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A brief biography of Niccolo Machiavelli and his ideas

Cesare then turned on de Orco himself and had him sliced in half and placed in the public square, just to remind the townspeople who the true boss was. But then, as Machiavelli approvingly noted, that was enough bloodshed. Cesare moved on to cut taxes, imported some cheap grain, built a theatre and organised a series of beautiful festivals to keep people from dwelling on unfortunate memories.

He writes that we cannot be good at or for all things. We must pick which fields we want to excel in, and let the others pass—not only because of our limited abilities and resources, but also because of the conflicts within moral codes. We may have to sacrifice our ideal visions of kindness for the sake of practical effectiveness. We may have to lie in order to keep a relationship afloat. We may have to ignore the feelings of the workforce in order to keep a business going..

Machiavelli, The Prince and the life of Castruccio Castracani, 1640. Peter Harrington.

That — insists Machiavelli — is the price of dealing with the world as it is, and not as we feel it should be. The world has continued to love and hate Machiavelli in equal measure for insisting on this uncomfortable truth. Machiavelli is prey to a natural misunderstanding. But actually his stern advice — about being ruthless — is best directed to those who run the risk of losing what they really care about because at key moments they are not ruthless enough.

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The Medici family returned to Florence, and the people soon demanded that they be put back in power. Soderini was exiled. As a supporter of the Soderini government, Machiavelli was removed from his office by the new regime, fined, and forbidden to travel outside Florentine territory. A few months later, two young malcontents were arrested and found with a list of supposed conspirators against the Medici.

Machiavelli's name was on the list.


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  • Italian philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli born.

Although there is no indication he was actually involved, Machiavelli was imprisoned and tortured to extract information. From prison, he wrote two sonnets to Giuliano de Medici, asking him to intercede. He was sentenced to remain in prison pending payment of a fine. However, when Giuliano's uncle, Giovanni, was elected Pope Leo X in March , a general amnesty was declared in celebration, and Machiavelli was released. He retired to the relative safety of his home in the country outside Florence to rest and consider his future.

During this time, he wrote many letters to his friend and fellow Florentine diplomat Francesco Vettori, who had been appointed ambassador to Rome, looking for news of the outside world and hoping Vettori could recommend him to the Medici family. In this self-imposed exile, he wrote The Prince Il Principe , which distilled his observations about human behavior, leadership, and foreign policy. He dedicated the work to the Medici family in an effort to demonstrate his support, but without success.

Niccolò Machiavelli Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline

It was clear by that the Medici would have nothing to do with him and that his diplomatic career was over. Over the next ten years, deprived of the political activities that were his life's work, Machiavelli turned his attention to writing. During this period, he produced a treatise on the art of war, one that draws on his experience as organizer of the militia, and a commentary on the writings of the classical Roman historian Livy. Examining Livy's account of the Roman republic, Machiavelli discussed at length the concept of republican government.

In contrast with The Prince , which supports monarchy or even tyranny, the Discourses on Livy are often cited as evidence of Machiavelli's republican sympathies. He also wrote many poems and three comedic plays. His writing attracted the attention of Cardinal Giulio de Medici, who had for several years been in control of Florence and who commissioned him to write a history of Florence. He worked on his Florentine History from to Reconciliation with the Medici brought about Machiavelli's brief return to public service.

He was put in charge of military arrangements for Clement in Florence. However, Clement foolishly fell for a ploy by his Roman enemies that resulted in his humiliation and the sacking of the papal palace and church of St. Soon after, Rome fell, and the great Catholic city was terrorized and looted by mostly German Protestant armies. This debacle, and the threat posed to Florence by the advancing forces of Clement's enemies, led the Florentines to depose the Medici family in Machiavelli, a staunch supporter and lifelong defender of the Florentine republic, was on the losing side once again, now suspected by the republicans for having been in league with the Medici.

However, he did not have long to dwell on the irony of his position. He died after an illness in June Machiavelli is the only political thinker whose name has come into common use for designating a kind of politics, which exists and will continue to exist independently of his influence, a politics guided exclusively by considerations of expediency, which uses all means, fair or foul, iron or poison, for achieving its ends—its end being the aggrandizement of one's country or fatherland—but also using the fatherland in the service of the self-aggrandizement of the politician or statesman or one's party.

To quote Robert Bireley: [56].


