Dr. Mike Abrams' NYC Site   Visit Dr. Mike Abrams on YouTube


Sexuality and Its Disorders explores sexuality from an evolutionary perspective using powerful, real-life case studies to help readers provide effective guidance around issues relating to sexuality. Drawing on his 30 years of clinical experience and research, author Mike Abrams provides a comprehensive, evidence-based, and clinically-oriented text with cutting-edge coverage throughout. Discussions include the physical and psychological development of sexual identity; the social aspects of sexual behavior; the many expressions of sexuality; cognitive behavior treatment of sexual problems; and more. The many perspectives of sexuality are examined with interviews and commentaries from major figures in the field—including David M. Buss, Helen Fisher, C. Sue Carter of Kinsey, Todd K. Shackelford, Ken Zucker, and Gordon Gallup—who discuss such topics as the origins of sexuality, the nature of love, the role of attachment, and the treatment of sexual problems.
SAGE Publishing Site for Ordering »Visit site sexualitytext.com

Outline of the Prince

                                                                   home page

Below is a summary of Machiavelli's Life, an outline of The Prince, and other explanations of Machiavelli's writings and perspectives

Sponsered by psychology of new jersey



Living from 1469 to 1527, Niccolo Machiavelli saw what we now

consider the height of the Italian Renaissance--a period that

produced some of Italy's greatest achievements in the arts and

sciences, but that also produced horrible scandals and the

establishment of foreign domination over the peninsula. Brought

up while members of the powerful Medici family were masters of

Florence, he studied the classics and learned to read and write

in Latin. He also showed a keen interest in, and the ability to

learn from, the world around him. He was a diplomat, a student

of history, and a writer of comedy--and his sharp and unique

insights changed the face of political science forever.

Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3, 1469. We first

hear of him playing an active role in the affairs of his native

city in 1498, when the government dominated by Girolamo

Savonarola, the Dominican friar whose puritanical views had

influenced Florence for the preceding four years, fell from power.

One of Savonarola's supporters who lost his position as a

result was Alessandro Braccesi, head of the second chancery, an

office responsible for all correspondence related to the

administration of Florentine territories. At first the post was

left unoccupied, but after a short delay the little known name

of Niccolo Machiavelli was put forward as a possible

replacement. He was only twenty-nine years old at the time and

apparently had no previous administrative experience. His

nomination was confirmed, however, and he was appointed second

chancellor of the Florentine Republic. It was an enormous

opportunity, and the experiences and insights he would gain in

the post would be used later in writing The Prince.

At the time Machiavelli entered public service, there were

already well-established standards for filling major

administrative positions in Florentine government. In addition

to exhibiting diplomatic skill, civil servants were expected to

display competence in the "humane disciplines." These

disciplines had been derived from ancient Roman sources

especially from the orator and statesman Cicero, who had written

about the need for formal study of Latin, rhetoric, history,

moral philosophy, and politics to prepare a student for

professional service to the community. Ultimately, they were

the ancestor of the "humanities," or liberal arts curriculum in

contemporary education.

The popularity of the humanistic ideals in Florentine

government help explain how Machiavelli came to be appointed to

a responsible government post at such an early age. His family,

though neither rich nor aristocratic, were closely allied with

the city's leading humanists.

Machiavelli's father, Bernardo, a lawyer, was friendly with

several distinguished humanist scholars, including Bartolomeo

Scala, who at one time served as first chancellor of Florence

and whose treatise On Laws and Legal Judgments (1483) was

dedicated to Bernardo.

We learn from Bernardo's diary that his son began formal

education at the age of seven. Basically, this was the study of

Latin, the language that was the passport to the world of

humanistic learning. By the time Machiavelli was twelve he had

graduated from primary school and was enrolled in private

classes. Later, he was accepted at the University of Florence,

where he received training in the humanities, literature, and

sciences from Marcello Adriani, who succeeded Scala as first

chancellor of Florence.

Do you think these contacts help explain why young

Machiavelli suddenly was awarded the government post in 1498?

Adriani had taken over as first chancellor earlier in the same

year, and it's reasonable to assume that he remembered the

talents of his brilliant student when he was filling vacancies

in the chancery. It is also possible that Machiavelli's father

exerted some influence.

Machiavelli's official position involved him in very

important duties. The first and second chanceries both handled

official correspondence dealing with Florence's domestic,

foreign, and military affairs. As head of the second chancery,

Machiavelli was also soon assigned the further job of secretary

to the Ten of War, the committee responsible for Florence's

diplomatic relations. This meant that in addition to his

routine office duties, Machiavelli sometimes traveled abroad to

act as spokesman for the Ten. In some respects, Machiavelli's

government position resembles that of a modern diplomatic

attache: a skilled and reliable official who sends to the home

office detailed reports and observations on the affairs of

foreign nations.

During the next fourteen years, Machiavelli was sent on

numerous diplomatic missions to France, Switzerland, and

Germany. His observations abroad resulted in many of the ideas

that form the basis for the major statements found in his

political works. In The Prince, for example, Machiavelli

comments at length on Germany's well-fortified cities and

evaluates the weak leadership of the French king, Louis XII.

DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS In June 1500, Machiavelli was in France

at the court of Louis XII, negotiating for assistance in

regaining Pisa, which had asserted its independence from

Florence and tried to establish an independent city-state. It

was in France that Machiavelli saw first-hand the weak

leadership of the king he describes so clearly in The Prince.

He also learned about the French Parliament and its difficulties

in resolving power struggles between the hereditary nobles and

the common people.

When the mission to France ended in December of that year,

Machiavelli hurried home. His father had died shortly before

his departure, his sister had died while he was away, and his

family affairs were in disorder. He spent the next two years

mainly in and around Florence. It was during this time that he

met Marietta Corsini, whom he married about August, 1501. She

remains a shadowy figure in Machiavelli's life, but his frequent

letters to her suggest his genuine fondness for her. For her

part, she bore six children and suffered greatly from her

husband's long absences and many infidelities. She outlived

Machiavelli by a quarter of a century.

In 1501 Machiavelli met Cesare Borgia, whom he often refers

to in The Prince as a model for the political and military

leader. Borgia was an illegitimate son of Cardinal Rodrigo

Borgia. After the cardinal became Pope Alexander VI in 1492, he

tried to use his position to advance the fortunes of his family.

He gave Cesare the title of Duke of Romagna (an area in

northeastern Italy), and Cesare launched a series of campaigns

to carve out a territory to match his new title. He quickly

overran nearby areas and then asked that an envoy be sent to

hear his terms for a formal alliance with Florence. The man

selected for this delicate negotiation was Machiavelli.

Machiavelli's mission to Borgia's court lasted four months,

during which he had many private discussions with the duke.

Machiavelli later reported to his superiors in Florence that

Borgia was "superhuman in his courage" and "capable of attaining

anything he wants"--someone who "must now be regarded as a new

power in Italy." (These observations, originally sent in a

secret dispatch to the Ten of War, appear almost word for word

in Machiavelli's description of Cesare in Chapter 7 of The


In 1507, Machiavelli arrived at the court of Maximilian I,

who was Holy Roman Emperor, but who had not been crowned by the

pope in Rome. Machiavelli persuaded the emperor not to march

into Italy and have himself crowned in Rome. He considered the

emperor to be inept, with scarcely any of the qualifications

necessary for conducting effective government. Maximilian's

basic weakness, according to Machiavelli, was a tendency to be

"altogether too lax and credulous" and readily "influenced by

every different opinion." (In Chapter 23 of The Prince,

Machiavelli incorporates many of the same phrases to sketch an

unflattering portrait of Maximilian as incompetent and


When Machiavelli returned to Florence, he received permission

from the city's governing council to create a special military

board responsible for recruiting a militia, obtaining arms, and

providing for the city's defense. When Florence was threatened

in 1512 by the Spanish, who wished to restore the Medici family

to power, Machiavelli mobilized an army of twelve thousand men

to repel the invasion. However, his ill-equipped

citizen-soldiers were unable to withstand the heavily armed,

disciplined, and seasoned Spanish forces.

RETURN OF THE MEDICI The Medici then reentered the city of

Florence after an absence of eighteen years. Within weeks the

free republic of Florence was dissolved in favor of an

oligarchy--a government where ruling power belongs to a few--and

the Medici family assumed absolute power. With the downfall of

the republic, Machiavelli's own political career also collapsed.

In November 1512, he was dismissed from his government post and

forbidden to leave Florentine territory for a year. In February

1513 came another blow: Machiavelli was falsely accused of

taking part in an unsuccessful conspiracy against the Medici and

was imprisoned. The one responsible for Machiavelli's

imprisonment--Lorenzo de' Medici, grandson of Lorenzo the

Magnificent--is the same person to whom Machiavelli dedicated

The Prince. Do you think this explains why some readers believe

the dedication was intended to help Machiavelli win a pardon and

regain his position in the new government? Or do you think

Machiavelli's dedication was meant to be ironic and sarcastic?

Early in the same year, the Medici family scored its most

impressive triumph when Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici was elected

pope as Leo X. The election greatly strengthened the new regime

in Florence. The city held public celebrations for nearly a

week. The election of Leo X also prompted the government to

declare an amnesty as part of the rejoicing, and Machiavelli was

freed along with many other political prisoners.

As soon as he was released, Machiavelli sought reappointment

to his former government post. When his pleas went unanswered,

he withdrew to his farm at Sant' Andrea. At the age of

forty-three, he saw little prospect of reversing his fortunes

now that the Medici held power. His letters from this period

reveal a sense of despair and isolation. He reports that he is

pondering the insights he acquired during the fifteen years he

served the Florentine government. The outcome, he says, is that

"I have composed a little book On Principalities." This "little

book" was Machiavelli's masterpiece, The Prince. It was started

in the second half of 1513 and completed by Christmas of that


Machiavelli hoped that The Prince would bring him to the

notice of the "Medici lords." One reason--as the dedication to

the treatise makes clear--was his desire to offer the Medici

"some proof" that he was still their loyal subject. His other

concern was to emphasize that he was a man worth employing, an

expert who might prove useful to them.

But Machiavelli never won the trust of the Medici, and he was

not restored to his official position. From 1513 to the time of

his death in 1525, he wrote historical narratives (The History

of Florence, 1525), satirical plays (Mandragola, 1518),

political treatises (The Discourses, 1519), military manuals

(The Art of War, 1520), biographies of political figures (Life

of Castruccio Castracani, 1520), and poems.

On June 21, 1525, Machiavelli fell ill and died. He was

buried in the small churchyard at Santa Croce, where other great

Florentine artists and thinkers, such as Michelangelo and

Galileo, also rest. In the eighteenth century, the citizens of

Florence erected a monument to his memory; the inscription is

simply, "No praise can enhance such a great name."




Machiavelli's works, especially The Prince, have been widely

read for more than four and a half centuries, and Machiavelli's

name has been familiar to millions who never read his works.

Mostly, he has been condemned as a preacher of political

immorality. In Elizabethan England, he was conventionally seen

as a diabolical figure. Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), in his

play The Jew of Malta (1590?), brings him on the stage under the

name "Machevill" and makes him say (Prologue, lines 14-20):

I count religion but a childish toy,

And hold there is no sin but ignorance.

Birds of the air will tell of murders past.

I am asham'd to hear such fooleries!

Many will talk of title to a crown:

What right had Caesar to the empery?

Might first made kings....

Certainly, the reputation of Machiavelli in England

contributed much to the notion that Renaissance Italy was a

place where intrigue, treachery, and political violence were not

only practiced almost continuously but also shamelessly

justified by the invocation of evil principles. It has even

been suggested (probably incorrectly) that the expression "Old

Nick," meaning the devil, is derived from Machiavelli's first

name, Niccolo.

But within a century of Machiavelli's lifetime, Francis Bacon

(1561-1626) expressed a different opinion: "We are much

beholden to Machiavelli and others that wrote what men do, and

not what they ought to do." The accurate perception of

Machiavelli as a careful and honest observer of human conduct

has increasingly led to a much more positive view of his

significance and value. Although in the popular mind he still

retains his sinister reputation--"Machiavellian" has after all

passed into the language to refer to the use of unscrupulous or

deceptive means to advance one's ends--most writers today regard

him as one of the founders of modern political thought. The

influential political theorist Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), author

of Leviathan (1651), strongly echoes Machiavelli's conviction

that human beings are naturally wicked and require strong

government to keep them from harming each other and reducing

society to ruin. Moreover, Machiavelli's method of supporting

all his conclusions with examples drawn from history or from the

public life of his own time makes him perhaps the most important

forerunner of modern political science, and of the social

sciences in general. In this respect, he had particular

influence on Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

(1689-1755), author of The Spirit of Laws (1748).

Has Machiavelli's influence on political activity equaled his

influence on political thought? It has frequently been asserted

by writers hostile to Machiavelli that rulers like Napoleon I

and Adolf Hitler used The Prince as a kind of textbook to guide

them in the pursuit of power. Most scholars, however, say this

notion is based on a fundamental misunderstanding.

Machiavelli's purpose was to describe the realities of political

life--not to set up a school for tyrants. Certainly, many

modern politicians have read The Prince, and no doubt they have

learned something from it. But, if Machiavelli's exposition

applies to nineteenth--or twentieth-century figures like

Napoleon and Hitler, that is much more an indication of how well

he understood the political dimensions of human nature than it

is evidence that such figures learned their methods from him.

On the other hand, there are two important areas of political

life in which Machiavelli's influence is evident. First,

Machiavelli was an ardent patriot. He lived at a time when

Italy was divided into dozens of principalities and city-states,

and his primary attachment was quite naturally to his own

city-state of Florence. But Machiavelli's eloquent call, at the

end of The Prince, for the liberation of all Italy from foreign

invaders marked a major step forward in the evolution of

national consciousness. It took a long time for his hopes to be

realized. But in the nineteenth century, when Italy was finally

unified and freed from foreign domination, Machiavelli came to

be recognized as one of the prophets of modern patriotism.

Second, Machiavelli has had great influence as a military

thinker. In many ways, he is considered to be the founder of

modern military science. His treatise The Art of War, it has

been said, laid the foundations of modern tactics. More

generally, his study in The Prince of the rational use of force

to get, keep, or increase political power is a direct antecedent

of the work of the great European military theorist Karl von

Clausewitz (1780-1831), author of On War (1833). Also,

Machiavelli's repeated call for a citizen army--and his

practical work as a government official in trying to build such

an army for Florence--anticipates the mass armies that, ever

since the age of the French Revolution, have fought most wars of

modern national states.

History has shown that Machiavelli exercised a profound

influence on generations of readers. In what way may he

influence us? Certainly we can learn a great deal from him

about the political nature of people and about the way that

educated people in early modern times thought and felt. That is

important and valuable. Machiavelli's significance also lies in

his personal example as a man of the Renaissance. He was a man

of action, a statesman, and a diplomat. He was also a man of

letters, who showed that he could produce works that became

classics in the fields of politics and history--and who even

wrote a play (Mandragola) that some critics have called the

greatest Italian comedy! He reflected constantly upon the

experience of his busy public life to obtain the materials for

his writings. At the same time, he drew upon his scholarly and

literary reflections for the wisdom he needed to guide him

through the difficult and sometimes dangerous tangle of worldly

business. Thus he exemplifies the ideal of versatility, of the

integration of thought and action, that was so valued by people

during the Renaissance. This ideal of the "Renaissance man" can

still be useful today, when many people feel their individuality

is threatened by the tendency to specialize more and more




You can divide The Prince into four basic parts. The first

part, Chapters 1 to 11, catalogues the different types of

principalities, or monarchical governments, and the ways in

which they may be established and maintained. The second part,

Chapters 12 to 14, describes the role military power plays in

safeguarding a prince's, or monarch's, power. The third part,

Chapters 15 to 23, lists the general characteristics and

personal qualities needed to be an effective ruler. The fourth

part, Chapters 24 to 26, is both a historical glimpse of the

political climate of Italy in Machiavelli's time, and an

emotional appeal by Machiavelli for a future ruler (Lorenzo de'

Medici, in Machiavelli's mind) who can unite the forces of Italy

and liberate the country from foreign rule.

Machiavelli states that his aims in writing The Prince are to

describe standards of political behavior, to help the reader to

understand these standards, and to explain new political

strategies that will assist rulers in maintaining power. In

keeping with these goals, The Prince is a collection of concrete

maxims--warnings and injunctions voiced in regard to specific

points of policy, rules of conduct for different types of

emergencies, and explanations of tactical moves and


You may consider The Prince a political pamphlet, written to

educate and instruct readers in the general nature of the proper

rules of political conduct, political strategy, and the

political process. Or, you may regard it as a "laudatory

treatise," a flattering expression of praise dedicated to a

well-known personality. You might even look upon it as an

essay--though a rather long and detailed one--that discusses

different aspects of one theme in separate chapters. That one

theme is, of course, how to rule.

Some readers find it helpful to think of The Prince as a

series of long letters written as if to a friend and intended to

share personal confidences and mutual concerns. If you view the

book in this way, you will be less troubled by its abrupt

transitions, scattered thoughts, and lack of chronological

order. Remember, though, that the book was written hastily, and

is famous more for the ideas it contains than for its style.

The events, historical figures, and examples that Machiavelli

cites in The Prince were well known to him. In many instances

he is merely recording what he saw, heard, or experienced in his

political travels abroad. Having considerable personal

knowledge of Italian politics during the turbulent years he

describes, Machiavelli can also be considered a historian, one

who is personally acquainted with many of the historical facts

he is recalling for the reader.

Although, in the strictest sense, Machiavelli was not a

political philosopher, he did attempt to discover an order in

the political process. He examined politics the way a scientist

might research a cure for cancer: by analyzing data, reviewing

past histories, testing hypotheses, and maintaining detailed

records. This spirit of scientific objectivity was

characteristic of the Renaissance approach to critical




The following are themes of The Prince. Machiavelli wrote in

the early sixteenth century, and in order to determine his

relevance to government today you'll want to examine these

themes, and others in The Prince, very closely. You'll want to

consider whether Machiavelli accurately analyzed affairs in

Renaissance Italy, and whether people and government have

remained fundamentally similar--despite obvious surface

changes--so that his analysis, if correct, remains helpful.

