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Title: The Prince

Author: Nicolo Machiavelli

Translator: W. K. Marriott

Release Date: February 11, 2006 [EBook #1232]
Last updated: August 26, 2016

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE PRINCE ***

Produced by John Bickers, David Widger and Others

THE PRINCE
by Nicolo Machiavelli

Translated by W. K. Marriott

Nicolo Machiavelli, born at Florence on 3rd May 1469. From 1494 to 1512
held an official post at Florence which included diplomatic missions to
various European courts. Imprisoned in Florence, 1512; later exiled and
returned to San Casciano. Died at Florence on 22nd June 1527.

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CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

YOUTH Aet. 1-25—1469-94

OFFICE Aet. 25-43—1494-1512

LITERATURE AND DEATH Aet. 43-58—1512-27

THE MAN AND HIS WORKS

DEDICATION

THE PRINCE

CHAPTER I HOW MANY KINDS OF PRINCIPALITIES THERE ARE, AND BY
WHAT MEANS THEY ARE ACQUIRED

CHAPTER II CONCERNING HEREDITARY PRINCIPALITIES

CHAPTER III CONCERNING MIXED PRINCIPALITIES

CHAPTER IV WHY THE KINGDOM OF DARIUS, CONQUERED BY
ALEXANDER, DID NOT REBEL AGAINST THE SUCCESSORS OF ALEXANDER
AT HIS DEATH

CHAPTER V CONCERNING THE WAY TO GOVERN CITIES OR
PRINCIPALITIES WHICH LIVED UNDER THEIR OWN LAWS BEFORE THEY
WERE ANNEXED

CHAPTER VI CONCERNING NEW PRINCIPALITIES WHICH ARE ACQUIRED
BY ONE’S OWN ARMS AND ABILITY

CHAPTER VII CONCERNING NEW PRINCIPALITIES WHICH ARE ACQUIRED
EITHER BY THE ARMS OF OTHERS OR BY GOOD FORTUNE

CHAPTER VIII CONCERNING THOSE WHO HAVE OBTAINED A
PRINCIPALITY BY WICKEDNESS

CHAPTER IX CONCERNING A CIVIL PRINCIPALITY

CHAPTER X CONCERNING THE WAY IN WHICH THE STRENGTH OF ALL
PRINCIPALITIES OUGHT TO BE MEASURED

CHAPTER XI CONCERNING ECCLESIASTICAL PRINCIPALITIES

CHAPTER XII HOW MANY KINDS OF SOLDIERY THERE ARE AND
CONCERNING MERCENARIES

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CHAPTER XIII
OWN

CONCERNING AUXILIARIES, MIXED SOLDIERY, AND ONE’S

CHAPTER XIV
WAR

THAT WHICH CONCERNS A PRINCE ON THE SUBJECT OF

CHAPTER XV CONCERNING THINGS FOR WHICH MEN, AND ESPECIALLY
PRINCES, ARE PRAISED OR BLAMED

CHAPTER XVI CONCERNING LIBERALITY AND MEANNESS

CHAPTER XVII CONCERNING CRUELTY AND CLEMENCY, AND WHETHER IT
IS BETTER TO BE LOVED THAN FEARED

CHAPTER XVIII CONCERNING THE WAY IN WHICH PRINCES SHOULD KEEP
FAITH

CHAPTER XIX THAT ONE SHOULD AVOID BEING DESPISED AND HATED

CHAPTER XX ARE FORTRESSES, AND MANY OTHER THINGS TO WHICH
PRINCES OFTEN RESORT, ADVANTAGEOUS OR HURTFUL?

