Discourses on Livy Book I
Category: Ideas
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Niccolo Machiavelli was a Renassiasance philosopher, diplomat and historian. He often wrote texts on political theory, such as The Prince, in which he explored the role and actual power of a prince. In Discourse on Livy Book I, he discusses the tendency of people in the Italian Renaissance to imitate ancient medicine, law, and art but not republics or kingdoms. The text tries to determine how to achieve imitation of ancient politics despite people’s apprehension against it. Read how the Italian philosopher convinces the people they can indeed achieve political virtue.

Discourses on Livy

Niccolò Machiavelli

First Book

Discourses on Livy Book I

Chapter I:
What Have Generally Been the Beginnings of Some Cities, and What Was That of Rome

Those who read what the beginning of the City of Rome was, and of her Law-givers and how it was organized, do not wonder that so much virtu had been maintained for so many centuries in that City, and that afterward there should have been born that Empire to which that Republic was joined. And wanting first to discuss its birth, I say that all Cities are built either by men born in the place where they build it or by foreigners. The first case occurs when it appears to the inhabitants that they do not live securely when dispersed into many and small parties, each unable by himself both because of the location and the small number to resist attacks of those who should assault them, and they are not in time ((the enemy coming)) in waiting for their defense: or if they should be, they must abandon many of their refuges, and thus they would quickly become the prey of their enemies: so much that in order to avoid these dangers, moved either by themselves or by some one among them of greater authority, they restrict themselves to live together in a place selected by them, more convenient to live in and more easy to defend. Of these, among others, have been Athens and Venice: the first under the authority of Theseus was built by the dispersed inhabitants for like reasons: the other built by many people (who) had come to certain small islands situated at the head of the Adriatic Sea, in order to escape those wars which every day were arising in Italy because of the coming of new barbarians after the decline of that Roman Empire, began among themselves, without any particular Prince who should organize them, to live under those laws which appeared to them best suited in maintaining it (their new state). In this they succeeded happily because of the long peace which the site gave to them (for) that sea not having issue, where those people who were afflicting Italy, not having ships with which they could invest them; so that from a small beginning they were enabled to come to that greatness which they now have.

The second case, when a city is built by foreign forces, is caused by free men and by men who depend on others, such as the Colonies sent either by a Republic or by a Prince to relieve their towns of (excessive) inhabitants or for the defense of that country which they have newly acquired (and) want to maintain securely and without expense; (thy Roman people built many cities, throughout all their Empire) or they are built by a Prince, not to live there but for his own glory, as was the City of Alexandria built by Alexander. And because these cities at their origin do not have their freedom, it rarely happens that they make great progress and are able to be numbered among the chief Kingdoms. Such was the building of Florence, for (it was built either by the soldiers of Sulla, or perhaps by the inhabitants of the Mountains of Fiesole, who trusting in that long peace which prevailed in the world under Octavian were led to live in the plain along the Arno) it was built under the Roman Empire, and could not in its beginning have any other growth that those which were conceded to her through the courtesy of the Prince.

The builders of Cities are free when any people either under a Prince or by themselves are constrained either by pestilence or by famine or by war to abandon their native country, and seek new homes: These either inhabit the cities that they find in the countries they acquire, as Moses did, or they build new ones, as Eneas did. This is a case where the virtu and fortune of the builder of the edifice is recognized, which is of greater or less wonder according as that man who was the beginner was of greater or less virtu. The virtu of whom is recognized in two ways: the first is in the selection of the site, the other in the establishment of the laws. And because men work either from necessity or from choice: and because it is seen here that virtu is greater where choice has less authority (results from necessity), it is (something) to be considered whether it would be better for the building of a city to select sterile places, so that men constrained to be industrious and less occupied with idleness, should live more united, where, because of the poverty of the site, they should have less cause for discord, as happened at Ragusa and in many other cities built in similar places; which selection would without doubt be more wise and more useful if men would be content to live of their own (possessions), and not want to seek to command that of others.

However, as men are not able to make themselves secure except through power, it is necessary to avoid this sterility of country and locate it in very fertile places, where because of the fertility of the site, it can grow, can defend itself from whoever should assault it, and suppress whoever should oppose its aggrandizement. And as to that idleness which the site should encourage, it ought to be arranged that in that necessity the laws should constrain them (to work) where the site does not constrain them (does not do so), and to imitate those who have been wise and have lived in most amenable and most fertile countries, which are apt to making men idle and unable to exercise any virtu: that to obviate those which the amenity of the country may cause through idleness, they imposed the necessity of exercise on those who were to be soldiers: of a kind that, because of such orders, they became better soldiers than (men) in those countries where nature has been harsh and sterile: among which was the Kingdom of Egypt, which notwithstanding that the country was most amenable, that necessity ordained by the laws was so great, that most excellent men resulted therefrom: and if their names had not been extinguished by antiquity, it would be seen that they would have merited more praise than Alexander the Great, and many others of whom memory is still fresh. And whoever had considered the Kingdom of Soldan and the order of the Mamelukes, and of their military (organization) before it was destroyed by Selim the Grand Turk, would have seen there how much the soldiers exercised, and in fact would have known how much they feared that idleness to which the benignity of the country could lead them if they had not obviated it by the strongest laws. I say therefore that the selection of a fertile location in establishing (a city) is more prudent when (the results) of that fertility can be restricted within given limits by laws.

Alexander the Great, wishing to build a city for his glory, Dinocrates, the Architect came to him and showed him how he could do so upon the mountain Athos, which place in addition to being strong, could be arranged in a way that the City would be given human form, which would be a marvelous and rare thing and worthy of his greatness: and Alexander asking him on what the inhabitants would live, he replied that he had not thought of it: at which he laughed, and leaving that mountain as it was, he built Alexandria, where the inhabitants would stay willingly because of the richness of the country and the convenience to the sea and of the Nile.

