Niccolò Machiavelli.

The works of Nicholas Machiavel ... : translated from the originals : illustrated with notes, annotations, dissertations, and several new plans on the Art of war (Volume 3) online

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certainly abandon you, and pjake their peace at home^
notwichftanding the mod facred engagements to the
contrary : and with regard to the promifes of fuccefs
which thty feed you with, thefts people naturally
grov/ing weary of exile, and impatient to return to
iheir families, are prompted not only to believe m,a^
ny ftories that are falfe, but to invent others to im-
pofe upon you : io that if you build upon fuch a'
foundation, you either throw away a great deal of
money to no purpofe, or utterly ruin yourfelf. To
the example above quoted, let me add that of The-
midocles the Athenian, who having rebelled asaind
his country, fied into Afia to Darius, whom he flat-
tered with fuch magnifi-ccnt hopes, that he prevailed
i1pon him to invade Greece ; bur, afcervv'ards finding
he was not able to perform the promifes he had made
that Prince, he poifoned himfcrlf, either out of Shame,
or fear of punilhment. Nov/, if a man poffefTed of
fuch eminent virtue and abilities as Themiitocles con-
fefTedly v^as, could be guilty of fuch an error, and
promife much more than he could fulfil ; we may
well expecl that thofe of much inferior merit and
power will naturally be hurried away by their preju-
dices and pafiionSj to deceive others as well as them-
felves *.

* The conduft of Zopyrus, ?. Nobleman of PerGa, might here like-
vffiCe be inilanced, (if further examples were wanting) who, a<:cord.'nj
to Juftin, after his Sovtieign Dasius had longbslicged Babylon to no


2^0 Political Discourses upon Book IL

Princes therefore ought to be very cautious hov/
they engage in any undertaking, on the encourage-
ment of an Ejiile •, bccaufe fuch enterprizts are gene-
rally attended either with very great lofs or difgrace.
And as it alfo fcldom happens, that towns are taken
by treachery or private intelligence •, I fhall fhew in-
the next Chapter by what means the Romans ufed to'
reduce them.

G H A P. xxxir.

Concerning the fever al methods hy which the Romans made
themjehes maflcrs of Toiins,

THE Romans being a martial people, confidered
war in every point of view^ and always pro-
ceeded in fuch a manner, with regard to their expences
and all other particulars in their military operations,
as might tend moll effciSlually to command fuccefs.
In confequence of this, they feldom laid fiege to a'
place, if it was poIFibie to avoid it, becaufe they
thought it not only a very expenfive way of proceed-
ing, but attended with fo many other inconveniencies,
as would much over-balance the advantage that might
refult from iht redu6lion of a town in that m.anner :
upon which account, as they judged it better and more
probiable to have.recourfe to other means, there are
but very few infiances of regular fieges in the whole
courfe of their wars. The methods therefore, by
v^hich they made themfelves mailers of fortified
places, were either by fiorm, or by flratagem. When
they took a town by ilorm, they did not batter the

purpofe, cut ofF his own nofe and ears, and fled to the Babylonhns,
pretending it was done by the order of Daniis : upon which the Baby-
jonians, moved with compainon aiid deteilacion at tiie barbarity of
the i?^^ty not only gave credit to Ii.s report, but made him their Ge-
neral. Not long nfter, however, he took, an opportunity of betraying
the confidence they had fimply repoied in him, and dciiveied up the
City to tlie Enemy. The fame Hidorian tells us, that Darius was i'o
ntlonifhed at his loyalty, that he iaid, " he had rather fee Zopyrus

vshole attain than take tweiily fuch Cities as Babylon."



Chap. XXXII. The First Dec ad of Livy. 331

walls, but fnrrounded them with their whole army
(which they called Aggredi iirbem corona) and car-
ried on the attack in all parts at the fame time : fa
that they often fucceeded in the firft aflauit ; as Scipio
did at new Carthage in Spain. But if they failed ia
that attempt, they either began to batter the wall*
with rams, and other fuch warlike engines, or to un-
dermine them and force a pafTageinto the town thac
way (as they did into Veii), or built wooden towers than
they might fight upon a level with thofe on the walls 5.
or threw up Cavaliers* againft them, to command zhc
town. When the befieged were furrounded and aflault-
ed on all fides from without, they certainly were in
the grearell danger, and had the feweil refources to
depend upon : for as it^vas neceflary to defend every
part at the fame time, they feldom could have mea
enough for that purpofe •, much Icfs others to relieve
them : but if they had, thofe m.en could not all be
equally ftouc and refolute •, fo that if an impreiTion
was made in any parr, the whole was loil ; .and there-
fore fuch places, as I faid before, where often taken
at the firll affaulr. But if that mifcarried, they fel-
dom or never renev/ed ir, or kept their army any
longer in a pofture that mufl neceilarily expofe it to
great danger-, for as it was extended over fo large a
comipais of ground, the ranks mull of courfe be very
rhin, and not able to oppofe the enemy, if they fliould
chance to make a fallv : befides, the Soldiers would
be apt to grow weary of fuch a flaticn, and confe-
quenfly mutinous ; for which reafon, this method was
never attempted but once, and then with the utmotl
furprize and vigour. When a breach was made in
the wails, the befieged endeavoured to repair it with
entrenchments and ramparts thrown up within, as they
do at prefent : and from the efiedl of mining they ufed

