Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. V.: The Humour of conquering, how injudicious, vain, and destructive. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon's Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3)
Sect. V.: The Humour of conquering, how injudicious, vain, and destructive. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon’s Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 1.
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- To the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole,
- Discourses Upon Tacitus.
- Discourse I.: Upon the Former English Translations of Tacitus.
- Sect. I.: Of the Translation By Greenway and Sir H. Savill.
- Sect. II.: Of the English Translation By Several Hands.
- Sect. III.: Of the Last Translation of the First Annal.
- Sect. IV.: Of the Last Translation of the Second Annal.
- Sect. V.: Of the Last Translation of the Third Annal.
- Sect. VI.: Of the Last Translation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Annal.
- Sect. VII.: Of the Last Translation of the Eleventh Annal.
- Sect. VIII.: Of the Last Translation of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Annals.
- Sect. IX.: Of the Last Translation of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Annals.
- Discourse II.: Upon Tacitus and His Writings.
- Sect. I.: The Character of Tacitus.
- Sect. II.: How Much He Excells In Description and Force.
- Sect. III.: Further Instances of the Justness of His Genius, and of His Great Thoughts.
- Sect. IV.: The Morality of Tacitus, and His Spirit Virtuous and Humane.
- Sect. V.: The Stile of Tacitus, How Pertinent and Happy: His Obscurity, a Charge of the Moderns Only.
- Sect. VI.: A General Character of His Works.
- Sect. VII.: Tacitus Vindicated From the Imputation of Deriving Events From Counsels Too Subtle and Malevolent.
- Sect. VIII.: More Proofs of the Candour and Veracity of Tacitus.
- Sect. IX.: Mr. Bayle ’ S Unjust Censure of Tacitus; and How Well the Latter Knew and Observed the Laws of History.
- Sect. X.: An Apology For the Wrong Account By Tacitus Given of the Jews and Christians, and For His Disregard of the Religion Then Received.
- Sect. XI.: The Foolish Censure of Boccalini and Others Upon Tacitus.
- Sect. XII.: Of the Several Commentators and Translators of Tacitus.
- Sect. XIII.: A Conjecture Concerning the Modern Languages, More Largely Concerning the English.
- Sect. XIV.: A Conjecture Concerning the Present State of the English Tongue, With an Account of the Present Work.
- Discourse III.: Upon Cæsar the Dictator.
- Sect. I.: Of Cæsar’s Usurpation, and Why His Name Is Less Odious Than That of Catiline.
- Sect. II.: Of the Publick Corruption By Cæsar Promoted Or Introduced; With His Bold and Wicked Conduct.
- Sect. III.: Cæsar Might Have Purified and Reformed the State; But Far Different Were His Intentions. His Art, Good Sense, and Continued Ill Designs.
- Sect. IV.: The Probability of His Waxing More Cruel, Had He Reigned Much Longer.
- Sect. V.: Cæsar No Lawful Magistrate, But a Public Enemy.
- Sect. VI.: Of the Share Which Casualties Had, In Raising the Name and Memory of Cæsar. the Judgment of Cicero Concerning Him.
- Sect. VII.: How Vain It Is to Extol Any Designs of His For the Glory of the Roman People.
- Sect. VIII.: Of His Death; and the Rashness of Ascribing to Divine Vengeance the Fate of Such As Slew Him.
- Discourse IV.: Upon Octavius Cæsar, Afterwards Called Augustus.
- Sect. I.: Of the Base and Impious Arts By Which He Acquired the Empire.
- Sect. II.: Of the Vindictive Spirit of Octavius, and His Horrid Cruelties.
- Sect. III.: Of the Treachery, Ingratitude, and Further Cruelties of Octavius. That the Same Were Wanton and Voluntary.
- Sect. IV.: Of the Popular Arts and Accidents Which Raised the Character of Augustus.
- Sect. V.: Though Augustus Courted the People, and Particular Senators, He Continued to Depress Public Liberty, and the Senate.
- Sect. VI.: What Fame He Derived From the Poets and Other Flattering Writers of His Time.
- Sect. VII.: Of the False Glory Sought and Acquired By Augustus, From the Badness of His Successors.