People and government are all around you, so you have plenty of

opportunities to test Machiavelli's theories.


Machiavelli believed that human nature does not change. This

is the reason why he is equally willing to illustrate his points

with examples drawn from ancient times and from his own.

Although he recognized that people sometimes possessed

remarkable abilities and could do admirable things, he believed

that people in general were ungrateful, insincere, anxious to

look out for their own safety, and greedy for gain.

Machiavelli's view of human nature was based on observation, but

it also comes out of the medieval Christian tradition which

taught that human nature was weakened and corrupted by Original

Sin. Machiavelli did not suggest that human weaknesses made

government impossible, but rather that government must take

account of man's real nature and use his real qualities for its



Machiavelli remarked that many had written about imaginary

republics and principalities in which ideal conditions existed,

but that he was considering real political conditions, because

he wanted to write something useful. He did not deny the

attractiveness and praiseworthiness of traditional morality, but

he pointed out that moral behavior can at times be a liability

in politics. To the extent, then, that success in politics is

desired, politics requires a different set of principles.

Machiavelli asserted that it is good for the ruler to appear

virtuous, and also to be virtuous, but that the ruler who

intends to be successful must be prepared to do bad things on

occasion, when political realities demand such actions. This

ideal that political requirements may override moral

considerations came later on to be known by the French

expression raison d'etat ("reason of state").


A key to Machiavelli's concept of political success is the

idea of virtu. This Italian word does not have the same

significance as the related English word "virtue." It does not

mean moral goodness, but rather strength, ability, courage, and

vitality. Machiavelli believed that this quality of virtu was

found in its highest form in the founders of new states, such as

Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus. In The Discourses he

suggested that the maintenance of liberty in a republic depends

on the virtu of the citizens. In The Prince, on the other hand,

dealing with states that are governed by individual rulers, he

asserted that political success depends on the virtu--the force

of character--of the ruler himself.


In contrast to the idea of virtu stands the idea of fortune.

Clearly, many considerations that affect the success or failure

of our efforts are not dependent upon anything we do; people

attribute them to Providence, to chance, or to luck. In the

Middle Ages and the Renaissance, fortune was sometimes

personified as an allegorical figure. It was also often

represented by the symbol of a wheel, which, as it turns,

carries people now to the heights of success, now to the depths

of ruin. Although Machiavelli strongly advocated the

application of intelligence and vigor in human affairs, he

admitted that there is a side to life over which we have little

or no control. An example is the prince's health: Machiavelli

recalled that Cesare Borgia had said to him that he had taken

precautions against every possible thing that might happen on

the death of his father, Pope Alexander VI--but that he had

never thought that, when his father died, he might be dying

himself. In general, Machiavelli advocated boldness. In an

image that offends modern readers, but that is certainly

powerful, he said, "Fortune is a woman, and it is necessary, if

you wish to master her, to conquer her by force."


Borrowing an image from medieval animal fables, Machiavelli

said that the ruler must be able to imitate both the lion and

the fox. The bravery and strength of the lion will not be

enough to enable the ruler to escape the traps set by his

enemies; for that, the slyness of the fox is also needed. This

is especially true of the new prince, who is in a very exposed

position. Machiavelli admitted that Marcus Aurelius, the

"philosopher King" (Roman emperor, 161-180 A.D.), who had been a

virtuous and just ruler, had kept his throne. But Marcus

Aurelius had become emperor by hereditary succession.

Machiavelli offered Septimius Severus (Roman emperor, 193-211

A.D.) as an example of a new prince who effectively used the

techniques of both the lion and the fox to maintain himself in



Machiavelli declared that the chief--even the only--subject

that was of importance to the ruler was the art of war. He held

that the cultivation of this art was the chief means of gaining

and keeping power, and that the neglect of this art was the

chief means of losing power. It was a central belief of

Machiavelli's that security could only be obtained by raising a

body of troops within one's own country--loyal soldiers who

would be defending their own homes and families. He

particularly opposed the use of mercenary forces, or dependence

on the help of foreign armies. He was also inclined to

downgrade the importance of fortifications, remarking that "the

best fortress is to be found in the love of the people."


Another theme of great importance to Machiavelli is

patriotism. Machiavelli wrote at a time when French, Spanish,

and German armies were seeking to gain control of Italy. He

believed that the ruin of Italy had been caused by its own

military weakness. He called on Lorenzo de' Medici, to whom he

addressed his book, to free Italy from foreign domination. He

devoted most of his work to the discussion of political and

military methods, and it often sounds as though these methods

are only means of attaining power as an end in itself. But

Machiavelli hoped that the great Florentine family of the Medici

would use power--and the full repertory of "Machiavellian"

methods--to liberate his country.



Although all translators of a work try to capture the basic

ideas of the original, they often disagree over individual

words, phrases, or even complete sentences. Such differences

will sometimes provoke a discussion of what meaning was intended

by the author, a discussion that may result in a better

understanding of the original work.

This is especially true in translations of The Prince. For

example, in translating Machiavelli's discussion in Chapter 21

of the ways that a prince can win a good reputation, Paul de

Alvarez renders the original words thus: "Nothing makes a

prince so esteemed as when he does great enterprises, and gives

by himself rare examples of his actions." Luigi Ricci, on the

other hand, translates the same sentence more indirectly, not

crediting the enterprises mentioned by Alvarez as the prince's

responsibility: "Nothing causes a prince to be so much esteemed

as great enterprises and giving proof of prowess." Kenneth

Douglas translates the same sentence only slightly differently

from the first two, but substitutes "schemes" for "enterprises":

"Nothing of a prince is so valued as his grand schemes, or when

he gives himself to noble actions." George Bull chooses still a

third word when he translates the sentence: "Nothing brings a

prince more prestige than great campaigns and striking

demonstrations of his personal abilities."

Notice how the differences between the words chosen by the

different translators open up a variety of possible

interpretations. Ricci and Alvarez use the most general term,

"enterprises." Douglas substitutes "schemes," which is likely to

suggest more underhanded behavior to the reader. But Bull, with

the word "campaigns," directs the thrust of Machiavelli's

statement more in the direction of military activity. It is

important to realize that, while any competent translation of

The Prince will give you the essential substance of what

Machiavelli wrote, different translations will often have subtle

differences of tone. One reason for this is that Machiavelli's

"rhetorical" style--his use of figures of speech like metaphor,

simile, and hyperbole (exaggerated language) to express his

meaning--is often difficult to put into contemporary terms.

Machiavelli's use of the rhetorical style of writing is an

important consideration to keep in mind when you read The

Prince. At certain points in the discussion, you may need to

remind yourself that the figures of speech are literary devices

used to emphasize a point. For example, Machiavelli's use of

hyperbole, should not be taken literally in Chapter 26, when he

exhorts Lorenzo de' Medici to act swiftly to drive foreign

invaders from Italy and thereby earn the gratitude of the

people: "Nor can I possibly express with what affection he

would be received in all those provinces that have suffered so

long from this inundation of foreign foes!--with what thirst for

vengeance, with what persistent faith, with what devotion, and

with what tears!"

Machiavelli also makes significant political statements in

his use of metaphors and maxims (wise proverbs). The most

obvious metaphorical image is the use of the myth of Chiron in

Chapter 18. The example of Chiron (who was a centaur--half man,

half beast) is for Machiavelli a positive force that promotes a

keen mind (man) and a strong will to survive (beast). Carrying

the imagery further, Machiavelli suggests that the prince should

have two sides to his "beast" nature: he should strive to be

both a "lion" and a "fox" in his political posture. Maxims are

another literary technique used in The Prince. These "golden

rules" of political behavior and attitude are sprinkled

throughout the book and help pinpoint Machiavelli's thought.

One very practical piece of advice is found in Chapter 10, when

he warns that "it will not be difficult for a prudent prince to

keep the courage of his citizens in time of siege... provided

there be no lack of provisions or means of defense."

Machiavelli wrote The Prince hurriedly, in a burst of

passion, and his rising and falling emotions are visible in his

changing writing style. Much of the material in The Prince is

presented in direct and simple language. With his carefully

reasoned and logical arguments to sway the thoughtful reader,

Machiavelli's political experience and his abilities as a

scholar shine through; in these passages he is, in essence, a

thoughtful and capable adviser counseling his leader.

He can also be biting, sarcastic, as when he discusses the

"virtues" of leaders who failed. You can almost feel his

contempt at the stupidity of Louis XII, the French king who made

blunder after blunder when dealing with foreign powers and


In striking contrast, there is the eloquence and poetic

imagery of the last chapter, where Machiavelli makes an

impassioned plea for patriotism, in the hopes of firing

Lorenzo's enthusiasm for liberating Italy.

Though the tone sometimes changes from passage to passage,

the text flows naturally; it is as if Machiavelli is talking to

you. What kind of conversationalist is he? A very skilled one,

most would agree, because the different arguments--whether using

scholarly, scientific analysis; stirring poetic eloquence; or

cutting sarcasm--always seem to hit the mark.

NOTE ON SEXISM Although Machiavelli's 450-year-old

instructions are how a man can increase his power and become

prince over all men, these terms should be considered only as

the standard, general forms of address that existed in

Machiavelli's day. If Machiavelli lived in the twentieth

century, his writing would undoubtedly reflect modern usage; as

a political realist, he'd be very much aware of the equal

abilities of women. In fact, during his diplomatic career,

Machiavelli had engaged in difficult negotiations with women as

well as with men.



If you read the chapters carefully, you may notice that

Machiavelli occasionally switches his point of view. Try to pay

attention to the literary person in which he writes, because it

may help you decide how to interpret the passage. When he uses

the personal pronoun I--as in Chapter 14 when he says, "I say

that on the side of the conspirator there is nothing but

fear"--he is presenting himself as a knowledgeable expert who

can give informed advice and make predictions based on

experience. When he writes you--"You must know, then, that as

soon as the Roman Empire began to lose its power... Italy

became subdivided into a number of states" (Chapter 12)--he is

addressing his intended reader, Lorenzo de' Medici, and is

either imparting gentle reminders (to a "superior") of the

historical past or stern judgments on the Italian present. And

when he speaks of they--"They know not how to command, having

never occupied any but private stations" (Chapter 7)--he is

referring to past rulers, military leaders, or political figures

who have failed in their use of authority and leadership.

By keeping the "person" in mind as you read the book, you

should find it easier to determine when Machiavelli is saying

things he intends for Lorenzo's ear only, or when he's speaking

to the general reader with references to specific events,

episodes, or personalities that have helped fashion his own

political views.



The Prince begins with the author's dedication to Lorenzo de'

Medici, grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Machiavelli

appeals to Lorenzo with poetic images and flattery, calling him

"your Magnificence" and asking that he look favorably on the

book. He tells Lorenzo that, in this book, he is giving him his

most valuable possession: the knowledge of government that he

has gained from years of experience and study.

NOTE: Dedications were customary when Machiavelli wrote.

Leading artists frequently chose a powerful nobleman or

government official to honor in this manner. Some readers,

however, consider Machiavelli's praise of Lorenzo as

unwarranted, and a thinly veiled attempt to be restored to

public office or to have his banishment lifted. (Remember that

Machiavelli's removal from office wasn't due to any fault of his

own, but occurred because he was a high-ranking official of the

government that the Medici overthrew.) You should examine the

dedication closely and decide for yourself about Machiavelli's

intent. If you believe he's making a calculated appeal to

Lorenzo's pride, the chapters that follow may ring false. But

if you think he's asking Lorenzo for an appointment to public

office or for pardon, the chapters may take on new meaning for

you, as Machiavelli spells out the specifics of his argument.

Once you've finished the entire book, go back and reread the

dedication, and see if your opinion's changed.



The first two chapters of The Prince introduce types of rule

common when Machiavelli wrote: republics and principalities.

He points out that he has already discussed the role of

republics--democratic states in which power rests with the

citizens and their elected representatives--in an earlier work

and asks you to consider now the subject of principalities.


Machiavelli's motives in writing The Prince, you need to be able

to separate the man from the book. That this is not an easy

task is evidenced by the poor public reputation Machiavelli has

had through the centuries. To call someone Machiavellian is to

call that person sinister, diabolical, without regard for human


You must remember that The Prince was written as a specific

solution to a specific problem. In it, Machiavelli describes

monarchy, yet that fact does not mean Machiavelli favored

monarchy above all other forms of government. Florence had

tried a republican form of government and had failed. The

Medici were now in control, and Machiavelli was writing about

current political realities. Actually, Machiavelli considered

the Roman Republic a more admirable form of government than any

monarchy. He wrote about republican regimes at length in

Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy (1518?).

Principalities are either hereditary or new. Hereditary

principalities are those whose government has been in the family

of a ruler, or prince, for a long time. New principalities are

those that are entirely new, like Milan, or those that have been

annexed to a state by the prince who acquires them--as the

kingdom of Naples was to Spain during Machiavelli's time.

Hereditary states, accustomed to their princes, are

maintained with much less difficulty than new states. An

example of a hereditary prince ruling his state is the Duke of

Ferrara, who could not have resisted the assaults of the

Venetians in 1484, nor those of Pope Julius II in 1510, had he

not held the reins of power by hereditary right. A

well-established prince, like the Duke of Ferrara, thus has less

cause and less necessity for irritating his subjects; and it is

reasonable to assume that he should be more popular than other

princes. And unless extraordinary vices should cause him to be

hated, he will naturally have the affection of his people.

NOTE: USE OF HISTORICAL EXAMPLES Machiavelli takes many of

his historical examples from contemporary rulers, politicians,

and religious figures. Some commentators suggest that

Machiavelli's use of well-known names and events is evidence

that he's appealing to Lorenzo de' Medici's sense of national

pride in order to win his favor. Consider this explanation as

you interpret The Prince, but also be aware that Machiavelli's

considerable political experience and travel abroad on

diplomatic missions provided him with many examples of

leadership that could have served as role models for the

intended reader of the book. In reviewing the types of

principalities outlined in Chapters 1 and 2, how would you

describe the systems of government in the United States or Great

Britain in terms of Machiavelli's political scheme? Would each

fit easily into one of these types of principality? Consider

this question carefully before reading further; it will help you

strengthen your understanding of the distinctions critical to

each of Machiavelli's categories.



In Chapter 3, Machiavelli continues some of the arguments of

the first two chapters and presents examples of principalities

that are "mixed." Mixed principalities, those that include both

old possessions of the ruler and newly acquired territories, are

difficult to maintain and are subject to rebellion.

Fighting may continue simply because freedom fighters rebel

against foreign rule, or because the new prince is disliked by

both his original followers and his conquered enemies. Thus,

the new prince finds that his enemies include all those whom he

has injured by seizing his new principality; at the same time,

he may lose the friendship of those who aided him in the

conquest, because he can't satisfy their expectations.

To clarify his point of view, Machiavelli describes the

historical situation of King Louis XII of France, who occupied

Milan but could not win the support of its citizens despite

their previous suffering under the harsh and cruel Italian

prince Ludovico Sforza.

So that the fickle and unpredictable nature of the people

won't undermine a prince's quest for power, Machiavelli suggests

possible strategies to ensure that a newly acquired principality

can be governed with a minimum of effort. The tough but

realistic strategies advanced show clearly Machiavelli's

experience--drawn both from his study of history and from his

years as a diplomat.

Look at the strategies carefully. Do you think they would

work? Do you think the American Revolution would have happened

if King George III of England had followed Machiavelli's


NOTE: In the discussion so far Machiavelli has often

referred to rebellion, force, and power. They will be discussed

at length in the book, for they are essential ingredients in the

Italian Renaissance world of power politics. Notice, also, that

the principalities described so far depend on military

superiority or the individual strength of forceful men. Is

there any support for his views in recent history? Do you think

the social and political upheavals of the late twentieth century

in the Middle East, Africa, Central America, and other areas

support Machiavelli's analysis?

The Romans, Machiavelli observes, followed these strategies

carefully in the territory they conquered. They established

colonies there and assisted the feebler chiefs--whom the Romans

could control--without increasing their power, while they

humbled the stronger chiefs--whom they could not control. They

also permitted no powerful foreigners to acquire influence

there. Thus, says Machiavelli, the Romans did what all the wise

princes ought to do: they not only took care of present

troubles, but also tried to avoid future ones. Foreseen

difficulties can be provided against; but when you wait for

problems to become serious, you run the risk of letting them

become so big you can no longer control them. And so it is with

the affairs of state.

The strategic errors made by Louis XII when he unsuccessfully

invaded Italy are a good example. Louis XII accepted the

invitation of Venice--a powerful and independent Italian

city-state and the two powers combined forces to capture

Lombardy. Then Louis XII rejected overtures for a treaty and

alliance made by other Italian city-states and embarked on a

personal journey of conquest. He made an ill-advised pledge to

help Pope Alexander VI occupy Romagna and, by doing so,

alienated his friends and supporters. When he later rejected

the pope's request to become ruler of Tuscany, he created a

strong rival and potential challenger to his rule. Not content

with having snubbed the pope and with having alienated his own

friends, Louis, in his eagerness to possess the kingdom of

Naples, shared it with the king of Spain--who was powerful

enough to drive him out later.

Louis XII committed these five errors, says Machiavelli, and

they cost him his power: He destroyed the weak; he increased

the power of one already powerful in Italy; he established a

very powerful stranger there; he did not go to reside in Italy

himself; and he did not plant colonies there. These errors,

however, would not have injured him during his lifetime had he

not committed a sixth one by attempting to deprive the Venetians

of their possessions--and thereby turning that powerful city

against him.

The decision to divide the kingdom of Naples with the

Spaniards for the sake of avoiding a war alienated the Venetians

who had helped Louis acquire his new kingdom. No prince, says

Machiavelli, should ever submit to such an evil. For a war is

never avoided; it is only deferred to one's own disadvantage

and, as in the case of Louis XII, inevitable defeat.

NOTE: THE ERRORS OF LOUIS XII The example of Louis XII was a

very significant political fact for Machiavelli. He frequently

returns to the example of Louis and his strategic errors as he

points out the specific lessons to be learned from the mistakes

of the French king. Machiavelli had known Louis XII personally.

