that they would have a desire for any change of fortune. Which is entirely understood, first from the proposition of Camillus, and then by the judgment given by the Senate upon it. His words were these: The immortal Gods caused you to go where you were able to by these counsels, placing in your hands whether Latium should exist. Therefore, you can prepare a peace in perpetuity in relation to the Latins, either by violence or forgiveness. Will you proceed cruelly against those whom you conquered and who gave themselves up to you? If so, you are at liberty to destroy all Latium. Will you rather by example desire to increase the power of the Roman Republic by accepting those whom you have overcome into your citizenship? If so, you have the opportunity for a most glorious increase. Certainly that Empire is more firm which enjoys obedience. While, therefore, their minds are in a stupor and in suspense, it behooves you to assure yourselves either through punishment or benefits. This proposition was followed by the decision of the Senate which was in accordance with the words of the Consul, so that going from town to town which were of importance, they either bestowed benefits on them or destroyed them, granting to the beneficiaries exemptions and privileges, giving them Citizenship, and assuring them in every way: the others they destroyed their towns, colonies were sent there, (the inhabitants) transferred to Rome, and so dispersing them that they could never by arms or by counsel injure Rome.
Nor did they (the Romans) ever employ neutral means in these matters of moment ((as I have said)). Princes ought to imitate this judgment, and the Florentines ought to have adopted this course when, in MDII (1502) Arezzo and all the Val Di Chiana rebelled: which if they had done so, they would have secured their Empire and greatly increased the City of Florence, and given her those fields which she lacked in order to live. But they employed that middle way, which is most pernicious in the judging of men, so that they exiled part of the Aretini, and a part they condemned to death, and they deprived all of them of their honors and their ancient ranks in the City, but left the City entire. And when any Citizen in their deliberations advised that Arezzo should be destroyed, those who were deemed more wise said that it would be of little honor to the Republic to destroy her, as it would appear that Florence lacked the strength to hold her: which reasons are of those which appear to be, but are not, true; for by this same reason a parricide, a criminal, or an infamous person would not be put to death, as it would be a shame for that Prince to show that he did not have the power to be able to restrain a solitary man, And those who have similar opinions do not see, that individual men, and a whole City, will some times so sin against a State, that as an example to others, and for his own security, a Prince has no other remedy but to destroy them. And honor consists in being able and knowing when and how to castigate them, not in being able with a thousand dangers to hold them, for the Prince who does not castigate evil-doers in a way that he can no longer do evil, is held to be either ignorant or cowardly. This judgment which the Romans gave when it was necessary, is also confirmed by the sentence given against the Privernati. Where from the text of Livius, two things ought to be noted: the one, that which is mentioned above that subjects ought to given benefits or destroyed: the other, how much the generosity of spirit and speaking the truth helps, especially when it is spoken in the presence of prudent men. The Roman Senate had assembled to judge the Privernati, who had rebelled, but were later by force returned to the Roman obedience. Many Citizens had been sent by the people of Privernatum to beg pardon from the Senate, and when they had come into their presence, one of them was asked by a Senator, what punishment do you think the Privernati merit? To which the Privernate replied, That which those who feel themselves worthy of liberty merit. To which the Consul replied, If we remit your punishment, what peace can we hope to have with you? To which that man responded, A faithful and perpetual one, if you give us a good one; if a bad one, only a day-by-day one. Whence, although many were displeased, the wiser part of the Senate said, This was the voice of free and virile people, and they could not believe that it is possible for that people, or an individual, would otherwise remain in a condition that was punishment to them, except if it resulted from necessity. Peace would be trustful where it was made voluntarily, and not from a position where servitude is prevalent where it is hopeless to look for good faith. And after these words they decided that the Privernati should be Roman Citizens, and they honored them with the privileges of their society, saying: Those who think of nothing except liberty are here worthy of being Romans. So much did this true and generous response (of the Privernati) please those generous spirits (Romans); for any other response would have been false and cowardly. And those who believe men to be otherwise ((especially if these are accustomed to be, or appeared to be, free)) deceive themselves, and under this deception take up proceedings that are neither good in themselves nor satisfactory to them (who are affected by it). From which there often results rebellions and the ruin of States.
But to return to our discussion, I conclude, both from this and from the judgment given to the Latins, when a City, powerful and accustomed to living free, is to be judged, it must be either destroyed or caressed, otherwise every judgment is vain; and above all the middle-way course ought to be avoided, which is pernicious, as it was to the Samnites when they had enveloped the Romans at the Caudine forks, and when they did not want to follow the advice of that old man who counselled them that they should allow the Romans to go honorably, or to kill them all; but by taking a middle way, disarming them and putting them under the yoke, they allowed them to go full of ignominy and anger. So that a little afterwards, to their harm, they realized how useful the sentence of that old man had been and how harmful was their decision, as will be discussed more fully in its place.
FORTRESSES ARE GENERALLY MORE HARMFUL THAN USEFUL
It may perhaps appear to these sages of our times as something not well considered, that the Romans in wanting to assure themselves of the people of Latium and of the City of Privernum, did not think of building some fortresses there, which would be a restraint to hold them faithful; especially as there was a saying in Florence alleged by our wise men, that Pisa and other similar Cities ought to be held by fortresses. And truly, if the Romans had been like them, they would have thought to build them: but as they were of another virtu, of another judgment, of another power, they did not build them. And so long as Rome lived free and followed her institutions and virtuous constitutions, they never built one to hold either a City or a province, but they did save some that had already been built. Whence seeing the mode of proceeding of the Romans in this regard, and that of the Princes in our times, it appears to me proper to put into consideration whether it is good to build fortresses, or whether they are harmful Or useful to him who builds them. It ought to be considered, therefore, whether fortresses are built for defending oneself from the enemy or to defend oneself form one's subjects.
