Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

The Prince

by Nicolo Machiavelli

Translated by W. K. Marriott

Etext prepared by John Bickers, jbickers@templar.actrix.gen.nz
and Bonnie Sala, Sterling Editing Services, clio@uscom.com

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.


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.

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

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."

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 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

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 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.

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 people, 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."

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

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.


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.

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

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.


To the Magnificent Lorenzo Di Piero De' Medici:

Those who strive to obtain the good graces of a prince are
accustomed to come before him with such things as they hold most
precious, or in which they see him take most delight; whence one
often sees horses, arms, cloth of gold, precious stones, and
similar ornaments presented to princes, worthy of their greatness.

Desiring therefore to present myself to your Magnificence with
some testimony of my devotion towards you, I have not found among
my possessions anything which I hold more dear than, or value so
much as, the knowledge of the actions of great men, acquired by
long experience in contemporary affairs, and a continual study of
antiquity; which, having reflected upon it with great and
prolonged diligence, I now send, digested into a little volume, to
your Magnificence.

And although I may consider this work unworthy of your
countenance, nevertheless I trust much to your benignity that it
may be acceptable, seeing that it is not possible for me to make a
better gift than to offer you the opportunity of understanding in
the shortest time all that I have learnt in so many years, and
with so many troubles and dangers; which work I have not
embellished with swelling or magnificent words, nor stuffed with
rounded periods, nor with any extrinsic allurements or adornments
whatever, with which so many are accustomed to embellish their
works; for I have wished either that no honour should be given it,
or else that the truth of the matter and the weightiness of the
theme shall make it acceptable.

Nor do I hold with those who regard it as a presumption if a man
of low and humble condition dare to discuss and settle the
concerns of princes; because, just as those who draw landscapes
place themselves below in the plain to contemplate the nature of
the mountains and of lofty places, and in order to contemplate the
plains place themselves upon high mountains, even so to understand
the nature of the people it needs to be a prince, and to
understand that of princes it needs to be of the people.

Take then, your Magnificence, this little gift in the spirit in
which I send it; wherein, if it be diligently read and considered
by you, you will learn my extreme desire that you should attain
that greatness which fortune and your other attributes promise.
And if your Magnificence from the summit of your greatness will
sometimes turn your eyes to these lower regions, you will see how
unmeritedly I suffer a great and continued malignity of fortune.




All states, all powers, that have held and hold rule over men have
been and are either republics or principalities.

Principalities are either hereditary, in which the family has been
long established; or they are new.

The new are either entirely new, as was Milan to Francesco Sforza, or
they are, as it were, members annexed to the hereditary state of the
prince who has acquired them, as was the kingdom of Naples to that of
the King of Spain.

Such dominions thus acquired are either accustomed to live under a
prince, or to live in freedom; and are acquired either by the arms of
the prince himself, or of others, or else by fortune or by ability.



I will leave out all discussion on republics, inasmuch as in another
place I have written of them at length, and will address myself only
to principalities. In doing so I will keep to the order indicated
above, and discuss how such principalities are to be ruled and

I say at once there are fewer difficulties in holding hereditary
states, and those long accustomed to the family of their prince, than
new ones; for it is sufficient only not to transgress the customs of
his ancestors, and to deal prudently with circumstances as they arise,
for a prince of average powers to maintain himself in his state,
unless he be deprived of it by some extraordinary and excessive force;
and if he should be so deprived of it, whenever anything sinister
happens to the usurper, he will regain it.

We have in Italy, for example, the Duke of Ferrara, who could not have
withstood the attacks of the Venetians in '84, nor those of Pope
Julius in '10, unless he had been long established in his dominions.
For the hereditary prince has less cause and less necessity to offend;
hence it happens that he will be more loved; and unless extraordinary
vices cause him to be hated, it is reasonable to expect that his
subjects will be naturally well disposed towards him; and in the
antiquity and duration of his rule the memories and motives that make
for change are lost, for one change always leaves the toothing for



But the difficulties occur in a new principality. And firstly, if it
be not entirely new, but is, as it were, a member of a state which,
taken collectively, may be called composite, the changes arise chiefly
from an inherent difficulty which there is in all new principalities;
for men change their rulers willingly, hoping to better themselves,
and this hope induces them to take up arms against him who rules:
wherein they are deceived, because they afterwards find by experience
they have gone from bad to worse. This follows also on another natural
and common necessity, which always causes a new prince to burden those
who have submitted to him with his soldiery and with infinite other
hardships which he must put upon his new acquisition.

In this way you have enemies in all those whom you have injured in
seizing that principality, and you are not able to keep those friends
who put you there because of your not being able to satisfy them in
the way they expected, and you cannot take strong measures against
them, feeling bound to them. For, although one may be very strong in
armed forces, yet in entering a province one has always need of the
goodwill of the natives.

For these reasons Louis the Twelfth, King of France, quickly occupied
Milan, and as quickly lost it; and to turn him out the first time it
only needed Lodovico's own forces; because those who had opened the
gates to him, finding themselves deceived in their hopes of future
benefit, would not endure the ill-treatment of the new prince. It is
very true that, after acquiring rebellious provinces a second time,
they are not so lightly lost afterwards, because the prince, with
little reluctance, takes the opportunity of the rebellion to punish
the delinquents, to clear out the suspects, and to strengthen himself
in the weakest places. Thus to cause France to lose Milan the first
time it was enough for the Duke Lodovico[*] to raise insurrections on
the borders; but to cause him to lose it a second time it was
necessary to bring the whole world against him, and that his armies
should be defeated and driven out of Italy; which followed from the
causes above mentioned.

[*] Duke Lodovico was Lodovico Moro, a son of Francesco Sforza, who
married Beatrice d'Este. He ruled over Milan from 1494 to 1500,
and died in 1510.

Nevertheless Milan was taken from France both the first and the second
time. The general reasons for the first have been discussed; it
remains to name those for the second, and to see what resources he
had, and what any one in his situation would have had for maintaining
himself more securely in his acquisition than did the King of France.

Now I say that those dominions which, when acquired, are added to an
ancient state by him who acquires them, are either of the same country
and language, or they are not. When they are, it is easier to hold
them, especially when they have not been accustomed to self-
government; and to hold them securely it is enough to have destroyed
the family of the prince who was ruling them; because the two peoples,
preserving in other things the old conditions, and not being unlike in
customs, will live quietly together, as one has seen in Brittany,
Burgundy, Gascony, and Normandy, which have been bound to France for
so long a time: and, although there may be some difference in
language, nevertheless the customs are alike, and the people will
easily be able to get on amongst themselves. He who has annexed them,
if he wishes to hold them, has only to bear in mind two
considerations: the one, that the family of their former lord is
extinguished; the other, that neither their laws nor their taxes are
altered, so that in a very short time they will become entirely one
body with the old principality.

But when states are acquired in a country differing in language,
customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great
energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real
helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside
there. This would make his position more secure and durable, as it has
made that of the Turk in Greece, who, notwithstanding all the other
measures taken by him for holding that state, if he had not settled
there, would not have been able to keep it. Because, if one is on the
spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy
them; but if one is not at hand, they are heard of only when they are
great, and then one can no longer remedy them. Besides this, the
country is not pillaged by your officials; the subjects are satisfied
by prompt recourse to the prince; thus, wishing to be good, they have
more cause to love him, and wishing to be otherwise, to fear him. He
who would attack that state from the outside must have the utmost
caution; as long as the prince resides there it can only be wrested
from him with the greatest difficulty.

The other and better course is to send colonies to one or two places,
which may be as keys to that state, for it is necessary either to do
this or else to keep there a great number of cavalry and infantry. A
prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense
he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority
only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them
to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and
scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being
uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not
to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have
been despoiled. In conclusion, I say that these colonies are not
costly, they are more faithful, they injure less, and the injured, as
has been said, being poor and scattered, cannot hurt. Upon this, one
has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed,
because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more
serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a
man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of

But in maintaining armed men there in place of colonies one spends
much more, having to consume on the garrison all the income from the
state, so that the acquisition turns into a loss, and many more are
exasperated, because the whole state is injured; through the shifting
of the garrison up and down all become acquainted with hardship, and
all become hostile, and they are enemies who, whilst beaten on their
own ground, are yet able to do hurt. For every reason, therefore, such
guards are as useless as a colony is useful.