Whoever should examine, therefore, the building of Rome if he should take Eneas for its first ancestor, will know that that City was built by foreigners: (but) if Romulus, it would have been built by men native to the place, and in any case it would be seen to have been free from the beginning without depending on anyone: it will also be seen (as it will be said below) to what necessity the laws made by Romulus, Numa, and the others had constrained them; so much so that the fertility of the site, the convenience of the sea, the frequent victories, the greatness of the Empire, could not corrupt her for many centuries, and they maintained her full of so much virtu than any other republic has ever been adorned. And because the things achieved by them and that are made notable by Titus Livius, have taken place either through public Councils or private (individuals) either inside or outside the City, I shall begin to discourse upon those things which occured inside; and as for the public Council, which is worthy of greater annotation, I shall judge, adding all that is dependent on them; with which discourses this fast book, or rather this fast part will be ended.

Chapter II:
Of the Kinds of Republics There Are, and of Which Was the Roman Republic

I want to place aside the discussion of those cities that had their beginning subject to others, and I will talk of those which have had their beginning far removed from any external servitude, but which (were) initially governed themselves through their own will, either as Republics or as Principalities; which have had (as diverse origins) diverse laws and institutions. For to some, at the beginning or very soon after, their laws were given to them by one (man) and all at one time, as those which were given to the Spartans by Lycurgus: Some have received them by chance, and at several times, according to events, as Rome did. So that a Republic can be called fortunate which by chance has a man so prudent, who gives her laws so ordered that without having need of correcting them, she can live securely under them. And it is seen that Sparta observed hers (laws) for more than eight hundred years without changing them and without any dangerous disturbance: and on the contrary that City has some degree of unhappiness which (not having fallen to a prudent lawmaker) is compelled to reorganize her laws by herself. And she also is more unhappy which has diverged more from her institutions; and that (Republic) is even further from them whose laws lead her away from perfect and true ends entirely outside of the right path; for to those who are in that condition it is almost impossible that by some incident they be set aright. Those others which do not have a perfect constitution, but had made a good beginning, are capable of becoming better, and can become perfect through the occurrence of events. It is very true, however, that they have never been reformed without danger, for the greater number of men never agree to a new law which contemplates a new order for the City, unless the necessity that needs be accomplished is shown to them: and as this necessity cannot arise without some peril, it is an easy thing for the Republic to be ruined before it can be brought to a more perfect constitution. The Republic of Florence gives a proof of this, which because of the incident of Arezzo in (the year) one thousand five hundred and two (1502) was reorganized, (and) it was disorganized by that of Prato in (the year) one thousand five hundred and twelve (1512).

Wanting therefore to discourse on what were the institutions of the City of Rome and what events brought her to her perfection, I say, that some who have written of Republics say there are (one of) three States (governments) in them called by them Principality (Monarchy), of the Best (Aristocracy), and Popular (Democracy), and that those men who institute (laws) in a City ought to turn to one of these, according as it seems fit to them. Some others (and wiser according to the opinion of many) believe there are six kinds of Governments, of which those are very bad, and those are good in themselves, but may be so easily corrupted that they also become pernicious. Those that are good are three mentioned above: those that are bad, are three others which derive from those (first three), and each is so similar to them that they easily jump from one to the other, for the Principality easily becomes a tyranny, autocracy easily become State of the Few (oligarchies), and the Popular (Democracy) without difficulty is converted into a licentious one (anarchy). So much so that an organizer of a Republic institutes one of those three States (governments) in a City, he institutes it for only a short time, because there is no remedy which can prevent them from degenerating into their opposite kind, because of the resemblance that virtu and vice have in this instance.

These variations in government among men are born by chance, for at the beginning of the world the inhabitants were few, (and) lived for a time dispersed and like beasts: later as the generations multiplied they gathered together, and in order to be able better to defend themselves they began to seek among themselves the one who was most robust and of greater courage, and made him their head and obeyed him. From this there arose the knowledge of honest and good things; differentiating them from the pernicious and evil; for seeing one man harm his benefactor there arose hate and compassion between men, censuring the ingrates and honoring those who were grateful, and believing also that these same injuries could be done to them, to avoid like evils they were led to make laws, and institute punishments for those who should contravene them; whence came the cognition of justice. Which thing later caused them to select a Prince, not seeking the most stalwart but he who was more prudent and more just. But afterwards when they began to make the Prince by succession and not by election, the heirs quickly degenerated from their fathers, and leaving off from works of virtu they believed that Princes should have nothing else to do than surpass others in sumptuousness and lasciviousness and in every other kind of delight. So that the Prince began to be hated, and because of this hate he began to fear, and passing therefore from fear to injury, a tyranny quickly arose. From this there arose the beginnings of the ruin and conspiracies; and these conspiracies against the Prince were not made by weak and timid men, but by those who because of their generosity, greatness of spirit, riches, and nobility above the others, could not endure the dishonest life of that prince.

The multitude therefore following the authority of these powerful ones armed itself against the Prince, and having destroyed him, they obeyed them as their liberators. And these holding the name of chief in hatred, constituted a government by themselves, and in the beginning (having in mind the past tyranny) governed themselves according to the laws instituted by them, preferring every common usefulness to their conveniences, and governed and preserved private and public affairs with the greatest diligence. This administration later was handed down to their children, who not knowing the changeability of fortune (for) never having experienced bad (fortune), and not wanting to remain content with civil equality, they turned to avarice, ambition, violation of women, caused that aristocratic government (of the Best) to become an oligarchic government (of the Few) regardless of all civil rights: so that in a short time the same thing happened to them as it did to the Tyrant, for the multitude disgusted with their government, placed itself under the orders of whoever would in any way plan to attack those Governors, and thus there arose some one who, with the aid of the multitude, destroyed them. And the memory of the Prince and the injuries received from him being yet fresh (and) having destroyed the oligarchic state (of the Few), and not wanting to restore that of the Prince, the (people) turned to the Popular state (Democracy) and they organized that in such a way, that neither the powerful Few nor a Prince should have any authority. And because all States in the beginning receive some reverence, this Popular State maintained itself for a short time, but not for long, especially when that generation that had organized it was extinguished, for they quickly came to that license where neither private men or public men were feared: this was such that every one living in his own way, a thousand injuries were inflicted every day: so that constrained by necessity either through the suggestion of some good man, or to escape from such license, they once again turn to a Principality; and from this step by step they return to that license both in the manner and for the causes mentioned (previously).

