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.

From what has been said it will likewise be understood that if great captains when matched against an unfamiliar foe have had to resort to unusual methods for reassuring the minds even of veteran soldiers, much more will it be necessary for them to use all their address when in command of a raw and untried army which has never before looked an enemy in the face.  For if an unfamiliar adversary inspire terror even in a veteran army, how much greater must be the terror which any army will inspire in the minds of untrained men.  And yet we often find all these difficulties overcome by the supreme prudence of a great captain like the Roman Gracchus or the Theban Epaminondas, of whom I have before spoken, who with untried troops defeated the most practised veterans.  And the method they are said to have followed was to train their men for some months in mimic warfare, so as to accustom them to discipline and obedience, after which they employed them with complete confidence on actual service.

No man, therefore, of warlike genius, need despair of creating a good army if only he have the men; for the prince who has many subjects and yet lacks soldiers, has only to thank his own inertness and want of foresight, and must not complain of the cowardice of his people.

CHAPTER XXXIX.—­That a Captain should have good knowledge of Places.

Among other qualifications essential in a good captain is a knowledge, both general and particular, of places and countries, for without such knowledge it is impossible for him to carry out any enterprise in the best way.  And while practice is needed for perfection in every art, in this it is needed in the highest degree.  Such practice, or particular knowledge as it may be termed, is sooner acquired in the chase than in any other exercise; and, accordingly, we find it said by ancient historians that those heroes who, in their day, ruled the world, were bred in the woods and trained to the chase; for this exercise not merely gives the knowledge I speak of, but teaches countless other lessons needful in war.  And Xenophon in his life of Cyrus tells us, that Cyrus, on his expedition against the King of Armenia, when assigning to each of his followers the part he was to perform, reminded them that the enterprise on which they were engaged, differed little from one of those hunting expeditions on which they had gone so often in his company; likening those who were to lie in ambush in the mountains, to the men sent to spread the toils on the hill-tops; and those who were to overrun the plain, to the beaters whose business it is to start the game from its lair that it may be driven into the toils.  Now, this is related to show how, in the opinion of Xenophon, the chase is a mimic representation of war, and therefore to be esteemed by the great as useful and honourable.

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