Military history


LUIGI. SINCE we have gained one glorious victory under my auspices, I do not care to tempt so fickle and inconstant a deity as Fortune any further. Consequently, I desire to give up my post to Zanobi Buondelmonti, the youngest man in the company who has not yet filled it, according to the order agreed upon; I dare say he will accept that honor, or rather trouble, as much out of graciousness to me as out of his natural courage, which is greater than mine; he will not be afraid of risking another battle in which he has a chance to be beaten as well as to be victorious.

Zanobi. Sir, I shall willingly accept whatever you think fit to confer upon me, although I confess I would much rather have continued an auditor; the questions you proposed and the objections you stated while you were in the post you now desire to resign were much more pertinent and necessary than any occurring to me. But so as not to waste any more time in ceremonies that may perhaps be disagreeable to Signor Fabrizio, let us entreat him to proceed, if we have not already trespassed too much upon his patience.

Fabrizio. That I shall do with great pleasure, especially since this change of persons will give me an opportunity of seeing the difference in your respective judgments and dispositions. But I should like to know whether you have any more questions to ask relating to the matter in which we were last engaged.

Zanobi. I could wish to be informed of three things before we leave it. First, is there any other way of forming an army in order of battle that you can think of at present? Next, what precautions are necessary before a general leads his army into an engagement with the enemy, and, if any accident or disorder should happen during the battle, how is it to be remedied?

Fabrizio. I shall endeavor to give you what satisfaction I can on these points. But I shall not answer your questions separately and distinctly; what I shall say in answer to one question may sometimes possibly also serve as an answer to another.

Previously I told you I gave you a general order of battle that you might easily change into any other, as the number and quality of the enemy and the nature of your ground required; you must always act according to those circumstances. But remember that unless your army is very numerous, you cannot be guilty of a greater or more fatal error than making a large, extensive front; if it is not numerous, you ought by all means to form it so that it will be greater in depth than in width. For when your army is not as large as the enemy’s, you must resort to other expedients, such as drawing it up so that it may be flanked by some river swamp or securing its flanks by ditches and entrenchments to prevent its being surrounded,222 as Julius Caesar used to do in his wars with the Gauls.223

But in such cases you must make it a general rule to contract or extend your front according to the number of your own men and those of the enemy. When the enemy is less numerous, you should endeavor to draw them into plains and open places, especially if your army is well disciplined, so that you may extend your front and surround them; for in rough and narrow places your numerical superiority will not be of any great advantage to you, because you cannot give your ranks the due extent. This is why the Romans always chose clear, open ground and avoided a rough and confined field of battle. On the contrary, if you have only a small and ill-disciplined army, you must seek out an advantageous location where you can shelter your men and where their inexperience cannot prejudice you much; it will be better still if your site is elevated from whence you may fall upon the enemy with greater advantage. You should take care, however, not to draw up your army either on the declivity of a hill or on any place near its base where an enemy may get above you; in that case you will be much annoyed by their artillery, and your men so embarrassed that you cannot annoy the enemy again with your own cannon.

Great attention also should be paid to the wind and sun in forming any army for battle;224 for if you have them in your face, one will dazzle your sight with its rays, and the other will blind you with dust. Besides, when the wind is against you, it will diminish the force of your blows; as for the sun, you must be careful that it is not in your face when the battle begins, and that it may not afterward be troublesome to you. To do this you should contrive, if possible, to have it full upon your back at first, so that it may be a long time before it comes upon your face—as Hannibal did at Cannae,225 and as Marius did when he defeated the Cimbri.226 If you are inferior to the enemy in cavalry, post your army among vineyards, hedges, and other such impediments, when you have an opportunity, as the Spaniards did long ago when they beat the French at Cerignola in the kingdom of Naples.227 It also has often happened that the same armies beaten by others have beaten them again in their turn, only by changing their order and their ground; the Carthaginians, for instance, defeated several times by Marcus Regulus in rough and narrow defiles, were at last victorious by the conduct of Xanthippus the Lacedaemonian who advised them to come down into the plains where they availed themselves of their elephants and cavalry and defeated the Romans.228