CHAPTER XXI HOW A PRINCE SHOULD CONDUCT HIMSELF SO AS TO
GAIN RENOWN

CHAPTER XXII CONCERNING THE SECRETARIES OF PRINCES

CHAPTER XXIII HOW FLATTERERS SHOULD BE AVOIDED

CHAPTER XXIV WHY THE PRINCES OF ITALY HAVE LOST THEIR STATES

CHAPTER XXV WHAT FORTUNE CAN EFFECT IN HUMAN AFFAIRS AND
HOW TO WITHSTAND HER

CHAPTER XXVI AN EXHORTATION TO LIBERATE ITALY FROM THE
BARBARIANS

DESCRIPTION OF THE METHODS ADOPTED BY THE DUKE VALENTINO
WHEN MURDERING VITELLOZZO VITELLI, OLIVEROTTO DA FERMO,
THE SIGNOR PAGOLO, AND THE DUKE DI GRAVINA ORSINI

THE LIFE OF CASTRUCCIO CASTRACANI OF LUCCA

INTRODUCTION

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Nicolo Machiavelli was born at Florence on 3rd May 1469. He was the second son of Bernardo di
Nicolo Machiavelli, a lawyer of some repute, and of Bartolommea di Stefano Nelli, his wife. Both
parents were members of the old Florentine nobility.

His life falls naturally into three periods, each of which singularly enough constitutes a distinct and
important era in the history of Florence. His youth was concurrent with the greatness of Florence as an
Italian power under the guidance of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Il Magnifico. The downfall of the Medici in
Florence occurred in 1494, in which year Machiavelli entered the public service. During his official
career Florence was free under the government of a Republic, which lasted until 1512, when the Medici
returned to power, and Machiavelli lost his office. The Medici again ruled Florence from 1512 until
1527, when they were once more driven out. This was the period of Machiavelli’s literary activity and
increasing influence; but he died, within a few weeks of the expulsion of the Medici, on 22nd June
1527, in his fifty-eighth year, without having regained office.

YOUTH — Aet. 1-25—1469-94

Although there is little recorded of the youth of Machiavelli, the Florence of those days is so well
known that the early environment of this representative citizen may be easily imagined. Florence has
been described as a city with two opposite currents of life, one directed by the fervent and austere
Savonarola, the other by the splendour-loving Lorenzo. Savonarola’s influence upon the young
Machiavelli must have been slight, for although at one time he wielded immense power over the
fortunes of Florence, he only furnished Machiavelli with a subject of a gibe in “The Prince,” where he
is cited as an example of an unarmed prophet who came to a bad end. Whereas the magnificence of the
Medicean rule during the life of Lorenzo appeared to have impressed Machiavelli strongly, for he
frequently recurs to it in his writings, and it is to Lorenzo’s grandson that he dedicates “The Prince.”

Machiavelli, in his “History of Florence,” gives us a picture of the young men among whom his
youth was passed. He writes: “They were freer than their forefathers in dress and living, and spent more
in other kinds of excesses, consuming their time and money in idleness, gaming, and women; their
chief aim was to appear well dressed and to speak with wit and acuteness, whilst he who could wound
others the most cleverly was thought the wisest.” In a letter to his son Guido, Machiavelli shows why
youth should avail itself of its opportunities for study, and leads us to infer that his own youth had been
so occupied. He writes: “I have received your letter, which has given me the greatest pleasure,
especially because you tell me you are quite restored in health, than which I could have no better news;
for if God grant life to you, and to me, I hope to make a good man of you if you are willing to do your
share.” Then, writing of a new patron, he continues: “This will turn out well for you, but it is necessary
for you to study; since, then, you have no longer the excuse of illness, take pains to study letters and
music, for you see what honour is done to me for the little skill I have. Therefore, my son, if you wish
to please me, and to bring success and honour to yourself, do right and study, because others will help
you if you help yourself.”

OFFICE — Aet. 25-43—1494-1512

The second period of Machiavelli’s life was spent in the service of the free Republic of Florence,
which flourished, as stated above, from the expulsion of the Medici in 1494 until their return in 1512.
After serving four years in one of the public offices he was appointed Chancellor and Secretary to the
Second Chancery, the Ten of Liberty and Peace. Here we are on firm ground when dealing with the

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events of Machiavelli’s life, for during this time he took a leading part in the affairs of the Republic, and
we have its decrees, records, and dispatches to guide us, as well as his own writings. A mere
recapitulation of a few of his transactions with the statesmen and soldiers of his time gives a fair
indication of his activities, and supplies the sources from which he drew the experiences and characters
which illustrate “The Prince.”