* The Original, fays " argini di terra apoggiati alle mv^ra di fuora,"
i. e. banks of earth a.o:ainll the outfide of the walls, now called Cava-
liers, which are mounts of earth, with a platform on the top, and a
parapet to cover iht cannon planted upon it, cut with embrafures to
fire ilirough.


^^1 Political Discourses upon Bool? II.

to defend themfclves by countermines, in which they
either oppofed the enemy fword in hand, or threw
caflsis fuH of feathers and fuch like conibuftibles kz on
fire, into their works ; the fmoke and ftink of which,
would not fufFer them to continue long there. As to
wooden towers, they endeavoured to deltroy them by
fire ; and when the befiegers began to throv/ up Cava-
liers againil the cutfide of the wall, thofe in the town
made holes in the bottom, throug-h which thev drew
the earth they v;erc made of into the infide •, {o that
they could never be raifed to a fufBcient height to do
them any harm, as the foundations v/ere conflantly
giving way.

But fince thefe methods of attacking a place cannot
be long continued, the bciiegers muft refolve upon
one of thefe two things; i. e. either to raife their camp
^ and profecute the war in fom.e other manner (as Scipio
did, who having made a fudden but fruitlefs afiauk
upon ULica in Africa, immediately marched away
from thence, in order to force the Carthaginian army
to an cns;ao;ement), or to form a regular fiege as the
Eom.ans did at Veii, Capua, Carthage, Jerufalem,
and fome other Cities which they rook in that manner.

As to taking a place by means of a private corref-
• pondence with fome of the Citizens (as the Romans
took Falsopolis), that maethod of proceeding, though
often tried by the Romans and other people, was fel-
dom attended with fuccefs; becaufe in fuch an under-
taking many im.pedimenrs muft intervene, ant^ the
lead is fufficient to defeat it. For in the firft place,
confpiracies are generally difcovered before they are'
ripe for execution, eidicr through the perfidy of fome
accomplice, or the difiicukies that occur in condudinp;
them ; becaufe you muft have a correlpondence with
the enemv who are reft rained from havinf>' any inicr-
courfe v/ith you, except upon fome very particuhir
cccafion. Euc lee us fuppofe the dcfign Ihould not
be difcovered, till it is upon the point of being exe-
cuted ; many difappointments and obftru.'Riions may
ftill happen : fome of the confpirators, perliap'', ma'y


Chap. XXXII. The First Decad of Livy. 33^

alTemble too foon, and others too iare ; in either of
which cafes, they are undone : fome dark rumour,
foine iinexpecled alarm (like that of the geele which
faved the Capitol at Rome), nay the lead niiftake or
nioft trifling change either in the plan, or manner of
execiuing it, is more than enough to overfet the
whole. To thefe contingencies we might add the
darknefs of the night (a tim.e v/hen fuch things are
generally brought to a crifis), the terror with which it
infpires guilty m.inds, the blunders men are liable to
fall into, Vy'ho are not intim^ately acquainted with the
nature and fituation of the particular places that are
to be the fcenes of adlion (as many of the confpi-
rators cannot be), and the difmay that naturally pre-
fents itfclf to people concerned in fuch perilous enter-
prizes ; all which circumftances greatly contribute to
confound, embarrafs, and difcourage them to fuch a
degree, that the mod infignificant accident or fhadow
of danger throws them mto diforder and fufpicions
that commonly end in their deicruction *. No man
was ever bolder or more fortunate in'thefe clandeftine
and nodlurnal pradlices than Ararus the Sicyonian ;
though he was no lefs cautious and circumfpedt in
the field, and in open day light : which would tempc
one to think that this was rather owing to fome pe-
culiar and innate difpofirion in him, than to any good
opinion that found reafon and judgment can form of
fuch enterprizes. This manner of proceeding there-
fore, v/hen often tried,- may fometimes prove fuccefs-
ful ; but i will venture to affirm in general, that ic
can feldom be conduced to the point of execution,
and dill more rarely anfwer the intended purpofe.