It might be helpful to your reading of The Prince to know that

Cesare Borgia--Machiavelli's model prince--did follow the

suggestions made here for the prince who acquires new

principalities. Is Machiavelli, perhaps, trying to persuade

Lorenzo to follow the blueprint of Cesare Borgia if he wishes to

avoid the fate of Louis XII? Keep Cesare Borgia in mind as you

begin to frame your own interpretation of the narrative that

follows. It could help you to understand later references to

him as a prince worthy of imitation.

The chapter concludes with the first of Machiavelli's golden,

or general, rules for political power (these maxims, or

proverbs, are intended to guide a prince in his quest for power

and are excellent summaries of Machiavelli's thoughts on

acquiring and maintaining power.):

The prince who causes another to become powerful thereby


his own ruin; for he has contributed to the power of the


either by his ability or force, and both the one and the


will be mistrusted by him whom he has thus made powerful.

There are other golden rules sprinkled throughout the book;

they are clear statements of Machiavelli's best advice. Look

for them. Underline them in your copy. When you collect all

the rules concerning absolute power, rule by force, military

strength, and political ethics, you will have in hand a

convenient summary of Machiavelli's major themes in The




Now Machiavelli turns his attention to the contrast between

two fundamentally different kinds of states. All

principalities, says Machiavelli, have been governed in one of

two ways: either by one absolute prince, to whom all others are

completely subordinate--even the government ministers--or else

by a prince and hereditary nobles, who hold their ranks not by

the grace of the prince but by the antiquity of their lineage.

(For a more detailed account of the role that ministers or

advisers play in aiding a prince, see Chapters 22 and 23.) In

those principalities that are governed by an absolute prince,

the prince has far more power and authority.

The best example of the first type of rule in Machiavelli's

day was the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, which was governed by an

absolute monarch, who divided the country into districts

supervised by appointed governors who could be replaced at their

master's pleasure. The best example of the second type of rule

was France, whose king was surrounded by large numbers of

ancient nobles who were recognized and acknowledged by the

people as lords, and who were held in great affection by them.

The nobles had their rank and hereditary rights, which the king

couldn't take away without danger to himself.

The Ottoman Empire, Machiavelli advises Lorenzo, would be

difficult to conquer. A potential conqueror will not be invited

into the country by any of the great nobles of the state, nor

could he hope for a revolt by the ministers. Since they're all

slaves and dependents of their master, it is difficult to

corrupt them, and even if they are corrupted, they can't arouse

the common people. Whoever attacks the Turks, therefore, must

expect to find them united and must depend wholly upon his own

forces, and not upon help from within the country.

France, on the other hand, would be easier to conquer,

because having won over some of the great nobles, the prince

will have no difficulty in entering the country. But for the

conqueror to maintain himself there afterward will involve

infinite difficulties. Nor will it be enough merely to wipe out

the family of the former ruler, because the great nobles will

place themselves at the head of new resistance movements; and

the conqueror, not being able either to satisfy them or to crush

them, will quickly lose the country again.

Machiavelli then shifts his focus to Alexander the Great, who

conquered the kingdom of Darius of Persia in southwestern Asia

between 331 and 327 B.C. Persia was a kingdom that resembled

the Ottoman Empire, the reason why Alexander, a great

strategist, decided to attack in full force. After the defeat

of their absolute ruler, Darius, the people shifted their

loyalties to Alexander, who ruled strongly and wisely,

maintaining Darius's empire and expanding it even further into

Asia. It was only after Alexander's death, in 323 B.C., that

his enormous empire was divided into a number of separate states

ruled by independent monarchs. Machiavelli blames Alexander's

successors for the demise of the empire. If they had remained

united they might also have enjoyed vast power at their ease,

since there were no disturbances in the empire except those they

created themselves.

To reinforce his point of view, Machiavelli again cites the

manner in which the Romans--his favorite example--dealt with

similar problems in the territories they conquered. The

frequent insurrections of Spain, France, and Greece against the

Romans were due to the many petty princes that existed in those

states. As long as the memory of those old princes endured, the

Romans were never secure in their control over those regions.

But once the families of those princes were extinguished, the

Romans became secure possessors of the territories. As a

result, even afterward, when the Romans fought among themselves,

each of the parties was able to keep for itself the province

where it had established regional authority.

NOTE: ROLE OF VIOLENCE IN POLITICS Here, most readers agree,

is one example of Machiavelli's patriotic efforts to persuade

Lorenzo to act swiftly and draw up plans to conquer Italy,

which, like France, was then divided among many states and was

therefore an easy prey. (The unified Italy you know today was

established in the nineteenth century.)

When Machiavelli says that the Romans extinguished the

families of the sovereigns when they captured new territory, he

is carefully laying the foundation for his later discussion of

the role that violence might play in power politics. Keep this

in mind as you continue to read The Prince.

While contemporary "civilized" politicians would, at least in

public, resist much of what Machiavelli suggests in this

chapter, it is still apparent that his examples have modern

parallels. Consider the role that violence, murder, and

terrorism play in many countries. Can you think of any country

where civil war, rebellion, or revolution has prevented the

achievement of national promise? Is your example similar to the

Ottoman Empire, with a powerful ruler and his loyal ministers?

Or is it similar to France, with a powerful ruler and his

reliable barons, or local chieftains?



A principality accustomed to liberty and to government under

its own laws can be held by a prince in three different ways.

First, the prince might destroy the entire province, as the

Romans did when they leveled the city of Carthage after the

Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.). Second, the prince might move

his government to the conquered province and live there himself

in order to maintain absolute authority over the region. Third,

the prince might permit the province--if it pays him regular

tribute--to continue to live under its own laws and to establish

a government of the few who will keep the country friendly to


Machiavelli then cites the classic examples of Sparta and

Rome. Sparta, after conquering its chief rivals, Athens and

Thebes, permitted each city to establish a friendly government.

In time, however, both Athens and Thebes rebelled and drove the

Spartans from their conquered territory. Rome, which also tried

the Spartan experiment of a cooperative government when it ruled

Greece later, soon discovered that the only way to maintain

power was to destroy or completely subjugate those cities most

likely to rebel.

Whoever becomes master of a city that has been accustomed to

liberty, and does not destroy it, says Machiavelli, must himself

expect to be ruined by it. No matter what is done, or what

precautions are taken, if the inhabitants are not separated and

dispersed, they will revolt in the name of liberty and their

ancient institutions--as was done by Pisa after having been held

captive over one hundred years by the Florentines.

But the situation is quite different with states that have

been accustomed to live under one prince. When the line of the

old prince is extinguished, the inhabitants, being accustomed to

obey, yet having lost their hereditary sovereign, can't agree

upon a new prince from among themselves; nor do they know how to

live in liberty. Therefore, they'll be less prompt to take up

arms, and the new prince will easily be able to gain their good

will and to assure himself of their support.

NOTE: PISA AS A SYMBOL OF LIBERTY Machiavelli's account of

Pisa, national symbol of Italian independence and liberty, is

especially significant here. In 1494, when Charles VIII of

France invaded Italy, Pisa took advantage of the ensuing chaos

and successfully rebelled against Florence, ending nearly a

hundred years of Florentine domination. How does this

supporting example influence your interpretation of what

Machiavelli has said so far in the chapter? Is his purpose

here, as some readers believe, to remind Lorenzo to proceed

cautiously in dealing with freedom-loving city-states such as

Pisa after he has won the battle for national unity? Or is

Machiavelli's love for liberty, as exemplified by defiant Pisa,

so strong that it emerges in this chapter as if to mockingly

contradict his theories? Remember that Machiavelli has seen his

beloved Italy overrun by foreign powers and has had to

compromise his ideals to speak directly to the reality of

sixteenth-century Italian politics. Look for a possible shift

in his analysis as you continue to read.



There are historical and classical examples of noble leaders

who have gained new principalities by their courage and ability,

rather than by the benevolent hand of good fortune. Machiavelli

believes the study of these examples is important. His second

golden rule advises:

A wise man should ever follow the ways of great men and

endeavor to imitate only such as have been most eminent; so


even if his merits do not quite equal theirs, yet that they


in some measure reflect their greatness.

The examples of powerful princes who used their courage and

ability--what Machiavelli calls their virtu--to advance their

careers are drawn from history, and include Moses, Romulus (the

legendary founder of Rome), Cyrus (founder of the Persian

Empire), and Theseus (mythological king of Athens). According

to Machiavelli, Moses, the biblical figure who liberated the

Jews from Egypt, was fortunate that the people of Israel were

slaves in his time, or they might not have chosen to follow him.

Machiavelli skips over Moses fairly quickly because Christians

would be likely to attribute his success, not to his own

ability, but to the help he was believed to have received from

God. Romulus was lucky that he was expelled from his native

Alba, or he would not have become the founder of Rome in 753

B.C. Likewise, if the Persians had not been discontented with

their Median rulers, Cyrus might never have gained power. Even

Theseus was favored by the gods when the Athenians fled without

engaging his advancing armies in combat.

Each of these leaders was presented with unique

opportunities, but could not have succeeded without also having

exceptional personal ability. They had no other favor from

fortune but opportunity, which gave them the material to mold

into whatever form seemed to them best.

It was these opportunities, therefore, that made these men

fortunate; and it was their personal courage and talents that

enabled them to recognize the opportunities by which their

countries were made illustrious and happy. Those who by similar

noble conduct become princes acquire their principalities with

difficulty but maintain them with ease. The difficulties they

experience in acquiring their principalities arise in part from

the new ordinances and customs they are obliged to introduce to

found their state and maintain their own security.

When leaders depend upon their own strength, they rarely

incur danger. Thus it was that the leaders who came with arms

in hand were successful, while those who were not armed were

ruined. Neither Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, nor Romulus would have

been able to enforce their laws and institutions for any length

of time if they had not been prepared to enforce them with arms.

To further reinforce his point, Machiavelli introduces the story

of Girolamo Savonarola.

Savonarola was a Dominican friar who had much influence in

Florence from 1494 until his death in 1498. Admired by the

people, he was a reformer who advocated high standards of

personal morality. However, Savonarola failed in his attempt to

establish a new order of things as soon as the people ceased to

believe in him. He didn't have the means to keep his believers

firm in their faith, nor did he have the power to make skeptics

believe. Without a powerful military to protect him, Savonarola

was soon overthrown and his reforms were swept away.

In contrast to Savonarola, Machiavelli cites Hiero II of

Syracuse, a figure from the third-century. He began as a

private citizen of considerable ability. After the people of

his city, located on the coast of Sicily, made him ruler because

of his demonstrated talents, Hiero disbanded the old military

force and created a new one loyal to him. Then he abandoned his

old allies and alliances. Although he had much trouble in

winning a principality, once he had done so he had little

difficulty in maintaining it. Here, Machiavelli declares, is an

example of a prince who relies more on his own strength and

ability, than on good fortune, to achieve his objectives.

NOTE: The example of Savonarola is interesting. Machiavelli

is said to have witnessed Savonarola's execution and to have

openly wept. If Machiavelli were really the diabolical person

that popular opinion considers him, would he have done this?

It's also important here to understand Machiavelli's definition

of fortune, especially when he later contrasts it with virtue.

Fortune presents opportunities. A prince may be presented with

several opportunities, but the superior prince will

unhesitatingly take full advantage of each opportunity. "Strike

while the iron is hot" is Machiavelli's advice.



That Machiavelli should devote a considerable portion of this

chapter to Cesare Borgia should not surprise you. He has

alluded to Cesare in the first six chapters and here

acknowledges that he knows no better lesson he could give a new

prince than holding up to him the example of Cesare Borgia's


To preface his long narrative on Cesare's career, Machiavelli

first describes the position of Francesco Sforza. By legitimate

means and natural ability, Sforza rose from being a private

citizen to become Duke of Milan. Once he attained that

position, it was very easy for him afterward to maintain it. On

the other hand, Cesare, commonly called Duke Valentino, acquired

his state by the good fortune of his father--but lost it when he

no longer was sustained by that good fortune.

NOTE: As you read the long historical description that

follows, pay careful attention to Machiavelli's praise of Cesare

as a perfect example of the prince who was wise, skillful, and

worthy of imitation. The description is still valuable to us

today because it paints an accurate picture of Machiavelli's

Italy in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. It

can also help you understand Machiavelli's political and

personal views on individual freedom, the rights of a ruler, and

political negotiations. Can you think of modern rulers who were

in situations similar to Borgia's? This might help to clarify

Machiavelli's point of view in holding up Cesare as a model.

What strengths do you think Borgia and your examples exhibited

in their rules? What weaknesses?

Machiavelli's account of Cesare's rule mentions that Pope

Alexander VI, Borgia's father, encountered many difficulties

when he tried to use his power over the Church to help his

illegitimate son. He couldn't grant him ecclesiastical states,

because the other Italian city-states would object; and strong

military forces were in the hands of the powerful Orsini and

Colonna families, who were enemies of Alexander. The only

solution, thought Alexander, was to disturb the existing order

of things and to create chaos and civil conflict so that the

powerful city-states that might oppose him would be too

concerned for their own survival to object.

Cesare urged his father to form an alliance with France's

Louis XII. Venice unwittingly fell into the web of the

conspiracy when it invited French protection, and Alexander

sealed the alliance by agreeing to dissolve Louis's former

marriage if he would lend French troops to aid in his son's

conquest of the province of Romagna. All this political

intrigue and strategic maneuvering by Alexander and Cesare reads

like a modern mystery novel, with the major characters involved

in disguise, deception, and ironic twists of plot.

With the conquest of Romagna, Cesare finally had his own

state. But he also inherited two problems in his quest to push

his possessions still further: He doubted the loyalty of the

Orsini troops who had helped him defeat the rival Colonna family

and capture Romagna, and he didn't trust the French, who had a

long history of betraying their allies and breaking alliances.

Cesare moved swiftly to weaken the influence of both the Orsini

and Colonna families. Using bribery, flattery, and political

appointments to win over their followers, Cesare consolidated

his power, while at the same time looking for an opportunity to

crush the Orsini family. Finally, the Orsinis were subdued by

Cesare and Alexander at Magione and then completely routed when

the French joined the Borgias' Italian troops. Cesare

ceremoniously assumed the role of duke of Romagna.

Having conquered Romagna, Cesare found that the region was

under the influence of a number of petty tyrants, and that it

was infested with corruption, torn by crime, and given over to

every sort of violence. One of his first acts to reestablish

order was to appoint Remirro de Orco as governor. De Orco, a

ruthless and energetic man, effectively crushed all opposition

to Cesare's rule. After a while, however, Cesare began to fear

that de Orco's cruelty might tarnish his own reputation. He

therefore commissioned a tribunal to investigate de Orco's

alleged crimes and cruelties. While the tribunal was gathering

evidence of the governor's use of torture and violence, Cesare

ordered his loyal followers to seize de Orco, cut him in half,

and leave his body in the town square.

Why do you think Cesare acted in this manner? According to

Machiavelli, Borgia wished to show the people--to win their

confidence--that if any cruelties had been practiced, they had

not originated with him, but had resulted from the initiative of

his minister.

As the saga of Cesare continues, you now find that he was

just consolidating his power when the ill winds of fortune

struck: Cesare's father died and was succeeded by Pope Julius

II, who was opposed to the Borgias.

Cesare reacted immediately to save his threatened kingdom.

He had already made plans for such a crisis, and was able to

move quickly. His plan of action had involved four deliberate

measures: First, he murdered all the families of those he had

despoiled, to prevent the new pope from restoring them to their

possessions. Second, he cultivated friendships and bribed

priests in Rome who might be able to keep the pope in check.

Third, he attempted to gain control of the College of Cardinals.

These three steps had already been completed at the time of his

father's death. When his father died, he took the fourth

measure, which was to try to acquire enough power and

possessions to resist the first attack of his enemies.

At first there was little opposition to Cesare's daring plan.

Julius II was still cementing his own support, the city-states

were already weakened from fighting with Cesare, and France and

Spain were now fighting each other to win the city of Milan.

Against this bloody backdrop, Cesare was able to seize more

Italian territory, plunder more city-states, and eliminate more

of his opponents.

With the death of his father, however, Cesare began to fail.

The French and Spanish reconciled their differences, turned

their forces toward Cesare's stronghold in Romagna, and mounted

stiff challenges to Cesare's military forces in Tuscany.

Julius's forces launched attacks against Cesare in Rome and in

the smaller city-states surrounding his vast kingdom.

Eventually, Cesare, in failing health, retreated to Spain, where

he died.

NOTE: Machiavelli paints a glowing portrait of Cesare's

skill and leadership, but in doing so fails to describe this

historical figure accurately. Cesare did, indeed, win many

significant battles because of his abilities--but he also

suffered more defeats than Machiavelli admits. With the

exception of Romagna, he had to face almost constant civil

unrest and rebellion throughout his territories. Because of his

admiration for Cesare's accomplishments, Machiavelli fails to

give due weight to the historical evidence. Do you think

Borgia's failures call into question the validity of

Machiavelli's blueprint for power?

Upon reviewing Borgia's record, Machiavelli first asserts

that he can't find fault with Cesare's rule. Endowed with great

courage and having a lofty ambition, Cesare couldn't have acted

otherwise under the circumstances. Upon reflection, however,

perhaps Cesare can be blamed for the election of Julius II as

pope. Although he couldn't have made a pope of his own liking,

he could have hindered the election of a cardinal whom he had

offended, or who, if he had been elected, would have had

occasion to fear him. Remember, either fear or resentment makes

men enemies. Cesare, then, in failing to prevent the election

of Julius II, committed an error that proved the cause of his

ultimate ruin.



Chapter 8 develops Machiavelli's views that one may rise to

power either by wicked or by devious means. To underscore his

theme, Machiavelli describes in detail the careers of two

infamous rulers--one from antiquity, the other a contemporary of

Machiavelli--who used wickedness, revenge, and brutality to

enhance their power.

Agathocles of Sicily was poor; but he was ambitious as well

as courageous and earned success as the leader of the local

militia. He seized power in Syracuse in 316 B.C. by cunning

and deception. Hiding his loyal soldiers in the town council,

Agathocles summoned all the senators, nobles, and rich citizens

of Syracuse to a supposedly crucial meeting. On a secret

signal, his soldiers sprang from their hiding place and

slaughtered the stunned guests. Then, Agathocles proclaimed

himself king of Syracuse as he assumed absolute power.

