NiccolÒ Machiavelli, The Prince (1532)

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)  



The Historical, Political, and Diplomatic Writings of Niccolo Machiavelli, translated from the Italian by Christian E. Detmold, in Four Volumes (Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1882).

  • vol. 2: Volume Ii: The Prince, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, Thoughts of a Statesman. In facs. PDF

See also the first edition of 1532 in facs. PDF.



Table of Contents






Those who desire to win the favor of princes generally endeavor to do so by offering them those things which they themselves prize most, or such as they observe the prince to delight in most. Thence it is that princes have very often presented to them horses, arms, cloth of gold, precious stones, and similar ornaments worthy of their greatness. Wishing now myself to offer to your Magnificence some proof of my devotion, I have found nothing amongst all I possess that I hold more dear or esteem more highly than the knowledge of the actions of great men, which I have acquired by long experience of modern affairs, and a continued study of ancient history.

These I have meditated upon for a long time, and examined with great care and diligence; and having now written them out in a small volume, I send this to your Magnificence. And although I judge this work unworthy of you, yet I trust that your kindness of heart may induce you to accept it, considering that I cannot offer you anything better than the means of understanding in the briefest time all that which I have learnt by so many years of study, and with so much trouble and danger to myself.

I have not set off this little work with pompous phrases, nor filled it with high-sounding and magnificent words, nor with any other allurements or extrinsic embellishments with which many are wont to write and adorn their works; for I wished that mine should derive credit only from the truth of the matter, and that the importance of the subject should make it acceptable.

And I hope it may not be accounted presumption if a man of lowly and humble station ventures to discuss and direct the conduct of princes; for as those who wish to delineate countries place themselves low in the plain to observe the form and character of mountains and high places, and for the purpose of studying the nature of the low country place themselves high upon an eminence, so one must be a prince to know well the character of the people, and to understand well the nature of a prince one must be of the people.

May your Magnificence then accept this little gift in the same spirit in which I send it; and if you will read and consider it well, you will recognize in it my desire that you may attain that greatness which fortune and your great qualities promise. And if your Magnificence will turn your eyes from the summit of your greatness towards those low places, you will know how undeservedly I have to bear the great and continued malice of fortune.


how many kinds of principalities there are, and in what manner they are acquired.

All states and governments that have had, and have at present, dominion over men, have been and are either republics or principalities.

The principalities are either hereditary or they are new. Hereditary principalities are those where the government has been for a long time in the family of the prince. New principalities are either entirely new, as was Milan to Francesco Sforza, or they are like appurtenances annexed to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them, as the kingdom of Naples is to that of Spain.

States thus acquired have been accustomed either to live under a prince, or to exist as free states; and they are acquired either by the arms of others, or by the conqueror’s own, or by fortune or valor.


of hereditary principalities.

I will not discuss here the subject of republics, having treated of them at length elsewhere, but will confine myself only to principalities; and following the above indicated order of distinctions, I will proceed to discuss how states of this kind should be governed and maintained. I say, then, that hereditary states, accustomed to the line of their prince, are maintained with much less difficulty than new states. For it is enough merely that the prince do not transcend the order of things established by his predecessors, and then to accommodate himself to events as they occur. So that if such a prince has but ordinary sagacity, he will always maintain himself in his state, unless some extraordinary and superior force should deprive him of it. And even in such a case he will recover it, whenever the occupant meets with any reverses. We have in Italy, for instance, the Duke of Ferrara, who could not have resisted the assaults of the Venetians in 1484, nor those of Pope Julius II. in 1510, but for the fact that his family had for a great length of time held the sovereignty of that dominion. For the natural prince has less cause and less necessity for irritating his subjects, whence it is reasonable that he should be more beloved. And unless extraordinary vices should cause him to be hated, he will naturally have the affection of his people. For in the antiquity and continuity of dominion the memory of innovations, and their causes, are effaced; for each change and alteration always prepares the way and facilitates the next.


of mixed principalities.

But it is in a new principality that difficulties present themselves. In the first place, if it be not entirely new, but composed of different parts, which when taken all together may as it were be called mixed, its mutations arise in the beginning from a natural difficulty, which is inherent in all new principalities, because men change their rulers gladly, in the belief that they will better themselves by the change. It is this belief that makes them take up arms against the reigning prince; but in this they deceive themselves, for they find afterwards from experience that they have only made their condition worse. This is the inevitable consequence of another natural and ordinary necessity, which ever obliges a new prince to vex his people with the maintenance of an armed force, and by an infinite number of other wrongs that follow in the train of new conquests. Thus the new prince finds that he has for enemies all those whom he has injured by seizing that principality; and at the same time he cannot preserve as friends even those who have aided him in obtaining possession, because he cannot satisfy their expectations, nor can he employ strong measures against them, being under obligations to them. For however strong a new prince may be in troops, yet will he always have need of the good will of the inhabitants, if he wishes to enter into firm possession of the country.

It was for these reasons that Louis XII., king of France, having suddenly made himself master of Milan, lost it as quickly, Lodovico Sforza’s own troops alone having sufficed to wrest it from him the first time. For the very people who had opened the gates to Louis XII., finding themselves deceived in their expectations of immediate as well as prospective advantages, soon became disgusted with the burdens imposed by the new prince.

It is very true that, having recovered such revolted provinces, it is easier to keep them in subjection; for the prince will avail himself of the occasion of the rebellion to secure himself, with less consideration for the people, by punishing the guilty, watching the suspected, and strengthening himself at all the weak points of the province. Thus a mere demonstration on the frontier by Lodovico Sforza lost Milan to the French the first time; but to make them lose it a second time required the whole world to be against them, and that their armies should be dispersed and driven out of Italy; which resulted from the reasons which I have explained above. Nevertheless, France lost Milan both the first and the second time.

The general causes of the first loss have been sufficiently explained; but it remains to be seen now what occasioned the loss of Milan to France the second time, and to point out the remedies which the king had at his command, and which might be employed by any other prince under similar circumstances to maintain himself in a conquered province, but which King Louis XII. failed to employ.

I will say then, first, that the states which a prince acquires and annexes to his own dominions are either in the same country, speaking the same language, or they are not. When they are, it is very easy to hold them, especially if they have not been accustomed to govern themselves; for in that case it suffices to extinguish the line of the prince who, till then, has ruled over them, but otherwise to maintain their old institutions. There being no difference in their manners and customs, the inhabitants will submit quietly, as we have seen in the case of Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony, and Normandy, which provinces have remained so long united to France. For although there are some differences of language, yet their customs are similar, and therefore they were easily reconciled to each other. Hence, in order to retain a newly acquired state, regard must be had to two things: one, that the line of the ancient sovereign be entirely extinguished; and the other, that the laws be not changed, nor the taxes increased, so that the new may, in the least possible time, be thoroughly incorporated with the ancient state.

But when states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, and laws, then come the difficulties, and then it requires great good-fortune and much sagacity to hold them; and one of the best and most efficient means is for the prince who has acquired them to go and reside there, which will make his possession more secure and durable. Such was the course adopted by the Turk in Greece, who even if he had respected all the institutions of that country, yet could not possibly have succeeded in holding it, if he had not gone to reside there. For being on the spot, you can quickly remedy disorders as you see them arise; but not being there, you do not hear of them until they have become so great that there is no longer any remedy for them. Besides this, the country will not be despoiled by your officials, and the subjects will be satisfied by the easy recourse to the prince who is near them, which contributes to win their affections, if they are well disposed, and to inspire them with fear, if otherwise. And other powers will hesitate to assail a state where the prince himself resides, as they would find it very difficult to dispossess him.

The next best means for holding a newly acquired state is to establish colonies in one or two places that are as it were the keys to the country. Unless this is done, it will be necessary to keep a large force of men-at-arms and infantry there for its protection. Colonies are not very expensive to the prince; they can be established and maintained at little, if any, cost to him; and only those of the inhabitants will be injured by him whom he deprives of their homes and fields, for the purpose of bestowing them upon the colonists; and this will be the case only with a very small minority of the original inhabitants. And as those who are thus injured by him become dispersed and poor, they can never do him any harm, whilst all the other inhabitants remain on the one hand uninjured, and therefore easily kept quiet, and on the other hand they are afraid to stir, lest they should be despoiled as the others have been. I conclude then that such colonies are inexpensive, and are more faithful to the prince and less injurious to the inhabitants generally; whilst those who are injured by their establishment become poor and dispersed, and therefore unable to do any harm, as I have already said. And here we must observe that men must either be flattered or crushed; for they will revenge themselves for slight wrongs, whilst for grave ones they cannot. The injury therefore that you do to a man should be such that you need not fear his revenge.

But if instead of colonies an armed force be sent for the preservation of a newly acquired province, then it will involve much greater expenditures, so that the support of such a guard may consume the entire revenue of the province; so that this acquisition may prove an actual loss, and will moreover give greater offence, because the whole population will feel aggrieved by having the armed force quartered upon them in turn. Every one that is made to suffer from this inconvenience will become an enemy; and these are enemies that can injure the prince, for although beaten yet they remain in their homes. In every point of view, then, such a military guard is disadvantageous, just as colonies are most useful.

A prince, moreover, who wishes to keep possession of a country that is separate and unlike his own, must make himself the chief and protector of the smaller neighboring powers. He must endeavor to weaken the most powerful of them, and must take care that by no chance a stranger enter that province who is equally powerful with himself; for strangers are never called in except by those whom an undue ambition or fear have rendered malcontents. It was thus in fact that the Ætolians called the Romans into Greece; and whatever other country the Romans entered, it was invariably at the request of the inhabitants.

The way in which these things happen is generally thus: so soon as a powerful foreigner enters a province, all those of its inhabitants that are less powerful will give him their adhesion, being influenced thereto by their jealousy of him who has hitherto been their superior. So that, as regards these petty lords, the new prince need not be at any trouble to win them over to himself, as they will all most readily become incorporated with the state which he has there acquired. He has merely to see to it that they do not assume too much authority, or acquire too much power; for he will then be able by their favor, and by his own strength, very easily to humble those who are really powerful; so that he will in all respects remain the sole arbiter of that province. And he who does not manage this part well will quickly lose what he has acquired; and whilst he holds it, he will experience infinite difficulties and vexations. The Romans observed these points most carefully in the provinces which they conquered; they established colonies there, and sustained the feebler chiefs without increasing their power, whilst they humbled the stronger, and permitted no powerful stranger to acquire any influence or credit there. I will confine myself for an example merely to the provinces of Greece. The Romans sustained the Achaians and the Ætolians, whilst they humbled the kingdom of Macedon and expelled Antiochus from his dominions; but neither the merits of the Achaians or of the Ætolians caused the Romans to permit either of them to increase in power; nor could the persuasions of Philip induce the Romans to become his friends until after first having humbled his power; nor could the power of Antiochus make them consent that he should hold any state in that province.

Thus in all these cases the Romans did what all wise princes ought to do; namely, not only to look to all present troubles, but also to those of the future, against which they provided with the utmost prudence. For it is by foreseeing difficulties from afar that they are easily provided against; but awaiting their near approach, remedies are no longer in time, for the malady has become incurable. It happens in such cases, as the doctors say of consumption, that in the early stages it is easy to cure, but difficult to recognize; whilst in the course of time, the disease not having been recognized and cured in the beginning, it becomes easy to know, but difficult to cure. And thus it is in the affairs of state; for when the evils that arise in it are seen far ahead, which it is given only to a wise prince to do, then they are easily remedied; but when, in consequence of not having been foreseen, these evils are allowed to grow and assume such proportions that they become manifest to every one, then they can no longer be remedied.

The Romans therefore, on seeing troubles far ahead, always strove to avert them in time, and never permitted their growth merely for the sake of avoiding a war, well knowing that the war would not be prevented, and that to defer it would only be an advantage to others; and for these reasons they resolved upon attacking Philip and Antiochus in Greece, so as to prevent these from making war upon them in Italy. They might at the time have avoided both the one and the other, but would not do it; nor did they ever fancy the saying which is nowadays in the mouth of every wiseacre, “to bide the advantages of time,” but preferred those of their own valor and prudence; for time drives all things before it, and may lead to good as well as to evil, and to evil as well as to good.

But let us return to France, and examine whether she has done any one of the things that we have spoken of. I will say nothing of Charles VIII., but only of Louis XII., whose proceedings we are better able to understand, as he held possession of Italy for a greater length of time. And we shall see how he did the very opposite of what he should have done, for the purpose of holding a state so unlike his own.

King Louis XII. was called into Italy by the ambition of the Venetians, who wanted him to aid them in conquering a portion of Lombardy. I will not blame the king for the part he took; for, wishing to gain a foothold in Italy, and having no allies there, but rather finding the gates everywhere closed against him in consequence of the conduct of King Charles VIII., he was obliged to avail himself of such friends as he could find; and would have succeeded in his attempt, which was well planned, but for an error which he committed in his subsequent conduct. The king, then, having conquered Lombardy, quickly recovered that reputation which his predecessor, Charles VIII., had lost. Genoa yielded; the Florentines became his friends; the Marquis of Mantua, the Duke of Ferrara, the Bentivogli, the lady of Furli, the lords of Faenza, Pesaro, Rimini, Camerino, and Piombino, the Lucchese, the Pisanese, and the Siennese, all came to meet him with offers of friendship. The Venetians might then have recognized the folly of their course, when, for the sake of gaining two cities in Lombardy, they made King Louis master of two thirds of Italy.

Let us see now how easily the king might have maintained his influence in Italy if he had observed the rules above given. Had he secured and protected all these friends of his, who were numerous but feeble, — some fearing the Church, and some the Venetians, and therefore all forced to adhere to him, — he might easily have secured himself against the remaining stronger powers of Italy. But no sooner in Milan than he did the very opposite, by giving aid to Pope Alexander VI. to enable him to seize the Romagna. Nor did he perceive that in doing this he weakened himself, by alienating his friends and those who had thrown themselves into his arms; and that he had made the Church great by adding so much temporal to its spiritual power, which gave it already so much authority. Having committed this first error, he was obliged to follow it up; so that, for the purpose of putting an end to the ambition of Pope Alexander VI., and preventing his becoming master of Tuscany, he was obliged to come into Italy.

Not content with having made the Church great, and with having alienated his own friends, King Louis, in his eagerness to possess the kingdom of Naples, shared it with the king of Spain; so that where he had been the sole arbiter of Italy, he established an associate and rival, to whom the ambitious and the malcontents might have a ready recourse. And whilst he could have left a king in Naples who would have been his tributary, he dispossessed him, for the sake of replacing him by another who was powerful enough in turn to drive him out.

The desire of conquest is certainly most natural and common amongst men, and whenever they yield to it and are successful, they are praised; but when they lack the means, and yet attempt it anyhow, then they commit an error that merits blame. If, then, the king of France was powerful enough by himself successfully to attack the kingdom of Naples, then he was right to do so; but if he was not, then he should not have divided it with the king of Spain. And if the partition of Lombardy with the Venetians was excusable because it enabled him to gain a foothold in Italy, that of Naples with the Spaniard deserves censure, as it cannot be excused on the ground of necessity.

Louis XII. then committed these five errors: he destroyed the weak; he increased the power of one already powerful in Italy; he established a most powerful stranger there; he did not go to reside there himself; nor did he plant any colonies there. These errors, however, would not have injured him during his lifetime, had he not committed a sixth one in attempting to deprive the Venetians of their possessions. For if Louis had not increased the power of the Church, nor established the Spaniards in Italy, it would have been quite reasonable, and even advisable, for him to have weakened the Venetians; but having done both those things, he ought never to have consented to their ruin; for so long as the Venetians were powerful, they would always have kept others from any attempt upon Lombardy. They would on the one hand never have permitted this unless it should have led to their becoming masters of it, and on the other hand no one would have taken it from France for the sake of giving it to the Venetians; nor would any one have had the courage to attack the French and the Venetians combined. And should it be said that King Louis gave up the Romagna to Pope Alexander VI., and divided the kingdom of Naples with the Spaniard for the sake of avoiding a war, then I reply with the above stated reasons, that no one should ever submit to an evil for the sake of avoiding a war. For a war is never avoided, but is only deferred to one’s own disadvantage.

And should it be argued, on the other hand, that the king felt bound by the pledge which he had given to the Pope to conquer the Romagna for him in consideration of his dissolving the king’s marriage, and of his bestowing the cardinal’s hat upon the Archbishop of Rouen, then I meet that argument with what I shall say further on concerning the pledges of princes, and the manner in which they should keep them.

King Louis then lost Lombardy by not having conformed to any one of the conditions that have been observed by others, who, having conquered provinces, wanted to keep them. Nor is this at all to be wondered at, for it is quite reasonable and common. I conversed on this subject with the Archbishop of Rouen (Cardinal d’Amboise) whilst at Nantes, when the Duke Valentino, commonly called Cesar Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI., made himself master of the Romagna. On that occasion the Cardinal said to me, that the Italians did not understand the art of war. To which I replied that the French did not understand statesmanship; for if they had understood it, they would never have allowed the Church to attain such greatness and power. For experience proves that the greatness of the Church and that of Spain in Italy were brought about by France, and that her own ruin resulted therefrom. From this we draw the general rule, which never or rarely fails, that the prince who causes another to become powerful thereby works his own ruin; for he has contributed to the power of the other either by his own ability or force, and both the one and the other will be mistrusted by him whom he has thus made powerful.


why the kingdom of darius, which was conquered by alexander, did not revolt against the successors of alexander after his death.