The lad method by which the Romans got podef-
fion of tCvVris, was by treaty -, that is, when the inha-
bitans, either voluntarily fubmitted to them, or were
reduced to accept of terms : the fird was generally
ov/ing to fome urgent necefiity or danger v/hich hung
over their heads, and obliged them to feek protedion

* See Chap, vj, of the next book.


334 Political Discourses upon Book IT.

from others (as the Capuans did) or to a defire of living
under a happier Government, which they perceived
others enjoy who had thrown themfelves into their
arms, particularly the Rhodians, and Mafhlians, and
Ibme other Cities that have been mentioned before.
But when people are compelled to accept of terms, ic
commonly proceeds either from the ufiial confequences
of a long fiege, or being harrafied with continual
incurfions and devaftations, and otherwife diftrcfTed ;
to avoid which, they think it more eligible to fubmic
to the enemy. This method was more generally
pradifed by the Romans than any other, during the
courfe of four hundred and fifty years, in which they
never ceafed to harrafs their neighbours in every man-
ner that was pofTible to devifc, till they were forced
to fubmit to fome conditions or other, and acknow-
ledge their fuperiority : a method which they chiefly
depended upon, after they had tried all others, and
rejeded them, either as dangerous or unferviceable ;
confidering that fieges were tedious and expenfive,
affaults doubtful and perilous, the fuccefs of private
correfpondencies uncertain, and that a vi6lory in the
field often determined the fate of a v^hole Kingdom
in one day, when the redudion of a City that was
cbflinately defended, fometimcs could not be efFeded
in iiveral years.


^hoJ the Romans upon any Expedition gave the Com-
manders of their Armies free and difcretionary Com-

WHOEVER would improve himfelf by reading
/ Livy*s Hiftory, fhould attentively confider
the whole fcope and tendency, as well as the particular
condud oblerved by the Romans in all their adlions
and defigns. It may not be amifs then, to fay Ibme-
thing of the authority with which they veiled their


Chip. XXXIII. The First Decad of Livy. 335?

Conruls,'Di6lators, and other Cornmanders of their
forces, when they fent them upon any expedition ;
which indeed was To great, that the Senate referved
no other power to iticlf than that of confirming a
peace, or declaring war-, leaving all other operations
entirely to the condudl and difcrecion of the General,
who was at liberty either to fight the enemy, or to
decline it ; to lay fiege to a town, or to let it alone,
juft as the thought fie. This is obvious from many
examples, particularly from what happened in an ex-
pedition againtl the Tufcans, when Fabius the Con-
ful had defeated them near Sutrium. For after the
battle was over, that General having determined to
march through the Ciminian foreft into Tufcany, was
fo far from confulting the Senate about ir, that he did
not give them the leaft notice of his defign ; thougli
the war was to be tranfported into another country,
and likely to be attended with much danger and ha-
zard. 1 his is evident from the fteps taken by the
koman Senate upon that occafion : for having re-
ceived an account of the vi(5lory he had gained, and
apprehending he might be inclined to purfue his ad-
vantage, and pufh through that forell: into the enemy's
territories, they fent an exprefs to dififuade him from
it : but their advice arrived too late; for before he
received it he had routed the Tufcans a fecond time,
and over- run all their country : fo that, inilead of pre-
venting that expedition, the melTengers returned with
the news of a victory.

Now if this manner of proceeding be duly confi-
dered, it will be found very wife and expedient : for
if the Senate was to have been confulted upon every
particular occafion, it would have damped the vigour
and adivity cf the Generals, and made them lefs vi-
gilant in their enterprizes ; fince they mull have
thought the honour of a vidory would not have re-
dounded fo much to them as to the Senate, under
whofe immediate inftrudions they had adted. Befides,
the Senate in that cafe mud fometimes have given
y^ry improper orders : for though the Senators were


336 Political Discourses, &:c.' BookIL

all men of great experience in military afrairs, yet as
they were not upon the fpot themfelves, they could
not know many particular circumftances that it was
neceirary to be acquainted with, in order to gain or
improve an advantage ; and confequently mud be
guiltv of numberlefs errors; for which reafon they left
their Generals to a6l according to their own dilcretion,
that fa they might be the more effedually incited to
exert their utmoft abilities, when they knew no body
elfe was to fiiare with them in the glory. This t
thought fit to obferve, becaufe I fee how differently
the Commonwealths in thefe times (efpecially the Ve-
netians and Florentines) a6t upon fuch occafions: for
if a battery (for inftance) is to be railed againft a town
that is belieged, the Senate muft be confulted about
it in the firft place, and give their orders how it is to
be managed. A manner of proceeding, indeed, that
is of a piece with the reft of their condudl -, which all
together has reduced them to the pitiful condition they

^re now in.








