SINCE IT is legitimate, I think, to speak well of any man after he is dead, because then there can no longer be any imputation or suspicion of flattery in it, I willingly take this opportunity of doing justice to the memory of my dear, deceased friend Cosimo Rucellai, whose name I never remember without tears in my eyes, as I knew him to possess every quality that his friends and country could wish for in a worthy man and a good citizen. I am very certain that he would cheerfully have sacrificed all he had in the world, and even life itself, for his friends, and that there was no enterprise, however difficult and dangerous, which he would not have undertaken for the good of his country. And I must readily acknowledge that, among all the men I ever knew or with whom I associated, I never met anyone whose heart was more disposed to great and generous actions. As he died, he told his friends the only thing he regretted was that it should be his fate to die so young, and at home, too, without having achieved glory or the satisfaction of having served any man as effectively as he had passionately desired to have done, and to know that nothing more could be said of him after he was dead than that they had lost a good friend. Many others, however, besides myself, can give sufficient testimony not only of his virtues but of the many amiable and gentlemanly accomplishments he possessed, although there are now only a few traces of them left. Fortuna132 has indeed spared some small specimens of the sprightliness of his genius, consisting chiefly of short essays and love sonnets, which (although he was not of an amorous turn) he composed at free moments during his youth, to avoid being altogether idle until he should find it necessary to employ his thoughts upon subjects of a higher and more serious nature. But even these little samples indicate how happy he was in expressing his ideas, and what honor he might have won in poetry had he thought it worth his while to give himself over to it entirely.
However, since fortuna has deprived us of so valuable a friend, the only remedy we have left is to console ourselves as well as we can with the memory of his company and the recollection of such things, whether of a pleasant or serious cast, as we have often admired in him while he lived. And because the conversation that occurred not long ago in his gardens between him and Fabrizio Colonna concerning the art of war (at which I and some other friends were present) is the freshest in my memory, I shall endeavor to recollect what I can of it and commit it to writing. Since on the one hand Fabrizio laid open the mysteries of that art with great perspicuity, and since on the other hand several pertinent questions were proposed, many objections stated, and various arguments supported with no less strength of reason chiefly by Cosimo—a summary account of that conference may serve to revive the memory of his abilities in the minds of such friends as were then gathered together, to make some of those absent regret they had not been there too, and to recapitulate to others the substance of various topics (useful both in civilian and in military life) that were masterfully discussed by another great and experienced man. But to our purpose.
Returning from the wars in Lombardy, where he had commanded his Catholic Majesty’s133 forces for a considerable time and with great reknown, Fabrizio Colonna passed by way of Florence to rest himself a few days in that city and to visit the duke134 and some other gentlemen there, with whom he was acquainted. Cosimo Rucellai, therefore, invited him to spend a day in his gardens, not merely to gratify his natural turn to hospitality and politeness, but also in hopes of being able to indulge in a long conversation with him concerning several things he wanted to know and about which he thought he could not have a better opportunity of being informed than from so great a man. Fabrizio freely accepted the invitation and came to the gardens, at the appointed time, where he was received by Cosimo, and some of his most intimate friends—among whom were Zanobi Buondelmonti, Battista della Palla and Luigi Alamanni.135 These young men—whose virtues and good qualities are so well known to everybody that it would be altogether unnecessary to say anything here in praise of them—were very dear to Cosimo, were of the same disposition, and were engaged in the same studies.
To be as brief as I can, then, Fabrizio was regaled there with every possible demonstration of honor and respect. But after the end of the entertainment and usual formalities, which generally are few and short among men of sense who are more desirous of gratifying the rational appetite, and since the days were long and the weather intensely hot, Cosimo, under a pretext of avoiding the heat, took his guests into the most retired and shady part of the gardens. Then, when they had all sat down—some upon the grass, which is very green and pleasant there, and some upon seats placed under the loftiest trees—Fabrizio said it was a most delightful garden and, looking earnestly at some of the trees, seemed not to know their names. Cosimo, being aware of it, immediately said, “Perhaps you do not know some of these trees, but you should not be at all surprised at it, for they are very old ones and were much more in vogue among our ancestors than they are at present.” He then told him their names and said that they were planted by his grandfather Bernardo, who was fond of growing such trees. “I thought so,” replied Fabrizio, ”and both the place and the trees put me in mind of some princes in the kingdom of Naples, who take much delight in planting groves and shady arbors, in the ancient manner.” Here he stopped short, and after he had paused a little while, proceeded in this manner: “If I were not afraid of giving offense,” he said, ”I would give you my opinion of these things. And yet I think none of you will be affronted at what is said among friends in free conversation, and said not with any design to vilify or deprecate such a taste, but for the sake of a little innocent argumentation. How much better, then, would those princes have done (I mention it without intending to reflect upon their memories) if they had endeavored to imitate the ancients in bearing hardships and inconveniences, instead of giving themselves up to ease and indolence, in performing such exploits as were done in the sunshine and not in the shade, in following their example while they continued honest and wholesome, and not when they became dishonest and corrupt. For once these pleasures had distracted my fellow Romans, our country soon fell into ruin.” Cosimo then replied (but to avoid the frequent and tiresome repetition of this one said, and that one replied, I shall hereafter prefix only the names of the speakers to what they said in the course of this conversation):
Cosimo. You have now introduced a subject which I have long wished to hear thoroughly discussed and I should therefore take it as a particular favor if you would speak your sentiments about it freely and without reserve or fear of offending anyone here. For my own part, I shall take the liberty of proposing some questions and doubts to you in which I should be glad to be satisfied; if I shall seem to impeach or excuse anyone’s conduct in my questions or replies, it will not be merely for the sake of blaming or defending them, but for better information.
Fabrizio. It will be a great pleasure to give you all the satisfaction I can in such questions as you shall think fit to propose to me, but I shall not pretend to obtrude my opinions upon you as decisive and infallible. When you have heard them, you may judge for yourself. Perhaps I, in turn, may now and then ask you a question, and have no doubts but that I shall receive at least as much satisfaction in your answers as you will in mine; it often happens that a pertinent question sets a man to considering many things, and gives him light into many others which he would otherwise never have thought of or known.