If we reflect upon the difficulties of preserving a newly acquired state, it seems marvellous that, after the rapid conquest of all Asia by Alexander the Great, and his subsequent death, which one would suppose most naturally to have provoked the whole country to revolt, yet his successors maintained their possession of it, and experienced no other difficulties in holding it than such as arose amongst themselves from their own ambition.

I meet this observation by saying that all principalities of which we have any accounts have been governed in one of two ways; viz. either by one absolute prince, to whom all others are as slaves, some of whom, as ministers, by his grace and consent, aid him in the government of his realm; or else by a prince and nobles, who hold that rank, not by the grace of their sovereign, but by the antiquity of their lineage. Such nobles have estates and subjects of their own, who recognize them as their liege lords, and have a natural affection for them.

In those states that are governed by an absolute prince and slaves, the prince has far more power and authority; for in his entire dominion no one recognizes any other superior but him; and if they obey any one else, they do it as though to his minister and officer, and without any particular affection for such official. Turkey and France furnish us examples of these two different systems of government at the present time. The whole country of the Turk is governed by one master; all the rest are his slaves; and having divided the country into Sanjacs, or districts, he appoints governors for each of these, whom he changes and replaces at his pleasure.

But the king of France is placed in the midst of a large number of ancient nobles, who are recognized and acknowledged by their subjects as their lords, and are held in great affection by them. They have their rank and prerogatives, of which the king cannot deprive them without danger to himself. In observing now these two principalities, we perceive the difficulty of conquering the empire of the Turk, but once conquered it will be very easily held. The reasons that make the conquest of the Turkish empire so difficult are, that the conqueror cannot be called into the country by any of the great nobles of the state; nor can he hope that his attempt could be facilitated by a revolt of those who surround the sovereign; which arises from the above given reasons. For being all slaves and dependants of their sovereign, it is more difficult to corrupt them; and even if they were corrupted, but little advantage could be hoped for from them, because they cannot carry the people along with them.

Whoever therefore attacks the Turks must expect to find them united, and must depend wholly upon his own forces, and not upon any internal disturbances. But once having defeated and driven the Turk from the field, so that he cannot reorganize his army, then he will have nothing to fear but the line of the sovereign. This however once extinguished, the conqueror has nothing to apprehend from any one else, as none other has any influence with the people; and thus, having had nothing to hope from them before the victory, he will have nothing to fear from them afterwards.

The contrary takes place in kingdoms governed like that of France; for having gained over some of the great nobles of the realm, there will be no difficulty in entering it, there being always malcontents and others who desire a change. These, for the reasons stated, can open the way into the country for the assailant, and facilitate his success. But for the conqueror to maintain himself there afterwards will involve infinite difficulties, both with the conquered and with those who have aided him in his conquest. Nor will it suffice to extinguish the line of the sovereign, because the great nobles remain, who will place themselves at the head of new movements; and the conqueror, not being able either to satisfy or to crush them, will lose the country again on the first occasion that presents itself.

If now we consider the nature of the government of Darius, we shall find that it resembled that of the Turk, and therefore it was necessary for Alexander to attack him in full force, and drive him from the field. After this victory and the death of Darius, Alexander remained in secure possession of the kingdom for the reasons above explained. And if his successors had remained united, they might also have enjoyed possession at their ease; for no other disturbances occurred in that empire, except such as they created themselves.

Countries, however, with a system of government like that of France, cannot possibly be held so easily. The frequent insurrections of Spain, France, and Greece against the Romans were due to the many petty princes that existed in those states; and therefore, so long as the memory of these princes endured, the Romans were ever uncertain in the tenure of those states. But all remembrance of these princes once effaced, the Romans became secure possessors of those countries, so long as the growth and power of their empire endured. And even afterwards, when fighting amongst themselves, each of the parties were able to keep for themselves portions of those countries, according to the authority which they had acquired there; and the line of their sovereigns being extinguished, the inhabitants recognized no other authority but that of the Romans.

Reflecting now upon these things, we cannot be surprised at the facility with which Alexander maintained himself in Asia; nor at the difficulties which others experienced in preserving their conquests, as was the case with Pyrrhus and many others, and which resulted not from the greater or lesser valor of the conqueror, but from the different nature of the conquered states.


how cities or principalities are to be governed that previous to being conquered had lived under their own laws.

Conquered states that have been accustomed to liberty and the government of their own laws can be held by the conqueror in three different ways. The first is to ruin them; the second, for the conqueror to go and reside there in person; and the third is to allow them to continue to live under their own laws, subject to a regular tribute, and to create in them a government of a few, who will keep the country friendly to the conqueror. Such a government, having been established by the new prince, knows that it cannot maintain itself without the support of his power and friendship, and it becomes its interest therefore to sustain him. A city that has been accustomed to free institutions is much easier held by its own citizens than in any other way, if the conqueror desires to preserve it. The Spartans and the Romans will serve as examples of these different ways of holding a conquered state.

The Spartans held Athens and Thebes, creating there a government of a few; and yet they lost both these states again. The Romans, for the purpose of retaining Capua, Carthage, and Numantia, destroyed them, but did not lose them. They wished to preserve Greece in somewhat the same way that the Spartans had held it, by making her free and leaving her in the enjoyment of her own laws, but did not succeed; so that they were obliged to destroy many cities in that country for the purpose of holding it. In truth there was no other safe way of keeping possession of that country but to ruin it. And whoever becomes master of a city that has been accustomed to liberty, and does not destroy it, must himself expect to be ruined by it. For they will always resort to rebellion in the name of liberty and their ancient institutions, which will never be effaced from their memory, either by the lapse of time, or by benefits bestowed by the new master. No matter what he may do, or what precautions he may take, if he does not separate and disperse the inhabitants, they will on the first occasion invoke the name of liberty and the memory of their ancient institutions, as was done by Pisa after having been held over a hundred years in subjection by the Florentines.

But it is very different with states that have been accustomed to live under a prince. When the line of the prince is once extinguished, the inhabitants, being on the one hand accustomed to obey, and on the other having lost their ancient sovereign, can neither agree to create a new one from amongst themselves, nor do they know how to live in liberty; and thus they will be less prompt to take up arms, and the new prince will readily be able to gain their good will and to assure himself of them. But republics have more vitality, a greater spirit of resentment and desire of revenge, for the memory of their ancient liberty neither can nor will permit them to remain quiet, and therefore the surest way of holding them is either to destroy them, or for the conqueror to go and live there.


of new principalities that have been acquired by the valor of the prince and by his own troops.

Let no one wonder if, in what I am about to say of entirely new principalities and of the prince and his government, I cite the very highest examples. For as men almost always follow the beaten track of others, and proceed in their actions by imitation, and yet cannot altogether follow the ways of others, nor attain the high qualities of those whom they imitate, so a wise man should ever follow the ways of great men and endeavor to imitate only such as have been most eminent; so that even if his merits do not quite equal theirs, yet that they may in some measure reflect their greatness. He should do as the skilful archer, who, seeing that the object he desires to hit is too distant, and knowing the extent to which his bow will carry, aims higher than the destined mark, not for the purpose of sending his arrow to that height, but so that by this elevation it may reach the desired aim.

I say then that a new prince in an entirely new principality will experience more or less difficulty in maintaining himself, according as he has more or less courage and ability. And as such an event as to become a prince from a mere private individual presupposes either great courage or rare good fortune, it would seem that one or the other of these two causes ought in a measure to mitigate many of these difficulties. But he who depends least upon fortune will maintain himself best; which will be still more easy for the Prince if, having no other state, he is obliged to reside in his newly acquired principality.

To come now to those who by their courage and ability, and not by fortune, have risen to the rank of rulers, I will say that the most eminent of such were Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus, and the like. And although we may not discuss Moses, who was a mere executor of the things ordained by God, yet he merits our admiration, if only for that grace which made him worthy to hold direct communion with the Almighty. But if we consider Cyrus and others who have conquered or founded empires, we shall find them all worthy of admiration; for it we study their acts and particular ordinances, they do not seem very different from those of Moses, although he had so great a teacher. We shall also find in examining their acts and lives, that they had no other favor from fortune but opportunity, which gave them the material which they could mould into whatever form seemed to them best; and without such opportunity the great qualities of their souls would have been wasted, whilst without those great qualities the opportunities would have been in vain.

It was necessary then for Moses to find the people of Israel slaves in Egypt, and oppressed by the Egyptians, so that to escape from that bondage they resolved to follow him. It was necessary that Romulus should not have been kept in Alba, and that he should have been exposed at his birth, for him to have become the founder and king of Rome. And so it was necessary for Cyrus to find the Persians dissatisfied with the rule of the Medes, and the Medes effeminate and enfeebled by long peace. And finally, Theseus could not have manifested his courage had he not found the Athenians dispersed. These opportunities therefore made these men fortunate, and it was their lofty virtue that enabled them to recognize the opportunities by which their countries were made illustrious and most happy. Those who by similar noble conduct become princes acquire their principalities with difficulty, but maintain them with ease; and the difficulties which they experience in acquiring their principalities arise in part from the new ordinances and customs which they are obliged to introduce for the purpose of founding their state and their own security. We must bear in mind, then, that there is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things in any state. For the innovator has for enemies all those who derived advantages from the old order of things, whilst those who expect to be benefited by the new institutions will be but lukewarm defenders. This indifference arises in part from fear of their adversaries who were favored by the existing laws, and partly from the incredulity of men who have no faith in anything new that is not the result of well-established experience. Hence it is that, whenever the opponents of the new order of things have the opportunity to attack it, they will do it with the zeal of partisans, whilst the others defend it but feebly, so that it is dangerous to rely upon the latter.

If we desire to discuss this subject thoroughly, it will be necessary to examine whether such innovators depend upon themselves, or whether they rely upon others; that is to say, whether for the purpose of carrying out their plans they have to resort to entreaties, or whether they can accomplish it by force. In the first case they always succeed badly, and fail to conclude anything; but when they depend upon their own strength to carry their innovations through, then they rarely incur any danger. Thence it was that all prophets who came with arms in hand were successful, whilst those who were not armed were ruined. For besides the reasons given above, the dispositions of peoples are variable; it is easy to persuade them to anything, but difficult to confirm them in that belief. And therefore a prophet should be prepared, in case the people will not believe any more, to be able by force to compel them to that belief.

Neither Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, nor Romulus would have been able to make their laws and institutions observed for any length of time, if they had not been prepared to enforce them with arms. This was the experience of Brother Girolamo Savonarola, who failed in his attempt to establish a new order of things so soon as the multitude ceased to believe in him; for he had not the means to keep his believers firm in their faith, nor to make the unbelievers believe. And yet these great men experienced great difficulties in their course, and met danger at every step, which could only be overcome by their courage and ability. But once having surmounted them, then they began to be held in veneration; and having crushed those who were jealous of their great qualities, they remained powerful, secure, honored, and happy.

To these great examples I will add a minor one, which nevertheless bears some relation to them, and will suffice me for all similar cases. This is Hiero of Syracuse, who from a mere private individual rose to be prince of Syracuse, although he owed no other favor to fortune than opportunity; for the Syracusans, being oppressed, elected him their captain, whence he advanced by his merits to become their prince. And even in his condition as a private citizen he displayed such virtue, that the author who wrote of him said that he lacked nothing of being a monarch excepting a kingdom. Hiero disbanded the old army and organized a new one; he abandoned his old allies and formed new alliances; and having thus an army and allies of his own creation, he had no difficulty in erecting any edifice upon such a foundation; so that although he had much trouble in attaining the principality, yet he had but little in maintaining it.


of new principalities that have been acquired by the aid of others and by good fortune.

Those who by good fortune only rise from mere private station to the dignity of princes have but little trouble in achieving that elevation, for they fly there as it were on wings; but their difficulties begin after they have been placed in that high position. Such are those who acquire a state either by means of money, or by the favor of some powerful monarch who bestows it upon them. Many such instances occurred in Greece, in the cities of Ionia and of the Hellespont, where men were made princes by Darius so that they might hold those places for his security and glory. And such were those Emperors who from having been mere private individuals attained the Empire by corrupting the soldiery. These remain simply subject to the will and the fortune of those who bestowed greatness upon them, which are two most uncertain and variable things. And generally these men have neither the skill nor the power to maintain that high rank. They know not (for unless they are men of great genius and ability, it is not reasonable that they should know) how to command, having never occupied any but private stations; and they cannot, because they have no troops upon whose loyalty and attachment they can depend.

Moreover, states that spring up suddenly, like other things in nature that are born and attain their growth rapidly, cannot have those roots and supports that will protect them from destruction by the first unfavorable weather. Unless indeed, as has been said, those who have suddenly become princes are gifted with such ability that they quickly know how to prepare themselves for the preservation of that which fortune has cast into their lap, and afterwards to build up those foundations which others have laid before becoming princes.

In illustration of the one and the other of these two ways of becoming princes, by valor and ability, or by good fortune, I will adduce two examples from the time within our own memory; these are Francesco Sforza and Cesar Borgia. Francesco, by legitimate means and by great natural ability, rose from a private citizen to be Duke of Milan; and having attained that high position by a thousand efforts, it cost him but little trouble afterwards to maintain it. On the other hand, Cesar Borgia, commonly called Duke Valentino, acquired his state by the good fortune of his father, but lost it when no longer sustained by that good fortune; although he employed all the means and did all that a brave and prudent man can do to take root in that state which had been bestowed upon him by the arms and good fortune of another. For, as we have said above, he who does not lay the foundations for his power beforehand may be able by great ability and courage to do so afterwards; but it will be done with great trouble to the builder and with danger to the edifice.

If now we consider the whole course of the Duke Valentino, we shall see that he took pains to lay solid foundations for his future power; which I think it well to discuss. For I should not know what better lesson I could give to a new prince, than to hold up to him the example of the Duke Valentino’s conduct. And if the measures which he adopted did not insure his final success, the fault was not his, for his failure was due to the extreme and extraordinary malignity of fortune. Pope Alexander VI. in his efforts to aggrandize his son, the Duke Valentino, encountered many difficulties, immediate and prospective. In the first place he saw that there was no chance of making him master of any state, unless a state of the Church; and he knew that neither the Duke of Milan nor the Venetians would consent to that. Faenza and Rimini were already at that time under the protection of the Venetians; and the armies of Italy, especially those of which he could have availed himself, were in the hands of men who had cause to fear the power of the Pope, namely the Orsini, the Colonna, and their adherents; and therefore he could not rely upon them.

It became necessary therefore for Alexander to disturb the existing order of things, and to disorganize those states, in order to make himself safely master of them. And this it was easy for him to do; for he found the Venetians, influenced by other reasons, favorable to the return of the French into Italy; which not only he did not oppose, but facilitated by dissolving the former marriage of King Louis XII. (so as to enable him to marry Ann of Brittany). The king thereupon entered Italy with the aid of the Venetians and the consent of Alexander; and no sooner was he in Milan than the Pope obtained troops from him to aid in the conquest of the Romagna, which was yielded to him through the influence of the king.

The Duke Valentino having thus acquired the Romagna, and the Colonna being discouraged, he both wished to hold that province, and also to push his possessions still further, but was prevented by two circumstances. The one was that his own troops seemed to him not to be reliable, and the other was the will of the king of France. That is to say, he feared lest the Orsini troops, which he had made use of, might fail him at the critical moment, and not only prevent him from acquiring more, but even take from him that which he had acquired; and that even the king of France might do the same. Of the disposition of the Orsini, the Duke had a proof when, after the capture of Faenza, he attacked Bologna, and saw with what indifference they moved to the assault. And as to the king of France, he knew his mind; for when he wanted to march into Tuscany, after having taken the Duchy of Urbino, King Louis made him desist from that undertaking. The Duke resolved therefore to rely no longer upon the fortune or the arms of others. And the first thing he did was to weaken the Orsini and the Colonna in Rome, by winning over to himself all the gentlemen adherents of those houses, by taking them into his own pay as gentlemen followers, giving them liberal stipends and bestowing honors upon them in proportion to their condition, and giving them appointments and commands; so that in the course of a few months their attachment to their factions was extinguished, and they all became devoted followers of the Duke.

After that, having successfully dispersed the Colonna faction, he watched for an opportunity to crush the Orsini, which soon presented itself, and of which he made the most. For the Orsini, having been slow to perceive that the aggrandizement of the Duke and of the Church would prove the cause of their ruin, convened a meeting at Magione, in the Perugine territory, which gave rise to the revolt of Urbino and the disturbances in the Romagna, and caused infinite dangers to the Duke Valentino, all of which, however, he overcame with the aid of the French. Having thus re-established his reputation, and trusting no longer in the French or any other foreign power, he had recourse to deceit, so as to avoid putting them to the test. And so well did he know how to dissemble and conceal his intentions that the Orsini became reconciled to him, through the agency of the Signor Paolo, whom the Duke had won over to himself by means of all possible good offices, and gifts of money, clothing, and horses. And thus their credulity led them into the hands of the Duke at Sinigaglia.