" Secretary of State to the Republic of Florence. _


Vol. III.







That no State or Religious Eftablijhment can fuhfift longy
e^zcep it is frequently reduced to its firjl Principles.

EVERY thing in this World is fubje^ft to difToIu-
tion. Thofe bodies that finiih the courfe ap-
pointed them by Heaven, are fuch as obferve fo re-
gular an order, that they either undergo no change
at all, or if they do, it is fuch only as tends rather to
their prefervation than their dedruciion. With regard
to mixed bodies, as Republics and Religious Orders,
I fay, that fuch changes as reduce them to their
firft principles are falutary : and therefore thofe are
the bed conflicuted and continue the longeft, which
cither have eftablifliments and inftitutions of their
own, by the application of which they may be reduc-
ed to that condition % or cafily fall, by accident as it
were, into fome courfe that tends to fuch a renovation:
for it is a mod evident truth, that no Body can long
fubfifl: without it. The fundamentals of dl Religions,

Z 2 Repu-

g^o Political Discourses upon Book llh

Republics, and Kingdoms, mud have had fomething
good and wholefome in them at firft, to which they
owed their origin and progrefs : but as that virtue is
liable to be corrupted in time, the body muft of ne-
celTity languiih and die, except fomething happens to
reftore its efficacy. Thus, Phyficians (fpeaking of the
human body) fay, "quotidieaggregatur aliquid, quod
■quandoque indiget curatione-, it daily concrads lome
impurity which muft be purged off in time."

This renovation then is affe6led in Republics, either
by fome external accident, or internal policy. In the
firft cafe, we have feen how it was owing to Fortune
that Rome was taken by the Gauls-, that fo it might
be reilored to its ancient vigour by refuming new life
and virtue, and by the revival of Religion and Juftice,
which had begun to decay. This plainly appears from
Livy, who tells us that when the Romans led ouE
their army againft the Gauls, and created Tribunes
with' Confular power, they obferved no religious rite
or ceremony upon that occafion, as they ufed to do
before ; and that inilead of punifning the Fabii, who
had violated the lav/ of nations by fighting againft the
Gauls, they loaded rhem with honours and rev/ards :
froiTi whence we may reafonably fuppofe, that the
Inftitutions upon which Ron'iulcis and other wife
Princes had founded that State were falling into a de-
gree of contempt and negledl that vv'as inconfiftenc
with the prefervation of its liberties *. Such an ac-
cident therefore as befel them from the Gauls was
highly requifite at that jundurs to revive their an-
cient difcipline and inftitutions •, and to Ihew the peo^
pie how necefTary it was, not only to maintain Religion
and Juftice in full force, but to reverence virtuous
and worthy Citizens, and to fhew a greater regard to
their merit than to any private conHderation what -
ibever. All which adually came to pafs : for as foon
as they had recovered the City, they immediately ap^
plied themfelves to revirc all the ancient rites and

* See book. II. chao. xxviii. xxix.


Chap. I, The First Decad of Livy. 34I

inftitutions of their Religion, chaftifed the Fabii for
their deliquency, and laying afide all envy and con-
tenrions amongft themfclves, not only vied with
each other in fhewing all manner of refped to the
virtue and goodnefs of Camillus, but committed the
management of the whole State to him alone.

It is necefiary then, as I fay before, that all States
fliould often be reformed, either by fuch external
accidents or by fome interior power : the latter of
which mud arife either from laws that may frequently
call the individuals to account •, or from the authority
of fome great and good man am.ongft them, whole
example and virtuous actions may have the fame
effed. The laws that w-ere made to reduce the Ro-
man Republic to its firfl principles, were fuch as
created Tribunes and Cenfors ; and fome others that
were enadled to curb infolence and ambition : but
fuch inflitutions muft be kept in full force and vigour
by fome virtuous and fpirited man, who v/iil maintain
them againil powerful tranfgrefTors, and fee them
duly put in execution. The moft flriking examples
of this fort before the taking of Rome by the Gauls,
were the execution of the Sons of Brutus, the pu-
nilhment of the DecemiViri, and the death of Spurius
Melius : and afterwards, that of Manlius Capitoli-
nus, the Son of Manlius Torquatus, the profecution
carried on by Papirius Curfor againft Fabius his Ge-
neral of the Horfe, and the accufation oftheScipos;
which being extraordinary a6ls of feverity were much
noticed when they happened, and ferved to remind
other Citizens of their duty : but as they grew more
rare, the people began to degenerate again into cor-
ruption and licentioufnefs in fuch a mannerg that ex-
amples of this kind could not be made without much
danger and tumult. It is necefiary therefore that fuch
events (hould happen once in ten years, at lead, to
awaken the remembrance of former punifhments, and
to (Irike a terror into the people : otherwife they will
foon begin to forget and defpife the laws, and delin-
quents multiply fo fait, that it will be very difficailt if

