Chapter 1b of Volume 3

The Wars that Rome Sustained

September 29, 2021

Another consequence of the maxim of waging perpetual war was that the Romans only made peace when they were victorious. Why would they make an ignominious peace with one nation, and afterwards go and invade another?

In this view, their pretensions rose always in proportion to their defeat; by this they surprized the conqueror, and said themselves under a greater necessity of conquering.

Being for ever obnoxious to the most severe vengeance, perseverance and valour became necessary virtues= and these could not be distinguished among them from self-love, from the love of one’s family, of one’s country, and whatever is dearest among men.

The same had happened to Italy, which besel America in late ages; the natives of the former, quite helpless and dispersed up and down, having resigned their habitations to new comers, it was afterwards peopled by three differents nations, the Tuscans, the Gauls, and the Greeks. The Gauls had no manner of relation or affinity either with the Greeks or Tuscans.

The latter formed a society which had its pecular language, customs and morals; and the Grecian colonies, who descended from different nations that were often at variance, had pretty separate interests.

The world in that age was not like the world in ours= voyages, conquest, trassick, the establishment of mighty states, the invention of post-offices, of the sea compass, and of printing; these, with a certain general polity, have made correspondence much easier, and give rise among us to an art called by the name of politics= every man sees at one glance whatever is transacted in the whole universe; and if a people discover but ever so little ambition, all the nations round them are immediately terrified.

The people of Italy had none of those engines which were employed in sieges. The soldiers were not allowed any stipend, there was no possibility of keeping them long before a town or fortress Hence it was, that few of their wars were decisive; these fought from no other motive, but merely to plunder the enemy’s camp or his lands; after which, both the conqueror and the conquered marched back to their respective cities.

This circumstance gave rise to the strong resistance which the people of Italy made, and at the same time to the inflexible resolution the Romans formed to subdue them, this favoured the latter with victories, which no way depraved their morals, and left them in their original poverty.

Had the Romans made a rapid conquest of the neighbouring cities, they would have been in a declining condition at the arrival of Pyrrhus, of the Gauls, and of Hannibal; and, by a fate common to most governments in the world, they would have made too quick a transition from poverty to riches, and from riches to depravity.

But Rome, for ever struggling, and ever meeting with obstacles, made other nations tremble at its power, and at the same time was unable to extend it; and exercised in a very narrow compass of ground, a train of virtues that were to prove of the most fatal consequence to the universe.

All the people of Italy were not equally warlike= those who inhabited the eastern part, as the Tarentines and the Capuans, all the cities of Campania, and of Græcia Major, were quite immersed in indolence and in pleasures= but the Latins, the Hernici, the Sabines, the Æqui, and the Volscians were passionately fond of war= these nations lay round Rome; the resistance they made to that city was incredible, and they surpassed them in stubborness and inflexibility.

The Latin cities sprung from Alban colonies, which were founded by Latinus Sylvius= besides their common extraction with the Romans, there were several rites and ceremonies common to both; and Servius Tullius had † engaged them to build a temple at Rome, to serve at the center of union of the two nations. Losing a battle near the lake of Regillus, they were subjected to an alliance, and forced to associate in the ‡ wars which the Romans waged.

It was manifestly seen, during the short time that the tyranny of the decemvirs lasted, how much the aggrandizing of Rome depended on its liberty. The government seemed to have lost the soul which animated even to the minutest part of it.

There remained at that time but two sorts of people in the city=

  • those who submitted to slavery, and
  • those who, for their own private interest, enslaved the rest.

The senators withdrew from Rome as from a foreign city. The neighbouring nations did not meet with the least resistance from any quarter.

The senate found means to give the soldiers a regular stipend, the siege of Veii was undertaken, which lasted 10 years.

But now a new art and new system of war arose among the Romans. Their successes were more signal and conspicuous. They made a better advantage of their victories. Their conquests were greater they sent our more colonies. The taking of Veii was a kind of revolution.

But all this did not lessen their toils. On one side, they attacked with greater vigour the Tuscans, Aequi, and Volscians. This is why they were abandoned by the Latins and the Hernici, their allies, who were also armed and fought in the same way. This engaged the Tuscans to form new alliances and prompted the Samnites, the most martial people of all Italy, to involve them in a furious war.

After the soldiers received pay, the senate no longer distributed to them the lands of the conquered people, upon whom other conditions were now imposed; they were obliged, for instance, to pay the army a certain quota for a time, and to send supplies of cloaths and corn.

The taking of Rome by the Gauls, did no way lessen its strength; almost the whole army, which was dispersed rather than overcome, withdrew to Veii; the people sheltered themselves in the adjacent cities; and the burning of Rome was no more than the setting fire to a few cottages of shepherds.


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