Machiavelli and Renaissance Italy

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Political realism is when a ruler accomplishes goals. Dave Licause European History Machiavelli and the Prince Machiavelli is one of the greatest and most widely recognized humanist authors. Machiavelli received a classic middle class renaissance humanist education. The Prince most apparent departure from the humanist narrative is the separation of politics and ethics.

Machiavelli, in the Prince, creates the first modern political treatise. No longer was government seen as an institution granted by God but rather governments were largely becoming arrangements or contracts between those that govern and the governed. Thinkers from Aristotle to Francis Bacon would expound on this idea of a social contract, but none would exemplify the realism and ruthlessness of modern politics like Machiavelli.

While the word Machiavellian has become part. The Italian Renaissance is known for its birth of many notable philosophers, including the famous Niccolo Machiavelli. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest political thinkers to have ever existed, and his ideas and beliefs have been an inspiration and motivation for many famous leaders. Although he has known to have been a positive influence on mankind, Machiavelli has also distinguished a bad reputation that has been unfairly given to him because of a misunderstanding in his views on politics.

The Renaissance, a revival of antiquity starting in Italy around the middle of the 14th century, had broad implications for the way western society would operate thereafter. It would no longer focus on the church and its dictates, although they would still play a part. It would no longer have its government seated in Rome, with small pawns of the church controlling the land, although the church would still have a hand in government. It would no longer shun the vast stores of knowledge created. His research and philosophies explored new strategies and ways of thinking.

Machiavelli was before his own time. Machiavelli as a Renaissance Man For centuries, periods of history have been defined by their distinct values, their tastes in art, music, literature, and politics. If you hear the term "Romantic Era" your mind is immediately transported to hear the soft music of Lizt, Schubert, or Chopin, and your eyes begin to see waves of the soft colours found in the paintings of Turner, Goya, and Blake.

You might even begin reciting a line from a poem by Lord Byron or a quote from one of Jane Austen 's beloved novels. Even if we do not know specific names of people from that era, we will get a feeling, or a sense of what it must have been like, simply from the things we have heard about it. Sometimes, phrases we commonly use today are even named after periods of time in history, which characterize an aspect of this time periods values and ideals. An example of this is the modern term "Renaissance Man".

According to Webster 's Dictionary, a Renaissance Man is "a man who is interested in and knows a lot about many things" "Renaissance Man," def. One of the most famous men of the Renaissance era who holds claim to this title is a man named Niccolo Machiavelli. Born in in Florence, Italy, he lived his life in the heart of the Italian renaissance as a diplomat, author, historian, philosopher, humanist, and politician "Biography". Human behavior can be vitally affected by the structure of the social environment, by the socially established ends that canalize human de-sire. All men are to some extent creatures of convention rather than merely natural men; indeed, neither an absolutely natural nor an absolutely conventional man can exist, any more than either an absolutely evil or an absolutely good man is possible.

All men fall somewhere along a scale between these extremes. It seemed plausible to Machiavelli that good and evil are roughly in equilibrium in the world, although their distribution may vary from age to age, each quality being in some periods concentrated in particular societies, and in other periods dispersed.

When he assessed the validity of political precepts by examining the consequences of particular political acts, he treated moral acts like any other kind, from a strictly instrumental point of view. The social and political consequences of acts always interested him more than the moral intent of the actors, and he argued that in human affairs the consequences of acts are bound to be both good and evil. Basically, he was not concerned with the problems of moral philosophy, and he accepted the fact that a life of action is necessarily one of moral dilemma and paradox.

This does not mean that Machiavelli condoned violations of personal morality or that he was himself immoral. He did distinguish between moral and immoral acts in the conventional sense. He never suggested that some people are innately superior to others, thereby having a right to dominate and enslave. He was usually careful to affirm that the common good upon occasion excuses rather than justifies immoral means.

Violation of the standards of personal morality is excusable only when necessary for the public utility. Statesmen must know how to act iniquitously for the sake of the common good; but violence, cruelty, and deception should never become ends in themselves, and they should always be rationally controlled.

While Machiavelli himself was not above moral reproach, he was born and died a Christian and was neither depraved nor unprincipled. His attacks on the church were anticlerical rather than anti-religious, being directed against the scandalous lives of the popes and their political activities. He did compare contemporary Christianity unfavorably with the paganism of the ancients, but he criticized Christianity primarily because it had become the means to socially undesirable ends—the subjection of the many to an avaricious minority— and called for a return to some kind of original creed.

While he dwelt upon the socially pragmatic value of religion he did not view it from this stand-point alone. The highest end to be pursued by man, according to Machiavelli, is glory. Glory is conferred by acts that are remembered and cherished by mankind. The brief but glorious life of an individual or commonwealth is worth far more to Machiavelli than a lengthy mediocre existence. Meresuccess or reputation arising from great power or wealth has far less value than true glory. The greatest glory is to be won in order of decreasing importance by founding religions, by establishing commonwealths, by commanding armies, and by creating literature.

