SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
The Mercenary, Considered. Does history not tell us that once there were many soldiers in Italy, who, failing for pay because the wars had at length come to an end, formed themselves into Companies and extorted money from the city-states, plundered the countryside, and were a plague upon the nation? . . . Such outrages do not come from anything other than the fact that these men were skilled in the arts of arms, and turned this into a profession. Do we not have a proverb that reasons as I just have, saying: “War makes thieves, and peace hangs them?” Because those who do not know how to live by any other occupation and who do not find anybody who will support them in soldiering, and who are possessed of such limited skills otherwise that they cannot join together in pursuit of an honest trade or living–these men become mercenaries, they turn to rob on the highways. And in the end, justice has no recourse: it must extinguish them all.
–Niccolò Machiavelli, Dell’arte della guerra, bk i, sec ix (1519-20)(S.H. transl.) also in: Machiavelli: Chief Works and Others, vol. ii, pp. 574-75 (A. Gilbert transl. 1989).
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”