Discourses on Livy/Third Book/Chapters XLIII-XLIX

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Prudent men usually say ((and not by chance or without merit)) that whoever wants to see what is to be, considers what has been; for all the things of the world in every time have had the very resemblance as those of ancient times. This arises because they are done by men who have been, and will always have, the same passions, and of necessity they must result in the same effects. It is true that men in their actions are more virtuous in this province than in another, according to the nature of the education by which those people have formed their way of living. It also facilitates the knowledge of future events from the past, to observe a nation hold their same customs for a long time, being either continuously avaricious, or continuously fraudulent, or have any other similar vice or virtu. And whoever reads of past events of our City of Florence, and takes in consideration also those which have occurred in recent times, will find the French and German people full of avarice, haughtiness, ferocity, and infidelity, because all of these result in things at different times; which have greatly harmed our City. And as to bad faith, everyone knows how many times money was given to King Charles VIII on his promise to restore to them the fortresses of Pisa, but he never restored them: in which the King showed the bad faith and great avarice of his. But let us come to more recent events. Everyone may have heard of what ensued in the war which the Florentine people carried on against the Visconti, Dukes of Milan, and how Florence, deprived of other expedients, decided to call the Emperor into Italy, who, with his reputation and strength, would assault Lombardy. The Emperor promised to come with a large force, and to undertake the war against the Visconti, and to defend Florence against their power if the Florentines would give him a hundred thousand ducats when starting, and a hundred thousand more when they would enter Italy. The Florentines consented to these terms, and paid them the first moneys, and later the second, but when he arrived at Verona, he turned back without doing anything, alleging as a reason for leaving, that they had not observed the conventions that existed between them.

So that, if Florence had not been constrained by necessity or carried away by passion, and having studied and known the ancient customs of the barbarians, she would not have been deceived by them on this and other occasions; for they (the Gauls) have always been the same and conducted themselves on every occasion and towards everyone, as is seen they did in ancient times to the Tuscans; who, having been hard pressed by the Romans, having been routed and put to flight by them many many times, and seeing that they could not by their own forces be able to resist the assaults (of the Romans), came together with the Gauls who lived in Italy on this side of the Alps, to give them a sum of money, for which they should be obliged to join their armies with theirs (Tuscans), and go against the Romans. Whence it happened that the Gauls, having taken the money, did not then want to take up arms for them, saying that they had received it, not for making war against the enemy, but for abstaining from plundering the Tuscan country. And thus the Tuscan people were, because of the avarice and bad faith of the Gauls, suddenly deprived of their money and the aid they had hoped to obtain from them. So that it is seen from the example of the ancient Tuscans and from that of the Florentines, that the Gauls (and French) have employed the same means; and from this, it can be easily conjectured how much Princes can have confidence in them.



The Samnites being assaulted by the Roman army, and being unable to stay abreast of the Romans in the field, decided, ((having placed guards in the town of Samnium)) to pass with all their army into Tuscany, during a time of truce with the Romans, to see whether, by such a passage and the presence of their army, they could induce the Tuscans to take up arms again, which they had refused to their Ambassadors. And in the talks which the Samnites had with the Tuscans ((especially in showing them the reason which induced them to take up arms)) they used a notable term, where they said: They had rebelled, for peace was more of a burden to slaves than war is to free men. And thus, partly by persuasion, parly by the presence of their army, they induced them to take up arms. Here it is to be noted that when a Prince desires to obtain something from another, he ought not ((if the occasion permits him)) to give him time to deliberate, but to act so as to make the other see the necessity for quick decision, who, when it is demanded of him, will see that to refuse or delay it, a sudden and dangerous indignation may arise.

