Henry Peacham (1638) The Valley of Varietie, Chapter XIII, pp. 107-128.

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What Studies and Exercises best become Princes.

An ancient Historian, writing the life of Galienus the Emperour, saith, Hee excelled in Poetrie, Oratorie, and in all Arts, and it were an hard matter to collect all his workes; which made him famous in his time, as well among Poets as Rhetoricians. But one thing must be expected from an Emperour, another from a Poet and an Orator: which passage when I well considered, and having perused many Histories, I quickly found what Studies concerned Princes, and what vulgar persons. And first, I met with that of Livie, concerning Servius Tullius, writing thus; Inde puerum liberûm loco cæptum haberi erudirique artibus, quibus ingenia ad magnæ fortunæ cultum excitantur. After that, from a Boy, hee began to be accounted in the ranke of his children, and to be instructed in those Arts, by which good Wits are excited, to be made capable of a great fortune. And another writes thus of Augustus; Hee was first exercised in the way of speaking Greeke and Latine, hee did endure the travell and labour which belonged unto service in the Warre, hee learned whatsoever appertained to the Rule of a Common wealth, or a Kingdome. The like did Agrippina in the education of Nero her Sonne. For as wee read, shee perswaded Claudius to adopt Domitius Nero her Sonne; which when shee had done, shee procured Seneca (who had, about that time, a great quantity of Land given him, amongst us,1 lying in Essex) to teach and instruct him, and to make him fit for Imperiall Governement.

Now what are these Studies? I will shew you in few words. I speake nothing of Pietie and Religion, which the meanest knoweth to be the Basis, and foundation of all Princely Education; and without which, all other parts, be they never so excellent, doe but totter and reele: hee therefore beeing first grounded in the true knowledge of God, and the puritie of Christian Religion; I first bring him to the Rhetorick Schoole, and to learne to be Eloquent: being admonished hereunto by Lucian, who in his Dialogue, (which he intituleth παράκληους) doth faine Hercules Ogrisius to draw a mightie companie of the common people unto him, fastened by the eares, unto little Chaines which proceeded from his mouth. By which fiction hee meaneth, that a good Prince, by the benefit of Eloquence, may easily keepe his subjects in awe, and order. Musonius in Stobæus, also saith, It is a most Kingly thing for a Prince, not to be out-gone in abilitie of an Eloquent tongue. Neither doe I desire, that a Prince (as King Iames said) should be a passe-master in Rhetorick and Eloquence, or to sift all Oratorie for stile and figures; it is enough if hee but have a proper and ready sweetnesse of utterance, lest perhaps, if any should perswade him to be excellent herein, hee might answer his Tutor, as a certaine Prince in Euripides, answered his, μή μὸι τὰ κομψὰ ποικίλοι γενοίατο ἄλλ᾽ ὦν πόλει δεῖ μεγάλα βουλένουτες ἐά. Princes are not to be instructed concerning light matters, but in those things which especially concerne the Common wealth.

From Eloquence, I would leade a Prince to the studie of Philosophy, not to those subtill Quiddits, and deepe Theoremes, which may make one learned, but seldome better, and oftentimes worse: For, how many hath the subtilties heereof made plaine Atheists; and a Prince ought not to studie to bee eminent in a Schoole, but learne to know what may concerne the life and safetie of his subjects; wherefore the Theorique part of Philosophie for Recreation sake may bee tasted of, according to that of Neoptolemus, Philosophandum paucis, nam omnino non placere. And as much is confessed by Apollonius in Philostratus, where hee sayeth: The studie of Philosophie in a King or Prince, if it be with moderation, worketh in him an admirable Temperature: but overmuch toyling in the same studie, is odious and troublesome, and more sordid then may suite with the State of a King. Marcus Antoninus Emperour, though hee gave himselfe but moderately to this studie, yet the Name of Antoninus the Philosopher stucke by him all his life after. Iulian the Emperour also was taxed of his best friends,2 quod nimius circa Philosophorum disputationes esset. But I would have him versed and well acquainted with those Theoricall Studies which concerne the Mathematiques, after the Example of many great Princes and Monarchs, who have made singular use heereof: For it is a most fitting and necessarie thing, that a Prince should know the Situation of Countries, people, and their manners; Kingdomes, and their forme of government; Passages, Havens, and to beare them in memory: and withall, not to bee altogether ignorant in Astronomie, concerning the Heavens and their Motions, Constellations, their names, with their arising, descending, and the like. This was the studie of Iulius Cæsar in his Campe, as Lucan testifieth:

Media inter proelia semper
Stellarum, cælíque plagis, superisque vacare,

Alphonsus the tenth King of Spaine, was so given to the studie of the Mathematiques, that hee was tearmed the Astrologer, and from his Name, those Mathematicall Tables, so well knowne, are called to this day, Alphonsus his Tables.

