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.

And yet Cornelius Tacitus, with whom many other authors are agreed, pronounces a contrary opinion where he says, “In governing a multitude it avails more to punish than to be compliant."[1] If it be asked how these opposite views can be reconciled, I answer that you exercise authority either over men used to regard you as their equal, or over men who have always been subject to you.  When those over whom you exercise authority are your equals, you cannot trust wholly to punishment or to that severity of which Tacitus speaks.  And since in Rome itself the commons had equal weight with the nobles, none appointed their captain for a time only, could control them by using harshness and severity.  Accordingly we find that those Roman captains who gained the love of their soldiers and were considerate of them, often achieved greater results than those who made themselves feared by them in an unusual degree, unless, like Manlius Torquatus, these last were endowed with consummate valour.  But he who has to govern subjects such as those of whom Tacitus speaks, to prevent their growing insolent and trampling upon him by reason of his too great easiness, must resort to punishment rather than to compliance.  Still, to escape hatred, punishment should be moderate in degree, for to make himself hated is never for the interest of any prince.  And to escape hatred, a prince has chiefly to guard against tampering with the property of any of his subjects; for where nothing is to be gained by it, no prince will desire to shed blood, unless, as seldom happens, constrained to do so by necessity.  But where advantage is to be gained thereby, blood will always flow, and neither the desire to shed it, nor causes for shedding it will ever be wanting, as I have fully shown when discussing this subject in another treatise.

Quintius therefore was more deserving of praise than Appius.  Nevertheless the opinion of Tacitus, duly restricted and not understood as applying to a case like that of Appius, merits approval.  But since I have spoken of punishment and indulgence, it seems not out of place to show how a single act of humanity availed more than arms with the citizens of Falerii.

[Footnote 1:  “In multitudine regenda plus poena quam obsequium valet.”  But compare Annals, III. 55, “Obsequium inde in principem et aemulandi amoi validioi quam poena ex legibus et metus.”]

CHAPTER XX.—­How one humane act availed more with the men of Falerii, than all the might of the Roman Arms.

When the besieging army of the Romans lay round Falerii, the master of a school wherein the best-born youths of the city were taught, thinking to curry favour with Camillus and the Romans, came forth from the town with these boys, on pretence of giving them exercise, and bringing them into the camp where Camillus was, presented them to him, saying, “To ransom these that city would yield itself into your hands.” Camillus, however, not only rejected this offer, but causing the schoolmaster to be stripped and his hands tied behind him, gave each of the boys a scourge, and bade them lead the fellow back to the town scourging him as they went.  When the citizens of Falerii heard of this, so much were they pleased with the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they resolved to surrender their town to him without further defence.

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