Montaigne's Essays/Book I/Chapter XIV

Essays by Michel de Montaigne, translated by John Florio
The Fourteenth Chapter: Men are punished by too-much opiniating themselves in a place without reason

Valour hath his limits, as other vertues have: which if a man out-go, hee shall find himselfe in the traine of vice: in such sort, that unlesse a man know their right bounds, which in truth are not on a sudden easily hit upon, he may fall into rashnesse, obstinacie and folly. For this consideration grew the custome wee hold in warres, to punish, and that with death, those who wilfully opiniate themselves to defend a place, which by the rules of warre cannot be kept. Otherwise upon hope of impunitie, there should bee no cottage that might not entertaine an Armie. The Lord Constable Momorancie at the siege of Pavia, having beene appointed to passe over the river Tesine, and to quarter himselfe in the suburbs of Saint Antonie, being impeached by a tower that stood at the end of the bridge. and which obstinately would needs hold out, yea and to be battered, caused all those that were with-in it, to be hanged. The same man afterward, accompanying my Lord the Dolphin of France in his iourney beyond the Alpes, having by force taken the Castle Villane, and all those that were within the same, having by the furie of the Souldiers bin put to the sword, except the Captaine, and his Ancient, for the same reason, caused them both to be hanged and strangled: As did also Captaine Mart in du Bellay, the Governour of Turin, in the same conntrey, the Captaine of Saint Bony: all the rest of his men having beene massacred at the taking of the place. But forsomuch as the judgement of the strength or weaknesse of the place is taken by the estimate and counterpoise of the forces that assaile it (for som might justly opinionate himselfe against two culverins, that wold play the mad-man to expect thirtie cannons) where also the greatnesse of the Prince conquering must be considered, his reputation, and the rest that is due unto him: there is danger a man should somewhat bend the balance on that side. By which termes it hapneth, that some have so great an opinion of themselves, and their meanes, and deeming it unreasonable, anything should be worthie to make head against them, that so long as their fortune continueth, they overpasse what hill or difficultie soever they finde to withstand or resist them: As is seene by the formes of sommonings and challenges, that the Princes of the East, and their successors yet remaining, have in use, so fierce, so haughtie and so full of a barbarous kinde of commandement. And in those places where the Portugales abated the pride of the Indians, they found some states observing this universall and inviolalile law, that what enemie soever he be, that is overcome by the King in person, or by his Lieutenant, is exempted from all composition of ransome or mercie. So above all, a man who is able should take heed, lest he fall into the hands of an enemie-judge, that is victorious and armed.