In the years of his reign, 316 to 289 B.C., Agathocles

defended Syracuse against attack by the Carthaginians, then left

a portion of his forces to sustain the battle, and crossed the

sea with another force to attack Africa. Although Machiavelli

praises Agathocles for his courage and valor, he doesn't

consider him a great prince because all Agathocles gained was

power, not the popular respect and admiration that should

accompany a true prince's reign. He did achieve leadership

through his high rank in the army, but he massacred his fellow

citizens, betrayed his friends, and was devoid of good faith,

mercy, and religion. His outrageous cruelty and inhumanity,

together with his infinite crimes, keeps him from being classed

with the celebrated rulers of history.

The second example is Machiavelli's contemporary, Oliverotto

da Fermo, who became ruler of Fermo in 1501. Oliverotto was

abandoned as a child and raised by his uncle in a small province

just outside Fermo. At an early age he was apprenticed to the

brutal mercenary militia captain Paolo Vitelli. When Paolo died

some years later, Oliverotto was promoted to the rank of captain

in the militia because of his intelligence, physical strength,

and fearlessness. Thinking it servile to take orders from

others, Oliverotto planned to seize the city of Fermo and

proclaim himself ruler. So, in the spring of 1501, he wrote his

uncle that he was returning home for a visit, bringing with him

a hundred of his loyal soldiers and horsemen. The homecoming of

such a distinguished figure was celebrated with a magnificent

feast, to which all local politicians and nobles were invited.

At the height of the festivities, Oliverotto suggested that

his uncle, Giovanni Fogliani, and the other guests retire to a

parlor to discuss the greatness of Pope Alexander VI and his son

Cesare Borgia. As the unsuspecting group entered the dimly lit

parlor, Oliverotto's men butchered them. Having appointed his

soldiers, horsemen, and friends to all the government positions

left vacant by the murders, Oliverotto became the most feared

prince in the region. He ruled Fermo, however, for only one

year before he himself was murdered, for conspiring to overthrow

Cesare Borgia.

How is it that men like Agathocles and Oliverotto can live

securely for any length of time in the countries whose freedom

and liberty they have usurped? How can they defend themselves

successfully against external enemies, without any attempts on

the part of their enslaved citizens to conspire against them?

The answer, according to Machiavelli, depends on the nature

of the cruelties they have inflicted on their subjects. Some

cruelties may have been committed in one lump sum from the

ruler's necessity for self-protection--and may even have

resulted in the public good. But other cruelties, at first

rare, may have increased with time rather than ceasing

altogether. Those rulers who adopted the first practice may--as

the example of Agathocles suggests--with the help of God and man

render some service to the state. But those who adopt the later

course--as the example of Oliverotto suggests--can't possibly

maintain themselves in their state for a long period of time.

The lesson to be learned here is that when taking possession

of a state the new ruler must execute his harsh measures at a

single blow, so he doesn't have to repeat them every day. By

not repeating them, a prince assures himself of the support of

the inhabitants and then wins them over by bestowing benefits.

In phrasing this argument, Machiavelli advances his third golden

rule for maintaining power:

Cruelties should be committed all at once, as in that way

each separate one is less felt, and gives less offense;

benefits, on the other hand, should be conferred one at a time,

for in that way they will be more appreciated.

Machiavelli concludes the chapter by saying that, above all,

a prince should live on such terms with his subjects that no

accident, either for good or for evil, should make him vary his

conduct toward them. For when adverse times bring upon him the

necessity for action, he will no longer have time to do evil;

and the good he may do will not profit him, because it will be

regarded as having been forced from him and therefore will bring

him no thanks.

NOTE: CRUELTY AND POLITICS Machiavelli's examples of men who

come to power, however briefly, are not unusual even today.

These men exploit the people, commit a rash of atrocities, and

rely on deceit and murder to achieve their fleeting power. You

should consider what Machiavelli's purpose might be in writing

about such ways of achieving power. As you continue reading,

note the specific examples, references, or allusions Machiavelli

makes to the role of violence and brutality in the political

process. Your thoughts here will put you in a better position

to evaluate contemporary politics and to better relate to past

or current leaders of countries who echo Machiavelli's analysis

of the role cruelty might play in maintaining absolute power.



Machiavelli now addresses those instances when a prominent

citizen becomes prince of his country by the favor of his fellow

citizens, not by treason or violence. This rise to power

requires neither courage nor ability, but a keen shrewdness and

the favor of either the people or the nobles.

In every state, says Machiavelli, there will be found two

different dispositions. This results from the fact that the

people dislike being ruled and oppressed by the nobles, whereas

the nobles seek to rule and oppress the people. And it is this

diversity of feeling and interest that brings about one of three

things: either a principality, or a government of liberty, or

anarchy. A principality results either from the will of the

people or from the will of the nobles; it depends on which

prevails or has the opportunity to assume power.

The nobles, seeing that they cannot oppose the people, turn

to the influence and reputation of one of their own class; they

make him a prince because they know he will be partial to their

desires. The people, also, seeing that they cannot resist the

nobles, turn to the influence and reputation of one man and make

him a prince, so as to be protected by his authority. The

prince who is brought to power by the aid of the nobles will

have more difficulty in maintaining himself than the prince who

arrives at that high station with the aid of the people. For

the former finds himself surrounded by many who, in their

opinion, are equal to him and for that reason he can neither

command nor manage them in his own way. But a person who

attains a principality by the favor of the people stands alone

and has around him none, or very few, who will not lend him a

ready obedience.

In choosing to court the favor of the nobles or the people, a

wise prince should consider which of the two groups better

serves his objectives. For example, he cannot satisfy the

nobles with honesty or without wrong to others--since the goal

of the nobles is to oppress--but it is easy to satisfy the

people, whose aims are more honest than those of the nobles,

because the people only wish to be free from oppression. A

prince can never assure himself of a people who are hostile to

him, however, for they are too numerous, while the nobles, on

the other hand, are few and it would be easy for a prince to

make himself sure of them. In considering his political

options, a prince should also realize that the worst that will

happen when the people are unfriendly to him is that they will

desert him, but when the nobles are hostile, he must fear not

only desertion but also that they will actively turn against


Either nobles shape their conduct to ally themselves entirely

with a prince's fortunes, or else they do not. Those that

attach themselves securely to a prince, if they are not greedy,

should be honored and loved. Those who do not attach themselves

to a prince may be regarded in two ways. First, if they are

influenced by a natural lack of courage but have intelligence, a

prince may use them in times of prosperity and not fear them in

times of adversity. Second, if they are influenced by ambition,

a prince should look upon them as open enemies; for when

adversity comes, they will always turn against him and

contribute to his ruin.

Although there are risks involved in wooing both the nobles

and the people, Machiavelli says that it's essential for a

prince to possess the good will and affection of his people;

otherwise, he'll be utterly without support in bad times.

Nabis, prince of Sparta, learned this lesson well. He withstood

the attacks of Greece and of a victorious Roman army,

successfully defending his country with the loyal support of a

few supporters.

Therefore, says Machiavelli, no one should contradict his

opinion on the subject of the prince's need to win the support

of his people by quoting the trite saying that "he who relies

upon the people builds upon quicksand." While this may be true

when a private citizen places his faith and reliance upon the

people, it's not true when a prince is in need of the people's


NOTE: Machiavelli's views on dealing with the nobles and the

people are probably the result of his own political experience.

Remember that neither the Florentine nobles nor the government

officials rallied to his cause when he was accused of treason

and stripped of public office. Remember, also, that

Machiavelli's views on the importance of popular support shift

as his political argument shifts. Keep this in mind when you

later read his opinions that the people are fickle, can't be

trusted, and should never be relied upon to sustain a prince

once he has achieved power. Machiavelli's suggestion here that

the people should be wooed may be a subtle hint to Lorenzo that

he'll need the popular support of the masses to retain power.

A wise prince, Machiavelli concludes, will steadily pursue

such a course that the citizens of his state will always feel

the need of his authority and will therefore always prove

faithful to him.



Machiavelli now examines the natures of different

principalities and considers whether a prince can be

sufficiently powerful, in case of need, to sustain himself, or

whether he's always obliged to depend upon others for his

defense. Machiavelli here lays the foundation for his later

exploration of the role of military power and the manner in

which power may be measured.

Machiavelli says those who are best able to defend themselves

do so from an abundance of men and money as well as maintaining

the loyalty of their people. They can put a well-equipped army

into the field and meet anyone in open battle who may attempt to

attack them. It behooves such princes to fortify the cities

where they have their seat of government and to provide them

with all necessary supplies.

To support the military strategy for fortifying a city,

Machiavelli cites the example of the Germans. German cities

enjoy great liberties and are well fortified; the walls are

thick, high, and amply supplied with artillery. Military arms

and ammunitions are kept in public storehouses, as are supplies

of food, drink, and medicine. Only a foolish prince would

attempt to seize such a well-guarded and well-stocked city. And

if such a city were besieged, there would also be on hand a

year's supply of raw materials for those branches of industry by

which the people are accustomed to make their living, and which

are the nerve and life of the city.

It's reasonable to suppose, Machiavelli continues, that the

enemy will ravage and destroy the country immediately upon its

arrival outside the fortified city. The prince need not be

unduly apprehensive, however, because most of the damage that

could hurt morale is done while the people are still

enthusiastic and high-spirited. And by the time their

enthusiasm has cooled somewhat, the people will be ready to

stand by their prince, for they'll regard him as under

obligation to them, their houses having been burned and their

property ravaged in his defense.

Machiavelli concludes this brief chapter with a practical

golden rule on the role of fortifications in maintaining a

prince's power:

All things considered, then, it will not be difficult for a

prudent prince to keep the courage of his citizens in time of

siege, both in the beginning as well as afterward, provided

there be no lack of provisions or means of defense.



Chapter 11 concludes Machiavelli's treatment of the types of

principalities and describes how ecclesiastical, or church,

states may be obtained either by courage and talent or by good

fortune. He also traces the evolution of the Roman Catholic

Church in Italy in terms of its acquired power.

Although ecclesiastical principalities are achieved through

courage and talent or good fortune, they are sustained by the

ancient laws of religion, which are so powerful and of such

quality that the principalities maintain themselves no matter

what their princes do. These are the only princes who have

principalities without having to defend them and who have

subjects without having to govern them.

These ecclesiastical principalities, says Machiavelli, are

the only ones that are secure and happy. Because they're under

the direction of that supreme wisdom to which human minds cannot

attain, and are sustained by the Divine Power, Machiavelli says

that he prefers to abstain from discussing them, to avoid

appearing foolish and presumptuous.

NOTE: Some readers find this chapter patronizing to the

Roman Catholic Church. Machiavelli's other works, especially

The Discourses, reveal his hostility to the Church's political

power. Why does he appear complimentary here? One reason may

be his desire to win favor with the Church and, perhaps, to

secure his own pardon. Pope Leo X, whom he mentions in the last

paragraph of the chapter, was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent

and the uncle of Lorenzo de' Medici to whom The Prince is

addressed. Could this help to explain Machiavelli's praise?

Later, Machiavelli displays a more characteristic attitude

toward the Church, when he condemns it for not taking the lead

in trying to unite Italy. (In fact, elements in the Church

worked against political unification.) Look for his shifting

point of view as you read the later chapters, and try to explain

his conflicting attitude toward the Church.

Machiavelli now turns his attention to the Catholic Church

during the time of Alexander VI and examines some of the reasons

why the Church became such a powerful influence.

At the point in time where Machiavelli takes up his

discussion, Italy was divided under the rule of five

city-states: Rome, Naples, Milan, Venice, and Florence. No one

city-state was powerful enough to conquer the other four, so

they struggled constantly for supremacy. As a consequence, the

pope lacked the ability to execute his rule as a powerful

figure. Using the opportunity of the French invasion of Italy,

however, and the leadership of his son, Cesare Borgia, Alexander

VI succeeded where other popes had failed--showing, says

Machiavelli, what a pope could accomplish with the money and

power of the Church. He conquered territory and added to the

Church's wealth. After Alexander's death, Cesare Borgia was

unable to maintain his father's vast holdings, and the Church

acquired them.

Pope Julius II thus inherited a legacy of power, wealth, and

influence that made his reign formidable. Julius not only

continued the exploits of Alexander, but also went further. He

resolved to acquire the city of Bologna, to ruin the Venetians,

and to drive the French out of Italy--in all of which he

succeeded. This was even more praiseworthy, asserts

Machiavelli, inasmuch as he did these things not for his own

glory but for that of the Church. Julius also restrained the

Orsini and Colonna factions--who continued to resist papal

power--within the limits in which he found them when he became

pope. But Julius couldn't quiet the feuding cardinals of the

Church. They stirred up rebel factions in Rome and elsewhere

and forced the barons to protect them. Thus, says Machiavelli,

the ambition of these prelates gave rise to the discord and

turmoil that followed.

Machiavelli concludes his review of the Roman Catholic

Church--a topic he said he wouldn't discuss at the beginning of

the chapter--by pointing out that its current leader, Pope Leo

X, has profited by Alexander's legacy as well. It is

Machiavelli's wish that Leo will be able to maintain the

Church's power and influence and that he will make the Church

greater and more venerable still by his goodness and other

infinite virtues.


Machiavelli says that the princes of the Church have failed to

keep faith with the people. Although the city of Rome was still

the nominal center of faith, the truth is that through the "bad

example" of the Roman Church, the land "lost all piety and all

religion." The outcome of what Machiavelli calls this "scandal"

is that the Italians have become the most corrupt religious

people in Europe. They've lost their liberties, forgotten how

to defend themselves, and allowed their country to become "prey"

to whomever wishes to assault her.

In The Discourses Machiavelli also praises the pagan religion

of the ancient Romans. Roman religion helped promote the cause

of civic greatness and instill civic pride. It taught the

people to prefer the good of their community to anything else

and promoted the spirit of self-sacrifice in the interest of the

state. The current climate of religion, on the other hand, says

Machiavelli, has weakened society by glorifying humble men; by

setting up as the greatest goods humility, misery, and contempt

for all things human; and by placing no value in individual

strength of body, grandeur of mind, or faith in common


The leaders of the Church whom Machiavelli mentions in The

Prince to support his views on the Catholic Church's acquired

power seemed more active as statesmen and military leaders than

as priests. Machiavelli may have had an ulterior motive,

therefore, in choosing them as examples. Alexander VI was

Cesare Borgia's father; Leo X was the uncle of Lorenzo. But why

choose Julius II? Julius, of all three popes, was alone able to

use his power to drive out the French and suppress the

rebellious city-states. Is Machiavelli holding up Julius's

image as a reflection for Lorenzo? It would be another subtle

hint from Machiavelli that Lorenzo must assert himself and move

quickly to liberate Italy.




The types of principalities and their general characteristics

as discussed by Machiavelli in Part I are summarized here for

your convenient reference. In the classifications that follow,

notice the frequent reference to rebellion and military

strength. These topics are discussed at length in Part II and

are essential ingredients in Machiavelli's blueprint for

maintaining a prince's authority.



Easy to maintain because the people are used to one family or

person ruling them and will not want to change. Conservative

policies are most favored. Status quo is defended. People

seldom rebel.



Difficult to maintain because rebellion is commonplace.

Forceful and absolute policies are demanded. Foreign powers

should be limited in number. Colonies should be established

that link themselves to the ruler's home territory.



Maintained only by force. Only military power can prevent

subsequent loss. Potential for abuse, cruelty, and loss of

personal freedoms. Successful only if the people support




Difficult to acquire because they are church-related, but

easy to maintain because the people are governed by religious

laws. Rarely subject to rebellion or civil disobedience. Model

of political stability.



Having discussed the general characteristics of

principalities, the causes of their success or failure, and the

means by which many have sought to acquire and maintain them,

Machiavelli now proposes to discuss the ways princes can protect

their territories. Chapters 12, 13, and 14, then, form the

second part of his treatise and deal with the type of troops and

military techniques needed to maintain a prince's power.



The main foundations that all states--whether new, old, or

mixed--must have are good laws and good armies. There can be no

good laws where there are not good armies. In Machiavelli's

view, there are four types of potential military force:

mercenary, auxiliary, native, and mixed.

Mercenary, or hired, troops are both useless and dangerous,

he says. Mercenaries are disunited, ambitious, and

undisciplined. They have no loyalty to a prince and serve only

for their wages. Mercenary leaders, also, aren't to be trusted.

They are either devious--in which case they plot for their own

greatness--or incompetent--in which case they endanger a

prince's chances for military success. The present ruin of

Italy, says Machiavelli, may be attributed to the use of

mercenary forces. His example to reinforce this point of view

is the ease with which Charles VIII was able to conquer Italy,

the troops hired to fight for Italy having fled as the French

forces approached.

NOTE: Machiavelli makes several references to Charles VIII

to reinforce his views regarding mercenaries. The expression

"taking Italy with a piece of chalk" was Machiavelli's analogy

for the lamentable nature of Italian military power during his

time. It meant that foreign powers could send an unarmed

quartermaster ahead of the advancing invaders with a piece of

chalk and mark the houses in which the foreign military were to

be quartered when they entered a city.

Machiavelli then asserts that princes achieve the greatest

success in warfare when they themselves command the movements of

their armies. Rome and Sparta, for example, maintained their

liberties for centuries by having armies of their own. On the

other hand, the Carthaginians were betrayed by their mercenary

troops after the first war with Rome and came very near to

subjugation; the trusting citizens of Thebes were deprived of

their liberty by the foreign captain, Philip of Macedon; and the

city of Milan was lost and later subjugated by the tyrant

Francesco Sforza. In each of these cases, says Machiavelli,

mercenary troops rebelled against their employers and deprived

the people of their freedom. It was only good fortune that

saved the people of Florence from being betrayed by mercenaries.

(They killed their mercenary captain Paolo Vitelli before he

could lead his troops against the city.)

Machiavelli then takes a closer look at the Venetians and

their military strategy. He finds that the results of their

wars were secure and glorious as long as they confined

themselves to their proper element, the sea. But when they

engaged in wars on land, they no longer acted with their

customary bravery, and adopted the habit of other Italian

city-states of employing mercenaries. At first, there was no

danger, because the Venetian reputation was great and their

possessions on land small. Yet, when they sought to extend

these possessions under the mercenary captain Carmignuola, they

became aware of their error. Although they were aware that it

was by Carmignuola's superior leadership that they had defeated

the duke of Milan, on observing the captain's lukewarm attitude

in the further conduct of the war, they concluded they could no

longer hope for victory under his command. Still, they dared

not dismiss him for fear of losing what they had gained; so for

their own security they put him to death.

After giving older examples of the Italian use of

mercenaries, Machiavelli concludes by saying that hired armies

do everything possible to avoid exposing themselves to fatigue

or danger, that they never kill other mercenaries, and that they

prefer to take prisoners who can afterward be liberated without

ransom. These practices, warns Machiavelli, are permitted by

their rules of warfare and are devised to avoid hardships and




In this chapter, Machiavelli addresses the role of auxiliary

troops--those furnished by a powerful ally whom a prince can

call upon for aid. Using an example fresh in his mind,

Machiavelli retells the plight of Julius II, who took the risk

of asking for assistance from auxiliary troops in his desire to

expand his dominions. Fortunately for him, however, an incident

occurred that saved him from the full effect of his bad

decision. His Spanish auxiliaries, having been defeated by his

enemies at Ravenna, were running away when the Swiss suddenly

appeared on the battlefield and drove back the enemy. Because

of this bit of luck, Julius escaped becoming a prisoner of

either his enemies or his auxiliaries.

Other notable examples of the unwise use of auxiliaries

include the Florentines, who took a big risk by hiring French

soldiers to wage battle for them against the city-state of Pisa

(the French could just as easily have attacked the unarmed

Florentines), and the emperor of Constantinople, who, to resist

attacks by his neighbors, imported ten thousand troops to his

territory only to have them later refuse to leave his country.

The lesson to be learned from these examples is clear, asserts

Machiavelli: if anyone wants to be defeated, let him employ

auxiliary troops--for they are much more dangerous even than


What, then, are the best troops for a prince to engage in

protecting his principality? The wise prince, says Machiavelli,

should rely exclusively upon his own native troops and should

prefer defeat with them rather than victory with the troops of

others. Native troops are comprised of citizens of the nation

and thus are loyal to the state and the prince. They fight well

because they are defending their own nation, freedom, and


NOTE: TAKING THE OFFENSIVE Although Machiavelli recognizes

the significance of defense in maintaining a powerful military,

in Chapters 12 to 14 his emphasis is on offensive warfare. In

many ways his arguments for seizing the initiative in enlisting

troops, developing war strategies, and stockpiling armaments

suggest late twentieth-century dilemmas posed by the arms race

between the United States and the Soviet Union. You need to

remember, however, that The Prince is offered in part as a

strategic blueprint for Lorenzo de' Medici. Machiavelli's point

is that Lorenzo must take the initiative in building a

Florentine army that is loyal, powerful, and well armed.

Machiavelli also speaks with contempt about the use of

mercenaries in military warfare in his Art of War. He blames

them for the loss of personal liberty and political freedom and

points to their cowardice when discussing battles lost or cities

ravaged. He is also bitter toward the Swiss, blaming them for

the Italian loss of morale in warfare. His observations may

have been based on his experience as a former secretary of the

republic of Florence, in which post he saw how unsuccessful

mercenary troops were in helping Florence in its military

campaign against the city-state of Pisa.

The best example of the role that native troops might play in

defending a prince, says Machiavelli, is to be found in the

career of Cesare Borgia. Cesare began his conquest of Romagna

by enlisting the aid of French auxiliary troops. When the

French became a threat to his power, Cesare abandoned them and

employed mercenaries. Neither the auxiliary forces nor the

mercenaries proved reliable or useful, however, so Cesare

finally engaged his own loyal subjects to conquer the greatest

part of his new territory. When he had none but his own troops,

his reputation increased steadily, and he was never more highly

esteemed than when everyone saw that he was thoroughly master of

his armies.

Machiavelli also relates the story of Hiero of Syracuse.

Having been made general of the army, Hiero quickly perceived

that mercenary troops were not useful. It seemed to Hiero that

he could neither keep nor dismiss them with safety, so he had

them all put to death and cut to pieces. Afterward, he carried

on the war exclusively with his own troops and won many battles

in his quest for power.

It is also possible to supplement native troops with

mercenaries, resulting in "mixed" troops. But mixed troops,

too, create problems. The addition of foreign troops frequently

results in a loss of morale among the native troops, and may

provoke bitter quarreling that undermines the spirit of the

battle campaign. For example, Charles VII, father of Louis XI,

king of France, delivered France from English rule by depending

solely upon his own troops. He even organized regular companies

of artillery, cavalry, and infantry. Later, however, his son

disbanded the infantry and hired Swiss soldiers to replace them.

By giving prominence to the Swiss, Louis disheartened his own

troops and caused his mounted forces to depend on the support of

the mercenaries. In time, the French began to think that they

could not succeed without the Swiss. Later, the French could

not even hold their own against the Swiss. France would have

been invincible, says Machiavelli, if the military system

established by Charles VII had been preserved and extended. But

the shortsightedness of men leads them to adopt any measure that

seems good at the moment, even though it has poison concealed

within it.

A prince who does not promptly recognize evils as they arise

cannot therefore be called wise. Unfortunately, laments

Machiavelli, this ability is rare. He concludes that no prince

who does not have an army of his own can ever be secure, and

that a prince will become wholly dependent upon fortune if in

times of adversity he lacks the means to defend himself. A

prince must therefore build his reputation of power on a strong

army composed of his own subjects or citizens. He should also

follow the example of Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the

Great, and organize an army that exists only to serve the state

and its prince.

NOTE: THE NEED FOR LOYAL TROOPS You might have supposed that

Machiavelli's ardor for native troops would have cooled as a

result of their disastrous showing in 1512, the year before The

Prince was written, when they were sent to defend the city of

Prato but were brushed aside by the advancing Spanish infantry.

In fact, however, Machiavelli's enthusiasm for native armies

remained undiminished. In The Art of War (1520), he continues

to use some of the arguments advanced in The Prince. The first

part of The Art of War is given over to vindicating the "citizen

army" against those who doubt its usefulness.

You should also now better understand why Machiavelli felt so

impressed by Cesare Borgia as a military commander. Machiavelli

had been present when Cesare decided to eliminate his mercenary

lieutenants and replace them with his own troops. This daring

strategy appears to have had a decisive impact on the initial

formation of Machiavelli's ideas. He refers to it as soon as he

raises the question of military policy in Chapter 13, and treats

it as an example of the measures that any ruler ought to adopt.

Cesare is praised for having recognized that mercenaries are

"uncertain and unfaithful," deserving to be mercilessly "wiped

out." Machiavelli praises Cesare for having grasped the basic

lesson that any new prince needs to learn if he wishes to

maintain his principality: He must stop relying on fortune and

foreign arms, raise "soldiers of his own," and make himself

"sole master" of his own troops.



Machiavelli's final arguments in Part II are concerned with

the duties of a prince in relation to the art of war and the

organization and discipline of his army. Knowing the art of

warfare is all that is expected of a prince who commands. It

not only maintains princes in their position, but also enables

men born in private station to achieve a princely rank.

The neglect of the art of war is the main cause for the loss

of a prince's state, while a proficiency in it often enables a

prince to acquire one. A good example of the latter is

Francesco Sforza. Skilled in arms and warfare, Sforza rose from

private station to be duke of Milan, but his descendants--by

shunning the labors of arms and warfare--relapsed into the

condition of private citizens.

There are also other evils that will befall a prince who

doesn't have a proper military force. A prince who is not

master of the art of warfare can't be respected by his soldiers,

nor can he depend upon them. Therefore, the practice of arms

and warfare should always be uppermost in a prince's thoughts.

He should also study the geography of his country and learn

where the mountains rise and the valleys lie; he should know the

nature of rivers and swamps. This knowledge helps a prince to

understand how to defend his territory when he is attacked.

A prince who lacks the knowledge of the methods of warfare

also lacks the essentials that a commander of troops should

possess. That knowledge teaches him where to find the enemy,

how to select proper places for entrenchments, how to conduct

armies, how to regulate marches and order battles. A prince may

also gain considerable knowledge of warfare by reading history

and studying the actions of eminent men. The prince should

observe how distinguished men behaved in battle and should

examine the causes of their victories and defeats, so that he

may imitate the former and avoid the latter.

But, above all, a prince should follow the example of

whatever distinguished man he may have chosen for his

model--assuming that someone has been especially praised and

held up to him as glorious, and whose actions and exploits he

should always bear in mind. Thus, says Machiavelli, it is told

of Alexander the Great that he imitated Achilles, and of Julius

Caesar that he had taken Alexander the Great for his model.

NOTE: Machiavelli's arguments for a national military and

its role in the art of warfare may well have appealed to

Lorenzo. Lorenzo may also have been persuaded by Machiavelli's

argument that a prince must prepare both his mind and his body

for warfare, especially since Lorenzo fancied himself a model of

mental and physical perfection.

Although some of Machiavelli's arguments in these three

chapters may strike you as dated, there are still significant

modern parallels. Some political analysts would remark that

Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba with strategies similar to

those described in Machiavelli's account. Can you think of

other meaningful examples of Machiavelli's views at work today,

especially the role of auxiliary or mixed troops? Consider the

role of the United Nations in helping to maintain peace. Keep

your examples in mind as you continue to read The Prince.



The different types of troops, their characteristics, and the

likely consequences of using them, as discussed by Machiavelli

in Part II, are summarized here for your convenient reference.



Fight for money. Sometimes disloyal, and never

well-motivated. Often seek to avoid actually engaging in

military action, in order to minimize casualties.



Serve another prince. Fight only because of an alliance,

which is likely to prove temporary. If they are victorious,

their victory will deliver the prince who depended on them into

the power of his former ally.



Recruited from among the citizens themselves. Their

motivation is strong because they are defending their own homes,

families, and freedom. Their loyalty can be secured in the same

way that the loyalty of one's other subjects is secured.



Include native troops mixed with mercenaries or auxiliaries.

Cannot escape the disadvantages of the latter two types. Also,

dissension may arise between native and foreign units.



In the next nine chapters, Machiavelli outlines the basic

characteristics of a successful prince, details the nature of

leadership, describes the potential rewards resulting from

power, and recommends criteria for choosing advisers.

As you read these chapters, you may need to review the first

two parts of the book, especially chapters 4, 8, and 10. Those

three chapters present Machiavelli's initial arguments that are

fully developed in Part III. Do you have the feeling that

Machiavelli is revising his point of view in the later chapters,

or is he just as confident as he appeared at the beginning of

the book? What might account for any similarities or

differences you have noticed?



Machiavelli begins the discussion in Part III by pointing out

that earlier writers have discussed the manner in which a prince

ought to conduct himself toward his subjects and allies. He

says that he will differ from the rules laid down by others who

wrote before him, because his aim is to write something useful

for his intended reader (Lorenzo de' Medici), rather than to

follow the approach of previous authors who only "imagined"

republics and principalities that never existed in reality.

NOTE: Some of the previous writers who had described an

ideal state or ruler included Plato, Polybius, Saint Thomas

Aquinas, and Dante. What makes Machiavelli's approach in The

Prince different is that it's a direct and practical blueprint,

avoiding purely theoretical issues. He limits himself to the

topic of how things are, rather than speculating on how things

might be. His examples are carefully drawn from personal,

authentic experience and observation rather than from fanciful

literary imagination. The result is an honest and frequently

candid evaluation of politics, its relationship to ethics, and

the rewards of power (as Machiavelli saw them in his own


The manner in which men live, says Machiavelli, is so

different from the way in which they ought to live that even a

good man may be ruined. In discussing the manner in which a

prince can avoid being ruined by the many who are evil,

Machiavelli presents the fifth of his golden rules:

A prince therefore who desires to maintain himself must

learn to be not always good, but to be so or not as


may require.

The significance of this rule lies in its suggestion that a

prince who wishes only to be honest may himself come to ruin.

In other words, Machiavelli warns the prince to take whatever

steps might be necessary to achieve his objectives, and not to

rely on high ideals alone.

Although Machiavelli admits it would be praiseworthy for a

prince to possess all good qualities, such an abundance would be

contrary to human nature. Therefore, a prince should at least

be prudent enough to know how to avoid those vices that would

rob him of his state, and if possible, to guard against the

vices likely to endanger it. It will be found, he says, that

some things that seem like virtues will lead to ruin if you

follow them, while others that appear to be vices will, if

followed, result in well-being and safety.

NOTE: MORALITY AND THE PRINCE Is Machiavelli suggesting in

this chapter that evil men as well as good may profit from a

reading of The Prince, or that it's impossible for a prince to

be completely good or completely bad? Or is he simply being

frank by saying that all men, even princes, are only human and

there will be both good and bad traits in their character? It

seems obvious in the Discourses that Machiavelli regrets that

men are neither perfectly good nor wholly wicked, but prone to a

middle course in their moral conduct. He does advance his

belief that anything may be done if the welfare of the state is

in danger, that cruelties in a prince may be justified if the

ultimate aim is the restoration of order and the safety of

society, and that it's permissible to deceive an enemy when such

deceit preserves the state. And if a prince commits cruelty or

dishonesty for the sake of the public welfare, Machiavelli's

argument is that men do forgive him afterward, posterity does

approve the act, and historians do accept and applaud it. You

need to evaluate Machiavelli's views here and come to your own

conclusion on these questions. Your interpretation here will

influence your view of what follows, especially when Machiavelli

describes in detail the true character of an ideal prince.



In this chapter Machiavelli launches an assault on those

"liberal" princes who spend vast sums of money on the arts, on

elaborate monuments to themselves, or on foolish projects that

don't benefit the state. As a consequence of their liberality,

these princes find it necessary to subject the people to

extraordinary burdens and heavy taxes, and to resort to all

sorts of measures to obtain money. The people, of course,

despise a liberal prince because his unwise extravagance offends

many and benefits few.

On the other hand, when a prince tries to reduce spending, he

may be thought at first to be a miser. But the money saved

through his prudence and economy allows his revenues to be

sufficient to provide for defense in case of war and to engage

in enterprises without burdening his people.

NOTE: THE WISE USE OF FUNDS Machiavelli's insistence on

economy in finances came at a time in Italian history when

princes, popes, and political figures surrounded themselves with

luxury and ostentation. They spent enormous sums of money on

public monuments, artworks, and buildings. The Medici

themselves were famous for this. Why would Machiavelli risk the

displeasure of (he hoped) his patron by even mentioning that

princes should reduce spending and curtail foolish waste?

First, Machiavelli believed that politics are governed by

economics. Extravagance consumed resources that a prince could

better spend on building an army, gaining political power, and

maintaining absolute power. Second, Machiavelli believed that

the support of the people could be obtained by governmental

economy. In recommending this economic policy, Machiavelli says

that a prince should reject the praises of those few who would

benefit from generosity, rather than hurt the many people who

would have to pay for it. That's why it's beneficial to a

prince to appear miserly: it spares him the hatred of the


Machiavelli then points out recent examples of rulers who

cultivated the image of being liberal, only to suffer ruin. He

also examines those instances of rulers who were thought to be

miserly, but who prospered instead. Pope Julius II, for

example, who was thought of as liberal when he gained the

papacy, did not afterward care to keep up that reputation in his

war against the king of France. It was his long-continued

economy, says Machiavelli, that enabled him to pay the expenses

of his wars. A prince, then, who would avoid robbing his

subjects, yet still be able to defend himself, shouldn't mind

incurring the reputation of being a miser: In this case it

would be one of those vices that enables him to maintain his


To those who would assert that there have been many princes

who achieved great things and were thought of as free-spenders,

Machiavelli responds that a prince spends either his own wealth

and that of his subjects, or the wealth of others. Of the first

two he should be very sparing, but in dealing with the money of

others he should spend liberally. The spending of other

people's wealth, says Machiavelli, only increases a prince's

reputation. It's only the spending of his own that is injurious

to a prince.


favors, gifts, and spending should sound familiar to you. Think

of twentieth-century examples of politicians, public figures, or

even business leaders who give and receive the kinds of

"kickbacks" and "payoffs" that Machiavelli describes. Consider,

also, the role that public benefits, political contributions,

and advertising might play in helping to sell--or to buy--a

candidate. Machiavelli's views in this regard are as timely as

the front page of the daily newspaper.

It should also be pointed out that Machiavelli frequently

equates success with results--and victories are recognizable, no

matter what the cost may have been in money, lives, or property.

No price is too high to pay for success. Once a prince

undertakes a task, however, his success or failure cannot be

judged by the initial outcome of events. It is only the whole

spectrum of events in a prince's reign that must be taken into

consideration before a final verdict is rendered.

Machiavelli concludes his attack on spendthrift princes by

saying that a prince should carefully guard against incurring

the hatred and contempt of his subjects, and that liberality

with money only brings one or the other. There is more wisdom

in being called a miser, which may bring blame, but not




This chapter is concerned with Machiavelli's answer to the

question, Should a prince appear to be cruel or merciful in his

quest for power? Machiavelli also discusses the nature of being

"loved" and "feared" by the people and warns against the misuse

of mercy.

Some of Machiavelli's response is a restatement of views

regarding the role of cruelty made in Chapter 8. Here, he again

uses Cesare Borgia as the model to reveal the distinction

between cruelty and mercy. Cesare was considered cruel, says

Machiavelli, yet by his cruelty he united Romagna and brought

order, peace, and loyalty to that region. If we carefully

examine his course of actions, says Machiavelli, we find it much

more merciful than the course the people of Florence took when,

to escape the reputation of cruelty, they allowed Pistoria to be


A prince, therefore, shouldn't mind being thought cruel,

especially when he can keep his subjects united and loyal. A

few displays of severity will be more merciful than to allow, by

an excess of mercy, disorders to occur. For these injure a

whole community, while the executions ordered by a prince fall

only upon a few individuals.

A prince should recognize that any new ruler must act swiftly

to consolidate power. In acting swiftly, however, he may create

the impression that he is cruel-but that is to be expected.