True glory depends upon the virtu of an individual or a people. War is only the archetypal struggle between virtu the manly and fortuna the changeable, unpredictable, and capricious , for in fact all of life is such a contest. Rational control over the physical and social environments, so essential for human survival and well-being, depends upon the opposition of virtu to fortuna. By virtuous action men can control at least some part of their lives and limit the whims of chance. Machiavelli again studied history to discover the conditions that produced the greatest possible amount of virtu in a commonwealth and the consequent achievement of glory.

He decided that the most virtuous leaders and peoples were those of classical antiquity, particularly of republican Rome. The virtu of a people, he believed, depends entirely on education, while that of a prince or leader tends to be inborn but shaped by education.

Machiavelli lamented the decline of virtu in his own age; he condemned its luxurious, commercial life and directed his efforts to the problem of re-storing the conditions of glory. Conflict and corruption. He accepted conflict as a universal and permanent condition of society, stemming from human nature. The traditional classical and medieval view had been that social conflict is not a natural condition, and many classical and medieval thinkers had tried to design a type of social organizationthat would eliminate contention.

The conception of social conflict as un-natural ran parallel to the Aristotelian concept that matter at rest is more natural than matter in motion. The basic manifestation of social conflict, according to Machiavelli, is the perennial struggle between the common people and the great and powerful. The primary cause of domestic strife and of war between states is, as he saw it, a lust for power and domination. Within any state, the overwhelming majority seek security for their persons and possessions, while a handful, either a hereditary aristocracy or a commercial oligarchy, desire to dominate the masses.

Inspired by Polybius, Machiavelli believed that such conflict is not only natural but that it may be turned to socially useful ends. Virtuous common-wealths exhibit this kind of conflict no less than do corrupt ones. The difference lies not in the presence of conflict in the one and the absence in the other, or even in the degree of conflict, but in the quality of conflict in each. Conflict in a virtuous commonwealth takes place within certain bounds: it is limited by a patriotic dedication to the common good that supersedes narrow self-interest, by a willingness to respect law and authority, and by an aversion to the use of violence and nonlegal activity.

In such a state, society becomes atomized; each man is for himself. Religious sentiment declines, and with it civic honesty, the spirit of civic duty, and respect for authority. Factionalism and conspiracy are rife, and government is the successive captive of the most powerful cliques. Virtu decays; avarice proliferates; indolence, luxury, and economic inequalities rend the social fabric. Corruption is likely to develop in an overly successful society that knows peace and prosperity for a lengthy period.

With the lack of challenge to sur- vive, with well-being and leisure, men turn to private advantage; laws are no longer vigorously observed and enforced or adjusted to compensate for new conditions. Prevention of corruption requires a return to first principles, a periodic renovation of the civic order. Even the greatest vigilance and most prudent statesmanship, however, will not stem the tide of decay forever. Change is the way of all things, and the best-ordered commonwealths —for example, Rome and Sparta—are bound to decline.

Government and politics. By means of the state man can create the conditions for security and well-being. Although Machiavelli frequently used medical imagery to describe the state, his conception of it actually resembles a mechanism more than an organism. The state has no higher end or spiritual purpose, nor does it have a life or personality apart from the people who constitute it. In The Prince and the Discourses Machiavelli presented a twofold classification of states based on the number who rule—the polar types being monarchies and republics.

Monarchies may be limited France , despotic Turkey , or tyrannical Syracuse ; republics may be mass Athens or balanced Rome. Of the balanced republics, in turn, two principal types exist—aristocratic Venice and democratic Rome. On the basis of the Florentine experience Machiavelli distinguished two unstable forms intermediate between monarchies and republics, which might best be called oligarchy and plebiscitary monarchy. Machiavelli also classified states in other respects: according to the way power is acquired; according to their tendencies to expansion Rome or preservation Sparta , to corruption Florence or virtu Roman Republic ; and according to whether the constitution originates with a single lawgiver Sparta or develops over time and with experience Rome.

Machiavelli had, of course, elaborate prescriptions for successful government. Good government rests upon the foundation of a strong military establishment for protection against the external enemy. The life, property, family, and honor of each citizen must be safeguarded against interference from other citizens. General economic prosperity should be encouraged, individual economic aggrandizement prevented, and luxury strictly regulated. Adequate recognition must be given to the meritorious among the citizens, and advancement in the service of the state should be open to those who seek honor and glory.

The best government draws upon and utilizes the skills of the governed, and the best state is one in which rank corresponds to ability. Republics, however, cannot be established everywhere; the form of the state should be suited to the conditions of a particular society. Moreover, the successful founding of any commonwealth depends on the presence of a single individual of the greatest virtu and prudence. Any well-ordered state is, according to Machiavelli, a rational organization in which citizens know with a high degree of certainty the legal consequences of their actions, i.