In the first case they are not necessary, in the second harmful. And I will begin by giving the reason why in the second case they are harmful, I say that that Prince or that Republic which is afraid of its subjects and of their rebelling, it results first from the fact that that fear arises from the hate which the subjects have for them, and the hate they have of the treatment given them. The ill treatment results either from the belief of being able to hold them by force, or from the little prudence of those who govern them; and one of the things that makes them believe they are able to force them, is to have their fortresses near them: for the ill treatment that is the cause of hatred, arises in good part because of that Prince or that Republic have the fortresses, which ((if this is true)) are much more harmful by far than useful: For firstly ((as has been said)) they cause you to be more audacious and more violent toward your subjects: afterwards there is not that internal security of which you persuade yourself, as all the strength and violence that is employed in holding a people are nothing, except these two: either you have always to place a good army in the field, as the Romans had, or you must disperse them, extinguish them, disorganize them, and so destroy them that they are not able to come together to attack you; for if you impoverish them, the despoiled ones will win their arms: if you disarm them, fury will serve as arms: if you kill the Captains and continue to injure the others, the Heads will spring up as those of the Hydra: if you build fortresses, they are useful in times of peace because they give you more courage to do evil to them, but in times of war most useless because they will be assaulted by the enemy and by your subjects, nor is it possible that they can resist the one and the other. And if ever they were useless, they are now in our times on account of artillery, because of which the small places, where moreover you cannot retire behind earthworks, are impossible to defend, as we discussed above.
I want to discuss this manner more tritely. Either you, a Prince, want to keep the people of the City in restraint with these fortresses, or you, a Prince or a Republic, want to keep a City in restraint that has been occupied in war. I want to turn to the Prince, and I say to him that such fortresses cannot be more useless to him in holding his Citizens in restraint for the reasons given above, for it makes you more prompt and less regardful in oppressing them, and that oppression will expose you to your ruin and will excite them so, that that fortress which is the reason for it cannot afterwards defend you; so that a wise and good Prince, in order to keep himself good and not give cause to his sons to dare to become bad, will never build fortresses, so that they will rely, not upon the fortresses, but on the good will of men. And if Count Francesco Sforza who had become Duke of Milan was reputed wise and none the less built fortresses in Milan, I say that in this case he was not wise, and the result has shown that that fortress was harmful and not a security to his heirs: for judging that through the medium of it to live securely, and to be able to oppress their Citizens and subjects, they indulged in all kinds of violence, so that they became so hated as described above, that they lost the State as soon as the enemy assaulted them: nor did that fortress defend them, nor did they have any usefulness for them in war, and in peace had done them much harm: for if they had not had them, and if because of little prudence they had not treated their Citizens harshly, they would have discovered the peril more quickly, and would have retreated, and would then have been able to resist the impetus of the French more courageously with friendly subjects and without a fortress, than with hostile subjects, and with the fortress, which do you no good in any way, for either they (fortresses) are lost through the treachery of those who guard them, or because of the violence of those who assault it, or by famine.
And if you want them to do you any good and to help you in recovering a lost State, where only the fortress remains to you, it behooves you to have an army with which you can assault those who have driven you out; and if you have the army you would recover the State in any case, (and) even more (easily) if the fortress did not exist, and so much more easily as men would be more friendly than they were to you, for you had maltreated them because of the pride of having the fortress. And from experience it has been seen that this fortress of Milan was of no usefulness either to the Sforza or to the French in times of adversity for the one or the other; rather it brought much harm and ruin to both, not having given thought because of it to more honest means of holding that State. Guidobaldo Duke of Urbino, son of Frederick, who is his time was an esteemed Captain, was driven out of his State by Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI; when afterwards because of an incident that had arisen he returned there, he caused all the fortresses that existed in that province to be destroyed, judging them to be injurious. For he being beloved by men, did not need them on their account, and with regard to his enemies, he had seen that he could not defend them; as they needed an army in the field to defend them, he resolved to destroy them. Pope Julius, after having driven out the Bentivogli from Bologna, built a fortress in that City, and afterwards had those people assassinated by one his Governors: so that that people rebelled, and the Pope quickly lost the fortress; and thus the fortress did him no good, but injury, and the more so, that by conducting himself otherwise it could have done him good. Niccolo Da Costello, father of the Vitelli, returning to his country when he had been exiled, quickly razed two fortresses that Pope Sixtus IV had built, judging that the good will people, not the fortresses, would keep him in that State. But of all the other examples, the most recent and the most notable in every way, and apt to show the uselessness of building them and the usefulness of destroying them, is that of Genoa which ensued in the most recent time. Everyone knows that in MDVII (1507) Genoa rebelled against Louis XII, King of France, who had come in person with all his forces to recover it, and having recovered it, he had a fortress built stronger than all others known up to the present time; it was impregnable because of its location and other circumstances, being placed on the apex of a hill that extended into the sea, called Codefa by the Genoese, and by means of this he commanded all the port and great part of the town of Genoa. Afterwards in the year MDVII (1512) it happened that the French forces were driven out of Italy, Genoa rebelled notwithstanding the fortress, and Ottaviano Fregoso seized the State, who, after sixteen months and with every industry, captured it by starvation. And everyone believed, and many counselled him, that he should preserve it as a refuge in any event: but being a most prudent man, (and) knowing that the good will of men and not fortresses maintained Princes in their States, destroyed it. And thus without founding his State on the fortress, but on his virtu and prudence, he has held it and still holds it. And where before only a thousand infantry usually were enough to overturn the State of Genoa, his adversaries have assaulted him with ten thousand and have not been able to harm him. It will be seen from this, therefore, that the destruction of the fortress did no more harm Ottaviano, than the building of it protected the King of France. For when he was able to come into Italy with his army, he was able to recover Genoa without the fortress being there; but without the army he could not come into Genoa even though he had a fortress there. For him, therefore, it was an expense to do (build) it and a disgrace to lose it: To Ottaviano the recovery of it was glorious and the destruction of it useful.