Z 3 no%

342 Political Discourses upon Book IIL

impofTible to bring them to juftice, without expofing
a State to great perils and troubles. For this re^fon,
thole that governed Florence from the year 1433 to
the year 1494, ^^^^^^^^ ^^^^ State every five years ;
without which it could not have exifled : and in thefe
reformations they were particularly careful to revive
that dread of punifhment, which they had at firfl ex-
cited in the breafts of the Citizens, when they took
the Government into their hands, by doing ftri6l juf-
tice, and calling all offenders to a fevere account :
but as the Remembrance of thefe puni(hments began
to wear away, the people alio began to grow bold and
infolent again, and not only faid, but did what they
pleafed -, againft: which no remedy was found fo effi-
cacious as reducing the State to its firlt principles.

Such a redudlion is likewife owing fometimes to the
virtue of one man alone, without the co-operation of
3ny law to enforce it : for fo great is the authority of
fueh an example, that all good men are ready to fol-
Icv/ it, and thofe that are bad are afhamed to do
otherwife. The mod remarkable examples of this
kind in Rome w^ere thofe of Floratius Codes, Sctc-
vola, Fabritius, the two Decii, Regulus Attilius, and
fome others, whofe rare and uncommon virtue pro-
duced the fame effeds that any law or inltitution could
have done. If then either fome fuch executions as
v/e have mentioned, or fome fuch particular example
of virtue had happened every ten years in Rome,
that State would never have become corrupt ; but as
they both becamiC lefs frequent, corruption began to
grow more general, after the time of Marcus Regu-
lus, there were very few or no fuch examples : for
though indeed thofe of the tv/o Catos, might be in-
Hanced, yet it was at fuch a diftance of time from the
abovenientioned, and there was fo long an interval
betwixt one and the other of them, that they flood
fingle in their virtue and could do no manner of
good; efpecially the younger, who finding the Re-
public almofl totally corrupted, found alfo all his


Chap. I. The First Decad of Livy; ^43

endeavours to reform it ineffedlual. So much for
Republican Governments.

With regard to Religious Eftablidiments, it will
plainly appear how necefTary reformations are in theie
alfo from the example of our own, which would have
been utterly ruined if it had not been reduced to its
firft principles by St. Francis and St:, Dominic, who
by their voluntary poverty and imitation ofChrift,
revived true Religion in the minds of men, v;hen it
was almoil effaced, and would foon have been wholly
obliterated by the wickednefs of Prelates and Popes :
for as they lived in extreme poverty, and were very
diligent in hearing ConfefTions and preaching, they
gained fuch an influence over the people by renew-
ing thefe inflitutions, that they began to be convinced
it was their duty not to fpeak evil of their Superiors,
how bad foever ; but to obey them, and to leave the
chattifement of their crimes to God : whereas the
others m.ufl of necefTity lead very wicked lives, fmce
they feared not that vengeance which they feldom or
never heard of and did not believe. This reforma-
tion then has been, and flill is the prefervation of our
Religion *.

Monarchies have likewife occalion fometimes for
fuch renovations and a reduction to their nrft princi*
pies, in order to re-eftablifli the authority of their fun-
damental lavv's : and we fee v/hat good efFedls they
have had in the Kingdom of France, which lives in
ftridter obedience to fuch infdtutions than any other
that we know of. The Parliaments indeed, and ef-
pecially that of Paris, are the maintainers and confer-
vators of thofe laws and inflitutions, which are always
revived and put in execution, when it is necelTary to
proceed againft any Prince in that Kingdom, or to
oppofe the King's Edidis : and they have hitherto pre-
ferved their liberties by putting the laws duly in exe-

Online LibraryNiccolò MachiavelliThe works of Nicholas Machiavel ... : translated from the originals : illustrated with notes, annotations, dissertations, and several new plans on the Art of war (Volume 3) → online text (page 31 of 44)