The chiefs thus destroyed, and their adherents converted into his friends, the Duke had laid sufficiently good foundations for his power, having made himself master of the whole of the Romagna and the Duchy of Urbino, and having attached their entire population to himself, by giving them a foretaste of the new prosperity which they were to enjoy under him. And as this part of the Duke’s proceedings is well worthy of notice, and may serve as an example to others, I will dwell upon it more fully.

Having conquered the Romagna, the Duke found it under the control of a number of impotent petty tyrants, who had devoted themselves more to plundering their subjects than to governing them properly, and encouraging discord and disorder amongst them rather than peace and union; so that this province was infested by brigands, torn by quarrels, and given over to every sort of violence. He saw at once that, to restore order amongst the inhabitants and obedience to the sovereign, it was necessary to establish a good and vigorous government there. And for this purpose he appointed as governor of that province Don Ramiro d’Orco, a man of cruelty, but at the same time of great energy, to whom he gave plenary power. In a very short time D’Orco reduced the province to peace and order, thereby gaining for him the highest reputation. After a while the Duke found such excessive exercise of authority no longer necessary or expedient, for he feared that it might render himself odious. He therefore established a civil tribunal in the heart of the province, under an excellent president, where every city should have its own advocate. And having observed that the past rigor of Ramiro had engendered some hatred, he wished to show to the people, for the purpose of removing that feeling from their minds, and to win their entire confidence, that, if any cruelties had been practised, they had not originated with him, but had resulted altogether from the harsh nature of his minister. He therefore took occasion to have Messer Ramiro put to death, and his body, cut into two parts, exposed in the market-place of Cesena one morning, with a block of wood and a bloody cutlass left beside him. The horror of this spectacle caused the people to remain for a time stupefied and satisfied.

But let us return to where we started from. I say, then, that the Duke, feeling himself strong enough now, and in a measure secure from immediate danger, having raised an armed force of his own, and having in great part destroyed those that were near and might have troubled him, wanted now to proceed with his conquest. The only power remaining which he had to fear was the king of France, upon whose support he knew that he could not count, although the king had been late in discovering his error of having allowed the Duke’s aggrandizement. The Duke, therefore, began to look for new alliances, and to prevaricate with the French about their entering the kingdom of Naples for the purpose of attacking the Spaniards, who were then engaged in the siege of Gaeta. His intention was to place them in such a position that they would not be able to harm him; and in this he would have succeeded easily if Pope Alexander had lived.

Such was the course of the Duke Valentino with regard to the immediate present, but he had cause for apprehensions as to the future; mainly, lest the new successor to the papal chair should not be friendly to him, and should attempt to take from him what had been given him by Alexander. And this he thought of preventing in several different ways: one, by extirpating the families of those whom he had despoiled, so as to deprive the Pope of all pretext of restoring them to their possessions; secondly, by gaining over to himself all the gentlemen of Rome, so as to be able, through them, to keep the Pope in check; thirdly, by getting the College of Cardinals under his control; and, fourthly, by acquiring so much power before the death of Alexander that he might by himself be able to resist the first attack of his enemies. Of these four things he had accomplished three at the time of Alexander’s death; for of the petty tyrants whom he had despoiled he had killed as many as he could lay hands on, and but very few had been able to save themselves; he had won over to himself the gentlemen of Rome, and had secured a large majority in the sacred college; and as to further acquisitions, he contemplated making himself master of Tuscany, having already possession of Perugia and Piombino, and having assumed a protectorate over Pisa. There being no longer occasion to be apprehensive of France, which had been deprived of the kingdom of Naples by the Spaniards, so that both of these powers had to seek his friendship, he suddenly seized Pisa. After this, Lucca and Sienna promptly yielded to him, partly from jealousy of the Florentines and partly from fear. Thus Florence saw no safety from the Duke, and if he had succeeded in taking that city, as he could have done in the very year of Alexander’s death, it would have so increased his power and influence that he would have been able to have sustained himself alone, without depending upon the fortune or power of any one else, and relying solely upon his own strength and courage.

But Alexander died five years after the Duke had first unsheathed his sword. He left his son with only his government of the Romagna firmly established, but all his other possessions entirely uncertain, hemmed in between two powerful hostile armies, and himself sick unto death. But such were the Duke’s energy and courage, and so well did he know how men are either won or destroyed, and so solid were the foundations which he had in so brief a time laid for his greatness, that if he had not had these two armies upon his back, and had been in health, he would have sustained himself against all difficulties. And that the foundations of his power were well laid may be judged by the fact that the Romagna remained faithful, and waited quietly for him more than a month; and that, although half dead with sickness, yet he was perfectly secure in Rome; and that, although the Baglioni, Vitelli, and Orsini came to Rome at the time, yet they could not raise a party against him. Unable to make a Pope of his own choice, yet he could prevent the election of any one that was not acceptable to him. And had the Duke been in health at the time of Alexander’s death, everything would have gone well with him; for he said to me on the day when Julius II. was created Pope, that he had provided for everything that could possibly occur in case of his father’s death, except that he never thought that at that moment he should himself be so near dying.

Upon reviewing now all the actions of the Duke, I should not know where to blame him; it seems to me that I should rather hold him up as an example (as I have said) to be imitated by all those who have risen to sovereignty, either by the good fortune or the arms of others. For being endowed with great courage, and having a lofty ambition, he could not have acted otherwise under the circumstances; and the only thing that defeated his designs was the shortness of Alexander’s life and his own bodily infirmity.

Whoever, then, in a newly acquired state, finds it necessary to secure himself against his enemies, to gain friends, to conquer by force or by cunning, to make himself feared or beloved by the people, to be followed and revered by the soldiery, to destroy all who could or might injure him, to substitute a new for the old order of things, to be severe and yet gracious, magnanimous, and liberal, to disband a disloyal army and create a new one, to preserve the friendship of kings and princes, so that they may bestow benefits upon him with grace, and fear to injure him, — such a one, I say, cannot find more recent examples than those presented by the conduct of the Duke Valentino. The only thing we can blame him for was the election of Julius II. to the Pontificate, which was a bad selection for him to make; for, as has been said, though he was not able to make a Pope to his own liking, yet he could have prevented, and should never have consented to, the election of one from amongst those cardinals whom he had offended, or who, if he had been elected, would have had occasion to fear him, for either fear or resentment makes men enemies.

Those whom the Duke had offended were, amongst others, the Cardinals San Pietro in Vincola, Colonna, San Giorgio, and Ascanio. All the others, had they come to the pontificate, would have had to fear him, excepting D’Amboise and the Spanish cardinals; the latter because of certain relations and reciprocal obligations, and the former because of his power, he having France for his ally. The Duke then should by all means have had one of the Spanish cardinals made Pope, and failing in that, he should have supported the election of the Cardinal d’Amboise, and not that of the Cardinal San Pietro in Vincola. For whoever thinks that amongst great personages recent benefits will cause old injuries to be forgotten, deceives himself greatly. The Duke, then, in consenting to the election of Julius II. committed an error which proved the cause of his ultimate ruin.


of such as have achieved sovereignty by means of crimes.

But as there are also two ways in which a person may rise from private station to sovereignty, and which can neither be attributed to fortune nor to valor, it seems to me they should not be left unnoticed; although one of these ways might be more fully discussed when we treat of republics. These two modes are, when one achieves sovereignty either by wicked and nefarious means, or when a private citizen becomes sovereign of his country by the favor of his fellow-citizens. I will explain the first by two examples, the one ancient and the other modern; and without entering otherwise into the merits of these cases, I judge they will suffice to any one who may find himself obliged to imitate them.

Agathocles, a Sicilian, rose to be king of Syracuse, not only from being a mere private citizen, but from the lowest and most abject condition. He was the son of a potter, and led a vicious life through all the various phases of his career. But his wickedness was coupled with so much moral and physical courage, that, having joined the army, he rose by successive steps until he became Prætor of Syracuse. Having attained that rank he resolved to make himself sovereign, and to retain by violence, and regardless of others, that which had been intrusted to him by public consent. For this purpose he came to an understanding with Hamilcar the Carthaginian, who was at that time carrying on war with his army in Sicily; and having one morning called an assembly of the people and the Senate of Syracuse, as though he wished to confer with them about public affairs, he made his soldiers, at a given signal, slay all the Senators and the richest of the people, and then seized the sovereignty of that city without any resistance on the part of the citizens. Although afterwards twice defeated by the Carthaginians, and finally besieged by them in Syracuse, he not only defended that city, but, leaving a portion of his forces to sustain the siege, he crossed the sea with the other part and attacked Africa, thus raising the siege of Syracuse in a short time, and driving the Carthaginians to the extremest necessity, compelling them to make terms with him, and to remain content with the possession of Africa, and leave Sicily to him.

Whoever now reflects upon the conduct and valor of Agathocles will find in them little or nothing that can be attributed to fortune; for, as I have said, he achieved sovereignty, not by the favor of any one, but through his high rank in the army, which he had won by a thousand efforts and dangers, and he afterwards maintained his sovereignty with great courage, and even temerity. And yet we cannot call it valor to massacre one’s fellow-citizens, to betray one’s friends, and to be devoid of good faith, mercy, and religion; such means may enable a man to achieve empire, but not glory. Still, if we consider the valor of Agathocles in encountering and overcoming dangers, and his invincible courage in supporting and mastering adversity, we shall find no reason why he should be regarded inferior to any of the most celebrated captains. But with all this, his outrageous cruelty and inhumanity, together with his infinite crimes, will not permit him to be classed with the most celebrated men. We cannot therefore ascribe to either valor or fortune the achievements of Agathocles, which he accomplished without either the one or the other.

In our own times, during the pontificate of Alexander VI., Oliverotto da Fermo, having been left an orphan, was brought up by his maternal uncle, Giovanni Fogliani, and was in early youth placed in the military service under Paolo Vitelli; so that, after having been thoroughly trained and disciplined, he might attain prominent rank in the army. After the death of Paolo, he served under his brother Vitellozzo; and became in a very short time, by his intelligence, his bodily strength and intrepidity, one of the foremost men in his service. But deeming it servile to act under the command of others, he planned, together with some of the citizens of Fermo who preferred servitude to the liberty of their country, and with the concurrence of Vitellozzo, to seize Fermo and make himself lord of the same. With this object he wrote to his uncle, Giovanni Fogliani, that, having been absent from home for several years, he desired now to come to see him and his native city, and also to look up his patrimony; and that, having until then striven only to acquire honor, he desired to show his fellow-citizens that he had not labored in vain; and therefore he wished to come in splendid style, accompanied by one hundred cavaliers, friends of his. He begged his uncle, therefore, to be pleased to arrange that the inhabitants of Fermo should give him an honorable reception, which would be an honor not only to him, but also to Giovanni, who was his near relative and had brought him up. Giovanni therefore omitted no courtesies due to his nephew, and caused the citizens of Fermo to give him an honorable reception, as well as lodgings in their houses for himself and all his retinue. After spending some days in Fermo, and arranging all that was necessary for the execution of his villanous design, Oliverotto gave a sumptuous entertainment, to which he invited his uncle Giovanni and all the principal citizens of Fermo. After the dinner and the other entertainments that are customary on such occasions, Oliverotto artfully started a grave discussion respecting the greatness of Pope Alexander VI. and his son Cesar Borgia and their enterprises. When Giovanni and the others replied to his remarks, Oliverotto suddenly arose, saying that these things were only to be spoken of in private places, and withdrew to another room, whither Giovanni and the other citizens followed. No sooner had they seated themselves there, than some of Oliverotto’s soldiers rushed out from concealment and massacred Giovanni and all the others.

After this murder Oliverotto mounted his horse, rode through the streets of Fermo, and besieged the supreme magistrates in the palace, who, constrained by fear, obeyed him, and formed a government of which Oliverotto made himself sovereign. And as all those who, as malcontents, might have injured him, had been put to death, Oliverotto fortified himself in his position with new institutions, both civil and military, so that for the space of a year, during which he held the sovereignty, he was not only secure in the city of Fermo, but had become formidable to all his neighbors; so that it would have been as difficult to overcome him as Agathocles, had he not allowed himself to be deceived by Cesar Borgia, when, as I have related, he entrapped the Orsini and the Vitelli at Sinigaglia, where Oliverotto was also taken and strangled, together with Vitellozzo, his master in valor and in villany, just one year after he had committed parricide in having his uncle Giovanni Fogliani assassinated.

Some may wonder how it was that Agathocles, and others like him, after their infinite treason and cruelty, could live for any length of time securely in the countries whose sovereignty they had usurped, and even defend themselves successfully against external enemies, without any attempts on the part of their own citizens to conspire against them; whilst many others could not by means of cruelty maintain their state even in time of peace, much less in doubtful times of war. I believe that this happened according as the cruelties were well or ill applied; we may call cruelty well applied (if indeed we may call that well which in itself is evil) when it is committed once from necessity for self-protection, and afterwards not persisted in, but converted as far as possible to the public good. Ill-applied cruelties are those which, though at first but few, yet increase with time rather than cease altogether. Those who adopt the first practice may, with the help of God and man, render some service to their state, as had been done by Agathocles; but those who adopt the latter course will not possibly be able to maintain themselves in their state. Whence it is to be noted that in taking possession of a state the conqueror should well reflect as to the harsh measures that may be necessary, and then execute them at a single blow, so as not to be obliged to renew them every day; and by thus not repeating them, to assure himself of the support of the inhabitants, and win them over to himself by benefits bestowed. And he who acts otherwise, either from timidity or from being badly advised, will be obliged ever to be sword in hand, and will never be able to rely upon his subjects, who in turn will not be able to rely upon him, because of the constant fresh wrongs committed by him. Cruelties should be committed all at once, as in that way each separate one is less felt, and gives less offence; benefits, on the other hand, should be conferred one at a time, for in that way they will be more appreciated. But above all a prince should live upon such terms with his subjects that no accident, either for good or for evil, should make him vary his conduct towards them. For when adverse times bring upon you the necessity for action, you will no longer be in time to do evil; and the good you may do will not profit you, because it will be regarded as having been forced from you, and therefore will bring you no thanks.


of civil principalities.

But let us come now to that other case, when a prominent citizen has become prince of his country, not by treason and violence, but by the favor of his fellow-citizens. This may be called a civil principality; and to attain it requires neither great virtue nor extraordinary good fortune, but rather a happy shrewdness. I say, then, that such principalities are achieved either by the favor of the people or by that of the nobles; for in every state there will be found two different dispositions, which result from this, — that the people dislike being ruled and oppressed by the nobles, whilst the nobles seek to rule and oppress the people. And this diversity of feeling and interests engenders one of three effects in a state: these are either a principality, or a government of liberty, or license. A principality results either from the will of the people or from that of the nobles, according as either the one or the other prevails and has the opportunity. For the nobles, seeing that they cannot resist the people, begin to have recourse to the influence and reputation of one of their own class, and make him a prince, so that under the shadow of his power they may give free scope to their desires. The people also, seeing that they cannot resist the nobles, have recourse to the influence and reputation of one man, and make him prince, so as to be protected by his authority. He who becomes prince by the aid of the nobles will have more difficulty in maintaining himself than he who arrives at that high station by the aid of the people. For the former finds himself surrounded by many who in their own opinion are equal to him, and for that reason he can neither command nor manage them in his own way. But he who attains the principality by favor of the people stands alone, and has around him none, or very few, that will not yield him a ready obedience. Moreover, you cannot satisfy the nobles with honesty, and without wrong to others, but it is easy to satisfy the people, whose aims are ever more honest than those of the nobles; the latter wishing to oppress, and the former being unwilling to be oppressed. I will say further, that a prince can never assure himself of a people who are hostile to him, for they are too numerous; the nobles on the other hand being but few, it becomes easy for a prince to make himself sure of them.

The worst that a prince may expect of a people who are unfriendly to him is that they will desert him; but the hostile nobles he has to fear, not only lest they abandon him, but also because they will turn against him. For they, being more farsighted and astute, always save themselves in advance, and seek to secure the favor of him whom they hope may be successful. The prince also is obliged always to live with the same people; but he can do very well without the same nobles, whom he can make and unmake at will any day, and bestow upon them or deprive them of their rank whenever it pleases him. The better to elucidate this subject, we must consider the nobles mainly in two ways; that is to say, they either shape their conduct so as to ally themselves entirely to your fortunes, or they do not. Those who attach themselves to you thus, if they are not rapacious, are to be honored and loved. Those who do not attach themselves to you must be regarded in two ways. Either they are influenced by pusillanimity and a natural lack of courage, and then you may make use of them, and especially of such as are men of intelligence; for in prosperity they will honor you, and in adversity you need not fear them. But if they purposely avoid attaching themselves to you from notions of ambition, then it is an evidence that they think more of their own interests than of yours; and of such men a prince must beware, and look upon them as open enemies, for when adversity comes they will always turn against him and contribute to his ruin.

