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

. (page 44 of 44)
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 44 of 44)
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in feme meafiire fpent their fury •, or to attack them vi-
gOYOufly at firfl,

ry^HE Confuls Decius and Fabius being fent out
J^ by the Romans with two armies againil the
Tufcans and Samnires, and coming to an engagement
v/ith the enemy, their methods of fighting were fo
different, that it may not be amifs to confider which
of them is moft worthy of imitation. Decius for his
part fell furioufiy upon one of the enemy's wings,
and with all his force at once : but Fabius endeavour-
ed only to fudain the firfl attack of the wing he was
engaged with •, judging it better to afl coolly and
firmly in the beginning:, and refcrve the vigour of his
men till the enemy had fpent their firfl ardour and
began to grow faint and feeble. From the event of


Chap.XLVI. The First Dec ad of 'LivyI 485

the baale it appeared that Fabius acled with more
judgment than Deciiis : for the latter having exhaufl-
cd his flreneth in the firfl onfet, and feeino: his men
almoft furrounded by the enemy, determined to facri-
iice himfelf at the head of his troops (as his father
had done before him) in hopes of gaining Tome glory,
at leaft by an honourable death, when he found he
could not obtain a vidtory. But Fabius being inform-
ed of this, and no lefs ambitious to diftinguifh him-
felf by living and a6ting like a man, than his Collc-
gue had (hewn himfelf by dying in that manner, ad-
vanced with the forces which he had rcfcrved for that
purpofe, and gained a compicce vidlory. From
whence it is plain, that it is lafer and more prudent
to follow the example of Fabius, than of Decius upon
the like occafions.


How it comes to fajs that the fame families in a Com-
monwealth often retain the fame maimers and cujloms
a long time,

WE fee that not only one City has cudoms and
inftitutions very diiferent from thofe of an-
other, and produces men either of a more rigid or
more gentle cifpofition ; but that there is fuch a differ-
ence likewife betwixt feveral particular families in
the fame City. The truth of this is evident froni the
hif^ory of all States, particularly from that of^the Ro-
man public ; in which we fee the Maniii were always
rigid and inflexible^ the Publicolse gentle and humane;
the Appii ambiricus- and opprelibrs of the common
people ; and that many other families had fome pe-
culiar quality which diftinguiflied them from, all the
reft. Now this diftindion cannot proceed from blood
alone, (which mud of courfe be often altered by variety
of marriaores) but from the different manner in which
different families are educated: for what a man has

I i 2 been


48^ Political Discourses UPON Book III.

been taught in his infancy, and accufloniied to hear
either praifed or condemned in his youth, makes fuch
an impreflion upon him, that he generally forms
the fubfequent part of his life according to thofe in-
ftruflions : otherwifc it would have been impofiible
that the Appii fhould all have had the fame turn, and
been conflanrly adluated by the fame paOlons and de-
fires, as Livy remarks upon feveral of them : par-
ticularly upon one, who having been appointed Cen-
for refufed to lay down his authority at the end of
eighteen months, (as the Laws required, and his Col-
legue had adlually done) alledging that he might
continue in office five years if he pleafcd, according
to the firfl Law that was made concerning Cenfors,
which was not then repealed : and though there were
many debates and much contention about it, there
was no remedy; nor could he be prevailed upon to.
refign, notwithftanding both the Senate and the peo-
ple tried all means to force him. Again, whoever
reads his fpeech againft P. Sempronius, one of the
Tribunes of the People, will fee how full it is of the
infolence and arrogance peculiar to his family : whilfl;
all the reft of his Fellow-citizens were vying with
each other in inftances of modelly and llri6l obedience
to the Laws and Religion of their country.


hat a good Citizen ought to forget private injurics.j
when ibe public good 7'eouires it.

WHEN Manlius commanded the Roman army
which was fent againfl the Samnites, he hap-
pened to receive a wound in an engagement which
difabled him from adingas General any longer. Upon
which, the Senate apprehending their army might
fuffer for want of a Commander, thought it nece0ary
to create Papirius Curfor Didlator, to fupply the place
of Manlius, But as the Didator was to be nominated


Chap.XLVIir. The First Decad of Livv. 487

by Fabius, who was then with an army in Tufcany,
and the Senate was afraid he would not appoint Cur-
for, becaufe there was an enmity betwixt them, they
fent two of their body to wait upon Fabius, and de-
fire he would lay afide all private refentment and con-
firm their choice for the fake of the public : which he
did out of regard to his country, though it was plain
from many circumftances that it was much againft his
inclinations. An example which ought to be foliov/ed
by all who would be elleemed good Citizens.


fVhen mi enemy feems guilty of any remarkahle errcr^
it ought at firft to he Jufpe^ed as an artifice.

FULVIUS being left with the commjand of the
Roman army in Tufcany, during the abfence of
the Conful, who was gone to afTifl in the celebration
of fome ceremonies at Rome, the Tufcans endeavour-
ed to draw him into an ambufh they had laid for him
near his own camp : for which purpofe, they fent out
fome of their Soldiers, dif^ruifed like Herdfmen with
droves of cattle, who paiTed not only in fight of the
Roman camp, but almofl clofe by the entrenchments.
But the General fufpeding they would not have had
the boldnefs to have taken fo unufual a flep, if it had
not been to draw him into fome fnare, acled v/ith fuch
circumfpedion that he difcovered their deugn and
defeated it.