Civil law should establish a state religion for the inculcation and maintenance of civic virtue. Since he viewed domestic politics as a kind of war-fare and dealt with political matters as a general might deal with the problem of defeating an enemy, it is not surprising that he wrote about politics as classical military theorists wrote about war.

Military stratagems are translated into political maxims of the same calculating objectivity, and a rationally organized and commanded army serves as a model of a rational social organization. Most political situations, Machiavelli believed, are conspiratorial or counterconspiratorial, and conspiracy is primarily of a military character.

The political art is akin to the military art with its premium upon secrecy, planning and preparedness, estimation of factors, flexibility, rapidity and decisiveness of execution, surprise, and deception. These qualities characterize the conspiratorial methods necessary for founding or radically reforming a state and the counterconspiratorial methods required for maintaining a state since conspiracy must be prevented by avoiding the hatred and contempt of the governed.

Not only did Machiavelli liken political situations to military ones and the art of politics to the military art, but he also considered political and military leadership to be similar. Political leadership resembles the creative activity of the general who organizes, disciplines, trains, and leads an army to victory.

That virtu is the cardinal quality of political leadership as well as of successful generalship is significant. The political virtuoso is rational, calculating, and eminently self-controlled, plays many roles with aplomb, and is prudent enough to identify his own interest with the well-being of those he seeks to manage. He particularly admired the moderate, liberal-minded, and humane military genius Scipio Africanus Major.

Good internal government and successful foreign policy are caried on essentially in the same way. The familiar roster of necessary qualities is attached to skillful diplomacy—foresight, initiative, decisiveness, flexibility, and deception. Negotiation is the technique of the ambassador, who must be ready to persuade, temporize, or intimidate, as occasion demands. If negotiation fails, war may well be unavoidable. Machiavelli preferred a war with limited objectives and gains to total war.

Significance and influence. Although few would deny Machiavelli a foremost place among Western political thinkers, his reputation, all too often based on The Prince alone, has long rested on his description of the stratagems by which political power can be seized and conserved without regard for moral ends. More favorable appraisals have appeared in recent years: he is being discovered as the first political scientist, the first modern political theorist, or the first liberal.

But these positive labels again contain only half-truths. Yet it must not be forgotten that he had one foot firmly planted in the classical world, and this classical aspect of his work has had a considerable influence. Montesquieu came upon the Machiavelli of the Discourses in England, and his imprint is seen throughout the Considerations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur decadence and also in Uesprit des lois, which in turn fired the radical Rousseau, the conservative Burke, and the liberal Tocqueville.

Machiavelli has also been vitally important as a military thinker. Because of his revival in The Art of War of the classical stress upon military training, discipline, and organization, he is unquestion-ably the father of modern military science, who directly or indirectly influenced practitioners and theorists from Maurice of Nassau to Clausewitz. Today, Machiavelli is of importance as a forerunner of the rationalism of the Enlightenment.

Notwithstanding his pessimism about human nature and cynicism about human behavior, he was not without hope. He never lost his vision of a good society and his faith that men could in part shape their destinies. Relevant to the social scientific concerns of our own time are his views on the integrative function of conflict, the instrumental value of law and ideology in shaping society, the role of conspiracy, and the political craft in general.

A careful study of his military image of politics may help us to perceive more readily the inadequacy of our own comparable image of the political. With notes and introduction by Joseph Tusani. New York : Obolensky.

History of Florence by Niccolo Machiavelli Audio Book

Edited and translated by J. Oxford Univ. Edited with an introduction by Neal Wood. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. With an introduction by Max Lerner. New York : Modern Library. With an introduction by Felix Gil-bert. New York: Harper. With an introduction and notes by Leslie J. New Haven : Yale Univ. Princeton Univ. Bayley, Charles C. Translated and with anintroduction by Mario Domandi. Chabod, Federico — Machiavelli and the Renaissance: Essays. Gilbert, Allan H. Durham, N. Hexter, J. American Historical Review — New York: Praeger. With a foreword by Hugh Trevor-Roper.

London: Routledge. New ed.

Sir Thomas More 's Utopia And Niccolo Machiavelli 's The Prince

London: Unwin. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. September 21, Retrieved September 21, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.

Little is known of the first half of his life, prior to his first appointment to public office. His writings prove him to have been a very assiduous sifter of the classics, especially the historical works of Livy and Tacitus; in all probability he knew the Greek classics only in translation. In Machiavelli was named chancellor and secretary of the second and less important chancellery of the Florentine Republic.

His duties consisted chiefly of executing the policy decisions of others, carrying on diplomatic correspondence, digesting and composing reports, and compiling minutes; he also undertook some 23 missions to foreign states. His embassies included four to the French king and two to the court of Rome. His most memorable mission is described in a report of entitled "Description of the Manner Employed by Duke Valentino [ Cesare Borgia ] in Slaying Vitellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da Fermo, Signor Pagolo and the Duke of Gravina, Orsini" with surgical precision he details Borgia's series of political murders, implicitly as a lesson in the art of politics for Florence's indecisive and timorous gonfalonier, Pier Soderini.

The Renaissance of Machiavelli

In Machiavelli married Marietta Corsini, who bore him four sons and two daughters. To his grandson Giovanni Ricci we owe the preservation of many of his letters and minor works. In Machiavelli, inspired by his reading of Roman history, was instrumental in organizing a citizen militia of the Florentine Republic.

In August a Spanish army entered Tuscany and sacked Prato. The Florentines in terror deposed Soderini, whom Machiavelli characterized as "good, but weak," and allowed the Medici to return to power. On November 7 Machiavelli was dismissed; soon afterward he was arrested, imprisoned, and subjected to torture as a suspected conspirator against the Medici.

Though innocent, he remained suspect for years to come; unable to secure an appointment from the reinstated Medici, he turned to writing. Later that year and the following year his friend and critic Francesco Guicciardini , Papal Commissary of War in Lombardy, employed him in two minor diplomatic missions. He died in Florence in June , receiving the last rites of the Church that he had bitterly criticized. Machiavelli shared with Renaissance humanists a passion for classical antiquity.

To their wish for a literary and spiritual revival of ancient values, guided by such authors as Plato, Cicero, and St. Augustine , he added a fierce desire for a political and moral renewal on the model of the Roman Republic as depicted by Livy and Tacitus. Though a republican at heart, he saw as the crying need of his day a strong political and military leader who could forge a unitary state in northern Italy to eliminate French and Spanish hegemony from Italian soil.

At the moment that he wrote The Prince he envisioned such a possibility while the restored Medici ruled both Florence and the papacy. He had taken to heart Cesare Borgia 's energetic creation of a new state in Romagna in the few brief years while Borgia's father, Alexander VI , occupied the papal throne. The final chapter of The Princeis a ringing plea to his Medici patrons to set Italy free from the "barbarians.

The preceding 25 chapters of The Prince are written in a terse, analytical, and frequently aphoristic style. Preceding political writers, from Plato and Aristotle in ancient times and through the Middle Ages and the 15th-century humanists, had all concurred in treating politics as a branch of morals. Machiavelli's chief innovation was to break with this long tradition and to confer autonomy upon politics. In chapter 15 of The Prince he writes: "My intent being to write a useful work for those who understand, it seemed to me more appropriate to pursue the actual truth of the matter than the imagination of it.

Many have imagined republics and principalities which were never seen or known really to exist; because how one lives is so far removed from how one ought to live that he who abandons what one does for what one ought to do, learns rather his own ruin than his preservation. Although his longest work, the Discourses on Livy, takes the familiar humanistic form of a commentary on a classical text, his approach to political theory marks a sharp break with tradition.

Abandoning the Christian view of history as providential, Machiavelli views events in purely human terms. Often it is fortune that gives—or terminates—the political leader's opportunity for decisive action. Borgia, though a virtuoso politician, succumbed to an "extreme malignity of fortune" when he fell ill just as his father died. Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus alike received their occasions from fortune. Sacred history implicitly is reduced to the same plane as secular history.

In some passages it seems that fortune itself hinges upon human habits and institutions: "I believe that the fortune which the Romans had would be enjoyed by all princes who proceeded as the Romans did and who were of the same virtue as they. Moralistic critics of Machiavelli have sometimes forgotten that he is attempting to describe rather than to invent the rules of political success.


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For him the state is an organism, greater than the sum of its citizens and individual interests, subject to laws of growth and decay; its health consists in unity, but even in the best of circumstances its longevity is limited. The founding of a state is the work of one man; its continuance, however, is better trusted to many than to one Discourses, I, 9 and If this maxim is kept in mind, much of the alleged discrepancy between the monarchical Prince and the republican Discourses vanishes.

The two books differ little in their teachings; the Discourses is more leisurely and somewhat fragmentary, The Prince more "scientific," absolute, revolutionary, and exciting. Both works are excessively exemplary; unlike Guicciardini, Machiavelli thought it possible to find in his Roman ideal a practical guide to contemporary Italian politics. Particularly in The Prince, he combines recent examples with ancient ones to illustrate his axioms. Certain passages in the Discourses I, 11 and 12; II, 2 set forth Machiavelli's quarrel with the Church: by the bad example of the court of Rome, Italy has lost its devotion and religion; the Italian states are weak and divided because the Church, too feeble politically to dominate them, has nevertheless prevented any one state from uniting them.

He suggests that the Church might have been destroyed by its own corruption had not St. Francis and St. Dominic restored it to its original principles by founding new orders. However, in an unusual if not unique departure from traditional anticlericalism, Machiavelli contrasts favorably the fiercely civil and militaristic pagan religion of ancient Rome with the humble and otherworldly Christian religion. The Mandragola, the finest comedy of the Italian Renaissance, is not unrelated to Machiavelli's political writings in its comic indictment of contemporary Florentine society.

In a well-knit intrigue the simpleton Nicia contributes to his own cuckolding. Nicia's beautiful and virtuous wife, Lucrezia so named by the author with an eye to Roman history , is corrupted by those who should be her closest protectors: her mother, her husband, and her unscrupulous confessor, Fra Timoteo, all pawns in the skillful hands of the manipulator Ligurio. Although not equaling Guicciardini as a historian, Machiavelli in his History of Florence nevertheless marks an advance over earlier histories in his attention to underlying causes rather than the mere succession of events as he tells the history of the Florentines from the death of Lorenzo de' Medici in Machiavelli closely adhered to his maxim that a servant of government must be loyal and self-sacrificing.

He nowhere suggests that the political morality of princes is a model for day-to-day dealings between ordinary citizens. His reputation as a sinister and perfidious counselor of fraud is largely undeserved; it began not long after his death. His works were banned in the first printed Index In Elizabethan England, Machiavelli was represented on the stage and in literature as diabolically evil. The primary source of this misrepresentation was the translation into English by Simon Patericke in of a work popularly called Contre-Machiavel, by the French Huguenot Gentillet, who distorted Machiavelli and blamed his teachings for the St.

Bartholomew Night massacre of A poem by Gabriel Harvey the following year falsely attributed four principal crimes to Machiavelli: poison, murder, fraud, and violence. Christopher Marlowe 's The Jew of Malta introduces "Machiavel" as the speaker of an atrocious prologue; Machiavellian villains followed in works by other playwrights. Many of Machiavelli's authentic values are incorporated into 19th-century liberalism: the supremacy of civil over religious power; the conscription of citizen armies; the preference for republican rather than monarchical government; and the republican Roman ideals of honesty, work, and the people's collective responsibility for values that transcend those of the individual.

Vincent, and Christian E. He received an excellent humanistic education in the classics, but nothing else is known about his early life until he was appointed head of the foreign policy chancery of the Florentine government in June and July He spent much of the next fourteen years traveling, negotiating agreements, and reporting to his government. This gave him the opportunity to visit Italian and foreign states and to observe rulers, statecraft, and military actions.

He also organized and trained a militia that helped Florence reconquer the neighboring city of Pisa in In the republican government that employed Machiavelli fell, and the Medici family came to power. Machiavelli was dismissed, and he moved to his small farm outside of Florence. Out of office, he wrote in the next fifteen years all the works that made him famous. Machiavelli gradually worked his way into favor with the Medici by undertaking small tasks and commissions.

In he became friends with the Florentine Francesco Guicciardini — , a statesman and the most important historian of the Italian Renaissance. In , as war neared Florence, the Medici rulers of Florence employed Machiavelli to help defend the city. But in the spring of the Florentines threw out the Medici and reestablished a republican regime. Machiavelli asked for a position in government but was turned down because of his association with the Medici.

He died on 21 June Machiavelli wrote Il principe The prince in the second half of , but it was not published until It is probably the best-known work in political theory of all time. Machiavelli employed the advice-to-princes genre, which usually advised a prince act honorably and to work for the good of his people and state. The Prince is a manual on how a ruler should gain and hold power. It is based on what Machiavelli had witnessed of politics and war plus reading in ancient history. He wanted to understand politics, what succeeded and what failed, what actions and principles produced a successful ruler.


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  8. Several themes dominate the work. Machiavelli believed that politics could be understood through observation, study of the past, and the application of reason to uncover rules. He endorsed the use of force against internal and external foreign enemies to achieve desired ends. He insisted that the prince must base his actions not on what people ought to do but what they were likely to do in the pursuit of self-interest and without concern for what was morally right.

    He viewed the bulk of the inhabitants of the state as fickle, selfish, and easily duped. But Machiavelli also recognized that rulers were not completely masters of their own destinies, but were at the mercy of necessity and fortune. Necessity was the accumulation of adverse circumstances so great that no ruler or state could withstand it. Fortune was luck, chance, even opportunity, the unpredictable in politics.

    Machiavelli offered numerous examples drawn from contemporary politics and the ancient world in support of his views. A great part of Machiavelli's appeal and influence came from his brilliant and memorable language.

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    Numerous phrases here paraphrased leap from the pages to drive home his points. The Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio Discourses on the first ten books of Livy was probably written between and , although some scholars believe Machiavelli began it in , dropped it to write The Prince, then returned to it. He used the first part of the famous history of the Roman Republic from its foundation in b. Machiavelli offered analyses of the principles and institutions of successful, enduring republics, that is, states in which the people have greater or lesser participation in government.

    In the Discourses, Machiavelli paid less attention to individuals but focused on groups, such as the nobles and the people, and especially the political, religious, and military institutions and laws needed for a successful republic.

    Niccolo Machiavelli - Renaissance and Reformation - Oxford Bibliographies

    Using even more examples from the ancient world, especially Rome , and current events than he used in The Prince, he argued that a successful republic must have good laws that the people respect. Indeed governments should engender respect by severely punishing transgressors.

    He endorsed civil religion with the argument that ancient Roman religion strengthened the state by encouraging its inhabitants to fight for the state. By contrast, Christianity , with its ideals of humility and peace, weakened the state. Machiavelli also criticized the papacy for dividing Italy through its politics and wars. Machiavelli also wrote Dell'arte della guerra — ; The art of war , which discussed military organization and tactics. Machiavelli believed strongly that states should develop citizen militias, which would be much more reliable than the untrustworthy and fickle mercenary soldiers.

    His Istorie fiorentine — ; Florentine histories used episodes from Florentine history to illustrate political principles and to criticize Florentine factionalism. But he carefully avoided either praising or criticizing the Medici. His play La mandragola c. The best comedy to come from Renaissance Italy, it is still performed in the twenty-first century.

    He also wrote another comedy, Clizia c. Machiavelli's works had enormous influence from the moment of the printing of most of his works in through the eighteenth century. Although the Index of Prohibited Books forbade the publication, holding, or reading of all of Machiavelli's works, numerous printings and translations, some of them under fictitious names, appeared in the sixteenth century and the following centuries. And writers responded to Machiavelli because he posed the basic political question, can political success and the moral law be reconciled?

    The view that they could not was expressed in terms of "reason of state" an expression Machiavelli did not use , the argument that for the good of the state a ruler or government may commit evil actions, such as killing innocent family members of political rivals, an action Machiavelli endorsed in The Prince. The French Huguenot Innocent Gentillet c. The term Machiavellian, meaning the use of immoral means to achieve political power, soon came into use.

    The English playwrights Christopher Marlowe — and William Shakespeare — several times used such expressions as "murderous Machiavel. Political theorists tried to come to terms with the issues Machiavelli raised. Giovanni Botero — in his Della ragion di stato ; Reason of state , which saw many reprints and translations, argued that rulers could reconcile political ends and Christian morality, especially if the state's actions benefited religion.

    When in doubt, the ruler should consult his confessor. Some seventeenth-century English Puritan casuists also endorsed the principle that the state's actions in defense of true religion were morally defensible. Machiavelli's republican theories also influenced such English political theorists as James Harrington — , Henry Neville — , and Algernon Sidney — , and perhaps the founders of the American Republic in the late eighteenth century.

    Translated and edited by James B. Atkinson and David Sices. De Kalb, Ill. Letters to and from Machiavelli revealing many aspects of his personality. Machiavelli: The Chief Works and Others. Translated by Allan Gilbert. Good English translation. The Portable Machiavelli. Edited and translated by Peter Bondanella and Mark Musa. Harmondsworth, U.

    Tutte le opere. Edited by Mario Martelli. Florence, Italy, Best single-volume edition of Machiavelli's works. Bireley, Robert. Chapel Hill, N. Discusses the anti-Machiavellian tradition. Gilbert, Felix. Princeton, Best discussion of Machiavelli's thought in the context of contemporary politics and political thought. Ridolfi, Roberto. Translated from the Italian by Cecil Grayson. Chicago , The standard biography. His parents, Bernardo and Bartolomea, had three other children, two daughters and a son.

    Bernardo was a lawyer and small landowner with a small salary. Machiavelli's education started at age seven. Some accounts say that Machiavelli spent the years from to working for a Florentine banker. A love of books was a family value that Machiavelli shared. His writings prove that he tirelessly read the classics. In Machiavelli was named chancellor secretary to a nobleman, prince, or king and secretary of the second chancellery chief executive officer of the Florentine Republic government in Florence whose leaders were voted for by citizens.

    His duties consisted chiefly of carrying out the policy decisions of others, writing diplomatic letters, reading and writing reports, and taking notes; he also went on some twenty-three diplomatic missions formal visits by a representative of a nation to foreign countries to conduct discussions on international affairs to foreign states. These included four trips to France and two to the court of Rome. His grandson, Giovanni Ricci, is credited with saving many of Machiavelli's letters and writings.

    In Machiavelli, inspired by his Roman history, was active in organizing a citizen militia a body of citizens, who are not soldiers by career, called to duty in a national emergency of the Florentine Republic. In terror, the Florentines removed their leader Soderini, a man Machiavelli characterized as "good, but weak," and allowed the Medici , a family formerly in power, to return.

    On November 7 Machiavelli was dismissed from his role as chancellor. Soon afterward he was arrested, imprisoned, and subjected to torture as a suspected schemer one who plots or plans against the Medici family. Though innocent, he remained a suspect for years to come. Unable to secure an appointment from the reinstated reestablished Medici, he turned to writing.

    Machiavelli had a passion for ancient history. He had a fierce desire to rebuild the government with a stronger political and moral foundation, similar to that of the Roman Republic — b. He felt the biggest need of his day was a strong political and military leader who could bring together northern Italy, ridding it of French and Spanish influence.