Again, the prince who holds a country differing in the above respects
ought to make himself the head and defender of his less powerful
neighbours, and to weaken the more powerful amongst them, taking care
that no foreigner as powerful as himself shall, by any accident, get a
footing there; for it will always happen that such a one will be
introduced by those who are discontented, either through excess of
ambition or through fear, as one has seen already. The Romans were
brought into Greece by the Aetolians; and in every other country where
they obtained a footing they were brought in by the inhabitants. And
the usual course of affairs is that, as soon as a powerful foreigner
enters a country, all the subject states are drawn to him, moved by
the hatred which they feel against the ruling power. So that in
respect to those subject states he has not to take any trouble to gain
them over to himself, for the whole of them quickly rally to the state
which he has acquired there. He has only to take care that they do not
get hold of too much power and too much authority, and then with his
own forces, and with their goodwill, he can easily keep down the more
powerful of them, so as to remain entirely master in the country. And
he who does not properly manage this business will soon lose what he
has acquired, and whilst he does hold it he will have endless
difficulties and troubles.

The Romans, in the countries which they annexed, observed closely
these measures; they sent colonies and maintained friendly relations
with[*] the minor powers, without increasing their strength; they kept
down the greater, and did not allow any strong foreign powers to gain
authority. Greece appears to me sufficient for an example. The
Achaeans and Aetolians were kept friendly by them, the kingdom of
Macedonia was humbled, Antiochus was driven out; yet the merits of the
Achaeans and Aetolians never secured for them permission to increase
their power, nor did the persuasions of Philip ever induce the Romans
to be his friends without first humbling him, nor did the influence of
Antiochus make them agree that he should retain any lordship over the
country. Because the Romans did in these instances what all prudent
princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but
also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy,
because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait
until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the
malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians
say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it
is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time,
not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it
becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. This it happens in
affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen
(which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly
redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been
permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them, there is no
longer a remedy. Therefore, the Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt
with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come
to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only to
be put off to the advantage of others; moreover they wished to fight
with Philip and Antiochus in Greece so as not to have to do it in
Italy; they could have avoided both, but this they did not wish; nor
did that ever please them which is for ever in the mouths of the wise
ones of our time:--Let us enjoy the benefits of the time--but rather
the benefits of their own valour and prudence, for time drives
everything before it, and is able to bring with it good as well as
evil, and evil as well as good.

[*] See remark in the introduction on the word "intrattenere."

But let us turn to France and inquire whether she has done any of the
things mentioned. I will speak of Louis[*] (and not of Charles[+]) as
the one whose conduct is the better to be observed, he having held
possession of Italy for the longest period; and you will see that he
has done the opposite to those things which ought to be done to retain
a state composed of divers elements.

[*] Louis XII, King of France, "The Father of the People," born 1462,
died 1515.

[+] Charles VIII, King of France, born 1470, died 1498.

King Louis was brought into Italy by the ambition of the Venetians,
who desired to obtain half the state of Lombardy by his intervention.
I will not blame the course taken by the king, because, wishing to get
a foothold in Italy, and having no friends there--seeing rather that
every door was shut to him owing to the conduct of Charles--he was
forced to accept those friendships which he could get, and he would
have succeeded very quickly in his design if in other matters he had
not made some mistakes. The king, however, having acquired Lombardy,
regained at once the authority which Charles had lost: Genoa yielded;
the Florentines became his friends; the Marquess of Mantua, the Duke
of Ferrara, the Bentivogli, my lady of Forli, the Lords of Faenza, of
Pesaro, of Rimini, of Camerino, of Piombino, the Lucchese, the Pisans,
the Sienese--everybody made advances to him to become his friend. Then
could the Venetians realize the rashness of the course taken by them,
which, in order that they might secure two towns in Lombardy, had made
the king master of two-thirds of Italy.

Let any one now consider with what little difficulty the king could
have maintained his position in Italy had he observed the rules above
laid down, and kept all his friends secure and protected; for although
they were numerous they were both weak and timid, some afraid of the
Church, some of the Venetians, and thus they would always have been
forced to stand in with him, and by their means he could easily have
made himself secure against those who remained powerful. But he was no
sooner in Milan than he did the contrary by assisting Pope Alexander
to occupy the Romagna. It never occurred to him that by this action he
was weakening himself, depriving himself of friends and of those who
had thrown themselves into his lap, whilst he aggrandized the Church
by adding much temporal power to the spiritual, thus giving it greater
authority. And having committed this prime error, he was obliged to
follow it up, so much so that, to put an end to the ambition of
Alexander, and to prevent his becoming the master of Tuscany, he was
himself forced to come into Italy.

And as if it were not enough to have aggrandized the Church, and
deprived himself of friends, he, wishing to have the kingdom of
Naples, divides it with the King of Spain, and where he was the prime
arbiter in Italy he takes an associate, so that the ambitious of that
country and the malcontents of his own should have somewhere to
shelter; and whereas he could have left in the kingdom his own
pensioner as king, he drove him out, to put one there who was able to
drive him, Louis, out in turn.

The wish to acquire is in truth very natural and common, and men
always do so when they can, and for this they will be praised not
blamed; but when they cannot do so, yet wish to do so by any means,
then there is folly and blame. Therefore, if France could have
attacked Naples with her own forces she ought to have done so; if she
could not, then she ought not to have divided it. And if the partition
which she made with the Venetians in Lombardy was justified by the
excuse that by it she got a foothold in Italy, this other partition
merited blame, for it had not the excuse of that necessity.

Therefore Louis made these five errors: he destroyed the minor powers,
he increased the strength of one of the greater powers in Italy, he
brought in a foreign power, he did not settle in the country, he did
not send colonies. Which errors, had he lived, were not enough to
injure him had he not made a sixth by taking away their dominions from
the Venetians; because, had he not aggrandized the Church, nor brought
Spain into Italy, it would have been very reasonable and necessary to
humble them; but having first taken these steps, he ought never to
have consented to their ruin, for they, being powerful, would always
have kept off others from designs on Lombardy, to which the Venetians
would never have consented except to become masters themselves there;
also because the others would not wish to take Lombardy from France in
order to give it to the Venetians, and to run counter to both they
would not have had the courage.

And if any one should say: "King Louis yielded the Romagna to
Alexander and the kingdom to Spain to avoid war, I answer for the
reasons given above that a blunder ought never to be perpetrated to
avoid war, because it is not to be avoided, but is only deferred to
your disadvantage. And if another should allege the pledge which the
king had given to the Pope that he would assist him in the enterprise,
in exchange for the dissolution of his marriage[*] and for the cap to
Rouen,[+] to that I reply what I shall write later on concerning the
faith of princes, and how it ought to be kept.

[*] Louis XII divorced his wife, Jeanne, daughter of Louis XI, and
married in 1499 Anne of Brittany, widow of Charles VIII, in order
to retain the Duchy of Brittany for the crown.

[+] The Archbishop of Rouen. He was Georges d'Amboise, created a
cardinal by Alexander VI. Born 1460, died 1510.

Thus King Louis lost Lombardy by not having followed any of the
conditions observed by those who have taken possession of countries
and wished to retain them. Nor is there any miracle in this, but much
that is reasonable and quite natural. And on these matters I spoke at
Nantes with Rouen, when Valentino, as Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope
Alexander, was usually called, occupied the Romagna, and on Cardinal
Rouen observing to me that the Italians did not understand war, I
replied to him that the French did not understand statecraft, meaning
that otherwise they would not have allowed the Church to reach such
greatness. And in fact is has been seen that the greatness of the
Church and of Spain in Italy has been caused by France, and her ruin
may be attributed to them. From this a general rule is drawn which
never or rarely fails: that he who is the cause of another becoming
powerful is ruined; because that predominancy has been brought about
either by astuteness or else by force, and both are distrusted by him
who has been raised to power.



Considering the difficulties which men have had to hold to a newly
acquired state, some might wonder how, seeing that Alexander the Great
became the master of Asia in a few years, and died whilst it was
scarcely settled (whence it might appear reasonable that the whole
empire would have rebelled), nevertheless his successors maintained
themselves, and had to meet no other difficulty than that which arose
among themselves from their own ambitions.