Cosimo. Let us return, then, if you please, to what you said of my grandfather and the others, who you think would have done better to have imitated the ancients in their hardy and active way of life, than in their ease and luxury. As for my grandfather, I shall make some sort of apology for him, and leave the others to be dealt with as you please, for I do not believe there was any man of his time who detested a soft and delicate way of life more than he did, or who loved more the austere life you have praised. Nevertheless, he found it impossible either for himself or for his sons to practice what he most approved. For such was the corruption of the age in which he lived that if anyone had spirit enough to deviate in the slightest from the common customs and manners of living in those times, he would have been laughed at and ridiculed by everybody—so that if a man should have exposed himself naked upon a sandy beach to the heat of a noonday sun in the middle of summer, or rolled himself in snow in the depth of winter, as Diogenes did,136 he would have been thought a madman. If anyone had brought up his children, as the Spartans did, in cottages or farmhouses and had accustomed them to sleep in the open air, to go bareheaded and barefoot, to bathe in the coldest streams, in order to teach them not only to bear hardships better, but even to despise both life and death, he would have been accounted a beast rather than a man. If, moreover, he had lived on pulse and roots and had scorned money—like Fabricius of old137—he might perhaps have been admired by some few, but he would have been followed by no one at all. My grandfather, therefore, was discouraged by the general practice of the times from imitating the example of the ancients in those things, and he was forced to content himself with doing it in others, which did not lay him open to the charge of attracting attention.
Fabrizio. You have made a very handsome apology for your grandfather in that particular, sir, and there is indeed much truth and reason in it. But when I was talking about imitating the ancients in their austere manner of living, I did not mean to carry matters to such extremities as you seem to think, but to propose some other things of a gentler and more practicable nature, such as would be more suitable to the present times, and which I think might very well be established if they were introduced and countenanced by some men of authority in a government. And if we consider the practice and institutions observed by the old Romans (whose example I am always fond of recommending), we shall find many things worthy of imitation; these may easily be introduced into any other state, if it has not become totally corrupt.
Cosimo. What are these things you would introduce in imitation of the ancients?
Fabrizio. To honor and reward virtù; not to scorn poverty; to value good order and discipline in their armies; to oblige citizens to love one another, to decline faction, and to prefer the good of the public to any private interest; and other such principles which would be compatible enough with these times. These principles might easily be introduced if due means were taken for that purpose because they appear so reasonable in themselves, and because their expediency is so obvious to common sense that nobody could gainsay or oppose them. He that takes this course plants trees under the shade of which he may enjoy himself with greater pleasure, and more security, than we do here.
Cosimo. What you have said of this matter admits of no contradiction, and I shall therefore leave it to the consideration and best judgment of our present company. But I should like to know why you, who blame others for not imitating the ancients in other weighty and important concerns, have yourself in no way seen fit to copy them in their military discipline and the art of war, which is your profession, and in which you have gained so much reputation.
Fabrizio. You have now come to the point I expected; what I said must naturally lead you to ask such a question, and I shall most willingly give you what satisfaction I can. Although I could make a short and ready excuse for my conduct in this respect, since we have so much leisure and so convenient a place for it, I shall discuss the matter at length—especially since it will give me great pleasure to delve more deeply into what you seem so anxious to know.
Men who have any great undertaking in mind must first make all necessary preparations for it, so that, when an opportunity arises, they may be ready to put it in execution according to their design. Now when these preparations are made cautiously and privately, they are not known or discussed by others; a man cannot be blamed for negligence or omission in that respect, unless something happens which shows either that he has not made due preparations for the execution of his design, or that he never thought of it at all. And therefore, since I have never had any such opportunity of showing what preparations I have made to revive among us the military discipline of the ancients, nobody can reasonably blame me for not doing so. This might serve as a sufficient answer to your charge.
Cosimo. So indeed it might, if I were sure you never had such an opportunity.
Fabrizio. Since you seem to doubt that, I shall show you at length—if you will have the patience to hear me—what preparations are necessary for that purpose; what sort of an opportunity is requisite; what impediments may obstruct the preparations and prevent those opportunities from happening; and lastly (which seems a contradiction in terms), that it is at the same time the easiest and most difficult thing in the world to accomplish such a purpose.
Cosimo. You could not give us more pleasure, and if you are not tired of talking, you may rest assured that we shall never be tired of listening to you. But since the subject is copious and there is much to be said about it, I must beg leave to call in the assistance of these friends now and then. All of us hope you will not be offended if we should happen to interrupt you from time to time with any question that may seem unnecessary or unreasonable.
Fabrizio. You are all heartily welcome to ask whatever questions you think fit; for I see that the ardor and ingenuity of youth incline you to have a favorable opinion of my profession and to listen to what I have to say concerning its duties. But when men are grown gray-headed and their blood is frozen in their veins, they generally either hate the very name of a soldier or become so positive that they can never be argued out of their opinions. Ask freely, then, and without reserve; for that will give me an opportunity of breathing a little sometimes, as well as the satisfaction of answering your questions in such a way that no doubt will remain in your minds.
To begin, then, with what you yourself said, that in the art of war, which is my profession, I have not imitated the ancients in any respect whatsoever, I reply that since war is not an occupation by which a man can at all times make an honorable living, it ought not to be followed as a business by anyone but a prince or a governor of a commonwealth; and if he is a wise man, he will not allow any of his subjects or citizens to make that his only profession—indeed, no good man ever did, for surely no one can be called a good man who, in order to support himself, takes up a profession that obliges him at all times to be rapacious, fraudulent, and cruel, as of course must be all of those—no matter what their rank—who make a trade of war. War will not maintain them in time of peace, and thus they are under a necessity either of endeavoring to prevent a peace or of taking all means to make such provisions for themselves in time of war so that they may not lack sustenance when it is over. But neither of these courses is consistent with the common good; whoever resolves to amass enough in time of war to support him forever must be guilty of robbery, murder, and many other acts of violence toward his friends as well as his enemies; and in endeavoring to prevent a peace, commanders must have recourse to many mean tricks and artifices to deceive those who employ them. But if these commanders fail in their designs, and find they cannot prevent a peace, it often happens that, once their pay is stopped and they can no longer make a living, they illegally set themselves up as soldiers of fortune and have no scruples about plundering a whole province unmercifully.
You must recall that when the late wars were over in Italy, the country was full of disbanded soldiers who formed themselves into a number of bands—calling themselves “companies” 138—that went about plundering some towns and laying others under contribution. You also must have read how the Carthaginian soldiers (after the end of the first war they had been fighting with the Romans) assembled under the banners of Matho and Spendius (two officers whom they had chosen in a tumultuous manner to command them) and fought a more dangerous war with their own country than that which had just been concluded.139 In the days of our ancestors. Francesco Sforza,140 in order to support himself in splendor and magnificence in peacetime, not only betrayed the Milanese who had employed him in their service, but also deprived them of their liberties and made himself their sovereign.