    At the time that he wrote The Prince he pictured such a possibility while the restored Medici ruled both Florence and the papacy system of government of the Roman Catholic Church of which the pope is the head. This hope is played out in the final chapter of The Prince. It is a heartfelt plea to his Medici patrons people who support a specific cause, a person, or an establishment to set Italy free from the "barbarians.

    The chapters of The Prince are written in a clear and straightforward style. Earlier political writers had treated politics as a branch of morals. Machiavelli broke with this long tradition and treated politics on its own. Machiavellian politics described the world as it was, rather than what people imagined or were taught to believe. This was a big change in tradition. Abandoning the Christian view of history as guided by God , Machiavelli viewed events in purely human terms.

    Often it is fortune that gives — or takes away — the political leader's opportunity for significant important and meaningful action. Like others in the Renaissance , Machiavelli believed that man had the ability to control his own fate. This was the opposite of the Middle Ages ' period in Western European history that started with the end of the Roman empire and continued to the fifteenth century concept of an all-powerful divine will a higher soul or spirit that controls the destinies and actions of all or the ancient Greeks' crushing fate inescapable downfall.

    Serious critics of Machiavelli sometimes forget that he attempted to describe rather than to invent the rules of political success. For him the state was greater than its citizens and their individual interests; its health consisted in unity, but even at its height its lifetime was expected to end at some point. Certain passages in the Discourses I, 11 and 12; II, 2 explained Machiavelli's argument with the Church: by bad example, the court of Rome, Italy, had lost its devotion and religion; the Italian states were weak and divided because the Church, too weak politically to dominate them, had nevertheless prevented any one state from uniting them.

    He suggested that the Church might have been destroyed by its own corruption deception and lies had not St. Francis c. Dominic c. However, Machiavelli gives a good comparison between the pagan religion of many gods religion of ancient Rome and the Christian religion. As a historian, Machiavelli in his History of Florence did better than earlier historians, because he focused on the underlying causes rather than the chain of events in the history of the Florentines from the death of Lorenzo de' Medici — in Medici was an Italian merchant prince who, without an official title, led the Florence government until his son took over.

    Machiavelli stuck closely to his motto that a servant of government must be loyal and self-sacrificing. Nowhere did he suggest that the political morality sense of right and wrong of princes is a model for day-to-day dealings between ordinary citizens. His reputation as being evil and disloyal is largely undeserved; it began not long after his death.

    In Elizabethan England England during Queen Elizabeth's reign, — , Machiavelli was represented on the stage and in literature as evil. The primary source of this misrepresentation incorrect presentation was the translation into English by Simon Patericke in of a work popularly called Contre-Machiavel, which misrepresented Machiavelli and blamed his teachings for the St. Bartholomew Night massacre of a night chosen by the Queen of Florence to rid the city of all non-Catholics.

    A poem by Gabriel Harvey the following year falsely blamed Machiavelli for four principal crimes: poison, murder, deception the act of lying and cheating , and violence. Machiavellian enemies followed in works by other playwrights writers of plays. Machiavelli's values are represented in nineteenth-century liberalism political philosophy based on belief in progress, the goodness of man, and individual freedom. Both Machiavelli and liberalism support government over religious power, the recruitment the act of bringing together of citizen armies, the preference for a government with voting citizens and elected officials rather than a king or queen, and the ideals of honesty, work and society's responsibility overriding the lone citizen's.

    Though he was unappreciated in his time and times thereafter, Machiavelli's influence lives on in the thinking of people worldwide. Godman, Peter. From Poliziano to Machiavelli. Viroli, Maurizio. Edited by Antony Shugaar. New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Born in in Florence to a family of some prominence but modest means, Machiavelli probably received a humanistic education in his youth, enabling him to become head of the Second Chancery of the Florentine Republic in This office brought him into close contact with a number of Renaissance potentates, inciting his penetrating mind to form a stern, indeed, cynical view of politics.

    In Machiavelli wrote The Prince , a slender book in the traditional mirror-of-princes genre. His advice to princes, however, was far from traditional. In particular, he argued that princes should not hesitate to use deceit and violence to maintain their state and secure their subjects. Whereas the medieval proponents of this tradition had considered the necessity to break moral rules for the common good to be exceptional, and thus reconcilable with a community of virtue, Machiavelli assumed necessary evil to be a regular aspect of politics, thus separating it from ethics.

    His approach also legitimized the ruthlessness of many statesmen who constructed it, including Thomas Cromwell , Cardinal Richelieu, Napoleon, and Mussolini. From roughly to , Machiavelli belonged to a circle of educated Florentines who met in the Oricellari Gardens and whose political views reflected the civic strand of Renaissance humanism. Drawing on the Aristotelian and Ciceronian notion of citizenship, civic humanism advocated vivere civile , a life of intense involvement with public affairs, based on a humanistic education and framed by the institutions of a republic.

    Accordingly, they believed that men ought to deliberate wisely and serve capably in the offices of their city, while also practicing the virtues, fostering concord, upholding liberty, and attaining greatness. In these works Machiavelli followed Renaissance fashion by taking the Roman republic as a model. According to Machiavelli, Rome maintained its liberty because it provided the commoners with a representative, the Tribune of the Plebs, who checked the tyrannical ambitions of the nobles with his power to veto any law and intercede with any action of the magistrate.

    Having this share in authority also made the commoners loyal enough to be armed for war in large numbers, enabling Rome to conquer a vast empire and attain unprecedented greatness. Pocock and Quentin Skinner , to conclude that Machiavelli was a civic humanist himself. To found, as well as to reform a republic, an autocrat must therefore kill all those opposed to equality before the law.

    The good customs of the citizens are not only acquired by habituation under threat of punishment, they also are continuously degraded by their natural ambition and thus must be constantly renewed by exemplary and excessive punishments. Republics can execute policies more effectively than principalities because the majority can easily crush the minority, regardless of the harm done to individuals.

    Republics wage aggressive wars because the citizens need to satisfy their ambition abroad in order to mitigate conflict at home, and because security rests on striking first and acquiring empire. Preference must therefore be given to the older view of Machiavelli as a bold, if not reckless, thinker who broke with civic humanism and the entire classical tradition by limiting political thought to what men do rather than what they ought to do. According to the German historian Friedrich Meinecke , this impulse led Machiavelli to probe and reveal the full extent of the reason of state, while the philosopher Ernst Cassirer believed that it prepared the ground for the empirical approach of modern political science by making no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate states.

    According to the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin , it led Machiavelli to undermine the Western belief in a cosmos unified by reason. The political scientist Sheldon Wolin noted that it made Machiavelli conceive of politics as a struggle between conflicting interests. The philosopher Leo Strauss observed that this impulse prepared Machiavelli to lower the ethical standards that human beings ought to follow.

    It was in these ways that Machiavelli lit the flame of modernity. The Prince. Harvey C. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Discourses on Livy. Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov. Art of War. Christopher Lynch. Florentine Histories. Laura F. Banfield and Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. Berlin, Isaiah. The Originality of Machiavelli. In Studies on Machiavelli , ed. Myron P. Gilmore, — Florence: Sansoni, Cassirer, Ernst. The Myth of the State. Meinecke, Friedrich. Douglas Scott. Boulder, CO: Westview. Pocock, J. Skinner, Quentin. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought.

    Cambridge, U.

    Strauss, Leo. In History of Political Philosophy , 3rd ed. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, — Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Wolin, Sheldon S. Boston: Little, Brown. Life A member of the impoverished branch of a distinguished family, he entered the political service of the Florentine republic and rose rapidly in importance. As defense secretary he substituted a citizens' militia for the mercenary system then prevailing in Italy.

    This reform sprang from his conviction, set forth in his major works, that the employment of mercenaries had largely contributed to the political weakness of Italy. Machiavelli became acquainted with power politics through his important diplomatic missions. The Medicis' return to Florence caused his dismissal; in he was briefly imprisoned and was tortured for his alleged complicity in a plot against the Medici. Machiavelli retired to his country estate, where he wrote his chief works.

    He humiliated himself before the Medici in a vain attempt to recover office. When, in , the republic was briefly reestablished, Machiavelli was distrusted by many of the republicans, and he died thoroughly disappointed and embittered. Principal Writings Machiavelli's best-known work, Il principe [the prince] , describes the means by which a prince may gain and maintain his power.

    His "ideal" prince seemingly modeled on Cesare Borgia is a supremely adaptable, amoral, and calculating tyrant who would be able to establish a unified Italian state. The last chapter of the work pleads for the eventual liberation of Italy from foreign rule. Interpretations of The Prince vary: it has been viewed as sincere advice, as a plea for political office, as a detached analysis of Italian politics, as evidence of early Italian nationalism, and as political satire on Medici rule.

    However, the adjective Machiavellian has come to be a synonym for amoral cunning and for justification by power. Less widely read but more indicative of Machiavelli's politics is his scholarly Discorsi sulla prima deca di Tito Livio [discourses on the first 10 books of Livy] In it Machiavelli expounds a general theory of politics and government that stresses the importance of an uncorrupted political culture and a vigorous political morality.

    Vaster in conception than The Prince, the Discourses shows clearly Machiavelli's republican ideals and principles, which are also reflected in his Istorie Fiorentine [history of Florence] , a historical and literary masterpiece, entirely modern in concept. Other works include Dell'arte della guerra [on the art of war] , which viewed military problems in relation to politics, and numerous reports and brief works. He also wrote many poems and plays, notably the lively, satiric, and ribald comedy Mandragola [the mandrake], an extremely popular work first performed in His correspondence has been preserved and is of great interest.

    The chief works of Machiavelli are available in several popular English editions. Bibliography See P. Constantine, ed. Villari 2 vol. Ridolfi , tr.


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