I have observed from the conduct of many great generals among the ancients that when they knew where the enemy placed the main strength of their army, instead of employing the flower of their own forces, they appointed the worst of their troops to oppose them in that quarter and appointed the best of their troops to oppose the worst of the enemy; afterward when the battle had begun, they ordered their choicest troops not to press the enemy, but only to sustain the charge; they ordered the weakest to retire gradually into the rear of the army; by these means the best part of the enemy’s army is surrounded, and while they consider themselves sure of a victory, they are presently thrown into confusion and routed. Thus, when Cornelius Scipio was sent into Spain against Hasdrubal the Carthaginian,229 he was aware that Hasdrubal thought he would place the legions, his best troops, in the center of his army and that Hasdrubal would therefore do the same; when they engaged, Scipio changed his usual order of battle, placing the legions in the two wings and the worst of his forces in the center of his army. But just before the battle began, Scipio ordered the center to move forward very slowly and the two wings to advance briskly, so that only the wings of both armies were engaged, while the centers of each were at such a distance from one another that they could not come together in due time; since the strongest part of Scipio’s army was engaged with the weakest of Hasdrubal’s, the latter was entirely defeated.

This method might be practiced in those times, but it cannot be used now that artillery is in use; the distance which must be left between the center of each army would give the artillery time to fire again and again, and this would do as much damage as if they were closely engaged. It is time, therefore, to lay it aside, and resort to the method I prescribed a little while ago; that is, let the whole army engage, and the weakest part of it give way.

If your army is larger than the enemy’s and you want to surround it without his discovering your design, let your own be drawn up with a front equal to his, and afterward, when the battle is begun, let your main body retire little by little, and let the wings extend themselves; thus the enemy will find himself surrounded and entangled before he is aware of it.

When a general would fight and secure his army in such a manner that he may be almost certain of not being routed, he should post it in a place from which he may easily and presently retreat into a safe and defensible situation, such as into a swamp, or among mountains, or into a strong fortress-places where the enemy cannot pursue him, although he may pursue them. Such was the means Hannibal used when fortuna began to become unfavorable and he began to be afraid of Marcus Marcellus.230 Some generals, in order to disturb and disconcert the enemy, have ordered their light-armed troops to begin the battle and then to retire into their proper station again; after both armies were warmly engaged, they were ordered to sally out from the flanks again and make a second attack; this attack has sometimes succeeded so well that the enemy has been thrown into disorder and routed by it. If you are inferior to the enemy in cavalry (besides the methods already recommended), you should place a body of pikemen in their rear; in the heat of action, let the cavalry open to the right and left in order to make way for the pikemen to advance upon the enemy—this will certainly give you the advantage over them. Some generals have accustomed part of their light-armed infantry to mingle with their cavalry and to fight in conjunction with them; this has been of very great service to them.

But of all those who have excelled in drawing up armies in order of battle, without a doubt Hannibal and Scipio showed the most consummate skill and abilities in the African wars;231 since Hannibal’s army consisted not only of Carthaginians, but also of auxiliaries from various nations, he placed 80 elephants in his front; next to them, his auxiliaries; behind them, his Carthaginians; and last of all, his Italians, in whom he had but little confidence. He adopted this disposition so that his auxiliaries, with the enemy in their front and the Carthaginians in their rear, would not have an opportunity of running away if they were so inclined; since they were forced to fight, he hoped they might either break or disconcert the Romans in such a manner that when he advanced with a fresh body of his best troops, he might entirely defeat them. Scipio, on the other hand, according to the usual Roman manner, drew up his three lines of hastati, principes, and triarii into such order that they might easily support or receive one another. In the front ranks of his army, he left several intervals opposite Hannibal’s elephants; but to make the army appear close and united, he filled these intervals with velites whom he ordered to give way as soon as the elephants advanced upon them and to retire through the ordinary spaces into the legions in order to leave a free passage for the elephants. He thus evaded the fury of those beasts, and, engaging the enemy, entirely defeated them.

