We see, therefore, that the method of proceeding by leagues has always been of the same character, and has led always to the same results. We see, likewise, that the method which proceeds by reducing States to direct subjection has constantly proved a weak one, and produced insignificant gains; and that whenever these gains have passed a certain limit, ruin has ensued. And if the latter of these two methods be of little utility among armed States, among those that are unarmed, as is now the case with the republics of Italy, it is worse than useless. We may conclude, therefore, that the true method was that followed by the Romans; which is the more remarkable as we find none who adopted it before they did, and none who have followed it since. As for leagues, I know of no nations who have had recourse to them in recent times except the Swiss and the Suevians.
But to bring my remarks on this head to an end, I affirm that all the various methods followed by the Romans in conducting their affairs, whether foreign or domestic, so far from being imitated in our day, have been held of no account, some pronouncing them to be mere fables, some thinking them impracticable, others out of place and unprofitable; and so, abiding in this ignorance, we rest a prey to all who have chosen to invade our country. But should it seem difficult to tread in the footsteps of the Romans, it ought not to appear so hard, especially for us Tuscans, to imitate the Tuscans of antiquity, who if, from the causes already assigned, they failed to establish an empire like that of Rome, succeeded in acquiring in Italy that degree of power which their method of acting allowed, and which they long preserved in security, with the greatest renown in arms and government, and the highest reputation for manners and religion. This power and this glory of theirs were first impaired by the Gauls, and afterwards extinguished by the Romans, and so utterly extinguished, that of the Etruscan Empire, so splendid two thousand years ago, we have at the present day barely a record. This it is which has led me to inquire whence this oblivion of things arises, a question of which I shall treat in the following Chapter.
To those philosophers who will have it that the world has existed from all eternity, it were, I think, a good answer, that if what they say be true we ought to have record of a longer period than five thousand years; did it not appear that the memory of past times is blotted out by a variety of causes, some referable to men, and some to Heaven.