The Necessity of Caution in Dealing with an Enemy
TIBERIUS a Roman Pro-consul fell into an ambuscade,
Fall of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus [Cons. B. C. 215 and 213] as he was advancing
from Lucania to Capua, by the treachery of the Lucanian Flavius, B. C. 212. Livy, 25, 16.
and, after offering with his attendants a gallant
resistance to the enemy, was killed.
Now in regard to such catastrophes, whether
it is right to blame or pardon the sufferers is
by no means a safe matter on which to pronounce an opinion; because it has happened to several men, who have been perfectly correct in all their actions, to fall
into these misfortunes, equally with those
who do not scruple to transgress principles of right
confirmed by the consent of mankind. We should not however idly refrain from pronouncing an opinion: but should
blame or condone this or that general, after a review of
the necessities of the moment and the circumstances of
Fall of Archidamus, B. C. 226-225.
And my observation will be rendered evident
by the following instances. Archidamus, king
of the Lacedaemonians, alarmed at the love
of power which he observed in Cleomenes,
fled from Sparta
; but being not long afterwards persuaded
to return, put himself in the power of the latter. The
consequence was that he lost his kingdom and his life
and left a character not to be defended before
posterity on the score of prudence; for while affairs remained in the same state, and the ambition and power
of Cleomenes remained in exactly the same position, how
could he expect to meet any other fate than he did, if he
put himself in the hands of the very men from whom he had
before barely escaped destruction by flight?
Again Pelopidas of Thebes
, though acquainted
with the unprincipled character of the tyrant
Alexander, and though he knew thoroughly well that every
tyrant regards the leaders of liberty as his bitterest enemies,
first took upon himself to persuade Epaminondas to stand
forth as the champion of democracy, not only in Thebes
in all Greece
also; and then, being in Thessaly
in arms, for the
express purpose of destroying the absolute rule of Alexander,
he yet twice ventured to undertake a mission to him.
Fall of Pelopidas in Thessaly, B. C. 363.
was that he fell into the hands of his enemies, did
great damage to Thebes
, and ruined the reputation he had
acquired before; and all by putting a rash and ill advised
confidence in the very last person in whom he
ought to have done so.
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina with his fleet surprised
and captured at Lipara, B. C. 260. See I, 21.
Very similar to these
cases is that of the Roman Consul Gnaeus
Cornelius who fell in the Sicilian war by imprudently putting himself in the power of the
enemy. And many parallel cases might be quoted.