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Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV

THAT WHICH CONCERNS A PRINCE ON THE SUBJECT OF THE ART OF WAR

A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything
else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is
the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force
that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often
enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the
contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than
of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your
losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a
state is to be master of the art. Francesco Sforza, through being
martial, from a private person became Duke of Milan; and the sons,
through avoiding the hardships and troubles of arms, from dukes became
private persons. For among other evils which being unarmed brings you,
it causes you to be despised, and this is one of those ignominies
against which a prince ought to guard himself, as is shown later on.
Because there is nothing proportionate between the armed and the
unarmed; and it is not reasonable that he who is armed should yield
obedience willingly to him who is unarmed, or that the unarmed man
should be secure among armed servants. Because, there being in the one
disdain and in the other suspicion, it is not possible for them to
work well together. And therefore a prince who does not understand the
art of war, over and above the other misfortunes already mentioned,
cannot be respected by his soldiers, nor can he rely on them. He ought
never, therefore, to have out of his thoughts this subject of war, and
in peace he should addict himself more to its exercise than in war;
this he can do in two ways, the one by action, the other by study.

As regards action, he ought above all things to keep his men well
organized and drilled, to follow incessantly the chase, by which he
accustoms his body to hardships, and learns something of the nature of
localities, and gets to find out how the mountains rise, how the
valleys open out, how the plains lie, and to understand the nature of
rivers and marshes, and in all this to take the greatest care. Which
knowledge is useful in two ways. Firstly, he learns to know his
country, and is better able to undertake its defence; afterwards, by
means of the knowledge and observation of that locality, he
understands with ease any other which it may be necessary for him to
study hereafter; because the hills, valleys, and plains, and rivers
and marshes that are, for instance, in Tuscany, have a certain
resemblance to those of other countries, so that with a knowledge of
the aspect of one country one can easily arrive at a knowledge of
others. And the prince that lacks this skill lacks the essential which
it is desirable that a captain should possess, for it teaches him to
surprise his enemy, to select quarters, to lead armies, to array the
battle, to besiege towns to advantage.

Philopoemen,[*] Prince of the Achaeans, among other praises which
writers have bestowed on him, is commended because in time of peace he
never had anything in his mind but the rules of war; and when he was
in the country with friends, he often stopped and reasoned with them:
"If the enemy should be upon that hill, and we should find ourselves
here with our army, with whom would be the advantage? How should one
best advance to meet him, keeping the ranks? If we should wish to
retreat, how ought we to pursue?" And he would set forth to them, as
he went, all the chances that could befall an army; he would listen to
their opinion and state his, confirming it with reasons, so that by
these continual discussions there could never arise, in time of war,
any unexpected circumstances that he could not deal with.

[*] Philopoemen, "the last of the Greeks," born 252 B.C., died 183
B.C.

But to exercise the intellect the prince should read histories, and
study there the actions of illustrious men, to see how they have borne
themselves in war, to examine the causes of their victories and
defeat, so as to avoid the latter and imitate the former; and above
all do as an illustrious man did, who took as an exemplar one who had
been praised and famous before him, and whose achievements and deeds
he always kept in his mind, as it is said Alexander the Great imitated
Achilles, Caesar Alexander, Scipio Cyrus. And whoever reads the life
of Cyrus, written by Xenophon, will recognize afterwards in the life
of Scipio how that imitation was his glory, and how in chastity,
affability, humanity, and liberality Scipio conformed to those things
which have been written of Cyrus by Xenophon. A wise prince ought to
observe some such rules, and never in peaceful times stand idle, but
increase his resources with industry in such a way that they may be
available to him in adversity, so that if fortune chances it may find
him prepared to resist her blows.

Niccolo Machiavelli

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