And this is the circle in which all the Republics are governed and will eventually be governed; but rarely do they return to the same (original) governments: for almost no Republic can have so long a life as to be able often to pass through these changes and remain on its feet. But it may well happen that in the troubles besetting a Republic always lacking counsel and strength, it will become subject to a neighboring state which may be better organized than itself: but assuming this does not happen, a Republic would be apt to revolve indefinitely among these governments. I say therefore that all the (previously) mentioned forms are inferior because of the brevity of the existence of those three that are good, and of the malignity of those three that are bad. So that those who make laws prudently having recognized the defects of each, (and) avoiding every one of these forms by itself alone, they selected one (form) that should partake of all, they judging it to be more firm and stable, because when there is in the same City (government) a Principality, an Aristocracy, and a Popular Government (Democracy), one watches the other.

Among those who have merited more praise for having similar constitutions is Lycurgus, who so established his laws in Sparta, that in giving parts to the King, the Aristocracy, and the People, made a state that endured more than eight hundred years, with great praise to himself and tranquillity to that City. The contrary happened to Solon who established the laws in Athens, (and) who by establishing only the Popular (Democratic) state, he gave it such a brief existence that before he died he saw arise the tyranny of Pisistratus: and although after forty years his (the tyrants) heirs were driven out and liberty returned to Athens, for the Popular state was restored according to the ordinances of Solon, it did not last more than a hundred years, yet in order that it be maintained many conventions were made by which the insolence of the nobles and the general licentiousness were suppressed, which had not been considered by Solon: none the less because he did not mix it (Popular state) with the power of the Principate and with that of the Aristocracy, Athens lived a very short time as compared to Sparta.

But let us come to Rome, which, notwithstanding that it did not have a Lycurgus who so established it in the beginning that she was not able to exist free for a long time, none the less so many were the incidents that arose in that City because of the disunion that existed between the Plebs and the Senate, so that what the legislator did not do, chance did. For, if Rome did not attain top fortune, it attained the second; if the first institutions were defective, none the less they did not deviate from the straight path which would lead them to perfection, for Romulus and all the other Kings made many and good laws, all conforming to a free existence. But because their objective was to found a Kingdom and not a Republic, when that City became free she lacked many things that were necessary to be established in favor of liberty, which had not been established by those Kings. And although those Kings lost their Empire for the reasons and in the manner discussed, none the less those who drove them out quickly instituted two Consuls who should be in the place of the King, (and) so it happened that while the name (of King) was driven from Rome, the royal power was not; so that the Consuls and the Senate existed in forms mentioned above, that is the Principate and the Aristocracy. There remained only to make a place for Popular government for the reasons to be mentioned below, the people rose against them: so that in order not to lose everything, (the Nobility) was constrained to concede a part of its power to them, and on the other hand the Senate and the Consuls remained with so much authority that they were able to keep their rank in that Republic. And thus was born (the creation) of the Tribunes of the plebs, after which creation the government of that Republic came to be more stable, having a part of all those forms of government. And so favorable was fortune to them that although they passed from a Monarchial government and from an Aristocracy to one of the People (Democracy), by those same degrees and for the same reasons that were discussed above, none the less the Royal form was never entirely taken away to give authority to the Aristocracy, nor was all the authority of the Aristocrats diminished in order to give it to the People, but it remained shared (between the three) it made the Republic perfect: which perfection resulted from the disunion of the Plebs and the Senate, as we shall discuss at length in the next following chapters.

Chapter III:
What Events Caused the Creation of the Tribunes of the Plebs in Rome, Which Made the Republic More Perfect

As all those have shown who have discussed civil institutions, and as every history is full of examples, it is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity; and if such malignity is hidden for a time, it proceeds from the unknown reason that would not be known because the experience of the contrary had not been seen, but time, which is said to be the father of every truth, will cause it to be discovered. It seemed that in Rome there was a very great harmony between the Plebs and the Senate (the Tarquins having been driven out), and that the nobles had laid aside their haughtiness and had become of a popular spirit, and supportable to everyone even to the lowest. This deception was hidden, nor was the cause seen while the Tarquins lived, whom the nobility feared, and having fear that the maltreated plebs might not side with them (the nobles) they behaved themselves humanely toward them: but as soon as the Tarquins were dead, and that fear left the Nobles, they begun to vent upon the plebs that poison which they had kept within their breasts, and in every way they could they offended them: which thing gives testimony to that which was said above that men never act well except through necessity: but where choice abounds and where license may be used, everything is quickly filled with confusion and disorder. It is said therefore that Hunger and Poverty make men industrious, and Laws make them good. And where something by itself works well without law, the law is not necessary: but when that good custom is lacking, the law immediately becomes necessary. Thus the Tarquins being dead through fear of whom the Nobles were kept in restraint, it behooved them (the Nobles) to think of a new order, which would cause the same effect which the Tarquins had caused when they were alive. And therefore after many confusions, tumults, and dangers of troubles, which arose between the Plebs and the Nobility, they came for the security of the Plebs to the creation of the Tribunes, and they were given so much preeminence and so much reputation, that they then should always be able to be in the middle between the Plebs and the Senate, and obviate the insolence of the Nobles.

Chapter IV:
That Disunion of the Plebs and the Roman Senate Made That Republic Free and Powerful

I do not want to miss discoursing on these tumults that occurred in Rome from the death of the Tarquins to the creation of the Tribunes; and afterwards I will discourse on some things contrary to the opinions of many who say that Rome was a tumultuous Republic and full of so much confusion, that if good fortune and military virtu had not supplied her defects, she would have been inferior to every other Republic.

