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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from being?; throvvm diforder and conflernation
by accidents : for undifciplined forces, befides their
other imperfeclions, are particularly apt to be terrified
by any fudden rumour or unufual noife. A good
General therefore ought to appoint oiTicers on pur-
pofe to carry his orders to cvciy part of his army, and


Chap. XIV. The First Decad of Livy. 40^

to lay a ftrifc injunflion upon his Soldiers to fhew no
manner ot regard, nor lo much as to lifien to any or-
der or report bin what they have from thofe CIncers;
who mud be charged to deliver his commands v/ord
for word as they receive them from his own mouth :
the want of which precaution has often occafioned
very great confufion in an army.

As to ftrange and fudden appearances, a General
ought to introduce fome fuch thing in the heat of the
battle, if pofTible, to encourage his own nien, and
difmay the enemy : for nothing contributes more to
the gaining of a victory. An inftance of which we
have in the condud of Sulpitius the Roman Didator,
who, when he was preparing to engage the Gauls,
caufed all the futtlers and fervants that followed his
camp to be armed and mounted upon the mules and.
other beafcs that ufcd to carry the baggage, with co-
lours and other marks of diftindion to make them
look like a large body of horfe ; and having pofted
them behind a hill, he ordered them to make their
appearance upon a proper fignal when the battle
besan to grow hot : which beins; executed accord-
ingly, flruck fuch a terror into the Gauls that they
loft the day*, A wife General therefore is to ftudy
thefe two points with attention : in the fiiil place to
intimidate tht enem.y by fome fuch (Iratagem as' this ;
and in the next, to make due provilion to difcover
and defeat any thing of the fame kind that may be
praflifed againft him -, as an Indian King ferved Se-
miramis, who perceiving he had a great many Ele-
phants in his army, caufed a number of Camels to be
loaded with the Skins of buffaloes and crher beads,
and to be covered in fuch a manner as to look like
Elephants, which She ordered to advance agiinft the
Enemy to fright them, if it was poffible : but the King

* See the Ath and 5th books of the Art of War. Let any one
f5;^ure to himfelf v.?itii what terror and difmay the fight of nien fight-
ing on horfeback, and the exploilon of great guns mvl affecl the poor
American Indians when they v/ere iiril introduced amongft them by
tiie Spaniards.

D d 2 dif.

404 Political Discourses upon Book IIL

difcovered the trick, and not only prevented the dc-
figned efFedt, but turned it to her own prejudice.
Mamercus being appointed Didlator in a war wherein
the Romans were engaged with the Fidenates, they
ordered a number of men to Tally out of the town
with fire at the end of their lances whilft they were
lighting near the v/alis, in hopes that the novelty of
the fight would have made the Romans break their

With regard to fuch (tratagems, we may obferve,
that when they have fomething foiid and efficacious
to fupport them, they may be made ufe of with ad-
vantage ; becaufe the futility of the whole is not fo
loon difcovered : but that when they are formidable
rather in appearance than reality, it is better either
to let them alone, or to play them off at fuch a dif-
tance that their weak fide may not fo eafily be found
out; as Sulpitius did with his Mulateers. For if
they are weak and ineffedual at the bottom, that will
prefently be perceived if you come near the enemy,
and may do you more harm than good ; as the fham
Elephants did to Semiramis, and the blazing lances
the Fidenates ; which lad indeed caufed fome little
diforder in the Roman army at firfl ; but the Didla-
tor coming up and reproaching his troops with pu-
fillanimity, afked them if they were not afliamed to be
fmoaked av/ay like files, encouraging them at the
fame time to return to the charge like men, and
" burn the enemy with their own fires, fince they
could not make them their friends by generous treat-
ment; Suis flammis delete Fidenas, quas vefiiris bene-
ficiis placare non potuiftis :" upon which they ralli-
ed, and utterly defeated the enemy.


Chap. XV. The First Decad of Livy; 40^


^hat more than one Commander i?i chief over an army

do more harm than good,

AFTER the Fidenates had rebelled againft the
Romans, and deftroyed a Colony which they
had fent to fettle amongft them, the Romans created
four Tribunes with Conlular power to chaftife them
for their infolence. One of thefe Tribunes was to
ftay at home to take care of the City -, the other three
were fent againft the Fidenates and Veientes : but not
agreeing amongft themfelves, they neither gained
much honour in that expedition, nor did the Republic
fufter any material lofs by it; as the mjfconduct of
the Generals was in fome meafure balanced by the va-
lour of their Soldiers. The Romans therefore, in
order to remedy the diforders which had been occa-
fioned by a divetuty of Commanders, immediarely
created a Di6lator : that fo when the power was in the
hands of one man he might a6l with more vigour and