All the rest of our Italian soldiers who made war their only occupation played a similar part in those times; and even if they did not manage to become dukes of Milan by their villainies, they were no less reprehensible than Sforza; for if we consider their actions and conduct, we shall find their designs were altogether as iniquitous as his. Sforza,141 the father of Francesco, obliged Giovanna, queen of Naples,142 to throw herself into the arms of the King of Aragon by suddenly quitting her service and leaving her disarmed, as it were, in the midst of her enemies, simply because he wanted to deprive her of her kingdom, or at least to extort a great sum of money from her. Braccio da Montone 143 endeavored to have himself made king of Naples by using the same means; if he had not been routed and killed at Aquila,144 he would certainly have accomplished his design.
Such evils are caused by men who make mercenary warfare their sole occupation. You must know the proverb, “War makes thieves, and peace hangs them.” When those who do not know how to get their bread any other way find no one who has occasion for their service, and do not themselves have sufficient virtù to suffer honorably in poverty and obscurity, they are forced to resort to ways of supporting themselves that generally bring them to the gallows.
Cosimo. I had thought the profession of a soldier the most excellent and the most honorable in all the world; but you have set it in such a light, and I now have so poor an opinion of it, that if you have not a great deal more to say in favor of it, you will leave a doubt upon my mind. For if what you have said be true, how does it come about that the memories of Caesar, Pompey, Scipio, Marcellus,145 and many other Roman generals are immortalized?
Fabrizio. I have not yet finished what I proposed to say concerning the two points I mentioned a little while ago, namely, that a good man could not make war his only profession, and that no wise prince or governor of a commonwealth would allow any of his subjects or citizens to do it. As to the first point, I have said all that has occurred to me; I shall now proceed to the discussion of the second, in which I shall take the opportunity of answering your last question.
I say, then, that Caesar and Pompey, and almost all the Roman generals who lived after the Second Punic War,146 acquired their reputation as skillful men, not as good citizens; but those who lived before that time won glory by being both civic-minded and skillful. Now the reason for this was that the former made war their sole occupation and the latter did not. And as long as the Roman republic continued incorrupt, no citizen, however powerful, ever presumed to avail himself of that profession in peacetime so as to trample upon the laws, to plunder provinces, or to turn tyrant and enslave his country; nor did any private soldier dare to violate his oath, to enter into faction and cabals, to throw off his allegiance to the senate, or to support any tyrannical attempt upon the liberties of the commonwealth in order to enable himself to live by the profession of arms at all times. The commanders, on the contrary, contenting themselves with the honor of a triumph, returned with eagerness to their former manner of living; and the common soldiers laid down their arms with much more pleasure than they had taken them up. Each resumed the calling by which he had gotten his bread before, and none had any hopes of advancing himself by plunder and rapine.
Of this we have a remarkable and evident proof in the example of Atilius Regulus,147 who, being commander in chief of the Roman armies in Africa and having in a manner subdued the Carthaginians, requested the senate’s permission to return home and put his little farm in order again, since it had been neglected by his servants. It plainly appears from this that if war had been his only occupation, and he had designed to make his fortune by it, he would not have requested permission to return to the care of his little estate, when he had so many provinces at his mercy and might daily have gained more by plundering them than his whole patrimony was worth. But just as good men who do not make war their sole occupation expect no other reward but toil, danger, and glory for their services, so, when they have obtained that, they cheerfully return to their former way of life.
As for the common soldiers, we see that they also were of the same disposition; although they entered voluntarily into the service, they were no less glad to return to their families when they were no longer wanted. The truth of this is manifest from many circumstances, particularly from the important privilege accorded Roman citizens of not being forced into the army against their will. At any rate, as long as Rome continued to be well governed (which was until the time of the Gracchi) 148 there was never any soldier who made war his only occupation; and so it happened that few of them were dissolute or licentious—and those few were severely punished.
Every well-governed commonwealth, therefore, should take care that this art of war should be practiced in time of peace only as an exercise, and in time of war, only out of necessity and for the acquisition of glory, and that it should be practiced, as in Rome, by the state alone. For if any citizen has another end or design in following this profession, he is not a good man; if any commonwealth acts otherwise, it is not well governed.
Cosimo. I am thoroughly satisfied with the reasonableness of what you have hitherto said concerning this matter. I admit that the conclusion you have drawn is very just, insofar as it relates to a commonwealth, but I cannot tell whether it will hold good with regard to princes—for I should think a prince would want to have some persons around him who make arms their only profession.
Fabrizio. A kingdom that is well governed and constituted ought to be all the more afraid of such persons, because only they corrupt its princes and become the ministers of tyranny. It is useless to urge any current monarchy as an instance to the contrary, for not one is well governed and constituted. A well-governed kingdom never gives absolute power to its prince in anything but the command of its armies, because sudden resolutions are often necessary in this one sphere, so that there must be a supreme command. In other matters, the prince should do nothing without his council. Therefore, his councilors should take particular care not to let men be too near his person who would be continually advising him to make war because they cannot support themselves without war.
But I shall enlarge a little further upon this subject and not insist merely upon a kingdom that is perfectly well governed and constituted, but content myself (for argument’s sake) with such kingdoms as we see today. I say, then, that even such governments should fear those persons who make war their only business; and this is because the strength of all armies, without a doubt, consists in their infantry.149 And if a prince has not enough power over his infantry to make them disband and return cheerfully to their former occupations when a war is over, he is on the road to being ruined. For no infantry can be so dangerous as that which is composed of men who make war their only calling, because a prince either must keep them continually engaged in war, or must constantly keep them paid in peacetime, or must run the risk of their stripping him of his kingdom. But it is impossible to keep them forever engaged in war, or forever paid when war is over; therefore, a prince must run no small risk of losing his kingdom. While the Romans were still wise and good, they never permitted any of their citizens to make war their only employment—as I said before—although they would have been able to keep them in constant pay, because they were continually at war. But, in order to avoid the inconveniences which might have ensued from the toleration of such a custom, they changed their forces (since the times did not change) so that at the end of every fifteen years their legions were filled with new men who were in the flower of their youth—between eighteen and thirty-five years of age, in full health and vigor—and who were never retained after they had grown old and infirm, as the same people did later, in more corrupt times.
For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman people (in order to make them more passive under their tyranny) and to keep the same armies continually on foot within the confines of the Empire. But thinking those armies insufficient to keep the senate and people in due awe, they raised another force, called the Praetorian Guard, which was always quartered in or near the city, and served not only to guard the emperor’s person but to bridle the people. Afterward, however, when the emperors permitted the men who composed this guard to lay aside all other occupations and to make war their sole profession, they soon became insolent and formidable, not only to the senate but to the emperors themselves. The Praetorian Guard put many emperors to death and then disposed of the Empire as it pleased, taking the Empire from some, and giving it to others. It frequently happened that different emperors were elected by different armies at the same time, which soon occasioned the division of the Empire, and at last its utter ruin.
A prince, therefore, who would reign in security, ought to select only such men for his infantry as will cheerfully serve him in war when it is necessary, and be as glad to return home after it is over. This will always be the case with those who have other occupations and employments by which to live. To this end, when a peace is concluded, he should order his generals and great officers to return to the government of their provinces, the gentlemen to return to the care of their estates, and the common soldiers to return to their particular callings, so that everyone may be ready to enter into a war to procure a good peace, but no man might presume to disturb the peace in order to stir up a war.
Cosimo. Indeed, sir, I think there is much truth and reason in what you have said. However, since the substance of it is so very different from the judgment I myself had previously formed about these matters, I cannot say that I am altogether satisfied in some respects; for I know several lords and gentlemen who are supported in peacetime by the profession of arms alone—such as yourself, for instance, and others of your rank and quality who receive pensions from princes and other states. I also see many soldiers, especially cavalry and men-at-arms, still kept in pay for the security of fortresses and other cities, so that it appears to me that there is sufficient employment and occasion for all of them in time of peace.
Fabrizio. Surely you cannot be of that opinion, for were there no other reason to convince you of the contrary, the small number of men held in reserve to garrison those places ought to be a sufficient answer to your objection. What proportion is there between a few infantry regiments necessary to defend some strongholds in time of peace and those that are to be kept in pay for the prosecution of war? In time of war are not many more needed to reinforce those garrisons, besides the numbers that are to be employed in the field, and who are always disbanded as soon as peace is concluded? As to the common standing guards that are requisite to any state (but which need not be many), Pope Julius II and your own republic have sufficiently shown the world how dangerous they thought those people who made war their only occupation by dismissing them for their insolence and hiring, in their place, Swiss guards who were not only born and brought up in strict obedience to laws, but picked and chosen from their various vocations in a prudent and regular manner. Your objection, therefore, that soldiers of every kind are necessary and may find adequate employment in peacetime as well as war must naturally fall to the ground.
But the reason why men-at-arms should be kept in pay during peacetime may perhaps not be so obvious. Nevertheless, if we consider the matter thoroughly, it may easily be accounted for; it is a bad custom introduced by men who make a trade of war, and it would be attended with many dangerous consequences to a state in which any considerable number of them was kept in pay. However, since there are seldom enough to make up an army by themselves, they can do no great mischief at present, although they have done so in the past, as I have already shown in the cases of Francesco Sforza, his father, and Braccio da Montone. It is a bad custom, however, and one that can lead to much trouble.
Cosimo. Would you have none at all, then? Or, if you would have any, how would you raise and employ them?
Fabrizio. As a militia; not like the men-at-arms of France, who are as insolent and dangerous as our own, but after the manner of the ancients, who always raised their cavalry from their own subjects and, after a war ended, sent them home again to support themselves by their respective occupations— as I shall show at greater length before I have finished with this subject.
So that if the cavalry is kept together, receives pay, and lives entirely on it even in times of peace, it is a result of corruption and bad government. And although I myself and some other commanders receive pensions and stipends in peacetime, I must confess I think it a very corrupt custom. A wise and well-governed republic ought never to keep such commanders in constant pay; rather, it should employ its own citizens in time of war and subsequently dismiss them to pursue their former occupations.
So also should an intelligent prince not allow anyone a pension or stipend in peacetime except as a reward for outstanding service, or in order to avail himself of some able man in peacetime as well as in war. And since you have selected me as an example of this kind, I shall take up the charge and make the best apology I can for it. I say, then, that I never made war my sole business and occupation. My profession is to govern my subjects well and to defend and protect them; to this purpose, I study the arts both of peace and of war. And if I am rewarded and esteemed by the prince whom I have the honor to serve, it is not so much because I am experienced in military affairs as because he is pleased to retain me as one of his counselors in time of peace. A prince, therefore, should admit no other sort of persons into his confidence, if he would govern wisely; for if his counselors are too fond of either peace or war, they will lead him into errors and inconveniences.
This much I felt myself obliged to say as a consequence of what I first proposed; and if it is not satisfactory, there is no doubt that you will be able to find others who can give you better information concerning the things you seemed so anxious to know. I dare say, however, that you are beginning to be aware of how difficult it must be to revive the military discipline of the ancients at present, of what preparations are necessary for that purpose, and of what occasions and opportunities are lacking to accomplish it. But if what I have said has not already tired you, I could throw a little more light upon this subject by comparing the particulars of our modern practice and institutions with the discipline of the ancients.
Cosimo. If at first we were anxious to hear you enter into a discussion of these things, we can assure you that what you have just said has now redoubled our desire. We therefore thank you most heartily for the satisfaction you have given us, and we earnestly beg you not to deprive us of the rest.
Fabrizio. Since it is your pleasure, then, I shall deduce this matter from the fountainhead, so that I can explain myself with more perspicuity, and so that you can understand me better.
Whoever engages in a war must use every means to put himself in a position of facing his enemy in the field, and beating him there if possible. For this purpose, it is necessary to form an army. To form an army, he must not only raise men, but arm, discipline, and exercise them frequently—both in large and small battle formations; he must teach them to encamp and decamp; and he must make the enemy familiar to them gradually, sometimes by marching near them, and sometimes by taking a post in a location where they may have a full view of them. These preparations are absolutely necessary in a field war, which is the most necessary and honorable of all wars; a general who knows how to conduct such a war, in order to form and draw up an army, and to give battle to an enemy in a proper and soldier-like manner, cannot err much in other respects; but if he is deficient in this aspect of his profession-though he be ever so able a man in other respects—he will never bring a war to a happy conclusion; besides, if he wins a battle, it cancels all other errors and miscarriages, but if he loses one, it effaces the memory of all his former merits and services.
To form an army, therefore, it is first necessary to choose the proper men for that purpose. The ancients termed this choice a delectus,150 but we call it a military conscription. Those, then, who have prescribed the rules for the art of war151 unanimously agree that such men should be selected from temperate climates, so that they may be both brave and cautious. It has been generally observed that hot countries produce men who are quick and sharp-witted, but not courageous; on the other hand, that the inhabitants of cold countries are for the most part hardy and brave, but dull and slow to understand. Indeed, this rule might be followed by a prince who had the whole world at his command and could select his men from wherever he pleased. But, to give a rule which may be observed by any state, I say that every prince or republic should select his men from his own dominions, whether hot, cold, or temperate; for we see by ancient examples that good discipline and exercise will make good soldiers in any country, and that the defects of nature may be supplied by art and industry—which in this case is more effective than nature itself.152 Besides, selecting men from another country cannot properly be called a delectus, or a military conscription, because that term signifies picking and culling the best men in a province and implies a power to choose those who are unwilling, as well as those who are willing, to serve in the wars. And this cannot be done in any country but your own, for in territories that are subject to another state, you must be content with those men who are willing to serve you, and not expect to pick and choose whom you please.
Cosimo. But you may either take or refuse whom you think fit from those willing to serve you; therefore, that may be called delectus.
Fabrizio. In one respect you are right, but consider the defects to which such a choice is subject, and you will find that in effect it is no choice at all. In the first place, those who are not your own subjects, but yet are willing to enter into your pay, are so far from being the best men that they are generally the worst in any state. For if there be any scandalous, idle, incorrigible, irreligious wretches; any who are runaways from their parents, blasphemers, common cheats, or fellows who have been initiated into every kind of villainy—those are the people who commonly enlist under your banners. What sort of soldiers they are likely to make, I leave everyone to judge for himself. Now when there are more of these honest gentry offering their service than you want, you may indeed pick and choose among them, but you can never make a good choice because they are all so bad. It often happens, however, that there are not so many, even of these, as you need in order to fill up your regiments, so that you are obliged to take them all—then surely you cannot quite so properly be said to be making a delectus, a choice, but recruiting foot soldiers. Our Italian armies and those of most other nations, except Germany, are today composed of such disorderly people because our princes do not have it in their power to make a man serve in their wars unless he is willing. Consider among yourselves, therefore, whether it is possible to revive the discipline of the ancients in armies which are selected in such a manner.
Cosimo. What other method would you use, then, to raise them?
Fabrizio. The one I recommended before. A prince should choose his army from his own subjects, and exert his authority in such a choice.
Cosimo. Do you think any form of the ancient discipline might be revived in an army thus chosen?
Fabrizio. Without a doubt it might, if such an army were commanded by its natural sovereign in a principality, or, in a commonwealth, by one of the governing citizens, who should be appointed commander in chief during the time of his authority-otherwise it would be a very difficult matter.
Fabrizzio. I will explain that to you at greater length when it is the proper time. Let it suffice at present to say that no good can be done in any other way.
Cosimo. Well, then, since these conscriptions are to be made in your own dominions, is it better to draw the men from rural areas or from towns?
Fabrizio. All authors who have written upon this subject agree 153 that it is better to take them from rural areas, because such men are accustomed to bearing up under hardships and fatigues, enduring all sorts of weather, handling a spade, digging ditches, carrying heavy burdens—these men are, generally speaking, more temperate and incorrupt than others. But since both a cavalry arid an infantry are necessary to an army, I would advise that the cavalry be chosen from towns, and the infantry from rural areas.
Cosimo. At what age would you take them?
Fabrizio. If I were to conscript a new army, I would choose men from seventeen to forty years old; but, if I were to recruit only an old one, I would have no one more than seventeen.
Cosimo. I do not understand this distinction clearly.
Fabrizio. Then I shall tell you its meaning. If I were to conscript an army or establish a militia in a state where none had previously existed, it would be necessary to take the best and most qualified men I could find of all ages—provided they were neither too young nor too old to carry arms—in order to discipline them in a manner about which I shall inform you in its proper place. But if I were to choose men to recruit only for an army that had long been on foot, I would take none more than seventeen, because there would already be men enough of riper age for my purpose in such an army.
Cosimo. Then you would have a militia ordinance similar to our city’s?154
Fabrizio. Yes; but I would arm, officer, exercise, and discipline them in a manner that I imagine is unknown in your country.
Cosimo. Do you recommend a militia ordinance?
Fabrizio. Why not, sir?
Cosimo. Because many wise men have always disapproved of it.
Fabrizio. You contradict yourself when you say that wise men disapprove of the ordinance. Some men may appear to be wise and able, although they really are not so.
Cosimo. Our unfortunate experience with the ordinance seems to justify that opinion.
Fabrizio. Are you sure that it is not you who are at fault, rather than the ordinance? Perhaps I may convince you that it is, before we part.
Cosimo. We shall be much obliged to you for doing so. But in the first place I shall tell you why the militia ordinance is criticized, so that you may better refute the objections made to it. It is said, then, that a citizens’ militia as instituted by the ordinance is of little or no service and, consequently, that if any prince or state depends upon it, he is sure to be undone; or, that if the militia consists of soldiers of virtù, the commander may very well use it to seize governmental power. To confirm this, people cite the example of the Romans, who lost their liberties by maintaining a citizens’ militia. The examples of the Venetians and the French king are also cited for the same purpose: the former use only foreign troops, so as to prevent any of their own citizens from staging a coup; while the latter has disarmed all his subjects in order to rule them more easily. But, it is urged, there is much more to be learned from the unserviceability of a citizens’ militia, for which two reasons are assigned. First, that they are raw and inexperienced; secondly, that they are compelled to serve by force; when people are grown up to years of maturity, they seldom learn anything perfectly, and surely no material service can be expected from men who are forced into the army whether they will or not.
Fabrizio. All these objections seem to be made by very shortsighted people, as I shall show presently. For as to the unserviceableness of a citizens’ militia, I say that no troops can be of more service than those chosen from one’s own subjects, nor can those subjects be selected in a better or more proper manner. But since this elicits no argument, I shall not waste any more time endeavoring to prove it, especially since there is sufficient evidence for it in the histories of all nations. What has been said concerning inexperience and compulsion, I consider just and reasonable; for inexperience is the mother of cowardice, and compulsion makes men mutinous and discontented; but both experience and courage are acquired by arming, exercising, and disciplining men properly, as I shall plainly demonstrate to you. As to the matter of compulsion, I reply that men selected by their prince’s command should be neither all volunteers nor forcibly compelled into the service, for if they were all volunteers, the mischiefs which I just now mentioned would ensue, it could not properly be called a delectus, and few would be willing to serve. Compulsion, on the other hand, would be accompanied by no fewer inconveniences; therefore, a middle course ought to be taken whereby—without either using men with outright violence or depending entirely upon their own voluntary offers—they may be motivated by the obedience they think due to their governors to expose themselves to a little immediate hardship, rather than incur their displeasure; and by these means (since their own will seems to cooperate with a gentle sort of compulsion), you will easily prevent those evils that might otherwise result from a spirit of licentiousness or discontent.