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Three principal writers took the field against Machiavelli between the publication of his works and their condemnation in and again by the Tridentine Index in These were the English cardinal Reginald Pole and the Portuguese bishop Jeronymo Osorio , both of whom lived for many years in Italy, and the Italian humanist and later bishop, Ambrogio Caterino Politi.

Machiavelli's ideas had a profound impact on political leaders throughout the modern west, helped by the new technology of the printing press. During the first generations after Machiavelli, his main influence was in non-republican governments. Bartholomew's Day massacre. As Bireley reports, in the 16th century, Catholic writers "associated Machiavelli with the Protestants, whereas Protestant authors saw him as Italian and Catholic". In fact, he was apparently influencing both Catholic and Protestant kings. One of the most important early works dedicated to criticism of Machiavelli, especially The Prince , was that of the Huguenot , Innocent Gentillet , whose work commonly referred to as Discourse against Machiavelli or Anti Machiavel was published in Geneva in This became the theme of much future political discourse in Europe during the 17th century.

They accepted the need for a prince to be concerned with reputation, and even a need for cunning and deceit, but compared to Machiavelli, and like later modernist writers, they emphasized economic progress much more than the riskier ventures of war. These authors tended to cite Tacitus as their source for realist political advice, rather than Machiavelli, and this pretense came to be known as " Tacitism ". Modern materialist philosophy developed in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, starting in the generations after Machiavelli. This philosophy tended to be republican, but as with the Catholic authors, Machiavelli's realism and encouragement of using innovation to try to control one's own fortune were more accepted than his emphasis upon war and factional violence.

Not only was innovative economics and politics a result, but also modern science , leading some commentators to say that the 18th century Enlightenment involved a "humanitarian" moderating of Machiavellianism. Although he was not always mentioned by name as an inspiration, due to his controversy, he is also thought to have been an influence for other major philosophers, such as Montaigne , [71] Descartes , [72] Hobbes , Locke [73] and Montesquieu.

Although Jean-Jacques Rousseau is associated with very different political ideas he was also influenced by him, although he viewed Machiavelli's work as a satirical piece in which Machiavelli exposes the faults of a one-man rule rather than exalting amorality. In the seventeenth century it was in England that Machiavelli's ideas were most substantially developed and adapted, and that republicanism came once more to life; and out of seventeenth-century English republicanism there were to emerge in the next century not only a theme of English political and historical reflection—of the writings of the Bolingbroke circle and of Gibbon and of early parliamentary radicals—but a stimulus to the Enlightenment in Scotland, on the Continent, and in America.

Scholars have argued that Machiavelli was a major indirect and direct influence upon the political thinking of the Founding Fathers of the United States due to his overwhelming favoritism of republicanism and the republican type of government. According to John McCormick, it is still very much debatable whether or not Machiavelli was "an advisor of tyranny or partisan of liberty. The Founding Father who perhaps most studied and valued Machiavelli as a political philosopher was John Adams , who profusely commented on the Italian's thought in his work, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.

For Adams, Machiavelli restored empirical reason to politics, while his analysis of factions was commendable. Adams likewise agreed with the Florentine that human nature was immutable and driven by passions. He also accepted Machiavelli's belief that all societies were subject to cyclical periods of growth and decay. For Adams, Machiavelli lacked only a clear understanding of the institutions necessary for good government. The 20th-century Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci drew great inspiration from Machiavelli's writings on ethics, morals, and how they relate to the State and revolution in his writings on Passive Revolution , and how a society can be manipulated by controlling popular notions of morality.

Joseph Stalin read The Prince and annotated his own copy. In the 20th century there was also renewed interest in Machiavelli's La Mandragola , which received numerous stagings, including several in New York, at the New York Shakespeare Festival in and the Riverside Shakespeare Company in , as a musical comedy by Peer Raben in Munich's antiteater in , and at London's National Theatre in Machiavelli's best-known book Il Principe contains several maxims concerning politics. Instead of the more traditional target audience of a hereditary prince, it concentrates on the possibility of a "new prince".

To retain power, the hereditary prince must carefully balance the interests of a variety of institutions to which the people are accustomed.

1. Biography

By contrast, a new prince has the more difficult task in ruling: He must first stabilise his newfound power in order to build an enduring political structure. Machiavelli suggests that the social benefits of stability and security can be achieved in the face of moral corruption. Machiavelli believed that public and private morality had to be understood as two different things in order to rule well.