Hence we may obferve how inconvenient, and in-
deed how prejudicial it is to have fcveral Commanders
in chief, either in an army or a town that is befieged :
and Livy veryjultly fays, " Tres IVibuni, pocertate
confulari, documento fuere, quam plurium imperium
bel'o inutile elTet : tendendo ad fua quifaue confilia,
cum alii aliud videretur, aperuerunt ad occafionem
locum hofti : The condud of thefe three Tribunes
with Confular power plainly lliewed how imprudent
a rhin^: it is to g-ive the command of an army to leve-
ral perfons \ fince one of them took one courie and
another another, according to the diverfuy of their
opinions •, by which they gave the enemy an advan-
tacf-e over them." Now though this inftance mav
feem fumcient to prove the truth of what 1 have laid
down, i will add two more, one of ancient, the other

D d 3 of

4o6 Politic AL Discourses upok BooJv III*

of modern date, for a further confirmation of it. In
the year 1500, Lewis XII. King of France, having
retaken Milan, fent -kis forces to reduce Pifa and to
reftore it to the Florentines ; in which enterprize they
were commanded by two Florentine ComniiiTaries,
Giovanni Battifta Ridolfi, and Luca degli Aibizi.
But as the former was a man of great reputation
and much older than the other, Luca left the manage-
ment of every thing entirely to him : and though
he did not openly and direftiy oppofe him in any of
Lis meafures, yet he plainly fnevved his difapprobarion
of them, fometimes by a fullen filence, and fometimes
by carping and laughing at them behind his back •,
fo that he Vv^as fo far from aOliling his Collegue either
in Council or any other way, that he did not give him-
felf the leaft trouble or concern about the matter.
But Ridolfi being foon after obliged to return to Flo-
rence upon fom.e occafion or other, and the fole com-
mand devolving upon Aibizi, he exerted himfelf with
great fpirit, prudence and activity, and fhewed that
he was Mauer of many extraordinary qualifications,
which he had fuffered to lie dormant whiift the com-
mand was divided betvvixt him and Ridolfi. The
oiher inllance is out of Livy, Vv'ho fpeaking of the
Expedition in which Qiiintius and Agrippa com-
manded tht Roman army againft the iEqui, fays that
Agrippa defired that Qiiintius might have the fole
itianagement of that war committed to him, becaufe,
*'Saluberrimum ad adminilirationem masnarumj re-
rum eft, fummam imperii apud unum eiie -, in the
adminiflration of great affairs, it is of the utmoft im-
portance to lodge the fupreme power in one perfon
only." But Princes and Republics ad: in a very dif-
ferent manner at prefent ; and icnd feveral Generals
pr Commifiaries to command one arrrjy ; v/hich often
creates infinite confufion, and has been the ruin of
many French and Italian armies in our tinies. "Vx'c
may venture to conclude then, that it is much better
to commit the execution of an enterprize to one man


Chap. XVI. The First Dec ad of Livy. 407
of common abilities, than to two of the mod able
men you can find, with equal authority *.


^hat men of eminent virtue and merit are employed
in time of danger and di/irefs : but in feaceahle and
profperous times^ 7nen of the greatefi riches and alliances
are preferred.

IT always was, and always will be the fate of
able and virtuous men, to be negleded and laid
afide in peaceable times, efpeciaily in a Common-
wealth : for the reputation which they have acquired
excites fuch a degree of envy that, during the tran-
quility of the Sure, many Citizirns will afpire to be
their equals if not fuperiours in power. Thucydides
tells us accordingly, that the Athenians having got
the better in the Peloponefian war, not only humbled
the pride of Sparra, but kept all Q\'(t'<iQQL in avv-e, and
became fo powerful, that they formed a defign of
making themfelves mafters of Sicily. When the mat-
ter came to be deliberared upon, Alcibiades and
fome other Citizens promoted it with all their might;
not fo much out of any regard to the public good, as
to gratify their own private interefl and ambition,
hoping they fnould be employed as Chiefs in that
expedition. But Nicias, a man of the greateil repu-
tation in Athens, oppcfed it with no lefs vehemence :
and the principal argument he made ufe of in one of
his harangues to convince the people that he had the
good of the public alone at heart, and no private view
or interefl of his own to ferve, was, that by difTuadino;
them from fuch an enterprize, he rather prejudiced
himfelf than otherwife ; becaufe he very well knew,
that whilit they continued in peace, many of his Fel-
T low-citizens would be put over his head j but that it