- Sect. VIII.: The Character of Augustus.
- Sect. IX.: Of the Helps and Causes Which Acquired and Preserved the Empire to Augustus. His Great Power and Fortune No Proof of Extraordinary Ability.
- Discourse V.: Of Governments Free and Arbitrary, More Especially That of the Cæsars.
- Sect. I.: The Principle of God’s Appointing and Protecting Tyrants, an Absurdity Not Believed By the Romans.
- Sect. II.: The Reasonableness of Resisting Tyrants Asserted, From the Ends of Government, and the Nature of the Deity. Opinions the Most Impious and Extravagant, Why Taught, and How Easily Swallowed.
- Sect. III.: The Danger of Slavish Principles to Such As Trust In Them, and the Notorious Insecurity of Lawless Might.
- Sect. IV.: Princes of Little and Bad Minds, Most Greedy of Power. Princes of Large and Good Minds Chuse to Rule By Law and Limitations.
- Sect. V.: The Wisdom and Safety of Ruling By Standing Laws, to Prince and People.
- Sect. VI.: The Condition of Free States, How Preferable to That of Such As Are Not Free.
- Sect. VII.: The Misery and Insecurity of the Cæsars From Their Overgrown Power.
- Sect. VIII.: A Representation of the Torments and Horrors Under Which Tiberius Lived.
- Sect. IX.: The Terrible Operation of Lawless Power Upon the Minds of Princes; and How It Changes Them.
- Sect. X.: The Wretched Fears Accompanying the Possession of Arbitrary Power, Exemplified In Caligula and Other Roman Emperors.
- Sect. XI.: What It Is That Constitutes the Security and Glory of a Prince; and How a Prince and People Become Estranged From Each Other.
- Sect. XII.: How Nearly It Behoves a Prince to Be Beloved and Esteemed By His Subjects. the Terrible Consequences of Their Mutual Mistrust and Hatred.
- Sect. XIII.: Public Happiness Only Then Certain, When the Laws Are Certain and Inviolable.
- Discourse VI.: Of the Old Law of Treason By the Emperors Perverted and Extended.
- Sect. I.: The Antient Purpose of That Law; the Politics of Augustus In Stretching It.
- Sect. II.: The Deification of the Emperors, What an Engine of Tyranny, and Snare to the Roman People.
- Sect. III.: The Images of the Emperors, How Sacred They Became, and How Pernicious.
- Sect. IV.: What a Destructive Calamity the Law of Majesty Grew, and How Fast Treasons Multiplied Under Its Name.
- Discourse VII.: Of the Accusations, and Accusers Under the Emperors.
- Sect. I.: The Pestilent Employment of These Men, Their Treachery and Encouragement.
- Sect. II.: The Traiterous Methods Taken to Circumvent and Convict Innocence. the Spirit of Accusing How Common, the Dread of It How Universal; and the Misery of the Times.
- Sect. III.: Plots Feigned Or True, an Ample Field For Accusations and Cruelty; and Upon What Miserable Evidence Executions Were Decreed.
- Sect. IV.: What Ridiculous Causes Produced Capital Guilt. the Spirit of the Emperor Constantius; With Somewhat of His Father Constantine.
- Sect. V.: The Black and General Carnage Made Under Constantius, By His Bloody Minister Paulus Catena, For Certain Acts of Superstition and Curiosity.
- Sect. VI.: The Ravages of the Accusers Continued; Their Credit With the Emperors; Yet Generally Meet Their Fate. the Falsehood of These Princes. the Melancholy State of Those Times.
- Sect. VII.: The Increase of Tyranny. Innocence and Guilt Not Measured By the Law, But By the Emperor’s Pleasure and Malice.
- Sect. VIII.: What Tacitus Means By Instrumenta Regni.
- Sect. IX.: How Much These Emperors Hated, and How Fast They Destroyed All Great and Worthy Men. Their Dread of Every Man For Any Reason.
- Sect. X.: Reflections Upon the Spirit of a Tyrant. With What Wantonness the Roman Emperors Shed the Blood of the Roman People. the Blindness of Such As Assisted the Usurpation of Cæsar and Augustus.