I answer that the principalities of which one has record are found to
be governed in two different ways; either by a prince, with a body of
servants, who assist him to govern the kingdom as ministers by his
favour and permission; or by a prince and barons, who hold that
dignity by antiquity of blood and not by the grace of the prince. Such
barons have states and their own subjects, who recognize them as lords
and hold them in natural affection. Those states that are governed by
a prince and his servants hold their prince in more consideration,
because in all the country there is no one who is recognized as
superior to him, and if they yield obedience to another they do it as
to a minister and official, and they do not bear him any particular

The examples of these two governments in our time are the Turk and the
King of France. The entire monarchy of the Turk is governed by one
lord, the others are his servants; and, dividing his kingdom into
sanjaks, he sends there different administrators, and shifts and
changes them as he chooses. But the King of France is placed in the
midst of an ancient body of lords, acknowledged by their own subjects,
and beloved by them; they have their own prerogatives, nor can the
king take these away except at his peril. Therefore, he who considers
both of these states will recognize great difficulties in seizing the
state of the Turk, but, once it is conquered, great ease in holding
it. The causes of the difficulties in seizing the kingdom of the Turk
are that the usurper cannot be called in by the princes of the
kingdom, nor can he hope to be assisted in his designs by the revolt
of those whom the lord has around him. This arises from the reasons
given above; for his ministers, being all slaves and bondmen, can only
be corrupted with great difficulty, and one can expect little
advantage from them when they have been corrupted, as they cannot
carry the people with them, for the reasons assigned. Hence, he who
attacks the Turk must bear in mind that he will find him united, and
he will have to rely more on his own strength than on the revolt of
others; but, if once the Turk has been conquered, and routed in the
field in such a way that he cannot replace his armies, there is
nothing to fear but the family of this prince, and, this being
exterminated, there remains no one to fear, the others having no
credit with the people; and as the conqueror did not rely on them
before his victory, so he ought not to fear them after it.

The contrary happens in kingdoms governed like that of France, because
one can easily enter there by gaining over some baron of the kingdom,
for one always finds malcontents and such as desire a change. Such
men, for the reasons given, can open the way into the state and render
the victory easy; but if you wish to hold it afterwards, you meet with
infinite difficulties, both from those who have assisted you and from
those you have crushed. Nor is it enough for you to have exterminated
the family of the prince, because the lords that remain make
themselves the heads of fresh movements against you, and as you are
unable either to satisfy or exterminate them, that state is lost
whenever time brings the opportunity.

Now if you will consider what was the nature of the government of
Darius, you will find it similar to the kingdom of the Turk, and
therefore it was only necessary for Alexander, first to overthrow him
in the field, and then to take the country from him. After which
victory, Darius being killed, the state remained secure to Alexander,
for the above reasons. And if his successors had been united they
would have enjoyed it securely and at their ease, for there were no
tumults raised in the kingdom except those they provoked themselves.

But it is impossible to hold with such tranquillity states constituted
like that of France. Hence arose those frequent rebellions against the
Romans in Spain, France, and Greece, owing to the many principalities
there were in these states, of which, as long as the memory of them
endured, the Romans always held an insecure possession; but with the
power and long continuance of the empire the memory of them passed
away, and the Romans then became secure possessors. And when fighting
afterwards amongst themselves, each one was able to attach to himself
his own parts of the country, according to the authority he had
assumed there; and the family of the former lord being exterminated,
none other than the Romans were acknowledged.

When these things are remembered no one will marvel at the ease with
which Alexander held the Empire of Asia, or at the difficulties which
others have had to keep an acquisition, such as Pyrrhus and many more;
this is not occasioned by the little or abundance of ability in the
conqueror, but by the want of uniformity in the subject state.



Whenever those states which have been acquired as stated have been
accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom, there are
three courses for those who wish to hold them: the first is to ruin
them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit
them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute, and establishing
within it an oligarchy which will keep it friendly to you. Because
such a government, being created by the prince, knows that it cannot
stand without his friendship and interest, and does it utmost to
support him; and therefore he who would keep a city accustomed to
freedom will hold it more easily by the means of its own citizens than
in any other way.

There are, for example, the Spartans and the Romans. The Spartans held
Athens and Thebes, establishing there an oligarchy, nevertheless they
lost them. The Romans, in order to hold Capua, Carthage, and Numantia,
dismantled them, and did not lose them. They wished to hold Greece as
the Spartans held it, making it free and permitting its laws, and did
not succeed. So to hold it they were compelled to dismantle many
cities in the country, for in truth there is no safe way to retain
them otherwise than by ruining them. And he who becomes master of a
city accustomed to freedom and does not destroy it, may expect to be
destroyed by it, for in rebellion it has always the watchword of
liberty and its ancient privileges as a rallying point, which neither
time nor benefits will ever cause it to forget. And whatever you may
do or provide against, they never forget that name or their privileges
unless they are disunited or dispersed, but at every chance they
immediately rally to them, as Pisa after the hundred years she had
been held in bondage by the Florentines.

But when cities or countries are accustomed to live under a prince,
and his family is exterminated, they, being on the one hand accustomed
to obey and on the other hand not having the old prince, cannot agree
in making one from amongst themselves, and they do not know how to
govern themselves. For this reason they are very slow to take up arms,
and a prince can gain them to himself and secure them much more
easily. But in republics there is more vitality, greater hatred, and
more desire for vengeance, which will never permit them to allow the
memory of their former liberty to rest; so that the safest way is to
destroy them or to reside there.



Let no one be surprised if, in speaking of entirely new principalities
as I shall do, I adduce the highest examples both of prince and of
state; because men, walking almost always in paths beaten by others,
and following by imitation their deeds, are yet unable to keep
entirely to the ways of others or attain to the power of those they
imitate. A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great
men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his
ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it. Let him
act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet
appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength
of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark, not to reach
by their strength or arrow to so great a height, but to be able with
the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach.

I say, therefore, that in entirely new principalities, where there is
a new prince, more or less difficulty is found in keeping them,
accordingly as there is more or less ability in him who has acquired
the state. Now, as the fact of becoming a prince from a private
station presupposes either ability or fortune, it is clear that one or
other of these things will mitigate in some degree many difficulties.
Nevertheless, he who has relied least on fortune is established the
strongest. Further, it facilitates matters when the prince, having no
other state, is compelled to reside there in person.

But to come to those who, by their own ability and not through
fortune, have risen to be princes, I say that Moses, Cyrus, Romulus,
Theseus, and such like are the most excellent examples. And although
one may not discuss Moses, he having been a mere executor of the will
of God, yet he ought to be admired, if only for that favour which made
him worthy to speak with God. But in considering Cyrus and others who
have acquired or founded kingdoms, all will be found admirable; and if
their particular deeds and conduct shall be considered, they will not
be found inferior to those of Moses, although he had so great a
preceptor. And in examining their actions and lives one cannot see
that they owed anything to fortune beyond opportunity, which brought
them the material to mould into the form which seemed best to them.
Without that opportunity their powers of mind would have been
extinguished, and without those powers the opportunity would have come
in vain.

It was necessary, therefore, to Moses that he should find the people
of Israel in Egypt enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians, in order
that they should be disposed to follow him so as to be delivered out
of bondage. It was necessary that Romulus should not remain in Alba,
and that he should be abandoned at his birth, in order that he should
become King of Rome and founder of the fatherland. It was necessary
that Cyrus should find the Persians discontented with the government
of the Medes, and the Medes soft and effeminate through their long
peace. Theseus could not have shown his ability had he not found the
Athenians dispersed. These opportunities, therefore, made those men
fortunate, and their high ability enabled them to recognize the
opportunity whereby their country was ennobled and made famous.

Those who by valorous ways become princes, like these men, acquire a
principality with difficulty, but they keep it with ease. The
difficulties they have in acquiring it rise in part from the new rules
and methods which they are forced to introduce to establish their
government and its security. And it ought to be remembered that there
is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct,
or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the
introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for
enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and
lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This
coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws
on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not
readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of
them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the
opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others
defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along
with them.

It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to discuss this matter
thoroughly, to inquire whether these innovators can rely on themselves
or have to depend on others: that is to say, whether, to consummate
their enterprise, have they to use prayers or can they use force? In
the first instance they always succeed badly, and never compass
anything; but when they can rely on themselves and use force, then
they are rarely endangered. Hence it is that all armed prophets have
conquered, and the unarmed ones have been destroyed. Besides the
reasons mentioned, the nature of the people is variable, and whilst it
is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix them in that
persuasion. And thus it is necessary to take such measures that, when
they believe no longer, it may be possible to make them believe by

If Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus had been unarmed they could not
have enforced their constitutions for long--as happened in our time to
Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was ruined with his new order of things
immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no
means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the
unbelievers to believe. Therefore such as these have great
difficulties in consummating their enterprise, for all their dangers
are in the ascent, yet with ability they will overcome them; but when
these are overcome, and those who envied them their success are
exterminated, they will begin to be respected, and they will continue
afterwards powerful, secure, honoured, and happy.