Any one, therefore, who has become a prince by the favor of the people, must endeavor to preserve their good will, which will be easy for him, as they will ask of him no more than that he shall not oppress them. But he who, contrary to the will of the people, has become prince by the favor of the nobles, should at once and before everything else strive to win the good will of the people, which will be easy for him, by taking them under his protection. And as men, when they receive benefits from one of whom they expected only ill treatment, will attach themselves readily to such a benefactor, so the people will become more kindly disposed to such a one than if he had been made prince by their favor. Now a prince can secure the good will of the people in various ways, which differ with their character, and for which no fixed rules can be given. I will merely conclude by saying that it is essential for a prince to possess the good will and affection of his people, otherwise he will be utterly without support in time of adversity. Nabis, prince of Sparta, sustained the attacks of all Greece, and of a victorious Roman army, and successfully defended his country and his state against them; and when danger came, it was enough for him to be assured of a few supporters, which would not have sufficed if the people had been hostile to him. And let no one contravene this opinion of mine by quoting the trite saying, that “he who relies upon the people builds upon quicksand”; though this may be true when a private citizen places his reliance upon the people in the belief that they will come to his relief when he is oppressed by his enemies or the magistrates. In such a case he will often find himself deceived; as happened in Rome to the Gracchi, and in Florence to Messer Scali. But it being a prince who places his reliance upon those whom he might command, and being a man of courage and undismayed by adversity, and not having neglected to make proper preparations, and keeping all animated by his own courageous example and by his orders, he will not be deceived by the people; and it will be seen that the foundations of his state are laid solidly.

Those princes run great risks who attempt to change a civil government into an absolute one; for such princes command either in person or by means of magistrates. In the latter case, their state is more feeble and precarious; for the prince is in all things dependent upon the will of those citizens who are placed at the head of the magistracy, who, particularly in times of adversity, may with great ease deprive him of the government, either by open opposition or by refusing him obedience. For when danger is upon him, the prince is no longer in time to assume absolute authority; for the citizens and subjects who have been accustomed to receive their commands from the magistrates will not be disposed to yield obedience to the prince when in adversity. Thus in doubtful times there will ever be a lack of men whom he can trust. Such a prince cannot depend upon what he observes in ordinary quiet times, when the citizens have need of his authority; for then everybody runs at his bidding, everybody promises, and everybody is willing to die for him, when death is very remote. But in adverse times, when the government has need of the citizens, then but few will be found to stand by the prince. And this experience is the more dangerous as it can only be made once.

A wise prince, therefore, will steadily pursue such a course that the citizens of his state will always and under all circumstances feel the need of his authority, and will therefore always prove faithful to him.


in what manner the power of all principalities should be measured.

In examining the nature of the different principalities, it is proper to consider another point; namely, whether a prince is sufficiently powerful to be able, in case of need, to sustain himself, or whether he is obliged always to depend upon others for his defence. And to explain this point the better, I say that, in my judgment, those are able to maintain themselves who, from an abundance of men and money, can put a well-appointed army into the field, and meet any one in open battle that may attempt to attack them. And I esteem those as having need of the constant support of others who cannot meet their enemies in the field, but are under the necessity of taking refuge behind walls and keeping within them. Of the first case I have already treated, and shall speak of it again hereafter as occasion may require. Of the second case I cannot say otherwise than that it behooves such princes to fortify the cities where they have their seat of government, and to provide them well with all necessary supplies, without paying much attention to the country. For any prince that has thoroughly fortified the city in which he resides, and has in other respects placed himself on a good footing with his subjects, as has been explained above, will not be readily attacked. For men will ever be indisposed to engage in enterprises that present manifest difficulties; and it cannot be regarded as an easy undertaking to attack a prince in a city which he has thoroughly fortified, and who is not hated by his people.

The cities of Germany enjoy great liberties; they own little land outside of the walls, and obey the Emperor at their pleasure, fearing neither him nor any other neighboring power; for they are so well fortified that their capture would manifestly be tedious and difficult. They all have suitable walls and ditches, and are amply supplied with artillery, and always keep in their public magazines a year’s supply of provisions, drink, and fuel. Moreover, by way of feeding the people without expense to the public, they always keep on hand a common stock of raw materials to last for one year, so as to give employment in those branches of industry by which the people are accustomed to gain their living, and which are the nerve and life of the city. They also attach much importance to military exercises, and have established many regulations for their proper practice.

A prince, then, who has a well-fortified city, and has not made himself odious to his people, cannot be readily attacked; and if any one be nevertheless rash enough to make the attempt, he would have to abandon it ignominiously, for the things of this world are so uncertain that it seems almost impossible that any one should be able to remain a whole year with his army inactive, carrying on the siege.

And if any one were to argue that, if the people who have possessions outside of the city were to see them ravaged and destroyed by the enemy, they would lose their patience, and that their selfish desire to protect their property would cause them to forget their attachment to the prince, I would meet this objection by saying, that a powerful and valiant prince will easily overcome this difficulty by encouraging his subjects with the hope that the evil will not endure long, or by alarming them with fears of the enemy’s cruelty, or by assuring himself adroitly of those who have been too forward in expressing their discontent.

It is, moreover, reasonable to suppose that the enemy will ravage and destroy the country immediately upon his arrival before the city, and whilst its inhabitants are still full of courage and eager for defence. The prince, therefore, has the less ground for apprehension, because, by the time that the ardor of his people has cooled somewhat, the damage has already been done, and the evil is past remedy. And then the people will be the more ready to stand by their prince, for they will regard him as under obligations to them, their houses having been burnt and their property ravaged in his defence. For it is the nature of mankind to become as much attached to others by the benefits which they bestow on them, as by those which they receive.

All things considered, then, it will not be difficult for a prudent prince to keep up the courage of his citizens in time of siege, both in the beginning as well as afterwards, provided there be no lack of provisions or means of defence.


of ecclesiastical principalities.

It remains now only to speak of ecclesiastical principalities, in the attainment of which all difficulties occur beforehand. To achieve them requires either virtue or good fortune; but they are maintained without either the one or the other, for they are sustained by the ancient ordinances of religion, which are so powerful and of such quality that they maintain their princes in their position, no matter what their conduct or mode of life may be. These are the only princes that have states without the necessity of defending them, and subjects without governing them; and their states, though undefended, are not taken from them, whilst their subjects are indifferent to the fact that they are not governed, and have no thought of the possibility of alienating themselves from their princes.

These ecclesiastical principalities, then, are the only ones that are secure and happy; and being under the direction of that supreme wisdom to which human minds cannot attain, I will abstain from all further discussion of them; for they are raised up and sustained by the Divine Power, and it would be a bold and presumptuous office for any man to discuss them.

Nevertheless, if any one asks how it comes that the Church has acquired such power and greatness in temporal matters, whilst previous to Alexander VI. all the Italian potentates, and even the great barons and the smallest nobles, paid so little regard to the temporal power of the Church, whilst now a king of France trembles before it, and this power has been able to drive him out of Italy and to ruin the Venetians, I shall not deem it superfluous to recall to memory the circumstances of the growth of this temporal power, although they are well known.

Before King Charles VIII. of France came into Italy, that country was under the rule of the Pope, the Venetians, the king of Naples, the Duke of Milan, and the Florentines. These powers were obliged always to keep in view two important points: the one, not to permit any foreign power to come into Italy with an armed force; and the other, to prevent each other from further aggrandizement.

Those who had to be most closely watched by the others were the Pope and the Venetians. To restrain the latter required the united power of all the others, as was the case in the defence of Ferrara; and to keep the Pope in check they availed themselves of the barons of Rome, who were divided into two factions, the Orsini and the Colonna; there being constant cause of quarrel between them, they were always with arms in hand, under the very eyes of the Pope, which kept the papal power weak and infirm.

And although now and then a courageous Pope arose, who succeeded for a time in repressing these factions, as for instance Sixtus IV., yet neither wisdom nor good fortune could ever relieve them entirely from this annoyance. The cause of this difficulty was the shortness of their lives; for in the ten years which is about the average length of the life of a Pope, it would be difficult for him to crush out either one of these factions entirely. And if, for instance, one Pope should have succeeded in putting down the Colonna, another one, hostile to the Orsini, would arise and resuscitate the Colonna, but would not have the time to put down the Orsini. This was the reason why the temporal power of the Popes was so little respected in Italy.

Afterwards Alexander VI. came to the Pontificate, who, more than any of his predecessors, showed what a Pope could accomplish with the money and power of the Church. Availing himself of the opportunity of the French invasion of Italy, and the instrumentality of the Duke Valentino, Alexander accomplished all those things which I have mentioned when speaking of the actions of the Duke. And although Alexander’s object was not the aggrandizement of the Church, but rather that of his son, the Duke, yet all his efforts served to advance the interests of the Church, which, after his death and that of his son, fell heir to all the results of his labors.

Soon after came Julius II., who found the Church powerful, and mistress of the entire Romagna, with the Roman barons crushed and the factions destroyed by the vigorous blows of Alexander. He also found the way prepared for the accumulation of money, which had never been employed before the time of Alexander. Julius II. not only continued the system of Alexander, but carried it even further, and resolved to acquire the possession of Bologna, to ruin the Venetians, and to drive the French out of Italy, in all of which he succeeded. And this was the more praiseworthy in him, inasmuch as he did all these things, not for his own aggrandizement, but for that of the Church. He furthermore restrained the Orsini and the Colonna factions within the limits in which he found them upon his accession to the Pontificate; and although there were some attempts at disturbances between them, yet there were two things that kept them down: one, the power of the Church, which overawed them; and the other, the fact that neither of them had any cardinals, who were generally the fomenters of the disturbances between them. Nor will these party feuds ever cease so long as the cardinals take any part in them. For it is they who stir up the factions in Rome as well as elsewhere, and then force the barons to sustain them. And it is thus that the ambition of these prelates gives rise to the discord and the disturbances amongst the barons.

His Holiness Pope Leo X. thus found the Church all-powerful on his accession; and it is to be hoped that, if his predecessors have made the Church great by means of arms, he will make her still greater and more venerable by his goodness and his infinite other virtues.


of the different kinds of troops, and of mercenaries.

Having discussed in detail the characteristics of all those kinds of principalities of which I proposed at the outset to treat, and having examined to some extent the causes of their success or failure, and explained the means by which many have sought to acquire and maintain them, it remains for me now to discuss generally the means of offence and defence which such princes may have to employ, under the various circumstances above referred to.

We have said how necessary it is for a prince to lay solid foundations for his power, as without such he would inevitably be ruined. The main foundations which all states must have, whether new, or old, or mixed, are good laws and good armies. And as there can be no good laws where there are not good armies, so the laws will be apt to be good where the armies are so. I will therefore leave the question of the laws, and confine myself to that of the armies. I say, then, that the armies with which a prince defends his state are either his own, or they are mercenaries or auxiliaries, or they are mixed. Mercenary and auxiliary troops are both useless and dangerous; and if any one attempts to found his state upon mercenaries, it will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline, — faithless, and braggarts amongst friends, but amongst enemies cowards, and have neither fear of God nor good faith with men; so that the ruin of the prince who depends on them will be deferred only just so long as attack is delayed; and in peace he will be spoliated by his mercenaries, and in war by his enemies. The reason of all this is, that mercenary troops are not influenced by affection, or by any other consideration except their small stipend, which is not enough to make them willing to die for you. They are ready to serve you as soldiers so long as you are at peace; but when war comes, they will either run away or march off. There is no difficulty in demonstrating the truth of this; for the present ruin of Italy can be attributed to nothing else but to the fact that she has for many years depended upon mercenary armies, who for a time had some success, and seemed brave enough amongst themselves, but so soon as a foreign enemy came they showed what stuff they were made of. This was the reason why Charles VIII., king of France, was allowed to take Italy with scarcely an effort, and as it were with merely a piece of chalk.* Those who assert that our misfortunes were caused by our own faults speak the truth; but these faults were not such as are generally supposed to have been the cause, but those rather which I have pointed out; and as it was the princes who committed these faults, so they also suffered the penalties.

I will demonstrate more fully the unhappy consequences of employing mercenary armies. Their commanders are either competent, or they are not; if they are, then you cannot trust them, because their chief aim will always be their own aggrandizement, either by imposing upon you, who are their employer, or by oppressing others beyond your intentions; and if they are incompetent, then they will certainly hasten your ruin. If now you meet these remarks by saying that the same will be the case with every commander, whether of mercenary troops or others, I reply, that, inasmuch as armies are employed either by princes or by republics, the prince should always in person perform the duty of commanding his army, and a republic should send one of her own citizens to command her troops, and in case he should not be successful, then they must change him; but if he is victorious, then they must be careful to keep him within the law, so that he may not exceed his powers. Experience has shown that princes as well as republics achieve the greatest success in war when they themselves direct the movements of their own armies, whilst mercenary troops do nothing but damage; and that a republic that has armies of her own is much less easily subjected to servitude by one of her own citizens, than one that depends upon foreign troops.

Thus Rome and Sparta maintained their liberties for many centuries by having armies of their own; the Swiss are most thoroughly armed, and consequently enjoy the greatest independence and liberty. The Carthaginians, on the other hand, furnish an example of the danger of employing mercenaries, for they came very near being subjugated by them at the close of the first war with Rome, although they had appointed some of their own citizens as commanders. After the death of Epaminondas, the Thebans made Philip of Macedon commander of their army, who after having been victorious deprived the Thebans of their liberty. The Milanese, after the death of Duke Philip, employed Francesco Sforza against the Venetians; after having defeated them at Caravaggio, he combined with them to subjugate his employers, the Milanese. The father of Francesco Sforza, who was commander in the service of Queen Joanna of Naples, suddenly left her entirely without troops, in consequence of which she was compelled to throw herself upon the protection of the king of Aragon, to save her kingdom. And if the Venetians and the Florentines formerly extended their dominions by means of mercenaries, and without their commanders attempting to make themselves princes of the country, but rather defending it loyally, I can only say that the Florentines were greatly favored by fortune in that respect. For of the valiant captains whose ambition they might have feared, some were not victorious, some never met an enemy, and others directed their ambition elsewhere. Amongst those who were not victorious was Giovanni Aguto,* whose good faith was never put to the test, he having been unsuccessful in the field; although it will be generally admitted that, had he been successful, the Florentines would have been at his mercy. The Sforzas and the Bracceschi were always opposed to each other, which caused Francesco to direct his ambition towards Lombardy, whilst Braccio turned his towards the Church and the kingdom of Naples.

But let us come now to occurrences of more recent date. The Florentines had conferred the command of their troops upon Paolo Vitelli, a soldier of the greatest ability, who had risen from private station to the highest post and reputation. No one will deny that, if he had succeeded in taking Pisa, the Florentines would have been obliged to submit to him; for had he gone over to the enemy, they would have been helpless, and if they kept him they would have been obliged to submit to his terms.

If now we look at the Venetians, we shall find that they carried on their wars securely and gloriously so long as they confined themselves to their proper element, the water, where they conducted their operations most bravely with their nobles and their own people. But when they engaged in wars on land, they no longer acted with their customary bravery, and adopted the habit of the other Italian states of employing mercenary troops. And although at the beginning of the growth of their dominion on land they had no occasion to have any serious apprehensions of their commanders, because their own reputation was great and their possessions on land small, yet when they extended these, which was under the captaincy of Carmignuola, they became sensible of their error. For although they were aware that it was by his superior conduct that they had defeated the Duke of Milan, yet on observing his lukewarmness in the further conduct of the war, they concluded that they could no longer hope for victory under his command. Still they dared not dismiss him for fear of losing what they had gained, and therefore they deemed it necessary for their own security to put him to death.

After that, the Venetians employed as generals of their forces Bartolommeo da Bergamo, Ruberto da San Severino, the Count Pittigliano, and the like, with whom they had reason rather to apprehend losses than to expect successes; as indeed happened afterwards at Vaila, where in one battle they lost what had taken them eight hundred years of great labor to acquire; for with this kind of troops acquisitions are feeble and slow, whilst losses are quick and extraordinary.

Having thus far confined my examples to Italy, which has been for many years controlled by mercenary armies, I will now go back to an earlier period in discussing this subject; so that, having seen the origin and progress of the system, it may be the more effectually corrected. You must know, then, that in the earlier times, so soon as the Roman Empire began to lose its power and credit in Italy, and when the Pope acquired more influence in temporal matters, Italy became subdivided into a number of states. Many of the large cities took up arms against their nobles, who, encouraged by the Emperor, had kept them oppressed. The Church, by way of increasing her own influence in temporal matters, favored this revolt of the cities against their nobles. In many other cities the supreme power was usurped by some of their own citizens, who made themselves princes of the same. Thus it was that Italy, as it were, passed under the dominion of the Church and certain republics. And as these citizens and prelates were not accustomed to the management of armies, they began to hire foreigners for this purpose. The first who brought this sort of military into high repute was Alberigo da Como, a native of the Romagna. It was under his discipline that Braccio and Sforza were trained, and these in turn became the arbiters of Italy. They were succeeded by all those others who up to our time have led the armies of Italy; and the result of all their valor was that she was overrun by the French under Charles VIII., ravaged and plundered by Louis XII., oppressed by Ferdinand of Spain, and insulted and vituperated by the Swiss.

The course which these mercenary leaders pursued for the purpose of giving reputation and credit to their own mounted forces was, first, to decry and destroy the reputation of the infantry of the several states. They did this because, having no territorial possessions of their own, and being mere soldiers of fortune, they could achieve no reputation by means of a small body of infantry, and for a larger force they could not furnish subsistence. And therefore they confined themselves to cavalry, a smaller force of which enabled them the more readily to gain success and credit, and was at the same time more easily subsisted. In this way they brought matters to that point, that in an army of twenty thousand there were not over two thousand infantry.

