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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that cafe is not adequate to the danger he vj^ould have
been in if it had failed. Selim, the prefent Grand
Signior, having made preparations to invade Syria and
Egypt (as it is reported by fome who lately come out
of Turky) was advifed by one of his Bafhavvs who
lived upon the confines of Perfia, to turn his arms
upon the Sophi. He therefore marched with a very
powerful army againfl the Perfians ; but arriving in
a flat open country where there were vaft defarts and
no water to be had, and meeting with many other
difficulties and dangers which in former times had ofr
ten proved fatal to the Koman armies in thvofe parts,
his forces were fo diminifhed by hunger, thirPc, and
ficknefs, that, though he fucceeded in that expedition,
he loft the greater part of his army : upon which, he
was fo enraged at the perfon who advifed him to un-
dertake it, that he put him to death. Many others
have been treated in the fame manner by Republics
upon like occafions, as we might (hew at large from
the hiftory of former times. It happened that one
of the Roman Confuls beinor chofen out of the Ple-
beians, by the inftigation of fome particular Citizens,
was defeated the firft time he led an army into the
field : for which the encourasiers of that eledioa
'would have been called to an account, if the whole
body of Plebeians had not thought themfelves oblig-

4^2 Political Discous^ses upojt Book IIL

ed to protect them for the honour they had done thenri.
Hence we fee that the Counfellors of Princes and
Republics lie under this dilemma •, that if they do
not give fuch advice as they think beft for their Ma-
ilers, without any other confideration, they fail in
their duty ; and if they do, they often hazard their
own lives and fortunes : becaule (as I faid before)
mod men are apt to judge of the goodnefs or bad-
nefs of their counfel from the event.

Confidericcr therefore with mvfelf how thefe dan-
gers are to be avoided, I think the beft way is to pro-
ceed with calmnefs and moderation, and not to avow
or patronize any undertaking with vehemence and
earneftneis, as a project of your own ^ but to give
your opinion in a modeft manner, and fupport ic
without paffion : that fo, if a Prince or a Republic
ihould think fit to follow it, they may feem to do it
voluntarily, and not to be forced into it by clamour
and importunity. If you a6l in this manner, it v/ould
be unreafonable cither in the Prince or the people to
blame your advice, as it is not forced upon them with-
out the concurrence and approbation of the other
Counfellors : and therefore you have nothing to fear
when your counfel is not oppofed by the reft ; but
when it is followed with reluctance, you are in dan-
ger, becaufe if it fnould not fucceed, they will all
combine to ruin you. Now though there is not fo
much honour to be gained this way, as when the au-
thority of one man prevails over that of many, and
his advice is crowned with fuccefs ; yet it is attended
with two advancagt^s : for in the firft place, you run
no rifque ; and in the fecond, when you propofe any
thing with modefty, and it is carried againft you by
the obftinacy and perverfenefs of the reft ; if any
mifcarriage fhould enfue in the execution, it will be
flill more for your reputation. Not that a good man
fhonki ever wi(h to build his reputation upon any
misfortune tha«" may befal his Prince or his country ;
but when fuch a "hing has actually happened, it is
more fatisfaftion to have given fuch counfel as would


Chap. SXXVI. The First Decad of Livy. 4<5g

have prevented it, and to hear it applauded, than to
be in danger of being punifhed for it.

This is the belt courle, I think, that can be taken
by Counfellors in fuch cales : to be filent and give no
opinion would be not only betraying their country,
but expofing themfelves to danger ; for in a little
time they would become fufpedted, and might be
ferved as the Macedonian was by Perfeus, who being
defeated by Paulus ^^milius, and efcaping into a
place of fafety with a few friends, was told by one of
them (as they weie talking over their misfortunes) of
fome errors he had been guilty of that were the caufe
of his ruin ; at which, he turned to him, and afking
if he was not afhamed to tell him of them, like a
Traitor, when there vvas no remedy left, he immedi-
ately killed him with his own hands : fo that he was
iuftiy puniflied for being filent when he fhould have
Ipoken, and fpeaking when he ought to have held his
tongue. The preceding directions therefore deferve
our atteiition.


Why the French always have heen^ and ftill are^ ac^
counted morf. than men at the firjt charge ; and after-
wards lejs than women.