To these great examples I wish to add a lesser one; still it bears
some resemblance to them, and I wish it to suffice me for all of a
like kind: it is Hiero the Syracusan.[*] This man rose from a private
station to be Prince of Syracuse, nor did he, either, owe anything to
fortune but opportunity; for the Syracusans, being oppressed, chose
him for their captain, afterwards he was rewarded by being made their
prince. He was of so great ability, even as a private citizen, that
one who writes of him says he wanted nothing but a kingdom to be a
king. This man abolished the old soldiery, organized the new, gave up
old alliances, made new ones; and as he had his own soldiers and
allies, on such foundations he was able to build any edifice: thus,
whilst he had endured much trouble in acquiring, he had but little in

[*] Hiero II, born about 307 B.C., died 216 B.C.



Those who solely by good fortune become princes from being private
citizens have little trouble in rising, but much in keeping atop; they
have not any difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they
have many when they reach the summit. Such are those to whom some
state is given either for money or by the favour of him who bestows
it; as happened to many in Greece, in the cities of Ionia and of the
Hellespont, where princes were made by Darius, in order that they
might hold the cities both for his security and his glory; as also
were those emperors who, by the corruption of the soldiers, from being
citizens came to empire. Such stand simply elevated upon the goodwill
and the fortune of him who has elevated them--two most inconstant and
unstable things. Neither have they the knowledge requisite for the
position; because, unless they are men of great worth and ability, it
is not reasonable to expect that they should know how to command,
having always lived in a private condition; besides, they cannot hold
it because they have not forces which they can keep friendly and

States that rise unexpectedly, then, like all other things in nature
which are born and grow rapidly, cannot leave their foundations and
correspondencies[*] fixed in such a way that the first storm will not
overthrow them; unless, as is said, those who unexpectedly become
princes are men of so much ability that they know they have to be
prepared at once to hold that which fortune has thrown into their
laps, and that those foundations, which others have laid BEFORE they
became princes, they must lay AFTERWARDS.

[*] "Le radici e corrispondenze," their roots (i.e. foundations) and
correspondencies or relations with other states--a common meaning
of "correspondence" and "correspondency" in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries.

Concerning these two methods of rising to be a prince by ability or
fortune, I wish to adduce two examples within our own recollection,
and these are Francesco Sforza[*] and Cesare Borgia. Francesco, by
proper means and with great ability, from being a private person rose
to be Duke of Milan, and that which he had acquired with a thousand
anxieties he kept with little trouble. On the other hand, Cesare
Borgia, called by the people Duke Valentino, acquired his state during
the ascendancy of his father, and on its decline he lost it,
notwithstanding that he had taken every measure and done all that
ought to be done by a wise and able man to fix firmly his roots in the
states which the arms and fortunes of others had bestowed on him.

[*] Francesco Sforza, born 1401, died 1466. He married Bianca Maria
Visconti, a natural daughter of Filippo Visconti, the Duke of
Milan, on whose death he procured his own elevation to the duchy.
Machiavelli was the accredited agent of the Florentine Republic to
Cesare Borgia (1478-1507) during the transactions which led up to
the assassinations of the Orsini and Vitelli at Sinigalia, and
along with his letters to his chiefs in Florence he has left an
account, written ten years before "The Prince," of the proceedings
of the duke in his "Descritione del modo tenuto dal duca Valentino
nello ammazzare Vitellozzo Vitelli," etc., a translation of which
is appended to the present work.

Because, as is stated above, he who has not first laid his foundations
may be able with great ability to lay them afterwards, but they will
be laid with trouble to the architect and danger to the building. If,
therefore, all the steps taken by the duke be considered, it will be
seen that he laid solid foundations for his future power, and I do not
consider it superfluous to discuss them, because I do not know what
better precepts to give a new prince than the example of his actions;
and if his dispositions were of no avail, that was not his fault, but
the extraordinary and extreme malignity of fortune.

Alexander the Sixth, in wishing to aggrandize the duke, his son, had
many immediate and prospective difficulties. Firstly, he did not see
his way to make him master of any state that was not a state of the
Church; and if he was willing to rob the Church he knew that the Duke
of Milan and the Venetians would not consent, because Faenza and
Rimini were already under the protection of the Venetians. Besides
this, he saw the arms of Italy, especially those by which he might
have been assisted, in hands that would fear the aggrandizement of the
Pope, namely, the Orsini and the Colonnesi and their following. It
behoved him, therefore, to upset this state of affairs and embroil the
powers, so as to make himself securely master of part of their states.
This was easy for him to do, because he found the Venetians, moved by
other reasons, inclined to bring back the French into Italy; he would
not only not oppose this, but he would render it more easy by
dissolving the former marriage of King Louis. Therefore the king came
into Italy with the assistance of the Venetians and the consent of
Alexander. He was no sooner in Milan than the Pope had soldiers from
him for the attempt on the Romagna, which yielded to him on the
reputation of the king. The duke, therefore, having acquired the
Romagna and beaten the Colonnesi, while wishing to hold that and to
advance further, was hindered by two things: the one, his forces did
not appear loyal to him, the other, the goodwill of France: that is to
say, he feared that the forces of the Orsini, which he was using,
would not stand to him, that not only might they hinder him from
winning more, but might themselves seize what he had won, and that the
king might also do the same. Of the Orsini he had a warning when,
after taking Faenza and attacking Bologna, he saw them go very
unwillingly to that attack. And as to the king, he learned his mind
when he himself, after taking the Duchy of Urbino, attacked Tuscany,
and the king made him desist from that undertaking; hence the duke
decided to depend no more upon the arms and the luck of others.

For the first thing he weakened the Orsini and Colonnesi parties in
Rome, by gaining to himself all their adherents who were gentlemen,
making them his gentlemen, giving them good pay, and, according to
their rank, honouring them with office and command in such a way that
in a few months all attachment to the factions was destroyed and
turned entirely to the duke. After this he awaited an opportunity to
crush the Orsini, having scattered the adherents of the Colonna house.
This came to him soon and he used it well; for the Orsini, perceiving
at length that the aggrandizement of the duke and the Church was ruin
to them, called a meeting of the Magione in Perugia. From this sprung
the rebellion at Urbino and the tumults in the Romagna, with endless
dangers to the duke, all of which he overcame with the help of the
French. Having restored his authority, not to leave it at risk by
trusting either to the French or other outside forces, he had recourse
to his wiles, and he knew so well how to conceal his mind that, by the
mediation of Signor Pagolo--whom the duke did not fail to secure with
all kinds of attention, giving him money, apparel, and horses--the
Orsini were reconciled, so that their simplicity brought them into his
power at Sinigalia.[*] Having exterminated the leaders, and turned
their partisans into his friends, the duke laid sufficiently good
foundations to his power, having all the Romagna and the Duchy of
Urbino; and the people now beginning to appreciate their prosperity,
he gained them all over to himself. And as this point is worthy of
notice, and to be imitated by others, I am not willing to leave it

[*] Sinigalia, 31st December 1502.

When the duke occupied the Romagna he found it under the rule of weak
masters, who rather plundered their subjects than ruled them, and gave
them more cause for disunion than for union, so that the country was
full of robbery, quarrels, and every kind of violence; and so, wishing
to bring back peace and obedience to authority, he considered it
necessary to give it a good governor. Thereupon he promoted Messer
Ramiro d'Orco,[*] a swift and cruel man, to whom he gave the fullest
power. This man in a short time restored peace and unity with the
greatest success. Afterwards the duke considered that it was not
advisable to confer such excessive authority, for he had no doubt but
that he would become odious, so he set up a court of judgment in the
country, under a most excellent president, wherein all cities had
their advocates. And because he knew that the past severity had caused
some hatred against himself, so, to clear himself in the minds of the
people, and gain them entirely to himself, he desired to show that, if
any cruelty had been practised, it had not originated with him, but in
the natural sternness of the minister. Under this pretence he took
Ramiro, and one morning caused him to be executed and left on the
piazza at Cesena with the block and a bloody knife at his side. The
barbarity of this spectacle caused the people to be at once satisfied
and dismayed.

