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Upon the breaking and shivering of a great state and empire, you may be sure to have wars. For great empires, while they stand, do enervate and destroy the forces of the natives which they have subdued, resting upon their own protecting forces; and then when they fail also, all goes to ruin, and they become a prey. So was it in the decay of the Roman empire; and likewise in the empire of Almaigne, after Charles the Great,2 every bird taking a feather; and were not unlike to befal3 to Spain, if it should break. The great accessions and unions of kingdoms do likewise stir up wars: for when a state grows to an over-power, it is like a great flood, that will be sure to overflow. As it hath been seen in the states of Rome, Turkey, Spain and others. Look when the world hath fewest barbarous peoples, but such as commonly, will not marry or generate, except they know means to live, (as it is almost everywhere at this day, except Tartary,) there is no danger of inundations of people: but when there be great shoals
2 Charles the Great, Carolus Magnus, Charlemagne, lived from 742 or 747 to 814, King of the Franks, and Emperor of the Romans. 3 Befall. To fall out in the course of events, to happen, to occur (with 'to,' 'unto,' or 'upon'). Archaic.
"Say, goddess, what ensu'd when Raphael,
Milton. Paradise Lost. VII. 40-44.
A superior, or supreme power.
Inundation. An overspreading or overwhelming in superfluous abundance; superabundance. "What inundation of life and thought is discharged from one soul into another through them! The glance [of the eyes] is natural magic." Emerson. Conduct of Life. havior.
of people, which go on to populate, without foreseeing means of life and sustentation, it is of necessity that once in an age or two they discharge a portion of their people upon other nations; which the ancient northern people were wont to do by lot; casting lots what part should stay at home, and what should seek their fortunes. When a warlike state grows soft and effeminate, they may be sure of a war. For commonly such states are grown rich in the time of their degenerating; and so the prey inviteth, and their decay in valour encourageth a war.
As for the weapons, it hardly falleth under rule and observation: yet we see even they have returns and vicissitudes. For certain it is, that ordnance was known in the city of the Oxidrakes in India; and was that which the Macedonians called thunder and lightning, and magic. And it is well known that the use of ordnance hath been in China above two thousand years. The conditions of weapons, and their improvement, are, First, the fetching2 afar off; for that outruns the danger; as it is seen in ordnance and muskets. Secondly, the strength of the percussion; wherein likewise ordnance do exceed all arietations3 and ancient inventions. The third is, the commodious use of them; as that they may serve in all wea
1 Sustentation. Support, especially, the support of life, sustenance, maintenance.
Fetch. To 'have at,' reach, strike (a person).
"Come away, or I'll fetch thee with a wanion."
8 Arietation. The action of butting, like a ram; hence, the striking with a battering-ram, or similar machine.
Ame Have we
thers; that the carriage may be light and manageable; and the like.
For the conduct of the war: at the first, men rested extremely upon number: they did put the wars likewise upon main force and valour; pointing days for pitched fields,1 and so trying it out upon an even match: and they were more ignorant in ranging and arraying their battles. After they grew to rest upon number rather competent than yast; they grew to3 advantages of place, cunning diversions, and the like: and they grew more skilful in the ordering of their battles.
In the youth of a state, arms do flourish; in the middle age of a state, learning; and then both of them together for a time; in the declining age of a state, mechanical arts and merchandise. Learning hath his infancy, when it is but beginning and almost childish: then his youth, when it is, luxuriant and juvenile: then his strength of years
1 Field. A battle.
"What though the field be lost!
Milton. Paradise Lost. I. 105-110.
2 Battle. A body or line of troops in battle array, whether an entire army, or one of its main divisions; battalion.
"In battles four beneath their eye,
So in original. A word appears to have dropped out, such as seek, or something equivalent. The translation has captabant. S. With this sentence, compare Advancement of Learning, II. x.
when it is solid and reduced:1 and lastly, his old age, when it waxeth dry and exhaust.2 But it is not good to look too long upon these turning wheels of vicissitude, lest we become giddy. As for the philology3 of them, that is but a circle of tales, and therefore not fit for this writing.
1 Reduce. To subject; to make subject to one; to bring under one, into or under one's power, within bounds.
2 Exhaust. Exhausted.
Philology. The love or study of learning and literature. Bacon uses the word philology in its old sense, the study of literature generally, the relation of literature and literary records to history, etc. The modern sense limits philology to the study of language or linguistics.
* In connection with this essay, read in the Wisdom of the An cients, Nemesis; or the Vicissitude of Things.