I cannot deny that fortune and the military were the causes of the Roman Empire; but it indeed seems to me that this would not happen except when military discipline is good, it happens that where order is good, (and) only rarely there may not be good fortune accompanying. But let us come to the other particulars of that City. I say that those who condemn the tumults between the nobles and the plebs, appear to me to blame those things that were the chief causes for keeping Rome free, and that they paid more attention to the noises and shouts that arose in those tumults than to the good effects they brought forth, and that they did not consider that in every Republic there are two different viewpoints, that of the People and that of the Nobles; and that all the laws that are made in favor of liberty result from their disunion, as may easily be seen to have happened in Rome, for from Tarquin to the Gracchi which was more than three hundred years, the tumults of Rome rarely brought forth exiles, and more rarely blood. Nor is it possible therefore to judge these tumults harmful, nor divisive to a Republic, which in so great a time sent into exile no more than eight or ten of its citizens because of its differences, and put to death only a few, and condemned in money (fined) not very many: nor can a Republic in any way with reason be called disordered where there are so many examples of virtu, for good examples result from good education, good education from good laws, and good laws from those tumults which many inconsiderately condemn; for he who examines well the result of these, will not find that they have brought forth any exile or violence prejudicial to the common good, but laws and institutions in benefit of public liberty. And if anyone should say the means were extraordinary and almost savage, he will see the People together shouting against the Senate, the Senate against the People, running tumultuously throughout the streets, locking their stores, all the Plebs departing from Rome, all of which (things) alarm only those who read of them; I say, that every City ought to have their own means with which its People can give vent to their ambitions, and especially those Cities which in important matters, want to avail themselves of the People; among which the City of Rome had this method, that when those people wanted to obtain a law, either they did some of the things mentioned before or they would not enroll their names to go to war, so that to placate them it was necessary (for the Senate) in some part to satisfy them: and the desires of a free people rarely are pernicious to liberty, because they arise either from being oppressed or from the suspicion of going to be oppressed. And it these opinions should be false, there is the remedy of haranguing (public assembly), where some upright man springs up who through oratory shows them that they deceive themselves; and the people (as Tullius Cicero says) although they are ignorant, are capable of (appreciating) the truth, and easily give in when the truth is given to them by a trustworthy man.

One ought therefore to be more sparing in blaming the Roman government, and to consider that so many good effects which came from that Republic, were not caused except for the best of reasons: And if the tumults were the cause of creation of Tribunes, they merit the highest praise, for in addition to giving the people a part in administration, they were established for guarding Roman liberty, as will be shown in the next chapter.

Chapter V:
Where the Guarding of Liberty Is More Securely Placed, Either in the People or in the Nobles; and Which Have the Greater Reason to Become Tumultous Either He Who Wants to Acquire or He Who Wants to Maintain

Among the more necessary things instituted by those who have prudently established a Republic, was to establish a guard to liberty, and according as this was well or badly place, that freedom endured a greater or less (period of time). And because in every Republic there exists the Nobles and the Populace, it may be a matter of doubt in whose hands the guard is better placed. And the Lacedemonians, and in our times the Venetians, placed it in the hands of the Nobles, but that of Rome was placed in the hands of the Plebs. It is necessary therefore to examine which of the Republics had made the better selection. And if we go past the causes and examine every part, and if their results should be examined, the side of the Nobles would be preferred since the liberty of Sparta and Venice had a much longer life than that of Rome: And to come to the reasons, I say (taking up first the part of the Romans) that thing (liberty) which is to be guarded ought to be done by those who have the least desire of usurping it. And without doubt, if the object of the Nobles and of the Ignobles (populace) is considered, it will be seen that the former have a great desire to dominate, and the latter a desire not to be dominated and consequently a greater desire to live free, being less hopeful of usurping it (liberty) than are the Nobles: so that the People placed in charge to guard the liberty of anyone, reasonably will take better care of it; for not being able to take it away themselves, they do not permit others to take it away.

On the other hand, he who defends the Spartan and Venetian arrangement, says that those who placed that guardianship in the hands of the Powerful (Nobles), made two good points: The one, that they satisfy more the ambitions of those who playing a greater part in the Republic, (and) having this club in their hands, have more reason to be content; the other, that they take away a kind of authority from the restless spirit of the People which is the cause of infinite discussions and troubles in a Republic, and apt to bring the Nobility to some (act of) desperation which in times may result in some bad effects. And they give for an example this selfsame Rome, where the Tribunes of the Plebs having this authority in their hands, (and) the having of one Consul from the Plebs was not enough for them (the People), but that they wanted to have both (the Consuls from the Plebs). From this they afterward wanted the Censure, the Praetorship, and all the other ranks of the Empire (Government) of the Republic. Nor was this enough for them, but urged on by the same fury they began in time to idolize those men whom they saw adept at beating down the Nobility: whence arose the power of Marius and the ruin of Rome.

And truly whoever should discuss well both of these things could be in doubt as to what kind of men may be more harmful to the Republic, either those who desire to acquire that which they do not have, or those who desire to maintain the honors already acquired. And in the end whoever examines everything skillfully will come to this conclusion: The discussion is either of a Republic which wants to create an Empire, as Rome, or of one which is satisfied to maintain itself. In the first case it is necessary for it to do everything as Rome did; in the second, it can imitate Venice and Sparta, for those reasons why and how as will be described in the succeeding chapter.

But to return to the discussion as to which men are more harmful in a Republic, either those who desire to acquire, or those who fear to lose that which they have acquired, I say that when Marcus Menenius had been made Dictator, and Marcus Fulvius Master of the cavalry, both plebeians, in order to investigate certain conspiracies that had been formed in Capua against Rome, they were also given authority by the people to be able to search out who in Rome from ambition and by extraordinary means should endeavor to attain the Consulate and other houses (offices) of the City. And it appearing to the Nobility that such authority given to the Dictator was directed against them, they spread the word throughout Rome that it was not the Nobles who were seeking the honors for ambition, or by extraordinary means, but the Ignobles (Plebeians) who, trusting neither to their blood (birth) nor in their own virtu, sought to attain those dignities, and they particularly accused the Dictator: And so powerful was this accusation, that Menenius having made a harangue (speech) and complaining of the calumnies spread against him by the Nobles, he deposed the Dictatorship, and submitted himself to that judgement (of himself) which should be made by the People: And then the cause having been pleaded, he was absolved; at which time there was much discussion as to who was the more ambitious, he who wanted to maintain (his power) or he who wanted to acquire it, since the desires of either the one or the other could be the cause of the greatest tumults. But none the less more frequently they are caused by those who possess (power), for the fear of losing it generates in them the same desires that are in those who want to acquire it, because it does not seem to men to possess securely that which they have, unless they acquire more from others. And, moreover, those who possess much, can make changes with greater power and facility. And what is yet worse, is that their breaking out and ambitious conduct arouses in the breasts of those who do not possess (power) the desire to possess it, either to avenge themselves against them (the former) by despoiling them, or in order to make it possible also for them to partake of those riches and honors which they see are so badly used by the others.