Moreover, they used all means and ingenuity to avoid exposing themselves and their men to great fatigue and danger, and never killing each other in their encounters, but merely taking prisoners, who were afterwards liberated without ransom. They never make any night attacks when besieging a place, nor did the besieged make any night sorties; they never properly intrenched their camps, and never kept the field in winter. All these practices were permitted by their rules of war, which were devised by them expressly, as we have said, to avoid hardships and danger; so that Italy was brought to shame and slavery by this system of employing mercenary troops.


of auxiliaries, and of mixed and national troops.

Auxiliary troops, which are the other kind which I have characterized in the preceding chapter as useless, are such as are furnished by a powerful ally whom a prince calls upon to come with his troops to aid and defend him; as was done quite lately by Pope Julius II., who, having had sad proof of the inefficiency of mercenaries in his attempt upon Ferrara, resorted to auxiliaries, and arranged with Ferdinand of Spain to send his armies to his assistance.

Troops of this kind may be useful and good in themselves, but they are always dangerous for him who calls them to his aid; for if defeated, he remains undone, and if victorious, then he is in their power like a prisoner. And although I could adduce numerous examples of this from ancient history, yet I will here cite that of Pope Julius II., which is still fresh in our minds, and whose conduct in that respect could not well have been more imprudent than what it was. For, wishing to take Ferrara, he placed himself entirely in the hands of a foreigner. Fortunately for him, however, an incident occurred which saved him from the full effect of his bad selection; for his auxiliaries having been defeated at Ravenna, the Swiss suddenly appeared on the field and put the victors to ignominious flight. And thus Julius II. escaped becoming prisoner either to his enemies who had fled, or to his auxiliaries; for the enemy’s defeat was not due to their assistance, but to that of others.

The Florentines, having no army of their own, and wishing to get possession of Pisa, employed for that purpose ten thousand French troops, and were involved in greater danger by them than they had ever experienced from any other difficulty. The Emperor of Constantinople, by way of resisting the attacks of his neighbors, put ten thousand troops into Greece, who at the termination of the war refused to leave the country again; and this was the beginning of the subjection of Greece to the infidels.

Whoever, then, desires not to be victorious, let him employ auxiliary troops, for they are much more dangerous even than mercenaries. For your ruin is certain with auxiliaries, who are all united in their obedience to another; whilst mercenaries, even after victory, need more time and greater opportunity to injure you, for they are not one homogeneous body, and have been selected by yourself and are in your pay, and their commander being appointed by you, he cannot so quickly gain sufficient influence over these troops to enable him to injure you. In short, with mercenaries the danger lies in their cowardice and bad faith; whilst with auxiliaries their valor constitutes the danger.

A wise prince, therefore, should ever avoid employing either one of them, and should rely exclusively upon his own troops, and should prefer defeat with them rather than victory with the troops of others, with whom no real victory can ever be won. In proof of this, I shall not hesitate again to cite the conduct of Cesar Borgia. This Duke entered the Romagna with auxiliaries, taking there only French troops, with whom he took Imola and Furli. But thinking afterwards that these troops were not reliable, he had recourse to mercenaries, whom he deemed less dangerous, and engaged the Orsini and the Vitelli. These, however, proved themselves by their conduct to be uncertain, faithless, and dangerous; and therefore the Duke destroyed them, and then relied upon his own troops exclusively. The difference between the one and the other of these troops is easily seen when we look at the reputation of the Duke Valentino at the time when he employed the Orsini and the Vitelli, and when he had none but his own troops; for then his credit increased steadily, and the Duke was never more highly esteemed than when every one saw that he was thoroughly master of his armies.

I did not intend to depart from Italian and recent instances, and yet I cannot leave unnoticed the case of Hiero of Syracuse, being one of those to whom I have referred before. Having been made general of the Syracusan army, as before stated, he quickly perceived that mercenary troops were not useful, their commanders being appointed in a similar manner as our Italian Condottieri. And as it seemed to Hiero that he could neither keep nor dismiss them with safety, he had them all put to death and cut to pieces, and thenceforth carried on the war exclusively with troops of his own.

I will also recall to memory an illustration from the Old Testament applicable to this subject. David having offered to go and fight the Philistine bully, Goliath, Saul, by way of encouraging David, gave him his own arms and armor, which David however declined, after having tried them, saying that he could not make the most of his strength if he used those arms; and therefore he preferred to meet the enemy with no other arms but his sling and his knife. In short, the armor of another never suits you entirely; it is either too large and falls off your back, or weighs you down, or it is too tight.

Charles VII., father of Louis XI., king of France, having by his valor and good fortune delivered France from the English, recognized the necessity of depending solely upon his own armies, and organized in his kingdom regular companies of artillery, cavalry, and infantry. His son, Louis XI., afterwards disbanded the infantry, and began to hire Swiss soldiers in their stead. This error, being followed by others, is now seen to have been the cause of the dangers to which that kingdom was exposed; for by giving prominence to the Swiss, Louis depreciated his own troops, and having disbanded his own infantry entirely, and accustomed his mounted forces to the support of the Swiss, they felt that they could have no success without them. Thence it came that the French could not hold their own against the Swiss, and without their support they could not stand against others. And thus the French armies have remained mixed, that is to say, partly their own troops and partly mercenaries; which, although better than either auxiliaries or mercenaries alone, yet makes them much worse than if they were composed exclusively of their own troops. Let this example suffice; for the kingdom of France would have been invincible if the military system established by Charles VII. had been persevered in and extended. But the short-sightedness of men leads them to adopt any measure that for the moment seems good, and which does not openly reveal the poison concealed under it, as I have said above of hectic fevers.

A prince, then, who does not promptly recognize evils as they arise, cannot be called wise; but unfortunately this faculty is given to but few. And if we reflect upon the beginning of the ruin of the Roman Empire, it will be found to have resulted solely from hiring the Goths for its armies; for that was the first cause of the enervation of the forces of the Empire; and the valor of which the Romans divested themselves was thus transferred to the Goths.

I conclude, then, that no prince can ever be secure that has not an army of his own; and he will become wholly dependent upon fortune if in times of adversity he lacks the valor to defend himself. And wise men have ever held the opinion, that nothing is more weak and unstable than the reputation of power when not founded upon forces of the prince’s own; by which I mean armies composed of his own subjects or citizens, or of his own creation; — all others are either mercenaries or auxiliaries.

The means for organizing such armies of his own will readily be found by the prince by studying the method in which Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and many republics and princes, organized their armies, to which I refer in all respects.


of the duties of a prince in relation to military matters.

A prince, then, should have no other thought or object so much at heart, and make no other thing so much his especial study, as the art of war and the organization and discipline of his army; for that is the only art that is expected of him who commands. And such is its power, that it not only maintains in their position those who were born princes, but it often enables men born in private station to achieve the rank of princes. And on the other hand, we have seen that princes who thought more of indulgence in pleasure than of arms have thereby lost their states.

Thus the neglect of the art of war is the principal cause of the loss of your state, whilst a proficiency in it often enables you to acquire one. Francesco Sforza, from being skilled in arms, rose from private station to be Duke of Milan; and his descendants, by shunning the labors and fatigue of arms, relapsed into the condition of private citizens.

Amongst the other causes of evil that will befall a prince who is destitute of a proper military force is, that it will make him contemned; which is one of those disgraces against which a prince ought especially to guard, as we shall demonstrate further on. For there is no sort of proportion between one who is well armed and one who is not so; nor is it reasonable that he who is armed should voluntarily obey the unarmed, or that a prince who is without a military force should remain secure amongst his armed subjects. For when there is disdain on the one side and mistrust on the other, it is impossible that the two should work well together. A prince, then, who is not master of the art of war, besides other misfortunes, cannot be respected by his soldiers, nor can he depend upon them. And therefore should the practice of arms ever be uppermost in the prince’s thoughts; he should study it in time of peace as much as in actual war, which he can do in two ways, the one by practical exercise, and the other by scientific study. As regards the former, he must not only keep his troops well disciplined and exercised, but he must also frequently follow the chase, whereby his body will become inured to hardships, and he will become familiar with the character of the country, and learn where the mountains rise and the valleys debouch, and how the plains lie; he will learn to know the nature of rivers and of the swamps, to all of which he should give the greatest attention. For this knowledge is valuable in many ways to the prince, who thereby learns to know his own country, and can therefore better understand its defence. Again, by the knowledge of and practical acquaintance with one country, he will with greater facility comprehend the character of others, which it may be necessary for him to understand. For instance, the mountains, valleys, plains, rivers, and swamps of Tuscany bear a certain resemblance to those of other provinces; so that by the knowledge of the character and formation of one country he will readily arrive at that of others. A prince who is wanting in that experience lacks the very first essentials which a commander should possess; for that knowledge teaches him where to find the enemy, to select proper places for intrenchments, to conduct armies, regulate marches, and order battles, and to keep the field with advantage.

Amongst other praises that have been accorded by different writers to Philopœmen, prince of the Achaians, was, that in time of peace he devoted himself constantly to the study of the art of war; and when he walked in the country with friends, he often stopped and argued with them thus: “Suppose the enemy were on yonder mountain, and we should happen to be here with our army, which of the two would have the advantage? How could we go most safely to find the enemy, observing proper order? If we should wish to retreat, how should we proceed? and if the enemy were to retreat, which way had we best pursue him?” And thus in walking he proposed to his friends all the cases that possibly could occur with an army, hearing their opinions, and giving his own, and corroborating them with reasons; so that by these continued discussions no case could ever arise in the conduct of an army for which he had not thought of the proper remedy. As regards the exercise of the mind, the prince should read history, and therein study the actions of eminent men, observe how they bore themselves in war, and examine the causes of their victories and defeats, so that he may imitate the former and avoid the latter. But above all should he follow the example of whatever distinguished man he may have chosen for his model; assuming that some one has been specially praised and held up to him as glorious, whose actions and exploits he should ever bear in mind. Thus it is told of Alexander that he imitated Achilles, and of Cæsar that he had taken Alexander for his model, as Scipio had done with Cyrus. And whoever reads the life of Cyrus, written by Xenophon, will not fail to recognize afterwards, in the life of Scipio, of how much value this imitation was to him, and how closely the latter conformed in point of temperance, affability, humanity, and liberality to the accounts given of Cyrus by Xenophon.

A wise prince then should act in like manner, and should never be idle in times of peace, but should industriously lay up stores of which to avail himself in times of adversity; so that, when Fortune abandons him, he may be prepared to resist her blows.


of the means by which men, and especially princes, win applause, or incur censure.

It remains now to be seen in what manner a prince should conduct himself towards his subjects and his allies; and knowing that this matter has already been treated by many others, I apprehend that my writing upon it also may be deemed presumptuous, especially as in the discussion of the same I shall differ from the rules laid down by others. But as my aim is to write something that may be useful to him for whom it is intended, it seems to me proper to pursue the real truth of the matter, rather than to indulge in mere speculation on the same; for many have imagined republics and principalities such as have never been known to exist in reality. For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than to safety. For a man who, in all respects, will carry out only his professions of good, will be apt to be ruined amongst so many who are evil. A prince therefore who desires to maintain himself must learn to be not always good, but to be so or not as necessity may require. Leaving aside then the imaginary things concerning princes, and confining ourselves only to the realities, I say that all men when they are spoken of, and more especially princes, from being in a more conspicuous position, are noted for some quality that brings them either praise or censure. Thus one is deemed liberal, another miserly (misero) to use a Tuscan expression (for avaricious is he who by rapine desires to gain, and miserly we call him who abstains too much from the enjoyment of his own). One man is esteemed generous, another rapacious; one cruel, another merciful; one faithless, and another faithful; one effeminate and pusillanimous, another ferocious and brave; one affable, another haughty; one lascivious, another chaste; one sincere, the other cunning; one facile, another inflexible; one grave, another frivolous; one religious, another sceptical; and so on.

I am well aware that it would be most praiseworthy for a prince to possess all of the above-named qualities that are esteemed good; but as he cannot have them all, nor entirely observe them, because of his human nature which does not permit it, he should at least be prudent enough to know how to avoid the infamy of those vices that would rob him of his state; and if possible also to guard against such as are likely to endanger it. But if that be not possible, then he may with less hesitation follow his natural inclinations. Nor need he care about incurring censure for such vices, without which the preservation of his state may be difficult. For, all things considered, it will be found that some things that seem like virtue will lead you to ruin if you follow them; whilst others, that apparently are vices, will, if followed, result in your safety and well-being.


of liberality and parsimoniousness.

To begin with the first of the above-named qualities, I say that it is well for a prince to be deemed liberal; and yet liberality, indulged in so that you will no longer be feared, will prove injurious. For liberality worthily exercised, as it should be, will not be recognized, and may bring upon you the reproach of the very opposite. For if you desire the reputation of being liberal, you must not stop at any degree of sumptuousness; so that a prince will in this way generally consume his entire substance, and may in the end, if he wishes to keep up his reputation for liberality, be obliged to subject his people to extraordinary burdens, and resort to taxation, and employ all sorts of measures that will enable him to procure money. This will soon make him odious with his people; and when he becomes poor, he will be contemned by everybody; so that having by his prodigality injured many and benefited few, he will be the first to suffer every inconvenience, and be exposed to every danger. And when he becomes conscious of this and attempts to retrench, he will at once expose himself to the imputation of being a miser.

A prince then, being unable without injury to himself to practise the virtue of liberality in such manner that it may be generally recognized, should not, when he becomes aware of this and is prudent, mind incurring the charge of parsimoniousness. For after a while, when it is seen that by his prudence and economy he makes his revenues suffice him, and that he is able to provide for his defence in case of war, and engage in enterprises without burdening his people, he will be considered liberal enough by all those from whom he takes nothing, and these are the many; whilst only those to whom he does not give, and which are the few, will look upon him as parsimonious.

In our own times we have not seen any great things accomplished except by those who were regarded as parsimonious; all others have been ruined. Pope Julius II., having been helped by his reputation of liberality to attain the Pontificate, did not afterwards care to keep up that reputation to enable him to engage in war against the king of France; and he carried on ever so many wars without levying any extraordinary taxes. For his long-continued economy enabled him to supply the extraordinary expenses of his wars.

If the present king of Spain had sought the reputation of being liberal, he would not have been able to engage in so many enterprises, nor could he have carried them to a successful issue. A prince, then, who would avoid robbing his own subjects, and be able to defend himself, and who would avoid becoming poor and abject or rapacious, should not mind incurring the reputation of being parsimonious; for that is one of those vices that will enable him to maintain his state. And should it be alleged that Julius Cæsar attained the Empire by means of his liberality, and that many others by the same reputation have achieved the highest rank, then I reply, that you are either already a prince, or are in the way of becoming one; in the first case liberality would be injurious to you, but in the second it certainly is necessary to be reputed liberal. Now Cæsar was aiming to attain the Empire of Rome; but having achieved it, had he lived and not moderated his expenditures, he would assuredly have ruined the Empire by his prodigality.

And were any one to assert that there have been many princes who have achieved great things with their armies, and who were accounted most liberal, I answer that a prince either spends his own substance and that of his subjects, or that of others. Of the first two he should be very sparing, but in spending that of others he ought not to omit any act of liberality. The prince who in person leads his armies into foreign countries, and supports them by plunder, pillage, and exactions, and thus dispenses the substance of others, should do so with the greatest liberality, as otherwise his soldiers would not follow him. For that which belongs neither to him nor to his own subjects, a prince may spend most lavishly, as was done by Cyrus, Cæsar, and Alexander. The spending of other people’s substance will not diminish, but rather increase, his reputation; it is only the spending of his own that is injurious to a prince.

And there is nothing that consumes itself so quickly as liberality; for the very act of using it causes it to lose the faculty of being used, and will either impoverish and make you contemned, or it will make you rapacious and odious. And of all the things against which a prince should guard most carefully is the incurring the hatred and contempt of his subjects. Now, liberality will bring upon you either the one or the other; there is therefore more wisdom in submitting to be called parsimonious, which may bring you blame without hatred, than, by aiming to be called liberal, to incur unavoidably the reputation of rapacity, which will bring upon you infamy as well as hatred.


of cruelty and clemency, and whether it is better to be loved than feared.

Coming down now to the other aforementioned qualities, I say that every prince ought to desire the reputation of being merciful, and not cruel; at the same time, he should be careful not to misuse that mercy. Cesar Borgia was reputed cruel, yet by his cruelty he reunited the Romagna to his states, and restored that province to order, peace, and loyalty; and if we carefully examine his course, we shall find it to have been really much more merciful than the course of the people of Florence, who, to escape the reputation of cruelty, allowed Pistoja to be destroyed. A prince, therefore, should not mind the ill repute of cruelty, when he can thereby keep his subjects united and loyal; for a few displays of severity will really be more merciful than to allow, by an excess of clemency, disorders to occur, which are apt to result in rapine and murder; for these injure a whole community, whilst the executions ordered by the prince fall only upon a few individuals. And, above all others, the new prince will find it almost impossible to avoid the reputation of cruelty, because new states are generally exposed to many dangers. It was on this account that Virgil made Dido to excuse the severity of her government, because it was still new, saying, —

“Res dura, et regni novitas me talia cogunt

Moliri, et late fines custode tueri.”*

A prince, however, should be slow to believe and to act; nor should he be too easily alarmed by his own fears, and should proceed moderately and with prudence and humanity, so that an excess of confidence may not make him incautious, nor too much mistrust make him intolerant. This, then, gives rise to the question “whether it be better to be beloved than feared, or to be feared than beloved.” It will naturally be answered that it would be desirable to be both the one and the other; but as it is difficult to be both at the same time, it is much more safe to be feared than to be loved, when you have to choose between the two. For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful and fickle, dissemblers, avoiders of danger, and greedy of gain. So long as you shower benefits upon them, they are all yours; they offer you their blood, their substance, their lives, and their children, provided the necessity for it is far off; but when it is near at hand, then they revolt. And the prince who relies upon their words, without having otherwise provided for his security, is ruined; for friendships that are won by rewards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved, yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.