Zanobi. Now that you mention the battle, I remember having read in some account of it that Scipio did not let the hastati retire into the line of the principes, but had them file off to the right and left and take a post in his army’s flanks to make room for theprincipes to advance. Now, I should like to know for what reason he deviated from the usual order and discipline of the Romans upon this occasion.

Fabrizio. I shall tell you. Hannibal had placed the strength of his army in the second line; Scipio, therefore, in order to oppose him with equal force, joined his principes and triarii together so that the intervals among the principes were occupied by the triarii and there was no room left to receive the hastati; hence, he had them open to the right and left and wheel off to the flanks. But remember that this method of opening the first line to make room for the second to advance cannot be used except when you have the advantage over the enemy—then it can be easily practiced, as it was by Scipio. But if you have the worst of the battle and are repulsed, you cannot do it without exposing yourself to the danger of a total defeat; therefore, it is necessary on these occasions to have intervals in the second and third lines for receiving your men. But to return to our subject.

Among other inventions the ancient Asiatics had for annoying their enemy were chariots with scythes fixed to their axle-trees; these scythes served not only to open the enemy’s ranks, but to mow them down as they drove through them. Now, their enemies had three ways of guarding against these dangerous machines: they drew up in such close order that the scythes could make no impression upon them; they received them into the intervals between the battalions, as Scipio did the elephants; or they made some strong fences against them. This is the method Sulla used in the battle he fought with Archelaus,232 who had a great number of these armed chariots; in the ground before his first line he fixed several rows of sharp pointed stakes or palisades which stopped the course of the chariots and prevented the damage they must otherwise have done. The new method which Sulla used in drawing up his army at that time is also noteworthy; he placed his velites and light cavalry in the rear and all his heavy-armed men in the front, leaving several intervals there through which those in the rear might advance when required, and won a complete victory.

In order to throw the enemy into confusion after the battle has begun, it is necessary to resort to some invention that can strike terror into them; you may do this either by spreading a report that you have supplies coming up, or by making a false show of such supplies at a distance—this has often occasioned such consternation in an army that it has been immediately defeated. This stratagem was put into practice by the Roman consuls Minucius Rufus and Acilius Glabrio; 233 Caius Sulpicius also mounted a great number of sutlers and servants following his camp upon mules and other beasts that were of no service in battle; having drawn them up and accoutered them like a body of cavalry, he ordered them to appear on a neighboring hill as soon as he was engaged with the Gauls; this had such an effect that he soon routed them.234 The same was done by Marius in a battle which he fought with the Germans.235

If, then, these false alarms have such consequences in the heat of an action, what may not be expected from a real one; especially if the enemy is suddenly and unexpectedly attacked in either the flank or the rear when they are engaged in the front? But this is no easy matter to effect unless you are favored in it by the nature of the country; if it be plain and open, you cannot conceal a part of your forces as would be necessary upon similar occasions; but if it abounds with woods or mountains, you may lie in ambush and, when he least expects it, fall suddenly upon an enemy and be assured of success.

It is also sometimes of great service in time of battle to circulate a report that the enemy’s general is killed, or that one part of his army is giving way; it has not been unusual to throw cavalry into disorder by strange noises and uncommon appearances; thus Croesus brought a great number of camels against the enemy’s cavalry,236 and Pyrrhus used elephants against the Romans’ cavalry; this occasioned great confusion and disturbance among them.237 Not long ago, the Grand Turk routed the shah of Persia and the sultan of Syria merely by the use of harquebuses—their explosion struck such terror into his enemies’ cavalry that they turned tail and ran away.238 The Spaniards, in their battles with Hamilcar, used to place ox-drawn carriages full of flax in the front of their armies; they set fire to the flax as soon as the battle began, and the oxen were so frightened that they rushed in among the enemy and opened their ranks.239

Where the nature of the terrain is such that you cannot draw the enemy into an ambush easily, you may, however, dig ditches and pitfalls in the plains, cover them over lightly with brushwood and clods, and leave areas of solid ground through which you may retire in the heat of the battle; if the enemy pursues, he is undone.

