Quote: Machiavelli on Religion



"It will also be seen by those who pay attention to Roman history, how much religion helped in the control of armies, in encouraging the plebs, in producing good men, and in shaming the bad. So that if it were a question of the ruler to whom Rome was more indebted, Romulus or Numa, Numa, I think, should easily obtain the first place.

"For, where there is religion, it is easy to teach men to use arms, but where there are arms, but no religion, it is with difficulty that it can be introduced. Thus, one sees that in establishing the senate and introducing other civic and military institutions, Romulus did not find it necessary to appeal to divine authority; but to Numa it was so necessary that he pretended to have private conferences with a nymph who advised him about the advice he should give to the people. This was because he wanted to introduce new institutions to which the city was unaccustomed, and doubted whether his own authority would suffice.

"Nor in fact was there ever a legislator who, in introducing extraordinary laws to a people, did not have recourse to God, for otherwise they would not have been accepted, since many benefits of which a prudent man is aware, are not so evident to reason that he can convince others of them. Hence wise men, in order to escape this difficulty, have recourse to God. So Lycurgus did; so did Solon, and so have many others done who have had the same end in view. Marvelling, therefore, at Numa's goodness and prudence, the Roman people accepted all his decisions. True, the time were so impregnated with a religious spirit and the men with who he had to deal so stupid that they contributed very much to facilitate his designs and made it easy to impress on them any new form. Doubtless too, anyone seeking to establish a republic at the present time would find it easier to do among uncultured men of the mountains than among dwellers in cities where civilization is corrupt; just as a sculptor will more easily carve a beautiful statue form rough marble than from marble already spoiled by a bungling workman."


The Discourses
Book One, Discourse XI
Concerning the Religion of the Romans

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