Chapter VI:
Whether It Was Possible to Establish a Government in Rome Which Could Eliminate the Enmity between the Populace and the Senate

We have discussed above the effects which were caused by the controversies between the People and the Senate. Now these having continued up to the time of the Gracchi, where they were the cause of the loss of liberty, some might wish that Rome had done the great things that she did without there being that enmity within her. It seems to me therefore a thing worthy of consideration to see whether in Rome there could have been a government (state) established that could have eliminated the aforementioned controversies. And to desire to examine this it is necessary to have recourse to those Republics which have had their liberty for a long time without such enmities and tumults, and to see what (form) of government theirs was, and if it could have been introduced in Rome.

For example, there is Sparta among the ancients, Venice among the modern, (both) having been previously mentioned by me. Sparta created a King with a small Senate which should govern her. Venice did not divide its government by these distinctions, but gave all those who could have a part in the administration (of its government) the name of Gentlemen: In this manner, chance more than prudence gave them (the Venetians) the laws (form of Government), for having taken refuge on those rocks where the City now is, for the reasons mentioned above many of the inhabitants, as they had increased to so great a number, with the desire to live together, so that needing to make laws for themselves, they established a government, (and) came together often in councils to discuss the affairs of the City; when it appeared to them that they had become numerous enough for existing as a commonwealth, they closed the path to all the others who should newly come to live there to take part in their government: And in time finding in that place many inhabitants outside the government, in order to give reputation to those who were governing, they called them Gentlemen, and the others Popolari. This form (of Government) could establish and maintain itself without tumult, because when it was born, whoever then lived in Venice participated in that government, with which no one could complain: Those who came to live there later, finding the State firm and established did not have cause or opportunity to create a tumult. The cause was not there because nothing had been taken from them. The opportunity was not there because those who ruled kept them in check and did not employ them in affairs where they could pick up authority. In addition to this, those who came to inhabit Venice later were not very many, or of such a great number that these would be a disproportion between those who governed and those who were governed, for the number of Gentlemen were either equal to or greater than the others: so that for these reasons Venice could establish that State and maintain it united.

Sparta, as I have said, being governed by a King and limited Senate could thus maintain itself for a long time because there being few inhabitants in Sparta, and the path having been closed to those who should want to live there, and the laws of Lycurgus having acquired such reputation that their observance removed all the causes for tumults. They were able to live united for a long time, for Lycurgus had established in Sparta more equality of substance and less equality in rank, because equal poverty existed here and the Plebs were lacking ambitious men, as the offices of the City were extended to few Citizens, and were kept distant from the Plebs, nor did the Nobles by not treating them badly ever create in them the desire to want them. This resulted from the Spartan Kings, who, being placed in that Principate and living in the midst of that Nobility, did not have may better means of maintaining their office, than to keep the Plebs defended from every injury: which caused the Plebs neither to fear nor to desire authority, and not having the dominion, nor fear of it, there was eliminated the competition which they might have had with the Nobility, and the cause of tumults, and thus they could live united for a long time. But two things principally caused this union: The one, the inhabitants of Sparta were few, and because of this were able to be governed by a few: The other, that not accepting outsiders in their Republic, they did not have the opportunity either of becoming corrupt or of increasing so much that they should become unsupportable to those few who governed her.

Considering all these things, therefore, it is seen that it was necessary that the legislators of Rome do one of two things in desiring that Rome be as quiet as the above mentioned Republic, either not to employ the Plebs in war like the Venetians, or not to open the door to outsiders like the Spartans, but they did the one and the other, which gave the Plebs strength and increased power and infinite opportunities for tumults. And if the Roman State had come to be more tranquil, it would have resulted that she would have become even more feeble, because there would have been cut off from her the means of being able to attain that greatness which she achieved. So that Rome wanting to remove the causes for tumults, would also take away the causes for expansion. And as in all human affairs, those who examine them will indeed see that it is never possible to avoid one inconvenience but that another one will spring up. If therefore, you want to make a people numerous and armed in order to create a great Empire, you will make it of a kind that you are not able afterward to manage it in your own way: if you keep them either small or disarmed in order to be able to manage them, (and), if you acquire other dominion, you will not be able to hold them, or you will become so mean that you will become prey to whoever assaults you. And therefore, in every one of our decisions, there ought to be considered where the inconveniences are less, and then take up the better proceeding, for there will never be formed anything entirely clear of suspicion. Rome could therefore, like Sparta, have created a Prince for life, and established a limited Senate; but desiring to build a great Empire, she could not, like Sparta, limit the number of her Citizens: which, in creating a King for life and a small number in the Senate, would have been of little benefit in connection with her unity. If anyone therefore should want to establish a new Republic, he should have to consider if he should want it to expand in dominion and power as did Rome, or whether it should remain within narrow limits. In the first case, it is necessary to establish it as Rome, and to give place to tumults and general dissensions as best he can; for without a great number of men, and (those) well armed, no Republic can ever increase, or if it did increase, to maintain itself. In thy second case he may establish her as Sparta and Venice: but because expansion is the poison of such Republics, he ought in every way he can prevent her from making acquisitions, for such acquisitions, based on a weak Republic, are entirely their ruin, as happened to Sparta and Venice, the first of which having subjected almost all of Greece, showed the weakness of its foundation with the slightest accident; for when there ensued the rebellion of Thebes caused by Pelopidas, the other cities also rebelling, ruined that Republic entirely.

