But, further, since the desires of men are insatiable, Nature prompting them to desire all things and Fortune permitting them to enjoy but few, there results a constant discontent in their minds, and a loathing of what they possess, prompting them to find fault with the present, praise the past, and long for the future, even though they be not moved thereto by any reasonable cause.
I know not, therefore, whether I may not deserve to be reckoned in the number of those who thus deceive themselves, if, in these Discourses of mine, I render excessive praise to the ancient times of the Romans while I censure our own. And, indeed, were not the excellence which then prevailed and the corruption which prevails now clearer than the sun, I should proceed more guardedly in what I have to say, from fear lest in accusing others I should myself fall into this self-deception. But since the thing is so plain that every one sees it, I shall be bold to speak freely all I think, both of old times and of new, in order that the minds of the young who happen to read these my writings, may be led to shun modern examples, and be prepared to follow those set by antiquity whenever chance affords the opportunity. For it is the duty of every good man to teach others those wholesome lessons which the malice of Time or of Fortune has not permitted him to put in practice; to the end, that out of many who have the knowledge, some one better loved by Heaven may be found able to carry them out.
Having spoken, then, in the foregoing Book of the various methods followed by the Romans in regulating the domestic affairs of their city, in this I shall speak of what was done by them to spread their Empire.
Many authors, and among others that most grave historian Plutarch, have thought that in acquiring their empire the Romans were more beholden to their good fortune than to their valour; and besides other reasons which they give for this opinion, they affirm it to be proved by the admission of the Romans themselves, since their having erected more temples to Fortune than to any other deity, shows that it was to her that they ascribed their success. It would seem, too, that Titus Livius was of the same mind, since he very seldom puts a speech into the mouth of any Roman in which he discourses of valour, wherein he does not also make mention of Fortune. This, however, is an opinion with which I can in no way concur, and which, I take it, cannot be made good. For if no commonwealth has ever been found to grow like the Roman, it is because none was ever found so well fitted by its institutions to make that growth. For by the valour of her armies she spread her empire, while by her conduct of affairs, and by other methods peculiar to herself and devised by her first founder, she was able to keep what she acquired, as shall be fully shown in many of the following Discourses.