This method has been seen to be well employed in our times by Pope Julian against the French, and by Monsignor De Foix, Captain of the King of France against the Marquis of Mantua; for Pope Julius, wanting to drive the Bentivogli from Bologna, and judging therefore to have need of the French forces and for the Venetians to remain neutral, and having sought the one and the other and obtaining dubious and various replies, decided that, by not giving them time, to make both come to terms with him; and departing from Rome with as much of a force as he could gather, went toward Bologna, and sent to tell the Venetians to remain neutral and to the King of France to send his forces to him. So that, as they were both pressed by the short space of time and seeing that an open indignation would arise in the Pope if they were refused or delayed, they yielded to his desires, and the King sent him aid and the Venetians remained neutral. The Monsignor De Foix was still with his army at Bologna, and having learned of the rebellion at Brescia, and wanting to go to recover it, had two paths (available): the one, long and tedious, through the dominion of the King, and the other, short, through the dominion of that Marquis; but he had to enter there over certain dikes between the swamps and the lakes of which that region is full, and which are closed and guarded by him by fortresses and other means. Whence that De Foix decided to go by the shorter route and to overcome every difficulty, and not give the Marquis time to decide, he at once moved his forces by that road, and signified to the Marquis to send him the keys to (the fortress which guarded) that pass. So that the Marquis, occupied by this quick decision, sent him the keys, which he would never have sent if De Foix had conducted himself more lukewarmly; for the Marquis, being in league with the Pope and the Venetians, and having one of his sons in the hands of the Pope, had reasons which could have given him an honest excuse to refuse them to him. But assaulted by the quick proceeding ((for the reasons given above)) he yielded them. The Tuscans also acted likewise toward the Samnites, being forced by the presence of the army of the Samnites to take up those arms which they had refused to take up at other times.



The Roman Consuls, Decius and Fabius, were with their two armies at the encounter with the armies of the Samnites and Tuscans, and both coming to battle on the same day, it is to be noted which of the two different methods of proceeding adopted by the two Consuls was better. Decius assaulted the enemy with all his strength and all impetuosity: Fabius only sustained (his attack), judging a slow assault to be more useful, reserving his fury for the last when the enemy should have lost his first ardor for combat, and ((as we said before)) his vehemence. Here it is seen that the success resulting from the plan of Fabius turned out much better than that of Decius, who, weary from the first shocks and seeing his band disposed rather to flee than otherwise, to acquire that glory by death which he was unable to gain by victory, in imitation of his father, sacrificed himself for the Roman legions. When this was heard by Fabius, so as not to acquire less honor by living than his colleague had acquired by dying, he rushed to the front all those forces which he had reserved for such a necessity, whence it gained him a most happy victory. From this it is seen that the method of proceeding of Fabius is more certain and worthy of imitation.



It appears that one City not only has certain ways and institutions different from another, and produces men who are either more harsh or effeminate, but within one City such differences are seen between one family and another. This is proved in every City, and many examples are seen in the City of Rome; for there are seen that the Manlii were hard and obstinate, the Publicoli benign and lovers of the people, the Appii ambitious and enemies of the plebs, and thusly many other families, each having its own qualities apart from the others. This cannot only result from blood ((for it must be that it changes from the diversity of marriages)) but must result from the different education that one family has from another. For it is very important that a young man of tender years begins to hear the good and bad of a thing, as it must of necessity make an impression on him, and from that afterwards regulate the method of proceeding all the rest of his life. And if this were not so it would be impossible that all the Appii should have had the same desires, and should have been stirred by the same passions, as Titus Livius has observed in many of them, and (especially) in that last one who was made Censor; and when his colleague at the end of eighteen months ((as the law called for)) laid down the magistracy, Appius did not want to lay down his, saying he could hold it five years according to the original laws ordained by the Censors. And although many public meetings were held on this question, and many tumults were generated, yet no remedy was ever found to depose him (from the office which he held) against the wishes of the people and the greater part of the Senate. And whoever reads the oration he made against P. Sempronius, the Tribune of the plebs, wfll note all the insolence of Appius, and all the good will and humanity shown by infinite Citizens in obeying the laws and auspices of their country.



Manlius, the Consul, was with his army against the Samnites when he was wounded in a battle, and as this was bringing danger to his forces, the Senate judged it necessary to send Papirus Cursor as Dictator to supply the place of the Consul. But as it was necessary that the Dictator should be named by Fabius, who was then with the armies in Tuscany, and being apprehensive that as he was hostile he would not want to name him, the Senators sent two Ambassadors to entreat him that he lay aside his personal hatred and name him for the public benefit: which Fabius did, moved by his concern for the Country, although he showed by his silence and in many other ways that this nomination was pressed on him; for which, all those who seek to be regarded as good citizens ought to take an example.