Similarly Venice having occupied a great part of Italy, and the greater part (obtained) not by war but by money and astuteness, when it came to make a test of her strength everything was lost in one engagement. I believe then that to create a Republic which should endure a long time, the better way would be to organize internally like Sparta, or like Venice locate it in a strong place, and of such power that no one should believe he could quickly oppress her: and on the other hand, it should not be so powerful that she should be formidable to her neighbors, and thus she could enjoy its state (independence) for a long time. For there are two reasons why war is made against a Republic: The one, to become lord over her: the other, the fear of being occupied by her. These two means in the above mentioned manner almost entirely removed (the reasons for war), for it is difficult to destroy her, being well organized for her defense, as I presuppose, it will rarely or never happen that one can design to conquer her. If she remains within her limits, and from experience it is seen that there is no ambition in her, it will never happen that someone for fear of her will make war against her: and this would be so much more so if there should be in her constitution or laws (restrictions) that should prohibit her expansion. And without doubt I believe that things could be kept balanced in this way, that there would be the best political existence, and real tranquillity to a City. But all affairs of men being (continually) in motion and never being able to remain stable, it happens that (States) either remain stable or decline: and necessity leads you to do many things which reason will not lead you to do; so that having established a Republic adept at maintaining itself without expanding, and necessity should induce her to expand, her foundations would be taken away and her ruin accomplished more readily. Thus, on the other hand, if Heaven should be so kind that she would never have to make war, the languidness that should arise would make her either effeminate or divided: which two together, or each one by itself, would be cause of her ruin. Not being able, therefore, (as I believe) to balance these things, and to maintain this middle course, it is necessary in organizing a Republic to think of the more honorable side, and organize her in a way that if necessity should induce her to expand, she may be able to preserve that which she should have acquired. And to return to the first discussion, I believe it is necessary to follow the Roman order and not that of any other Republic (because I do not believe it is possible to find a middle way between one and the other) and to tolerate that enmity that should arise between the People and the Senate, accepting it as an inconvenient necessity in attaining the Roman greatness. Because in addition to the other reasons alleged, where the authority of the Tribunes is shown to be necessary for the guarding of liberty, it is easy to consider the benefit that will come to the Republic from this authority of accusing (judiciary), which among others was committed to the Tribunes, as will be discussed in the following chapter.

Chapter VII:
How Much the Faculty of Accusing (Judiciary) Is Necessary for a Republic for the Maintenance of Liberty

No more useful and necessary authority can be given to those who are appointed in a City to guard its liberty, as is that of being able to accuse the citizen to the People or to any Magistrate or Council, if he should in any way transgress against the free state. This arrangement makes for two most useful effects for a Republic. The first is, that for fear of being accused, the citizens do not attempt anything against the state, and if they should (make an) attempt they are punished immediately and without regard (to person). The other is, that it provides a way for giving vent to those moods which in whatever way and against whatever citizens may arise in the City. And when these moods do not provide a means by which they may be vented, they ordinarily have recourse to extra ordinary means that cause the complete ruin of a Republic. And there is nothing which makes a Republic so stable and firm, as organizing it in such a way that changes in the moods which may agitate it have a way prescribed by law for venting themselves. This can be demonstrated by many examples, and especially by that of Coriolanus, which Titus Livius refers to, where he says that the Roman Nobility being irritated against the Plebs, because it seemed to them the Plebs had too much authority concerning the creation of the Tribunes who defended them, and Rome (as happened) experiencing a great scarcity of provisions, and the Senate having sent to Sicily for grain, Coriolanus, enemy of the popular faction, counselled that the time had come (to be able) to castigate the Plebs and take away authority which they had acquired and assumed to the prejudice of the Nobility, by keeping them famished and not distributing the grain: which proposition coming to the ears of the people, caused so great an indignation against Coriolanus, that on coming out of the Senate he would have been killed in a tumultuary way if the Tribunes had not summoned him to appear and defend his cause. From this incident there is to be noted that which was mentioned above, that it is useful and necessary for a Republic with its laws to provide a means of venting that ire which is generally conceived against a citizen, for if these ordinary means do not exist, they will have recourse to extraordinary ones, and without doubt these produce much worse effects that do the others. For ordinarily when a citizen is oppressed, even if he has received an injustice, little or no disorder ensues in the Republic, because its execution is done by neither private nor foreign forces which are those that ruin public liberty, but is done by public force and arrangement which have their own particular limits, and do not transcend to things that ruin the Republic.

And to corroborate this opinion with examples, among the ancient ones I want this one of Coriolanus to be enough, on which anyone should consider how much evil would have resulted to the Roman Republic if he had been killed in the tumults, for there would have arisen an offense by a private (citizen) against a private (citizen); which offense generates fear, fear seeks defense, for this defense partisans are procured, from the partisans factions arise in the City, (and) the factions cause their ruin. But the matter being controlled by those who had authority, all those evils which could arise if it were governed by private authority were avoided. We have seen in our time that troubles happened to the Republic of Florence because the multitude was able to give vent to their spirit in an ordinary way against one of her citizens, as befell in the time of Francesco Valori, who was as a Prince in that City (and) who being judged ambitious by many, and a man who wanted by his audacity and animosity to transcend the civil authority, and there being no way in the Republic of being able to resist him except by a faction contrary to his, there resulted that he (Valori) having no fear except from some extraordinary happening, began to enlist supporters who should defend him: On the other hand, those who opposed him not having any regular way or repressing him, thought of extraordinary ways, so that it came to arms. And where (if it were possible to oppose him, Valori, by regular means) his authority would have been extinguished with injury to himself only, but having to extinguish it by extraordinary means, there ensued harm not only to himself, but to many other noble citizens. We could also city in support of the above mentioned conclusion the incident which ensued in Florence in connection with Piero Soderini, which resulted entirely because there was not in that Republic (means of making) accusations against the ambitions of powerful citizens: for the accusing of a powerful one before eight judges in a Republic is not enough; it is necessary that the judges be many because the few always judge in favor of the few. So that if such a means had been in existence, they would have accused him (Soderini) of evil while yet alive, and through such means without having the Spanish army (called) to come in, they would have given vent to their feelings; or if he had not done evil they would not have had the audacity to move against him, for fear that they would be accused by him: and thus both sides would have ceased having that desire which was the cause of the trouble.

So that this can be concluded, that whenever it is seen that external forces are called in by a party of men who live in a City, it can be judged to result from its bad organization because there did not exist within that circle of arrangements, a way to be able without extraordinary means to give vent to the malignant moods that arise in men, which can be completely provided by instituting accusations before many judges and giving them reputation (authority). These things were so well organized in Rome that in so many discussions between the Plebs and the Senate, neither the Senate nor the Plebs nor any particular citizen, ever attempted to avail (himself) of external force, for having the remedy at home it was not necessary to go outside for it. And although the above examples are amply sufficient to prove this, none the less I want to refer to another recital by Titus Livius in his history, which refers to there having been in Chiusi (Clusium), at that time a most noble City of Tuscany, one Lucumones who had violated a sister of Aruntes, and Aruntes not being able to avenge himself because of the power of the violator, went to seek out the French (Gauls) who then ruled in that place which today is called Lombardy, and urged them to come to Chiusi with arms in hand, pointing out to them how they could avenge the injury he had received with advantage to themselves: but if Aruntes could have seen how he could have avenged himself by the provisions of the City, he would not have sought the barbarian forces. But just as these accusations are useful in a Republic, so also are calumnies useless and harmful, as we shall discuss in the next chapter.