Besides, men have less hesitation in offending one who makes himself beloved than one who makes himself feared; for love holds by a bond of obligation which, as mankind is bad, is broken on every occasion whenever it is for the interest of the obliged party to break it. But fear holds by the apprehension of punishment, which never leaves men. A prince, however, should make himself feared in such a manner that, if he has not won the affections of his people, he shall at least not incur their hatred; for the being feared, and not hated, can go very well together, if the prince abstains from taking the substance of his subjects, and leaves them their women. And if you should be obliged to inflict capital punishment upon any one, then be sure to do so only when there is manifest cause and proper justification for it; and, above all things, abstain from taking people’s property, for men will sooner forget the death of their fathers than the loss of their patrimony. Besides, there will never be any lack of reasons for taking people’s property; and a prince who once begins to live by rapine will ever find excuses for seizing other people’s property. On the other hand, reasons for taking life are not so easily found, and are more readily exhausted. But when a prince is at the head of his army, with a multitude of soldiers under his command, then it is above all things necessary for him to disregard the reputation of cruelty; for without such severity an army cannot be kept together, nor disposed for any successful feat of arms.

Amongst the many admirable qualities of Hannibal, it is related of him that, having an immense army composed of a very great variety of races of men, which he led to war in foreign countries, no quarrels ever occurred amongst them, nor were there ever any dissensions between them and their chief, either in his good or in his adverse fortunes; which can only be accounted for by his extreme cruelty. This, together with his boundless courage, made him ever venerated and terrible in the eyes of his soldiers; and without that extreme severity all his other virtues would not have sufficed to produce that result.

Inconsiderate writers have, on the one hand, admired his great deeds, and, on the other, condemned the principal cause of the same. And the proof that his other virtues would not have sufficed him may be seen from the case of Scipio, who was one of the most remarkable men, not only of his own time, but in all history. His armies revolted in Spain solely in consequence of his extreme clemency, which allowed his soldiers more license than comports with proper military discipline. This fact was censured in the Roman Senate by Fabius Maximus, who called Scipio the corrupter of the Roman soldiers. The tribe of the Locrians having been wantonly destroyed by one of the lieutenants of Scipio, he neither punished him for that nor for his insolence, — simply because of his own easy nature; so that, when somebody wished to excuse Scipio in the Senate, he said, “that there were many men who knew better how to avoid errors themselves than to punish them in others.” This easy nature of Scipio’s would in time have dimmed his fame and glory if he had persevered in it under the Empire; but living as he did under the government of the Senate, this dangerous quality of his was not only covered up, but actually redounded to his honor.

To come back now to the question whether it be better to be beloved than feared, I conclude that, as men love of their own free will, but are inspired with fear by the will of the prince, a wise prince should always rely upon himself, and not upon the will of others; but, above all, should he always strive to avoid being hated, as I have already said above.


in what manner princes should keep their faith.

It must be evident to every one that it is more praiseworthy for a prince always to maintain good faith, and practise integrity rather than craft and deceit. And yet the experience of our own times has shown that those princes have achieved great things who made small account of good faith, and who understood by cunning to circumvent the intelligence of others; and that in the end they got the better of those whose actions were dictated by loyalty and good faith. You must know, therefore, that there are two ways of carrying on a contest; the one by law, and the other by force. The first is practised by men, and the other by animals; and as the first is often insufficient, it becomes necessary to resort to the second.

A prince then should know how to employ the nature of man, and that of the beasts as well. This was figuratively taught by ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many other princes were given to Chiron the centaur to be nurtured, and how they were trained under his tutorship; which fable means nothing else than that their preceptor combined the qualities of the man and the beast; and that a prince, to succeed, will have to employ both the one and the other nature, as the one without the other cannot produce lasting results.

It being necessary then for a prince to know well how to employ the nature of the beasts, he should be able to assume both that of the fox and that of the lion; for whilst the latter cannot escape the traps laid for him, the former cannot defend himself against the wolves. A prince should be a fox, to know the traps and snares; and a lion, to be able to frighten the wolves; for those who simply hold to the nature of the lion do not understand their business.

A sagacious prince then cannot and should not fulfil his pledges when their observance is contrary to his interest, and when the causes that induced him to pledge his faith no longer exist. If men were all good, then indeed this precept would be bad; but as men are naturally bad, and will not observe their faith towards you, you must, in the same way, not observe yours to them; and no prince ever yet lacked legitimate reasons with which to color his want of good faith. Innumerable modern examples could be given of this; and it could easily be shown how many treaties of peace, and how many engagements, have been made null and void by the faithlessness of princes; and he who has best known how to play the fox has ever been the most successful.

But it is necessary that the prince should know how to color this nature well, and how to be a great hypocrite and dissembler. For men are so simple, and yield so much to immediate necessity, that the deceiver will never lack dupes. I will mention one of the most recent examples. Alexander VI. never did nor ever thought of anything but to deceive, and always found a reason for doing so. No one ever had greater skill in asseverating, or who affirmed his pledges with greater oaths and observed them less, than Pope Alexander; and yet he was always successful in his deceits, because he knew the weakness of men in that particular.

It is not necessary, however, for a prince to possess all the above-mentioned qualities; but it is essential that he should at least seem to have them. I will even venture to say, that to have and to practise them constantly is pernicious, but to seem to have them is useful. For instance, a prince should seem to be merciful, faithful, humane, religious, and upright, and should even be so in reality; but he should have his mind so trained that, when occasion requires it, he may know how to change to the opposite. And it must be understood that a prince, and especially one who has but recently acquired his state, cannot perform all those things which cause men to be esteemed as good; he being often obliged, for the sake of maintaining his state, to act contrary to humanity, charity, and religion. And therefore is it necessary that he should have a versatile mind, capable of changing readily, according as the winds and changes of fortune bid him; and, as has been said above, not to swerve from the good if possible, but to know how to resort to evil if necessity demands it.

A prince then should be very careful never to allow anything to escape his lips that does not abound in the above-named five qualities, so that to see and to hear him he may seem all charity, integrity, and humanity, all uprightness, and all piety. And more than all else is it necessary for a prince to seem to possess the last quality; for mankind in general judge more by what they see and hear than by what they feel, every one being capable of the former, and but few of the latter. Everybody sees what you seem to be, but few really feel what you are; and these few dare not oppose the opinion of the many, who are protected by the majesty of the state; for the actions of all men, and especially those of princes, are judged by the result, where there is no other judge to whom to appeal.

A prince then should look mainly to the successful maintenance of his state. The means which he employs for this will always be accounted honorable, and will be praised by everybody; for the common people are always taken by appearances and by results, and it is the vulgar mass that constitutes the world. But a very few have rank and station, whilst the many have nothing to sustain them. A certain prince of our time, whom it is well not to name, never preached anything but peace and good faith; but if he had always observed either the one or the other, it would in most instances have cost him his reputation or his state.


a prince must avoid being contemned and hated.

Having thus considered separately the most important of the above-mentioned qualities which a prince should possess, I will now briefly discuss the others under this general maxim: that a prince should endeavor, as has already been said, to avoid everything that would tend to make him odious and contemned. And in proportion as he avoids that will he have performed his part well, and need fear no danger from any other vices. Above all, a prince makes himself odious by rapacity, that is, by taking away from his subjects their property and their women, from which he should carefully abstain. The great mass of men will live quietly and contentedly, provided you do not rob them of their substance and their honor; so that you will have to contend only with the ambition of a few, which is easily restrained in various ways.

A prince becomes despised when he incurs by his acts the reputation of being variable, inconstant, effeminate, pusillanimous, and irresolute; he should therefore guard against this as against a dangerous rock, and should strive to display in all his actions grandeur, courage, gravity, and determination. And in judging the private causes of his subjects, his decisions should be irrevocable. Thus will he maintain himself in such esteem that no one will think of deceiving or betraying him. The prince, who by his habitual conduct gives cause for such an opinion of himself, will acquire so great a reputation that it will be difficult to conspire against him, or to attack him; provided that it be generally known that he is truly excellent, and revered by his subjects. For there are two things which a prince has to fear: the one, attempts against him by his own subjects; and the other, attacks from without by powerful foreigners. Against the latter he will be able to defend himself by good armies and good allies, and whoever has the one will not lack the other. And so long as his external affairs are kept quiet, his internal security will not be disturbed, unless it should be by a conspiracy. And even if he were to be assailed from without, if he has a well-organized army and has lived as he should have done, he will always (unless he should give way himself) be able to withstand any such attacks, as we have related was done by Nabis, tyrant of Sparta. But even when at peace externally, it nevertheless behooves the prince to be on his guard, lest his subjects conspire against him secretly. He will, however, be sufficiently secure against this, if he avoids being hated and despised, and keeps his subjects well satisfied with himself, which should ever be his aim, as I have already explained above. Not to be hated nor contemned by the mass of the people is one of the best safeguards for a prince against conspiracies; for conspirators always believe that the death of the prince will be satisfactory to the people; but when they know that it will rather offend than conciliate the people, they will not venture upon such a course, for the difficulties that surround conspirators are infinite.

Experience proves that, although there have been many conspiracies, yet but few have come to a good end; for he who conspires cannot act alone, nor can he take any associates except such as he believes to be malcontents; and so soon as you divulge your plans to a malcontent, you furnish him the means wherewith to procure satisfaction. For by denouncing it he may hope to derive great advantages for himself, seeing that such a course will insure him those advantages, whilst the other is full of doubts and dangers. He must indeed be a very rare friend of yours, or an inveterate enemy of the prince, to observe good faith and not to betray you.

But to reduce this matter to a few words, I say that on the side of the conspirator there is nothing but fear, jealousy, and apprehension of punishment; whilst the prince has on his side the majesty of sovereignty, the laws, the support of his friends and of the government, which protect him. And if to all this be added the popular good will, it seems impossible that any one should be rash enough to attempt a conspiracy against him. For ordinarily a conspirator has cause for apprehension only before the execution of his evil purpose; but in this case, having the people for his enemies, he has also to fear the consequences after the commission of the crime, and can look nowhere for a refuge. Upon this point I might adduce innumerable examples, but will content myself with only one, which occurred within the memory of our fathers. Messer Annibale Bentivogli, grandfather of the present Messer Annibale, being prince of Bologna, was murdered by the Canneschi, who had conspired against him, and there remained of his family one Messer Giovanni, who was still in his infancy. Immediately after the murder of Messer Annibale, the people rose and killed all the Canneschi. This was the consequence of the popularity which the Bentivogli enjoyed in those days in Bologna, and which went to that extent that after the death of Messer Annibale, when there remained not one of the family in Bologna capable of governing the state, the people received information that there was a Bentivogli in Florence who, until then, had been reputed the son of a blacksmith. They sent a deputation to him at Florence and conferred the government of the city upon him, which he exercised undisturbed until Messer Giovanni came to be of suitable age to assume it himself. I conclude, that a prince need apprehend but little from conspiracies, provided he possess the good will of his people, which is one of the most important points that a prince has to look to.

Amongst the well-organized and well-governed kingdoms of our time is that of France, which has a great many excellent institutions that secure the liberty and safety of the king. The most important of these is the Parliament, and its authority; for the founder of that kingdom knew the ambition and insolence of the nobles, and judged it necessary to put a bit into their mouths with which to curb them. He knew at the same time the hatred of the mass of the people towards the nobles, based upon their fears. Wishing to secure both, and yet unwilling to make this the special care of the king, so as to relieve him of the responsibility to the nobles of seeming to favor the people, and to the people of favoring the nobles, he instituted the Parliament to act as a judge, which might, without reference to the king, keep down the great, and favor the weak. Nor could there be a wiser system, or one that affords more security to the king and his realm.

We may also draw another notable conclusion from this, namely, that princes should devolve all matters of responsibility upon others, and take upon themselves only those of grace. I conclude then anew, that a prince should treat his nobles with respect and consideration, and should avoid at the same time making himself odious to his people. It may perhaps seem to many that, considering the life and death of many Roman Emperors, their example contradicts my opinions, seeing that some who have led most exemplary lives, and displayed most noble qualities of the soul, yet lost the Empire, or were even killed by their followers, who had conspired against them. I desire to meet this objection, and will therefore discuss the characters of some of those Emperors, showing that the causes of their ruin were not different from those adduced by me above; and I will present some considerations that are important to the student of the history of those times. In this I shall confine myself to those Emperors that succeeded one another from Marcus, the philosopher, to Maximinius; namely, Marcus, his son Commodus, Pertinax, Julian, Severus, Antoninus Caracalla his son, Macrinus, Heliogabalus, Alexander, and Maximinius.

And I must remark at the outset, that, where in other principalities the prince had to contend only with the ambition of the nobles and the insolence of the people, the Roman Emperors had to meet a third difficulty, in having to bear with the cruelty and cupidity of the soldiers, which were so great that they caused the ruin of many, because of the difficulty of satisfying at the same time both the soldiers and the people; for the people love quiet, and for that reason they revere princes who are modest, whilst the soldiers love a prince of military spirit, and who is cruel, haughty, and rapacious. And these qualities the prince must practise upon the people, so as to enable him to increase the pay of the soldiers, and to satisfy their avarice and cruelty. Whence it came that all those Emperors were ruined who had not, by their natural or acquired qualities, the necessary influence that would enable them to restrain at the same time the soldiers and the people. Most of them, therefore, and especially those who had but recently attained the sovereignty, knowing the difficulty of satisfying two such different dispositions, sought rather to satisfy the soldiers, and cared but little about oppressing and offending the people. And this course was unavoidable for them; for inasmuch as princes generally cannot prevent being hated by some, they ought first of all to strive not to be hated by the mass of the people; but failing in this, they should by all means endeavor to avoid being hated by the more powerful. And therefore those Emperors who, by reason of having but recently acquired the Empire, had need of extraordinary favors, attached themselves more readily to the soldiery than to the people; which, however, was advantageous to them or not only according as such Emperor knew how to maintain his ascendency over them. These were the reasons why Marcus, Pertinax, and Alexander, being all three men of modest lives, lovers of justice, enemies to cruelty, humane, and benevolent, came to a bad end, Marcus alone excepted, who lived and died much honored; but he had succeeded to the Empire by inheritance, and was not indebted for it either to the soldiers or to the favor of the people. He was, moreover, endowed with many virtues, which made him generally revered; and so long as he lived he always kept both the soldiery and the people within their proper bounds, and thus was neither hated nor contemned. But Pertinax was made emperor contrary to the will of the army, which, having been accustomed under Commodus to a life of unrestrained license, could not bear the orderly life to which Pertinax wished to constrain them. Having thus incurred their hatred, to which disrespect became added on account of his age, he was ruined at the very outset of his reign. And here I would observe that hatred may be caused by good as well as by evil works, and therefore (as I have said above) a prince who wants to preserve his state is often obliged not to be good; for when the mass of the people or of the soldiery, or of the nobles, whose support is necessary for him, is corrupt, then it becomes the interest of the prince to indulge and satisfy their humor; and it is under such circumstances that good works will be injurious to him. Let us come now to Alexander, who was so good that, amongst other merits, it was said of him that during the fourteen years of his reign not one person was put to death by him without regular judicial proceedings. But being regarded as effeminate, and as allowing himself to be governed by his mother, he fell into disrespect, and the soldiery conspired against him and killed him.

Discussing now, by way of the opposite extreme, the qualities of Commodus, Severus, Antoninus Caracalla, and Maximinius, we find them to have been most cruel and rapacious; and that, for the sake of keeping the soldiers satisfied, they did not hesitate to commit every kind of outrage upon the people; and that all of them, with exception of Septimus Severus, came to a bad end. The latter possessed such valor that, although he imposed heavy burdens upon the people, yet, by keeping the soldiers his friends, he was enabled to reign undisturbed and happily; for his bravery caused him to be so much admired by the soldiers and the people that the latter were in a manner stupefied and astounded by it, whilst it made the former respectful and satisfied.

And as the actions of Severus were really great, considering that he was a prince of but recent date, I will show how well he knew to play the part of the fox and of the lion, whose natures a prince should be able to imitate, as I have shown above. Severus, knowing the indolence of the Emperor Julian, persuaded the troops which he commanded in Slavonia that it would be proper for them to go to Rome to avenge the death of Pertinax, who had been killed by the Imperial Guard. Under this pretext, without showing that he aspired to the Empire, he moved the army to Rome, and was in Italy before it was known even that he had started. On his arrival in Rome the Senate, under the influence of fear, elected Severus Emperor, Julian having previously been slain.