But let us come to the Republics which build fortresses, not within their own country, but inside the towns they acquire. And if the example given of France and Genoa are not enough to demonstrate the fallacy of this, those of Florence and Pisa will be enough for me; for the Florentines build fortresses in order to hold that City, and did not understand that to hold a City which was always hostile to Florentine rule, had lived in freedom, and had resorted to rebellion as a refuge for liberty, it was necessary in wanting to observe the old Roman method, either to make her an associate or to destroy her: for the virtu of fortresses is seen in the coming of King Charles, to whom they all surrendered, either through the treachery of those who guarded it, or from fear of a greater evil: for if there had not been one, the Florentines never would have based their holding Pisa on it, and the King (of France) could never in that manner have deprived the Florentines of that City: and the means by which they had maintained it up to that time would perhaps have been sufficient to preserve it, and without doubt would have stood the test better than the fortress.
I conclude, therefore, that to hold one's own country a fortress is injurious and to hold towns that are acquired fortresses are useless: And I want the authority of the Romans to be enough (for me), who razed the walls of those towns which they wanted to hold, having taken them by violent means, and never rebuilt them. And if anyone should cite in opposition to this opinion that (example) of Tarantum in ancient times and of Brescia in modern times, both of which places were recovered from their rebellious subjects by means of fortresses, I reply, that for the recovery of Tarantum Fabius Maximus was sent at the beginning of the year with the entire army, who would have been more apt to have recovered it if there had not been a fortress: for although Fabius had used that means, if there had not been this means (fortress), he would have used other means which would have had the same result. And I do not know of what usefulness a fortress may be, if in the recovery of a town, a consular army with Fabius Maximus for its Captain is needed to recover it: And that the Romans would have recovered it in any event, is seen by the example of Capua where there was no fortress, and which they reacquired through the virtu of the army. But let us come to Brescia. I say that there rarely occurs that which occurred in that rebellion, that while the fortress remains in your power ((the town having revolted)) you should have a large army (and) nearby as was that of the French: for Monsignor De Foix, Captain of the King, being with his army at Bologna and learning of the loss of Brescia recovered the town by means of the fortress. The fortress of Brescia, therefore, ((in order to be of benefit)) also needed a Monsignor De Foix, and a French army which had to succor it in three days: Hence this example in contrast to opposite examples is not enough, for many fortresses have been taken and retaken in wars of our times, by the same fortune as field campaigns (have taken and retaken), not only in Lombardy, but also in the Romagna, in the Kingdom of Naples, and throughout all parts of Italy.
But as to building fortresses in order to defend oneself from external enemies, I say that they are not necessary to those people, or to those Kingdoms that have good armies, and are useless to those who do not have good armies: for good armies without fortresses are sufficient to defend themselves, and fortresses without good armies cannot defend you. And this is seen from the experience of those who are held to be excellent as governors and in other things, as was the case with the Romans and the Spartans; for if the Romans did not build fortresses, the Spartans not only abstained from building them, but even did not permit the City to have walls, because they wanted (to rely on) the personal virtu of their men to defend them, (and) not some other means of defense. When, therefore, a Spartan was asked by an Athenian whether the walls of Athens appeared beautiful to him, he replied "yes, if the (City) was inhabited by women".
The Prince, therefore, who has good armies, may have on the frontiers of his State, or on the sea, some fortresses that could resist the enemy for some days until he could be checked; this may sometimes be a useful thing, but is not a necessary one. But when the Prince does not have a good army, then having fortresses throughout his State or at the frontiers, are either injurious or useless to him: injurious, because he loses them easily, and when they have been lost they are turned (make war) against him; or even if they should be so strong that that enemy cannot occupy them, they are left behind by the enemy army, and are of no benefit; for good armies, unless they are confronted by equally brave ones, enter into enemy country regardless of the City or fortress which they leave behind, as is seen in ancient histories; and as Francesco Maria did, who in recent times, in order to assault Urbino, left ten enemy Cities behind him, without taking any account of them. That Prince, therefore, who can raise a good army, can do without building fortresses: He who does not have a good army, ought not to build. He ought indeed to fortify the City where he lives, and keep it fortified, and keep the Citizens of that City well disposed, in order to be able to sustain an enemy attack so that he can (keep it) free by an accord or by external aid. All other plans are an expense in times of peace, and useless in times of war. And thus whoever considers all that I have said, will recognize the Romans as wise in all their other institutions, as they were prudent in their judgments concerning the Latins and the Privernati, where, not thinking of fortresses, they assured themselves of these people by wiser and more virtuous means.
THAT THE ASSAULTING OF A DISUNITED CITY IN ORDER TO OCCUPY IT BY MEANS OF ITS DISUNION IS AN ERROR
There was so much disunity within the Roman Republic between the Plebs and the Nobility that the Veienti together with the Etruscans ((through the medium of such disunion)) thought they could extinguish the name of Rome. And having raised an army and made incursions upon the fields of Rome, the Senate sent Gnaius Manilus and M. Fabius against them, (and) when they had led their army near the army of the Veienti, the Veienti did not cease both with assaults and insults to attack and abuse the Roman name; and so great was their temerity and insolence that, from being disunited the Romans became united, and coming to battle they defeated and routed them. It will be seen, therefore, how much men deceive themselves ((as we discussed above)) in adopting some course, and how many times they believe they can gain a thing and lose it. The Veienti believed that by assaulting the Romans when they were disunited, they could defeat them, but that assault was the cause of the unification of them (the Romans) and of their (the Veienti) ruin. For the cause of disunity in Republics most of the times is due to idleness and peace; the cause of unity is fear and war. And, therefore, if the Veienti had been wise, the more disunited they saw the Romans, the more they would have kept war away from them, and sought to oppress them by the arts of peace. The way to do this is to gain the confidence of the people of that City which is disunited, and to manage to become arbiters between the parties, as long as they did not come to arms. But if they come to arms, to give light aid to the weaker party, as much to keep up the war longer and make them consume themselves, as well not to make them wholly apprehensive because of your large forces that you should want to oppress them and become their Prince. And if this part is well carried out it will always almost happen that you will obtain the object which you had presupposed. The City of Pistoia ((as I have said in other discussions and on other matters)) did not come to the Republic of Florence with other arts than this; for she being divided, and the Florentines favoring first the one party, and then the other, without caring for either, brought her to such terms that, weary of her tumultuous existence, she came to throw herself spontaneously into the arms of Florence. The City of Siena has never changed her State with the help of the Florentines unless that help has been weak and small. For when it has been strong and large, they caused that City to become united in defense of the existing government. I want to add another example to those written above. Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan, often made war against the Florentines, relying on their disunity, and always was the loser. So that he had to say, lamenting his enterprise, that the follies of the Florentines had made him spend two millions in gold uselessly.