If you are aware of any accident happening during the action which you think may dispirit your men, it is best either to conceal it, if you can, or to give it such a turn as may serve to produce a quite different effect. This is what Tullus Hostilius 240 and, later, Lucius Sulla 241 did. The latter saw a body of his forces go over to the enemy he was fighting; seeing that the defection had greatly discouraged his own men, he immediately spread a report through his army that it was done for a secret purpose and by his own order; so, instead of being daunted, his men fought with greater courage and beat the enemy. The same commander sent a party of soldiers on an attack in which they were all killed; afraid the rumor might discourage the rest of his army, he said publicly that he had sent them on that errand purposely so that they would be cut off by the enemy since he knew they were a pack of rascals and traitors. Sertorius, in a battle with the Spaniards, killed one of his men who brought him word that one of his generals was slain, because he feared that any news of the death would dampen the ardor of his army.242

It is a very difficult matter to stop an army beginning to run away, and to make it charge again. But here we must make a distinction between an army that is actually running away, when it is impossible to restore them, and one that is only partially in flight, when some remedy may be found. Some of the Roman generals restored order by reproaching their soldiers and upbraiding them about their cowardice, as we may cite in the conduct of Sulla, who, seeing part of his legions begin to flee before the army of Mithridates, rode up to the head of them with a drawn sword in his hand, and cried out, “If anybody should inquire after your general, tell them you left him fighting on the plains of Boeotia.”243 The Roman consul Atilius detached a body of his best troops to stop the flight of some others who were running away; he told them that if they did not turn back, they would be attacked by their own friends as well as by the enemy.244 Philip of Macedon, finding some of his troops were afraid of the Scythians, posted a body of cavalry—in whom he had much confidence—in the rear of his army with orders to kill any man attempting to quit his rank; when the rest heard this, they chose to hazard their lives in battle rather than to be unmercifully killed if they fled; they fought so manfully that they beat the Scythians. 245 Several of the Roman generals have taken a pair of colors out of the hands of an ensign in the heat of battle and thrown it into the middle of the enemy with a promise of a reward to those retaking it; but this was done not so much to prevent their running away, as to create a rivalry among their soldiers and to encourage them to fight with greater ardor.

Having now spoken of things that have to be done not only before a battle but during the period of action, perhaps it may not be amiss to say something about what ought to be done after the battle is over, especially since I shall be very brief on this point; still, it should not be omitted because it is a part of our system. I say, then, that when you have won a victory, you ought by all means to pursue it, and to imitate Julius Caesar rather than Hannibal in this respect; the latter lost the empire of Rome by trifling away his time at Capua, after he had routed the Romans at the battle of Cannae.246 Caesar, on the other hand, never rested after a victory; he always pursued and harassed the enemy after they were broken and were fleeing, with greater vigor and fury than when he first attacked them.

But when a general happens to lose a battle, he is to consider first how to make the best of his loss, particularly if he has any considerable force left. Perhaps he may reap some advantage from the enemy’s neglect, tardiness, or inadvertency. After a victory, soldiers often grow too remiss and secure and give the army they have beaten an opportunity to beat them; this is what L. Marcius did to the Carthaginians who, having slain the two Scipios in battle and defeated their armies, took little account of the forces left under the command of Marcius until he attacked and routed them.247 Hence we see that nothing is as easy to effect as what the enemy imagines you will never attempt, and we see that men are frequently in the greatest danger when they think themselves most secure.

But if a general can reap no sort of advantage from his first loss, he should by all means endeavor at least to make it as light and bearable as he can and to prevent any further damage; he thus ought to use every method either to divide or to retard the enemy if they pursue him. In the first case, when they are aware that they can no longer stand their ground, some generals have ordered their subordinate commanders to separate and retreat with their forces by different routes to some appointed rendezvous; this has made the enemy afraid of dividing his forces and made him let all or most of them escape. In the second case, many generals have thrown their baggage and effects onto the road, so that while the enemy was busy plundering and ransacking, they might have time to save themselves. The artifice made use of by Titus Didius to conceal the loss he had sustained in battle is not unworthy of notice: after he had fought from morning until night and lost a great number of his men, he ordered most of them to be buried during the night, so that the next day, the enemy, seeing so many of his own men—and so few Romans—killed, considered himself worsted and immediately began to retreat.248

And now I think, to a great extent, I have answered your questions, although perhaps not as distinctly and particularly as you expected. It is true, I have yet to add something concerning the method of forming armies in order of battle, since some generals have drawn up their forces in the shape of a wedge, with its edge in the front, imagining that form to be the best adapted for penetrating and opening an enemy’s ranks.249 To provide against this, the other side ordinarily drew up their army in the form of a pair of open shears, to receive the wedge in the vacuity, and so to surround and attack it on every side. Let me recommend a general rule to you: to frustrate any of your enemy’s designs, it is best to do of your own volition what he endeavors to force you to do. Then you may proceed in a cool and orderly manner to turn to your advantage what he intended as the means of your ruin; but if you are compelled to do it, you will surely be undone. To confirm the truth of this, it is needless to repeat what I have said before; for when the enemy advances in a wedge—intending to open, and as it were, to cleave your army asunder—if you open it yourself in the above-mentioned form it is certain that you will cut him to pieces and that he cannot much hurt you. Hannibal placed elephants in the front of his army to break in upon Scipio’s, but once Scipio opened a way for them himself, he won a complete victory.250 Hasdrubal also posted the flower of his army in the center of his front for the same purpose; but Scipio, ordering his front to open and file off, disappointed his intention and defeated him.251 So, when such designs are known, they are generally frustrated and prove the ruin of the contrivers.

I think I also have something left to say relating to the precautions a general should take before he leads his army to battle; in the first place, it is my opinion that he should never engage unless he has an advantage over the enemy, or he is compelled to act. Now the advantage may arise from the terrain or from the order, superiority, or bravery of his army; he may be compelled to engage by a conviction that if he does not, he must inevitably be ruined. Such ruin may occur either when he has no money to pay his troops and they begin to mutiny and talk of disbanding, or when he has no provisions left and must otherwise be starved, or when he knows the enemy expects to be reinforced; in such circumstances he always ought to engage because it is better to try fortuna while she is still favorable than to try nothing and allow her surely to destroy you.252 Therefore, it is as great a fault in a general not to hazard an engagement upon such occasions, as it is if he had a fair opportunity of gaining a victory and neglected it out of either ignorance or cowardice.

Some advantages may result from the enemy’s negligence and misconduct, and others from your own vigilance and good conduct: many armies have been routed while fording rivers by an enemy who has waited till one half of them have been transported and then fallen upon them; this is what Caesar did to the Helvetii when he cut off a fourth of their army which was separated from the rest by a river they had forded.253 Sometimes an enemy is so jaded and fatigued by too rash and hasty a pursuit that if your men have had a little time to rest and refresh themselves, you have nothing to do but to face about and win a victory. If an enemy offers you battle early in the morning, you ought not to draw out your army to fight him immediately; rather, let his men wait under arms for some hours until their ardor is abated and then come out of your entrenchments and engage him, as Scipio and Metellus did in Spain—the former when he had Hasdrubal upon his hands, and the latter, Sertorius.254 If the enemy has diminished his strength by dividing his army, as the Scipios did in Spain, or for any other reason, by no means ought you to miss that opportunity of fighting him.

Most prudent generals have chosen to receive the enemy rather than to attack him, because the fury of the first shock is easily withstood by men standing firm, resolute, ready, and prepared in their ranks; when that shock is over, their fury commonly subsides into languor and despair. By proceeding in this manner, Fabius routed both the Samnites and the Gauls; but his colleague Decius took the other course, was defeated, and slain.255 Some generals, who have thought the enemy superior to them, have chosen to defer a battle until evening, so that if they should be defeated, they might save themselves under the shelter of night; others who have known that the enemy would not fight at particular times, out of reverence to the laws of their religion, have taken that opportunity to attack and defeat them; Julius Caesar availed himself of this advantage against Ariovistus in Gaul,256 and Vespasian against the Jews in Syria.257

But above all,258 a general should take care to have men of proven fidelity, wisdom, and long experience in military affairs near his person as a sort of council. From such men a general may learn not only the state of his own army, but also that of the enemy’s: which of the armies is superior to the other in number, which is the better armed and disciplined, which is the stronger in cavalry, which of his own troops are fittest to undergo hard service and fatigue, and whether his infantry or his cavalry is likely to be the most serviceable. Let his councilors well consider the nature of the terrain where they are: whether it is more advantageous to the enemy or themselves; which of the two armies can be most conveniently furnished with provisions and other supplies; whether it is better to come to an engagement directly, or to defer it; and what advantage or disadvantage may accrue from time; for it sometimes happens that when soldiers see a war protracted and a battle put off from time to time, they lose their ardor and become so weary of hardships that they grow mutinous and desert their colors. It is also of great importance to know the qualities and disposition of the enemy’s general and of those about him, for instance, to know whether he is bold and enterprising, or cautious and timid. A general should next consider to what extent he can have confidence in his auxiliaries. He should be particularly careful not to bring his army to an engagement if he perceives his men are in the least dispirited or diffident about victory, for it is a bad omen indeed when they think an enemy invincible. In such circumstances, either you must endeavor to avoid a battle by following the example of Fabius Maximus,259 who always took the advantage of situations in which Hannibal dared not attack him, or—if you think the enemy will not attack you, however advantageous your situation may be—you must leave the field entirely and distribute your forces in different towns and fortresses to tire him out with sieges and blockades.

Zanobi. Is there no other way of avoiding an engagement?

Fabrizio. I think I told some of you in a conversation we had once before that an army in the field cannot possibly avoid an engagement if the enemy is absolutely determined to fight, unless it suddenly decamps, moves to a distance of 50 or 60 miles from the enemy, and always keeps retreating as the enemy advances. Fabius Maximus never refused to fight Hannibal, but did not choose to do so without an advantage; and Hannibal, considering the manner in which Fabius always took care to fortify himself, was too wise to force him to it; but if Fabius had been attacked, he would have been forced to fight him at any cost, or to have fled. When Philip of Macedon, the father of Perseus, was at war with the Romans, he encamped on top of a very high hill to avoid an engagement with them, but they attacked and routed him there.260 Cingetorex, general of the Gauls, retreated to a considerable distance so that he would not be obliged to fight Julius Caesar who, contrary to his expectation, had suddenly forded a river that was between them.261 The Venetians, in the recent wars, might have avoided a battle with the French if they had marched away from them, as Cingetorex did from Caesar, instead of waiting until they forded the Adda; but they did not take the opportunity of attacking them while they were fording that river—afterward, they could not retreat, for the French were then so close at their heels that as soon as the Venetians began to decamp, the French fell upon them and defeated them.262 In short, there is no other way of avoiding a battle, if the enemy is fully determined to bring you to one; therefore, it is to no purpose to cite the example of Fabius Maximus, for in that case Hannibal avoided an engagement as much as Fabius.

It often happens that soldiers are eager to fight; by considering the superiority of the enemy, the nature of the terrain, or some other circumstances, you know that you are at a disadvantage, and therefore would willingly decline a battle. It may also happen that necessity may force you—or opportunity may invite you—to fight, but you find your soldiers dispirited and averse to it; in the one case, it is necessary to repress their ardor, and in the other, to excite it. In the first case, when persuasion and exhortation have no effect, it is best to let some part of them be roughly handled by the enemy, so that both those who have suffered and those who have not may learn to be more tractable and conformable to your will another time. What was the effect of chance in the army of Fabius Maximus may be done deliberately by any other commander upon a similar occasion. It happened that not only his cavalry general, but all the rest of his army, were very impatient to fight Hannibal, 263 though Fabius himself was utterly against it; the dissension grew to such a height that at last they divided the army between them. Fabius, with his troops, kept close in his entrenchments. Minucius went out and engaged the enemy, but he would have been entirely defeated if Fabius had not finally marched out to his aid. From this example, both the general of his cavalry and all the rest of the army were convinced that it would have been wiser to have submitted to the opinion of Fabius.

As for the means of animating your men and inflaming them with a desire to fight, it would be good first to enrage them against the enemy; to tell them they are despised; to insinuate that you have corrupted some enemy officers and hold a private correspondence with them; to camp in a location where you may daily see what they are doing and now and then skirmish with them; for things that are often seen eventually become familiar and are but little regarded.264 If these measures fail, you should treat them with disdain and harangue them in a weighty and pitiless manner, upbraiding them for cowardice. You should endeavor to make them ashamed of themselves by telling them that if the rest have not courage enough to follow you, you will take such or such a regiment—one you know you can depend upon—and fight the enemy with that regiment alone. But to make your men bolder, more courageous, and more resolute, above all else you ought to take care that they may not send any of their money or plunder away to their own houses, or deposit it in any other safe place until the war is over; so, they may rest assured that if they run away, they may save their lives, perhaps, but they must certainly lose their treasure; the love of money ordinarily operates as strongly upon men as love of their life.

Zanobi. You say that one should inspire soldiers to fight by haranguing them. Would you harangue the whole army, then, or only the officers?

Fabrizio. It is an easy matter to induce a few people either to do or not to do a thing, for if arguments are not sufficient, you may use force and authority; but the great difficulty lies in making a whole army change its resolution when its execution must either prejudice the public, or thwart your own private schemes and designs; in that case, you can avail yourself of nothing but words, which must be heard and considered by the whole army if you would have the whole army affected by them. For this reason, it is necessary that a general should be an orator as well as a soldier; for if he does not know how to address himself to the whole army, he will sometimes find it no easy task to mold it to his purposes. But there is not the least attention shown to this point at present. Read the life of Alexander the Great,265 and you will see how often he was obliged to harangue his troops; otherwise he never could have led them—rich and full of spoil as they were—through the deserts of India and Arabia where they underwent every sort of hardship and fatigue. Many things may prove the ruin of an army, if the general does not frequently harangue his men; for by so doing he may dispel their fears, inflame their courage, confirm their resolution, point out the snares laid for them, promise them rewards, inform them of danger and of the way to escape it; he may rebuke, entreat, threaten, praise, reproach, or fill them with hopes, and avail himself of all other arts that can either excite or allay the passions and the appetites of mankind. Therefore, if any prince or republic would make their armies respectable, they should accustom their generals to harangue the men and the men to listen to their generals.

Religion too, and the oath soldiers took when they were enlisted, greatly contributed to making them do their duty in ancient times; for upon any default, they were threatened not only with human punishments, but the vengeance of the gods.266 They also had several other religious ceremonies that had a very good effect on all their enterprises, and would have still in any place where religion is held in due reverence. Sertorious knew this well; he used to have consultations with a hind that he said was sent by the gods to assure him of victory. 267 Sulla pretended to converse with an image he had taken out of the temple of Apollo,268 and several generals have given out that some god or other has appeared to them in dreams and visions and commanded them to fight the enemy. In the days of our ancestors, when Charles VII of France was at war with the English, he pretended to be advised in every thing by a virgin sent from heaven, commonly called the virgin of France,269 who won him many a victory.

It is also proper to teach your men to hold the enemy in contempt, as Agesilaus the Spartan did when he showed his men some naked Persians so that, having seen their soft, white skins, his men would no longer have cause to fear them.270

Some commanders have forced their men to fight by depriving them of all means of saving themselves except victory; this is certainly the best method of making them fight desperately. This resolution is commonly heightened either by the confidence they put in themselves, their arms, armor, discipline, good order, and lately-won victories, or by the esteem they have for their general. Such esteem is a result of the opinion they have of his virtù, rather than of any particular favor they have received from him; or it is a result of the love of their country, which is natural to all men. There are various ways of forcing men to fight, but that is the strongest and most operative; it leaves men no other alternative but to conquer or to die.271

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