His first mission was in 1499 to Catherina Sforza, “my lady of Forli” of “The Prince,” from whose
conduct and fate he drew the moral that it is far better to earn the confidence of the people than to rely
on fortresses. This is a very noticeable principle in Machiavelli, and is urged by him in many ways as a
matter of vital importance to princes.

In 1500 he was sent to France to obtain terms from Louis XII for continuing the war against Pisa:
this king it was who, in his conduct of affairs in Italy, committed the five capital errors in statecraft
summarized in “The Prince,” and was consequently driven out. He, also, it was who made the
dissolution of his marriage a condition of support to Pope Alexander VI; which leads Machiavelli to
refer those who urge that such promises should be kept to what he has written concerning the faith of
princes.

Machiavelli’s public life was largely occupied with events arising out of the ambitions of Pope
Alexander VI and his son, Cesare Borgia, the Duke Valentino, and these characters fill a large space of
“The Prince.” Machiavelli never hesitates to cite the actions of the duke for the benefit of usurpers who
wish to keep the states they have seized; he can, indeed, find no precepts to offer so good as the pattern
of Cesare Borgia’s conduct, insomuch that Cesare is acclaimed by some critics as the “hero” of “The
Prince.” Yet in “The Prince” the duke is in point of fact cited as a type of the man who rises on the
fortune of others, and falls with them; who takes every course that might be expected from a prudent
man but the course which will save him; who is prepared for all eventualities but the one which
happens; and who, when all his abilities fail to carry him through, exclaims that it was not his fault, but
an extraordinary and unforeseen fatality.

On the death of Pius III, in 1503, Machiavelli was sent to Rome to watch the election of his
successor, and there he saw Cesare Borgia cheated into allowing the choice of the College to fall on
Giuliano delle Rovere (Julius II), who was one of the cardinals that had most reason to fear the duke.
Machiavelli, when commenting on this election, says that he who thinks new favours will cause great
personages to forget old injuries deceives himself. Julius did not rest until he had ruined Cesare.

It was to Julius II that Machiavelli was sent in 1506, when that pontiff was commencing his
enterprise against Bologna; which he brought to a successful issue, as he did many of his other
adventures, owing chiefly to his impetuous character. It is in reference to Pope Julius that Machiavelli
moralizes on the resemblance between Fortune and women, and concludes that it is the bold rather than
the cautious man that will win and hold them both.

It is impossible to follow here the varying fortunes of the Italian states, which in 1507 were
controlled by France, Spain, and Germany, with results that have lasted to our day; we are concerned
with those events, and with the three great actors in them, so far only as they impinge on the personality
of Machiavelli. He had several meetings with Louis XII of France, and his estimate of that monarch’s
character has already been alluded to. Machiavelli has painted Ferdinand of Aragon as the man who
accomplished great things under the cloak of religion, but who in reality had no mercy, faith, humanity,
or integrity; and who, had he allowed himself to be influenced by such motives, would have been
ruined. The Emperor Maximilian was one of the most interesting men of the age, and his character has
been drawn by many hands; but Machiavelli, who was an envoy at his court in 1507-8, reveals the
secret of his many failures when he describes him as a secretive man, without force of character—
ignoring the human agencies necessary to carry his schemes into effect, and never insisting on the
fulfilment of his wishes.

The remaining years of Machiavelli’s official career were filled with events arising out of the League
of Cambrai, made in 1508 between the three great European powers already mentioned and the pope,
with the object of crushing the Venetian Republic. This result was attained in the battle of Vaila, when
Venice lost in one day all that she had won in eight hundred years. Florence had a difficult part to play
during these events, complicated as they were by the feud which broke out between the pope and the

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French, because friendship with France had dictated the entire policy of the Republic. When, in 1511,
Julius II finally formed the Holy League against France, and with the assistance of the Swiss drove the
French out of Italy, Florence lay at the mercy of the Pope, and had to submit to his terms, one of which
was that the Medici should be restored. The return of the Medici to Florence on 1st September 1512,
and the consequent fall of the Republic, was the signal for the dismissal of Machiavelli and his friends,
and thus put an end to his public career, for, as we have seen, he died without regaining office.