Likewise that famous Emperour, whom for his merits of Christendome, may bee justly called a Second Charles the Great, hee tooke such delight in the Study of the Mathematiques, that even in the midst of his whole Armie in his Tent, sate close at this studie, having for that purpose as his Instructor, Turrianus of Cremona evermore with him. I meane not that I would have Princes, under the colour of Astronomy, give themselves to Astrologie, that Fortune-telling, and groundlesse profession of Almanack-makers, and quacksalving Emperiques, which casteth Nativities, and necessitates the actions of men, (more then God himselfe ever did:) this studie is to bee avoyded of Princes especially, because it is impious, and will both make them superstitious and cowards. This deceived Alexander, who when heereby (being both sicke in body and minde, vexed with many cares) hee thought to have prevented death, hee drew it upon him. And of this Disease also laboured Lewis the Eleventh, as you shall find it recorded by Philip Commines. To conclude in a word, how farre we should wade in this knowledge, I will make Tullies wordes mine owne; Didici ego (saith hee) compertumq; habeo Reges & Principes ab Theoreticæ Philosophiæ subtiliori studio laudari non solere.

After this first part of Philosophy, I perswade a Prince to the other Practicall, which is Politicall, or concerning Pollicie, which to say truth, ought to bee his onely studie: For this Politicall part is most imployed in directing Princes in their manner of living, and all those things which concerne the good of the Commonwealth, saith a learned Geographer.

I presuppose every Prince to bee by Nature apt to take advice and wholesome counsell: And a Prince being ingenious, and by Nature apt and capable of understanding, hee is to be first grounded in the Rules and Instructions of the best Politicians that have written, whose Bookes teach him without affection, feare, or flattery. Excellent was that saying of Alphonsus King of Arragon, That his dead Counsellors (meaning books) were to him better then his living, who neither mooved by feare, shame, favour, hatred, or any other affection, would tell him the truth sincerely and plainly. Hereupon the best Authours in this kind are to bee enquired for, and read, after the Example of the most able, and who ever were famous either in peace or warre. Marcus Varro gave to C. Pompeie when hee was first elected Consull, for his instruction, Isagogicum commentarium de Officio Senatus habendi, as saith Agellius.3

Demetrius Phaleræus, (as Plutarch saith,) earnestly perswaded Ptolomy that he should provide himselfe of those Bookes entituled, Commentarij de Regno. So Livie, from the first foundation of Rome, maketh mention of the Commentaries of Numa. Xiphilinus of Cæsars Commentaries. Tacitus, of the Register or Account Booke of Augustus. Soranzo, of the Commentaries of Amurath, Emperour of the Turks. Many Princes left behind them in writing to their Heires politike observations, and their Experience for their use and instruction. Reade Xiphilinus, of Augustus Cæsar his will, and his wise & thriftie Counsell to Tiberius and the people of Rome, which were too tedious to insert here; though one thing herein I will not overpasse: Augustus heerein charged them to be content with what they had already, & by no meanes they should strive to enlarge the Bounds of their Empire: for it was both hard getting more; and gotten, it might endanger the losing of that wch they now possessed quietly.

Xiphilinus writeth also, that Nero had books, τῆς αρχῆς. Ammianus Marcellinus testifieth, That Iulian read continually a certaine Booke, which Constantius wrote with his owne hand, when hee sent him to studie in the Universitie of Paris. And these kind of Books were called, either Commentarii, Breviaria, Rationaria, Instrumenta Imperii; the Græcians call, βιβλία τῆς αρχῆς. In these and the like Books, concerning the Government of a Common wealth, as of Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch, left to Posteritie; if a Prince be well exercised, he shall have herein understanding enough.

