Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus

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Mulomedicina (1250-1375 ca., Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, pluteo 45.19)

Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus (4th century, possibly into the 5th), commonly referred to simply as Vegetius, was a writer of the Later Roman Empire.



De Re Militari (also Epitoma Rei Militaris)


Book I, "The Selection and Training of New Levies"

  • Nulla enim alia re uidemus populum Romanum orbem subegisse terrarum nisi armorum exercitio, disciplina castrorum usuque militiae.
    • Victory in war does not depend entirely upon numbers or mere courage; only skill and discipline will insure it. We find that the Romans owed the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observance of discipline in their camps and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war. Without these, what chance would the inconsiderable numbers of the Roman armies have had against the multitudes of the Gauls? Or with what success would their small size have been opposed to the prodigious stature of the Germans? The Spaniards surpassed us not only in numbers, but in physical strength. We were always inferior to the Africans in wealth and unequal to them in deception and stratagem. And the Greeks, indisputably, were far superior to us in skill in arts and all kinds of knowledge. (Book 1)
  • Scientia enim rei bellicae dimicandi nutrit audaciam: nemo facere metuit quod se bene didicisse confidit.
    • The courage of a soldier is heightened by his knowledge of his profession, and he only wants an opportunity to execute what he is convinced he has been perfectly taught. (Book 1)
  • Etenim in certamine bellorum exercitata paucitas ad uictoriam promptior est, rudis et indocta multitudo exposita semper ad caedem.
    • A handful of men, inured to war, proceed to certain victory, while on the contrary numerous armies of raw and undisciplined troops are but multitudes of men dragged to slaughter. (Book 1)
  • Caesa enim, quouis impetu ueniat, non frequenter interficit, cum et armis uitalia defendantur et ossibus; at contra puncta duas uncias adacta mortalis est.
    • A stroke with the edges, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills, as the vital parts of the body are defended both by the bones and armor; on the contrary a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal. (Book 1)

Book III, "Dispositions for Action"

  • Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum; qui uictoriam cupit, milites inbuat diligenter; qui secundos optat euentus, dimicet arte, non casu.
    • He, therefore, who desires peace, should prepare for war. He who aspires to victory, should spare no pains to form his soldiers. And he who hopes for success, should fight on principle, not chance. (Book 3, Foreword)
    • Variant: Si vis pacem para bellum. ("If you want peace, prepare for war.")
  • An ambuscade, if discovered and promptly surrounded, will return the intended mischief with interest.
  • What can a soldier do who charges when out of breath?
  • Amplius iuuat uirtus quam multitudo.
    • A general is not easily overcome who can form a true judgment of his own and the enemy's forces. Valour is superior to numbers. The nature of the ground is often of more consequence than courage. (General Maxims)
  • Paucos uiros fortes natura procreat; bona institutione plures reddit industria.
    • Few men are born brave; many become so through care and force of discipline. (General Maxims)
  • Numquam ad certamen publicum produxeris militem, nisi cum eum uideris sperare uictoriam.
    • An army is strengthened by labor and enervated by idleness. Troops are not to be led to battle unless confident of success. (General Maxims)
  • Qui frumentum necessariaque non praeparat, uincitur sine ferro.
    • An army unsupplied with grain and other necessary provisions will be vanquished without striking a blow. (General Maxims)
  • Quid fieri debeat, tractato cum multis, quid uero facturus sis, cum paucissimis ac fidelissimis uel potius ipse tecum.
    • On finding the enemy has notice of your designs, you must immediately alter your plan of operations. Consult with many on proper measures to be taken, but communicate the plans you intend to put in execution to few, and those only of the most assured fidelity; or rather trust no one but yourself. (General Maxims)
  • Boni duces publico certamine numquam nisi ex occasione aut nimia necessitate confligunt.
    • Punishment, and fear thereof, are necessary to keep soldiers in order in quarters; but in the field they are more influenced by hope and rewards. Good officers never engage in general actions unless induced by opportunity or obliged by necessity. (General Maxims)
  • In omnibus proeliis expeditionis condicio talis est, ut quod tibi prodest aduersarium noceat, quod illum adiuuat tibi semper officiat.
    • It is the nature of war that what is beneficial to you is detrimental to the enemy and what is of service to him always hurts you. It is therefore a maxim never to do, or to omit doing, anything as a consequence of his actions, but to consult invariably your own interest only. And you depart from this interest whenever you imitate such measures as he pursues for his benefit. For the same reason, it would be wrong for him to follow such steps as you take for your advantage. (General Maxims)
  • Nulla consilia meliora sunt nisi illa, quae ignorauerit aduersarius, antequam facias.
    • It is much better to overcome the enemy by famine, surprise or terror than by general actions, for in the latter instance fortune has often a greater share than valour. Those designs are best which the enemy are entirely ignorant of till the moment of execution. Opportunity in war is often more to be depended on than courage. (General Maxims)
  • aduersarium amplius frangunt transfugae quam perempti.
    • An adversary is more hurt by desertion than by slaughter. (General Maxims)