NOTE: The subjects of mercy and cruelty were favorite topics

among the ancient Roman moralists. Seneca's essay "On Mercy"

was the most celebrated treatment of the theme, and we may

assume, in light of his interest in Roman and classical

literature, that Machiavelli was familiar with it. According to

Seneca, also a distinguished playwright known for his "blood and

thunder" tragedies, a prince who is merciful will always show

how reluctant he is to turn his hand to punishment. He'll

resort to violence only when repeated wrongdoing has overcome

his patience. Machiavelli, however, takes the opposite point of

view. He says that if you begin by trying to be merciful--so

that you "let evils continue"--and only turn to punishment after

murders or plunder result, your conduct will be far less

merciful than if you have the courage to begin by inflicting a

little cruelty. A government should not worry about incurring

reproaches for those actions which maintain public order.

Machiavelli then turns his attention to a related question:

Is it better for a prince to be loved or feared? It would be

better to be both loved and feared at the same time, he says,

but since that's difficult, it's safer to be feared than loved.

In his view, people are generally ungrateful and fickle. As

long as you shower favors and benefits upon them, they are

loyal. They offer to give their blood, lives, or

children--provided the necessity for it is far in the future.

When necessity is at hand, they revolt. A prince who relies

upon words from such people, without having provided for his own

security, is ruined. Thus, friendships won by rewards rather

than by greatness and nobility of soul are not real and cannot

be depended upon in time of adversity.

Besides, people have less hesitation in offending one who

makes himself beloved than one who makes himself feared, for

love holds by a bond that is broken whenever it's in the

interest of the obliged party to break it. But fear holds by

the apprehension of punishment, which never leaves men.

In defending his point of view, which at first glance you may

think is harsh, Machiavelli advances the sixth golden rule of

The Prince to support his interpretation of human nature:

And if you should be obliged to inflict capital punishment

upon any one, then be sure to do so only when there is manifest

cause and proper justification for it; and, above all things,

abstain from taking people's property, for men will sooner

forget the death of their fathers than the loss of their

ancestral land.

There will never be any lack of reasons for taking people's

property, says Machiavelli, but finding reasons for taking life

are not so easily found and are more readily exhausted.

According to Machiavelli, when a prince is at the head of his

army, it's necessary for him to disregard the reputation of

cruelty--for without such severity no army can be kept


Hannibal was able to command a large army and a vast empire,

says Machiavelli, because he instilled fear of his cruelty in

his followers. Without the reputation for inhuman cruelty, all

his virtues would not have sufficed to produce that result. For

example, Scipio, an outstanding captain in the Roman army, faced

rebellion because of his excessive kindness and generosity,

which allowed his soldiers more freedom than military discipline

should permit. Had Scipio been living under the Roman Empire

instead of the Republic, which tolerated mercy, Machiavelli

suggests, his kindness and generosity would have been considered

a fault rather than a virtue.


answer to Machiavelli's question, "Is it better to be loved than

feared?" had been furnished by Cicero in his "Moral Obligation."

Cicero believed that "fear is but a poor safeguard of lasting

power," while love "may be trusted to keep it safe forever."

Again, Machiavelli disagrees with this outlook. Why? Perhaps

because of his acute psychological analysis of human nature as

he observed it in his time. He sees people as greedy, fickle,

and treacherous. If people are corrupt and greedy for profit,

Machiavelli argues, the wise prince should exploit those

weaknesses to gain control over them. Subsequently, the

successful prince can use fear to maintain power.

As you continue reading, keep in mind the portrait of human

nature that Machiavelli has sketched in this chapter. Given

Machiavelli's views of human nature as seen in The Prince, you

should more easily understand the power system he advocates to

ensure political stability.



To many readers, this is the most important chapter in The

Prince. It contains Machiavelli's most specific recommendations

on the actions a prince must employ to gain power, maintain good

faith, and practice integrity rather than deceit. Some readers

see the chapter as alarming, because Machiavelli spells out

vices and crimes a prince may be permitted in pursuit of


Machiavelli begins the discussion here by pointing out that

there are only two ways of carrying on a contest. The first is

to use the law to encourage proper conduct and rational

thinking. The second is to use force to intimidate and

frighten. The first is practiced by men, and the second by

animals. Sometimes, when the first proves insufficient, it

becomes necessary to resort to the second.

To reinforce his view that a prince should know how to employ

the natures of both man and beast, Machiavelli cites the example

of Achilles, who is said to have been raised by Chiron, the

centaur, half man and half beast. This is the most frequently

quoted example in The Prince:

It being necessary then for a prince to know well how to

employ the nature of the beasts, he should be able to assume

both that of the fox and that of the lion; for while the latter

cannot escape the traps laid for him, the former cannot defend

himself against the wolves. A prince should be a fox, to know

the traps and snares; and a lion, to be able to frighten the

wolves; for those who simply hold to the nature of the lion do

not understand their business.

Understanding this, says Machiavelli, a wise prince should

not fulfill his pledges when their observance is contrary to his

interests, or when the causes that induced him to pledge his

faith no longer exist. If people were all good, this advice

would not be helpful; but since people are naturally bad, and

will not keep their faith with the prince, he should not keep

his, either.

In listing the characteristics of the prince who is both fox

and lion, Machiavelli points out that the prince should be a

great hypocrite and dissembler, for people are so simple and

ready to respond to immediate necessity that the deceiver will

never lack dupes. Pope Alexander VI, for example, was a master

at using this technique to further his power. He deceived his

followers, broke his pledges, and failed to keep his promises.

Nevertheless, he was successful in his deceits because he knew

the weaknesses of men.

It's not necessary, then, for a prince to possess the

generally admired qualities; it's only essential that he "seem"

to have them. To have them all and to practice them constantly

can be destructive. To appear to have them, however, is very

useful. Therefore, it's sometimes necessary for a prince to

have a versatile mind capable of easily changing with the winds

of fortune. He should not swerve from good if possible, but he

should know how to resort to evil if necessity demands it.

NOTE: Machiavelli's rhetorical use of the myth of Chiron is

not a typical reading of the ancient story. Traditionally,

Chiron is used as an example of the harmony, or balance, that is

possible when man is ruled by both reason and strength. The

combination of man and beast, like the example of Chiron, is a

positive force that promotes a keen mind (man) and a strong will

to survive (beast). Machiavelli, however, uses the image of

half man and half beast to defend the concept of cunning and

brute force. You can guess that his interpretation is slanted

toward reinforcing his own point of view.

Some readers find it curious that this chapter makes only a

fleeting reference to the role that religion might play in

helping a prince maintain good faith. Machiavelli wrote at

length about religion in The Discourses, but here he makes only

brief and veiled references to the organized church. Is his

reticence deliberate? Do you think he's suggesting that

religion might be a threat to his political theory of absolute

power because it unites the people in a common cause, thus

making it more difficult for a prince to assume control of them?

Think about these questions. Remember, though, that Machiavelli

has already stated his belief that religion should be

subordinate to the prince and the state, and that religion

represents a powerful threat to a prince seeking absolute power.

How would these thoughts have been received by Lorenzo, whose

uncle was the pope? Does this help explain Machiavelli's

apparent decision to skirt a discussion of religion in this


Machiavelli also says it's important that a prince never say

anything that does not reflect charity, integrity, humanity,

uprightness, and piety. Of all these qualities, it's most

important that a prince appear to be pious, because people

usually judge more by what they see than by what they feel.

Everybody sees what a prince seems to be, but few really know

who he is.

Therefore, a prince should look mainly to winning and to the

successful maintenance of his state. The means he employs for

this will always be considered honorable and will be praised by

everybody. The common people are always taken in by appearances

and by results--and it is the "vulgar" masses that constitute

the world.



This is the longest chapter of The Prince, and you should

think of it as an elaboration of the preceding chapter.

Machiavelli gives timely examples and references to explain his

view that a prince must avoid being hated or despised. This

chapter also serves as a major example of Machiavelli's views on

leadership, and he lists some of the characteristics a prince

should possess if he is to rule with authority.

A prince becomes despised when he acquires the reputation of

being inconsistent, frivolous, effeminate, cowardly, or

irresolute. One way a prince can guard against this reputation

is to display in all his actions grandeur, courage, gravity, and

determination. In judging the private causes of his subjects, a

prince's decisions should be irrevocable. Thus, he will

maintain himself in such esteem that no one will think of

deceiving or betraying him.

There are only two things a prince has to fear, says

Machiavelli: attempts against him by his own subjects and

attacks by powerful foreigners. Against foreigners, he will be

able to defend himself with good armies and good allies. And as

long as his external affairs are kept quiet, his internal

security will not be disturbed except by conspiracy. But even

when at peace externally, a prince should be on guard to prevent

his subjects from conspiring against him secretly. And not to

be hated or scorned by the people is one of the best


When conspirators realize that the death of the prince will

offend rather than conciliate the people, they will not dare to

conspire against him. Experience proves, says Machiavelli, that

although there have been many conspiracies, few have come to a

good end. Conspirators can't act alone. Nor can they take

associates except those who are malcontents--and once a plan of

conspiracy is revealed to a malcontent, he may disclose the plan

in the hope of gaining an advantage for himself.

A conspirator has nothing on his side but fear, jealousy, and

apprehension of punishment. The prince, on the other hand, has

the majesty of sovereignty, the laws, and the support of his

friends and the government to protect him. And if to this is

added the good will of the people, it seems impossible that

anyone would be rash enough to attempt a conspiracy against a


France is a good example of what he's talking about here.

The founders of the French state recognized the basic need to

secure the good will of the people, and they created a

government that included a parliament of both nobles and common

men. The parliament, however, limited the power and the

influence of both the nobles and the people, because each had to

agree to the other's demands. The parliament acted as a judge,

so that, without reference to the king, it could keep in check

the great (nobles) and favor the weak (people).


that Machiavelli sees no useful role for a system of government

in which two legislative chambers share responsibility and

authority, since this form of government inhibits decision

making and limits the possibility for swift change. It may also

be evident that Machiavelli would be suspicious of the

checks-and-balances system, which could impede or slow down

forceful leadership by a single individual. In The Discourses,

however, Machiavelli suggests another point of view. After

conducting his investigation of ancient constitutions, he

perceived that the three constitutional forms--monarchy,

aristocracy, and democracy--were inherently unstable and tended

to generate cycles of corruption and decay. His alternative

proposal was the establishment of a "mixed constitution," one in

which the instabilities of the pure forms were corrected, while

their strengths were combined--or, as he put it, one in which

each keeps "watch over the other" in order to forestall both

"the rich men's arrogance" and "the people's license." Although

motivated by their own selfish interests, the factions will thus

be induced to promote the public interest in their legislative

acts--and the resulting laws will be in favor of liberty.

Machiavelli's mention of the French parliament shows that he

is familiar with the French government. He may have observed

the parliament he describes while on diplomatic missions to

France early in his career. The French parliament was initially

composed of nobles, but in 1302 Philip the Fair began to admit

middle-class citizens as members. Within several years the

middle-class citizens were able to gain enough power in the

parliament to reduce the authority of the nobles. Machiavelli,

however, is not advocating a parliament for Italy in The Prince;

his entire theory here is related to autocratic

government--one-man, dictatorial rule by an all-powerful


Machiavelli uses the lives of some of the Roman emperors to

support his theory that a prince must avoid being despised and

hated. While in most principalities the prince has to contend

only with the ambition of the nobles and the insolence of the

people, the Roman emperors had to meet a third difficulty: the

cruelty and greed of the soldiers. This added problem caused

the ruin of many emperors because of the difficulty of trying to

satisfy--at the same time--both the soldiers and the people.

The people loved peace and for that reason admired princes who

were peace-loving, whereas the soldiers loved princes with

military spirit who were cruel, haughty and grasping.

These emperors were ruined, says Machiavelli, because they

didn't have the qualities necessary to restrain both the

soldiers and the people. Most of them sought to satisfy the

soldiers and cared little about the people. But this course of

action was unavoidable. These princes, who had recently

acquired their kingdoms, were in need of extraordinary favors

and attached themselves more readily to the soldiers, who could

help advance their success.

For example, Pertinax had been made emperor contrary to the

will of the army, which, accustomed to a life of unrestrained

license, could not bear the orderly life to which Pertinax

wished to limit them. Having thus incurred the hatred of the

soldiers, whose disrespect was increased by his old age,

Pertinax was murdered at the very outset of his reign.

Likewise, Alexander Severus, who was so good it was said of him

that during his fourteen years of reign no one was put to death

without regular judicial proceedings, was also ruined. His

problem, however, was being regarded as effeminate, for he

allowed himself to be influenced by his mother. He became

disrespected, the soldiers conspired against him, and he was


On the other hand, Septimius Severus possessed such valor

that, although he imposed heavy burdens upon the people, he was

able to reign undisturbed and happy--because he kept his

soldiers as friends. His bravery, says Machiavelli, caused him

to be so much admired both by his soldiers and by the people,

that the latter were stupefied and astounded by him, while the

soldiers were respectful and satisfied. Being both a fox and a

lion, Severus persuaded the troops he commanded that it would be

proper for them to go to Rome to avenge the death of the emperor

Pertinax. Under this pretext, Severus moved his army to Rome

and entered Italy before it was even known that he had started.

On his arrival in Rome, the Senate, fearing his power, elected

him emperor.

After this beginning, Severus had only two difficulties to

overcome before he could make himself supreme ruler. One was in

the East, in Asia, where his rival, Niger, had proclaimed

himself emperor. The other was in the western part of the

kingdom, where Albinus, another rival, also aspired to be

emperor. Realizing it was dangerous to declare himself the

enemy of both simultaneously, Severus resolved to attack Niger

and deceive Albinus. Therefore, he wrote to Albinus and offered

to share power with him. At the same time, Severus attacked

Niger in the eastern part of the kingdom. As soon as Niger had

been defeated and killed, Severus complained in the Senate that

Albinus, ungrateful for the benefits bestowed, had plotted

treason and murder against him. Severus then went into France

to seek Albinus, and deprived him not only of his state but of

his life.

However, although Severus combined the ferocity of the lion

with the cunning of the fox, and was feared and respected by

everyone, his son, Antoninus Caracalla, didn't learn from him

very well.

While possessed of certain qualities that at first made him

admired by the people and popular with the soldiers, Antoninus's

ferocity and cruelty were so great and unprecedented that he was

eventually hated by everyone. On several occasions he caused

large numbers of people in Rome to be put to death; at another

time he killed nearly the entire population of Alexandria.

Soon, he became feared even by his immediate attendants. He was

finally killed by a soldier whose brother Antoninus had had


Machiavelli's observation here is that princes should be most

careful not to offend seriously any of those who serve them or

who surround them in the service of the state. Antoninus's

mistake was that he had kept a man in his guard whose brother he

had had killed. This was foolish and in the end proved his

downfall, when the centurion killed him.

The same fate befell Commodus, who had also inherited his

princely rule from his father, Marcus Aurelius, a wise

philosopher and kind ruler. But being of a cruel and

undisciplined nature, Commodus began by allowing his army to

commit immoralities upon the people. He also made himself

contemptible in the eyes of his soldiers by disregarding his own

dignity and fighting with gladiators in the arena. Because he

was hated by the people and despised by the soldiers, a

conspiracy arose against him and he was killed.

Machiavelli also discusses at length the career of

Maximinius, who succeeded Alexander Severus. Although

Maximinius was a warlike man, he was of low origin, having once

been a shepherd. He was also known for his many acts of

ferocity, which were committed through his prefects, or chief

magistrates, in Rome and elsewhere. Since he was despised

because of his low origin and hated because of his cruelty, a

conspiracy was formed against him in Africa, in the Senate, in

Rome, and finally in all of Italy. His army joined in the

conspiracy when they also tired of his harshness. Seeing that

he had so many enemies, the army lost their fear of him and put

him to death.

NOTE: Machiavelli's extensive discussion of being despised

and hated is worth your further consideration. Are his

excessive elaboration and detailed examples--especially the

threats of assassination--a veiled warning for Lorenzo to beware

of actions that might undo him? Is Machiavelli afraid that

Lorenzo's own life may be in danger? Does he think that Lorenzo

may be afraid? Likewise, is Machiavelli's suggestion that

Lorenzo maintain a strong and loyal military--an idea first

explored in Chapter 8--calling attention to his lingering

suspicion that Lorenzo may be despised or hated by the people,

and must therefore be protected by powerful forces?

In conclusion, Machiavelli says that whoever considers his

discussion carefully will find that the ruin of the Roman

emperors discussed was caused by either hatred or contempt. A

prince who has only recently acquired his kingdom, therefore,

cannot imitate the conduct of the wise Marcus Aurelius, nor is

it always necessary for him to imitate that of the cunning

Septimius Severus. He should learn, however, from Severus what

is necessary to found a state and from Marcus what is proper and

glorious for the preservation of a state already firmly




The main topic of this chapter is the importance of arms and

fortresses, or defenses, in helping a prince maintain power.

Machiavelli also continues his argument of Chapter 19 that the

best defense for a prince is the love of the people.

Some princes, trying to secure their states, have disarmed

their subjects; a few have kept their countries divided into

different parties; others have purposely encouraged hatred

against themselves; while others have endeavored to win the good

will of those suspected of hostile feelings. Some princes have

built fortresses, while others have demolished and razed those

that already existed.

It has never happened, however, that a new prince has

disarmed his subjects. On the contrary, if a new prince finds

his subjects unarmed he has armed them and in that way has made

them his own. Arming those who were once suspect makes them

faithful and also converts his subjects into partisans and

supporters. And although a new prince cannot arm all his

subjects, by giving certain advantages to those he does arm he

secures himself against those who remain unarmed.

But a prince who disarms his subjects will offend some by

showing that he has no confidence in them, thus revealing that

he suspects them either of cowardice or of lack of loyalty.

This will cause them to hate the prince. And as the prince

cannot remain in power without an armed force, he will have to

resort to mercenaries to protect himself and his dominions. The

dangers of using hired troops, Machiavelli reminds the reader,

have already been spelled out in some detail. (See Chapter


It used to be said that the way to hold the city-state of

Pistoria was through party division, and that of Pisa, through

fortresses. Although this may have been true in the times when

the different powers of Italy were evenly balanced, Machiavelli

says that such an approach wouldn't be productive at the present

time. To the contrary, he asserts, cities divided against

themselves are easily lost.