The Veienti and the Tuscans, therefore, ((as was said above)) were deceived by this opinion, and were in the end defeated by the Romans in one engagement. And thus in the future anyone who believes he can subjugate a people in a similar manner and for similar reasons will be deceived.
CONTEMPT AND INSULT GENERATE HATRED AGAINST THOSE WHO EMPLOY THEM, WITHOUT ANY USEFULNESS TO THEM
I believe that it is one of the great signs of prudence which men exhibit in abstaining from threatening and injuring anyone with words, for neither the one and the other takes away strength from the enemy; but the one makes him more cautious, and the other causes him to have greater hatred against you, and with more industry to think of injuring you. This is seen from the example of the Veienti of whom discussion was had in the above chapter, who added the opprobrium of words to the injury of war against the Romans, from which every prudent Captain ought to make his soldiers abstain, as they are things which inflame and excite the enemy to revenge, and in no way impede him ((as has been said)) in attacking you, so that they are all as arms turned against you. A notable example of which occurred in Asia, where Gabades, Captain of the Persians, having for a long time besieged Amida, and becoming weary of the siege, decided to depart, and having already broken up his camp, all the inhabitants of the town came upon the walls; and having become haughty from (the thought) of victory, did not omit assailing them with every kind of injury, vituperating them, accusing and reproaching them for their cowardice and poltroonery. Irritated by this, Gabades changed his counsel and returned to the siege, and so great was his indignation at this injury, that in a few days he took and sacked it. And the same thing happened to the Veienti, to whom ((as has been said)) it was not enough to make war against the Romans, but they also had to vituperate them with words, and went up to the very stockade of their camp to speak their insults, irritating them more with words than with arms: and those soldiers who at first fought unwillingly, constrained the Consuls to enkindle the battle, so that the Veienti suffered the punishment for their contumacy as was mentioned previously. Good Princes (Leaders) of the army and good Governors of a Republic, therefore, have to take every convenient means that these injuries and reproaches are not used either by their Citizens or their army, either among themselves or against the enemy, for then there arises those inconveniences mentioned above; and among themselves, it would be even worse unless they are stopped, as prudent men have always stopped them. The Roman legions left at Capua having conspired against the Capuans, as will be narrated in its proper place, and this conspiracy having given rise to sedition, which was later quelled by Valerius Corvinus, among the other stipulations of the convention that was made, was that they ordained the greatest penalties against those who should ever reprove any of those soldiers with that sedition. Tiberius Gracchus, who in the war against Hannibal, was made Captain over a certain number of slaves whom the Romans had armed because of the scarcity of men, ordered among the first things that the capital penalty (be inflicted) on whoever should reproach any of them with their (previous) servitude. So much did the Romans think this was a harmful thing ((as has been said above)) to treat men with contempt and reproach them with any disgrace, because there is nothing that so excites their spirit and generates greater indignation, that whether true or false, it is said: For harsh statements, even when they have the least truth in them, leave their harshness in the memory.
TO PRUDENT PRINCES AND REPUBLICS, IT OUGHT TO BE ENOUGH TO WIN, FOR OFTEN IT IS NOT ENOUGH IF THEY LOSE
The use of dishonorable words against an enemy arises most of the times from the insolence that victory, or the false hope of victory, gives you; which false hope makes men err not only in their words, but also in their deeds. For when this (false) hope enters the hearts of men, it makes them go beyond the mark, and often lose that opportunity of obtaining a certain good, hoping to obtain an uncertain better. And because this is a matter that merits consideration, this deception that exists in men and very often causing damage to their State, it appears to me it ought to be demonstrated in detail by ancient and modern examples, as it cannot be so clearly demonstrated by arguments. After Hannibal and defeated the Romans at Cannae, he sent his ambassadors to the Carthaginians to announce the victory and request their support. This was discussed in the Senate as to what should be done. Hanno, an old and prudent Carthaginian Citizen advised that they should use this victory wisely in making peace with the Romans, for, having won, they were able to do so with more favorable conditions than they would expect (to make them) after a defeat; for the intentions of the Carthaginians ought to be to show the Romans that it was enough for them in combatting them, to have obtained a victory for themselves and not to seek to lose it in the hope of a greater one. This proceeding was not taken, but later when the opportunity was lost, it was well recognized by the Carthaginian Senate to have been a wise one. After Alexander the Great had already conquered all the Orient, the Republic of Tyre ((noble and powerful in those times for having their City situated on water like the Venetians)), seeing the greatness of Alexander, sent ambassadors to tell him they wanted to be his good servants and to render him that obedience he wanted, but that they were not ready to accept him or his forces in their land. Whereupon Alexander, indignant that a City should close those doors that all the world had opened to him, rebuffed them, and, not accepting their conditions, went to besiege them. The town was situated in water and very well supplied with provisions and the other munitions necessary for defense, so that Alexander saw after four months (of siege) that taking the City would take away more time and glory from him that many other acquisitions had not taken away, decided to try for an accord and concede to them that which they themselves had asked. But those people of Tyre having become haughty, not only did not want to accept the accord, but killed whoever came to present it. At which Alexander being indignant, he exerted himself with so much strength to its extinction that he took and destroyed it, and killed or made slave its people. In the year 1502 a Spanish army came into the Florentine dominion to reinstate the Medici in Florence and to tax the City, they being called there by its Citizens who had given them hope that, as soon as they had entered the Florentine dominion, they would take up arms in their favor; and having entered the plain and not discovering anyone, and having a scarcity of provisions, they attempted an accord: which the people of Florence, having become haughty, did not accept; when there resulted the loss of Prato and the ruin of that State (Florence). Princes who are attacked cannot make a greater error, therefore, especially when the assault is made by men who are far more powerful than they, than to refuse any accord, and especially when it is offered; for it would never be offered so harshly that it will not be in some way good for those who accept it, and they will in a way have obtained a part of the victory. For it should have been enough for the people of Tyre that Alexander had accepted those conditions which he at first refused, and it should have been a great enough victory for them that they had with arms in hand made so great a man condescend to their will. It should also have been enough for the Florentine people, and it would have been a great victory for them, if the Spanish army had yielded in something to their will, and not fulfill all things of theirs, for the intention of that army was to change the State in Florence, to take it away from its attachment to, France, and extract money from it. If of the three things, they (Spaniards) should have obtained the last two, and there should have remained to the (Florentine) people the first, that of saving their State, there would have remained within each one some honor and satisfaction and the people ought not to have cared for the other two things, as long as they existed free; nor ought they ((even if they should have seen a greater and almost certain victory)) to have wanted to put any part of it (their liberty) to the discretion of fortune, as this was their last resource, which no prudent man would ever risk except from necessity.
Hannibal departed from Italy where he had been for sixteen glorious years, recalled by the Carthaginians to succor his own country; he found Hasdrubal and Syphax broken, the Kingdom of Numida lost, Carthage restricted between the confines of its walls, and no other refuge remaining but he and his army: and knowing that this was the last resource of his country, he did not want to place it in jeopardy without first having tried every other remedy, and was not ashamed to ask for peace, judging that if his country had any remedy, it was in it (peace) and not in war; which afterwards having been refused, he did not hesitate to combat ((and to be defeated)), judging he might have (a chance to) win, or if he lost, to lose gloriously. And if Hannibal who had so much virtu and had his army intact, sought peace first rather than a battle, when he saw that losing it his country would be enslaved, what ought someone else with less virtu and less experience than he do? But men make this error of not knowing where to place the limits to their hopes, and by relying on these without otherwise measuring their resources, they are ruined.
HOW DANGEROUS IT IS FOR A PRINCE OR A REPUBLIC, NOT TO AVENGE AN INJURY MADE AGAINST THE PUBLIC OR A PRIVATE (CITIZEN)
That which indignation makes men do, is easily recognized as that which happened to the Romans when they sent the three Fabii as ambassadors to the Gauls who had come to assault Tuscany, and Clusium in particular. For the people of Clusium having sent to Rome for aid, the Romans sent Ambassadors to the Gauls that in the name of the Roman people they should signify to them to abstain from making war against the Tuscans: These ambassadors, being more accustomed to act than to speak, having arrived there as the Gauls and Tuscans were engaged in battle, put themselves among the first in combatting against them: Whence there arose that, being recognized by them (the Gauls), all the indignation that they had against the Tuscans turned against the Romans. This indignation became greater, because the Gauls having complained to the Roman Senate through their Ambassadors of this injury, and asked that in satisfaction for the harm done that the three above-mentioned Fabii should be turned over to them; not only were they not delivered to them or in any way castigated, but when the Comitii assembled, they were made Tribunes with consular powers. So that the Gauls seeing those men honored who ought to have been punished, took it all to be to their disparagement and ignominy, and, excited by anger and indignation, went to assault Rome, and captured it all except the Campidoglio (Capitol). This ruin to the Romans resulted only from their own non-observance of justice, for their Ambassadors having sinned against the law of nations, instead of being castigated were honored.
It is to be considered, therefore, how much every Republic and every Prince ought to be careful in making a similar injury, not only against an entire people, but even to an individual. For if a man is greatly offended either by the public or by a private citizen, and is not avenged according to his satisfaction, if he lives in a Republic he will seek to avenge himself even with their ruin, if he lives under a Prince and has any courage within himself, he will never remain quiet until in some way he should have revenged himself against him, even though he may see in it his own ruin. To verify this, there is no better or truer example than that of Philip of Macedonia, father of Alexander. This man had in his court Pausanias, a beautiful and noble youth, of whom Attalus, one of the chief men close to Philip was enamored; and having several times sought that he should consent (to his desires), but finding him opposed to such things, decided to obtain by deceit and force that which he was unable to obtain by other means. And he gave a grand banquet at which Pausanias and many other noble Barons were gathered; after each one was full of viands and wine, he caused Pausanias to be seized, and brought to a retired place; and he not only gave vent to his libido by force, but also to shame him still more, caused him to be abused in a similar fashion by many others. Pausanias complained of this injury many times to Philip, who for a time kept him in the hope of avenging him, but not only did he not avenge him, but promoted Attalus to the governship of a Province of Greece: Whence Pausanias seeing his enemy honored and not castigated, turned all his indignation not against him who had injured him, but against Phillip who had not avenged him; and one morning during the solemn nuptial of the daughter of Phillip to Alexander of Epirus, while Phillip was going to the Temple to celebrate them, between the two Alexanders, his son and son-in-law, he (Pausanias) killed him. Which example is very similar to that of the Romans, should be noted by anyone who governs, that he ought never to underestimate a man so as to believe ((adding injury on injury)) that he whom he has injured does not think of avenging himself, even with every danger and injury to himself.