^"^ H E ardopr of the Gaul who challenged any
man in the Roman army to a fingle combat,
and was killed by Titus Manlius upon the banks of
the Anio, purs me in mind of whai Livy fays of the
Gauls in feveral parts of his Hiftory, viz. that at the
beginning of a battle they are more (han men, but
afterwords iefs than women ^. Many writers confi-
dering to v/hat caufes this may be attributed, afcribe
it to the natural emperament and conftitution of the
people : and indeed i think there feems to be fome

• See the Sketch of Fiance, vol, ii*


4^4 Political Discourses upon Book Ilf*

appearance of truth and realbn in this opinion ; buc
1 am perfuaded at the fame time, that this innate ar-
dour which makes them fo fierce at the firfl: onfet
might be fo correcfted and regulated by art as to ba
kept up till the end of a battle.

For a proof of my affertion let it be confidered
that there are three forts of armies ; one, in which
there is both courage and good order-, the former of
which is in a great meafure owing to the latter f. Of
this fort were the Roman armies, which were always
remarkable for the regularity and good order that
were eftablifhed in them by fl:ri6t difcipline and con-
flant exercife : nothing was done without the exprels
command of their General ; the Soldier^ neither eat
nor flept, nor bought, nor fold, nor did any thing ei-
ther of a civil or military nature without his permif-
fion. The example therefore of thofe armies which
fubdued the whole world ought certainly to be fol-^
lowed by all others : for fuch as do not think it worth
their imitation, cannot properly be called armies; and
if they ever happen to do any thing extraordinary, iG
is rather to be imputed to a degree of fury and blind
impetuofity, than to true valour. But well difci-
plined troops know how to moderate and reftrain
thofe fallies, and avail themfelves of their courage at
proper times and places, in fuch a manner that they
are never difmayed at any difficulty or danger : for
good order and difcipline conftantly revive their fpi-
rits, and infpire them with fuch confidence of vi6tory
that they think nothing can (land before them whilft
they keep firm and compatSl in their ranks. Very
differfnt is the cafe in the fecond fort of armies, which,^
like the French, have ardour enough, but no good
difcipline ; and therefore they always give way very
foon •, for if they do not immediately make an im-
prefiion upon the enemy, the fury of their nrft efforts
being fpenc, and having no difcipline to animate and
fuppofC them, they grow difpirited and run away.

t See the Art of War, paflim.



tliap. XXXVI. The First Decad of Livy. ^^6$

Whereas the Romans, on che contrary, relying on
their dilcipiine and good order, were not to be daunt-
ed by any fort of difficulty or danger, nor ever def-
paircd of victory ; but behaved with as much valour
and firranefs at the end of a battle as in the beginning.
Or rather more if pofTible, as their courage always in-
creafed according to the rciiflance they met with.
But there is a third fort of armies which (like thofe
of the Italians at prefent) have neither any courage,
nor difcioline : and thefe in truth are good for no-
thing at all, nor ever can gain a vidory, except they
chance to fall upon an army that is routed by feme
other accident. What fort of order may be expeded
in fuch armies we may fee from the fpeech of Papirius
Curfor in Livy, v/hen he would have punifhed Fabius
his Mader of horfe for difobedience of orders. " Ne-
mo hominum neque Deorum verecundiam habeat -,
non edidla Imperatorum, non aufpicia obferventur :
fine comme-'tu, vagi milites in pacaro, in hoftico, er-
rent ; immemores facramenti, fe ubi velint exaudo-
rent -, infrequentia deferant (igna ; neque conveniant
ad edidum ; nee difcernant interdiu, no(5le ^ a^quo,
iniquo loco; jufili, injufTu Jmperatoris, pugnent -, dc
non figna, non ordines fervent ; latrocinii rrwdo, csca
& fortuita, pro folenni & facrata militia fit. Hence-
forth no body will fiiew the lead reverence to any In-
flicutions either human or divine ; they will laugh ac
the commands of their Generals, and defpife the fa-
cred Aufpices ; the ioofe diforderly Soldiers will
wander about v*'ithout any paflport, and plunder their
own country as well as that of the enemy ; they will
think no more of their oath, but difcharge themfelves
v/hen they pleafe ; they will defert their colours, and
return to them no more upon any proclamation what-
foever; they will have no regard either to the advan-
tage of time or place, when they are to engage an
enemy ; they will obey no fignals or orders, but fighc
when they have a mind, whether their Commanders
will or not, and become more like a parcel of ban-
ditti, a tumultuous and diforderly rabble, than a re-
VoL. III. H h gular

^66 Political Discourses UPON Eook Ilf,

gular and well difciplined army.'* Hence we may
judge whether our armies at prefent ^' are more like a
parcel of bandiiti, a tumultuous and diforderly rab-
ble, or regular and well difciplined troops," how dif-
ferent they are from fuch as may properly be called
good foldiers, how far from being either brave and
orderly at the fame time, like the old Romans, or
even from being brave alone, like the French.


i'/het-her Skirm'ifijes hefcre a battle are ntcejfary \ and hois^)
the nature and difpofition of a new enemy is to be dif-


out ihtm.