- Sect. XI.: Why Under Such Tyrants, the Senate Continued to Subsist.
- Sect. XII.: How the Unrelenting Cruelty of the Emperors Hastened the Dissolution of the Empire. the Bad Reigns of Constantine and Constantius. the Good Reign of Julian. the Indiscreet Behaviour of the Christians. Continued Tyranny; and End of the Em
- Sect. XIII.: The Excellency of a Limited Monarchy, Especially of Our Own.
- Discourse VIII.: Of the General Debasement of Spirit and Adulation Which Accompany Power Unlimited.
- Sect. I.: The Motives of Flattery Considered. Its Vileness, and Whence It Begins.
- Sect. II.: Men of Elevated Minds Irreconcileable to Arbitrary Power, and Thence Suspected By It. the Court Paid to It Always Insincere, Sometimes Expedient, But Seldom Observes Any Bounds.
- Sect. III.: The Excessive Power of the Imperial Freed Slaves; With the Scandalous Submission and Honours Paid Them By the Romans.
- Sect. IV.: The Excessive Flattery of the Senate, How Ill Judged.
- Sect. V.: The Free Judgment of Posterity a Powerful Warning to Princes, to Reign With Moderation and to Detest Flatterers. the Name and Memory of the Roman Tyrants How Treated.
- Sect. VI.: How Lamentably Princes Are Debauched and Misled By Flatterers.
- Sect. VII.: The Pestilent Tendency of Flattering Counsels, and the Glory of Such As Are Sincere.
- Discourse IX.: Upon Courts.
- Sect. I.: Of Freedom of Speech; and How Reasonable It Is.
- Sect. II.: The Spirit of Courtiers What; Some Good Ones.
- Sect. III.: The Arts of Courtiers; Their Cautiousness, and Its Causes.
- Sect. IV.: Of Slanderers and Tale-bearers In Courts. the Folly of Craft.
- Sect. V.: How Much Worthless People Abound In Courts, and Why.
- Sect. VI.: The Remarkable Fickleness and Insincerity of Courtiers.
- Discourse X.: Of Armies and Conquest.
- Sect. I.: The Burden and Danger of Maintaining Great Armies.
- Sect. II.: Great Armies the Best Disciplined, Whether Thence the Less Formidable to a Country. Their Temper and Views.
- Sect. III.: Princes Ruling By Military Power, Ever At the Mercy of Military Men.
- Sect. IV.: Instances of the Boldness and Fury of the Roman Soldiery.
- Sect. V.: The Humour of Conquering, How Injudicious, Vain, and Destructive.
- Sect. VI.: The Folly of Conquering Further Urged and Exemplified.
- The Annals of Tacitus.
- Book I.
- Book II.
- Book III.
The Humour of conquering, how injudicious, vain, and destructive.
THE Athenians began the ruin of their State, by a mad and expensive War upon Sicily; and from an ambition of conquering a people who had never offended them, exposed themselves to the attacks of the Lacedemonians, to the revolt of their own subjects, to domestic disorders, and the change of their Government. And though upon the recalling of Alcibiades, they won some victories, and for a while made some figure; they were at last conquered intirely by Lysander, their walls thrown down, the States subject to them set at liberty, and they themselves subjected to the domination of thirty Tyrants. They never after recovered their former Glory. The Lacedemonians fell afterwards into the same warlike folly, and their folly had the same fate. By lording over Greece they drew upon themselves a combination of Greek Cities, which together (especially the Thebans under the famous Epaminondas) despoiled them of their Authority, soon after their triumph over Athens. The Thebans too abused their good fortune; they were equally fond of fighting and conquest, and by it drew another confederacy against them. In truth, everyone of these States had been so long weakening themselves, and one another, by their propensity to War, that at last they fell under servitude to the Kings of Macedon, a Country formerly depending upon, or rather under vassalage to Athens and Sparta.