Chapter VIII:
As Much as Accusations Are Useful to a Republic, so Much So Are Calumnies Pernicious

Notwithstanding that the virtu of Furius Camillus when he was liberating (Rome) from the oppression of the French (Gauls) had caused the Roman citizens to yield him (top honors) without appearing to them to have lost reputation or rank, none the less Manlius Capitolinus was not able to endure that so much honor and glory should be bestowed on him; for it seemed to him he had done as much for the welfare of Rome by having saved the Campidoglio (Capitol), he had merited as much as Camillus, and as for other warlike praises he was not inferior to him. So that filled with envy, he was not able to sow discord among the Fathers (Senators) he turned to the Plebs, sowing various sinister opinions among them. And among other things he said was, that the treasure which had been collected (together) to be given to the French (Gauls), and then was not given to them, had been usurped by private citizens: and if its should be recovered it could be converted to public usefulness, alleviating the plebs from tribute or from some private debt. These words greatly impressed the Plebs, so that Manlius begun to have concourse with them and at his instigation (created) many tumults in the City: This thing displeased the Senate and they deeming it of moment and perilous, created a Dictator who should take cognizance of the case and restrain the rashness of (Manlius); whereupon the Dictator had him summoned, and they met face to face in public, the Dictator in the midst of the Nobles and Manlius in the midst of the Plebs. Manlius was asked what he had to say concerning who obtained the treasure that he spoke about, for the Senate was as desirous of knowing about it as the Plebs: to which Manlius made no particular reply, but going on in an evasive manner he said, that it was not necessary to tell them that which they already knew, so that the Dictator had him put in prison. And it is to be noted by this text how detestable calumnies are in free Cities and in every other form of government, and that in order to repress them no arrangement made for such a proposition ought to be neglected. Nor can there be a better arrangement to putting an end to these (calumnies) than to open the way for accusations, for accusations are as beneficial to Republics as calumnies are harmful: and on the other hand there is this difference, that calumnies do not need witnesses nor any other particular confrontation to prove them so that anyone can be calumniated by anyone else, but cannot now be accused, as the accuser has need of positive proof and circumstances that would show the truth of the accusation. Men must make the accusations before the Magistrates, the People, or the Councils: calumnies (are spread) throughout the plaza and lodgings (private dwellings). These calumnies are practiced more where accusations are used less and where Cities are less constituted to receive them. An establisher of a Republic therefore ought so to organize it that it is possible to accuse every citizen without any fear and without any suspicion: and this being done, and well carried out, he should severely punish the calumniators, who cannot complain if they are punished, they having places open to them to hear the accusations of those who had caluminated them in private. And where this part is not well organized great disorders always follow, for calumnies irritate but do not castigate citizens, and those who have been irritated think of strengthening themselves, easily hating more than fearing the things that are said against them.

This part (as has been said) was well organized in Rome, and has always been poorly organized in our City of Florence. And as in Rome this institution did much good, at Florence this poor order did much evil. And whoever reads the history of this City, will see how many calumnies have been perpetrated in every time against those citizens who occupied themselves in its important affairs. Of one, they said he had robbed money from the Community; of another, that he had not succeeded in an enterprise because of having been corrupted; and of yet another, because of his ambitions had caused such and such inconvenience. Of the things that resulted there sprung up hate on every side, whence it came to divisions, from divisions to Factions (Sects), (and), from Factions to ruin. If in Florence there had been some arrangement for the accusation of citizens and punishment of calumniators, there would not have occurred the infinite troubles that have ensued, for those Citizens who had been either condemned or absolved, could not have harmed the City, and there would have been a much less number accused than there had been calumniated, as it could not have been (as I have said) as easy to accuse as to calumniate any one. And among the other things that some citizens might employ to achieve greatness have been these calumnies, which employed against powerful citizens who opposed his ambition, did much for them; for by taking up the past of the people, and confirming them the opinion which they had of them (the nobles), he made them his friends.

And although we could refer to many examples, I want to be content with only one. The Florentine army which was besieging Lucca was commanded by Messer Giovanni Guicciardini, their Commissioner. It was due either to his bad management or his bad fortune, that the fall of that City did not ensue. But whatever the case may have been, Messer Giovanni was blamed, alleging he had been corrupted by the Lucchesi: which calumny, being favored by his enemies, brought Messer Giovanni almost to the last desperation. And although, to justify himself because there was no way in that Republic of being able to do so. From which there arose great indignation among the friends of Messer Giovanni, who constituted the greater part of the nobility, and (also) among those who desired to make changes in Florence. This affair, both for this and other similar reasons, grew so, that there resulted the ruin of the Republic.

Manlius Capitolinus was therefore a calumniator and not an accuser; and the Romans showed in this case in point how the calumniators ought to be punished. For they ought to be made to become accusers, and if the accusation proves true either to reward them or not punish them; but if it does not prove true, to punish them as Manlius was punished.

Chapter IX:
How It Is Necessary for One Man Alone in Desiring to Organize a New Republic to Reform Its Institutions Entirely Outside the Ancient Ones