TOT to mention the dilHcukies that occur m
conduifting; all human affairs to any degree af
perfedion, there is no good without fome evil fo in-
timately united and interwoven with it, that it feems
imrpoffible to kparate them, or to obtain the one
without partaking of the other. It is a hard matter
therefore to arrive at perfeiflion, except a man is ta-
voured by fortune in fuch an extraordinary manner as
enables him to furmount thefe ufual and natural im-
pediments. Thefe reflexions I cannot help making
whenever I read the account given by Livy of the
frngle combat betv/i.^t Tiius Manlius and the Cham-
pion of the Gauls : upon which that Hiilorian fays,
*' Tanti ea dimicatio ad univerfi belli eventum mo-
menti fuit, ut Gallorum exerci:us, reiidlis trepide ca-
Itris, in Tiburtem agrum, mox in Campaniam tranf-
iei'ir. The event of this combat was of fuch confe-
quence, that it in a great meafure determined the
ibccefs of the war: for the Gauls immediately de-
camped in the utmofl conllernation, and retreated
fiiil into the territories of the Tiburtines, and from
thence into Campania." For we muft coniider on
one hand, that no General ought to do any thing,
which, though feemingly of fmall importance, may


Ctiap^XXXVII. The First Decad of Ltvv. 467

have an ill tficdl upon his army •, and that to ftake
his whole fortune upon part of his forces only where
he cannot exert all his (Irength, is very raih and im-
prudent, as I have fhewn before at large in my oh-
Icrvations on defending^ defiles ^. On the other hand
it is to be conhdered, that when a General has a new
Enemy to deal with of any reputation, he is obliged
to make Ibme trial of them by light fl<:irmifhes and
fighting in fmall parties before he comes to a general
engagement ; that fo his Soldiers beginning to be ac-
quainted with their difcipline and manner of fight-
ing, may not be difmayed at the report they have
heard of their prowefs •, which indeed is a precaution
of great importance, and fo neccffary, that without ic
he runs no fmall rifque of being defeated. Thus
when Valerius Corvinus was lent by the Romans with
an army againfl the Samnites, (an enemy with whom
they had never been engaged btfore) Livy tells us
that he frequently fent out fmall parries to fl^irmiih
and reconnoitre the enemy, *' ne eos novum bellum,
ne novus hoftis terreret ^ that fo his Soldiers might
not be daunted at a new enemy, or a new way of
fighting.'* It mull be confelTed however, that this
method of fending out fmall parties to fl^irmifh with
the enemy is fubjed: to great dangers : for if they
Ihould be defeated, it would have a very different ef-
fe(5l from what v/as defigned, and difmay your troops
inilead of animating them : fo that this is one of thof:
things in which good and evil are fo dofely united,
that you may eafily miftake the one for the other.

I fay then, that a General fhould endeavour by all
means to prevent any thing that may ftrike a terror
into his army, to which all troops are naturally lub-
jecl when they are beat ; and therefore he ought not
to fuffer them to fl<:!rmi[h with the enemy, except
they can do it with great advantage, and are fure of
luccefs ; neither fliould he attempt to maintain paffcs,
where he ca^nnot employ his whole (Irength ; nor be

♦ See book I, chap. xxii. xxiii. and the Art of War, paffirn.

H h 2 too

4^8 Political Discourses UPON Book III*

too obdinate in defending any town, unlefs he knows
he mud inevitably be ruined by the lols of it : and
when that is the cafe, he is to draw all the reft of his
forces out of other places into the field ; that fo they
may be able to a6L in concert with the garrifon, and
exert their whole ftrength to prevent its being taken.
For when an enemy gets poireffion of fuch places only
as you abandon, and you have ftill an army entire ir^-
the field, it is no difcredit to you, nor difcouragemenc
to your Soldiers : but when you iofe a place which
you had undertaken to maintain, and every body ex-
pe6led you would do it efii;dually, it hurts your re-
putation and difmays your troops in fuch a manner,
that you v/ill probably be ruined, as the Gauls were,
by rifquing the event of the whole war upon a trifling
occafion. Philip of Macedon (the father of Perfeus),
a Prince well experienced in war, and of great repu-
tation in his^time, being invaded by the Romans, a-
bandonsd and laid waile a conficierable part of his
country which he thought he (liould not be able to
defend -, wifely judging it v/ould be lefs difgrace to
leave it to the enemy as not worth keeping, than to
undertake its defence and fail in' his endeavours. The
Romans being reduced to great di ft re fs after the bat-
tle of Canns, and not by any means in a condition to
protefl fome of their Subjeds and allies who defired
their afllitance, jrave them leave to defend themfelves
as well as they could. Now certainly fuch refolutions
as thefe are much more honourable than pretending,
to defend others when it is xnot in your power : for in
one cafe, you Iofe your friends only, but in the other,
you ruin both them and yourfelf.