[*] Ramiro d'Orco. Ramiro de Lorqua.

But let us return whence we started. I say that the duke, finding
himself now sufficiently powerful and partly secured from immediate
dangers by having armed himself in his own way, and having in a great
measure crushed those forces in his vicinity that could injure him if
he wished to proceed with his conquest, had next to consider France,
for he knew that the king, who too late was aware of his mistake,
would not support him. And from this time he began to seek new
alliances and to temporize with France in the expedition which she was
making towards the kingdom of Naples against the Spaniards who were
besieging Gaeta. It was his intention to secure himself against them,
and this he would have quickly accomplished had Alexander lived.

Such was his line of action as to present affairs. But as to the
future he had to fear, in the first place, that a new successor to the
Church might not be friendly to him and might seek to take from him
that which Alexander had given him, so he decided to act in four ways.
Firstly, by exterminating the families of those lords whom he had
despoiled, so as to take away that pretext from the Pope. Secondly, by
winning to himself all the gentlemen of Rome, so as to be able to curb
the Pope with their aid, as has been observed. Thirdly, by converting
the college more to himself. Fourthly, by acquiring so much power
before the Pope should die that he could by his own measures resist
the first shock. Of these four things, at the death of Alexander, he
had accomplished three. For he had killed as many of the dispossessed
lords as he could lay hands on, and few had escaped; he had won over
the Roman gentlemen, and he had the most numerous party in the
college. And as to any fresh acquisition, he intended to become master
of Tuscany, for he already possessed Perugia and Piombino, and Pisa
was under his protection. And as he had no longer to study France (for
the French were already driven out of the kingdom of Naples by the
Spaniards, and in this way both were compelled to buy his goodwill),
he pounced down upon Pisa. After this, Lucca and Siena yielded at
once, partly through hatred and partly through fear of the
Florentines; and the Florentines would have had no remedy had he
continued to prosper, as he was prospering the year that Alexander
died, for he had acquired so much power and reputation that he would
have stood by himself, and no longer have depended on the luck and the
forces of others, but solely on his own power and ability.

But Alexander died five years after he had first drawn the sword. He
left the duke with the state of Romagna alone consolidated, with the
rest in the air, between two most powerful hostile armies, and sick
unto death. Yet there were in the duke such boldness and ability, and
he knew so well how men are to be won or lost, and so firm were the
foundations which in so short a time he had laid, that if he had not
had those armies on his back, or if he had been in good health, he
would have overcome all difficulties. And it is seen that his
foundations were good, for the Romagna awaited him for more than a
month. In Rome, although but half alive, he remained secure; and
whilst the Baglioni, the Vitelli, and the Orsini might come to Rome,
they could not effect anything against him. If he could not have made
Pope him whom he wished, at least the one whom he did not wish would
not have been elected. But if he had been in sound health at the death
of Alexander,[*] everything would have been different to him. On the
day that Julius the Second[+] was elected, he told me that he had
thought of everything that might occur at the death of his father, and
had provided a remedy for all, except that he had never anticipated
that, when the death did happen, he himself would be on the point to

[*] Alexander VI died of fever, 18th August 1503.

[+] Julius II was Giuliano della Rovere, Cardinal of San Pietro ad
Vincula, born 1443, died 1513.

When all the actions of the duke are recalled, I do not know how to
blame him, but rather it appears to be, as I have said, that I ought
to offer him for imitation to all those who, by the fortune or the
arms of others, are raised to government. Because he, having a lofty
spirit and far-reaching aims, could not have regulated his conduct
otherwise, and only the shortness of the life of Alexander and his own
sickness frustrated his designs. Therefore, he who considers it
necessary to secure himself in his new principality, to win friends,
to overcome either by force or fraud, to make himself beloved and
feared by the people, to be followed and revered by the soldiers, to
exterminate those who have power or reason to hurt him, to change the
old order of things for new, to be severe and gracious, magnanimous
and liberal, to destroy a disloyal soldiery and to create new, to
maintain friendship with kings and princes in such a way that they
must help him with zeal and offend with caution, cannot find a more
lively example than the actions of this man.

Only can he be blamed for the election of Julius the Second, in whom
he made a bad choice, because, as is said, not being able to elect a
Pope to his own mind, he could have hindered any other from being
elected Pope; and he ought never to have consented to the election of
any cardinal whom he had injured or who had cause to fear him if they
became pontiffs. For men injure either from fear or hatred. Those whom
he had injured, amongst others, were San Pietro ad Vincula, Colonna,
San Giorgio, and Ascanio.[*] The rest, in becoming Pope, had to fear
him, Rouen and the Spaniards excepted; the latter from their
relationship and obligations, the former from his influence, the
kingdom of France having relations with him. Therefore, above
everything, the duke ought to have created a Spaniard Pope, and,
failing him, he ought to have consented to Rouen and not San Pietro ad
Vincula. He who believes that new benefits will cause great personages
to forget old injuries is deceived. Therefore, the duke erred in his
choice, and it was the cause of his ultimate ruin.

[*] San Giorgio is Raffaello Riario. Ascanio is Ascanio Sforza.



Although a prince may rise from a private station in two ways, neither
of which can be entirely attributed to fortune or genius, yet it is
manifest to me that I must not be silent on them, although one could
be more copiously treated when I discuss republics. These methods are
when, either by some wicked or nefarious ways, one ascends to the
principality, or when by the favour of his fellow-citizens a private
person becomes the prince of his country. And speaking of the first
method, it will be illustrated by two examples--one ancient, the other
modern--and without entering further into the subject, I consider
these two examples will suffice those who may be compelled to follow

Agathocles, the Sicilian,[*] became King of Syracuse not only from a
private but from a low and abject position. This man, the son of a
potter, through all the changes in his fortunes always led an infamous
life. Nevertheless, he accompanied his infamies with so much ability
of mind and body that, having devoted himself to the military
profession, he rose through its ranks to be Praetor of Syracuse. Being
established in that position, and having deliberately resolved to make
himself prince and to seize by violence, without obligation to others,
that which had been conceded to him by assent, he came to an
understanding for this purpose with Amilcar, the Carthaginian, who,
with his army, was fighting in Sicily. One morning he assembled the
people and the senate of Syracuse, as if he had to discuss with them
things relating to the Republic, and at a given signal the soldiers
killed all the senators and the richest of the people; these dead, he
seized and held the princedom of that city without any civil
commotion. And although he was twice routed by the Carthaginians, and
ultimately besieged, yet not only was he able to defend his city, but
leaving part of his men for its defence, with the others he attacked
Africa, and in a short time raised the siege of Syracuse. The
Carthaginians, reduced to extreme necessity, were compelled to come to
terms with Agathocles, and, leaving Sicily to him, had to be content
with the possession of Africa.

[*] Agathocles the Sicilian, born 361 B.C., died 289 B.C.

Therefore, he who considers the actions and the genius of this man
will see nothing, or little, which can be attributed to fortune,
inasmuch as he attained pre-eminence, as is shown above, not by the
favour of any one, but step by step in the military profession, which
steps were gained with a thousand troubles and perils, and were
afterwards boldly held by him with many hazardous dangers. Yet it
cannot be called talent to slay fellow-citizens, to deceive friends,
to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may
gain empire, but not glory. Still, if the courage of Agathocles in
entering into and extricating himself from dangers be considered,
together with his greatness of mind in enduring and overcoming
hardships, it cannot be seen why he should be esteemed less than the
most notable captain. Nevertheless, his barbarous cruelty and
inhumanity with infinite wickedness do not permit him to be celebrated
among the most excellent men. What he achieved cannot be attributed
either to fortune or genius.

In our times, during the rule of Alexander the Sixth, Oliverotto da
Fermo, having been left an orphan many years before, was brought up by
his maternal uncle, Giovanni Fogliani, and in the early days of his
youth sent to fight under Pagolo Vitelli, that, being trained under
his discipline, he might attain some high position in the military
profession. After Pagolo died, he fought under his brother Vitellozzo,
and in a very short time, being endowed with wit and a vigorous body
and mind, he became the first man in his profession. But it appearing
a paltry thing to serve under others, he resolved, with the aid of
some citizens of Fermo, to whom the slavery of their country was
dearer than its liberty, and with the help of the Vitelleschi, to
seize Fermo. So he wrote to Giovanni Fogliani that, having been away
from home for many years, he wished to visit him and his city, and in
some measure to look upon his patrimony; and although he had not
laboured to acquire anything except honour, yet, in order that the
citizens should see he had not spent his time in vain, he desired to
come honourably, so would be accompanied by one hundred horsemen, his
friends and retainers; and he entreated Giovanni to arrange that he
should be received honourably by the Fermians, all of which would be
not only to his honour, but also to that of Giovanni himself, who had
brought him up.

