Concerning Auxiliaries, Mixed Soldiery, And One's Own
Auxiliaries, which are the other useless arm, are employed when a prince is called in with his forces to aid and defend, as was done
by Pope Julius in the most recent times; for he, having, in the enterprise against Ferrara, had poor proof of his mercenaries, turned to
auxiliaries, and stipulated with Ferdinand, King of Spain, for his assistance with men and arms. These arms may be useful and good in
themselves, but for him who calls them in they are always disadvantageous; for losing, one is undone, and winning, one is their
And although ancient histories may be full of examples, I do not wish to leave this recent one of Pope Julius II, the peril of which
cannot fall to be perceived; for he, wishing to get Ferrara, threw himself entirely into the hands of the foreigner. But his good fortune
brought about a third event, so that he did not reap the fruit of his rash choice; because, having auxiliaries routed at Ravenna, and the
Switzers having risen and driven out the conquerors (against all expectation, both his and others), it so came to pass that he did not
become prisoner to his enemies, they having fled, nor to his auxiliaries, he having conquered by other arms than theirs.
The Florentines, being entirely without arms, sent ten thousand Frenchmen to take Pisa, whereby they ran more danger than at any
other time of their troubles.
The Emperor of Constantinople, to oppose his neighbours, sent ten thousand Turks into Greece, who, on the war being finished, were
not willing to quit; this was the beginning of the servitude of Greece to the infidels.
Therefore, let him who has no desire to conquer make use of these arms, for they are much more hazardous than mercenaries,
because with them the ruin is ready made; they are all united, all yield obedience to others; but with mercenaries, when they have
conquered, more time and better opportunities are needed to injure you; they are not all of one community, they are found and paid by
you, and a third party, which you have made their head, is not able all at once to assume enough authority to injure you. In conclusion,
in mercenaries dastardy is most dangerous; in auxiliaries, valour. The wise prince, therefore, has always avoided these arms and
turned to his own; and has been willing rather to lose with them than to conquer with others, not deeming that a real victory which is
gained with the arms of others.
I shall never hesitate to cite Cesare Borgia and his actions. This duke entered the Romagna with auxiliaries, taking there only French
soldiers, and with them he captured Imola and Forli; but afterwards, such forces not appearing to him reliable, he turned to
mercenaries, discerning less danger in them, and enlisted the Orsini and Vitelli; whom presently, on handling and finding them
doubtful, unfaithful, and dangerous, he destroyed and turned to his own men. And the difference between one and the other of these
forces can easily be seen when one considers the difference there was in the reputation of the duke, when he had the French, when he
had the Orsini and Vitelli, and when he relied on his own soldiers, on whose fidelity he could always count and found it ever
increasing; he was never esteemed more highly than when every one saw that he was complete master of his own forces.
I was not intending to go beyond Italian and recent examples, but I am unwilling to leave out Hiero, the Syracusan, he being one of
those I have named above. This man, as I have said, made head of the army by the Syracusans, soon found out that a mercenary
soldiery, constituted like our Italian condottieri, was of no use; and it appearing to him that he could neither keep them nor let them
go, he had them all cut to pieces, and afterwards made war with his own forces and not with aliens.
I wish also to recall to memory an instance from the Old Testament applicable to this subject. David offered himself to Saul to fight
with Goliath, the Philistine champion, and, to give him courage, Saul armed him with his own weapons; which David rejected as soon
as he had them on his back, saying he could make no use of them, and that he wished to meet the enemy with his sling and his knife.
In conclusion, the arms of others either fall from your back, or they weigh you down, or they bind you fast.
Charles VII, the father of King Louis XI, having by good fortune and valour liberated France from the English, recognized the
necessity of being armed with forces of his own, and he established in his kingdom ordinances concerning men-at-arms and infantry.
Afterwards his son, King Louis, abolished the infantry and began to enlist the Switzers, which mistake, followed by others, is, as is
now seen, a source of peril to that kingdom; because, having raised the reputation of the Switzers, he has entirely diminished the value
of his own arms, for he has destroyed the infantry altogether; and his men-at-arms he has subordinated to others, for, being as they
are so accustomed to fight along with Switzers, it does not appear that they can now conquer without them. Hence it arises that the
French cannot stand against the Switzers, and without the Switzers they do not come off well against others. The armies of the
French have thus become mixed, partly mercenary and partly national, both of which arms together are much better than
mercenaries alone or auxiliaries alone, yet much inferior to one's own forces. And this example proves it, the kingdom of France
would be unconquerable if the ordinance of Charles had been enlarged or maintained.
But the scanty wisdom of man, on entering into an affair which looks well at first, cannot discern the poison that is hidden in it, as I
have said above of hectic fevers. Therefore, if he who rules a principality cannot recognize evils until they are upon him, he is not
truly wise; and this insight is given to few. And if the first disaster to the Roman Empire should be examined, it will be found to have
commenced only with the enlisting of the Goths; because from that time the vigour of the Roman Empire began to decline, and all
that valour which had raised it passed away to others.
I conclude, therefore, that no principality is secure without having its own forces; on the contrary, it is entirely dependent on good
fortune, not having the valour which in adversity would defend it. And it has always been the opinion and judgment of wise men that
nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as fame or power not founded on its own strength. And one's own forces are those which are
composed either of subjects, citizens, or dependants; all others are mercenaries or auxiliaries. And the way to take ready one's own
forces will be easily found if the rules suggested by me shall be reflected upon, and if one will consider how Philip, the father of
Alexander the Great, and many republics and princes have armed and organized themselves, to which rules I entirely commit myself.
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