LITERATURE AND DEATH — Aet. 43-58
—1512-27

On the return of the Medici, Machiavelli, who for a few weeks had vainly hoped to retain his office
under the new masters of Florence, was dismissed by decree dated 7th November 1512. Shortly after
this he was accused of complicity in an abortive conspiracy against the Medici, imprisoned, and put to
the question by torture. The new Medicean pope, Leo X, procured his release, and he retired to his
small property at San Casciano, near Florence, where he devoted himself to literature. In a letter to
Francesco Vettori, dated 13th December 1513, he has left a very interesting description of his life at this
period, which elucidates his methods and his motives in writing “The Prince.” After describing his daily
occupations with his family and neighbours, he writes: “The evening being come, I return home and go
to my study; at the entrance I pull off my peasant-clothes, covered with dust and dirt, and put on my
noble court dress, and thus becomingly re-clothed I pass into the ancient courts of the men of old,
where, being lovingly received by them, I am fed with that food which is mine alone; where I do not
hesitate to speak with them, and to ask for the reason of their actions, and they in their benignity answer
me; and for four hours I feel no weariness, I forget every trouble, poverty does not dismay, death does
not terrify me; I am possessed entirely by those great men. And because Dante says:

Knowledge doth come of learning well retained,
Unfruitful else,

I have noted down what I have gained from their conversation, and have composed a small work on
‘Principalities,’ where I pour myself out as fully as I can in meditation on the subject, discussing what a
principality is, what kinds there are, how they can be acquired, how they can be kept, why they are lost:
and if any of my fancies ever pleased you, this ought not to displease you: and to a prince, especially to
a new one, it should be welcome: therefore I dedicate it to his Magnificence Giuliano. Filippo
Casavecchio has seen it; he will be able to tell you what is in it, and of the discourses I have had with
him; nevertheless, I am still enriching and polishing it.”

The “little book” suffered many vicissitudes before attaining the form in which it has reached us.
Various mental influences were at work during its composition; its title and patron were changed; and
for some unknown reason it was finally dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici. Although Machiavelli
discussed with Casavecchio whether it should be sent or presented in person to the patron, there is no
evidence that Lorenzo ever received or even read it: he certainly never gave Machiavelli any
employment. Although it was plagiarized during Machiavelli’s lifetime, “The Prince” was never
published by him, and its text is still disputable.

Machiavelli concludes his letter to Vettori thus: “And as to this little thing [his book], when it has
been read it will be seen that during the fifteen years I have given to the study of statecraft I have
neither slept nor idled; and men ought ever to desire to be served by one who has reaped experience at
the expense of others. And of my loyalty none could doubt, because having always kept faith I could
not now learn how to break it; for he who has been faithful and honest, as I have, cannot change his
nature; and my poverty is a witness to my honesty.”

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Before Machiavelli had got “The Prince” off his hands he commenced his “Discourse on the First
Decade of Titus Livius,” which should be read concurrently with “The Prince.” These and several
minor works occupied him until the year 1518, when he accepted a small commission to look after the
affairs of some Florentine merchants at Genoa. In 1519 the Medicean rulers of Florence granted a few
political concessions to her citizens, and Machiavelli with others was consulted upon a new constitution
under which the Great Council was to be restored; but on one pretext or another it was not
promulgated.

In 1520 the Florentine merchants again had recourse to Machiavelli to settle their difficulties with
Lucca, but this year was chiefly remarkable for his re-entry into Florentine literary society, where he
was much sought after, and also for the production of his “Art of War.” It was in the same year that he
received a commission at the instance of Cardinal de’ Medici to write the “History of Florence,” a task
which occupied him until 1525. His return to popular favour may have determined the Medici to give
him this employment, for an old writer observes that “an able statesman out of work, like a huge whale,
will endeavour to overturn the ship unless he has an empty cask to play with.”

