« AnteriorContinuar »
others not being subject to death. Perseus then, equipping himself for so noble an enterprise, borrowed arms as presents from three of the gods; from Mercury wings, — fitted to the ankles, not the shoulders; from Pluto a helmet; from Pallas a shield and mirror. Nevertheless (though he was now so well furnished) he did not go direct to Medusa, but turned aside to the Grææ. These were the half-sisters of the Gorgons; and were grey-headed from their birth, and like old women. They had but one eye and one tooth among them all ; which, as they had occasion to go abroad, each wore by turns and put off again when she came back. This eye and this tooth they lent to Perseus. And now judging himself sufficiently armed to effect his purpose, he went against Medusa with all haste, flying. Her he found sleeping; but not daring to meet her gaze (in case she should wake), he turned his face away, and looking into the mirror of Pallas to direct his blow, cut off her head. From her blood spilt upon the ground immediately sprang forth Pegasus the winged horse. But the severed head Perseus transferred to the shield of Pallas, and fixed it there; where it still retained its former virtue, that whoever gazed upon it became as it were thunder or planet struck.
This fable seems to have been devised with reference to method and prudence in making war. And first, the undertaking of every war ought to be as a mission from Pallas ; not from Venus (as the Trojan war was), or for any other slight motive; for resolutions respecting wars ought to be based on solid counsels. Secondly, with regard to the kind of war to be chosen, the fable propounds three very wholesome and important precepts. The first is, not to make too great a point of subjugating the neighbouring nations. For the method of enlarging a patrimony and an empire is not the same. In private estates contiguity of lands is taken into account, but in the extension of empirs, occasion and facility for making war and fruit of conquest ought to be regarded in place of contiguity. And therefore Perseus, though in the East, did not shrink from an expedition even to the far West. Of this there is a notable instance in the different modes of war practised by Philip and Alexander, father and son. The former, engaging in wars with neighbouring countries, after much exertion and danger (for both at other times and especially at Chæronea he was reduced to extreme peril), added a few cities to his empire; whereas Alexander, with wise boldness undertaking a distant expedition into Persia, subjugated an infinite number of nations, and suffered more by his marches than his battles. But perhaps this difference is shown still more clearly in the increase of the empire of the Romans, who while they had scarce penetrated westward beyond Liguria, had already conquered and included within their empire eastern provinces as far off as Mount Taurus. So Charles the Eighth, King of France, having found the war with Bretagne (afterwards arranged by marriage) no easy matter, undertook that distant enterprise against Naples, which he effected with wonderful ease and success. Certainly wars made upon distant nations have this advantage, that the invaders have to fight with those who have no experience of their mode of warfare and arms; whereas in a war with neighbours it is otherwise. Moreover the equipment of such expeditions is generally more perfect and better appointed, and the very boldness and confidence of the aggressor inspires greater terror into the enemy. Nor does it often happen in these distant expeditions that the enemy to whom the war is brought from such a distance can make diversions or counter-invasions, as is the case in wars between neighbours. But the chief point is, that in subduing neighbouring states there is only a small choice of opportunities; whereas in distant enterprises the aggressor may carry the war at pleasure, either where military discipline is most relaxed, or the strength of a people is most weakened and impaired, or the rise of civil dissension and other like opportunities present themselves. The second precept is, that there must ever be a cause of war, just, pious, honourable, and popular. For this begets alacrity as well in the soldiers, as in those who provide the funds, opens the way to alliances, and conciliates friends, and has many other advantages. the causes of war few are more popular than the putting down of tyrannies, beneath whose yoke the spirit and energy of the people are worn down and prostrated, as by the head of Medusa ; a thing which gained Hercules divine honours. Certainly the Romans made it a great point of duty to hasten with all speed to succour their allies when in any way attacked. Wars also undertaken for a just revenge have almost always been successful; as the war against Brutus and Cassius to avenge the murder of Cæsar; of Severus to avenge the death of Pertinax; of Junius Brutus to avenge the death of Lucretia.
In a word, whosoever either relieves or avenges by war the calamities and injuries of men, bears arms under Perseus. The third precept is, that in every war a true estimate of strength must be taken, and it must be duly considered whether the war be such as can be carried through and brought to an issue; so that one may not engage in pursuit of vast and boundless projects. For of the Gorgons (which are the representatives of war) Perseus wisely chose her alone who was of mortal nature, nor did he attempt impossibilities. Such then is the advice which the fable gives touching the things that require deliberation in undertaking war; the rest relate to the carrying it on.