Ovx rtj/aSi) '770'^a.y:}] £:; xcjgaioj tS'i', fjiyS Homer.

d 4 war


4o8 Political Discourses UPON Book III,

war ili6ulu break out, he (liould then probably have
the fupreme command. It is a cominon foible in all
Republics to neglefl men of the greateft abilities and
qualiiicaiions in times of peace and fecr.rity ; but it is
very imprudent, becaufe it is fure to raife their in-
'dignation, when they not only fee themfelves over-
looked and deiuifed, but bafe and unworthv men
preferred •, which has been the ruin of many Repub-
lics ; for great nien, who are treated in this manner,
and know that it is owing to the tranquillity of the
times, will natr-rally endeavour to embroil their coun-
try in wars, which mud of courfe be of great preju-
dice to it, and perhaps may end in its deftruction,
Confidering tiierefore fometimes, how this evil
might be prevented in a Commonwealth •, I think
there, are but two ways of doing it : one of v;hich is,
by keeping the Citizens poor, or at lead from grow-
ing too rich •, that fo they may not have it in their
power to advance themfehes by corruption inftead of
abilities and integrity : the other is, to be always fo
prepared for war, that you may enter into one v;hen
you pleafe ; for upon fuch occafions great and emi-
nent men mud of necePfuy be employed. This was
the policy of the Romans in the firft and bed ages of
their Commonwealch ♦, fvOr as they conftantly had ar-
Tiiiies in the field, they never v^anted opportunities of
employing their bed Citizens ^ fo that they could not
well deprive them of the reward due to their merit,
by gi^'ing it to others that were unworthy of it : and
if ever they either happened to midake their man, or
had a mind to try his abilities, and any misfortune or
diforder enfued, they foon corrected their error. But
other Rtpubl cs v^hich have no fuch provifions, and
jiever make Vv^ar but when they are forced to it by
neceffity, cannot prevent thefe inconveniencies -, and
therefore mud be fubjeit to great dangers and trni-
bles, efpecially '<A\<t\-\ the perfon who is negledled
]iappens to be of a revengeful difpodtion, and has
great inrered and many partizans in the Common-
l/^'^alth. NcverthelefSj though the Romans kept clear


Chap, XVI. The First Decad of Livy.' 409

of this evil for a coniiderable time, yet after they had
vanquifhed Antiochus and the Carthaginians, and had
no other war of any great importance upon their
hands, they feemed to difpofe of their honours and the
command of their armies not according to merit, but
the degree of favour and popularity which any one
had acquired amongft his Fellow-citizens. Paulus
i^milius was refuled the Confulfhip feveral times,
and could never obtain that honour till the com-
mencement of the Macedonian war ; for then the
Citizens apprehending it would be attended with
much danger, unanimoufly made choice of him to
condudl it. The Republic of Florence being en-
o^aged in many wars after the year 1494, and all the
Florentine Generals having behaved ill, Antonio Gia-
Gomini was fixed upon at laft to command their
troops, and fhewed himfelf fo able a Soldier, that
whilll: there was any appearance of danger left, the
reft of the Citizens feemed to have laid afide all envy
and ambition ; for he had not fo much as one compe-
titor in the election of a Commiflary : but afterwards
-when the danger was blown over, and a new war
broke out, the manas^ement of which was more
iikely to be attended with honour and fuccefs than any
fort of difficulty or hazard, there were fo many Candi-
dates for the Office of Commiffary, that notwithftand-
ing three were to be appointed to go upon an expedi-
tion againft Pifa, he had not intereft enough to be
chofen one of that number. And thou';ih there can
be no certain eftimate made of the lofs our Republic
fuftained by negledling Giacomini, yet we may pretty
well guefs at it : for as the Pifans were very ill pro-
vided for their defence, if he had conducted the Siege,
he would foon have reduced them to fuch extremities,
that they muft have furrendered at difcretion : but the
Siege being carried on by Commanders of little expe-
rience in military affairs, the Pifans held out fo long
that the Florentines were forced to buy the place at
laft, when they might otherwife have had it for no-
thing. Giacomini then muft certainly be highly dif-



410 Political Discourses upon Book III.

gufted at fach treatment : and indeed a mtin in fuch
a Gale muil be poiicffcd of a great degree of patience
and goodnefs, not to take revengej if it lies in his
power, either upon the whole Commonwealth or fome
particular perfon : againft which, every Republic
-fhould take fpecial care to guard itfelf, as I fliail fhew
in the next Chapter.