When the “History of Florence” was finished, Machiavelli took it to Rome for presentation to his
patron, Giuliano de’ Medici, who had in the meanwhile become pope under the title of Clement VII. It
is somewhat remarkable that, as, in 1513, Machiavelli had written “The Prince” for the instruction of
the Medici after they had just regained power in Florence, so, in 1525, he dedicated the “History of
Florence” to the head of the family when its ruin was now at hand. In that year the battle of Pavia
destroyed the French rule in Italy, and left Francis I a prisoner in the hands of his great rival, Charles V.
This was followed by the sack of Rome, upon the news of which the popular party at Florence threw
off the yoke of the Medici, who were once more banished.

Machiavelli was absent from Florence at this time, but hastened his return, hoping to secure his
former office of secretary to the “Ten of Liberty and Peace.” Unhappily he was taken ill soon after he
reached Florence, where he died on 22nd June 1527.

THE MAN AND HIS WORKS

No one can say where the bones of Machiavelli rest, but modern Florence has decreed him a stately
cenotaph in Santa Croce, by the side of her most famous sons; recognizing that, whatever other nations
may have found in his works, Italy found in them the idea of her unity and the germs of her renaissance
among the nations of Europe. Whilst it is idle to protest against the world-wide and evil signification of
his name, it may be pointed out that the harsh construction of his doctrine which this sinister reputation
implies was unknown to his own day, and that the researches of recent times have enabled us to
interpret him more reasonably. It is due to these inquiries that the shape of an “unholy necromancer,”
which so long haunted men’s vision, has begun to fade.

Machiavelli was undoubtedly a man of great observation, acuteness, and industry; noting with
appreciative eye whatever passed before him, and with his supreme literary gift turning it to account in
his enforced retirement from affairs. He does not present himself, nor is he depicted by his
contemporaries, as a type of that rare combination, the successful statesman and author, for he appears
to have been only moderately prosperous in his several embassies and political employments. He was
misled by Catherina Sforza, ignored by Louis XII, overawed by Cesare Borgia; several of his embassies
were quite barren of results; his attempts to fortify Florence failed, and the soldiery that he raised
astonished everybody by their cowardice. In the conduct of his own affairs he was timid and time-
serving; he dared not appear by the side of Soderini, to whom he owed so much, for fear of
compromising himself; his connection with the Medici was open to suspicion, and Giuliano appears to
have recognized his real forte when he set him to write the “History of Florence,” rather than employ
him in the state. And it is on the literary side of his character, and there alone, that we find no weakness
and no failure.

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Although the light of almost four centuries has been focused on “The Prince,” its problems are still
debatable and interesting, because they are the eternal problems between the ruled and their rulers.
Such as they are, its ethics are those of Machiavelli’s contemporaries; yet they cannot be said to be out
of date so long as the governments of Europe rely on material rather than on moral forces. Its historical
incidents and personages become interesting by reason of the uses which Machiavelli makes of them to
illustrate his theories of government and conduct.

Leaving out of consideration those maxims of state which still furnish some European and eastern
statesmen with principles of action, “The Prince” is bestrewn with truths that can be proved at every
turn. Men are still the dupes of their simplicity and greed, as they were in the days of Alexander VI.
The cloak of religion still conceals the vices which Machiavelli laid bare in the character of Ferdinand
of Aragon. Men will not look at things as they really are, but as they wish them to be—and are ruined.
In politics there are no perfectly safe courses; prudence consists in choosing the least dangerous ones.
Then—to pass to a higher plane—Machiavelli reiterates that, although crimes may win an empire, they
do not win glory. Necessary wars are just wars, and the arms of a nation are hallowed when it has no
other resource but to fight.

It is the cry of a far later day than Machiavelli’s that government should be elevated into a living
moral force, capable of inspiring the people with a just recognition of the fundamental principles of
society; to this “high argument” “The Prince” contributes but little. Machiavelli always refused to write
either of men or of governments otherwise than as he found them, and he writes with such skill and
insight that his work is of abiding value. But what invests “The Prince” with more than a merely artistic
or historical interest is the incontrovertible truth that it deals with the great principles which still guide
nations and rulers in their relationship with each other and their neighbours.

In translating “The Prince” my aim has been to achieve at all costs an exact literal rendering of the
original, rather than a fluent paraphrase adapted to the modern notions of style and expression.
Machiavelli was no facile phrasemonger; the conditions under which he wrote obliged him to weigh
every word; his themes were lofty, his substance grave, his manner nobly plain and serious. “Quis eo
fuit unquam in partiundis rebus, in definiendis, in explanandis pressior?” In “The Prince,” it may be
truly said, there is reason assignable, not only for every word, but for the position of every word. To an
Englishman of Shakespeare’s time the translation of such a treatise was in some ways a comparatively
easy task, for in those times the genius of the English more nearly resembled that of the Italian
language; to the Englishman of to-day it is not so simple. To take a single example: the word
“intrattenere,” employed by Machiavelli to indicate the policy adopted by the Roman Senate towards
the weaker states of Greece, would by an Elizabethan be correctly rendered “entertain,” and every
contemporary reader would understand what was meant by saying that “Rome entertained the Aetolians
and the Achaeans without augmenting their power.” But to-day such a phrase would seem obsolete and
ambiguous, if not unmeaning: we are compelled to say that “Rome maintained friendly relations with
the Aetolians,” etc., using four words to do the work of one. I have tried to preserve the pithy brevity of
the Italian so far as was consistent with an absolute fidelity to the sense. If the result be an occasional
asperity I can only hope that the reader, in his eagerness to reach the author’s meaning, may overlook
the roughness of the road that leads him to it.

The following is a list of the works of Machiavelli:
Principal works. Discorso sopra le cose di Pisa, 1499; Del modo di trattare i popoli della Valdichiana

ribellati, 1502; Del modo tenuto dal duca Valentino nell’ ammazzare Vitellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da
Fermo, etc., 1502; Discorso sopra la provisione del danaro, 1502; Decennale primo (poem in terza
rima), 1506; Ritratti delle cose dell’ Alemagna, 1508-12; Decennale secondo, 1509; Ritratti delle cose
di Francia, 1510; Discorsi sopra la prima deca di T. Livio, 3 vols., 1512-17; Il Principe, 1513; Andria,
comedy translated from Terence, 1513 (?); Mandragola, prose comedy in five acts, with prologue in
verse, 1513; Della lingua (dialogue), 1514; Clizia, comedy in prose, 1515 (?); Belfagor arcidiavolo
(novel), 1515; Asino d’oro (poem in terza rima), 1517; Dell’ arte della guerra, 1519-20; Discorso sopra
il riformare lo stato di Firenze, 1520; Sommario delle cose della citta di Lucca, 1520; Vita di Castruccio
Castracani da Lucca, 1520; Istorie fiorentine, 8 books, 1521-5; Frammenti storici, 1525.

Other poems include Sonetti, Canzoni, Ottave, and Canti carnascialeschi.

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Editions. Aldo, Venice, 1546; della Tertina, 1550; Cambiagi, Florence, 6 vols., 1782-5; dei Classici,
Milan, 10 1813; Silvestri, 9 vols., 1820-2; Passerini, Fanfani, Milanesi, 6 vols. only published, 1873-7.

Minor works. Ed. F. L. Polidori, 1852; Lettere familiari, ed. E. Alvisi, 1883, 2 editions, one with
excisions; Credited Writings, ed. G. Canestrini, 1857; Letters to F. Vettori, see A. Ridolfi, Pensieri
intorno allo scopo di N. Machiavelli nel libro Il Principe, etc.; D. Ferrara, The Private Correspondence
of Nicolo Machiavelli, 1929.

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