Chapter 13

Auxiliaries, Mixed Armies, And One's Own Soldiers

by Niccolo Machiavelli Icon

Auxiliaries are the other kind of most useless soldiers. They are employed when a prince needs other forces to aid and defend him.

This was done by Pope Julius most recently. He had poor results from his mercenaries in their attack against Ferrara so he turned to auxiliaries and bargained with Ferdinand, King of Spain, for help with men and soldiers.

These soldiers may be useful and good in themselves, but for the person who calls them in they are always disadvantageous, because by losing, a prince is thoroughly defeated, and by winning, a prince becomes under their control.

Although ancient histories may be full of examples, I do not wish to leave this recent one of Pope Julius 2nd, the danger of which cannot fail to be perceived.

Pope Julius wished to get Ferrara. So he threw himself entirely into the hands of foreigners. But his good fortune brought about a third event, so that he did not suffer the effects of his bad choice.

His auxiliaries were thoroughly defeated at Ravenna. The Swiss unexpectedly arrived and drove the conquerors away. Thus he did not become the prisoner of his enemies, they having been driven away, nor of his auxiliaries, he having conquered by other arms than theirs.

The Florentines were entirely without arms. They sent 10,000 Frenchmen to take Pisa, where they ran into more danger than before.

The Emperor of Constantinople sent 10,000 Turks into Greece to oppose his neighbours. When the war was finished, the Turks were not willing to leave. This was the beginning of the slavery of Greece to outsiders.

Mercenaries Versus Auxiliaries

Therefore, let him who has no desire to conquer make use of auxiliaries, because they are much more dangerous than mercenaries. With them the failure is ready made. They are all united, and 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 cowardice is the biggest danger; in auxiliaries, courage. The wise prince, therefore has always avoided these types of soldiers and used his own. He has been willing to lose with his own soldiers rather than to conquer with others. A real victory is not gained with the arms of others.

Cesare Borgia entered the Romagna with auxiliaries, taking there only French soldiers, and with them he took Imola and Forli. But afterwards such auxiliary forces not appearing to him to be reliable, he turned to mercenaries seeing less danger in them.

So he hired the Orsini and Vitelli and found them unreliable, unfaithful, and dangerous. So he destroyed them and used his own men.

The difference between one and the other of these forces can be easily seen when one considers the difference there was in the reputation of Cesare, when he had the French, when he had the Orsini and Vitelli, and when he relied on his own soldiers, on whose loyalty he could always count and found ever increasing.

He was rated much more highly when everyone saw that he was complete master of his own forces. I was not intending to go beyond Italian examples and recent examples, but I am unwilling to leave out Hiero, the Syracusan, who I have mentioned before. This man, as I have said, who was made head of the army by the Syracusans, soon found out that a mercenary army was of no use. He realised that he could neither keep them nor let them go, so he had them all cut to pieces, and afterwards made war using his own forces and not foreigners.

David offered himself to Saul to fight Goliath. To give him courage, Saul armed him with some weapons, which David rejected. He said he only wanted to use his own simple weapons. Thus, the weapons of others either fall from your back, or they weigh you down.

The French Mixed Army

Charles 7th was the father of King Louis 11th. He had by good fortune and bravery liberated France from the English. He recognized the necessity of being armed with his own forces.

He established laws for soldiers. Afterwards his son, King Louis, got rid of this army and hired the Swiss. This mistake was a source of danger for France.

He raised the reputation of the Swiss and reduced the value of his own army.

They are so accustomed to fighting beside the Swiss that it does not appear that they can now conquer without them. Hence the French cannot stand against the Swiss, and without the Swiss they do not come off well against others.

The French armies thus became mixed:

  • partly mercenary
  • partly national.

This is much better than mercenaries alone or auxiliaries alone, but are much worse than one’s own forces.

France would have been much stronger if the laws of Charles had been strengthened or maintained.

Most people, on beginning a task which looks fine at first, cannot see the poison that is hidden in it.

Therefore, if a prince cannot recognize evils until they are on him, then he is not truly wise. This insight is given to few.

The fall of the Roman Empire began when they hired the Goths. This weakend the strength of the Roman Empire. All the courage which had raised it passed to others.

Therefore, No principality is secure without having its own forces.

Without such forces, it is entirely dependent on good fortune, not having the courage which in bad times would defend it. It has always been the opinion and judgment of wise men that nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as reputation or power not founded on its own strength.

One’s own forces are those which are composed either of subjects, citizens, or dependents. All others are mercenaries or auxiliaries.

To make make one’s own forces ready, follow:

  • the rules I have suggested
  • Alexander the Great’s father, Philip, has armed and organized his forces.


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