But to return to the matter of fklrmifliing ; I fay,
t;hat if a General is obliged by a new enemy, and a-
manner of fighting of which his troops have had no
experience, to try lomething of that kind for the pur-
poles abovementioned, he ought either to do it with
fuch advantage that he may be fure of fuccefs ; or to
follovN/ the example of Marius, (which is the better
way of the two) when he marched againil the Cim*-


Chap. XXXVIII. The First Becad of Livv. 469

:bri, a brave and warlike people, who had invaded
Italy, and were plundering all the country : for feeing

•his troops were feized with a fort of panic at the ap-
proach of fuch a fwarm of people, who, though na-
turally fierce, were not a little elated with a viflory
which they had already gained over the Romans, he
thought it necelTary, before he came to an engagc-

uient with them, to take fome method that might ani-
mate his Soldiers, and difpoffefs them of the terror
they had conceived of thole barbarians : for which
purpofe, like a wife General, he often encamped in
places where they might obferve the march of the
enemy at a diftance and in fecurity : that lb his Sol-
diers, keeping themfelves clofe within their entrench-
ments, and being ufed to fee them every day, vvhen
they perceived they had only to deal v;ith a dilorderly
multitude, encumbered with baorgao-e, fom>e of them
armed with fuch vveapons as could not much annoy
them, and others without any arms at all, they might
recover their Spirits, and indead of declining an en-
orasement, be defirous to fiorht them, A manner of
proceeding worthy of fo great a General, and of be-
ino- followed by others who would avoid the dangers
above-mentioned, and not be reduced to the fame
necefiity that the Gauls found themfelves in, " Qui
ob rem parvi ponderis, (fays the Hiftorian,) in Ti-
burtem agrum, & in Campaniam tranfierint: who be-
ing terrided at an accident of little moment, retreat-
ed firft into the territories of Tibur, and then into


Hgv) a General ought to he qualified to make his 'Troops

confide in hijn,

VALERIUS CORVINUS (as I faid in the laft
Chapter) was fent with an army againft the Sam-
nites, a new enemy at that time to the Roman Re-

H h 3 . public.

470 Political Discourses upon Book III,

public. To encourage his men therefore, and to
make them acquainted with the enemy they had to
do with, he fometimes Tent fmajl parties out to Ikir-
milli, and lon:ietimes ufcd to harangue them all toge-
ther : in which harangues, efpecially in one that he
madejufl before they were coming to a general enga-
gement, he repreiented to them with great energy,
liovv little account they ought to make ot fuch an ene-
n)\\ when they confidered their own valour and his
conducl. From one part of this Speech we may learn,
in what manner a Commander ought to be qualified,
in order to gain the confidence of his Soldiers : " Tuni
etiam intueri (fays he) cujus ductu aufpicioque ineun-
da pugna fit: utrum qui audiendus, duntaxat magni-
ficus adhortator fir, verbis tantum ferox, operum mi-
iitariumi expers ; an qui & ipfe tela tradare, procedere
ante figna, verfari media in mole pugnje fciat. Facta
nieaj non didla, vos miliies fequi volo, nee difcipli-
ram modo, fed exemplum etiam a me petere, qui hac
dejitra mihi tres conlulatus, fumimam.que iaudem pe-
peri : Confider the man under whofe conduct and auf-
pices you are going to engage ; whether he who now
ipeaks to you is only a magnificent boailer, vaUant in
W'Ords, but ignorant in the duty of a Soldier -, or whe-
ther he is not a ptrfon who knovv/s how to handle his
own weapons, and is ufed to put himielf at the head
cf his men, and charge the thickell of the enemy.
Obferve my actions, and not my words only, Feilow-
ibldiers; follow my example, as well as my orders,
and confide in me, who haye obtained three Conful-
fliips, and immortal honour with this arm." Whoever
duly confiders this fpeech, will fee what courfe a man
ought to take in order to make himfelf reputed a
great general : and he that does othervvife, will find in
tim.e, that his CQmmaiid(in what manner foever he ob-
tamed it, whether by favour or good fortune) will ra-
ther difgrace than honour him : for it is not the title
alone tfiar gives dignity to the man, but the man
that dignifies the title.

