Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 420 pages of information about Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius.

Although the hurt which results to republics from weakness of this sort has already been discussed in another Chapter, nevertheless, since an opportunity offered for touching upon it again, I have willingly availed myself of it, because to me it seems a matter of which republics like ours should take special heed.

CHAPTER XVI.—­That the Soldiers of our days depart widely from the methods of ancient Warfare.

In all their wars with other nations, the most momentous battle ever fought by the Romans, was that which they fought with the Latins when Torquatus and Decius were consuls.  For it may well be believed that as by the loss of that battle the Latins became subject to the Romans, so the Romans had they not prevailed must have become subject to the Latins.  And Titus Livius is of this opinion, since he represents the armies as exactly equal in every respect, in discipline and in valour, in numbers and in obstinacy, the only difference he draws being, that of the two armies the Romans had the more capable commanders.  We find, however, two circumstances occurring in the conduct of this battle, the like of which never happened before, and seldom since, namely, that to give steadiness to the minds of their soldiers, and render them obedient to the word of command and resolute to fight, one of the consuls put himself, and the other his son, to death.

The equality which Titus Livius declares to have prevailed in these two armies, arose from this, that having long served together they used the same language, discipline, and arms; that in disposing their men for battle they followed the same system; and that the divisions and officers of their armies bore the same names.  It was necessary, therefore, that as they were of equal strength and valour, something extraordinary should take place to render the courage of the one army more stubborn and unflinching than that of the other, it being on this stubbornness, as I have already said, that victory depends.  For while this temper is maintained in the minds of the combatants they will never turn their backs on their foe.  And that it might endure longer in the minds of the Romans than of the Latins, partly chance, and partly the valour of the consuls caused it to fall out that Torquatus slew his son, and Decius died by his own hand.

In pointing out this equality of strength, Titus Livius takes occasion to explain the whole system followed by the Romans in the ordering of their armies and in disposing them for battle; and as he has treated the subject at length, I need not go over the same ground, and shall touch only on what I judge in it most to deserve attention, but, being overlooked by all the captains of our times, has led to disorder in many armies and in many battles.

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