Giovanni, therefore, did not fail in any attentions due to his nephew,
and he caused him to be honourably received by the Fermians, and he
lodged him in his own house, where, having passed some days, and
having arranged what was necessary for his wicked designs, Oliverotto
gave a solemn banquet to which he invited Giovanni Fogliani and the
chiefs of Fermo. When the viands and all the other entertainments that
are usual in such banquets were finished, Oliverotto artfully began
certain grave discourses, speaking of the greatness of Pope Alexander
and his son Cesare, and of their enterprises, to which discourse
Giovanni and others answered; but he rose at once, saying that such
matters ought to be discussed in a more private place, and he betook
himself to a chamber, whither Giovanni and the rest of the citizens
went in after him. No sooner were they seated than soldiers issued
from secret places and slaughtered Giovanni and the rest. After these
murders Oliverotto, mounted on horseback, rode up and down the town
and besieged the chief magistrate in the palace, so that in fear the
people were forced to obey him, and to form a government, of which he
made himself the prince. He killed all the malcontents who were able
to injure him, and strengthened himself with new civil and military
ordinances, in such a way that, in the year during which he held the
principality, not only was he secure in the city of Fermo, but he had
become formidable to all his neighbours. And his destruction would
have been as difficult as that of Agathocles if he had not allowed
himself to be overreached by Cesare Borgia, who took him with the
Orsini and Vitelli at Sinigalia, as was stated above. Thus one year
after he had committed this parricide, he was strangled, together with
Vitellozzo, whom he had made his leader in valour and wickedness.

Some may wonder how it can happen that Agathocles, and his like, after
infinite treacheries and cruelties, should live for long secure in his
country, and defend himself from external enemies, and never be
conspired against by his own citizens; seeing that many others, by
means of cruelty, have never been able even in peaceful times to hold
the state, still less in the doubtful times of war. I believe that
this follows from severities[*] being badly or properly used. Those
may be called properly used, if of evil it is possible to speak well,
that are applied at one blow and are necessary to one's security, and
that are not persisted in afterwards unless they can be turned to the
advantage of the subjects. The badly employed are those which,
notwithstanding they may be few in the commencement, multiply with
time rather than decrease. Those who practise the first system are
able, by aid of God or man, to mitigate in some degree their rule, as
Agathocles did. It is impossible for those who follow the other to
maintain themselves.

[*] Mr Burd suggests that this word probably comes near the modern
equivalent of Machiavelli's thought when he speaks of "crudelta"
than the more obvious "cruelties."

Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought
to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for
him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to
repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to
reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does
otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to
keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor
can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and
repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so
that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given
little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.

And above all things, a prince ought to live amongst his people in
such a way that no unexpected circumstances, whether of good or evil,
shall make him change; because if the necessity for this comes in
troubled times, you are too late for harsh measures; and mild ones
will not help you, for they will be considered as forced from you, and
no one will be under any obligation to you for them.



But coming to the other point--where a leading citizen becomes the
prince of his country, not by wickedness or any intolerable violence,
but by the favour of his fellow citizens--this may be called a civil
principality: nor is genius or fortune altogether necessary to attain
to it, but rather a happy shrewdness. I say then that such a
principality is obtained either by the favour of the people or by the
favour of the nobles. Because in all cities these two distinct parties
are found, and from this it arises that the people do not wish to be
ruled nor oppressed by the nobles, and the nobles wish to rule and
oppress the people; and from these two opposite desires there arises
in cities one of three results, either a principality, self-
government, or anarchy.

A principality is created either by the people or by the nobles,
accordingly as one or other of them has the opportunity; for the
nobles, seeing they cannot withstand the people, begin to cry up the
reputation of one of themselves, and they make him a prince, so that
under his shadow they can give vent to their ambitions. The people,
finding they cannot resist the nobles, also cry up the reputation of
one of themselves, and make him a prince so as to be defended by his
authority. He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles
maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the
aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around
him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can
neither rule nor manage them to his liking. But he who reaches
sovereignty by popular favour finds himself alone, and has none around
him, or few, who are not prepared to obey him.

Besides this, one cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to
others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their
object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing
to oppress, while the former only desire not to be oppressed. It is to
be added also that a prince can never secure himself against a hostile
people, because of their being too many, whilst from the nobles he can
secure himself, as they are few in number. The worst that a prince may
expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned by them; but from
hostile nobles he has not only to fear abandonment, but also that they
will rise against him; for they, being in these affairs more far-
seeing and astute, always come forward in time to save themselves, and
to obtain favours from him whom they expect to prevail. Further, the
prince is compelled to live always with the same people, but he can do
well without the same nobles, being able to make and unmake them
daily, and to give or take away authority when it pleases him.

Therefore, to make this point clearer, I say that the nobles ought to
be looked at mainly in two ways: that is to say, they either shape
their course in such a way as binds them entirely to your fortune, or
they do not. Those who so bind themselves, and are not rapacious,
ought to be honoured and loved; those who do not bind themselves may
be dealt with in two ways; they may fail to do this through
pusillanimity and a natural want of courage, in which case you ought
to make use of them, especially of those who are of good counsel; and
thus, whilst in prosperity you honour them, in adversity you do not
have to fear them. But when for their own ambitious ends they shun
binding themselves, it is a token that they are giving more thought to
themselves than to you, and a prince ought to guard against such, and to
fear them as if they were open enemies, because in adversity they
always help to ruin him.

Therefore, one who becomes a prince through the favour of the people
ought to keep them friendly, and this he can easily do seeing they
only ask not to be oppressed by him. But one who, in opposition to the
people, becomes a prince by the favour of the nobles, ought, above
everything, to seek to win the people over to himself, and this he may
easily do if he takes them under his protection. Because men, when
they receive good from him of whom they were expecting evil, are bound
more closely to their benefactor; thus the people quickly become more
devoted to him than if he had been raised to the principality by their
favours; and the prince can win their affections in many ways, but as
these vary according to the circumstances one cannot give fixed rules,
so I omit them; but, I repeat, it is necessary for a prince to have
the people friendly, otherwise he has no security in adversity.

Nabis,[*] Prince of the Spartans, sustained the attack of all Greece,
and of a victorious Roman army, and against them he defended his
country and his government; and for the overcoming of this peril it
was only necessary for him to make himself secure against a few, but
this would not have been sufficient had the people been hostile. And
do not let any one impugn this statement with the trite proverb that
"He who builds on the people, builds on the mud," for this is true
when a private citizen makes a foundation there, and persuades himself
that the people will free him when he is oppressed by his enemies or
by the magistrates; wherein he would find himself very often deceived,
as happened to the Gracchi in Rome and to Messer Giorgio Scali[+] in
Florence. But granted a prince who has established himself as above,
who can command, and is a man of courage, undismayed in adversity, who
does not fail in other qualifications, and who, by his resolution and
energy, keeps the whole people encouraged--such a one will never find
himself deceived in them, and it will be shown that he has laid his
foundations well.

[*] Nabis, tyrant of Sparta, conquered by the Romans under Flamininus
in 195 B.C.; killed 192 B.C.

[+] Messer Giorgio Scali. This event is to be found in Machiavelli's
"Florentine History," Book III.

These principalities are liable to danger when they are passing from
the civil to the absolute order of government, for such princes either
rule personally or through magistrates. In the latter case their
government is weaker and more insecure, because it rests entirely on
the goodwill of those citizens who are raised to the magistracy, and
who, especially in troubled times, can destroy the government with
great ease, either by intrigue or open defiance; and the prince has
not the chance amid tumults to exercise absolute authority, because
the citizens and subjects, accustomed to receive orders from
magistrates, are not of a mind to obey him amid these confusions, and
there will always be in doubtful times a scarcity of men whom he can
trust. For such a prince cannot rely upon what he observes in quiet
times, when citizens have need of the state, because then every one
agrees with him; they all promise, and when death is far distant they
all wish to die for him; but in troubled times, when the state has
need of its citizens, then he finds but few. And so much the more is
this experiment dangerous, inasmuch as it can only be tried once.
Therefore a wise prince ought to adopt such a course that his citizens
will always in every sort and kind of circumstance have need of the
state and of him, and then he will always find them faithful.



