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Efficiency of Mercenaries

At first the struggle was confined to these two forces,
Defeat of the Achaean right wing.
and was maintained with spirit. But the light-armed troops coming gradually to the support of such of them as were wavering, in a very short time the whole of the mercenaries on either side were engaged. They fought sometimes in close order, sometimes in pairs: and for a long time so entirely without decisive result, that the rest of the two armies, who were watching in which direction the cloud of dust inclined, could come to no conclusion, because both sides maintained for a long while exactly their original ground. But after a time the mercenaries of the tyrant began to get the better of the struggle, from their numbers, and the superiority in skill obtained by long practice. And this is the natural and usual result. The citizens of a democracy no doubt bring more enthusiasm to their battles than the subjects of a tyrant; but in the same proportion the mercenaries of sovereigns are naturally superior and more efficient than those of a democracy. For in the former case one side is fighting for liberty, the other for a condition of servitude; but in the case of mercenaries, those of the tyrant are encouraged by the certain prospect of reward, those of a democracy know that they must lose by victory: for as soon as a democracy has crushed its assailants, it no longer employs mercenaries to protect its liberties; while a tyranny requires more mercenaries in proportion as its field of ambition is extended: for as the persons injured by it are more numerous, those who plot against it are more numerous also; and the security of despots rests entirely on the loyalty and power of mercenaries.

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 33-34, commentary, 34.36
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 345
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