These States acted like some of the Princes of our time; by trusting to their own superior Prowess, they invaded their neighbours, and taught them Art enough to beat themselves. Thus the Muscovite, by falling upon the late King of Sweden, yet in his minority, roused a tempest that had well nigh overturned his Throne; and thus that King, by refusing the most honourable conditions of peace, and by urging his fate and revenge too far, taught the Russians that bravery and discipline which nothing could ever teach them before; saw his own brave Army utterly routed by forces that he despised; himself driven from his dominions, and a fugitive in a Country of Infidels; and his Provinces cantoned out amongst enemies, who, before he had tempted his good fortune to leave him, would have been glad to have compounded with him for a moiety of their own dominions.
Charles Duke of Burgundy had his head so turned with gaining the battel of Montl’hery, that he never listened afterwards to any counsel, but that of his own headstrong humour; nor ceased plunging himself into Wars, till in that against the Switzers, who had given him no just provocation, he lost his Army, his dominions, and his life. If Philip the second had kept his oath with the Low Countries, he might have preserved his Authority over them all. But nothing less would humour his pride than the subduing of their Liberties and Conscience; and in defence of their Conscience and Property, he drove them to the use of Arms, which a people employed in trade and manufacture, as they were, had no list to, nor skill in. Every body knows the issue; he lost the seven Provinces and their Revenue for ever, with many millions of money, and almost half a million of lives thrown away to recover them. By his mighty and boasted Armada designed to conquer England, what else did he conquer but his own Power at sea? He had prepared, he had been for some years preparing, a naval force mighty as his own arrogance; but it all proved to be only measures taken for baffling his arrogance, and for destroying the maritime force of Spain; and all the while that he was vainly meditating the destruction of England, he was in reality taking the part of England against himself, and, with all his might, weakening its greatest enemy. Had he husbanded that mighty strength; had he employed it at times, and in parcels, against these dominions, he might have had some success; but he combined against his own hopes.
How foolish is the reasoning of passion! It leads men to throw away strength to gain weakness. Even where these sons of violence succeed, they may be justly said to acquire nothing, beyond the praise of mischief. What is the occupation and end of Princes and Governors, but to rule men for their good, and to keep them from hurting one another? Now what Conqueror is there who mends the condition of the conquered? Alexander the Great, though he well knew the difference between a limited and a lawless Monarchy, did not pretend, that his invasion of Persia was to mend the condition of the Persians. It was a pure struggle for dominion; when he had gained it, he assumed the Throne upon the same arbitrary terms upon which their own Monarchs had held it, nor knew any Law but his will. The subject only felt the violence of the change, without any benefit or relaxation from slavery. His Glory therefore is all false and deceitful, as is all Glory which is gained by the blood of men, without mending the state of mankind. This spirit of fighting and conquering continued in his Successors, who plagued the earth as he had done, and weltered in the blood of one another, till they were almost all destroyed by the sword or poison, with the whole family of Alexander. It was no part of the dispute amongst them, which of them could bestow most happiness upon the afflicted world, about which they strove, but who should best exalt himself, and enslave all.
The State of Carthage after many Countries conquered, but not bettered by her Arms, was almost dissolved by her own barbarous Mercenaries, and at last conquered and destroyed by the Romans; who were in truth the most generous conquerors that the world has known: and most Countries found the Roman Government better than their own. This continued for some time, till their Provincial Magistrates grew rapacious, and turned the Provinces into spoil. Rome itself perished by her conquests, which being made by great Armies, occasioned such power and insolence in their Commanders, and set some Citizens so high above the rest, an inequality pernicious to free States, that she was enslaved by ingrates whom she had employed to defend her. Rome vanquished foreign nations; foreign luxury debauched Rome, and traiterous Citizens seized upon their mother with all her acquisitions. All her great blaze and grandeur, served only to make her wretchedness more conspicious, and her chains more intensely felt. Upon her thraldom there ensued such a series of Tyranny and misery, treachery, oppression, cruelty, death and affliction, in all shapes; that her agonies were scarce ever suspended till she finally expired. When her own Tyrants, become through Tyranny impotent, could no longer afflict her, for protection was none of their business; a host of Barbarians, only known for ravages, and acts of inhumanity, finished the work of desolation, and closed her civil doom. She has been since racked under a Tyranny more painful, as it is more slow; and more base, as it is scarce a domination of men; I mean her vassalage to a sort of beings of all others the most merciless and contemptible, Monks and Spectres.