It is necessary to consider another point in examining the character
of these principalities: that is, whether a prince has such power
that, in case of need, he can support himself with his own resources,
or whether he has always need of the assistance of others. And to make
this quite clear I say that I consider those who are able to support
themselves by their own resources who can, either by abundance of men
or money, raise a sufficient army to join battle against any one who
comes to attack them; and I consider those always to have need of
others who cannot show themselves against the enemy in the field, but
are forced to defend themselves by sheltering behind walls. The first
case has been discussed, but we will speak of it again should it
recur. In the second case one can say nothing except to encourage such
princes to provision and fortify their towns, and not on any account
to defend the country. And whoever shall fortify his town well, and
shall have managed the other concerns of his subjects in the way
stated above, and to be often repeated, will never be attacked without
great caution, for men are always adverse to enterprises where
difficulties can be seen, and it will be seen not to be an easy thing
to attack one who has his town well fortified, and is not hated by his

The cities of Germany are absolutely free, they own but little country
around them, and they yield obedience to the emperor when it suits
them, nor do they fear this or any other power they may have near
them, because they are fortified in such a way that every one thinks
the taking of them by assault would be tedious and difficult, seeing
they have proper ditches and walls, they have sufficient artillery,
and they always keep in public depots enough for one year's eating,
drinking, and firing. And beyond this, to keep the people quiet and
without loss to the state, they always have the means of giving work
to the community in those labours that are the life and strength of
the city, and on the pursuit of which the people are supported; they
also hold military exercises in repute, and moreover have many
ordinances to uphold them.

Therefore, a prince who has a strong city, and had not made himself
odious, will not be attacked, or if any one should attack he will only
be driven off with disgrace; again, because that the affairs of this
world are so changeable, it is almost impossible to keep an army a
whole year in the field without being interfered with. And whoever
should reply: If the people have property outside the city, and see it
burnt, they will not remain patient, and the long siege and self-
interest will make them forget their prince; to this I answer that a
powerful and courageous prince will overcome all such difficulties by
giving at one time hope to his subjects that the evil will not be for
long, at another time fear of the cruelty of the enemy, then
preserving himself adroitly from those subjects who seem to him to be
too bold.

Further, the enemy would naturally on his arrival at once burn and
ruin the country at the time when the spirits of the people are still
hot and ready for the defence; and, therefore, so much the less ought
the prince to hesitate; because after a time, when spirits have
cooled, the damage is already done, the ills are incurred, and there
is no longer any remedy; and therefore they are so much the more ready
to unite with their prince, he appearing to be under obligations to
them now that their houses have been burnt and their possessions
ruined in his defence. For it is the nature of men to be bound by the
benefits they confer as much as by those they receive. Therefore, if
everything is well considered, it will not be difficult for a wise
prince to keep the minds of his citizens steadfast from first to last,
when he does not fail to support and defend them.



It only remains now to speak of ecclesiastical principalities,
touching which all difficulties are prior to getting possession,
because they are acquired either by capacity or good fortune, and they
can be held without either; for they are sustained by the ancient
ordinances of religion, which are so all-powerful, and of such a
character that the principalities may be held no matter how their
princes behave and live. These princes alone have states and do not
defend them; and they have subjects and do not rule them; and the
states, although unguarded, are not taken from them, and the subjects,
although not ruled, do not care, and they have neither the desire nor
the ability to alienate themselves. Such principalities only are
secure and happy. But being upheld by powers, to which the human mind
cannot reach, I shall speak no more of them, because, being exalted
and maintained by God, it would be the act of a presumptuous and rash
man to discuss them.

Nevertheless, if any one should ask of me how comes it that the Church
has attained such greatness in temporal power, seeing that from
Alexander backwards the Italian potentates (not only those who have
been called potentates, but every baron and lord, though the smallest)
have valued the temporal power very slightly--yet now a king of France
trembles before it, and it has been able to drive him from Italy, and
to ruin the Venetians--although this may be very manifest, it does not
appear to me superfluous to recall it in some measure to memory.

Before Charles, King of France, passed into Italy,[*] this country was
under the dominion of the Pope, the Venetians, the King of Naples, the
Duke of Milan, and the Florentines. These potentates had two principal
anxieties: the one, that no foreigner should enter Italy under arms;
the other, that none of themselves should seize more territory. Those
about whom there was the most anxiety were the Pope and the Venetians.
To restrain the Venetians the union of all the others was necessary,
as it was for the defence of Ferrara; and to keep down the Pope they
made use of the barons of Rome, who, being divided into two factions,
Orsini and Colonnesi, had always a pretext for disorder, and, standing
with arms in their hands under the eyes of the Pontiff, kept the
pontificate weak and powerless. And although there might arise
sometimes a courageous pope, such as Sixtus, yet neither fortune nor
wisdom could rid him of these annoyances. And the short life of a pope
is also a cause of weakness; for in the ten years, which is the
average life of a pope, he can with difficulty lower one of the
factions; and if, so to speak, one people should almost destroy the
Colonnesi, another would arise hostile to the Orsini, who would
support their opponents, and yet would not have time to ruin the
Orsini. This was the reason why the temporal powers of the pope were
little esteemed in Italy.

[*] Charles VIII invaded Italy in 1494.

Alexander the Sixth arose afterwards, who of all the pontiffs that
have ever been showed how a pope with both money and arms was able to
prevail; and through the instrumentality of the Duke Valentino, and by
reason of the entry of the French, he brought about all those things
which I have discussed above in the actions of the duke. And although
his intention was not to aggrandize the Church, but the duke,
nevertheless, what he did contributed to the greatness of the Church,
which, after his death and the ruin of the duke, became the heir to
all his labours.

Pope Julius came afterwards and found the Church strong, possessing
all the Romagna, the barons of Rome reduced to impotence, and, through
the chastisements of Alexander, the factions wiped out; he also found
the way open to accumulate money in a manner such as had never been
practised before Alexander's time. Such things Julius not only
followed, but improved upon, and he intended to gain Bologna, to ruin
the Venetians, and to drive the French out of Italy. All of these
enterprises prospered with him, and so much the more to his credit,
inasmuch as he did everything to strengthen the Church and not any
private person. He kept also the Orsini and Colonnesi factions within
the bounds in which he found them; and although there was among them
some mind to make disturbance, nevertheless he held two things firm:
the one, the greatness of the Church, with which he terrified them;
and the other, not allowing them to have their own cardinals, who
caused the disorders among them. For whenever these factions have
their cardinals they do not remain quiet for long, because cardinals
foster the factions in Rome and out of it, and the barons are
compelled to support them, and thus from the ambitions of prelates
arise disorders and tumults among the barons. For these reasons his
Holiness Pope Leo[*] found the pontificate most powerful, and it is to
be hoped that, if others made it great in arms, he will make it still
greater and more venerated by his goodness and infinite other virtues.

[*] Pope Leo X was the Cardinal de' Medici.



Having discoursed particularly on the characteristics of such
principalities as in the beginning I proposed to discuss, and having
considered in some degree the causes of their being good or bad, and
having shown the methods by which many have sought to acquire them and
to hold them, it now remains for me to discuss generally the means of
offence and defence which belong to each of them.

We have seen above how necessary it is for a prince to have his
foundations well laid, otherwise it follows of necessity he will go to
ruin. The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or
composite, are good laws and good arms; and as there cannot be good
laws where the state is not well armed, it follows that where they are
well armed they have good laws. I shall leave the laws out of the
discussion and shall speak of the arms.

I say, therefore, that the arms with which a prince defends his state
are either his own, or they are mercenaries, auxiliaries, or mixed.
Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one
holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor
safe; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline,
unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have
neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is
deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by
them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other
attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend,
which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are
ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if
war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should
have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by
nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on
mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared
valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed
what they were. Thus it was that Charles, King of France, was allowed
to seize Italy with chalk in hand;[*] and he who told us that our sins
were the cause of it told the truth, but they were not the sins he
imagined, but those which I have related. And as they were the sins of
princes, it is the princes who have also suffered the penalty.