That a man who has been injured or difgiijied^ Jloould not
be trufted afterwards in any Office of authority or

A Common wealth ought to take particular care
never to prefer a man to any place of trufl or
authority, whom they have firft injured to dny co?n(i-
derable degree. Claudius Nero was fent into Spain
with an arm.y againft Afdrubal ; and though he had
pofTelTcd himfelf of ail the paffes in that part of the
country where the enemy lay, and fhut them up in
fuch a manner, that they were reduced to a necefTity
either of fighting him with difavantage,, or of perifh-
ing with hunger •, yet Afdrubal had the addrefs to
amufe him with overtures of peace, till he had an op-
portunity of making a fafe retreat, and efcaping
entirely out of his hands. When this came to be
known at Rome, he was exceedingly blamed for his
conduil, both by the Senate and people, and fo cen-
fured by the whole City, that he was not a little mor-
tified at it. But being afterwards created Conful, and
fent out againft Hannibal, he divided his army, and
marched with one part of it to join another body of
troops which was under the command of his Colle-
gue, in order to fight Afdrubal before he could be
reinforced by Hannibal : which was reckoned fo dan-
gerous a flep, that the Republic was in great pain
and anxiety till they received intelligence that he had
defeated Afdrubal. Being afked, after the afi-air was


Chap. XVIII. The First Decad of Livy. 411

over, what could induce him to take fo defperate a
Tefolution, in which he rifqued the liberties of his
country as it were upon one throw, and that too with-
out any apparent neceffity ; he faid he did it becaufe
he knew that if he fucceeded, he ihould recover the
reputation he had loft in Spain ; but if he mifcarried,
he fhould fufficiently revenge himlelf upon the State
and thofe Citizens who had abufed him in fo ungrate-
ful and rude a manner. Now if the refentment that
is always excited by fuch ufage could produce thefe
efFedis in the breaft of a Roman, and at a time when
that Republic was yet incorrupr, it may well be ex-
pected to operate more powerfully in perfons who live
in a Commonwealth that is lefs virtuous, and have not
fo much regard to the good of the public as the gra-
tification of their own pafTions. And as it is impof-
fibie to prefcribe any certain remedy for fuch evils, it is
consequently impoffible that any Commonwealth fnould
be perpeiual ; (ince they are all liable to a thoufand
unexpedled accidents which may occafion its ruin.


That nothing Jhews the chiUties of a General fo muchy
as to penetrate into the defigns of the Enemy.

EPAMINONDAS the Theban ufed to fay that
nothing was more neceffary or of greater fer-
vice to a general than to penetrate into the deligns of
the enemy ; and fmce it is generally a difficult matter,
he certainly is worthy of much praife whofucceeds in
it. For if the very actions of an enemy, and thofe too
which fall under our immicdiate notice and obferva-
tion are often myfterious and hard to be accounted
for, certainly it muft be much more difficult to dif-
cover their fecret defigns and intentions. It has fre-
quently happened, when an engagement has lafted
till night, that-the conquering army has thought itfelf
defeated, and that which has had the worfl of it, has


4T2 Political Discourses upon Book III/

looked upon itfelf as vidlorious ; an error that fome-
times proves fatal to thofe that fall into it ; as it did to
Brutus and CafTius, who were ruined by a miflake of
this kind. For the wing which Brutus commanded
having routed the forces he was engaged with, Caflius,
on the contrary, thought it had been defeated,
and killed himfelf in delpair. At the battle of St.
Cecilia in Lombardy which happened not long ago
betwixt the French and the Swifs, night coming on,
a body of Swifs, which remainded entire and unbroken,
thought they had got the day, not knowing that the
reft of their army was routed and difperled : fo that
inftead of retreating in the dark, as they might have
done, they continued upon the field of battle till the
next morning; at which time they were charged again
and cut to pieces. The Pope's army and that of the
King of Spain had like to have been ruined alfo by
this miftake : for upon a falfe report that the Swifs
had gained a vidory, they paiTed the Po, and ad-
vanced fo far that they very narrowly efcaped falling
into the hands of the French before they were unde-
ceived. An error of the fame kind happened in the
camps of the Romans and the ^qui : for Sempronius
the Roman Conful being fent with an army againll
the Enemy, and forcing them to an engagement
which continued till night with various fuccefs on
each fide ; when it began to grow dark, and both
armies had fuftained confiderable lofs in the battle,
neither of them returned to their camp, but drew off
to the neighbouring hills, where they thought they
Ihould be more fecure. The Roman army was di-
vided into two parts ; one of which had followed the
Conful ; the other Tempanius, a Centurion, to whofe
valour and condudt it was owing that the Romans had
not been entirely routed that day. But in the morn-
ing, the Conful hearing no more of the enemy, re-
treated towards Rome ; as the ^^qui likewife did
towards their own country : for each fide thinking
they had loft the day, marched away, and left their
camps CO the mercy of the enemy. It happened how-