FORTUNE BLINDS THE MINDS OF MEN WHEN SHE DOES NOT WANT THEM TO OPPOSE HER DESIGNS
If we consider well how human affairs proceed, many times many events will be seen to arise and accidents happen against which the Heavens have not entirely desired that they should be provided. And if this of which I speak happened at Rome where there was so much virtu, so much religion, and so much order, it is no wonder that it should happen much more often in a City or a Province which lacks the above mentioned attributes. And as this case in point is most remarkable in demonstrating the power of Heaven over human affairs, T. Livius relates it at length and in the most effective language, saying that Heaven, wanting some means to have the Romans know its power, first made those Fabii err who had gone as ambassadors to the Gauls, and through whose deeds excited them to make war against Rome: Afterward it ordained that, to reprimand them for that war, nothing should be done in Rome worthy of the Roman people, having first ordained that Camillus, who alone could be the remedy for so much evil, was sent into exile at Ardea; afterwards when the Gauls were approaching Rome, those people who had many times before created a Dictator in order to check the attacks of the Volscians and other neighboring enemies, did not create one when the Gauls came. Also they were slow and without extraordinary diligence in making their selection of soldiers, and were so slow in taking up arms, that only with great effort were they in time to meet the Gauls on the river Allia, ten miles distant from Rome. Here the Tribunes established their camp without any of the customary diligence, without first examining the place, not circumscribing it with ditches and palisades, and not using any human or divine remedy. And in the order of battle, they made the ranks open and weak, so that neither the soldiers nor the Captains did anything worthy of the Roman discipline. They fought them without any bloodshed, for they fled before they had been assaulted; and the greater part went off to Veii, the remainder retreated to Rome, where they entered the Capitol without entering even their own homes; so that the Senate with no thought of defending Rome ((any more than the others)) did not close its gates, (and) a part of them fled, another part entered the Capitol with the others. In defending it (the Capitol), however, they did employ some non-tumultuous methods, for they did not burden it with useless people, they supplied it with all the grain they could so as to be able to endure a siege, and of the useless crowd of old men and women and children, the greater part fled to the surrounding towns, the rest remained in Rome a prey to the Gauls. So that whoever had read of the things done by that people so many years before, and then should read of the events of those times, could in no way believe that it was the same people. And T. Livius who had told us of all the above mentioned troubles, concludes by saying: Fortune thus blinds the minds, when she does not want them to resist her power.
Nor can this conclusion be more true. Whence men who ordinarily live in great adversity or prosperity merit less praise or less blame, for most of the time it will be seen that they have been brought to ruin or to greatness by some great expedient which Heaven has caused, giving them the opportunity or depriving them of the ability to work with virtu. Fortune indeed does this, when she wants to bring some great things, she selects a man of much spirit and much virtu, that he will recognize those opportunities she offers. So too in the same way, when she wants to bring some great ruin, she promotes men who can do such ruin. And if anyone should be able to resist her, she either kills him or deprives him of all the faculties of being able to do any good. From this text it is to be clearly recognized how fortune, in order to make Rome greater and bring her to that greatness that she arrived at, judged it was necessary to beat her ((as will be discussed at length in the beginning of the next book)) but did not want to ruin her entirely. And because of this, it is seen that she caused Camillus to be exiled and not killed, caused Rome to be taken but not the Capitol, ordained that the Romans should not think of any good thing in preparing Rome (for the attack), but should not lack any good preparation for the defense of the Capitol. She caused ((as Rome was to be taken)) that the greater part of the soldiers who were defeated at the Allia to go to Veii, and thus cut off all means for the defense of the City of Rome. And yet in ordaining this, she prepared everything for her recovery, having conducted an entire Roman army to Veii, and Camillus to Ardea, in order to be able to raise a large band under a Captain unstained by any ignominy of defeat and completely dedicated to the recovery of his country.
We might cite some modern example in confirmation of the things mentioned here, but as I judge it unnecessary, ((this one being able to satisfy anyone)) I shall omit it. I indeed reaffirm this to be most true ((according as is seen from all histories)) that men can second fortune but not oppose her, they can develop her designs but not defeat them. They ought never to abandon themselves; because not knowing her aims, (and) the devious and unknown ways she takes, they always have hope; and in hoping, not to abandon themselves no matter in what (ill) fortune or trouble they find themselves.
TRULY POWERFUL REPUBLICS AND PRINCES DO NOT PURCHASE FRIENDSHIP WITH MONEY, BUT WITH VIRTU AND REPUTATION OF STRENGTH
The Romans were besieged in the Capitol, and although they awaited succor from Veii and from Camillus, being driven by hunger, they came to terms with the Gauls to ransom themselves with a certain amount of gold, but while making these terms ((the gold already being weighed)) Camillus arrived with his army, which fortune caused ((as the historian says)) so that the Romans should not live under an aura of ransom. Which occurrence not only is more noteworthy in this instance, but more so in the course of events of this Republic, where it is seen that they never acquired lands by means of money, but always through the virtu of their army. Which I do not believe ever to have happened with any other Republic.
And among the other signs by which the power of a State is recognized, is to see how it lives with its neighbors; and if it is governed in a way that the neighbors ((so as to have them friendly)) are its pensioners, then it is a certain sign that that State is powerful: But when these said neighbors ((although inferior to it)) draw money from it, then it is a great sign of its weakness. Let anyone read all the Roman histories and he will see that the Massalians, the Aeduans, the Rhodians, Hiero the Syracusan, Eumene and the Kings of Massinissa, who all lived near to the confines of the Roman Empire, in order to have its friendship, agreed to contribute to its needs and expenses by tribute, not seeking any other return from it than to be defended. On the other hand, it will be seen in weak States, and beginning with our own Florence in times past in the period of her greatest reputation, that there was not a petty Lord in the Romagna who did not get a pension from her, and in addition she gave one to the Perugini, the Castellani, and all her other neighbors. But if this City had been armed and strong, everything would have proceeded oppositely, for everyone in order to have her protection would have given money to her, and sought, not to sell their friendship, but to purchase hers. Nor are the Florentines to be seen alone in this baseness, but the Venetians and the King of France, who with so great a Kingdom lives tributary to the Swiss and the King of England. All of which resulted from having disarmed their people, and because that King and the others mentioned above desired rather to enjoy a present usefulness of being able to plunder the people, and to avoid an imaginary rather than a real peril, than to do things which would have assured them and made their States happy in perpetuity. Such baseness, if it sometimes produces some quiet, is in times of necessity the cause of irreparable harm and ruin.
And it would be lengthy to recount how many times the Florentines, and the Venetians, and this Kingdom (of France) have bought themselves off in wars, and how many times they subjected themselves to an ignominy to which the Romans were subjected only one time. It would be lengthy to recount how many lands the Florentines and the Venetians have purchased, in which disorders were seen afterwards, and that the things acquired with gold cannot be defended with iron. The Romans continued in this high-minded existence as long as they lived free, but when they came under the Emperors, and the Emperors commenced to be bad, and to love the shade more than the sun, they too begun to buy off now the Parthians, now the Germans, now other neighboring peoples, which was the beginning of the ruin of so great an Empire. Such troubles proceeded, therefore, from having disarmed its own people, from which an even greater evil results, that the more the enemy comes near, so much more will he find you weak. For whoever lives in the manner mentioned above, ill treats those subjects who are in the interior of his Empire so as to obtain men who can hold the enemy at the frontiers. From this there arises that to keep the enemy more distant he has to give subsidies to these Lords and peoples who are near their borders. Whence there arises that these States so paid make a little resistance at their frontiers, but as soon as the enemy has passed, they do not have any advantage. And they do not see that this mode of proceeding of theirs is against every good institution. For the heart and the vital parts of the body have to be kept armored, and not its extremities, for without these it is possible to live, but when the former are injured, it is possible to die: And these States have their hearts unarmored but their hands and feet armored. The disorders which have been caused to Florence have been seen, and can be seen, every day, that as soon as an army passes the frontiers and enters near the heart, no further remedy is to be found. In the last few years the Venetians afforded similar proof, and if their City had not been surrounded by water, their end would have been seen. This experience has not often been seen in France because that Kingdom is so great that it has few enemies who are superior. None the less, when the English in MDXIII (1513) assaulted that Kingdom, all that Province trembled, and the King himself and everyone else believed that only one defeat would take away the State.
The contrary happened to the Romans, for the more the enemy approached Rome, so much more he found that City powerful to resist him. And it is seen in the coming of Hannibal into Italy, that after three defeats and after so many captains and soldiers were killed, they were able not only to sustain the enemy, but to win the war. All of which resulted from her having the heart well armored and holding little account of the extremities. For the foundation of their State was in the people of Rome, the Latin people, and the other lands allied in Italy, and their Colonies, from which they drew so many soldiers sufficient for then to conquer and hold the world. And that this is true is seen from the question that Hanno the Carthaginian put to those Ambassadors of Hannibal after the battle at Cannae, who having magnified the things done by Hannibal, were asked by Hanno if anyone had come from the Roman people to ask for peace, and if any towns of the Latins or any of the Colonies had rebelled against the Romans: and when they replied negatively, Hanno replied; This war is yet as full as before.
It will be seen therefore, both from this discussion and from what we have said elsewhere several times, how much difference there is in the proceedings of present Republics from the ancient ones. Because of this every day are seen astonishing losses and remarkable conquest, for where men have little virtu, fortune greatly shows her power, and as she varies it, Republics and States change often, and they will always change until there springs up one who is a great lover of antiquity who is able to rule so that she has no reason at every revolution of the sun to show how powerful she can be.
HOW DANGEROUS IT IS TO BELIEVE EXILES
And it does not appear to me to be foreign to this subject to discuss among other matters how dangerous a thing it is to believe those who have been driven out of their country, these being matters that are acted upon each day by those who govern States; and I am especially able to demonstrate this by a memorable example given by T. Livius in his history, even though it may be outside his subject. When Alexander the Great crossed with his army into Asia, Alexander of Epirus, his brother-in-law and uncle, came with his forces into Italy, having been called there by the exiled Lucanians, who had given him the hope that he could through their means occupy all that province. Whence he, upon their faith and hope, having come into Italy, was killed by them, because they had been promised a return to their Country by the Citizens if they would kill him. It ought to be considered, therefore, how vain are the faith and promises of those who find themselves deprived of their country. For, as to their faith, it has to be borne in mind that anytime they can return to their country by other means than yours, they will leave you and look to the other, notwithstanding whatever promises they had made you. As to their vain hopes and promises, such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself. The previously mentioned example of Alexander is enough for me, but in addition, that of Themistocles, the Athenian, who, having been declared a rebel, fled to Darius in Asia, where he promised him so much if he should want to assault Greece, that Darius turned to that enterprise. Themistocles, not being able to observe these promises, he poisoned himself, either from shame or from fear of punishment. And if this error was made by Themistocles, a most excellent man, it ought to be considered how much more those men err who, because of less virtu, allow themselves to be drawn by their desires and passions. A Prince, therefore, ought to go slowly in undertaking an enterprise upon the representations of an exile, for most of the times he will be left either with shame or very grave injury. And as the taking of towns rarely succeeds by deceit or by intelligence others within may have, it does not appear outside the subject to discuss it in the following chapter, adding some account of how many ways the Romans acquired them.
IN HOW MANY WAYS THE ROMANS OCCUPIED TOWNS
The Romans being very often at war, they always did so with every advantage, both as to expense and as to every other thing that it required. From this arose the fact that they guarded against the taking of towns by siege, as they judged this method to be of such an expense and so much trouble that it surpassed by far any usefulness that they could draw from the acquisition: and because of this they thought that it would be better and more useful to subjugate a town by any other means than besieging it: whence there are very few examples of sieges made by them in so many wars and in so many years. Their mode of taking Cities, therefore, was either by assault or by voluntary surrender. The capture by assault was either by force or by open violence, or by force mixed with fraud: the open violence was either by assault without piercing the walls ((which they called attacking the city in crown fashion)) because they surrounded the City with the entire army, as when Scipio took New Carthage in Spain; or if this assault was not enough they addressed themselves to breeching the walls with rams or with other machines of war of theirs; or they made a mine and by means of it entered the City, by which method they took the City from the Veienti: or in order to be at the same level with those who defended the walls, they made towers of wood: or they made embankments of earth placed against the outside of the walls in order to come to a height above them. In the first case those who were defending the towns against these assaults were exposed to the greatest peril quickly from being assaulted on all sides and had the greatest doubts of being able to remedy this, because they needed to have many defenders in every place, (and) those they had were not numerous enough to be able to substitute for or relieve those in every place, or if they were able to do so, they were not all of equal courage to resist; and if the fight was lost on any one side, all the rest were lost. It happened, therefore, ((as I have said)) that this mode (of assault) many times was a happy success. But if it did not succeed at the first (try), they did not repeat it much, as it was a dangerous method for the army, for defending themselves over so much space, everything was left weak so as to be unable to resist a sortie that those inside might make, and also it would fatigue the soldiers and cause disorder: so that they attempted this method only one time and by surprise. As to the breaking down of walls, it was opposed as in the present time by repairs; and to resist the mines they made counter mines, and through which they opposed the enemy either with arms or other means, among which was this that they filled barrels with feathers which they set on fire while burning they put them into the mine, so that the smoke and the smell impeded the entrance to the enemy: and if they assaulted them with towers, they endeavored to ruin them by fire. And as to earth embankments, they broke the wall down where the embankment leaned against it, drawing inside the earth which those outside were heaping, so that placing earth outside and taking it away from inside, the embankment did not grow. These means of attack cannot be attempted for long, and (if not successful) the siege must be abandoned and other means sought to win the war, as did Scipio, when he entered Attica, having assaulted Utica and not succeeding in taking it, he betook himself from the field and sought to break the Carthaginian army, or rather to turn to (regular) sieges as he did at Veii, Capua, Carthage, Jerusalem, and similar towns which they occupied by sieges.