It mult be obferved likevvifc from v/hat wq have


Chap. XXXIX. The First Decad of Lrvv. 471
faid above, that if f^reatCommanders have been oblinr-
to make ule of extraordinary means to animate a ve-
teran army, when they were to engage a new enemy,
all poiTible care and arc mud be 11 fed for that pur-
pofe, in an unexperienced body of troops, which
have never looked an enemy in the face before : for,
if a nev; eneniy, and an unufual manner of fightine,
are apt to tirike a terror even into veterans, it m>ay
well be expeded that any enemy whatfoever will make
a greater imprelTion upon a raw new raiftrd army.
Good Commanders, however, have always taken care
to guard againfl: thefe inconveniencies, and found
means to furmount fuch difficulties, as we may fee
from the examples of Gracchus the Roman, and Epa-
minondas the Theban, who beat veteran and well
difciplined armies with new raifed troops -, but they
had rot only cxercifed them continually for fome
months before, but accudomed them to fham fights,
to fl:ri6l obedience, and to keep firm in their ranks ;
after which, they had fo much confidence in them,
that they boldly advanced againfl the enemy. Any
one therefore, who is a good Soldier himftrlf, and has
men enow, may loon make a good army : fo that a
Prince v/ho has great numbers of Subjects and wants
Soldiers, ought not to imipure it to the incapacity of
his people, but to his own indolence and bad con-
du6t ^.


Ttat a General cught to he well acquaiiited with the
Country ivkich is the Scat of war,

AMONGST other qualifications that are necefiary
to make a good Commander, v/e may reckon
the knowledge of countries and their fituations •, with-

* See chap, xxxiii. of this book. Book I. chap. xxi. See alfo the
Art of War, book i. & alibi painm.

Pi h 4 out

^,^2 Political Discourses UPON Book IIL

out which it is impoflible to execute any confiderable
enterprize. Now, as all forts of knowledge are perfected
by pra6lice and experience, this requires much of
both, and is gained chiefly by hunting and other fuch
iieki exercifes : for which purpofc, v/e are toid by an-
cient Hiftorians, that the Heroes who governed the
world in former times, were all brought up, and,
educated as it v/ere in woods and forefts. For hunt-
ing teaches you many other things that are of great ufe
in war, as well as this fort of knowledge in particular -3
and Xencphon tell us, in the life of Cyrus, that when
that Prince was marching to invade the King of Ar-
inenia's dominions, he talked of that Expedition to
his Officers, as if it was nothing more than one of
thofe chaces, in which they had often accompanied
him : the men whom he fent to lie in ambufh amongft
the mountains, he faid, were like thofe who fet fnares
and nets in places where wild beads ufed to pals ;
and thofe who fcoured the plains, he compared to fuch
as were employed to roufe the bealls and chafe them'
into the toils. I1:iis I mention to (hew, that accord-
ing to Xenophon's opinion, there is a great refem-
blance betwixt hunting and war : upon which account,
fuch exercifes are not only honourable but neceffary'
to be ufed by great men •, becaufe nothing can give
them fo perfed: a knovv^ledgc of a country, or imprint
it more deeply and particularly in their memory :
and when a man has made himfelf thoroughly ac-
quainted with one country, he will be able to form a
pretty good judgment of another, though he has ne-
ver feen it before ; becaufe tliere is fome fort of limi-
jitude and conformity betwixt ail countries. But, if
a man has not made himfelf v;ell acquainted v/ith the
nature of one, it will be a long while (if ever) before
he can be able to judge rightly of any other. "Where-
as, a perfon that is well verfed and pradlifed in one,
will guefs pretty nearly at firll fight, how far fuch a
plain extends, in what manner fuch a mountain rifes,
how far juch a valley ranges, and other things of that
kind, the knowledge of which he has gained by for-

Chap. XXXIX. The First Decad of Livy. 473

mer experience *. An example of this fort we have
in the condudl of Publius Decius, (a Tribune in the
army with which Aulus Cornelius the Conful was
fent againft the Samnites) who perceiving the danger
into which the Conful had led the whole army, by
marching through a valley where they might eafily
be hemmed in by the eneniy, called out to him, " Vi-
des tu, Aule Corneli, cacumen illud fupra hoftem ?
Arx ilia eft fpei falutifque noftr^, fi earn (quoniani
caeci reliquere Samnites) impigre capimus : Do you
fee yonder eminence, which commands the enemy's
camp ? we have no refource left but to make ourfelves
mafters of that poft as faft as we can, fince the Sam-
nites have blindly negkdled it :" a little before which,
Livy fays, *' Publius Decius Tribunus militum, con-
fpicit unum editum in faltu collem, imminentem hof-
tium caftris, aditu arduum impedito agmini, expeditis

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 42 of 44)