I shall not venture, however, to assert that an army composed of such men is invincible, for even the Roman legions were often routed, and Hannibal himself was at last conquered. So you see, it is impossible to model any army so as to prevent it from ever being defeated. Therefore, the wise and able men of whom you speak should not be so peremptory in pronouncing such forces altogether unserviceable because they lost one battle;155 although they may happen to be defeated once or twice, they may be victorious when they have discovered the causes that contributed to their defeat and provided future remedies for them. When the causes of the defeat are looked into, they may probably be a result of the commanders’ bad conduct, rather than of any defect in the order or institution itself. Your acquaintances, therefore, instead of condemning one, should endeavor to correct the other, and I shall show you how that is to be done as we proceed.
In the meantime, I shall convince you how little foundation there is for your objection that such a citizens’ militia, under the command of an aspiring subject or citizen, may deprive a prince or republic of his authority and dominions; for it is certain that no subjects or citizens, when legally armed and kept in due order by their masters, ever did the least mischief to any state. On the contrary, they have always been of the highest service to all governments and have kept them free and incorrupt longer than they would have been without them. Rome remained free for four hundred years and Sparta eight hundred, although their citizens were armed all that time; but many other states that have been disarmed have lost their liberties in less than forty years. No state, therefore, can support itself without an army. If a state has no soldiers of its own, it must be forced to hire foreign troops; this will be much more dangerous because they are more likely to be corrupted and become subservient to the ambition of a powerful citizen who—when he has nobody to deal with but an unarmed and defenseless multitude—may easily avail himself of its assistance to overturn the established government. Besides, every state must naturally be more afraid of two enemies than of one; and the one taking foreign troops into its pay must be apprehensive of them, as well as of its own forces—indeed, you will see there is sufficient reason for this if you remember what I said just now concerning Francesco Sforza. Whereas, a state employing no troops except those composed of its own subjects has only one enemy to fear. But to omit all other proofs which might be adduced to support this point, I shall only lay it down as a certain truth that no man has ever founded a monarchy or a republic, without being well assured that if his subjects were armed, they would always be ready and willing to defend the monarchy or republic. If the Venetians had acted as wisely in this respect as in others, they might have erected a new universal monarchy; they are all the more reprehensible for neglecting this since they had arms put into their hands by their first legislators. But since they did not possess much territory on land, they employed their strength chiefly at sea, where they carried on their wars with great spirit, and made considerable acquisitions. At last, however, when they were obliged to engage in a war on land for the relief of Vicenza, instead of trusting some citizens of their own with the command of their forces, they took the Marquis of Mantua into their pay for that purpose.156 Now if this false step, which clipped the wings of their ambition and put a stop to their further aggrandizement, resulted from a belief that although they knew how to make war at sea, they did not know how to on land, it was an ill-founded caution: for a naval officer used to fighting the winds and waves as well as the enemy, will sooner make a good officer ashore, where he has nothing to deal with but men, than a military officer will make a good naval commander. Nevertheless, the Romans, who were most expert in land wars but knew little of naval affairs, once they were engaged in a quarrel with the Carthaginians—who were very powerful at sea—did not take either Greek or Spanish forces into their service, although they were the best seamen in the world at that time; rather, they let that expedition be led by their own military officers, who landed on the enemy’s coast and subdued the whole country. But if the Venetians acted in that manner, out of an apprehension that if they did otherwise, some one of their own citizens might seize the government itself, it was an ill-considered fear; for (not to repeat what has been already said) if none of their naval commanders ever made himself master of any town upon their coasts, much less occasion had they to fear that any of their citizens who commanded their armies should use them for such a purpose. If they had considered this, they would have been convinced that tyranny and usurpation are not a result of arming the citizens, but of leading a government weakly, and that while a state is well led, it has nothing to fear from its subjects’ arms. The resolution, therefore, which they took upon that occasion was a very imprudent one, and brought great disgrace and many misfortunes upon them. As to the error of which the King of France is guilty in disarming his subjects instead of keeping them well disciplined and ready for war (an example which you urge against me), every impartial man must admit that it indicates a great lack of judgment and has much weakened that kingdom.157
But I have made too long a digression, and may perhaps seem to have forgotten my subject; yet I was in some measure obliged to do it, so as to answer your objections and show you: that a state ought to depend upon only those troops composed of its own subjects; that those subjects cannot be better raised than by a citizens’ militia; and that there can be no better method devised to form an army or to introduce good order and discipline among soldiers. If you ever read the institutions established by the first kings of Rome, particularly by Servius Tullius,158 you must remember that the classi he formed were the basis of a citizens’ militia which might be quickly raised at any sudden emergency for the defense of the state. But to return to our levies, I again say that if I were to recruit an old army, I would take men about seventeen years old; but if I were to raise a new one and make it fit for service in a short time, I would take them of all ages between seventeen and forty.
Cosimo. Would you pay any attention to their respective trades or occupations?
Fabrizio. Some authors who have written about this subject, 159 will not take fowlers, fishermen, cooks, bawdyhouse keepers, or any other sort of people who make an occupation of pleasure or sport; they prefer plowmen, smiths, farriers, carpenters, butchers, hunters, and such occupations. For my own part, I should not so much consider the nature of their profession as the moral virtue of the men, and which of them could perform the most services. For this reason, I should prefer to choose husbandmen and men who have been accustomed to work in the fields as men more useful in an army than any other kind of person; next to these, I would take smiths, carpenters, farriers, and stonecutters, of whom it is necessary to have many, because they are very often needed, and it is a good thing to have soldiers who can turn their hands to more services than one.
Cosimo. But how can one distinguish those men who are fit for war from those who are not?
Fabrizio. I shall first inform you of the method I would use to raise the levies to form a new army, because I shall have an opportunity of simultaneously mentioning several things necessary in recruiting men for an old one. I say, then, we must judge the moral virtue of a man who has already served, either from the experience we have had of his former behavior or from probable conjecture. But as for men who are all raw recruits and have never served before—of whom we must suppose all new levies chiefly, if not entirely, to consist—we can have no experience of their virtù, and we must resort to such conjectures as we may be able to form from their age, occupation, and appearance. Of the first two we have already spoken; it remains, therefore, to say something of the last. Some, like Pyrrhus, would have their soldiers tall; others, like Julius Caesar, prefer men who are active and vigorous, about which they form a conjecture from the symmetry of their limbs, and the grace of their appearance. Some men who have treated this subject160 accordingly recommend those who have quick and lively eyes, muscular necks, wide chests, brawny arms, long fingers, small bellies, round sides, spare legs, and little feet—which, for the most part, are signs of strength and agility, two qualities that are principally necessary in a soldier. But above all, we ought to have strict regard to their morals and behavior; otherwise we shall choose men who have neither modesty nor honesty, who will be a scandal to an army, and who not only become mutinous and ungovernable themselves, but sow the seeds of corruption among others. Is it to be expected that any kind of virtù or praiseworthy quality can be found in such men?
At this point, perhaps it may not appear impertinent—nay, indeed, it seems absolutely necessary, I think—to remind you of the method used by the Roman consuls, as soon as they entered upon their office, to raise the forces needed for the service of that year; thus you may be more fully convinced of the importance of such a choice. Upon these occasions, then, since their republic was almost continually engaged in war—and obliged to choose some men who had served before, and others who were altogether raw—they had an opportunity, in one case, of deciding upon men who they knew by experience were fit for their purpose, and were forced, in the other case, to use men they had to assume were fit. Similarly, it should be observed that such levies are made either for immediate service, or for discipline so that they can be used later, when occasion shall require. But as I have hitherto spoken only of those who are to be raised and disciplined for future service in countries where there was no previous army, and consequently no proper choice can be made from any experience of those men who are fit for soldiers, I shall continue that subject, because it is easy either to raise good recruits or to form armies for immediate service in places where a military force has once been established—especially if the rulers of the state have sufficient authority to enforce it, as did the Romans of old, and as do the Swiss today. Although there must certainly be many new men in this sort of levy, yet there also will be so many veterans that together they will soon make a very good army. The Roman emperors, however, when they began to put up garrisons and standing armies around the confines of the Empire, thought fit to appoint certain masters or instructors to teach and discipline the tirones,161 or new recruits in warlike arts and exercises, as we may see from the life of the Emperor Maximinus.162 Only while Rome remained free was such an institution observed at home and not in the camps; and since it was there that the young Romans were trained and inured to this sort of discipline, they made excellent soldiers when a delectus was necessary and they were called out into the service of their country. But later, when this custom of training the youth at home was stopped by the emperors, they were forced to make use of the means I just now mentioned.
But, let us return to the method observed by the Romans in making their levies.163 As soon as the consuls, who always conducted their wars, had begun their office, they began to raise armies—each consul having allotted him two legions, which consisted of Roman citizens only, and were the main strength and flower of their armies. For this purpose they first appointed twenty-four military tribunes, six to each legion, whose function resembled that of our lieutenant colonels, or battalion commanders. Once this was done, they called together all the people able to bear arms and placed the tribunes of each legion apart; then, those officers cast lots to see out of which tribe or class they should begin their choice; upon whichever tribe the lot fell, they took out four of the best men, one of whom was chosen by the tribunes of the first legion, another by those of the second, another by those of the third, and the last fell to the share of the fourth. After this, they picked four more, out of whom the first was chosen by the tribunes of the second legion, the second by those of the third, the third by those of the fourth, and the fourth by those of the first. When these were thus disposed of, four others were drawn out, the first of whom was taken by the third legion, the second by the fourth, the third by the first, and the fourth by the second; thus they varied the turns of their choice among all the tribes, until the four legions were all equal and complete. These levies might be employed in immediate service, as I said before; since they consisted of men—many of whom had previously been tried in the wars, and the rest of whom were well exercised and disciplined at home—such a choice might be made partly from experience, and partly from conjecture. But when the men are totally raw and untried and must be exercised and disciplined from the beginning to make them fit for future service, the choice must be made by conjecture alone, and can be based upon their age and appearance alone.
Cosimo. What you have said appears to be very just, but before you proceed any further, I wish you would be so good as to gratify my curiosity about a point of which you have reminded me by saying that where the levies that are to be made have not previously been used to military service, they must be chosen by conjecture. I have heard great fault found with our militia in many respects, especially with regard to their number. Some are of the opinion that if they were fewer, they might be better chosen; that it would not be so troublesome and inconvenient for the country, nor for the men themselves; and that they might have more pay, which would make them happier and readier to obey your commands. I should like to know, therefore, whether you would have a large or small number of such men, and how you would go about choosing them in either case.
Fabrizio. Without a doubt, it is much better to have a large number of them than a small one; indeed, where there is not a great number, it is impossible ever to have a good militia. As to the objections which you say some others have made to it, I shall presently show you their futility. In the first place, then, I say that the smallness of the number does not ever make them better soldiers in a country where there are plenty of men, as in Tuscany, for example. If you are to choose them from experience, you will find very few in that country who have had any trial—since not many have been in battle; and of those few, there are hardly any who have given the least indication of worth, or deserve to be preferred to others; so, whoever wants to raise men in that country can have no assistance from experience, but must depend wholly upon conjecture. Since this is the case, then, I should like to know what I am to do, and what rules I must use to choose a certain number, if twenty fine-looking young men should be brought before me. Surely everybody must admit that it would be best to arm and exercise all the men since it will be impossible to judge at first sight which of them will prove to be the best, and defer your choice until they have all had the same exercise and instruction; then you will easily perceive which of them are the most spirited and active and likely to be of the most service. On the whole, therefore, the maxim of choosing only a few, so that they may be much better, is simple and ill-grounded.
As for a large number being troublesome and inconvenient, both to the country and to the men themselves, I reply that no number of such men, whether great or small, can be troublesome or inconvenient to anyone. For nobody, by being a militiaman, is prevented from pursuing his usual occupation or following his necessary affairs, since the militia is only obliged to meet and hold maneuvers on holidays; this cannot be inconvenient either to the country or to the men; on the contrary, it would be a great recreation to both, for instead of being idle at those times, or perhaps spending their leisure in something worse than idleness, the young men would attend these exercises with pleasure, and others would be greatly entertained by such a spectacle.164
In answer to the objection that a small number may be better paid, and will consequently be better satisfied and more obedient to command, let it be considered that no number of militia, however small, can be kept in continual pay so as to be always satisfied with it. Let us suppose, for example, a militia to consist of 5,000 men whose pay, if they are to be paid to their satisfaction, will amount to at least 10,000 ducats per month. In the first place, 5,000 infantrymen are not sufficient to make up an army; in the second place, a monthly payment of 10,000 ducats would be an insupportable burden upon most states, and yet not enough to keep their soldiers content and obedient. So, although the expense would be extravagant, your army would be so inconsiderable that it would not be able to defend your own dominions, much less to take the offensive. If you increase their pay or their number, it will be even more difficult to pay them; if you diminish either, they will become dissatisfied and useless. Those who talk of raising a militia, therefore, and of paying them when they have nothing for them to do, talk of things that either are impossible or will serve no purpose; but it is highly necessary, I admit, to pay them—and well too—when they are called out to serve their country. However, if such a regulation should happen to cause the community some inconvenience during peacetime—which can hardly be—surely that must be greatly counterbalanced by the conveniences and advantages resulting from it, for without a regular and well-ordered militia people cannot live in security.
