Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius.

Camillus, the wisest and most prudent of all the Roman commanders, when he had got within the town of Veii with his army, to make its surrender easier and not to drive its inhabitants to desperation, called out to his men, so that the Veientines might hear, to spare all whom they found unarmed.  Whereupon the defenders throwing away their weapons, the town was taken almost without bloodshed.  And this device was afterwards followed by many other captains.

CHAPTER XIII.—­Whether we may trust more to a valiant Captain with a weak Army, or to a valiant Army with a weak Captain.

Coriolanus being banished from Rome betook himself to the Volscians, and when he had got together an army wherewith to avenge himself on his countrymen, came back to Rome; yet, again withdrew, not constrained to retire by the might of the Roman arms, but out of reverence for his mother.  From this incident, says Titus Livius, we may learn that the spread of the Roman power was due more to the valour of her captains than of her soldiers.  For before this the Volscians had always been routed, and only grew successful when Coriolanus became their captain.

But though Livius be of this opinion, there are many passages in his history to show that the Roman soldiers, even when left without leaders, often performed astonishing feats of valour, nay, sometimes maintained better discipline and fought with greater spirit after their consuls were slain than they had before.  For example, the army under the Scipios in Spain, after its two leaders had fallen, was able by its valour not merely to secure its own safety, but to overcome the enemy and preserve the province for the Roman Republic.  So that to state the case fairly, we find many instances in which the valour of the soldiers alone gained the day, as well as many in which success was wholly due to the excellence of the captain.  From which it may be inferred that the one stands in need of the other.

And here the question suggests itself:  which is the more formidable, a good army badly led, or a good captain commanding an indifferent army; though, were we to adopt the opinion of Caesar on this head, we ought lightly to esteem both.  For when Caesar went to Spain against Afranius and Petreius, who were there in command of a strong army, he made little account of them, saying, “that he went to fight an army without a captain,” indicating thereby the weakness of these generals.  And, conversely, when he went to encounter Pompeius in Thessaly, he said, “I go against a captain without an army."[1]

Project Gutenberg
Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook