Niccolò Machiavelli

Italian diplomat and political and military theorist (1469–1527)

Niccolò Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was a Florentine Renaissance man, statesman, and writer. He was a diplomat and government official in the Medici period of the Florentine Republic.[2][3] Machiavelli is best known for writing about political philosophy. He also wrote poetry, plays, carnival songs, history books, military science books, and some of the best-known personal letters in the Italian language. His best known book is The Prince from 1513. It was not published until 1532, which was five years after he died.

Niccolò Machiavelli
A portrait of Macchiavelli, by Santi di Tito
A portrait of Macchiavelli, by Santi di Tito
Born(1469-05-03)May 3, 1469
Florence, Republic of Florence
DiedJune 21, 1527(1527-06-21) (aged 58)
Florence, Republic of Florence
PeriodItalian Renaissance
GenresNon-fiction, novellas, plays, poetry
SubjectsClassics, history, military science, philosophy, politics, royalty, virtue
Marietta Corsini (m. 1502)
Known forRealism theory

Philosophy career

Many people use the word Machiavellian to mean "evil" because his ideas have been viewed by some as wicked.[4][5] Many historians today still have debates on what he really thought. Nevertheless, Machiavelli is remembered for being an important realism theorist. But realism theory was actually already a big trend in Florence at the time.[6] Machiavelli's ideas are focused mostly on a unique understanding of virtue, statesmanship, and fortune (Latin: Fortuna).[2]



There are many interpretations of his thoughts. Some of his main thoughts were:[2][7]

  • Virtue doesn't always come from being morally good. A stable country or government also doesn't come from being morally good.
  • Free will controls almost half of human life, and the rest is controlled by chance or fortune (Latin: Fortuna).
  • A leader needs useful leadership virtues rather than ordinary virtues. Ordinary virtues can often be wrong for leaders.
  • Weaker virtues are less needed than stronger ones. Fortune (Latin: Fortuna) only respects strong virtues, and so do soldiers.
  • Greatness and excellence are the best examples to follow.
  • When people look at the past as it should have been and give up on the past as it was, they are giving up on survival. (See also: Nihilism)
  • Being hated is always worse than just being feared.
  • Relying less on things you can not control is a virtue. It is always best to know what limits you (including morals).
  • Knowing when to be good and when to be bad is a virtue. A leader should only use cruelty when they have to.
  • Trying to always be morally good usually ends badly. For leaders, it is better to be well liked.
  • A leader should not try to oppress people or interfere with their women and belongings. Otherwise things will end badly for them.
  • Leaders will not even listen to advice unless they are partly wise.
  • In times of peace, it is best to prepare for upcoming danger. It can be wise to choose situations where people's hard work is needed for survival.

The Prince

A statue of Niccolò Machiavelli, located at the Uffizi

The Prince is a political book by Niccolò Machiavelli. He first shared the book privately in 1513. But it was not published until 1532. The book gives instructions for how a prince or ruler should do politics.[6]

He looks especially at what he calls the "new prince", saying that a prince from a royal family has an easier job because the people are used to his family and the way of life. All that such a hereditary prince needs to do is carefully stick to the traditional ways of working that the people are used to. A new prince has a much more difficult job because he must get people used to his new power and build up new ways of working that people can get used to. This job means that the new prince has to act in a way people would not quickly criticize, but Machiavelli says this may mean doing bad but necessary things which people do not see or remember. Otherwise a new prince will find it difficult to get anything important done, or even to keep ruling.

Other books

  • The Discourses on Livy online 1772 edition Archived 2012-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
  • The Seven Books on the Art of War online 1772 edition Archived 2012-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  • History of Florence online 1901 edition
  • Reform of Florence online 1772 edition Archived 2012-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
  • The Private Correspondence of Niccolò Machiavelli, ed. Orestes Ferrara; 1929. online edition Archived 2009-06-23 at the Wayback Machine
  • Machiavelli, Niccolò (1985), Comedies of Machiavelli, University Press of New England Bilingual edition of The Woman from Andros, The Mandrake, and Clizia, edited by David Sices and James B. Atkinson.

Other websites



  1. Najemy, John M. (2010). The Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli. Cambridge University Press. p. 259.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Honeycutt, Kevin. "Niccolò Machiavelli (1469—1527)". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  3. Mansfield, Harvey. "Niccolò Machiavelli". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. Strauss, Leo, "Thoughts on Machiavelli" pg. 9
  5. Harvey Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov, "Introduction to the Discourses". In their translation of the Discourses on Livy
  6. 6.0 6.1 Grafton, Anthony (1999). Introduction. The Prince. By Machiavelli, Niccolò. Translated by Bull, George. London: Penguin. pp. xv–xxviii.
  7. Machiavelli, Niccolò (1532). The Prince. Translated by Bull, George. London: Penguin (published 1999).