After this beginning, Severus had yet two difficulties to overcome before he could make himself master of the entire state: the one in Asia, where Niger, commander of the army of the East, had himself proclaimed Emperor; and the other in the West, caused by Albinus, who also aspired to the Empire. Deeming it dangerous to declare himself openly the enemy of both, Severus resolved to attack Niger and to deceive Albinus; and therefore he wrote to the latter that, having been elected Emperor by the Senate, he wished to share that dignity with him, and accordingly sent him the title of Cæsar, and accepted him as his colleague, by resolution of the Senate. Albinus received it all as truth; but after Severus had defeated and slain Niger, and quieted matters in the East, he returned to Rome and complained in the Senate that Albinus, little grateful for the benefits which he had bestowed upon him, had plotted treason and murder against him, and that therefore it was incumbent upon him to go and punish this ingratitude and treason. Severus thereupon went into France to seek Albinus, and deprived him of his state and his life.

If now we examine minutely the conduct of Severus, we shall find that he combined the ferocity of the lion with the cunning of the fox, and that he was feared and revered by every one, and was not hated by the army. Nor ought we to be surprised to find that, although a new man, he yet should have been able to maintain himself at the head of so great an empire; for his eminent reputation saved him always from incurring the hatred of the people, which his rapacity might otherwise have provoked.

Antoninus Caracalla, the son of Severus, was also a man possessed of eminent qualities and rare gifts, which made him admired by the people and acceptable to the soldiery. For he was a military man, capable of enduring every fatigue, despising the delicacies of the table and every other effeminacy, which made him beloved by all the army. But his ferocity and cruelty were so great and unprecedented that, having on several occasions caused a large number of the people of Rome to be put to death, and at another time nearly the entire population of Alexandria, he became odious to the whole world, and began to be feared even by his immediate attendants, and finally was killed by a centurion in the midst of his army. Whence we may observe that princes cannot always escape assassination when prompted by a resolute and determined spirit; for any man who himself despises death can always inflict it upon others. But as men of this sort are rare, princes need not be very apprehensive about them; they should, however, be most careful not to offend grievously any of those who serve their persons, or who are around and near them in the service of the state. It was in this respect that Caracalla erred, for he had contumeliously slain a brother of a centurion, whom he had also threatened repeatedly, and yet kept him as one of his body-guard; which was a most reckless thing to do, and well calculated to prove ruinous to Antoninus Caracalla, as it finally did.

But we come now to Commodus, who might have kept the Empire with great ease, having inherited it as the son of Marcus Aurelius. All he had to do was to follow in the footsteps of his father, which would have satisfied both the people and the army. But being of a cruel and bestial nature, he began by entertaining the army and making it licentious, so as to enable him the more freely to indulge his rapacity upon the people. And on the other hand he made himself contemptible in the eyes of his soldiers, by disregarding his own dignity, and descending into the arena to combat with gladiators, and doing other disgraceful things wholly unworthy of the imperial majesty. Being thus hated by the people and contemned by the army, a conspiracy was set on foot against him and he was killed.

It remains now for me to discuss the character of Maximinius. He was a most warlike man; and the army being tired of the effeminacy of Alexander Severus, of which I have spoken above, they elected Maximinius to the Empire after the death of Alexander. But he did not retain it very long, for two circumstances made him both odious and despised. One was his extremely low origin, having been a shepherd in Thracia (which was generally known, and caused him to be held in great contempt by every one), and the other was his delay, when elected Emperor, to go to Rome, there to take possession of the imperial throne. He had moreover earned the reputation of extreme cruelty, in consequence of the many acts of ferocity which he had committed through the agency of his prefects in Rome and elsewhere. Being thus despised by the whole world on account of his low origin, and on the other hand hated because of his cruelty, a conspiracy was formed against him, first in Africa, and then by the Senate and people of Rome and all Italy. His army joined in the conspiracy, for being engaged in the siege of Aquileia and finding difficulty in taking it, they became tired of his harshness; and seeing that he had so many enemies, they lost their fear of him and put him to death.

I care not to discuss either Heliogabalus, or Macrinus, or Julian, who, being utterly contemptible, came quickly to an end; but will conclude this discourse by saying that the princes of our times are not subjected to the same difficulties in their governments by the extraordinary demands of their armies. For although they are obliged to show them some consideration, yet they are easily disposed of, as none of the sovereigns of the present day keep their armies constantly together, so as to become veterans in the service of the government and the administration of the provinces, as was the case in the time of the Roman Empire. And if in those days it was necessary to have more regard to the armies than to the people, because of their greater power, it nowadays behooves princes rather to keep the people contented, for they have more influence and power than the soldiers. The Grand Turk and the Sultan of Egypt form an exception to this rule, for the Turk always keeps himself surrounded by twelve thousand infantry and fifteen thousand cavalry, on which the strength and security of his empire depends; he must therefore keep these troops devoted to himself, regardless of all consideration for the people.

It is much the same with the government of the Sultan of Egypt, which being entirely under the control of the army, it behooves him also, regardless of the people, to keep the soldiery his friends. And here I would remark that the government of the Sultan of Egypt differs from all other principalities, although in some respects similar to the Christian Pontificate, which cannot be called either an hereditary or a new principality. For when the Sultan dies, his sons do not inherit the government, but it devolves upon whoever is elected to that dignity by those who have authority in the matter. And as this system is consecrated by time, it cannot be called a new principality; for it is free from all the difficulties that appertain to new principalities. For even if the prince be new, the institutions of the state are old, and are so organized as to receive the elected the same as though he were their hereditary lord.

But to return to our subject, I say, that whoever reflects carefully upon the above discourse will find that the ruin of the above-mentioned Emperors was caused by either hatred or contempt; and he will also see how it happened that, whilst some of them having proceeded one way and some in the opposite, in some instances the one had a happy, and the other an unhappy end. For in the case of Pertinax and Alexander, both being new princes, it was useless and dangerous for them to attempt to imitate Marcus, who had inherited the Empire. And in the same way it was ruinous for Caracalla, Commodus, and Maximinius to imitate Severus, for neither of them possessed the noble qualities necessary to enable them to follow in his footsteps.

A prince, therefore, who has but recently acquired his principality, cannot imitate the conduct of Marcus Aurelius; nor is it necessary for him to imitate that of Septimus Severus. But he should learn from Severus what is necessary to found a state, and from Marcus what is proper and glorious for the preservation of a state that is already firmly established.


whether the erection of fortresses, and many other things which princes often do, are useful, or injurious.

Some princes, with a view to a more secure tenure of their states, have disarmed their subjects; some have kept the countries subject to them divided into different parties; others have purposely encouraged enmities against themselves; whilst others again have endeavored to win the good will of those whom in the beginning of their reign they suspected of hostile feelings. Some have built fortresses, whilst others have demolished and razed those that existed. Now although I cannot pronounce any definite judgment as to these different ways of proceeding, without examining the particular condition of those states where similar proceedings are to be applied, yet I will treat the subject in that general way of which it is susceptible.

It has never happened that a new prince has disarmed his subjects; on the contrary rather, if he has found them unarmed, he has armed them, and in that way has made them as it were his own, and made those faithful who before were suspect; whilst those who were loyal to him before will remain so, and thus he will convert his subjects into his partisans and supporters. And although a prince cannot arm all his subjects, yet by giving certain advantages to those whom he does arm, he secures himself the better against the others who are not armed, and who will excuse the preference shown to those whom the prince has armed and thereby laid under obligations to himself. For the others will excuse him, and will recognize the necessity of rewarding those who are exposed to greater danger, and who have more onerous duties to perform.

But a prince who disarms his subjects will at once offend them, by thus showing that he has no confidence in them, but that he suspects them either of cowardice or want of loyalty, and this will cause them to hate him. And as the prince cannot remain without an armed force, he will have to resort to mercenaries, the objections to which I have fully set forth in a preceding chapter. And even if these mercenaries were not absolutely bad, they would still be insufficient to protect the prince against powerful enemies, and suspected subjects. Therefore, as I have said, new princes should always establish armed forces in their newly acquired principalities; for which history furnishes us abundance of precedents.

But when a prince acquires a new state, which he annexes as an appendage to his old possessions, then it is advisable for him to disarm the inhabitants of the new state, excepting those who, upon the acquisition of the same, declared in the prince’s favor. But even these it will be well for him to weaken and enervate when occasion offers; so that his armed forces shall be organized in such a way as to consist entirely of his own subjects, natives of his original state.

Our ancestors, and those who were regarded as wise, used to say that the way to hold Pistoja was through party divisions, and Pisa by means of fortresses. Accordingly they encouraged such party divisions in some of the towns that were subject to them, for the purpose of holding them the more easily. This may have been very well in those times when the different powers of Italy were to some extent evenly balanced; but it does not seem to me that such a precept is applicable at the present day, for I do not believe that party divisions purposely made are ever productive of good. To the contrary rather, cities divided against themselves are easily lost, on the approach of an enemy; for the weaker party will always unite with the external foe, and then the other will not be able to maintain itself.

The Venetians, influenced I believe by the above reasons, encouraged the feuds between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines in the cities that were subject to them; and although they never allowed them to come to bloody conflicts, yet they fomented their quarrels sufficiently to keep the citizens occupied with their own dissensions, so that they could not turn against the Venetians. This, however, did not result as they had designed, for after the defeat at Vaila one of the parties promptly took courage, and deprived the Venetians of the entire state. Measures of this kind, therefore, argue weakness in a prince, for a strong government will never allow such divisions; they can be of advantage only in time of peace, as by their means subjects may be more easily managed, but in case of war the fallacy of this system becomes manifest. Princes undoubtedly become great by overcoming all difficulties and oppositions that may spring up against them; and therefore does Fortune, when she intends to make a new prince great (for whom it is more important to acquire a reputation than for an hereditary prince), cause enemies to arise and make attempts against the prince, so as to afford him the opportunity of overcoming them, and that he may thus rise higher by means of the very ladder which his enemies have brought against him. And therefore the opinion has been held by many, that a wise prince should, when opportunity offers, adroitly nurse some enmities against himself, so that by overcoming them his greatness may be increased.

Princes, and more especially new ones, have often met with more fidelity and devotion in the very men whom at the beginning of their reign they mistrusted, than in those upon whom they at first confidently relied. Thus Pandolfo Petrucci, prince of Sienna, governed his state more by the aid of those whom he at first regarded with suspicion, than by that of any of his other subjects. But no general rules can be laid down for this, as the prince must in this respect be governed by circumstances. I will only observe that those men who at the beginning of a prince’s reign are hostile to him, and who are yet so situated that they need his support for their maintenance, will always be most easily won over by him; and they will be obliged to continue to serve him with the greater fidelity, because of the importance of their effacing by their good conduct the bad opinion which the prince had formed of them at the beginning. And thus the prince will derive more useful service from these than from such as from over confidence in their security will serve his interests negligently.

And since the subject requires it, I will not omit to remind the prince who has but recently acquired a state by the favor of its citizens to consider well the reasons that influenced those who favored his success. For if it was not a natural affection for him, but merely their dissatisfaction with the previous government, then he will have much trouble and difficulty in preserving their attachment, for it will be almost impossible for the prince to satisfy their expectations. Now if we carefully study the reasons of this from the examples which both ancient and modern history furnish us, we shall find that it is much easier for a prince to win the friendship of those who previous to his acquisition of the state were content with its government, and who must therefore have been hostile to him, than of those who, from being malcontents under the previous government, became his friends, and favored his seizing the state.

It has been the general practice of princes, for the purpose of holding their states securely, to build fortresses to serve as a curb and check upon those who might make an attempt against the government, and at the same time to afford the prince a secure place of refuge against the first attack. I approve of this system, because it was practised by the ancients; and yet we have seen in our own times that Messer Niccolo Vitelli dismantled two fortresses in Citta di Castello, so as to enable him to hold that place. Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino, on returning to his state, whence he had been driven by Cesar Borgia, razed all the fortresses of that province to their very foundations; for he thought that it would be more difficult for him to lose that state a second time without those fortresses. The Bentivogli did the same thing on their return to Bologna. Fortresses then are useful or not, according to circumstances; and whilst in one way they are advantageous, they may in another prove injurious to a prince. The question may therefore be stated thus. A prince who fears his own people more than he does foreigners should build fortresses; but he who has more cause to fear strangers than his own people should do without them. The citadel of Milan, built by Francesco Sforza, has caused, and will yet cause, more trouble to the house of Sforza than any other disturbance in that state. The best fortress which a prince can possess is the affection of his people; for even if he have fortresses, and is hated by his people, the fortresses will not save him; for when a people have once risen in arms against their prince, there will be no lack of strangers who will aid them.

In our own times we have seen but one instance where fortresses have been of advantage to a ruler, and that was the case of the Countess of Furli, when her husband, the Count Girolamo, was killed; for the castle of Furli enabled her to escape from the fury of the people, and there to await assistance from Milan, so as to recover her state, the circumstances at the time being such that the people could not obtain assistance from strangers. Later, however, when she was assailed by Cesar Borgia, the people of Furli, being hostile to her, united with the stranger, and then the castle was no longer of any great value to her. Thus she would have been more secure if she had not been hated by her people, than she was in possessing the castle.

After a full examination of the question, then, I approve of those who build fortresses, as well as those who do not. But I blame all those who, in their confident reliance upon such strongholds, do not mind incurring the hatred of their own people.


how princes should conduct themselves to acquire a reputation.

Nothing makes a prince so much esteemed as the undertaking of great enterprises and the setting a noble example in his own person. We have a striking instance of this in Ferdinand of Aragon, the present king of Spain. He may be called, as it were, a new prince; for, from being king of a feeble state, he has, by his fame and glory, become the first sovereign of Christendom; and if we examine his actions we shall find them all most grand, and some of them extraordinary. In the beginning of his reign he attacked Granada, and it was this undertaking that was the very foundation of his greatness. At first he carried on this war leisurely and without fear of opposition; for he kept the nobles of Castile occupied with this enterprise, and, their minds being thus engaged by war, they gave no attention to the innovations introduced by the king, who thereby acquired a reputation and an influence over the nobles without their being aware of it. The money of the Church and of the people enabled him to support his armies, and by that long war he succeeded in giving a stable foundation to his military establishment, which afterwards brought him so much honor. Besides this, to be able to engage in still greater enterprises, he always availed himself of religion as a pretext, and committed a pious cruelty in spoliating and driving the Moors out of his kingdom, which certainly was a most admirable and extraordinary example. Under the same cloak of religion he attacked Africa, and made a descent upon Italy, and finally assailed France. And thus he was always planning great enterprises, which kept the minds of his subjects in a state of suspense and admiration, and occupied with their results. And these different enterprises followed so quickly one upon the other, that he never gave men a chance deliberately to make any attempt against himself.

It is also important for a prince to give striking examples of his interior administration, (similar to those that are related of Messer Bernabo di Milano,) when an occasion presents itself to reward or punish any one who has in civil affairs either rendered great service to the state, or committed some crime, so that it may be much talked about. But, above all, a prince should endeavor to invest all his actions with a character of grandeur and excellence. A prince, furthermore, becomes esteemed when he shows himself either a true friend or a real enemy; that is, when, regardless of consequences, he declares himself openly for or against another, which will always be more creditable to him than to remain neutral. For if two of your neighboring potentates should come to war amongst themselves, they are either of such character that, when either of them has been defeated, you will have cause to fear the conqueror, or not. In either case, it will always be better for you to declare yourself openly and make fair war; for if you fail to do so, you will be very apt to fall a prey to the victor, to the delight and satisfaction of the defeated party, and you will have no claim for protection or assistance from either the one or the other. For the conqueror will want no doubtful friends, who did not stand by him in time of trial; and the defeated party will not forgive you for having refused, with arms in hand, to take the chance of his fortunes.

When Antiochus came into Greece, having been sent by the Ætolians to drive out the Romans, he sent ambassadors to the Achaians, who were friends of the Romans, to induce them to remain neutral; whilst the Romans, on the other hand, urged them to take up arms in their behalf. When the matter came up for deliberation in the council of the Achaians, and the ambassadors of Antiochus endeavored to persuade them to remain neutral, the Roman legate replied: “As to the course which is said to be the best and most advantageous for your state, not to intervene in our war, I can assure you that the very reverse will be the case; for by not intervening you will, without thanks and without credit, remain a prize to the victor.”

And it will always be the case that he who is not your friend will claim neutrality at your hands, whilst your friend will ask your armed intervention in his favor. Irresolute princes, for the sake of avoiding immediate danger, adopt most frequently the course of neutrality, and are generally ruined in consequence. But when a prince declares himself boldly in favor of one party, and that party proves victorious, even though the victor be powerful, and you are at his discretion, yet is he bound to you in love and obligation; and men are never so base as to repay these by such flagrant ingratitude as the oppressing you under these circumstances would be.

Moreover, victories are never so complete as to dispense the victor from all regard for justice. But when the party whom you have supported loses, then he will ever after receive you as a friend, and, when able, will assist you in turn; and thus you will have become the sharer of a fortune which in time may be retrieved.