Strong governments should never allow such division. They

can be of advantage only in time of peace, when the subjects are

more easily managed. But in time of war this approach only

brings ruin. Princes only become great by overcoming the

difficulties and opposition that spring up against them. For

that reason, fortune causes enemies to arise and make attempts

against a prince--to afford him the opportunity to overcome them

and to allow him to rise higher on the very ladder his enemies

have brought against him.

Then Machiavelli addresses the belief that princes often

experience more fidelity and devotion in the very men whom at

the beginning of their reign they mistrusted. His observation

is that those men who at the beginning of a prince's reign are

hostile to him, but still need his support for their

maintenance, will always be won over. They will be obliged to

continue to serve him faithfully to help erase the bad opinion

the prince had formed of them at the beginning of his reign.

Thus, the prince will derive more useful service from these than

from others who are overconfident of their security and who may

serve the prince's interests negligently. Does this have any

bearing on the situation Machiavelli was in, when he wrote The


Machiavelli also advises a prince to carefully consider the

reasons why those who favored his success did so. If it wasn't

from a natural affection for him, but merely from their

dissatisfaction with the previous government, then he'll have

much trouble and difficulty in preserving their attachment or

satisfying their expectations. It's much easier for a prince to

win the friendship of those who were content with the former

government--and therefore hostile to him--before his acquisition

of power than to win favor with those malcontents who became his

friends and supported his takeover.

The general practice of princes had also been to build

fortresses to serve as a curb and a check upon those who might

make an attempt against the government. Fortresses could

further serve as a secure place of refuge for the prince against

attack. Although Machiavelli approves of this strategy because

it was practiced by the ancients, he points out that fortresses

may prove injurious to a prince. Speaking philosophically,

Machiavelli says that a prince who fears his own people more

than foreigners should build fortresses, but that a prince who

fears strangers more than his own people should do without

fortresses. To make his point clear, Machiavelli asserts that

the best fortress a prince can possess is the affection of his

people. Even if a prince has fortresses but is hated by the

people, fortresses will not save him. Once a people has risen

in arms against their prince, there will be no lack of strangers

to aid them and bring the prince to ruin.

NOTE: A more complete discussion of Machiavelli's views on

fortresses and the military is found in his Art of War. In this

book he concentrates on those strategies and tactics that are

mistakes and bring "death and ruin" instead of victory. The

result of his study is a list of advice and warnings related to

the art of warfare. He says, for example, that it's imprudent

and injurious to make either "hesitating decisions" or "slow and

late ones"; that it's useless in time of war, and in peacetime

actively harmful, to rely on fortresses as a principal system of

defense; that it's the worst mistake of all "to refuse every

agreement" when attacked by superior forces, and to try instead

to win against the odds; and that "war is made with steel and

not with gold." These are the practical lessons of warfare as

taught by the Romans, and Machiavelli sketches them briefly in

The Prince, as well. Can you think of modern parallels that

suggest that Machiavelli's views on warfare and fortresses are

still valid? What historical examples can you think of that

support or further explain Machiavelli's point of view on

warfare or fortresses?

In his own time, says Machiavelli, he has seen only one

example where a fortress had been of advantage to a ruler:

Following the death of her husband, the countess of Forli used

her fortress to escape the fury of the people while she waited

for help from Milan to recover her state. Later, however, she

was attacked by Cesare Borgia, who, with the aid of the people's

hatred, was able to conquer her territory. She would have been

better off, Machiavelli asserts, if she had not been hated by

the people, than she was in possessing the castle.

NOTE: Machiavelli's treatment of fortresses is as much a

metaphor for the political climate of Italy in his time as it is

a practical, strategic concern. Metaphorically speaking, could

Machiavelli be encouraging the prince to rely more on public

opinion and on the patriotism of his people than on expensive

technology? This appears to be echoed in his admonition: "It

is much better to have the love of the people, who will

themselves become the protective fortress of the prince."

Can you think of other metaphors related to fortresses that

have modern significance? Consider, for example, the Communist

nations that form the Eastern European bloc. What conclusions

can you draw about a society that must build walls--real (the

Berlin Wall) and metaphorical (the Iron Curtain)--to keep its

people in? Think of the popular uprisings in Hungary in 1956,

in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and in Poland in 1980. To what

extent can a ruler rely on military strength to awe his people

into submission? The Shah of Iran assembled the strongest

military force in the Middle East; yet, as events proved, he

lacked the popular support of his people. Despite his military

might, he was easily overthrown in 1978-1979. The Shah's

example seems to support Machiavelli's assertion that the best

fortress of a prince is the love of his subjects.



With this chapter, Machiavelli returns to the discussion

begun in Chapter 18 on how to acquire a reputation, elaborating

on why it is essential for a prince to undertake great

enterprises and give a noble example in his own person.

Machiavelli cites the example of Ferdinand of Spain, a new

prince who conquered the Moors in Granada, attacked Africa, and

then invaded Italy and France, At first, Ferdinand carried on

these wars in a leisurely fashion, and without fear of

opposition. He thereby kept his nobles occupied, and they paid

no attention to the innovations introduced by the king.

Ferdinand thus acquired a reputation and an influence over the

nobles without their being aware of it. The money of the Church

and the people allowed him to support his armies, and the long

wars enabled him to lay a stable foundation for his military

establishment. In addition, Ferdinand always used religion as a

pretext for his actions and committed "pious cruelty" in driving

the Muslim Moors from his kingdom. Thus, he was always planning

great enterprises, which kept the minds of his subjects in a

state of suspense and admiration.

A prince, furthermore, is respected most when he shows

himself to be either a true friend or a real enemy. To declare

himself openly for or against another is always more creditable

than to remain neutral.

NOTE: THE MEASURE OF GREAT MEN Ferdinand is an example

suggesting political power has no other function than to create

order in a specific place and situation. The use of political

power does not seek order and stability for the world at large,

but only for one nation at the expense of others. Because

success is judged exclusively by how well a ruler achieves a

stable, orderly, dynamic, and victorious state, only attempts to

lead one's nation to such a position can be used for a serious

evaluation of the political leader's greatness.

Glorious men, says Machiavelli in The Discourses, are those

who successfully complete their attempts to vitalize their own

societies, to strengthen them militarily, and to stabilize them

politically. These rulers are those rare individuals who can

translate their unique talents into actions that yield favorable

results for the state. They make history by shaping the destiny

of their nations. "Glory" is the prize of the prince's victory,

and though it shines in posterity, its origins must be present

during the prince's lifetime. To gain power is one thing; to

win glory, another.

Can you make such a clear distinction between power and

glory? Does the pursuit of power distinguish great men from

ordinary men? What examples can you advance that support

Machiavelli's ideal that the "public good" that results from

glory is more lasting than the private good that results from


A prince should also show himself to be a lover of virtue,

and should honor all who excel in any of the arts. He should

encourage his citizens quietly to pursue their

vocations--whether of commerce, agriculture, or any other

productive or useful industry--and should provide rewards for

those willing to do these things, and for all who strive to

enlarge his city or state. Besides this, he should at suitable

periods amuse his people with festivities and spectacles. He

should, further, set an example of his humanity and

magnificence, always preserving, however, the majesty of his

dignity, which should never be absent under any circumstances.

NOTE: CONDUCT OF A PRINCE Machiavelli may be directly

addressing Lorenzo here with his lengthy list of the ways in

which a prince should conduct himself to become respected and

admired. Lorenzo is reported to have been a strikingly

handsome, robust, and well-liked prince who enjoyed athletic

contests and civic celebrations. But some of his political

decisions had disturbed many Italians and made them question his

ability as a leader. For example, he had twice remained neutral

in recent Italian civil wars and had refused to join forces with

several city-states in their fight for freedom. Could

Machiavelli be subtly pointing out to Lorenzo that he should

consider a more aggressive role if he's to drive the foreign

invaders from Italy?

But in judging the actions of a prince, where does one draw

the line between timidity and discretion? Machiavelli warns the

prince not to ally himself with stronger rulers. Consider the

case of Italy's Benito Mussolini and Spain's Francisco

Franco--both Fascist dictators and seemingly natural allies of

Hitler's Germany. Yet, while Mussolini joined forces with

Hitler during World War II, Franco remained neutral. Mussolini,

a student of Machiavelli, acted decisively, but Germany and

Italy lost the war and he was destroyed. Franco, it might seem,

acted timidly, but he and his regime survived the war. Is

Machiavelli overlooking here a quality in the ideal leader that

may sometimes be more important than physical courage--namely,


Machiavelli also seems to be suggesting that the powerful

prince should mingle with his people, engage in common

activities, play sports, and sponsor festivals and fairs that

attract supporters. Does this sound like a familiar device to

win friends and influence people? Think of contemporary

politicians and leaders of industry who engage in similar

activities to sell themselves to the public. While at first

glance this practice may appear to be a harmless way of winning

favor, is there a more serious or dangerous element involved in

a leader freely mingling with the people? Consider, for

example, recent attempted assassinations, kidnappings, and other

acts of terrorism involving world leaders. What do you think

Machiavelli would have to say about this?



Chapters 22 and 23 are important for the suggestions

Machiavelli makes regarding the ways a prince should select his


If a prince's advisers are competent and faithful, the prince

will be judged wise, because he knew how to discern their

capacity and how to secure their fidelity. But if they prove

otherwise, the opinion formed of a prince will be unfavorable,

because he lacked good judgment in making the selection. In

suggesting the types of advisers to choose, Machiavelli

distinguishes between three kinds of intellect. The first

intellect understands things by its own quickness of perception;

it is this intellect that a prince should look for in selecting

advisers. The second intellect understands things when they are

explained by someone else; this intellect is also good. The

third understands things neither by itself nor through the

explanation of others; this intellect is useless.

Whenever the prince sees that the adviser thinks more of

himself than of the prince and that he seeks his own advantage

more than that of the state, the prince may be sure that his

adviser is not to be trusted. For a man who has the

administration of the state in his hands should never think of

himself, but only of the prince, and should never bring anything

to his ruler's notice that does not relate to the interest of

the government.

On the other hand, the prince may secure the devotion of his

advisers by binding himself to them with obligations. The

prince should bestow riches and share honors and tasks, so that

the abundance of honors and riches conferred by the prince will

keep the adviser from desiring either from any other source.

When the relations between a prince and his adviser are set up

that way, says Machiavelli, the two will be able to rely on each

other. If the relations between them are otherwise, then one or

the other will surely come to a bad end.

NOTE: In The Prince, Machiavelli takes great pains to spell

out the differences between friends and flatterers, and warns of

the dangers of placing personal friends in positions of

influence. Do you think his description of trusted advisers is

accurate? Do you think he gained his own position as head of

the second chancery by personal influence or by ability?

To test your own interpretation of Machiavelli's view, think

of recent examples of "trusted advisers" whose appointment to

high positions in government because of political favoritism or

reward later resulted in embarrassment or censure for their

leader. On the other hand, can you think of notable examples of

trusted advisers whose appointment to public office has resulted

in remarkable achievements in diplomacy, negotiations, or

legislation? Is there a lesson to be learned here? What is


In Chapter 23, Machiavelli describes how a prince learns to

avoid flatterers. He begins by saying men are generally so

pleased with themselves that it's with difficulty they escape

from flatterers. In their efforts to avoid them, moreover,

princes expose themselves to the risk of being scorned.

There is, unfortunately, no way to guard against flattery

other than to make people understand that they won't offend a

prince by speaking the truth. But when all people feel free to

speak the truth to a prince, they'll be apt to lack respect for

him. A prudent prince, therefore, should follow a middle

course, choosing for his close advisers only wise men, to whom

he gives full power to tell him the truth. They should only be

allowed to give him those opinions that he asks for, and no

other. The prince should listen to his advisers' opinions,

reflect upon them, and then form his own resolutions. He should

also treat his advisers in such a manner that each is encouraged

to always speak freely to him.

Machiavelli cites a contemporary example to reinforce his

analysis. Emperor Maximilian takes counsel with no one and yet

never does anything in his own way, either. He never

communicates his secrets nor takes advice. But when he attempts

to carry out his plans and they become known, they are quickly

opposed by those whom he has around him. Being easily

influenced, the emperor is then diverted from his own resolves.

Thus, Maximilian undoes one day what he has done the day before,

and no one ever knows what he wants or plans to do from day to


Maximilian's problem leads Machiavelli to propose that a

prince should always take counsel--but only when he wants it,

not when others wish to thrust it upon him. In fact, he says, a

prince should discourage persons from offering him unsolicited

advice. And he should show his anger if anyone should, for some

reason, not tell him the truth.

Those who imagine that a prince's wisdom is the result of the

good counsel of those who surround him, rather than of his own

natural gifts of wisdom, also deceive themselves. A prince who

is not naturally wise cannot be well advised (unless he places

himself entirely in the hands of one man who happens to be an

adviser of uncommon ability). But even in such a case,

Machiavelli warns, a prince might be well directed but would

probably not last long before his adviser deprived him of his

state. Even if the prince depends completely on a number of

advisers, he will have similar problems, because his advisers

will think only of their own advantage, and the prince will know

neither how to discern nor how to correct their various


And things cannot be otherwise, says Machiavelli, because

people will always naturally prove bad, unless necessity forces

them to be good. Hence, he concludes this chapter with the

admonition that good advisers, no matter where they come from,

result wholly from the prince's own wisdom. The prince's

wisdom, however, never results from good advisers.




The personal qualities of the successful prince, as discussed

by Machiavelli in Part III, are summarized here for your

convenient reference. In many ways, this is the core of The

Prince. Machiavelli presents his recommendations in the form of

a series of opposite alternatives.



The prince who spends freely on building projects, patronage

of the arts, and gifts to friends makes himself popular only

with the few who receive the benefits. The tightfisted ruler

wins more popularity because he doesn't tax his subjects as

much. He also has more money to spend in military




It is better to have a reputation for kindness than for

cruelty, but cruelty (severity) is needed to maintain order. If

a prince is cruel to a few criminals and malcontents, they alone

suffer; if he is excessively "kind" and lets public order break

down, everyone suffers from the increase in robbery and




A prince should be both loved and feared--but, if he must

choose, it is better to be feared. But he must not make himself





Despite the great importance of military power, a prince who

bases his rule on building fortresses to overawe his subjects,

like Francesco Sforza of Milan, cannot rule securely. A

prince's best fortress is the loyalty of his subjects.



A prince needs able advisers. But, after he has taken

counsel with them, he must make up his own mind about policy

decisions. He should not accept unsolicited advice, and he

should not let his advisers talk him into constantly changing

his mind.



The last three chapters of The Prince consist of

Machiavelli's call to arms as he tries to persuade Lorenzo to

seize the moment and move forward with ambitious plans. The

patriotic strain is quite obvious here. Machiavelli cites past

events to remind Lorenzo that Italy is doomed to failure and

obscurity unless he acts swiftly. There is an almost religious

fervor to the tone of Machiavelli's pleas, as he prays that

Lorenzo will be able to profit from the lessons of past events,

previous leaders, and his own skills to restore Italy to her

former glory and rightful place in history.



Up to this point in The Prince, Machiavelli has discussed

generally the types of governments, princes, military

strategies, and advisers that might serve any prince in a quest

for power. In Chapter 24, he addresses the specific reasons why

the different princes of Italy have lost their states.

Machiavelli's careful and critical observation of Italian

history repeats some of what he's said before. He tells Lorenzo

that the actions of a new prince, like himself, will be regarded

as if he were a hereditary one as long as he observes the rules

spelled out in The Prince. Once his actions are known to be

virtuous, he'll win the confidence and affection of more people

than if he were of ancient heritage--since new rulers are

watched much more closely than established rulers. When the

people find that the ruler is good, they will be satisfied and

will seek no other.

In examining the conduct of those princes who lost their

states--the king of Naples and the duke of Milan, among

others--Machiavelli finds a common thread regarding their

inability to keep an army in the field. He also finds that in

some instances the people were hostile to the prince. In other

instances a prince may have had the good will of the people but

didn't know how to get along with the nobles.

Therefore, says Machiavelli, those established princes who

lost their kingdoms should not blame fortune for the loss, but

should fault their own laziness and lack of energy. In peaceful

times they never thought of the possibility of a change (it's a

common defect of people in fair weather to take no thought of

storms); afterward, when adversity overtook them, their first

impulse was to flee rather than to defend themselves, in the

hope that the people, disgusted with the insolence of the

victors, would recall them.


verdict on the leadership of Italy is a harsh judgment based

upon personal observation and historical fact. History has

taught, he says, that it's not "bad luck" that has kept Italy a

prisoner under foreign rule. It's the blunders, misjudgments,

and strategic errors that have resulted in military weakness and

political chaos. This admission represents the point at which

he regarded his contemporaries as most open to criticism. It's

also the most important lesson that he drew for contemporary

rulers from his study of ancient history: What they had failed

to recognize was that they would have been far more successful

if they had sought to adapt their personalities to the needs of

the moment, instead of trying to reshape their times in the mold

of their personalities.

As in The Discourses, Machiavelli argues here that as long as

men are more committed to their own ambitions than to the public

interest, there will always be tendencies to favor selfish and

petty ends, to sow the seeds of corruption in government, and to

endanger individual liberty. Only a new prince, interested

solely in restoring political stability and cultivating civic

good, can deliver Italy from impending doom.



Having laid the foundation for his patriotic call to arms in

Chapter 24, Machiavelli now turns his attention to a review of

the influence of fortune in human affairs, and to how it may be

counteracted by a forceful and aggressive leader, one who

possesses virtu.

Machiavelli says that he's well aware that many have held,

and continue to hold, the opinion that affairs of the world are

much controlled by fortune and by divine power that human wisdom

and foresight cannot modify them.

Although Machiavelli admits that there is some truth to these

notions of fortune and divine power, he also asserts that

fortune is only partially responsible for the success or failure

of men's actions. Free will--which allows men to make

choices--also influences and directs men's actions: it actually

encourages men to try to affect their own fortunes.