But I would have him with-all, converse with learned men well skilled in this kind. For (as Seneca saith) as those who walk in the Sun (though they goe not out for that purpose) cannot chuse but bee Sun-burn'd; so hee, who is delighted in the companie, and acquaintance of Wise men, and makes use of the same, cannot chuse but partake of some Wisdome. So Scipio Africanus had Polybius and Panætius evermore with him; Luccllus had Antiochus, the younger Scipio, either Lælius; Augustus, Agrippa; and Statilius, Taurus; Nero (as long as hee continued honest) Seneca; Themistocles, Mnesiphilus; Themistocles, Anaxagoras; Dio, Plato; Philip of Macedon, and Epimanondas, Lysias of Tarentum; Alexander, Aristotle; Cicero, Nigidius; and so of others.

These of the Latines, were called Monitores; of the Græcians, Μνήμονες, or Remembrancers.

Besides, a Prince is not onely to have about him, such as are skilled in humane Learning, but also such as have knowledge in Militarie Affaires; for a Prince must be fitted, not onely for times of Peace, but of Warre.

Severus is commended of Capitolinus in these words; It was his custome, if he was to deale in serious businesse, and matters of Law, and State, to make learned, wise, and understanding men of his Counsell, if of matters concerning Warre, ancient Souldiers, such as had deserved well, and had experience; who were skilfull of Countries and places, and of fortifications, but especially of either, who were best read in Historie: for Historie and Policie goe hand in hand with either; Historie declares what hath beene done, Policie, how justly. But some Courtier may say, Will you have a Prince to be alwaies poring upon his Booke, and allow him no exercise? Honest and seasonable exercise ought never to be denied to a Prince. Which Exercises I reckon, to ride and manage a great Horse, to exercise his Armes, to leape, to hunt, to play at Tennis, and the like, which may further and confirme his strength.

Sometimes Princes, if they be so pleased, may exercise Mechanicall Arts, if they be not illiberall or base; wherefore Domitian is justly taxed by Historians, that hee tooke pleasure in killing of Flies, with a small sharpe sticke. Moreover, Commodus is blamed by Lampridius, because he was skilfull in those things which became not his Imperiall dignitie, as making of Wooden Cups, Dancing, Singing, playing the Foole, and using himselfe to Fencing. Neither are those Exercises to be allowed of in a Prince, which draw blood, as playing the Butcher, and to kill Beasts for his recreation, which are Arguments of a cruell and a bloody mind.

There are certaine Mechanicall Arts, neare a kinne to the Liberall, wherein a Prince may take his pleasure, as Painting, wherein Alexander Severus, and Alexander (by the relation of Histories) were excellent. Belonging to this, is Statuarie or Carving, wherein, Xiphiline and Spartianus report the same Adrian to have beene most skilfull. Turning hath a share with the other, an Art lately found out, yet much commended, and allowed of, for Sigismund, that most valiant and wise K. of Poland is said to have exercised himselfe much herein.

Wee reade also of many Princes, who have beene excellent Goldsmiths; Collenutius reports, That Manfred of Naples, made a most curious Eagle of silver, which he ware upon his Helmet. Alphonsus, Duke of Ferrara, could cast great Pieces of Ordnance, whereof, two he made in the Venetian Warre, one he called the Earthquake, th'other, Grandiablo, or the great devill.

Of Iames the 4th K. of Scots, Buchanan writes, lib. 13. That he had learned, and studiously practised, how to cure all manner of wounds perfectly; which skill was common to most of the Nobilitie of Scotland, as men accustomed to War and wounds. Collenutius againe reporteth, That Ferdinand the second, K. of Naples, was skilfull in all Mechanicall Arts; neither skilfull onely, but an excellent Master in all whatsoever. Rodulph the last Emperour, was a rare Jeweller, and had great skill in making of Clocks and Watches. Neither in our daies are examples wanting of great Princes and persons, who delight themselves in these & the like. These bee those short Rules which I have out of others, I confess, prescribed out of manie Examples unto Princes; which if they shall observe, there is no doubt but they shal give their Subjects great hope of their just and moderate government, and draw their eies as glorious Mirrors to admire them; Provided their Teachers, and Counsellors be learned & just. For as Lampridius saith, Tantum valet aut ingenii vis, aut eorum qui in Aula institutores habentur.


1. Seneca possessed Land in Essex.

2. Ammian. Marcell.

3. Agell. lib. 14. cap. 7.

This page is by James Eason.