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.

CHAPTER XXXIII.—­That to insure victory in battle you must inspire your Men with confidence in one another and in you.

To insure an army being victorious in battle you must inspire it with the conviction that it is certain to prevail.  The causes which give it this confidence are its being well armed and disciplined, and the soldiers knowing one another.  These conditions are only to be found united in soldiers born and bred in the same country.

It is likewise essential that the army should think so well of its captain as to trust implicitly to his prudence; which it will always do if it see him careful of its welfare, attentive to discipline, brave in battle, and otherwise supporting well and honourably the dignity of his position.  These conditions he fulfils when, while punishing faults, he does not needlessly harass his men, keeps his word with them, shows them that the path to victory is easy, and conceals from them, or makes light of things which seen from a distance might appear to threaten danger.  The observance of these precautions will give an army great confidence, and such confidence leads to victory.

This confidence the Romans were wont to inspire in the minds of their soldiers by the aid of religion; and accordingly their consuls were appointed, their armies were enrolled, their soldiers marched forth, and their battles were begun, only when the auguries and auspices were favourable; and without attending to all these observances no prudent captain would ever engage in combat; knowing that unless his soldiers were first assured that the gods were on their side, he might readily suffer defeat.  But if any consul or other leader ever joined battle contrary to the auspices, the Romans would punish him, as they did Claudius Pulcher.

The truth of what I affirm is plainly seen from the whole course of the Roman history, but is more particularly established by the words which Livius puts into the mouth of Appius Claudius, who, when complaining to the people of the insolence of the tribunes, and taxing them with having caused the corruption of the auspices and other rites of religion, is made to say, “And now they would strip even religion of its authority.  For what matters it, they will tell you, that the fowls refuse to peck, or come slowly from the coop, or that a cock has crowed?  These are small matters doubtless; but it was by not contemning such small matters as these, that our forefathers built up this great republic.” And, indeed, in these small matters lies a power which keeps men united and of good courage, which is of itself the chief condition of success.

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