As to the acquisition of towns by stealth and violence, ((as happened at Palepolis, where the Romans occupied it by treating secretly with those within)) this kind of conquest was tried by the Romans and many others, but few succeeded: the reason is, that every least impediment disrupts the design, and impediments come easily. For the conspiracy is discovered before the deed happens, which is done without much difficulty, as much from the treachery of those to whom it is communicated, as from the difficulty of carrying it out, having to come together with enemies or under some pretext with those with whom it is not permitted to speak. But if the conspiracy is not discovered in its progress, then thousand difficulties spring up in putting it into execution. For if you arrive before the designated time or if you arrive after, everything is spoiled. If a furtive noise is raised, as the geese at the Capitol, if a customary order is broken, every least least error and every least fault made, will ruin the enterprise. Added to this is the darkness of the night which puts more fear into those who are engaged in those dangerous things. And the greater part of men who are engaged in similar enterprises being unacquainted with the situation of the country or the places where they are sent, are confounded, become afraid, and will turn back at every least unforeseen accident. And every false imagining acts to make them put themselves in flight. Nor has anyone ever been found who was more successful in these fraudulent and nocturnal expeditions than Aratus of Sicyon, who was as valiant in these as he was pusillanimous in expeditions carried out openly and in daylight. Which can be attributed rather to some occult virtu which he possessed, than to any natural faculty in achieving success. Of these attempts, many are projected, few are put to the test, and very few succeed.
As to the acquisition of Towns through surrender, they give up either voluntarily, or by force. The willingness arises either from some extrinsic necessity that constrains them to find refuge under you, as did Capua to the Romans, or from the desire to be well governed, being attracted by the good government which that Prince bestows on those who have voluntarily placed themselves in his arms, as were the Rhodians, the Massileans, and other such Citizens, who gave themselves to the Roman People. As to forced surrenders, this force results either from a long siege ((as was said above)), or from a continuous pressure from incursions, depredations, and other ill treatment; which in wanting to avoid, a City surrenders. Of all the methods mentioned, the Romans employed this last more than any others, and during more than four hundred and fifty years of harassing their neighbors with routs and incursions, and then by means of accords obtained reputation over them, as we have discussed at another time. And they always relied on this method, even though they tried all others, which they found more dangerous or useless. For in a siege it is the length of time and expense; in open assault it is doubtful and dangerous; in a conspiracy it is uncertitude. And they (the Romans) saw that by one rout of an enemy army they acquired a Kingdom in a day, but in taking an obstinate City by siege, they consumed many.
HOW THE ROMANS GAVE THEIR CAPTAINS OF ARMIES UNCONTROLLED COMMISSIONS
I think that ((reading this history of Livius and wanting to profit)) all the methods of procedure of the Roman People and Senate should be considered. And among other things that merit consideration, is to see with what authority they sent out their Consuls, Dictators, and other Captains of armies; from which it is seen that the authority was very great, as the Senate did not reserve to itself anything other than the authority to declare new wars, to confirm peace (treaties), and left everything else to the arbitration power of the Consul. For once a war was decided on by the People and the Senate ((for instance against the Latins)) they remitted all the rest to the discretion of the Consul, who could either make an engagement or not make it, and lay siege to this or that town as seemed proper to him. Which things are verified by many examples, and especially by that which occurred in the expedition against the Tuscans. For Fabius, the Consul, having defeated them near Sutrium, and planning afterwards to pass with the army through the Ciminian forest and go to Tuscany, not only did not counsel with the Senate, but did not even give them any notice, even though war was to be waged in a new unknown, and dangerous country. Further witness of this is given by the decisions which were made by the Senate on learning of this, who, when they had heard of the victory Fabius had won, and fearful that he might take up the proceeding of passing through the said forest into Tuscany, judging that it would not be well to attempt that (war) and run that risk, sent Legates to Fabius to make him understand he should not cross into Tuscany; but when they arrived he had already crossed over, and had obtained this victory, so that in place of being impeders of the war, they returned as messengers of the conquest and the glory that was obtained.
And whoever considers well this method will see it is most prudently employed, for if the Senate had wanted the Consul to proceed in the war from hand to hand according to that which they committed to him, they would have made him (Fabius) less circumspect and more slow; for it would not have seemed to him that the glory of the battle should be all his, but as being shared by the Senate, by whose counsels he had been governed. In addition to this the Senate would have obligated itself to want to advise on a matter that they could not have understood; for notwithstanding that there many of them who were men most expert in war, none the less not being in that place, and not knowing the infinite particulars that are necessary to be known to want to counsel well, infinite errors ((by counselling)) would have been made. And because of this, they wanted the Consul to make decisions by himself and that the glory should be all his, the love of which they judged should be a restraint as well as a rule in making him conduct himself well.
This part is more willingly noted by me, because I see that the Republics of present times, as the Venetian and the Florentine, have understood it otherwise, and if their Captains, Providers, or Commissioners have to place (a battery of) artillery, they want to know and counsel about it. Which system merits the same praise as (their conduct) in other things merit, which all together have brought about the conditions that are found at present.