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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 6: War with Veii. Speech of Appius Claudius. Cont.[403 BC]
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"Though it might not affect this present war, it would, you may depend upon it, be of the utmost importance to our military training that our soldiers should be habituated not only to enjoy a victory when they have won one, but also, when a campaign progresses slowly, to put up with its tediousness and await the fulfilment of their hopes though deferred. If a war has not been finished in the summer they must learn to go through the winter, and not, like birds of passage, look out for roofs to shelter them the moment autumn comes. The passion and delight of hunting carries men through frost and snow to the forests and the mountains. Pray me [Note 1], shall we not bring to the exigencies of war the same powers of endurance which are generally called out by sport or pleasure? Are we to suppose that the bodies of our soldiers are so effeminate and their spirits so enfeebled that they cannot hold out in camp or stay away from their homes for a single winter? Are we to believe that like those engaged in naval warfare who have to watch the seasons and catch the favourable weather, so these men cannot endure times of heat and cold? They would indeed blush if any one laid this to their charge, and would stoutly maintain that both in mind and body they were capable of manly endurance, and could go through a campaign in winter as well as in summer. They would tell you that they had not commissioned their tribunes to act as protectors of the effeminate and the indolent, nor was it in cool shade or under sheltering roofs that their ancestors had instituted this very tribunitian power. The valour of your soldiers, the dignity of Rome, demand that we should not limit our view to Veii and this present war, but seek for reputation in time to come in respect of other wars and amongst all other nations."|
"Do you imagine that the opinion men form of us in this crisis is a matter of slight importance? Is it a matter of indifference whether our neighbours regard Rome in such a light that when any city has sustained her first momentary attack it has nothing more to fear from her, or whether on the other hand, the terror of our name is such that no weariness of a protracted siege, no severity of winter, can dislodge a Roman army from any city which it has once invested, that it knows no close to a war but victory, and that it conducts its campaigns by perseverance as much as by dash? Perseverance is necessary in every kind of military operation, but especially in the conduct of sieges, for the majority of cities are impregnable, owing to the strength of their fortifications and their position, and time itself conquers them with hunger and thirst, and captures them as it will capture Veii unless the tribunes of the plebs extend their protection to the enemy and the Veientines find in Rome the support which they are vainly seeking in Etruria. Can anything happen to the Veientines more in accordance with their wishes than that the City of Rome should be filled with sedition and the contagion of it spread to the camp? But amongst the enemy there is actually so much respect for law and order that they have not been goaded into revolution either by weariness of the siege or even aversion to absolute monarchy, nor have they shown exasperation at the refusal of succours by Etruria. The man who advocates sedition will be put to death on the spot, and no one will be allowed to say the things which are uttered amongst you with impunity. With us the man who deserts his standard or abandons his post is liable to be cudgelled to death, but those who urge the men to abandon the standards and desert from the camp are listened to, not by one or two only; they have the whole army for an audience. To such an extent have you habituated yourselves to listen calmly to whatever a tribune of the plebs may say, even if it means the betrayal of your country and the destruction of the republic. Captivated by the attraction which that office has for you, you allow all sorts of mischief to lurk under its shadow. The one thing left for them is to bring forward in the camp, before the soldiers, the same arguments which they have so loudly urged here, and so corrupt the army that they will not allow it to obey its commanders. For evidently liberty in Rome simply means that the soldiers cease to feel any reverence for either the senate, or the magistrates, or the laws, or the traditions of their ancestors, or the institutions of their fathers, or military discipline."
Note 1: me = Appius Claudius