Chap. XVIIf. The First Decad of Lrvy. 41^
ever, that Tempanius, who was likewife going to re-
treat with the reft of the Roman army, had intelli-
gence from fome of the JEqu'i who were wounded
and afterwards taken prifoners, that their Generals
had quitted the field and left the camp which they '
had poflefTed ; upon which, he in the firft place re-
turned to the Roman camp, and having fecured that»
immediately plundered the enemy's, and returned
vidlorious to Rome : an advantage which was gained
merely by his having received information of the ene-
my's miftake, before they knew any thing of that into
which the Romans had fallen themlelves.

Hence we fee it fometimes happens that two op-
pofite armies may be in the fame error, and prefled
by the fame neceffity ; and that that will come off
with the advantage at laft, which is firft acquainted
with the diftrefs of the other. To confirm this, I
fhall add another example which happened not long
ago in our own country. In the year 1498, when
the Florentines had entered the territories of Pifa
with a powerful army, and laid clofe fiege to that
City, the Venetians having taken it under their pro-
tedlion, and feeing no other method to fave it, re-
folved to make a diverfion by invading fome other
part of the Florentine dominions : for which purpofe^
they fent a large body of forces into the vale of La-
mona, and not only feized upon Marradi, but laid
fiege to the Fortrefs of Caftigiione, which ftands up-
on a hill above it. The Florentines being alarmed
at this, determined to fuccour the fortrefs -, but in
fuch a manner as not to weaken their army before
Pifa : and therefore having made new levies both of
horfe and foot, they fent them towards that place un-
der the command of Jacopo d'Appiano, Lord of
Piombino, and Count Rinuccio da Marciano. But
upon the arrival of thefe forces near Caftigiione, the
Venetians raifed the fiege, and retreated into the town :
fo that the two armies lying clofe together for feveral
days, both fuffered greatly for want of provifions and
other neceflfaries ; and as neither of them durft come


4:14 Political Discourses UPON Book llf ■„

to an ensagement, nor was aware of the other's di-
itrefs, it happened that they both refolved to quic
their fituation the fame n-^orning ; the Venetians de-
figning to retreat towards Berzighella and Faenza^
and the Florentines towards Cafaglia and Mngeilo.
"When the morning came, and each fide had begun to
fend away their baggage, a poor old woman who
lived in Marradi, happening to come into the Floren-
tine camp to fee fome relations Ihe had there, inform-
ed them that the Venetians were marching off: upon
which, the Florentine Generals taking courage, im-
mediately purfued them with all their forces, and
wrote word to Florence that thev had not only ob-
liged the enem.y to quit Marradi, but had adually
beat them, and put an end to the war. This victory
then (if it may be fo called) was wholly owing to
chance •, for if the Venetians had happened to have
known that the Florentines were in motion, before
the latter were aware of their decamping, the confe-
quence would certainly have been the fam.s with re-
gard to them, and the Florentines muil have come
off with difad vantage.


Whether rigour^ or cleme?2cy and gentle means^ have a
greater effect upon the multitude.

AT a time when the Roman Republic was mifer-
ably divided by intefline difcords betwixt the
Patricians and the Plebeians, yet, as they were like-
wife engaged in wars abroad, they fent out two ar-
mies under the command of QiTintius and Appios
Claudius. Appius behaving with great rigour and
aufterity in his c6mmand, was fo ill obeyed by his
Soldiers that he was forced to quit his Province with
as much difgrace, as if he had been driven out of ic
by the enemy : whilft Quintius on the contrary, being
of a benign and affable difpolition, was fo well ferved


Chap. XIX. The First Decad of Livy. 415

by his troops, that he fucceeded in all his cnterprizes.
Hence it appears, that the command over a multi-
tude is much better fupported by gentle and benevo-
lent meafures, than by rigorous and fevere punifh-
ments. But many are of a different opinion, efpeci-
ally Tacitus, who fays, " in mulcitudine regenda plus
poena quam obfequium valet : it is an eaHer matter
to rule a multitude with a high hand^ than by gentle-
nefs and clemency."

In order to reconcile thefe two opinions, we mud

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 37 of 44)