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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baud difficilem : Publius Decius the Tribune obferved
a hill in a wood, which hung over the enemy's camp,
and feemed difficult of afcent to heavy-arm'd troops,
but acceflible enough to thofe that were light armed."
Upon which, being fent by the Conful, with three
thoufand picked men, to take pofiefTion of it imme-
diately, he faved the whole Roman army •, and defign-
ins: to march off himfelf with his own men in the
night, the Hiftorian tell us, that he firll ordered fome
of his officers to attend him in the dulk of the even-
ing, whiift he reconnoitred the enemy, to fee how
their guards were pofted, and which way he might
beft make his retreat : and all this he did in the habic
of a private Soldier, that fo, if he ffiould be feen by
the enemy, they might not fufped he was a Com-

Whoever then confiders this palTage, will fee how
necelTary it is for a Commander to be well acquainted
with the nature of the countries where he is to a£t :
for if Decius had not been io, he could not have
known of what importance it was to get pofTeffion

• See the Prince, chap. xiv. and the Art of War, book V.

4 Pf

4^5 Political Discourses upon Book III,

of that hill, nor been able to judge at thatdillance
whether it was eafy or difiicult of afcent : nor could
he afterwards, when he had taken pofTeflion of ic, and
intended to retreat when the ni'^ht came on in order to
join the Conful, have formed any probable conjedlure
fo far off (and v/hen he was in a manner furrounded
by the enemy) where they would poll t-lieir guards^
and which way he might bed retreat. It is certain
therefore that Decius had a perfect knowledge of the
country, and faw the necefTity of fecuring that hill ;
by which, he not only faved the Confui's army, bac
found means to retreat in fafety with his own men,
though he was entangled in that manner with the


^hai it is not accounted dijhonoiirahle^ hut quite other-^
wife^ to deceive an Enemy in time of war.

THOUGH artifice and deceit are detertabie in
all other tranfadlions, yet in matters of war
they are not only juilifiable, but praifeworthy ; and
thofe Generals are as much extolled who overcome
an enemy by ilratagem, as thole that fubdue them by
main force *. This plainly appears from the judg-
ment which Hiilorians pafs upon Hannibal, and fome
other great men, who were mod remarkable for this
manner of proceeding : of which there are ^o many
examples, that it is needlefs to cite any here, as they
mud be well known to every one ♦, I fhall therefore
only add at prefenr, that when I fay artifice and deceit
are praifeworthy, I do not mean that fort which con-
fifLS in breaking your word, betraying your trud, or
violating a treaty: for though indeed Kingdoms and
States are fomecimes acquired this way, as I have


See this point difputed by Montaigne, book I, chnp. v. of hi«


Chap. XL. The First Decad of Liyy. 47J

Ihewn elfewhere*, yet it is certain, you can never ac-
quire true giory by it. I fpeak only of that kind
which is pradlifed upon an enemy, who is fo far from
repofing any confidence in you, that he fees you ac
defiance : fo that it relates only to military operations.'
Such were the artifices made ufe of by Hannibal, ac
the lake of Thrafymene, when he pretended to fly
before the Roman Conful ; but in reality did it only
to fecure fome pafTes, in order to block up him and
his army the more eiFed:ually : and when he tied
fire-brands and torches to the horns of his catule in
the nisht, to difcn^^ao-e himfelf from Fabius Maximus.
Of the fam.e nature like wife was the Stratagem ufed
by Pontius, General of the Samnites, when he hemmed
in the Roman army at the Furcas Caudinx: for hav-
ino; concealed his forces in the mountains, he fenc
fome of his men cloathed like peaiants, with droves
of cattle into the plains % who being taken by the Ro-
mans and aiked where the Samnite army was, all
agreed in one ftory (as they had been inltrufted by
Pontius) and faid it was gone to lay fiege to Nocera :
which being credited by the Confuls, they marched
away widi their forces to the. relief of Nocera; but
they had no fconer entered the Furcse Caudms, but
they were furrounded and (hut up there by the ene-
my. A vi61:ory indeed, which though gamtrd by ftra-
tagem, would have been very glorious to Pontius, if
he had taken his father's advice, who perfuaded him
either to difmifs the Romans freely and gcneroudy,
or to put them all to the fword -, but by no means to
take the middle way, " Quae neque amicos parat, ne-
que inimicos tollit : which neither makes men your
friends, nor difables your enemies;" and has always
been prejudiciable in affairs of importance, as I have
already fhewn in another place -f.

* See book ii. chap. xiii. f See book II. chap, xxiii.


