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.
grave and important cares which attend such enterprises.  But if to all these cares, had been added the example of Roman generals crucified or otherwise put to death for having lost battles, it would have been impossible for a commander surrounded by so many causes for anxiety to have acted with vigour and decision.  For which reason, and because they thought that to such persons the mere ignominy of defeat was in itself punishment enough, they would not dishearten their generals by inflicting on them any heavier penalty.

Of errors committed not through ignorance, the following is an instance.  Sergius and Virginius were engaged in the siege of Veii, each being in command of a division of the army, and while Sergius was set to guard against the approach of the Etruscans, it fell to Virginius to watch the town.  But Sergius being attacked by the Faliscans and other tribes, chose rather to be defeated and routed than ask aid from Virginius, who, on his part, awaiting the humiliation of his rival, was willing to see his country dishonoured and an army destroyed, sooner than go unasked to his relief.  This was notable misconduct, and likely, unless both offenders were punished, to bring discredit on the Roman name.  But whereas another republic would have punished these men with death, the Romans were content to inflict only a money fine:  not because the offence did not in itself deserve severe handling, but because they were unwilling, for the reasons already given, to depart in this instance from their ancient practice.

Of errors committed through ignorance we have no better example than in the case of Varro, through whose rashness the Romans were defeated by Hannibal at Cannae, where the republic well-nigh lost its liberty.  But because he had acted through ignorance and with no evil design, they not only refrained from punishing him, but even treated him with distinction; the whole senate going forth to meet him on his return to Rome, and as they could not thank him for having fought, thanking him for having come back, and for not having despaired of the fortunes his country.

Again, when Papirius Cursor would have had Fabius put to death, because, contrary to his orders, he had fought with the Samnites, among the reasons pleaded by the father of Fabius against the persistency of the dictator, he urged that never on the occasion of the defeat of any of their captains had the Romans done what Papirius desired them to do on the occasion of a victory.

CHAPTER XXXII.—­That a Prince or Commonwealth should not delay conferring Benefits until they are themselves in difficulties.

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