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Chapter 8


Why certain Nations leave their ancestral Seats and overflow the Countries of others.


Having spoken above of the methods followed by the Romans in making war, and related how the Etruscans were attacked by the Gauls, it seems to me not foreign to these topics to explain that of wars there are two kinds. One kind of war has its origin in the ambition of princes or republics who seek to extend their dominions. Such were the wars waged by Alexander the Great, and by the Romans, and such are those which we see every day carried on by one potentate against another. Wars of this sort have their dangers, but do not utterly extirpate the inhabitants of a country; what the conqueror seeks being merely the submission of the conquered people, whom, generally speaking, he suffers to retain their laws, and always their houses and goods.

The other species of war is when an entire people, with all the families of which it is made up, being driven out by famine or defeat, removes from its former seat, and goes in search of a new abode and a new country, not simply with the view to establish dominion over it, but to possess it as its own, and to expel or exterminate the former inhabitants. Of this most terrible and cruel species of warfare Sallust speaks at the end of his history of the war with Jugurtha, where in mentioning that after the defeat of Jugurtha the movement of the Gauls into Italy began to be noticed, he observes that "in the wars of the Romans with other nations the struggle was for mastery; but that always in their wars with the Gauls the struggle on both sides was for life." For a prince or commonwealth, when attacking another State, will be content to rid themselves of those only who are at the head of affairs; but an entire people, set in motion in the manner described, must destroy all who oppose them, since their object is to subsist on that whereon those whom they invade have hitherto subsisted.

The Romans had to pass through three of these desperate wars; the first being that in which their city was actually captured by those Gauls who, as already mentioned, had previously taken Lombardy from the Etruscans and made it their seat, and for whose invasion Titus Livius has assigned two causes. First, that they were attracted, as I have said before, by the fruitful soil and by the wine of Italy which they had not in Gaul; second, that their population having multiplied so greatly that they could no longer find wherewithal to live on at home, the princes of their land decided that certain of their number should go forth to seek a new abode; and so deciding, chose as leaders of those who were to go, two Gaulish chiefs, Bellovesus and Siccovesus; the former of whom came into Italy while the latter passed into Spain. From the immigration under Bellovesus resulted the occupation of Lombardy, and, subsequently, the first war of the Gauls with Rome. At a later date, and after the close of the first war with Carthage, came the second Gallic invasion, when more than two hundred thousand Gauls perished in battle between Piombino and Pisa. The third of these wars broke out on the descent into Italy of the Todi and Cimbri, who, after defeating several Roman armies, were themselves defeated by Marius.

In these three most dangerous contests the arms of Rome prevailed; but no ordinary valour was needed for their success. For we see afterwards, when the spirit of the Romans had declined, and their armies had lost their former excellence, their supremacy was overthrown by men of the same race, that is to say by the Goths, the Vandals, and others like them, who spread themselves over the whole of the Western Empire.

Nations such as these, quit, as I have said, their native land, when forced by famine, or by defeat in domestic wars, to seek a new habitation elsewhere. When those thus driven forth are in large numbers, they violently invade the territories of other nations, slaughtering the inhabitants, seizing on their possessions, founding new kingdoms, and giving new names to provinces; as was done by Moses, and by those tribes who overran the Roman Empire. For the new names which we find in Italy and elsewhere, have no other origin than in their having been given by these new occupants; as when the countries formerly known as Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Transalpina took the names of Lombardy and France, from the Lombards and the Franks who settled themselves there. In the same way Sclavonia was formerly known as Illyria, Hungary as Pannonia, and England as Britain; while many other provinces which it would be tedious to enumerate, have similarly changed their designations; as when the name Judæa was given by Moses to that part of Syria of which he took possession.

And since I have said above that nations such as those I have been describing, are often driven by wars from their ancestral homes, and forced to seek a new country elsewhere, I shall cite the instance of the Maurusians, a people who anciently dwelt in Syria, but hearing of the inroad of the Hebrews, and thinking themselves unable to resist them, chose rather to seek safety in flight than to perish with their country in a vain effort to defend it. For which reason, removing with their families, they went to Africa, where, after driving out the native inhabitants, they took up their abode; and although they could not defend their own country, were able to possess themselves of a country belonging to others. And Procopius, who writes the history of the war which Belisarius conducted against those Vandals who seized on Africa, relates, that on certain pillars standing in places where the Maurusians once dwelt, he had read inscriptions in these words: "We Maurusians who fled before Joshua, the robber, the son of Nun;"[1] giving us to know the cause of their quitting Syria. Be this as it may, nations thus driven forth by a supreme necessity, are, if they be in great number, in the highest degree dangerous, and cannot be successfully withstood except by a people who excel in arms.

When those constrained to abandon their homes are not in large numbers, they are not so dangerous as the nations of whom I have been speaking, since they cannot use the same violence, but must trust to their address to procure them a habitation; and, after procuring it, must live with their neighbours as friends and companions, as we find Æneas, Dido, the Massilians, and others like them to have lived; all of whom contrived to maintain themselves in the districts in which they settled, by securing the good will of the neighbouring nations.

Almost all the great emigrations of nations have been and continue to be from the cold and barren region of Scythia, because from the population there being excessive, and the soil ill able to support them, they are forced to quit their home, many causes operating to drive them forth and none to keep them back. And if, for the last five hundred years, it has not happened that any of these nations has actually overrun another country, there are various reasons to account for it. First, the great clearance which that region made of its inhabitants during the decline of the Roman Empire, when more than thirty nations issued from it in succession; and next, the circumstance that the countries of Germany and Hungary, whence also these nations came, are now so much improved that men can live there in comfort, and consequently are not constrained to shift their habitations. Besides which, since these countries are occupied by a very warlike race, they serve as a sort of bulwark to keep back the neighbouring Scythians, who for this reason do not venture to attack them, nor attempt to force a passage. Nevertheless, movements on a great scale have oftentimes been begun by the Tartars, and been at once withstood by the Hungarians and Poles, whose frequent boast it is, that but for them, Italy and the Church would more than once have felt the weight of the Tartar arms.

Of the nations of whom I have been speaking, I shall now say no more.

[Footnote 1: Nos Maurusii qui fugimus a facie Jesu latronis filii Navae. Procop. Hist. Bell. Vand. II.]


Niccolo Machiavelli

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