In war those three gifts of the gods are of all things the most important; insomuch that they commonly command and carry with them fortune itself. For Perseus received speed from Mercury, secrecy of counsels from Orcus, and foresight from Pallas. And it is not without allegory, and that of the wisest sort, that those wings of speed (sceing speed is of much avail in war) were attached to the feet and not to the shoulders; because celerity is required not so much in the first onsets of war as in the pursuit and following up thereof. For no error in war is more common than this, that the prosecutions and subsidiary actions correspond not to the energy of the first commencements. And the helmet of Pluto (which used to render men invisible) is a manifest parable. For next to speed in war secrecy of counsels is of the greatest moment; of which indeed speed itself is a great part; for speed anticipates the disclosures of counsels. To the helmet of Pluto belongs also this : that there should be one commander in a war, with free instructions; for consultations held with many savour more of the crests of Mars than the helmet of Pluto. Variety of pretexts, ambiguous directions, rumours spread abroad, which either blind or avert men's eyes and involve the real designs in obscurity, refer to the same. So also diligent and suspicious precautions respecting despatches, ambassadors, deserters, and many like matters, are wreathed round the helmet of Pluto. But it is of no less importance to discover the counsels of the enemy than to conceal our own.
To the helmet of Pluto therefore must be added the mirror of Pallas, whereby to discern the strength or weakness of the enemy, their secret partisans, their discords and factions, their movements and designs. But since there is so much of chance in war, that no great confidence can
be placed either in discovering the designs of the enemy, or in concealing our own, or even in speed itself, we must take special care to be armed with the shield of Pallas, that is, of foresight, so as to leave as little as possible to fortune. To this belong the exploring of roads before a march, the careful fortification of the camp (which in modern warfare has fallen almost into disuse, whereas the camps of the Romans were like a fortified town, to fall back upon in case of defeat), a firm and well drawn up line of battle, not trusting too much to light troops, or even to cavalry ; in a word, everything which relates to a sound and careful system of defensive war; for the shield of Pallas is generally of more avail in war, than the sword of Mars itself. But Perseus, however furnished with forces and and courage, has still need of one thing more, of the greatest possible importance, before he commences the campaign ; he must turn aside to the Grææ. Now the Grææ are Treasons, which are the Sisters of War, though not indeed own sisters, but as it were of less noble birth.
For wars noble and generous; treasons degenerate and base. They are portrayed appropriately as being grey-headed from their birth and like old women, by reason of the perpetual cares and anxieties attending traitors. Their power (before they openly desert) is in the eye or tooth; for all faction, when discontented and inclined to treason, is both watchful and biting. Moreover this
and tooth are, as it were, common to them all; for whatever they learn and discover is handed from one to another, and circulates through the whole party. And with regard to the tooth, they all bite as it were with one mouth, and utter the same scandals; so that if you hear one, you hear all. Wherefore Perseus must conciliate these Grææ, and bring them into alliance with him, especially that they may lend him their eye and tooth; the eye to gain information; the tooth to spread rumours, raise envy, and gain over the minds of men. But when everything has been arranged in order for war, we must take special care, like Perseus, to find Medusa asleep; for he who undertakes a war wisely will almost always attack his enemy unprepared and in security. Lastly, , in the very actions and onsets of war the mirror of Pallas must be resorted to; for there are many who before the time of danger can take a clear and accurate survey of the position of the enemy, but in the very moment of peril they are either
stupified with terror, or look their dangers too rashly in the face; and so rush madly into them, bent on overcoming, not on avoiding them. Neither of which things should be done; but we should turn aside the head and look into the mirror of Pallas, that the onset may be rightly directed without either terror or fury.
From the conclusion of the war and victory follow two effects, first, the birth and springing up of Pegasus, which evidently enough signifies Fame that flies abroad and proclaims the victory, and so makes what remains of the war easy and satisfactory; secondly, the carrying of Medusa'a head on the shield; to which for excellence no other kind of defence can be compared. For one great and memorable enterprise successfully carried out paralyses every movement of the enemy, and stupifies disaffection itself.
The third Example of Philosophy according to the Ancient
Fables, in Moral Philosophy. Of Desire, according to the fable of Dionysus.
THEY They say that Semele, the mistress of Jupiter, having bound him by an inviolable oath to grant her a request whatever it might be, desired of him to come to her arms in the same form as he would to Juno; and so she was scorched to death in his embrace. The child which she bore in her womb was taken by his father and sewn up in his thigh, till the time of gestation was accomplished. And because the child, when in the thigh of Jupiter, pinched and galled him so as to make him limp, he received the name of Dionysus. After he was brought forth he was nursed for some years by Proserpine; and when he grew up his face was so like a woman's that it seemed doubtful of which sex he was. He was likewise once dead and buried for a time, but came to life again not long after. In his early youth he was the first to invent and explain the culture of the vine, and the making of wine, and its use; whereby becoming renowned and illustrious, he subdued the whole world and advanced to the furthest parts of India. He rode in a chariot drawn by tigers, round which danced certain deformed demons called Cobali; Acratus and others. The Muses also attended in his train. He took to wife Ariadne, whom Theseus had deserted and abandoned. His sacred tree was the ivy. He was regarded likewise as the inventor and institutor of sacred