NOTE: Machiavelli has already denied a role for good fortune

in bringing a prince to power (see Chapter 15). Here, however,

he is much more forceful and uncompromising in his views. He

argues that men must try to alter the course of events if

they're to succeed. The idea of virtu that he presents here is

not the Christian virtue of passive acceptance of fate.

Instead, Machiavelli asserts that man has the ability to mold

his own destiny. In a more practical sense, Machiavelli is

simply saying that the times are right for action, and, perhaps,

that Lorenzo should seize the moment and not delay any longer.

Even at the darkest hour in Italy's gloom, Machiavelli is at

his most optimistic here. He counsels never to stop trying, and

to pursue an active, aggressive course of action. Although he

would never argue that recklessness is a virtue, he does

encourage boldness and swift action. Again, his plea here is

directed toward restoring the harmony and equilibrium of the


In examining Italy from the viewpoint of the recommendations

he proposes, Machiavelli sees that she is an open country

without protection against foreign invasion. He also sees that

if Italy had been protected with proper valor and wisdom--as

Germany, Spain, and France had been protected against

invasion--countless foreign subjugations would not have caused

the great changes they did, or may not have even occurred at


The same could be said of a prince's own fortune. The prince

who relies entirely upon fortune, as Italy relied upon her

inadequate defense and leadership, may be ruined depending on

how fortune varies. But the prince who conforms his conduct to

the spirit of the times, as Machiavelli hopes Lorenzo will, will


To reinforce his view that the times are ripe now for

immediate action, Machiavelli again points to the example of

Pope Julius II. Julius always acted on impulse, often

surprising his opponents with his daring and unpredictable

moves. When, for example, he went to war against Bologna,

neither Venice nor the king of Spain was prepared to react,

because both had been caught by surprise. Thus, Julius was able

to enlist the support of the king of France and win a

significant victory for himself. Had he postponed his decision

to do battle with the Venetians and the Spanish, he might have

missed his chances for victory.

Therefore, Machiavelli concludes, inasmuch as fortune is

changeable, men who persist obstinately in their own ways will

be successful only as long as those ways coincide with those of

fortune. To make his point more directly, Machiavelli draws the

analogy of fortune as a woman, an analogy that was popular in

Italian literature at the time. Like a woman, he says, fortune

is fragile, partial to the young, and easily seduced. But, if

you wish to master her, you must use force: and you will see

that she allows herself to be more easily vanquished by the rash

and the violent than by those who proceed more slowly and

coldly. As a woman, she favors youth more than age, for youth

is less cautious and more energetic--and commands fortune with

greater audacity.

NOTE: Machiavelli's graphic image of fortune as a woman is

drawn from familiar literature of the period. The poet

Piccolomini in his "Dream of Fortune" had explored the same

image and detailed the erotic overtones of the analogy.

Machiavelli, however, implies that fortune may actually take a

perverse pleasure in being roughly handled. Today we would

regard this analogy as sexist and depraved. Is it especially

intended to appeal to Lorenzo, the young and impetuous prince

Machiavelli hopes to stimulate into action? Or is Machiavelli's

point here a more practical one: that fortune must be

confronted with firmness if men are to attain their highest

goals? Consider the role that fortune plays in Machiavelli's

advice to Lorenzo in the following chapter. It should help you

to understand his plea for a prince to be the "redeemer" of




The last chapter serves as both a summary of Machiavelli's

major thoughts and a final patriotic call for Lorenzo to seize

the initiative and move swiftly to free Italy of foreign


Reviewing his previous discussions, and thinking the time is

right for Italy to be led by a new prince, Machiavelli wishes

that the opportunity to liberate Italy be given to a prudent and

virtuous man who would establish a new form of government that

would bring honor to himself and happiness to the people. He

cites past examples of heroic leaders who heeded similar calls

and rose to the heights of glorious victory: Moses, who came

forth to lead the enslaved people of Israel to freedom and the

Promised Land; Cyrus, who arose to free the Persians from their

slavery to the Medes; and Theseus, who emerged to unite the


Now, he says, it's time for another heroic figure to step

forward and save the Italians, who are in worse bondage than the

Jews, more enslaved than the Persians, more scattered than the


Although there once had been someone who seemed ordained to

redeem Italy (an allusion to Cesare Borgia?), he was checked by

fortune--at the very peak of his career--and Italy remains today

lifeless, waiting for someone else to heal her wounds. And

there is no one at present in whom Italy could place more hope

than in the house of Medici--which, with its virtue and fortune,

is favored by both God and the Church. It will be an easy task

to win, says Machiavelli, if Lorenzo will first carefully study

the lives and actions of the three men just named.

NOTE: The impassioned "exhortation" to liberty that

concludes The Prince again underscores the role of virtu in

Machiavelli's scheme of thought. He reverts to the leaders

mentioned in Chapter 6 to imply that nothing less than a union

of their astonishing abilities with the greatest good fortune

and virtue will save Italy from destruction. He also adds that

the "glorious family" of the Medici possesses all the qualities

necessary for leadership.

The obvious note of patriotism has led some readers to

interpret the chapter as an open invitation to any prince or

party capable of assuming power to seize the opportunity and

attack the foreign intruders. Most readers, however, accept

Machiavelli's effort in the concluding chapter as a sincere

attempt to speak directly to Lorenzo, so that there is no

misunderstanding about the author's call to arms. The use of

poetry at the end, the biblical references, and the historical

names only seem to enhance the urgent nature of his plea.

The Italian people have great courage, he reminds Lorenzo,

even if their leaders do not. Look at their duels and their

encounters when there are but a few on either side, and discover

how superior they have shown themselves to be in strength,

dexterity, and ability. But when it comes to their armies,

these qualities do not appear because of the inferiority of

their leaders, who cannot command obedience from those versed in

the art of war. That is why, Machiavelli warns Lorenzo, he will

have to provide himself with a national army as the foundation

of his enterprise. And Italian soldiers will become even better

when they are united and know that they're led by their own

prince, who will honor and support them.

Machiavelli also points out that Lorenzo should remember from

history that the infantry of both the Swiss and the Spaniards

have noticeable defects, which would permit the newly organized

Italian forces not only to resist them, but also perhaps to

vanquish them. For example, the Spaniards cannot withstand the

attack of cavalry, and the Swiss dread well-trained, resolute

infantry. Machiavelli tells Lorenzo that, knowing these

defects, he can organize a new system of infantry that will be

effective against both. This is one of the things, he says,

that will bring fame and greatness to a new prince.

Having given his final advice, Machiavelli expresses the

gratitude and love that all Italians will feel when their nation

is finally liberated. The moment must not be allowed to pass,

he repeats. With what thirst for vengeance, with what

persistent faith, with what devotion, and with what tears, he

says, the people will rush to greet Lorenzo when Italy is at

last freed from these foreign foes! To seal his patriotic plea

that Lorenzo help Italy recover its ancient fame, Machiavelli

offers a stirring quotation from the beloved Italian poet


Courage will take up arms

Against the barbarian, and may the struggle be brief;

For the valor of old is not yet extinguished

In Italian hearts.

NOTE: Although the final chapter is the most eloquent in The

Prince, it is also one of the most misunderstood. The obvious

change in style, especially the frequent use of imagery, has led

some readers to suggest that it may have been added to the book

as an afterthought some years later. Far more important, it

seems, are the compassion and dignity that Machiavelli exhibits

here. Who could fail to be motivated to action after being

compared to Moses, or other well-known and revered heroic


This passionate tone in the last chapter is a glimpse beyond

the cold, calculating portrait of Machiavelli seen in most of

The Prince and is also an indication of how tragic the political

situation in Italy had become. The nation was being ravaged by

foreign invaders, such as the Swiss, the French, and the

Spaniards, and the only salvation for the people would be the

emergence of an imaginative and forceful leader who could appeal

to all the factions of the Italian city-states and give the

nation a common goal. Unfortunately, there was to be no such

redeemer during Machiavelli's lifetime. The passionate handbook

of the art of ruling dedicated to Lorenzo was apparently

dismissed by the Medici. It is quite possible that Lorenzo

never even read The Prince and that he died unaware of what

Machiavelli had so carefully tried to spell out for him.



AGATHOCLES (361-289 B.C.) Potter's son, who through his

special abilities became king of Syracuse. Machiavelli,

however, considers him a villain.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT (356-323 B.C.) One of Machiavelli's

favorite historical examples of a successful and glorious

prince. He conquered the kingdom of Darius of Persia.

ALEXANDER SEVERUS (208-235 A.D.) Machiavelli's example of a

weak prince, who was unduly influenced by his mother, hated by

the people, and eventually murdered.

AUXILIARY TROOPS Neighboring armies lent by powerful foreign

princes in time of battle. Machiavelli regards them as highly


CESARE BORGIA (1475-1507) Model prince, who rose to power as

the son of Pope Alexander VI. A brilliant tactical thinker,

able leader, and cunning politician, Cesare Borgia fell victim

to bad luck and lost his kingdom soon after his father's


CHIRON Classical Greek mythological figure who was half-man

and half-beast. Machiavelli employs this image to introduce his

thesis that the prince must be both "fox" and "lion."

ECCLESIASTICAL PRINCIPALITY Principality ruled by the Church

and maintained by religious laws. The area around Rome,

governed by the pope, was an ecclesiastical principality in

Machiavelli's day.

FERDINAND OF SPAIN (1452-1516) Machiavelli's example of a

ruler who engaged in forceful foreign policies that resulted in

absolute power. King Ferdinand drove the Moors out of Granada,

attacked Africa, and invaded Italy and France simultaneously.

FERMO City in central Italy, near the Adriatic Sea, part of

the papal domain, 1538-1860.

OLIVEROTTO DA FERMO Infamous prince, who ruled Fermo in 1501.

He was murdered in 1502 for plotting to overthrow Cesare


FLORENCE City-state in central Italy, located on the Arno

River and at the foot of the Apennines. Greatest cultural and

artistic center of western Europe, fourteenth-sixteenth


FORTUNE According to Machiavelli, luck that plays a pivotal

role in the success or failure of a prince.

GAETA Fortified seaport, located in central Italy on the Gulf

of Gaeta.

GOLDEN RULES Machiavelli's political maxims, or wise sayings,

that summarize his major ideas and themes.

HANNIBAL (247-183 B.C.) Leader of the Carthaginian army

against Rome during the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.).

HEREDITARY PRINCIPALITY Principality ruled by one person or

one family for a prolonged period of time on the basis of an

inherited right to power.

LOMBARDY Region in northern Italy in the Italian Alps. It

took its name from the fact that it was the center of the

kingdom founded in the Po Valley by the Lombards, a German

people who invaded Italy in the sixth century.

LOUIS XII (1462-1515) Machiavelli's example of a ruler whose

military blunders cost him an empire. Louis XII, king of

France, lost the duchy of Milan through a series of tactical

delays, foolish alliances, and weak supporting armies.

MAXIMILIAN I (1459-1519) Holy Roman Emperor. Machiavelli's

example of a ruler who surrounded himself with flatterers

instead of able advisers and was soon distrusted by the


LORENZO DE' MEDICI (1492-1519) Grandson of Lorenzo the

Magnificent and ruler of Florence when The Prince was written.

Machiavelli dedicates the book to Lorenzo, whom he sees as a

potentially glorious prince.

MERCENARIES Hired armies that Machiavelli portrays as

ambitious, undisciplined, and frequently cowardly in the face of


MILAN City in Lombardy, located in northern Italy. During

the Renaissance, it was governed by the tyrannical Sforza

family. The French sought to conquer Milan.

MINISTERS Personal advisers to the prince.

MIXED PRINCIPALITY Principality including both old and newly

acquired provinces, subject to frequent rebellion and changes of


MIXED TROOPS Armies composed of both mercenaries and national

or local troops. Machiavelli describes mixed forces as

disruptive, because they provoke bitter quarreling that

undermines the spirit of a military campaign.

NAPLES Seaport on the Bay of Naples. A scene of rivalry

between France and Spain in Machiavelli's day.

NATIVE TROOPS Armies formed by the citizens of a nation and

loyal to the prince. Machiavelli considers them the best

possible armies because they fight for their own freedom as well

as for their prince.

NEW PRINCIPALITY A principality formed by conquest and

maintained only as long as a strong military can prevent its

subsequent loss to another conqueror.

REMIRRO D'ORCO The majordomo, or chief lieutenant, of Cesare

Borgia. He was killed after he displayed excessive cruelty and

brutality as commander of Romagna. Machiavelli cites him to

show that by punishing (killing) him, Cesare Borgia tried to

appear a humane prince.

PETRARCH (1304-1374) Famous Italian poet. Machiavelli quotes

several of his patriotic stanzas to conclude The Prince.

PISA City-state in the province of Tuscany, in western Italy.

Rebelled against Florentine rule 1494-1509; Machiavelli uses the

image of Pisa in his writing to suggest that the love of freedom

is so strong that a prince could never extinguish it by force


PISTORIA Surrounding province on the outskirts of Florence,

seized by the Florentines in 1331.

PRATO City located in Tuscany, in western Italy. Free

Italian province in eleventh century; later under the control of

Florence. Sacked by the Spaniards in 1512.

ROMAGNA Under papal control until 1500. Seized by Cesare

Borgia in 1501.

ROME City in central Italy, along the Tiber River. The

capital of the Roman Empire and the seat of the papacy.

ROMULUS Legendary founder of Rome.

GIROLAMO SAVONAROLA (1452-1498) Dominican friar who had much

influence in Florence from 1494 to 1497. He advocated

puritanical laws. He was eventually hanged and burned in the

town square by the Florentines.

SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS (146-211 A.D.) Roman Emperor.

Machiavelli's example of a strong prince who was both a fox and

a lion. He defeated his rivals, Niger and Albinus, using

cunning and force.

FRANCESCO SFORZA (1401-1466) Duke of Milan, who maintained a

fiercely loyal army to defend himself. After his death, his

descendants neglected the art of war and were overthrown.

SICILY Largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, at the

extreme southern point of the Italian peninsula. Syracuse was

the leading city of ancient Sicily.

THESEUS Greek mythological hero and king of Athens.

VENICE Seaport in northeast Italy. A rich, powerful

aristocratic republic in Machiavelli's time.

VIRTU Machiavelli's term for personal strength and ability,

the special talent of a prince to seize the opportunity of a

given moment and assume absolute power.

BERNABO VISCONTI (1323-1385) Ruler famous for his cruel

methods of punishment, including torture. Machiavelli uses him

as an example of how a prince can instill fear in the hearts of

the people.



Supreme among the political thinkers of all time,

Machiavelli, in common with the greatest politicians--who, like

him, so resemble the artist in that their logic and their dogma

are completely subordinate to their intuition--has what may

literally be termed initial inner "illuminations," immediate,

intuitive visions of events and their significance.

-Federico Chabod,

Machiavelli and the Renaissance, 1960

The Prince has been read as if it were a treatise on

political theory, instead of being considered an impassioned

answer to a particular historical situation. Admittedly,

Machiavelli believed that historical situations repeat

themselves, and that good solutions may also be repeated. This

does not, however, alter the fact that The Prince was written at

a time of grave national and personal crisis and must be

understood in the light of such events.

-A. J. Krailshmeimer,

The Continental Renaissance, 1971

Machiavelli's intention was not the study or the creation of

that particular science which we today call political science.

It is important that we should come to his work as historians,

not as theorists who hanker after synthesis. The science which

he is regarded as having invented is a particular policy that he

was commending for adoption by the practical statesman; or it

was an element conditioning political action that he was

subjecting to analysis. His teaching is a collection of

concrete maxims--warnings and injunctions in regard to certain

points of policy, rules of conduct for specified emergencies,

and expositions of tactical moves.



Ever since Niccolo Machiavelli's day The Prince has been

considered by some to be a diabolical production, and its

author's name has been held synonymous with Satan (hence,

according to Samuel Butler, "Old Nick"). Passages have been

quoted out of context to prove their author depraved and

immoral. Although such a practice is unfair and does not do

justice to Machiavelli's whole thesis, it must be admitted that

he exalts the state above the individual; that the most

enthusiastic exponents of his theories have been Napoleon,

Bismarck, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin; and that his state is

exempt from the obligations of "religion" and "morality."

-Buckner B. Trawick,

World Literature, 1962



Machiavelli inevitably had a felt need for the formation and

expression of the political will of the community. Despite the

fact that he lived in and worked for one city-state while

spending his leisure time pondering the fate of other

city-states, Machiavelli has proven to be vitally relevant to

those living in the era of the emergence and spread of the

national-state system and the rich and tumultuous development of

the internal political life of Western peoples; at least in part

because of his insistence upon viewing the political life of a

people as the highest expression of its culture.

-Martin Fleisher, Machiavelli

and the Nature of Political Thought, 1972



One significant way in which Machiavelli contributed to the

new confidence in man was in his separation of politics from

religion and his challenge to the secular authority of the

Church. The human activity of politics, Machiavelli believed,

can be isolated from other forms of activity and treated in its

own autonomous terms. In a word politics can be divorced from

theology, and government from religion. No longer is the state

viewed as having a moral end or purpose. Its end is not the

shaping of human souls, but the creation of conditions which

would enable men to fulfill their basic desires of

self-preservation, security, and happiness. Religion has the

vital function of personal salvation, of serving as an important

instrument of social control--a basis for civic virtue rather

than moral virtue.

-Anthony Parel,

The Political Calculus, 1972



Machiavelli totally ignores the orthodox Christian injunction

that a good ruler ought to avoid the temptations of worldly

glory and wealth in order to be sure of attaining his heavenly

rewards. On the contrary, it seems obvious to Machiavelli that

the highest prizes for which men are bound to compete are "glory

and riches"--the two finest gifts that Fortune has it in her to


Courtesy of Michael S. Abrams, Ph.D.

Back to History Page

            Courtesy of Michael S. Abrams, ph.d.

            Sponsered by psychology of new jersey and Michael S. Abrams, Ph.D.              Sponsored by Enigma Hair Studio


                           Sponsored by www.psychny.com the Dr. Mike Abrams NYC psychologists site


             and New York Psychologist Dr. Mike Abrams