Fulvius, having been left as Legate in the army that the Romans had in Tuscany, while the Consul had gone to Rome for some ceremonies, the Tuscans to see if they could trap him, placed an ambush near the Roman camp; and they sent some soldiers dressed as shepherds with a large flock, and had them come in the sight of the Roman army, and thus dressed approached the entrenchments of the camp: whence the legate wondering at this presumption of theirs, and as it did not appear reasonable, took means to discover the deceit, and thus defeated the designs of the Tuscans. Here it can be conveniently noted that a Captain of armies ought not to trust in an error which he sees done by the enemy, as it always is done under deception, for it is unreasonable that men are so incautious. But often, the desire for victory blinds the minds of men who do not see anything else other then that which favors them. After the Gauls had overcome the Romans on the Allia, they came to Rome, and finding the gates open and unguarded, remained all that day and night without entering in fear of a deception, unable to believe that there should be so much baseness and so little counsel in the hearts of the Romans that they should abandon their country. When the Florentines in the year one thousand five hundred eight (1508) went to besiege Pisa. Alfonso Del Mutolo, a Pisan citizen, was (found to be) a prisoner of the Florentines, and promised that if they should free him, he would deliver a gate of Pisa to the Florentine army. He was set free. Afterward, to carry out the promise, he often came to talk with those sent by the commissioners, but never came concealed, but openly and accompanied by Pisans, whom he left to one side when he talked with the Florentines. Hence his duplicity could have been conjectured, for it was not reasonable that he should treat the proceeding so openly if he had been acting faithfully. But the desire they had to obtain Pisa so blinded the Florentines that, being led through his arrangement to the gate at Lucca, where, by the double treachery of the said Alfonso, they lost many of their Leaders and other forces in a dishonorable manner.



Of necessity ((as we mentioned other times)) it happens that in a great City incidents arise every day which have need of a doctor, and according as they are more important, a wiser doctor must be found. And if such strange and unforeseen incidents ever arose in such a City, they arose in Rome; as was that where it seemed that all the Roman women had conspired against their husbands to kill them, so that many were found who had (actually) poisoned them, and many who had prepared the poison to poison them; and as also was the conspiracy of the Bacchanals which was discovered at the time of the Macedonian war, where many thousands of men and women were implicated; and if it had not been discovered, it would have been dangerous for that City, and if the Romans had not been accustomed to punish the great number of guilty men. For, if the greatness of this Republic and its power of execution had not been seen from infinite other signs, it is seen from the kind of penalty imposed on those who erred. It did not hesitate through a judicial decision to put to death an entire legion at one time, or (to destroy) an entire City, and to exile eight or ten thousand men with such extraordinary conditions as could be observed, not by one man alone, but by many; as happened to those soldiers who fought unhappily at Cannae, who it exiled in Sicily, and imposing on them that they not live in towns and should eat standing. But the most terrible of all other executions was the decimation of the army, where by lot, one out of ten in the army was put to death. Nor in punishing a multitude could a more frightening punishment than this be found, for when a multitude errs, and where the author is not certain, everyone cannot be punished because they are too many: to punish a part and leave a part unpunished, would be wrong to those who would be punished, and the unpunished would have a mind to en another time. But to put to death part by lot when all merited it, those who are to be punished will complain of their lot, those who are not punished fear that another time the lot might fall to them, and will guard themselves from error. The Poisoners and the Bacchanals, therefore, were punished according as their crimes merited.

And although these maladies in a Republic have a bad effect, they are not fatal, for there is always time to correct them; but there is no time for those that affect the State, which, if they are not corrected by a prudent man, ruin the City. Because of the liberality which the Romans showed in giving their civil privileges to foreigners, many new people sprung up in Rome, and these begun to have a part in the elections; so that the government began to change and depart from those institutions and principles of those men who had been accustomed to direct it. When Quintus Fabius, who was Censor, became aware of this, he put all the new people, from whom this disorder derived, into four Tribes, so that they should be unable ((reduced to such small a space)) to corrupt all Rome. This was well recognized by Fabius, and put into effect a suitable remedy, which without change, was so well accepted by the Society (Republic), that he merited being called Maximus.

1. Marzocco is the name Florentines gave a marble lion (attributed to Donatello) with the coat of arms, at the gate of the Palazzo Vecchio; hence, the party supporting the government was called the party of Marzocco.