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.

Least of all can he decline battle who invades with his army the country of another; for seeking to enter his enemy’s country, he must fight whenever the enemy comes forward to meet him; and is under still greater necessity to fight, if he undertake the siege of any town.  As happened in our own day with Duke Charles of Burgundy, who, when beleaguering Morat, a town of the Swiss, was by them attacked and routed; or as happened with the French army encamped against Novara, which was in like manner defeated by the Swiss.

CHAPTER XI.—­That one who has to contend with many, though he be weaker than they, will prevail if he can withstand their first onset.

The power exercised in Rome by the tribunes of the people was great, and, as I have repeatedly explained, was necessary, since otherwise there would have been no check on the ambition of the nobles, and the commonwealth must have grown corrupted far sooner than it did.  But because, as I have said elsewhere, there is in everything a latent evil peculiar to it, giving rise to new mischances, it becomes necessary to provide against these by new ordinances.  The authority of the tribunes, therefore, being insolently asserted so as to become formidable to the nobility and to the entire city, disorders dangerous to the liberty of the State must thence have resulted, had not a method been devised by Appius Claudius for controlling the ambition of the tribunes.  This was, to secure that there should always be one of their number timid, or venal, or else a lover of the general good, who could be influenced to oppose the rest whenever these sought to pass any measure contrary to the wishes of the senate.  This remedy was a great restraint on the excessive authority of the tribunes, and on many occasions proved serviceable to Rome.

I am led by this circumstance to remark, that when many powerful persons are united against one, who, although no match for the others collectively, is also powerful, the chances are more in favour of this single and less I powerful person, than of the many who together are much stronger.  For setting aside an infinity of accidents which can be turned to better account by one than by many, it will always happen that, by exercising a little dexterity, the one will be able to divide the many, and weaken the force which was strong while it was united.  In proof whereof, I shall not refer to ancient examples, though many such might be cited, but content myself with certain modern instances taken from the events of our own times.

In the year 1484, all Italy combined against the Venetians, who finding their position desperate, and being unable to keep their army any longer in the field, bribed Signer Lodovico, who then governed Milan, and so succeeded in effecting a settlement, whereby they not only recovered the towns they had lost, but also obtained for themselves a part of the territories of Ferrara; so that those were by peace the gainers, who in war had been the losers.  Not many years ago the whole world was banded together against France; but before the war came to a close, Spain breaking with the confederates and entering into a separate treaty with France, the other members of the league also, were presently forced to make terms.

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