The Romans’ only inte­rest was in land troops, whose spi­rit was always to hold firm, to fight in the same place and to die there. They could have no esteem for the prac­tice of sea­men who show up for a fight, flee, return, cons­tantly elude dan­ger, make use of ruse and rarely force. None of that was in the genius of the Greeks1 and even less that of the Romans.

Therefore they des­ti­ned for the marine only men who were not citi­zens of suf­fi­cient sta­ture to occupy a posi­tion in the legions ; sea­men were usually freed sla­ves.2

We have today nei­ther the same esteem for land troops nor the same dis­dain for those at sea. The art of the for­mer is dimi­ni­shed ; that of the lat­ter is increa­sed3 ; but we esteem things in pro­por­tion to the degree of abi­lity requi­red to do them well.

As observed Plato, book IV of Laws.

Polybius, book V.

See Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and of their Decline, Paris, 1748.