. Hence v;e may obfervc, that a General ought to
take great care to avoid being deceived by wha: may
look like a palpable error in an enemy, and to fuf-
pect there is fome artifice at the bottom ; for it is not
reafonable to imagine, that people can be {o rafh and
imprudent. But the hopes of vi6tory often dazzle
men in fuch a manner, that tliey cannot difcern the
danger that is concealed under thefe appearances, and
therefore run blindly upon their dellrudtion.

The Gauls having defeated the Romans upon the
banks of the Aliia, marched directly to Rome -, and


^88 Political Discourses upon Book III.

finding all the Gates not only open, but unguarded,
continued under arms all that day and the nij-^ht fol-
fowing before they would enter the City, apprehending
fone fnare was laid for them •, as they could not prevail
upon themfelves to believe the Romans would ever
have abandoned their lad refource in fo foolifh and
cowardly a manner. In the year 1508, when the Flo-
rentines laid iiege to Piia, Alphonfo del Mutolo, an
inhab'tanr cf chat City being priioner io their caaip,
promifed, if they would fet him at liberty^ that he
would deliver up one of the gates of the town into
their hands : upon which they reieafed him, but after-
wards, \7hfu he came to th. carrip (as he often did) to
treat more particularly about the matter with certain
deputies appointed ior that purpofe, he did not do ic
privately, but in an open manner, and always attended
by feveral other Citizens, whom he dc fired to with-
draw when he entered into any converfation v;ich the
deputies. From which behaviour, they might very
well have doubted of his fincerity ; becaufe, if he had
really defigned to fulfil his engagement, he would
have adted with more privacy. But the Florentines
were fo eager to get poflefTion of the City that they
rafhly confided in his promife, and advancing at a
certain hour to take polTefTion of one of the gates ac-
cording to his appointment, they met with luch a
reception that they lofl many of their ofncers and a
great number of private men, to their great mortifica-
tion and difgrace (^;.


nat a Republic ought frequevitly to make new haws
and Provifwns for the prefervation of its Liberties :
and how ^ Fab: us obtained the name of Alaximui,

I Have faid before that new diforders of one kind
or other mull: necefifarily happen very often in a
great Commonwealth, which rec]uire new remedies j

(*) See chap. XVIII. cf this book.


Chap. XLIX. The First Decad of Lrvv. 4^1)

and that the more dangerous they are, the greater
need they have of a fkilful Phyfician. Now though
we read of many ftrange and unexpedled accidents
and diforders, in the Hiftories of all Srares, we (hall
find ftill more and ftranger in that of the Roman Re-
public, than perhaps in any other. For the confirma-
tion of which, we may quote the confpiracy wherein
all the married women of Rome had engaged to
murder their hufbands •, fome of whom they acluall/
poifoned, and had prepared materials to difparch the
reft. Another inftance of the fame kind, wns the con-
fpiracy formed by the Bacchanals, and difcovered in
the time of the Macedonian war : for fo m.any thou-
fands both of men and women were concerned in ir,
that it muft probably have overturned the State, if it
had not been difcovered in time, and moft of the
offenders put to death, according to the cuftom of the
Romans, who m.ade no fcruple of punifhing a multi-
tude at once upon fuch occafions. And if other
proofs were wanting to (hew the power, the authority,
and magnanimity of that R^epublic, it might fully ap-
pear from their punifhing fuch numbers of delinquents
at one time. Thus they fometimes condemned a
whole Legion, fometimes all the inhabitants of a City
to death \ and fometimes not only banifhed eight or
then thoufand people at a time, but impofed fuch
conditions upon them as are difficult to be borne by a
fmgle man, much more by fo many. In this manner
they treated the remainder of the army that efcapcd
with their lives from the battle of Cannas : for they
baniihed them all to Sicily, where they were forbidden
either to live in any town, or to eat their meat any
otherwife than ftanding. But the moft remarkable
of all their executions was the decimation of their
forces ; that is, when they put every tenth man to
death by lot quite through an arm.y : and certainly
no way can be devifed that could be more juft, or
itrike-a greater terror into a multitude ; becaufe when
the deliquency is general, and no certain author or
ringleader can be pitched upon, is is impoftible to pu-


j^gd Political Discourses, &:c.- BookllL'

nifh them all; and to punifh one part only and fpare
the other, would be hard upon thole that fufFered, and
encourage thofe that did not to offend another time.

The women therefore, who defigned to have poi-*
foned their hufbands, and the Bacchanals were pu-
nilhed as they deferved : and though fuch maladies
have very bad effecls in a Commonweath, yet they
are not mortal j becaufe they are generally difcovered
before it is too late to remedv them. But that is noc
the cafe with regard to thofe that affcd the State :
for they are feldom difcovered in time, except by
very able Phyficians, and even then, if noc treated
with great prudence and care, commonly end in the
ruin of the Government : of which we have a remark-
able inftance in Livy. The Romans having been
very liberal in granting the freedom of their City to
ilrangers, they grew fo numerous at lad, and had
fuch a weight in the public Councils, that the Go-
vernment began to vary from its ufual courfe ; new
men being employed, and different meafures purfued
from what had been cuftomary before. But Quin-
tus Fabius being aware of this when he was Cen-
for, and forefeeing the mifchievous effe6ts that mud
enfue from it, took care to prevent them in time,
by reducing all the new Citizens into four tribes ;
that fo when their influence was contraded in fuch
a manner, they might not have it'in their power to
overturn the ancient conllitution of the Republic.
A piece of fervice fo grateful to his Countrymen^
that they conferred upon him the furname of Maximus*




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 44 of 44)