47^ Political Discourses UPON * Book III,


Itbai ^Jl fneans fse to he ufed, whether honottrahle or
dljhonourahle^ to fave cne^s Cokntry,

THE Roman arm/ and their Confuls being
furrounded by che Samnites (as 1 Jaid in the
ialt Chapter) were informed by the enemy that the
only terms they mud expecl, were to be difarmed, to
pafs under the yoke *, and to be fent back to Rome :
conditions fo ignominious that the Confuls and the
whole army were aLlonifned at them. But Lentulus
their Lieutenant General told them, ''that in his opi-
pinion, they ought to liibmit to any conditions to
jave their country •, that as the fafety of Rome entirely
•depended on the prefervation of that army, they fhould
upon no account fuffer it to be deftroyed ; that all
means vvhatfoever, whether honourabPe or difhonour-
able, v/ere allowable for the fupport of their country \
and that if they could fave their army, they perhaps
might fome tim.e or other wipe off that difgrace ; if
not, though they peri (lied with ever fo much honour,
their country and its liberties mud inevitably be loft."
i-iis advice therefore was followed ; and indeed it is
worthy of being recommended to all Counfellors of
State, and fuch as have any fhare inthe managemaenc
of public affairs: for v/hen the fafety of our country
'is at flake, all regard to vv'hat is juft or unjuft, mer-
ciful or unmerciful, honourable or dilhonourable, is
entirely to be laid afide, and every m.ethod to be taken
that may in any wife conduce to the prefervation of
our liberty y. The French are fo zealous in this ref-

* This Jugum or Yoke v/as a Pike or Halberd laid over the tops
of, two others fixed in the ground, in the foriu of a gallows or
cricket wicket, under which the Romans ufed to make their ene-
mies pafs when they had oveicoine them j and were i'ometimes fo
ftrved themfelvts after the io/s of a battle, as in this cafe.

f Some people are of a different opinion. ** I have formerly placed
■iEpaminondas in the iirll clafs of excellent men, (fays Montaigne,


Chap. XLIL The First Decad of Livy» 477
ped, both in their words and actions, when either the
glory of their Monarch or the intereft of their country
is concerned, that they cannot bear to hear any one
fay, the King adted iLamefuUy upon fuch or fuch an
occafion •, for they think their Prince incapable either
of doing or faying any thing that is fhameful or diflio-
nonrable either in profpericy or adverfity, and that in
whatever he does, he always behaves in a manner
becoming his Majefty.


That prcmtfes e.'^torted ly force- are not binding,.

WHEN the Confuls abovemenrioned arrived at
Rome with their troops difarmed and loaded
with ignominy on account of the difhono'irable terms
they had fubmitted to, the firft who declared againlt
obferving the agreement made at the Purees Caudinae:
was Spurius Pofthumius himfelf, one of the Confuls j.
who faid in full Senate, that only he and thofe who
had confented to that agreement were bound by it,
and therefore the obligation did not include the whole
people of Rome ; upon which account, if they had a-
mind to refufe their confenr, they ought to fend him
back again to the Samnites v;ith all thofe that had
promifed to obferve it. This opinion he maintained
with fo much obftinacy, that the Senate at lail ac-

book III, chap. 1.) and do not retract I^ To what a pitch did he
carry his regard to private obligation, who for the ineilimable bene-'
fit ot reftoring his Country, made a confcience of putting a Tyrant
and his accomplices to death without the forms of juftice ! . . . . After
the example of fo great a man, let us not make any fort of doubt
that there is fomething unlawful even againft an enemy ; that the
common caufe ought not to require all things of a man, againft private
intereft, for the fervice of his King, his country, or the Laws. ''Nori
enim Patria prasftat omnibus officiis :" the obligation to one's country
does not fuperfede every other obligation, fays Tully." .... The uti-
lity of an adion is but a forry plea for the beauty and honour of it j
and it is wrong to infer, that becaufe fuch a thing is ufeful, it is there-
fore incumbent on. every one to perform it \ and not only a Duty, bub
for his honour.'*


^'fS Political Discourses upoisf Book IH^

quiefced in it and fent them all back again as prifoners
to the Samnites, protefling againil the peace which
had lately been concluded v/ith them : but fortune
was fo favourable to him that he was foon difmiired
by the enemy and returned to Rome, where he lived
in o^reater reputation, though he had been vanquii'hed,
than Pontius did at Saninium, who had beat him.

Hence we may obferve tv;o things : in the nrfl
place, that honour is to be acquired even by contrary
and oppofite means ; for as it is the ufual confcquence
of vidory •, fo after a defeat, if a man can eithcrr
fliew that it was not owing to any mifcondudl in
him, or do fomething that is great and gallant to throw
into the balance againil it, he v;ill be no Icfs admired
and applauded than if he had gained a viflory. In
the next, that it is not difhonourable to break a pro-
mife that is extorted by force and neccffity : for
fuch promifes, if they afffCt the welfare of the ftatc,
will always be broken when the caufe ceafes that oc-
caiioned them ; and that too without any reflexion
upon the honour of thofe that break them. Of this
vve might produce a thou fa nd inflances from Hiflory,
if daily experience did not make it unneceflary. Princes
make no fcruple of violating the engagements
they have been forced into as foon as ever they have
an opportunity : nay, it is no uncommon thing for
them to break others into which they have volunta-
rily entered, when the motives ceafe that induced
them to lay themfelves under fuch obligations. But
whether that is juftifiable in them, or whether fuch
engagements are binding or not, I have no occafion
to determine at prefenc, as the Reader may find this
point already dilcufied in my Treatife entitled the
Prince *.

* See the Prince, clnp. xviii. The above quoted French Author
fays in the fame Chapter, •' the profit by the increafe of the public
revenue, which ferved the Roman Senate for a pretence to the bafe
conclufion I am going to relate, is not fufncient to warrant fueh in-
juftice. Certain citizens, by the order and confent of the Senate had
jedeemed themfelves and their liberty, by money, out of the hands of
L. Sylla, But the affair coming upon the carpet again, the Senate

C H A P.

Chap. XLIIL The First Decad of Livy.


^^hat the fame difpofition is Ghfer-vahle at all times in
the natives of the fame country.

WISE men fay (and very juflly I think) that
in order to form a probable conjedhire of what
is yet to come, we ought to confider v/hat is already
pafTcd ; for there is nothing in this world at pre-
fent, nor ever will be hereafter, but what has and
will have a near refcmblance to v/hat has happened
in former times : becaufe mankind having the fame
pafTions in all ages, will, for the mod part, ad in the
fame manner upon fimiiar occafions. It is true they
are fometimes more virtuous in one Province than in
another, and vice veria, according to their education,

condemned them to be taxable as they u>ere before, and ordered that
the money they hat diflmrfed for their redemption fliould never be
repaid them. Civil v/ars often produce fuch vile examples, that we
pcnifh private men for having taken our word vv'hen we were in power ;
and one and the fame Magiitrate makes another man pay the penalty
of his change, though he is in no fault. T!ie Schoolmaller lafhes his
Scholar for his docility, and the Guide beats the blind man u-hom he
leads by the hand. A fliocking pidlure of juftice ! There are fome
rules in Philofophy t-hat are both falfe and pufiUanirnous. The exam-
ple that is propofed to us for preferring private benefit to the obliga-
tion due to taith once given, has not weight enough from the circum-
llances mixed with it Robbers have furprized yon, and after having
made you fwear to pay them a fnm of money, give you your liberty. It
is wroiig to fay that an honell man may be quit of his oath without pay-
ment, arter he is out of their clutches. The cafe is quite otherwife.
When fear has once prevailed upon me to intend, I am obliged
to keep the fame purpofe, when I am no longer in fear : and thougU
fear Ihould only force my tongue, and not my will, yet I am bound to
fland to my word. For my own part, when my tongue has fometimes
rafiily outrun my thought, I have afterwards however made a confci-
ence of difowning it : otherwife we {hall by degrees abolifn all the right
which another claims to the performance of our promifes. *' Qi^iafi.
vero forti viro visadhiberi poflit, faysTully. Ofnc. Lib. III.
as if violence could po.'Tibly operate upon a brave man." The only
condition wherein private intereft can excufe us for the non-perform-
ance cf a promife, is when we have promifed a thing that is wicked
and unjnlf in itfftif: fjr the Cia'.m of virtue ought to fuperfede any
obligation of our own." The belt Divines and Cafuifts are of the fame
opinion See this matter luliy difculfed by the learned Bifhop Sander-
fon, in his Frxiedtioaes de juri^menti obligatione. Praelc^l, IV.


'480 Political Discourses upon Book III*

from which all men take their fubfeqiient turn and
manner of living." We may likewile judge with
more eafe and certainty of future events by what is
pad, in a people amongft whom the lame appetites
and inclinations have been predominant for a long
courfe of time : as Ibme nations have been remark-
able for many ages either for their rapacity, or per-
fidy, or fome other particular virtue or vice. Thus
^vhoever reads the annals of Florence and compares
the tranfadlions of former times with thofe of the pre-
fent, will find that the French and Germans have al-
ways diftinguifhed themfelves by their avarice, pride^
cruelty, and falfehood in all their dealings with us, to
the great prejudice of our ftate. Every one knows
what fums of money v/e paid at different times to
Charles VIII. of France, upon a promife of reftor-
ing the Citadel of Pifa to us, and yet he never per-
formed that promife. But to omic other modern
inftances of this kind as invidious, what pafTed be-
twixt our Republic and the Vifconti, Dukes of Mi^
Ian, in former times, is no lefs notorious : for the
Florentines being at war v/ith them and deilitute of
all other affiftance, folicited the Emperor of Germany
to make an incurfion into Lom.bardy in their fa«
vour; which he readily promifed to do with a power-
ful army, and to defend them againft the Vifconti,
provided they v/ould furniili him with an hundred
thoufand Ducats to raife fuch and army, and as much
more when he arrived in Italy. This being agreed
to, and all the money paid, he advanced as tar as
Verona : but pretending upon his arrival there that
the Florentines had not fulfilled fome other articles of
the treaty betwixt them, he marched back again with
ail his forces without doing any thin^^ in their favour.
So that if the Florentines had not been either com-
pelled by downright neceffity, or blinded by ambition
and refentment, or if they had but read and confidered
the manner in which thefe Barbarians have treated
them in all ages, they would not have been deceived
by them at that time, nor any other, as they often


Chap.XLIIL The First Decad OF Livy: 4S1
have been; for then they would have found that thqir
difpofition was always the fame, and that they had
conftantly treated every body with whom they had
any dealings in that manner. A remarkable example
of this we have in their behaviour to the Tufcans of
old -, who having been often defeated by the Romans,
and reduced to fuch diftrefs that they found them-
felves unable to make head againft them any longer,
ao-ree to pay a large fum of money to the Gauls, who
lived on the faid of the Alps next to Italy, upon con-
dition they would join forces with them againft the
Romans. But when the Gauls had received the mo-
ney, they rcfufed to fulfil the conditions upon which
it was given them ; alledging that they had taken it,
not to make war upon the Romans, but to keep them
from commencing hoftilities againft the Tufcans. In
this manner the poor Tufcans were at the fame time
cheated out of their money, and difappointed of the
aftiftance they expedled, through the avarice and per-
fidy of the Gauls : fo that we fee from thefe exam-
ples, that the Gauls and Germans have at all times
behaved in the fame manner: from whence other
Princes may eafily judge what degree of confidence
they may put in them for the future ^\

• The famous friar Roger Bacon, in the (ixth part of his Opus Ma-
jus, fpeaking in praife of experimental Philofophy, tells us that it invef-
tigates the fecrets of nature by its own power, and without any re-
gard to the other Sciences. And this, he fay?, confifts in two things ;
viz. in the knowledge of things to come, as well as of thofe that are palt
and prefent } and in the wonderful works by which it furpafles judi-
ciary Aftrology in the method of forming a judgment of things future.
Under this, he fays, that fome Authors have alTerted the poliibility of
changing the genius and difpofition of a nation by altering the confti-
tution of the air. Upon which occafion, he tells us, that when Alex-
ander the Great enquired of Ariftotle whether he (liould extirminate
the barbarian nations he had conquered, on account of their brutal
ferocity, or fuffer them to live ; that Philofopher anfwered him, in
his book cf Secrets, that if he could alter the air of the country, he
fhould fuit'er them to live 5 if not, he (liould deftroy them. For he
thought that the air might be changed toadvantagej fo that the confti-
tution of their bodies would be altered, and by that means their
minds might produce good actions from the freedom of their wills ;
and this is one of his Secrets. He obferves afterwards that fome wri-
ters have affirmed, that an army has been ftruck with fuch a terror as
to fly immediately} and tells us that Ariftotle directed Alexander to

Vol, hi. I i CHAP,

482 Political Discourses cpok BookllL


That things are fometimes affeBed hy hold and fudden
refohitionSy which could not have hen done by ordi^
nary means.

TH E Samnites being invaded by the Romans,
and not able to keep the field againfl thenn, left
garrifons in their towns, and marched with all the reft
of their forces into Tufcany, (which was then in truce
with theRomanRepublic)inhopesthatthefight of their
army might induce them to renew the war againft their
common enemy, though they had refufed to do it
before when they were folicited by Ambafladors whom
the Samnites had fent to them for that purpofe.
Amongft other reafons therefore which the Samnites
gave for taking up arms, they told the Tufcans, "quod
pax fervientibus gravior, quam liberis bellum elTet 5
that peace was more infupportable to Slaves, than war
to men that were free :" fo that partly by perfuafions
and partly by the prefence of their army, they at laft

tarry a particular flone about him, by which means his enemies would
always fly before him. Thefe and a great many other things, fays he,
are aflerted by feme Philofophers to be true; though they do not pre-
tend that any violence is offered to the freedom of the will : for Arif-
totle, who propofes this, tell us, in his Ethics, that the will cannot be
forced, but that the body may be changed by the virtues of things,
and the mind excited and induced tochufe that voluntarily to which
it is not inclined ; as by means of Medicinal potions many perfons
have been changed, not only with regard to their bodies, but likewife
their paflions and inclinations.

As tc Ariftotle's panic Stone, no ferious man can give credit to the
cffedls he afcribes to it. But methinks much may be faid in favour
of his other notion of altering the ccnftitution, and confequently the
dii'pofition of men, by altering the air of the Country they live in by
natural means ; fuch as cutting down huge forefts, draining fens,
ploughing great quantities of land, &c. For the nations whom Alex-
ander conquered are now very different in point of ferocity from
what they were in former times, and fo are the Gauls and Germans,
mentioned by Machiavel, in other refpefts. But this perhaps may be
owing to other means, and it may be faid they are more humanized
by commerce and the influence \ji Chrillianity than any change in
tltcir air.


- Chap.XLIV. The First Decad of Livy; 483

prevailed upon them to break their truce with the

Hence we may obferve, that when one Prince wants
to make another comply with fome requed or demand,
he ought not to give him time to deliberate upon ir,
* (if he has it in his power to prevent it) but to a6l in
iuch a manner as may oblige him to come to a ipecdy
determination; that is, by convincing him of the
milchief he mud of neceflity bring upon himfclf cither
by refufing or delaying to grant the requeft. In this
manner Pope Julius II. proceeded with the French ;
and Monfieur de Foix, the French King's genera!, with
the Marquis of Mantua, not long ago : for his Holi-
nefs defigning to drive the Bentivogli out of Bologna,
perceived he fhould have occafion for fome French
forces, and that it was necefTary the Venetians (hould
Hand neuter : but as he had founded them both for
thefe purpofes, and received fuch ambiguous anfwers
that he could not thoroughly depend upon them, he
refolved to m^ake them comply with his demands, by
adting in fuch a manner as fhould not give them time
to do otherwife. For which purpofe, having got v;hac
forces he could together at Rome, he marched away
to Bologna ; from whence he fent in a peremptory
manner to let the Venetians know they muftfland neu-
ter ; and to the French, that they muft immediately
furnifh him with fuccours : fo that being afraid of
incurring the Pope's difpleafure, if they either refufed
or delayed to comply with him, and finding them-
felves under a neceffity of returning a dired anfwer,
they both fubmitted to his terms. Monfieur de Foix
likewife being at Bologna another time with an army,
and hearing that Brefcia had revoked, was determined
to reduce it to obedience if pofTible. But there were
only two routes by which he could march thither :
one, through the territories that were fubjed to the
French, (but that was a very bad one, and a long way
about) the other, through the Marquis of Mantua's
dominions, where he might be oppofed by that Prince
in feveral narrow' pafTes and defiles betwixt the

1 i 2 Lakes

Political DiscouRES upon Book III.

Laker, and Morafles with which that country abounds,
and which were very well fortified and defended.
Eefolving however to take the nearefl road in fpite
of all difficulties, he immediately marched that way ;
and without giving the Marquis time to confider whe-^
ther he would grant or refufe him a pafiage, he fent
to him for the keys of thofe feveral pafTes, as foon as
ever he arrived in his territories. So that the Marquis
being furprifed by the fuddennefs of the demand, and
having no time t:o deliberate upon ir, was forced to
deliver them up to him : which he would not have
done if de Foix had proceeded in a cooler and more
phlegmatic manner -, becaufe he was at that time in
league with the Pope and the Venetians, and had a
Son in the Pope's hands at the Court of Rome :
which he might have pleaded as very good reafons for
acting othervvife, if the occafion had not been fo


Whether it is a better way in tattle to receive the enemy^s
frjijioocky and not to exert your Jlrength till they have

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 43 of 44)