AMONG the many warm disputes which have often
happened between Virtue and Fortune, this concerning the
Roman empire is none of the least considerable, whether of
them shall have the honor of founding that empire at first,
and raising it afterwards to vast power and glory. The
victory in this cause will be no small commendation of the
conqueror, and will sufficiently vindicate either of the contending parties from the allegations that are usually made
against it. For Virtue is accused as unprofitable, though
beautiful, and Fortune as unstable, though good; the former as laboring in vain, the latter as deceitful in its gifts.
But who can deny but Virtue has been most profitable, if
Rome does favor her cause in this contention, since she
procured so much good to brave and gallant men; or that
Fortune is most constant, if she be victorious in this contest, since she continued her gifts with the Romans for so
long a time.
Ion the poet has written somewhere in prose, that Fortune and Wisdom, though they be very much different from
one another, are nevertheless the causes of the very same
effects. Both of them do advance and adorn men; both
do raise them to glory, power, and empire. It were needless to multiply instances by a long enumeration of particulars, when even Nature itself, which produces all
things, is by some reputed Fortune, and by others Wisdom. And therefore the present controversy will conciliate
great honor and veneration to the city of Rome,
since she is thought worthy of the same enquiry which
uses to be made concerning the earth and seas, the heavens and the stars,—whether she owes her being to Fortune or to Providence.