[*] "With chalk in hand," "col gesso." This is one of the bons mots of
Alexander VI, and refers to the ease with which Charles VIII
seized Italy, implying that it was only necessary for him to send
his quartermasters to chalk up the billets for his soldiers to
conquer the country. Cf. "The History of Henry VII," by Lord
Bacon: "King Charles had conquered the realm of Naples, and lost
it again, in a kind of a felicity of a dream. He passed the whole
length of Italy without resistance: so that it was true what Pope
Alexander was wont to say: That the Frenchmen came into Italy with
chalk in their hands, to mark up their lodgings, rather than with
swords to fight."

I wish to demonstrate further the infelicity of these arms. The
mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they
are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own
greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others
contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you
are ruined in the usual way.

And if it be urged that whoever is armed will act in the same way,
whether mercenary or not, I reply that when arms have to be resorted
to, either by a prince or a republic, then the prince ought to go in
person and perform the duty of a captain; the republic has to send its
citizens, and when one is sent who does not turn out satisfactorily,
it ought to recall him, and when one is worthy, to hold him by the
laws so that he does not leave the command. And experience has shown
princes and republics, single-handed, making the greatest progress,
and mercenaries doing nothing except damage; and it is more difficult
to bring a republic, armed with its own arms, under the sway of one of
its citizens than it is to bring one armed with foreign arms. Rome and
Sparta stood for many ages armed and free. The Switzers are completely
armed and quite free.

Of ancient mercenaries, for example, there are the Carthaginians, who
were oppressed by their mercenary soldiers after the first war with
the Romans, although the Carthaginians had their own citizens for
captains. After the death of Epaminondas, Philip of Macedon was made
captain of their soldiers by the Thebans, and after victory he took
away their liberty.

Duke Filippo being dead, the Milanese enlisted Francesco Sforza
against the Venetians, and he, having overcome the enemy at
Caravaggio,[*] allied himself with them to crush the Milanese, his
masters. His father, Sforza, having been engaged by Queen Johanna[+]
of Naples, left her unprotected, so that she was forced to throw
herself into the arms of the King of Aragon, in order to save her
kingdom. And if the Venetians and Florentines formerly extended their
dominions by these arms, and yet their captains did not make
themselves princes, but have defended them, I reply that the
Florentines in this case have been favoured by chance, for of the able
captains, of whom they might have stood in fear, some have not
conquered, some have been opposed, and others have turned their
ambitions elsewhere. One who did not conquer was Giovanni Acuto,[%]
and since he did not conquer his fidelity cannot be proved; but every
one will acknowledge that, had he conquered, the Florentines would
have stood at his discretion. Sforza had the Bracceschi always against
him, so they watched each other. Francesco turned his ambition to
Lombardy; Braccio against the Church and the kingdom of Naples. But
let us come to that which happened a short while ago. The Florentines
appointed as their captain Pagolo Vitelli, a most prudent man, who
from a private position had risen to the greatest renown. If this man
had taken Pisa, nobody can deny that it would have been proper for the
Florentines to keep in with him, for if he became the soldier of their
enemies they had no means of resisting, and if they held to him they
must obey him. The Venetians, if their achievements are considered,
will be seen to have acted safely and gloriously so long as they sent
to war their own men, when with armed gentlemen and plebians they did
valiantly. This was before they turned to enterprises on land, but
when they began to fight on land they forsook this virtue and followed
the custom of Italy. And in the beginning of their expansion on land,
through not having much territory, and because of their great
reputation, they had not much to fear from their captains; but when
they expanded, as under Carmignuola,[#] they had a taste of this
mistake; for, having found him a most valiant man (they beat the Duke
of Milan under his leadership), and, on the other hand, knowing how
lukewarm he was in the war, they feared they would no longer conquer
under him, and for this reason they were not willing, nor were they
able, to let him go; and so, not to lose again that which they had
acquired, they were compelled, in order to secure themselves, to
murder him. They had afterwards for their captains Bartolomeo da
Bergamo, Roberto da San Severino, the count of Pitigliano,[&] and the
like, under whom they had to dread loss and not gain, as happened
afterwards at Vaila,[$] where in one battle they lost that which in
eight hundred years they had acquired with so much trouble. Because
from such arms conquests come but slowly, long delayed and
inconsiderable, but the losses sudden and portentous.

[*] Battle of Caravaggio, 15th September 1448.

[+] Johanna II of Naples, the widow of Ladislao, King of Naples.

[%] Giovanni Acuto. An English knight whose name was Sir John
Hawkwood. He fought in the English wars in France, and was
knighted by Edward III; afterwards he collected a body of troops
and went into Italy. These became the famous "White Company." He
took part in many wars, and died in Florence in 1394. He was born
about 1320 at Sible Hedingham, a village in Essex. He married
Domnia, a daughter of Bernabo Visconti.

[#] Carmignuola. Francesco Bussone, born at Carmagnola about 1390,
executed at Venice, 5th May 1432.

[&] Bartolomeo Colleoni of Bergamo; died 1457. Roberto of San
Severino; died fighting for Venice against Sigismund, Duke of
Austria, in 1487. "Primo capitano in Italia."--Machiavelli. Count
of Pitigliano; Nicolo Orsini, born 1442, died 1510.

[$] Battle of Vaila in 1509.

And as with these examples I have reached Italy, which has been ruled
for many years by mercenaries, I wish to discuss them more seriously,
in order that, having seen their rise and progress, one may be better
prepared to counteract them. You must understand that the empire has
recently come to be repudiated in Italy, that the Pope has acquired
more temporal power, and that Italy has been divided up into more
states, for the reason that many of the great cities took up arms
against their nobles, who, formerly favoured by the emperor, were
oppressing them, whilst the Church was favouring them so as to gain
authority in temporal power: in many others their citizens became
princes. From this it came to pass that Italy fell partly into the
hands of the Church and of republics, and, the Church consisting of
priests and the republic of citizens unaccustomed to arms, both
commenced to enlist foreigners.

The first who gave renown to this soldiery was Alberigo da Conio,[*]
the Romagnian. From the school of this man sprang, among others,
Braccio and Sforza, who in their time were the arbiters of Italy.
After these came all the other captains who till now have directed the
arms of Italy; and the end of all their valour has been, that she has
been overrun by Charles, robbed by Louis, ravaged by Ferdinand, and
insulted by the Switzers. The principle that has guided them has been,
first, to lower the credit of infantry so that they might increase
their own. They did this because, subsisting on their pay and without
territory, they were unable to support many soldiers, and a few
infantry did not give them any authority; so they were led to employ
cavalry, with a moderate force of which they were maintained and
honoured; and affairs were brought to such a pass that, in an army of
twenty thousand soldiers, there were not to be found two thousand foot
soldiers. They had, besides this, used every art to lessen fatigue and
danger to themselves and their soldiers, not killing in the fray, but
taking prisoners and liberating without ransom. They did not attack
towns at night, nor did the garrisons of the towns attack encampments
at night; they did not surround the camp either with stockade or
ditch, nor did they campaign in the winter. All these things were
permitted by their military rules, and devised by them to avoid, as I
have said, both fatigue and dangers; thus they have brought Italy to
slavery and contempt.

[*] Alberigo da Conio. Alberico da Barbiano, Count of Cunio in
Romagna. He was the leader of the famous "Company of St George,"
composed entirely of Italian soldiers. He died in 1409.



Auxiliaries, which are the other useless arm, are employed when a
prince is called in with his forces to aid and defend, as was done by
Pope Julius in the most recent times; for he, having, in the
enterprise against Ferrara, had poor proof of his mercenaries, turned
to auxiliaries, and stipulated with Ferdinand, King of Spain,[*] for
his assistance with men and arms. These arms may be useful and good in
themselves, but for him who calls them in they are always
disadvantageous; for losing, one is undone, and winning, one is their

[*] Ferdinand V (F. II of Aragon and Sicily, F. III of Naples),
surnamed "The Catholic," born 1542, died 1516.

And although ancient histories may be full of examples, I do not wish
to leave this recent one of Pope Julius the Second, the peril of which
cannot fail to be perceived; for he, wishing to get Ferrara, threw
himself entirely into the hands of the foreigner. But his good fortune
brought about a third event, so that he did not reap the fruit of his
rash choice; because, having his auxiliaries routed at Ravenna, and

Book of the day: