Military history


ZANOBI. SINCE we are now going to change our subject, I beg your leave to divest myself of my office; I hope Battista della Palla will take it up. In so doing, we shall in some measure imitate the example of experienced commanders, who in time of battle (as Signor Fabrizio has informed us) generally place the best of their men in the front and rear of their armies, so that the former may begin the attack with vigor and the latter may support it with resolution. Cosimo Rucellai, therefore, was wisely hit upon to lead the vanguard (if I may use the expression) in this conversation, and Battista della Palla to bring up the rear: Luigi Alamanni and I took it upon ourselves to lead the second line; since we all readily submitted to the charge assigned us, I dare say Battista will do the same.

Battista. Hitherto I have let myself be governed entirely by the company and shall do so for the future. We entreat you then, Signor Fabrizio, to proceed in your discourse and to excuse this interruption.

Fabrizio. If it is an interruption, it is an agreeable one, I assure you, for this change of officers, as I told you before, refreshes my mind rather than tires it. But let us resume our subject. It is now time to camp and rest our army in security; for all creatures, you know, naturally require due intervals of rest from their labor, and anyone not simultaneously enjoying security cannot properly be said to rest. Perhaps you might expect me to have camped my army first and then shown the order of a march, and, last of all, pointed out how it should be formed to engage an enemy. But I have done quite the contrary; indeed, I was obliged to. Since I was to show what an army marching had to do when it was suddenly forced to prepare for action, it was necessary to tell you first in what order of battle it should be drawn up.

Now, to lodge your men in security, your camp ought to be strong and well governed; the former depends either upon art291 or upon the nature of its location, the latter upon the commander’s care and good discipline. The Greeks used to look for a location that was strong by nature; 292 they would never encamp in any place that was not fortified by a mountain, a river, a wood, or some other similar defense. The Romans, on the contrary, not depending so much upon nature as upon art and good discipline in their camps, constantly chose locations where they could arrange their forces in usual order and exert their whole strength when the need arose. Hence it came to pass that the form of their encampment was always the same because they never swerved from their established discipline, but selected a location which they could make conformable to it; whereas the Greeks were often obliged to vary the form and manner of their encampments because they made their discipline give way to the location of the place, which could not always be the same as or similar to it. Therefore, when the location was indifferent, the Romans used to supply that defect by art and industry. Since I have hitherto proposed the conduct of that people as a model in most cases, I would also recommend their method in the encampment of their armies, not that I would follow it exactly in every particular, but only insofar as it may best suit the circumstances of the present times.

I have already told you more than once that they had two legions of their own citizens in their consular armies, amounting to about 11,000 infantry and 600 cavalry, plus 11,000 more infantry composed of the auxiliaries furnished by their friends and confederates; but the number of auxiliaries in those armies never exceeded the number of their own citizens—except their cavalry, about which they were not so scrupulous. I told you, too, that they always posted their legions in the center and their auxiliaries in each wing whenever they engaged; they also observed this custom in their encampments, as I dare say you must have read in ancient history. Therefore, I shall not trouble you now with a detailed account of the method they followed upon such occasions, but content myself with telling you how I would choose to encamp an army at present; you will thus easily perceive what I have borrowed from the Romans.

You know that since they had two legions in a consular army, I have similarly composed mine of two regiments, each consisting of 6,000 infantry and 300 cavalry; you remember into how many battalions I divided them, how they are armed, and by what names the different forces of which they consist are distinguished; lastly, you know that in drawing them up for a battle or a march, I have mentioned no other troops, but only shown that when their number is to be doubled, there is nothing more to be done than to double the ranks.

But now that I am to show you the method of encamping, I shall not confine myself to only two regiments, but teach you how a whole army should be disposed of, an army consisting—like those of the Romans—of two regiments of our own forces, and the same number of auxiliaries. I do this to give you a clear idea of a complete encampment; for in the exercises and operations which I have hitherto described and recommended, there was no occasion to bring a whole army into the field at once.293

In order, then, to encamp an army of 24,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry divided into four regiments, two of our own subjects and two of our auxiliaries, I would observe this method.294 After I had hit upon a convenient location, I would erect my standard in the middle of a square, 200 feet deep on every side; one of the sides of this square should face east, another west, another north, and another south, and here in this square the general should fix his quarters. Next, since it was generally the practice of the Romans, and seems worthy of imitation, I would separate the combatants from the non-combatants, and those who should be ready and fit for action from those loaded and encumbered in another manner; for this purpose, I would quarter either all or the greater part of my soldiers on the east side of the camp, and the others on the west, making the east side the front, the west the rear, and the north and south the flanks of my camp.

To distinguish my soldiers’ quarters, I would draw, from the general’s standard toward the east, two parallel lines 1,360 feet long and 60 feet apart; at the extremity of these lines I would have the eastern gate of my camp. By these means a street 1,260 feet long would be formed directly from that gate to the general’s quarters, for the distance from the standard to the end of his quarters is 100 feet on each side; this interval should be called the Main Street. Next, let another street be drawn from the south to the north gate across the head of the Main Street, and ranging close to the east side of the general’s quarters; this street should be 2,500 feet long, since it is to extend from one flank of the camp to the other, and 60 feet wide; let this be called the Cross Street. Having thus marked out the general’s quarters and drawn these two streets, I would proceed to provide quarters for the two regiments of my own subjects; I would lodge one on the right side of the Main Street, and the other on the left. For this purpose, I would place 32 lodgments on the left, and as many more on the right of that street, leaving a space 60 feet wide between the sixteenth and seventeenth lodgment for a Traverse Street to pass through the middle of the quarters of these two regiments, as you may see it marked out in the plan I shall make. In the front of these two orders of lodgments, on each side of the Main Street where they border upon the Cross Street, I would quarter the commanders of my men-at-arms, and their men in the 15 lodgments adjoining them; for since I have allocated 150 men-at-arms to each regiment, there would be ten men in each one of these compartments. The commanders’ tents should be 80 feet wide and 20 feet deep; those of their men, 30 feet deep and 60 feet wide. But I must here ask you to remember once and for all that whenever I use the word “width,” I mean the space extending from north to south; when I speak of “depth,” I mean the space ranging from east to west. In the next 15 compartments which are to be on each side of the Main Street, and east of the Traverse Street (and to occupy the same space as that occupied by the men-at-arms), I would quarter my light cavalry; since there are 150 in each regiment, it too would amount to ten in every tent; in the remaining sixteenth I would lodge their commanders, assigning them the same room as that taken up by the commanders of the men-at-arms. The cavalry of both regiments, then, are thus provided with quarters on each side of the Main Street; they will direct us how to dispose of our infantry, as I shall show you next.

You have observed how I have quartered the 300 cavalrymen belonging to each regiment, and their officers, in 32 lodgments on each side of the Main Street, beginning from the Cross Street, and that I have left an empty space 60 feet wide between the sixteenth and seventeenth lodgment for a Traverse Street. In order, then, to quarter the 20 battalions, of which the two regiments consist, I would appoint lodgments for two battalions behind the cavalry on both sides of the Main Street; each of these lodgments should be 30 feet long and 60 feet wide, like the others, and so close to those of the cavalrymen that they should join together. In each of the first lodgments, beginning from the Cross Street, I would quarter the battalion lieutenant colonel, who would then be on a line with the commander of the men-at-arms; only this lodgment should be 40 feet wide, and 20 feet deep. In the next 15 lodgments, reaching to the Traverse Street, I would quarter an infantry battalion on each side of the Main Street; since each consists of 450 men, there would be 30 in every lodgment. I would place the other 15 lodgments contiguous with the light cavalry, on each side of the Main Street, and east of the Traverse Street, allowing them the same dimensions as those on the west; in each of these ranges, I would quarter one battalion, assigning the sixteenth lodgment, which should be 20 feet long and 40 feet wide, to the lieutenant colonel of the two battalions; he would then be close abreast with the commanders of the light cavalry. By this disposition, the first two ranges of lodgments would consist partly of cavalry and partly of infantry; but since the cavalry should always be clean and ready for action, and the horsemen should have no servants to assist them in dressing and taking care of their horses, the infantry of the two battalions quartered next to them should be obliged to wait upon them for that purpose; in consideration of which, they should be excused from all other duty in the camp, according to the practice of the Romans.

Leaving an empty space, then, 60 feet wide at the back of the lodgments, on each side of the Main Street, one of which may be called the First Street on the Right, the other, the First Street on the Left, I would mark out another range of 32 double lodgments parallel to the others, with their backs close together; I would allow the same dimensions, with a similar interval between the sixteenth and seventeenth for the Traverse Street; in each of these I would quarter four battalions, with their commanders in the first and last of them. Next, I would leave another space 60 feet wide at the back of these two lodgments for a street which should be called the Second Street on the Right, on one side of the Main Street, and the Second Street on the Left, on the other; close to these, I would have another range of double lodgments on each side of the Main Street, in every respect like the other two; there I would quarter the four remaining battalions and their lieutenant colonels, so that all the cavalry and infantry of our own two regiments would be disposed in six ranks or lines of double lodgments, with the Main Street between them.

As for the two auxiliary battalions, consisting of the same number and sort of forces, I would place them on each side of our own, in an order and number similar to the double lodgments; the two first lines should be partly cavalry and partly infantry, and at a distance of 60 feet from the two third lines of our own on each side of the Main Street to make room for a street between them; this should be called on one side the Third Street on the Right, and on the other, the Third Street on the Left. After this, I would mark out two other lines of lodgments parallel to the first on each side of the Main Street; these lodgments should be divided like those of our own battalions, with spaces of 60 feet between them for other streets, and they should be numbered and named according to their location and distance from the Main Street; then, all this part of the army would be quartered in 12 ranges or lines of double lodgments, with 13 streets between the several divisions, including the Main Street, the Traverse Street, and the Cross Streets. In addition to this, I would have an empty space left 200 feet wide between the lodgments and the fosse which should encompass them; so, computing the whole distance from the center of the general’s quarters to the eastern gate, you will find that it amounts to 1,360 feet.

There are still two vacant intervals remaining, one from the general’s quarters to the south, and the other from thence to the north gate of the camp; each of these, reckoning from the center, is 1,250 feet long. Deducting, then, from each of these spaces the 100 feet occupied by the general’s quarters on each side, and 90 feet on each side for an area or piazza, and 60 for a street to divide the two above-mentioned spaces in the middle, and 200 more for the interval between the lodgments and the fosse-there will be a space left 800 feet wide and 200 feet deep for a line of lodgments on each side; their depth is the same as that of the general’s quarters. If these spaces are properly divided, they will make 40 lodgments on both sides of the general’s quarters, each of which will be 100 feet long and 40 feet wide; in these I would quarter the colonels of the several regiments, the paymasters, the quartermaster-general, and in short, all those who had any particular charge or business with the army; some lodgments should be left vacant for the reception of strangers or volunteers, and attendants upon the general.

To the rear of the general’s quarters, I would make a street from north to south 62 feet wide and call it the Head Street, which should run along the west side of the 80 lodgments just mentioned; then these lodgments and the general’s quarters would be included between that street and the Cross Street. From the Head Street I would draw another street directly from the general’s quarters to the western gate of the camp; it should be 60 feet wide and the same length as the Main Street, and it should be called the Market Street. When these two passages were drawn, I would make a market place or square, at the beginning of Market Street opposite the general’s quarters and adjoining the Head Street, which should be 240 feet on every side. On the right and left of the market place, I would have a row of quarters, each of which should contain 8 double lodgments, which should be 30 feet deep and 60 feet wide; that is, 16 on each side of the market place. In these I would lodge the superfluous cavalry belonging to the auxiliary regiments, and if there should not be room enough for all of them there, I would quarter those that were excluded in some of the 80 lodgments next to the general’s quarters, but chiefly in those nearest the fosse.

It now remains for us to quarter our pikemen and velites extraordinary, for you know there are 1,000 of the former, and 500 of the latter in every regiment; so, with our own two regiments having 2,000 pikemen and 1,000 velites extraordinary, and those of the auxiliaries as many more, we have still 6,000 infantrymen to allocate; I would quarter all of them on the three sides of the fosse in the western part of the camp. For this purpose, I would have a row of five double lodgments 150 feet long, and 120 feet wide on the west side of the north end of the Head Street, leaving a vacant space of 200 feet between them and the fosse; if this row consisted of ten single lodgments, and if every lodgment were 300 feet deep and 60 feet wide, it would hold 300 infantrymen, that is, 30 in each one of them. Next to these, but with an interval of 62 feet between them, I would place another row of five double lodgments with the same dimensions; after that, another, and so on until there were five rows of five double lodgments of the same size, and with the same intervals between them, all in a straight line at a distance of 200 feet from the fosse to the west of the Head Street, and on the north side of the camp; so, there would be a total of 50 lodgments containing 1,500 men. Turning then from the left toward the western gate, I would mark out five other rows of double lodgments, with the same contents and proportions, in the space between the last of the other five rows and that gate—but with intervals of only 30 feet between one row and the other; here I would also quarter 1,500 men; in this manner, all the pikemen and velites extraordinary belonging to our own two regiments would be disposed of in 10 rows of double lodgments, that is, 100 single ones, counting 10 in a row, along the range of the fosse from the north to the west gate. Similarly, I would provide for the pikemen and velites extraordinary belonging to the auxiliary regiments by quartering them all in ten rows of double lodgments of the same dimensions and with the same intervals between them along the range of the fosse from the west to the southern gate; I would allow their colonels and other officers to take up such quarters there as should be most convenient for them.

I would plant my artillery along the banks on the inside of the fosse; in the vacant space, which would still be left on the west side of the Head Street, I would lodge all the unarmed people and impediments belonging to the camp. Now you must know by the word “impediments” the ancients meant all the baggage, people, and stores necessary to an army, except the soldiers: men such as carpenters, joiners, smiths, stonecutters, masons, engineers, canoneers (although indeed these may properly be counted as soldiers), cooks, butchers, and herdsmen, oxen and sheep for the army’s sustenance; in short, all manner of craftsmen and implements, together with the proper vehicles and beasts of burden to carry the ammunition, provisions, and other requisites. However, I would not assign separate and distinct lodgments for all these, but content myself with ordering some streets to be left entirely clear and unoccupied for them. Of the four empty areas which would be left between these passages, I would assign one to the herdsmen and their cattle, another to the craftsmen of every kind, another to the carriages containing the provisions, and the last to those loaded with arms and ammunition. The streets which I would have left totally unobstructed should be the Market Street, the Head Street, and another called the Middle Street; this street is to be drawn across the camp from north to south; it should cut the Market Street at right angles and answer the same purposes on the western side of the camp as the Traverse Street does on the eastern. In addition to this, I would have still another street drawn behind the lodgments of the pikemen and the velites extraordinary, who are ranged on three sides of the fosse; each one of these streets should be 60 feet wide.

Battista. I confess my ignorance in these matters, yet I think I have no reason to be ashamed of it, since the art of war is not my profession. However, the disposition you made pleases me very much, and I have only two problems, which I beg you to resolve, to raise relating to it. The first is why you make the streets and areas around the lodgments so broad? The second, which perplexes me the most, is how are the areas you allow for the lodgments to be occupied?

Fabrizio. The reason why I make all the passages 60 feet wide is that a whole battalion at a time, drawn up in order of battle, may pass through them, for I told you before, if you remember, that every battalion takes up a space 50 or 60 feet wide. It is also necessary that the interval between the lodgments and the fosse should be 200 feet wide, in order to draw up the battalions there properly, to manage the artillery, to make room for booty or prisoners taken from the enemy, and, when necessary, to have room for digging new banks and ditches. Moreover, it is better to have the lodgments at a good distance from the fosse, so that they may be more out of the reach of the enemy’s fire, and other offensive things upon which he might otherwise draw. In answer to your second question, I must tell you that it is not my intention for every space I have laid out as lodgments to be covered entirely by one great tent alone, but for it to be divided and occupied so as to suit best the convenience of those for whose use it is designed; they may have more or fewer tents in it as they please, provided they do not exceed the limits prescribed them.

But in order to lay out these lodgments, there should always be able and experienced engineers, quartermasters, and builders ready to mark out a camp and to distinguish its several streets and divisions with stakes and cordage as soon as the general has fixed upon its proper site; to prevent confusion, the front of the camp should always appear the same, so that every man may know what street he is near and in which quarter he may find his tent. This rule ought to be constantly observed, so that the camp will be a sort of moving town carrying with it the same streets, the same houses, and the same aspect wherever it goes.295 This is a convenience which those who choose only those naturally strong and advantageous locations may not expect, because they must always change the form of their camp according to the nature of the ground. The Romans, as I said before, made their camps strong in any location by having ditches and ramparts around them, and by leaving a vacant space, generally twelve feet wide and six feet deep, between their lodgments and the ditch; they sometimes made it both wider and deeper, especially if they intended to remain long in the same place, or expected to be attacked. For my own part, I would not fortify a camp with a palisade unless I intended to winter in it; I would content myself with a rampart and a ditch, not of less width or depth than what has been just now mentioned, but greater if occasion required; in addition to these, I would have a half-moon at every angle of the camp with some pieces of artillery in it to take the enemy in flank, if the trenches should be attacked. The army should be frequently drilled in this exercise of encamping and decamping in order to make the several officers ready and expert in laying out the distinct lodgments properly, and to teach the soldiers to know their respective quarters. There is no great difficulty in this exercise, as I shall show elsewhere. I shall now proceed to say something concerning the guards necessary in a camp, because if that point is not duly attended to, all the rest of our labor and care will be to no purpose.

Battista. Before you do that, I wish you would tell me what is to be done when you would encamp near an enemy; for on such an occasion, there surely cannot be enough time to dispose things in this regular order without exposing yourself to great danger.

Fabrizio. No general will ever encamp very near an enemy, unless he is in a condition to give him battle whenever he pleases; if the enemy is similarly disposed to engage, the danger cannot be more than ordinary, because a general may draw out two-thirds of his army and leave the other to form his camp. The Romans, in such cases, committed the care of digging entrenchments and laying out their camp to the triarii, and had only the principes and hastati to stand to their arms; since the triarii were the last line of their army to engage, they might leave their work, if the enemy advanced, and draw up under arms in their proper station. So, if you would imitate the Romans, in a similar instance, you should leave the care of laying out and fortifying your camp to the battalions in the rear of your army—those resembling the Roman triarii.

But to return to what I was going to say concerning the guards of a camp. I do not remember having read that the ancients used to keep any guards or sentinels outside their entrenchments at night, the way we now maintain sentries. I take the reason for this to be that they thought their armies were exposed to much danger by using them, since they might perhaps betray or desert them of their own accord, or be surprised or corrupted by the enemy; therefore, they did not think it fit to put any confidence in them. Thus, they trusted wholly to the guards and sentinels stationed within their entrenchments; these were kept with such order and exactness that the least failure in that duty was punished with death. I shall not trouble you, however, with a long, detailed account of the order and method they observed in this matter, because you very likely have read it in their histories; or, if you have not, you may meet with it there whenever you please. For the sake of brevity then, I shall tell you only what I myself would do upon such occasions.

I would have a third of my army continue under arms every night: one fourth of this third would be on guard along the entrenchments and other proper places of the camp, allowing a double guard at every angle of it; one part should constantly remain there, and another patrol all night from that angle to the next, and back again; this method should be observed during the day also, if the enemy is near.

As for giving out a parole, or password, changing it every night, and other such arrangements proper to guards and sentinels, I shall say nothing of them because they are known by everyone. But there is one thing of the utmost importance, whose practice will be attended with much advantage, and whose neglect, with great prejudice: strict observation of those who go out of the camp at night and those who come into it for the first time. This observation is a very easy thing to do for those complying with the manner and order of encamping I have recommended, because every lodgment has a certain number of men belonging to it; thus, you may immediately see if there are more or fewer in it than there should be. If any are absent without leave, they should be punished as deserters; if there are more than there ought to be, you should diligently inquire who they are, what business they have there, and what other circumstances there may be relating to them. This precaution will make it very difficult—if not impossible—for the enemy to hold any secret correspondence with your officers, or to be cognizant of your designs. If the Romans had not carefully attended to this point, Claudius Nero could not have left his camp in Lucania, gone secretly into The Marches, and returned to his former quarters while Hannibal knew nothing of the matter, although the two camps lay very near each other.296

But it is not sufficient just to give out good orders for this purpose, if their observance is not enforced with the utmost severity; for there is no case whatsoever in which the most exact and implicit obedience is as necessary as in the government of an army; therefore, the laws established for its maintenance ought to be rigorous and severe, and the general who executes them, a man of inflexible resolution in supporting them. The Romans punished with death,297 not only those who failed in their duty when they were on guard, but all those who abandoned their post in time of battle, carried anything by stealth out of the camp, pretended they had performed some exploit in action which they had not done, fought without the orders of the general, or threw away their arms out of fear. And when it happened that a cohort or a whole legion had behaved poorly, they made them cast lots and put every tenth man to death—this was called “decimation.”298 It was done to avoid shedding too much blood, and although they did not all suffer, every man would be apprehensive that the lot might fall upon him. But where there are severe punishments, there should also be proportionate rewards to excite men to behave themselves well from motives of both hope and fear;299 therefore, they always rewarded those who had distinguished themselves by any meritorious action, especially those who had saved the life of a fellow citizen in battle, had been the first in scaling the walls of an enemy’s town or storming their camp, or had wounded, killed, or unhorsed an enemy. In this manner, each man’s desert was properly taken notice of, recompensed by the consuls, and honored publicly; those who obtained any reward for services of this kind, besides the reputation and glory which they acquired among their fellow soldiers, were, when they returned from the wars, received by their friends and relations with all kinds of rejoicings and congratulations. It is no wonder, then, that a people who were so exact in rewarding merit and punishing offenders should extend their empire to such a degree as they did; they are certainly highly worthy of imitation in these respects.

Give me permission, therefore, to be a little more explicit in describing one of their punishments.300 When a delinquent stood convicted before his general, the latter gave him a slight stroke with a rod, after which he might run away if he could; but since every soldier in the army was free to kill him, he no sooner began to run than they all fell upon him with their swords, darts, or other weapons. He seldom escaped; if he did, he was not allowed to return home, except under heavy penalties and such a burden of infamy that it would have been much better for him to have died. This custom is, in some measure, still kept alive by the Swiss in their armies; they always have a convicted offender killed by the rest of the soldiers. I think it is a very good custom because, if you want to prevent others from supporting or protecting an offender, it is certainly best to leave his punishment to them; in that case, they will always look upon him differently from the way in which they would if he were to be punished by anybody else. This rule will also hold good in popular governments, as we may learn from the example of Manlius Capitolinus who, being accused by the Senate, was strenuously defended by the people until they were left to judge him themselves; then, they immediately condemned him to die.301Hence, this is a good method of punishing delinquents and of causing justice to be executed in security, without fear of exciting mutiny or sedition. But since neither fear of laws nor reverence to man are sufficient to bridle an armed multitude, the ancients used to call in the aid of religion and, with many imposing ceremonies and great solemnity, make their soldiers take a very strict oath to pay due obedience to military discipline. In addition, they used all other methods to inspire them with a fear of the gods, so that if they violated their oaths, they might have not only the asperity of human laws but the vengeance of heaven to dread.302

Battista. Did the Romans ever allow women or gambling in their camp, as we do at present?

Fabrizio. They prohibited both. The restraint was not very grievous, because their soldiers were so constantly employed either in one sort of duty or in another, that they had no time to think of women, gambling, or any of those vile avocations which commonly make soldiers idle and seditious.

Battista. They were right. But tell me, what order did they observe when they were about to decamp?

Fabrizio. The general’s trumpet was sounded three times.303 At the first sounding, they struck their tents and packed them up; at the second, they loaded their carriages; at the third, they began their march in the order I have previously described—with their legions in the middle of the army, and their baggage in the rear of each corps. To do this, it is necessary for one of the auxiliary regiments to move first with its own baggage, and a fourth part of the public impediments in its rear; the latter were placed in one or the other of the four divisions in the western part of the camp that I spoke of not long ago. Therefore, every legion would have its particular division assigned to its charge; so that when they are about to march, each one knew where to take its place.

Battista. Did the Romans use to make any other provisions in laying out their camps, besides those which you have already mentioned?

Fabrizio. I must tell you again that they always kept the same form in their encampments; this was their first and principal consideration. Besides this, they had two other main points in view.304 The first was a healthy location; the next, a camp where the enemy could neither surround them, nor cut them off from water or provisions. To prevent sickness in their army, therefore, they always avoided marshy grounds and sites exposed to noxious winds; they formed their judgment not so much from the quality of the place, as from the constitution and appearance of the people who lived nearby; if they were pale or sickly, or subject to asthma, dropsy, or any other endemic disorder, they would not camp there. As to the other point—not being liable to be surrounded by an enemy—they considered where their friends and where their enemy lay, and hence judged the probability or possibility of their being, or not being, surrounded. Consequently, a general should be very well acquainted with the nature and situation of the country he is in; he should have others around him who are as knowing in these respects as he.

There are also other precautions to be used in order to prevent sickness and famine in an army: restraining all manner of excess and intemperance among the soldiers; taking care that they sleep under cover, that your camp be near trees affording them shade in the daytime and enough wood for fuel to prepare their food, and that they do not march when the heat of the sun is too intense. For this reason, they should decamp before daylight in the summer and take care not to march through ice and snow in the winter, unless they have frequent opportunities of making good fires, and warm clothing to guard them against the inclemency of the weather. It is also necessary to prevent them from drinking stagnant and fetid water. If any of them happen to fall ill, you should give strict orders to the physicians and surgeons of the army to take great care of them, for bad indeed is the condition of a general when he has a sickness among his men and an enemy to contend with at the same time. But nothing is more conducive to keeping an army in good health and spirits than exercise; the ancients used to exercise their troops every day. Proper exercise, then, is surely of great importance for it preserves your health in the camp and secures you victory in the field.

As for guarding against famine, it is not only necessary to take timely care that the enemy may not be able to cut you off from provisions, but to consider from whence you may be conveniently supplied and to see that the provisions you have are properly husbanded and preserved. Therefore, you should always have at least a month’s provisions in reserve, and then oblige your neighboring friends and allies to furnish you daily with a certain quantity. You also ought to establish magazines and storehouses in strong places, and above all, to distribute your provisions duly and frugally among your men; give them a reasonable proportion every day and attend so strictly to this point that you may not by any means exhaust your stores and run yourself aground.

Although all other calamities in an army may be remedied in time, famine alone grows more and more grievous the longer it continues, and it is sure to destroy you eventually. No enemy will ever engage you when, in such circumstances, he is sure to conquer you without fighting. Although a victory obtained in this manner may not be as honorable as one that is gained by dint of arms, it is certain, however, and not attended with any risk. An army, then, which wantonly and extravagantly wastes its provisions without foresight or regard to rule, measure, or the circumstances of the times, cannot possibly escape famine; want of timely care will prevent its having supplies, and profusion consumes what it already has to no purpose. Consequently, the ancients took care that their soldiers should eat no more than a daily, reasonable allowance, and that only at stated times; they never were permitted to eat breakfast, dinner, or supper unless their general did the same. How well these excellent rules are observed in our armies at present, I need not tell you; everyone knows that our soldiers, instead of imitating the regularity and sobriety of the ancients, are a parcel of intemperate, licentious, and drunken fellows.

Battista. When our conversation first turned to encampments, you said you would not confine yourself to two regiments alone, but take four, the better to show how a complete army should be encamped. But I should like to know, how you would quarter your army if it consisted of a greater or smaller number of men than that, and next, what number you would think sufficient to engage any enemy?

Fabrizio. To your first question, I answer that if your army has more or less than 5,000 or 6,000 in it, you have nothing to do but add or diminish your rows of lodgments accordingly; you may do this in whatever proportion you please. The Romans, however, had two different camps when they joined two consular armies together; the rear quarters, where the impediments and unarmed people were, faced each other.

As for your second question, the ordinary armies the Romans brought into the field usually consisted of about 24,000 men, and upon the most pressing occasions, they never exceeded 50,000. With this number they opposed 200,000 Gauls who invaded them after the end of the first Carthaginian war.305 They opposed Hannibal with the same number. Indeed, both the Romans and the Greeks, depending chiefly upon their discipline and good conduct, always carried on their wars with small armies, whereas both the eastern and western nations had vast and almost innumerable hosts; the latter trusted entirely in their natural ferocity, the former availed themselves of the implicit submission which their subjects show to their princes. But neither the Greeks nor Romans were remarkable for either their natural ferocity or their implicit submission to their princes, and they were obliged to resort to good discipline; the power and efficacy of that discipline were so great that one of their small armies often defeated a prodigious multitude of the fiercest and most obstinate people. 306 In imitation, then, of the Greeks and Romans, I would not have more than 50,000 men in an army, but fewer if I might choose; for more are apt to create discord and confusion, and not only become ungovernable themselves, but corrupt others who have been well disciplined. King Pyrrhus used to say that with an army of 15,000 good soldiers, he would fight the whole world.

But let us now proceed to other matters. You have seen our army win a battle, and the accidents which may occur in time of action. You have also seen it upon a march, and been acquainted with the dangers and embarrassments it is subject to in those circumstances. Lastly, you have seen it regularly quartered in camp where it ought to stay a while not only to enjoy a little rest after its fatigues, but to concert proper measures for bringing the campaign to a happy conclusion. Many things are to be considered and digested in camp, especially if the enemy still keeps the field, or if there are any towns belonging to him not yet reduced, or if there are any towns possessed by people whose fidelity and affection you have reason to suspect; in those cases, you must make yourself master of the one and secure the attachment of the other. It is therefore necessary to show how and by what means these difficulties are to be surmounted with the same glory with which we have hitherto carried on the war.

To get down to particulars, then, I say that if several different men or different states should think of doing anything which may tend to your advantage and their own prejudice (such as dismantling some of their towns or banishing a great number of their inhabitants), you should abet them in it so that none of them may think you have any self-interested view of your own in so doing; thus, you may beguile them so effectively that instead of confederating together for their own safety, they will not think of giving each other the least assistance; then you may suppress them all without any material opposition. But if this method will not work, you must order each one of them to do what you would have done on the same day, so that each state—imagining that no other state has any orders of the same kind—may be obliged to obey because it has no support from its neighbors to depend upon; thus you may succeed in your designs without any resistance or combination formed against you. If you should suspect the fidelity of any people, and would protect yourself against them by taking them unawares in order to disguise your intentions more effectively, it is best to pretend having perfect confidence in them, to consult them in some design which you seem to have upon some other people, and to desire their assistance in it, as if you had not the least doubt of their sincerity or thought of molesting them; this will put them off their guard and give you an opportunity of dealing with them as you please.

If you suspect anybody in your army of giving the enemy intelligence of your designs, you cannot do better than to avail yourself of his treachery by seeming to trust him with some secret resolution which you intend to execute, while you carefully conceal your real design; hence, you may perhaps discover the traitor and lead the enemy into an error that may possibly end in its destruction.

If, in order to relieve some friend, you would lessen your army secretly, so that the enemy may not be aware of it (as Claudius Nero did), you should not lessen the number of your lodgments, but leave the vacant tents standing and the colors flying, make the same fires, and keep the same guards that you did before.307 Similarly, if you receive fresh supplies and would not have the enemy know that you have been reinforced, you must not increase the number of your tents; for nothing is of greater importance than to keep these and other such things as secret as possible. When Metellus commanded the Roman armies in Spain, someone took the liberty of asking him what he intended to do the next day; he told him, that if he thought his tunic could know that, he would immediately burn it.308 Marcus Crassus, asked by one of his officers when he planned to decamp, said: “Do you think you will be the only one not to hear the trumpet?”309

In order to penetrate the enemy’s secret designs and to discover the disposition of his army, some have sent ambassadors with skillful and experienced officers in their train dressed like the rest of their attendants; these officers have taken the opportunity of viewing their army and observing their strength and weakness in so minute a manner that it has been of much service.310 Others have pretended to quarrel with, and banish, a particular confidant who has gone over to the enemy and afterward informed them of his designs. 311 The intentions of an enemy can also be sometimes discovered by the examination of the prisoners you take.312 When Marius commanded in the war against the Cimbri, and wanted to test the fidelity of the Gauls (who then inhabited Lombardy and were allied with the Romans), he wrote them some letters which were left open and others that were sealed; in the former, he asked them not to open those that were sealed until a certain day, but before that time he sent for them again; finding that they had been opened, he perceived there was no confidence to be put in them.313

Some princes have not immediately sent an army to oppose the enemy when their territories have been invaded, but made an incursion into the enemy’s country, thereby obliging him to return and defend himself.314 This method has often succeeded, for in such cases, your soldiers—elated with victory and loaded with plunder—fight with spirit and confidence, while those of the enemy are dejected at the thoughts of being beaten instead of conquering; so, a diversion of this kind has frequently been attended with good consequences. But you must not attempt this unless your country is better fortified than the enemy’s; if you do, you will certainly be ruined. If a general is blocked in his camp by an enemy, he should endeavor to set up a treaty of accommodation with him and to obtain a truce for a few days; during this period, the enemy is apt to be so careless and remiss that the general may possibly find an opportunity of slipping out of his hands. By these means, Sulla twice eluded the enemy; in this manner Hasdrubal got clear of Claudius Nero when he had surrounded him in Spain.315 Besides these expedients, there are other methods of extricating yourself from an enemy: attacking him with only one part of your forces, so that while his attention is wholly turned to that side, the rest of your army may find means to save themselves; using some uncommon stratagem whose novelty may simultaneously fill him with terror and astonishment so that he cannot decide how to act, or whether to act at all. This is what Hannibal did when he was surrounded by Fabius Maximus; since he had a great number of oxen in his camp, he fastened lighted torches to their horns at night and let them run loose about the country; at the strangeness of this spectacle, Fabius was so perplexed that he could not help letting them escape.316

But above all things, a general ought to endeavor to divide the enemy’s strength by making him suspicious of his counselors and confidants, or by obliging him to employ his forces in different places and detachments at once—this must consequently weaken his main army very much. The first may be done by sparing the possessions of some particular men in whom he confides and not letting their houses or estates be damaged in a time of general plunder and devastation, or by returning their children and other relations when they are taken prisoners without any ransom. Thus when Hannibal had ravaged and burned all the towns and country around Rome, he spared the estate of Fabius Maximus alone;317 Coriolanus, too, returning at the head of an army to Rome, carefully preserved the possessions of the nobility and burned those of the plebeians. 318 When Metellus commanded the Roman army against Jugurtha, he urged the ambassadors sent him by that prince to deliver their master prisoner to him; he kept up a correspondence with them for the same purpose after they had left him until Jugurtha, discovering it, grew so jealous of his counselors that he put them all to death—on one pretense or other.319 And after Hannibal had taken refuge with Antiochus, the Roman ambassadors managed so artfully that Antiochus became suspicious of him, and would neither take his advice, nor trust him again in any matter whatever.320

As for dividing the enemy’s strength, there can be no better way of doing it than by making incursions into his country; this will oblige him to abandon all other enterprises and return home to defend his own. This was the method which Fabius used when he had not only the Gauls but the Tuscans, the Umbrians, and the Samnites to deal with at the same time.321 Titus Didius had only a small army as compared with the enemy and expected to be reinforced by another legion from Rome, when he learned that the enemy planned to cut it off during its march; to prevent this, he not only had a report spread through his camp that he would engage the enemy the next day, but allowed some prisoners he had taken to escape; they informed their general of the consul’s intentions; this had such an effect, that the general did not see fit to reduce his own forces by detaching any part to oppose the march of that legion; so, it joined the consul in safety, and although this stratagem did not divide the enemy’s army, it proved the means of reinforcing his own.322

Some, in order to reduce an invader’s strength, have let him enter their country and take several towns, so that when he has weakened his main army by putting garrisons into them, they might fall upon him with a greater probability of success. Others, who have had a design upon one province, have made a feint of invading another; later, turning their forces suddenly to the place where they were not at all expected, they have made themselves masters of it before the enemy could send any relief; for in such cases, the enemy—uncertain whether you might not return to attack the province first threatened—is obliged to maintain his post and not to leave one place to succor another, so that, as often happens, he is not able to secure them both.

It is of great importance to prevent the spread of mutiny or discord in an army; for this purpose, you should punish the ringleaders in an exemplary manner, but with such address that it may be done before they imagine you intend any such thing. If they are at a distance from you, it is best to call both the innocent and guilty together; for if you summon the offenders alone, they might suspect your design and become contumacious, or take some other method to elude the punishment due them; but if they are within your reach, you may avail yourself of those who are innocent, and punish the others with their assistance. As to private discords among your soldiers, the only remedy is to expose them all to some sort of danger; for in such cases, fear generally unites them.323

But what most commonly keeps an army united, is the reputation of the general, that is, of his courage and good conduct; without these, neither high birth nor any sort of authority is sufficient.324 Now the chief thing incumbent upon a general, in order to maintain his reputation, is to pay well and punish soundly; for if he does not pay his men duly, he cannot punish them properly when they deserve it. Suppose, for instance, a soldier should be guilty of a robbery; how can you punish him for that when you give him no pay? And how can he help robbing when he has no other means of subsistence? But if you pay them well and do not punish them severely when they offend, they will soon grow insolent and licentious; then you will become despised and lose your authority; later, tumult and discord will naturally ensue in your army, and will probably end in its ruin.

The commanders of armies in former times had one difficulty to struggle with from which our generals at present are in a great measure exempt; that was interpreting bad omens and auguries so that instead of seeming adverse, they might appear to be favorable and propitious. For if a thunder and lightning storm descended upon the camp, if the sun or moon were eclipsed, if there were an earthquake, or if the general happened to fall while mounting or dismounting his horse, the soldiers looked upon it as an unhappy presage and were so dismayed that they gave only faint resistance to any enemy that attacked them. As soon as such an accident occurred, therefore, they endeavored to account for it by natural causes, or to interpret it for their own purpose and advantage. When Julius Caesar landed in Africa, he happened to fall as soon as he set foot on shore; he immediately cried out, “Africa, I take possession of thee.”325 Others have explained the reasons for earthquakes and eclipses to their soldiers. But such events have little or no effect in our times because men are not as much given to superstition since the Christian religion has enlightened their minds and dispelled these vain fears. But should such fears ever happen to occur, we must imitate the example of the ancients upon such occasions.326

If famine or any other kind of distress has reduced an enemy to despair, and he advances furiously to engage, you should keep close in your entrenchments and avoid a battle if possible; this the Lacedaemonians did when they were provoked to fight by the Messenians, and Julius Caesar by Afranius and Petreius.327 When the consul Fulvius commanded the Roman army against the Cimbri, he had his cavalry attack the enemy on several successive days, and observing that they always left their camp to pursue his troops when they retreated, he at last placed a body of men in ambush behind the enemy’s camp; they rushed into it and made themselves masters of it the next time they sallied out to pursue his cavalry.328

Some princes, when their dominions have been invaded and their army has lain near that of the enemy, have sent out parties under the enemy’s colors to plunder and lay waste their own territories; the enemy, imagining them to be friends who were coming to its assistance, has gone out to join them; but upon discovering his mistake, the enemy has fallen into confusion and given his adversary an opportunity of winning. This stratagem was practiced by Alexander of Epirus against the Illyrians, and by Leptines the Syracusan against the Carthaginians—they both easily succeeded in their purpose.329

Many have gained an advantage by pretending to run away in great fear and by leaving their camp full of wine and provisions; the enemy has gorged himself on these and the others have returned and fallen upon the enemy while he was drunk or asleep. In this manner Cyrus was served by Tomyris, and the Spaniards by Tiberius Gracchus.330 Others have mixed poison with the meat and drink they left behind them.

I told you a little while ago that I did not remember having read that the ancients placed any sentinels outside of the ditch surrounding their camp at night, and that I supposed it was to prevent the mischief they might occasion; it has often happened that sentinels stationed at outposts during the daytime to observe the enemy’s movements have been the ruin of an army since they have sometimes been surprised and forced to make the signals for their friends to advance; these have thereby been drawn into a snare, and either killed or taken prisoner.

In order to deceive an enemy, it may not be amiss to vary or to omit some particular custom or signal that you have constantly used before, as a certain great general did of old; he, having had some of his advance parties always give him notice of the enemy’s approach by fires at night and smoke during the day, thought proper to vary that custom at last; he ordered those parties to keep constant fires all night long and to make smoke throughout the day, but to extinguish them when they perceived the enemy in motion; thus the enemy, advancing again and not seeing the usual signals made to give notice of his approach, imagined he was not discovered and pushed on with such precipitation to the attack, that he fell into disorder and was routed by his adversary who was prepared to receive him.331

Memnon the Rhodian, in order to draw the enemy out of a strong and advantageous location, got one of his own men to go over to the enemy as a deserter with the report that his army was in a mutiny and that the greater part of it was going to leave him; to confirm this, he caused a great uproar and commotion to be counterfeited every now and then in his camp; hence the enemy thought he would easily win, left his entrenchments to attack Memnon, and was completely defeated.332

Great care is also to be taken not to reduce an enemy to utter despair. Julius Caesar was always very attentive to this point in his wars with the Germans, and used to open a way for them to escape after he began to perceive that, when they were hard pressed and could not run away, they would fight most desperately; he thought it better to pursue them when they fled, than to run the risk of not beating them while they defended themselves with such obstinacy.333

Lucullus, observing that a body of Macedonian cavalry which he had in his army were going over to the enemy, had a charge sounded immediately, and ordered all the rest of his army to advance; the enemy, supposing he designed to attack them, presently fell upon the Macedonians with such fury that they were obliged to defend themselves and fight bravely, instead of deserting him as they intended.334

It is also of great importance to secure a town, when you suspect its loyalty, either before or after a victory. Pompey, doubting the loyalty of the Chauci, was anxious for them to let him send the sick men whom he had in his army into their town to be taken care of until they were well again; but instead of sick men, he sent a parcel of the stoutest and most resolute men he had in his army in disguise; they made themselves masters of the town and kept it for him.335 Publius Valerius, offended by the Epidaurians and mistrusting their sincerity, had a pardon proclaimed for all those who would come to a certain temple outside the gates of their town to accept it; when all the inhabitants went there for that purpose, he shut the doors of the temple and let no one return to the town except those whom he trusted.336 Alexander the Great, anxious to depart for Asia and to make sure of Thrace, took all the nobility and leading men of that province along with him and, allowing them pensions, left the common people to be governed by men of their own condition; thus, the nobility were content with their appointments and the common people had no leaders to oppress or incite them to rebellion —the whole province remained quiet.337

But of all the methods that can be taken to gain the hearts of a people, none contribute so much as remarkable examples of continence and justice; such was the example of Scipio in Spain when he returned a most beautiful young lady, safe and untouched, to her father and husband; this was a circumstance which was more conducive to the reduction of Spain than any force of arms could have ever been.338 Caesar acquired such reputation for his justice in paying for the wood which he cut down to make palisades for his camps in Gaul, that it greatly facilitated the conquest of that province.339 But I think I now have nothing more to add to these particular documents, or to the subject in general, unless it is to say something concerning the nature of attacking and defending towns; this I shall do as briefly and clearly as I can, if I have not already trespassed too much upon your patience.

Battista. You are so very kind and obliging, sir, that we shall desire you to indulge our curiosity in these points, without any fear of being thought troublesome to you, since you are so good to make a free offer of what we should otherwise have been ashamed to ask. We shall esteem it a very great favor, therefore, as well as a pleasure, if you will be so kind as to go on with the subject. But before you proceed to what you were speaking about, let us entreat you to tell us whether it is better to continue a war throughout the winter (according to the custom of our times), or to fight only in the summer, quartering your troops before the winter comes on, as the ancients used to do.

Fabrizio. Indeed, sir, if you had not asked this timely and pertinent question, I believe I should have forgotten to say anything about a matter which still deserves much consideration and attention. Therefore, I must beg leave to tell you again that the ancients were wiser and conducted their affairs with more prudence than we do at present, but this is especially true of their wars; for although we are indeed guilty of great errors in many respects, we certainly are guilty of more and greater in war. Nothing can be more dangerous or indiscreet than for a general to carry on a war in wintertime; for in that case, the aggressor is sure to run a greater risk of being ruined than those on the defensive. For since the main end and design of all the care and pains expended in maintaining good order and discipline is to fit and prepare an army to engage an enemy properly, a general ought always to have that point in view—a total victory usually ends a war. Therefore, he who has an orderly and well-disciplined army under his command will certainly have an advantage over another general who has not, and he will be more likely to come away with a victory. Now, it must be considered that nothing is a greater impediment to good order and discipline than rough locations and wet or cold weather, for in a bad site you cannot arrange your forces according to your usual order and bad weather will oblige you to divide them. In such a case, you cannot act with your whole force against an enemy, since they are quartered in villages, towns, and fortresses, at a distance from each other without any order or regularity, and in such a manner as necessity prescribes. So, all the pains you have taken to discipline your men and make them observe good order will signify nothing in such a season. But it is no great cause for wonder that the generals of our times carry on their wars in the winter; since they are strangers to all sorts of discipline and military knowledge, they are neither sensible to the losses and inconveniences which must necessarily result from dividing their forces, nor do they trouble their heads in endeavoring to establish that discipline and good order among their men—which they themselves never learned. They ought to reflect, however, upon the numberless hardships and losses occasioned by a winter campaign; they ought to remember that the defeat of the French near the Garigliano in 1503 resulted not so much from the bravery of the Spaniards, as from the rigor of the season.340 For, as I told you before, those resolving to carry on a war in an enemy’s country during the winter must of necessity have the worst of it, because if they keep all their men together in a camp, they must suffer much from rain and cold, and if they divide them into different quarters, they must greatly weaken their army. Whereas, those waiting for them at home may immediately unite their forces; not only may they choose their time and place of attack, but they may keep their men safe and fresh under cover until they have an opportunity of falling upon some of the enemy’s quarters; divided and dispersed, as it were, he cannot be supposed to make any great resistance. In this manner we may account for the defeat of the French which I just now mentioned. In this manner, too, those having any knowledge of the conduct of military affairs will always be served if they are invaded in winter. Therefore, if any general would plunge himself into such circumstances that neither the number, discipline, good order, nor bravery of his troops can be of any service to him, let him carry on a field war in the winter. The Romans, however, in order to make the most of those qualifications which they took so much pains to acquire, always avoided winter campaigns with as much care as they did rough, confined, and inconvenient sites, or any other impediment that might prevent them from availing themselves of their valor and good discipline. This is all that I have to say at present in answer to your last question. Let us now proceed, if you please, to the method of attacking and defending towns, and to the manner of building and fortifying them.

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