And it may appear perhaps to some that I have gone too far into Roman history, not having yet made any mention of the organizers of this Republic, or of (having regard for) her institutions, her religion, and her military establishment. And therefore, not wanting to keep in suspense the minds of those who want to understand these matters, I say, that many perhaps should judge it a bad example that the founder of a civil society, as Romulus was, should first have killed his brother, then have consented to the death of Titus Tatius, a Sabine, who had been chosen by him to share the Kingdom; because of which it might be judged that the citizens could, from ambition and the desire to rule, with the authority of their Prince, attack those who should be opposed to their authority. Which opinion would be correct, if the object he had in mind in causing that homicide should be considered. But this must be assumed, as a general rule, that it never or rarely occurs that some Republic or Kingdom is well organized from the beginning, or its institutions entirely reformed a new, unless it is arranged by one (individual only): rather it is necessary that the only one who carries it out should be he who on whose mind such an organization depends. A prudent Organizer of a Republic, therefore, who has in mind to want to promote, not himself, but the common good, and not his own succession but his (common) country, ought to endeavor to have the authority alone: and a wise planner will never reprimand anyone for any extraordinary activity that he should employ either in the establishment of a Kingdom or in constituting a Republic. It is well then, when the deed accuses him, the result should excuse him; and when it is good, as that of Romulus, he will always be excused; for he ought to be reprehended who is violent in order to destroy, and not he who does so for beneficial reasons. He ought, however, to be so prudent and wise that the authority which he has assumed, he will not leave to his heirs (or) any other: for men being more prone to evil than to good, his successor could employ for reasons of ambition that which should be employed for virtuous reasons by him. In addition to this, even if one is adept at organizing, the thing organized will not endure long if its (administration) remains only on the shoulders of one individual, but it is good when it remains in the care of many, and thus there will be many to sustain it. As the organization of anything cannot be made by many because of the diverse opinions that exist among them, yet having once understood this, they will not agree to forego it. And that Romulus merited to be excused for the death of his brother and that of his companion, and that what he had done he did for the common good and not for his own ambition, is shown by his immediate institution of a Senate with which he should consult, and according to the opinions of which he would make his decision. And whoever considers well the authority which Romulus reserved for himself, will see that he did not reserve anything else other than the command of the army when war was decided upon, and of convening the Senate. This was seen at that time when Rome became free after the driving out of the Tarquins, where there was no other innovation made on the ancient institutions except that in place of an hereditary King there should be two Consuls (elected) each year. Which gives testimony that all the institutions at the origin of that City were more in conformity with a free and civil society than with an absolute and tyrannical one.

Infinite examples could be given in corroboration of the things mentioned above, such as Moses, Lycurgus, Solon, and other founders of Kingdoms and Republics, who were able to formulate laws for the common good (only) by assigning the (necessary) authority to themselves: but I want to omit these as they are already well known. I will refer only to one not so well known, but which should be given consideration by those who desire to be institutors of good laws, (and), this is that of Agis, King of Sparta, who desiring to bring the Spartans back to those limits which the laws of Lycurgus had delimited for them, (and), it seeming to him that by deviating in part from them his City had lost much of that ancient virtu, and consequently her power and dominion, was at once killed by Spartan Ephors as a man who wanted to become a Tyrant. But Cleomenes succeeding him in the Kingdom, there arose in him the same desire from (reading) the records and writings of Agis that he found, in which his thoughts and intentions were seen, (and) he recognized that he could not render this good to his country, unless he should become alone in authority, as it seemed to him he would not be able because of the ambitions of men to provide the good for the many against the desires of the few: and seizing a convenient opportunity had all the Ephors killed and those who could oppose him: after which he completely restored the laws of Lycurgus. This decision helped to revive Sparta and give to Cleomene that reputation which was (equal) to that of Lycurgus, if it had not been for the power of Macedonia and the weakness of the other Greek Republics. For after this establishment (of the laws) he was soon assaulted by the Macedonians, and finding that by herself (Sparta) was inferior in strength, and not having anyone to whom he could have recourse, he was defeated, and his plans (no matter how just and laudable) remained incompleted. Considering all these things, therefore, I conclude that to establish a Republic it is necessary that one must be alone, and Romulus merits to be excused and not censured for the death of Remus and of Tatius.

Chapter X:
As Much as the Founders of Republics and Kingdoms Are Laudable, so Much Are Those of a Tyranny Shameful

Among all men who have been praised, the most lauded are those who are heads and establishers of Religion. Next after them are those who have founded Republics or Kingdoms. After these are celebrated those who have commanded armies, (and) who have enlarged the (territory) of their Kingdom of those of their country. To these should be added men of letters, and because these are of many fields, they are celebrated according to their degree (of excellence). To other men, the number of whom is infinite, some degree of praise is given to them as pertain to their art and profession. On the other hand, those men are infamous and destroyers of Religion, dissipators of Kingdoms and Republics, enemies of virtu, of letters, and of every other art which brings usefulness and honor to human generations (mankind), such as are the impious and violent, the ignorant, the idle, the vile and degraded. And no one will ever be so mad or so wise, so wicked or so good, that selecting between these two kinds of men, does not laud what is laudable, and censure what is censurable. None the less, however, nearly all men deceived by a false good or a false glory allow themselves to drift either voluntarily or ignorantly into the ranks of those who merit more censure that praise. And being able to establish either a Kingdom or a Republic with eternal honor to themselves, they turn to Tyranny, nor do they see because of this action how much fame, how much glory, how much honor, security, and tranquil satisfaction of the mind, they lose; and how much infamy, disgrace, censure, danger, and disquiet, they incur. And it is impossible that those who live as private individuals in a Republic, or who by fortune or virtu become Princes, if they read the history and the records of ancient events, would do well living as private citizens in their country to live rather as a Scipio than a Caesar; and those who are Princes, rather as Agesilaus, Timoleon, and Dion, than as Nabis, Phalaris, and Dionysius, because they will see these (latter) to be thoroughly disgraced and those (former) most highly praised. They will also see that Timoleon and the others had no less authority in their country than had Dionysius and Phalaris, but they will see that they had had greater security for a longer time. Nor is there anyone who deceives himself by the glory of Caesar, he being especially celebrated by writers, for those who praised him were corrupted by his fortune and frightened by the long duration of the Empire which, ruling under his name did not permit that writers should talk of him freely. But whoever wants to know what the writers would have said of him freely, let him observe what they say of Cataline. And so much more is Caesar to be detested, as how much more is he to be censured for that which he did, than he who (just) intends to do evil. He will also see how Brutus was extolled with so many praises; so that not being able to censure him (Caesar) because of his power they extolled his enemy. Let he who has become a Prince in a Republic also consider how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an Empire, lived under the laws (and) as good Princes, than those who lived an in a contrary manner; and he will also see that it was not necessary for the praetorian soldiers or the multitudes of the legions to defend Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrai Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, and Marcus (Aurelius), because their customs, the good will of the people, and the love of the Senate would defend them. He will also see that the Eastern and Western armies were not sufficient to save Caligula, Nero, Vitellius, and so many other wicked emperors, from those enemies which their bad customs and evil lives had raised up against them.

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