I conclude, then, that those who are for maintaining only a small militia so that they may be able to pay them better, or for any of the other reasons you have alleged, are mistaken in their politics; for (this still confirms my opinion) any number, no matter how large, will be continually diminishing upon your hands because of many unavoidable accidents, and therefore a small one would soon dwindle away to nothing. Besides, when your militia is numerous, you may, if you see the opportunity, employ a considerable force at once; this force must always be more effective than a small one and increase your reputation much more. I might add, that if you raise only a small number of militiamen in a large country and seek to have them well drilled, they must of course be at such a distance from each other that they cannot all be assembled on the days and at the places appointed for that purpose without great trouble and inconvenience; and if they do not hold proper maneuvers they will be no good at all, as I shall show you in due course.
Cosimo. You have fully refuted the objections I have made, I must confess; but I have another problem which I should like to have solved. The persons I mentioned before seem to think that a great number of armed men must naturally occasion much confusion and disorder, and frequent tumults in a country.
Fabrizio. I hope I shall be able to convince you that this notion is as altogether ill-grounded as those already discussed. Any disorder that a militia can bring about must be either among themselves or among others; yet this may easily be prevented, if such an establishment is not so badly constituted and regulated itself as to defeat the end of its institution. For if it is properly conducted, it naturally suppresses all disturbances—rather than fomenting them—among its own constituents because they are under the command of superiors; if the inhabitants of the country where you raise a militia are either so little used to war that they are unarmed, or so united among themselves that they have no factions among them, it will protect them against the fear of foreign enemies, but cannot in any way contribute to dividing them. For men who are well disciplined will always be as cautious of violating the laws when they have arms in the hands as when they have not; and so they will continue, if they are not corrupted by their commanders. As I shall show you presently, that will be no difficult matter to prevent. But if the people are warlike and yet given to faction, such an establishment is most likely to reunite them,165 because—although they may have arms and leaders of their own—their arms are such as will be of no service to their country, and their leaders serve only to foment divisions and animosities, instead of promoting union and tranquillity; whereas this institution furnishes them with arms that will be of service to their country and with leaders to suppress their differences. For when any man in a divided country thinks himself injured or offended, he immediately applies to the head of his faction. In order to keep up his own interest and reputation, this leader is obliged to assist the man in taking revenge, instead of discouraging violence. But a leader appointed by public authority acts in a quite different manner. So that by establishing a good and well-ordered militia, divisions are extinguished, peace restored, and some people who were unarmed and dispirited, but united, continue in union and become warlike and courageous; others who were brave and had arms in their hands, but were previously given to faction and discord, become united and turn against the enemies of their country those arms and that courage which they used to exert against each other.
But to prevent a militia from injuring others or overturning the laws and liberties of its country (which can only be effected by the power and iniquity of the commanders), it is necessary to take care that the commanders do not acquire too great an authority over their men. Now, authority of this kind is either natural or accidental: to guard against the one, provision should be made that an officer ought not have any command over the men raised in the district where he was born, but ought to command only those men who were selected from places other than where he has any natural interest or connections; to guard against the other, it may for the most part be prevented by changing the officers and sending them to commands in different parts every year—for a long continuation of command over the same people is apt to create too strict a union between them—one that may be easily converted to the prejudice of the government. How useful this method has been to those who have followed it, and how fatal the neglect of it to others, plainly appears from the histories of the Assyrian and Roman empires; we find that the former continued for more than a thousand years without any sedition or civil war. The whole reason for this was a custom which the government observed of changing the commanders of their armies every year and sending them into different provinces. On the contrary, after the time of Julius Caesar, the omission of this custom in the Roman Empire occasioned all the civil wars between the commanders of different armies and all the conspiracies which those commanders later formed against the emperors. But if any of the early emperors, especially those who gained a reputation—such as Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Severus,166 or others like them—had been provident enough to have changed their generals at certain times, that empire would have enjoyed more tranquillity and lived longer; for then, those commanders could not have had an opportunity to rebel; the emperors would have lived in greater security; and the Senate, when the throne became vacant, would have had more authority and, consequently, would have acted with more judgment in the choice of a successor. But—whether it proceeds from mankind’s ignorance, inattention, or indolence, I know not—it is certain that bad customs are seldom changed, no matter who is at the helm or whatever example may be brought either to discredit such customs or to recommend their contraries.
Cosimo. I am afraid that by asking impertinent questions I have broken in upon the order you proposed for yourself and led you away from your subject. For behold, from talking of conscription, we have gotten onto another topic, so that if I had not asked you to excuse my liberties when we began this conversation, I should have thought myself obliged to ask your pardon for it.
Fabrizio. You need not apologize for that, sir, since what has been said is nothing more than was necessary to show the nature of a militia; and since this is an institution condemned by many, I have taken it upon myself to defend and explain it, desiring at the same time to point out the best manner of raising one. But before I proceed to other particulars, I should say something concerning the choice of cavalry.167 The ancients used to choose these troops from among the richest citizens, with due regard, however, for their age and other qualifications—there were only 300 of them in a legion, so that the Romans never had more than 600 cavalrymen in a consular army.
Cosimo. Would you also have these troops trained and disciplined at home, in order to employ them when needed?
Fabrizio. Most certainly; it is absolutely necessary to do so if you would have cavalry of your own, and not be obliged to resort to those who make a trade of hiring themselves out to anybody wanting them.
Cosimo. In what manner would you choose them?
Fabrizio. I would imitate the Romans: I would take the richest from among the people; I would give them officers the way we do at present, and I would have them well armed and well trained.
Cosimo. Would it be proper to allow them any pay?
Fabrizio. To be sure; but only as much as would be sufficient to maintain their horses; if you gave them any more, it would be so burdensome to your subjects that they would complain.
Cosimo. What number would you have, and how would you arm them?
Fabrizio. That is another matter. But I shall answer your question after I have told you how the infantry ought to be armed and prepared for battle.