In the second case, when the contending parties are such that you need not fear the victor, then it is the more prudent to give him your support; for you thereby aid one to ruin the other, whom he should save if he were wise; for although he has defeated his adversary, yet he remains at your discretion, inasmuch as without your assistance victory would have been impossible for him. And here it should be noted, that a prince ought carefully to avoid making common cause with any one more powerful than himself, for the purpose of attacking another power, unless he should be compelled to do so by necessity. For if the former is victorious, then you are at his mercy; and princes should, if possible, avoid placing themselves in such a position.

The Venetians allied themselves with France against the Duke of Milan, an alliance which they could easily have avoided, and which proved their ruin. But when it is unavoidable, as was the case with the Florentines when Spain and the Pope united their forces to attack Lombardy, then a prince ought to join the stronger party, for the reasons above given. Nor is it to be supposed that a state can ever adopt a course that is entirely safe; on the contrary, a prince must make up his mind to take the chance of all the doubts and uncertainties; for such is the order of things that one inconvenience cannot be avoided except at the risk of being exposed to another. And it is the province of prudence to discriminate amongst these inconveniences, and to accept the least evil for good.

A prince should also show himself a lover of virtue, and should honor all who excel in any one of the arts, and should encourage his citizens quietly to pursue their vocations, whether of commerce, agriculture, or any other human industry; so that the one may not abstain from embellishing his possessions for fear of their being taken from him, nor the other from opening new sources of commerce for fear of taxes. But the prince should provide rewards for those who are willing to do these things, and for all who strive to enlarge his city or state. And besides this, he should at suitable periods amuse his people with festivities and spectacles. And as cities are generally divided into guilds and classes, he should keep account of these bodies, and occasionally be present at their assemblies, and should set an example of his affability and magnificence; preserving, however, always the majesty of his dignity, which should never be wanting on any occasion or under any circumstances.


of the ministers of princes.

The choice of his ministers is of no slight importance to a prince; they are either good or not, according as the prince himself is sagacious or otherwise; and upon the character of the persons with whom a prince surrounds himself depends the first impression that is formed of his own ability. If his ministers and counsellors are competent and faithful, he will be reputed wise, because he had known how to discern their capacity and how to secure their fidelity; but if they prove otherwise, then the opinion formed of the prince will not be favorable, because of his want of judgment in their first selection. Every one who knew Messer Antonio di Venafro as the minister of Pandolfo Petrucci, prince of Sienna, judged Pandolfo to be a man of great sagacity in having chosen Messer Antonio for his minister.

There are three sorts of intellect: the one understands things by its own quickness of perception; another understands them when explained by some one else; and the third understands them neither by itself nor by the explanation of others. The first is the best, the second very good, and the third useless. Now we must admit that Pandolfo did not belong to the first order, but rather to the second. For whenever a prince has the sagacity to recognize the good or the evil that is said or done, he will, even without being a genius, be able to judge whether the minister’s actions are good or bad; and he will praise the one and censure the other. And thus the minister, seeing that he cannot hope to deceive the prince, will continue to serve him faithfully. But the true way for a prince to know his minister is as follows, and never fails. Whenever he sees that the minister thinks more of himself than of the prince, and that in all his doings he seeks his own advantage more than that of the state, then the prince may be sure that that man will never be a good minister, and is not to be trusted. For a man who has the administration of a state in his hands, should never think of himself, but only of the prince, and should never bring anything to his notice that does not relate to the interest of the government.

On the other hand, the prince, by way of securing the devotion of his minister, should think of him and bind him to himself by obligations; he should bestow riches upon him, and should share the honors as well as the cares with him; so that the abundance of honors and riches conferred by the prince upon his minister may cause the latter not to desire either the one or the other from any other source, and that the weight of cares may make him dread a change, knowing that without the prince he could not sustain it. And when the relations between the prince and his minister are thus constituted, they will be able to confide in each other; but if they be otherwise, then one or the other of them will surely come to a bad end.


how to avoid flatterers.

I will not leave unnoticed an important subject, and an evil against which princes have much difficulty in defending themselves, if they are not extremely prudent, or have not made good choice of ministers; and this relates to flatterers, who abound in all courts. Men are generally so well pleased with themselves and their own acts, and delude themselves to such a degree, that it is with difficulty they escape from the pest of flatterers; and in their efforts to avoid them they expose themselves to the risk of being contemned. There is no other way of guarding against adulation, than to make people understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth. On the other hand, when every one feels at liberty to tell you the truth, they will be apt to be lacking in respect to you. A prudent prince therefore should follow a middle course, choosing for ministers of his government only wise men, and to these only should he give full power to tell him the truth, and they should only be allowed to speak to him of those things which he asks of them, and of none other. But then the prince should ask them about everything, and should listen to their opinions and reflect upon them, and afterwards form his own resolutions. And he should bear himself towards all his advisers in such manner that each may know that the more freely he speaks, the more acceptable will he be. But outside of these he should not listen to any one, but follow the course agreed upon, and be firm in his resolves. Whoever acts otherwise will either be misled by his flatterers, or will vacillate in his decisions, because of the variety of opinions; and this will naturally result in his losing in public estimation.

I will cite one modern example to this effect. Padre Luca, in the service of the present Emperor Maximilian, in speaking of his Majesty, says that he “counsels with no one, and yet never does anything in his own way”; which results from his following the very opposite course to that above indicated; for the Emperor is a reserved man, who never communicates his secrets to any one, nor takes advice from anybody. But when he attempts to carry his plans into execution and they begin to be known, then also do they begin to be opposed by those whom he has around him; and being easily influenced, he is diverted from his own resolves. And thence it comes that he undoes one day what he has done the day before, and that one never knows what he wants or designs to do; and therefore his conclusions cannot be depended upon.

A prince nevertheless should always take counsel, but only when he wants it, and not when others wish to thrust it upon him; in fact, he should rather discourage persons from tendering him advice unsolicited by him. But he should be an extensive questioner, and a patient listener to the truth respecting the things inquired about, and should even show his anger in case any one should, for some reason, not tell him the truth.

Those who imagine that a prince who has the reputation of sagacity is not indebted for it to his own natural gifts, but to the good counsels of those who surround him, certainly deceive themselves. For it may be taken as a general and infallible rule, that a prince who is not naturally wise cannot be well advised; unless he should perchance place himself entirely in the hands of one man, who should guide him in all things, and who would have to be a man of uncommon ability. In such a case a prince might be well directed, but it would probably not last long, because his counsellor would in a short time deprive him of his state. But a prince who is not wise himself, and counsels with more than one person, will never have united counsels; for he will himself lack the ability to harmonize and combine the various counsels and suggestions. His advisers will only think of their own advantage, which the prince will neither know how to discern nor how to correct.

And things cannot well be otherwise, for men will always naturally prove bad, unless some necessity constrains them to be good. Whence we conclude that good counsels, no matter whence they may come, result wholly from the prince’s own sagacity; but the wisdom of the prince never results from good counsels.


the reason why the princes of italy have lost their states.

A judicious observation of the above-given rules will cause a new prince to be regarded as though he were an hereditary one, and will very soon make him more firm and secure in his state than if he had grown old in its possession. For the actions of a new prince are much more closely observed and scrutinized than those of an hereditary one; and when they are known to be virtuous, they will win the confidence and affections of men much more for the new prince, and make his subjects feel under greater obligations to him, than if he were of the ancient line. For men are ever more taken with the things of the present than with those of the past; and when they find their own good in the present, then they enjoy it and seek none other, and will be ready in every way to defend the new prince, provided he be not wanting to himself in other respects. And thus he will have the double glory of having established a new principality, and of having strengthened and adorned it with good laws, good armies, good allies, and good examples. And in the same way will it be a double shame to an hereditary prince, if through want of prudence and ability he loses his state.

If now we examine the conduct of those princes of Italy who in our day have lost their states, such as the king of Naples, the Duke of Milan, and others, we shall note in them at once a common defect as regards their military forces, for the reasons which we have discussed at length above. And we shall also find that in some instances the people were hostile to the prince; or if he had the good will of the people, he knew not how to conciliate that of the nobles. For unless there be some such defects as these, states are not lost when the prince has energy enough to keep an army in the the field.

Philip of Macedon, not the father of Alexander the Great, but he who was vanquished by Titus Quintus, had not much of a state as compared with Rome and Greece, who attacked him; yet being a military man, and at the same time knowing how to preserve the good will of the people and to assure himself of the support of the nobles, he sustained the war against the Romans and Greeks for many years; and although he finally lost some cities, yet he preserved his kingdom.

Those of our princes, therefore, who have lost their dominions after having been established in them for many years, should not blame fortune, but only their own indolence and lack of energy; for in times of quiet they never thought of the possibility of a change (it being a common defect of men in fair weather to take no thought of storms), and afterwards, when adversity overtook them, their first impulse was to fly, and not to defend themselves, hoping that the people, when disgusted with the insolence of the victors, would recall them. Such a course may be very well when others fail, but it is very discreditable to neglect other means for it that might have saved you from ruin; for no one ever falls deliberately, in the expectation that some one will help him up, which either does not happen, or, if it does, will not contribute to your security; for it is a base thing to look to others for your defence instead of depending upon yourself. That defence alone is effectual, sure, and durable which depends upon yourself and your own valor.


of the influence of fortune in human affairs, and how it may be counteracted.

I am well aware that many have held and still hold the opinion, that the affairs of this world are so controlled by Fortune and by the Divine Power that human wisdom and foresight cannot modify them; that, in fact, there is no remedy against the decrees of fate, and that therefore it is not worth while to make any effort, but to yield unconditionally to the power of Fortune. This opinion has been generally accepted in our times, because of the great changes that have taken place, and are still being witnessed every day, and are beyond all human conjecture.

In reflecting upon this at times, I am myself in some measure inclined to that belief; nevertheless, as our free will is not entirely destroyed, I judge that it may be assumed as true that Fortune to the extent of one half is the arbiter of our actions, but that she permits us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less, ourselves. I compare this to a swollen river, which in its fury overflows the plains, tears up the trees and buildings, and sweeps the earth from one place and deposits it in another. Every one flies before the flood, and yields to its fury, unable to resist it; and notwithstanding this state of things, men do not when the river is in its ordinary condition provide against its overflow by dikes and walls, so that when it rises it may flow either in the channel thus provided for it, or that at any rate its violence may not be entirely unchecked, nor its effects prove so injurious. It is the same with Fortune, who displays her power where there is no organized valor to resist her, and where she knows that there are no dikes or walls to control her.

If now you examine Italy, which is the seat of the changes under consideration, and has occasioned their occurrence, you will see that she is like an open country, without dikes or any other protection against inundations; and that if she had been protected with proper valor and wisdom, as is the case with Germany, Spain, and France, these inundations would either not have caused the great changes which they did, or they would not have occurred at all.

These remarks I deem sufficient as regards resisting fortune in general; but confining myself now more to particular cases, I say that we see a prince fortunate one day, and ruined the next, without his nature or any of his qualities being changed. I believe this results mainly from the causes which have been discussed at length above; namely, that the prince who relies entirely upon fortune will be ruined according as fortune varies. I believe, further, that the prince who conforms his conduct to the spirit of the times will be fortunate; and in the same way will he be unfortunate, if in his actions he disregards the spirit of the times. For we see men proceed in various ways to attain the end they aim at, such as glory and riches: the one with circumspection, the other with rashness; one with violence, another with cunning; one with patience, and another with impetuosity; and all may succeed in their different ways. We also see that, of two men equally prudent, the one will accomplish his designs, whilst the other fails; and in the same way we see two men succeed equally well by two entirely different methods, the one being prudent and the other rash; which is due to nothing else than the character of the times, to which they either conform in their proceedings or not. Whence it comes, as I have said, that two men by entirely different modes of action will achieve the same results; whilst of two others, proceeding precisely in the same way, the one will accomplish his end, and the other not. This also causes the difference of success; for if one man, acting with caution and patience, is also favored by time and circumstances, he will be successful; but if these change, then will he be ruined, unless, indeed, he changes his conduct accordingly. Nor is there any man so sagacious that he will always know how to conform to such change of times and circumstances; for men do not readily deviate from the course to which their nature inclines them; and, moreover, if they have generally been prosperous by following one course, they cannot persuade themselves that it would be well to depart from it. Thus the cautious man, when the moment comes for him to strike a bold blow, will not know how to do it, and thence will he fail; whilst, if he could have changed his nature with the times and circumstances, his usual good fortune would not have abandoned him.

Pope Julius II. was in all his actions most impetuous; and the times and circumstances happened so conformably to that mode of proceeding that he always achieved happy results. Witness the first attempt he made upon Bologna, when Messer Giovanni Bentivogli was still living. This attempt gave umbrage to the Venetians, and also to the kings of Spain and France, who held a conference on the subject. But Pope Julius, with his habitual boldness and impetuosity, assumed the direction of that expedition in person; which caused the Spaniards and the Venetians to remain quiet in suspense, the latter from fear, and the others from a desire to recover the entire kingdom of Naples. On the other hand, the Pope drew the king of France after him; for that king, seeing that Julius had already started on the expedition, and wishing to gain his friendship for the purpose of humbling the Venetians, judged that he could not refuse him the assistance of his army without manifest injury to himself.

Pope Julius II., then, achieved by this impetuous movement what no other pontiff could have accomplished with all possible human prudence. For had he waited to start from Rome until all his plans were definitely arranged, and everything carefully organized, as every other pontiff would have done, he would certainly never have succeeded; for the king would have found a thousand excuses, and the others would have caused him a thousand apprehensions. I will not dwell upon the other actions of Julius II., which were all of a similar character, and have all succeeded equally well. The shortness of his life saved him from experiencing any reverses; for if times had supervened that would have made it necessary for him to proceed with caution and prudence, he would assuredly have been ruined; for he could never have deviated from the course to which his nature inclined him.

I conclude, then, inasmuch as Fortune is changeable, that men who persist obstinately in their own ways will be successful only so long as those ways coincide with those of Fortune; and whenever these differ, they fail. But, on the whole, I judge impetuosity to be better than caution; for Fortune is a woman, and if you wish to master her, you must strike and beat her, and you will see that she allows herself to be more easily vanquished by the rash and the violent than by those who proceed more slowly and coldly. And therefore, as a woman, she ever favors youth more than age, for youth is less cautious and more energetic, and commands Fortune with greater audacity.


exhortation to deliver italy from foreign barbarians.

Reviewing now all I have said in the foregoing discourses, and thinking to myself that, if the present time should be favorable for Italy to receive and honor a new prince, and the opportunity were given to a prudent and virtuous man to establish a new form of government, that would bring honor to himself and happiness to the mass of the Italian people, so many things would combine for the advantage of such a new prince, that, so far as I know, no previous time was ever more favorable for such a change. And if, as I have said, it was necessary for the purpose of displaying the virtue of Moses that the people of Israel should be held in bondage in Egypt; and that the Persians should be opposed to the Medes, so as to bring to light the greatness and courage of Cyrus; and that the Athenians should be dispersed for the purpose of illustrating the excellence of Theseus; so at present, for the purpose of making manifest the virtues of one Italian spirit, it was necessary that Italy should have been brought to her present condition of being in a worse bondage than that of the Jews, more enslaved than the Persians, more scattered than the Athenians, without a head, without order, vanquished and despoiled, lacerated, overrun by her enemies, and subjected to every kind of devastation.

And although, up to the present time, there may have been some one who may have given a gleam of hope that he was ordained by Heaven to redeem Italy, yet have we seen how, in the very zenith of his career, he was so checked by fortune that poor Italy remained as it were lifeless, and waiting to see who might be chosen to heal her wounds, — to put an end to her devastation, to the sacking of Lombardy, to the spoliation and ruinous taxation of the kingdom of Naples and of Tuscany, — and who should heal her sores that have festered so long. You see how she prays God that he may send some one who shall redeem her from this cruelty and barbarous insolence. You see her eagerly disposed to follow any banner, provided there be some one to bear it aloft. But there is no one at present in whom she could place more hope than in your illustrious house, O magnificent Lorenzo! which, with its virtue and fortune, favored by God and the Church, of which it is now the head, could make an effectual beginning of her deliverance. And this will not be difficult for you, if you will first study carefully the lives and actions of the men whom I have named above. And although these men were rare and wonderful, they were nevertheless but men, and the opportunities which they had were far less favorable than the present; nor were their undertakings more just or more easy than this; neither were they more favored by the Almighty than what you are. Here, then, is great justice; for war is just when it is necessary, and a resort to arms is beneficent when there is no hope in anything else. The opportunity is most favorable, and when that is the case there can be no great difficulties, provided you follow the course of those whom I have held up to you as examples. Although in their case extraordinary things, without parallel, were brought about by the hand of God, — the sea divided for their passage, a pillar of cloud pointed their way through the wilderness, the rock poured forth water to assuage their thirst, and it rained manna to appease their hunger, — yet your greatness combines all, and on your own efforts will depend the result. God will not do everything; for that would deprive us of our free will, and of that share of glory which belongs to us.

Nor should we wonder that not one of the Italians whom I have mentioned has been able to accomplish that which it is to be hoped will be done by your illustrious house; for if in so many revolutions in Italy, and in the conduct of so many wars, it would seem that military capacity and valor have become extinct, it is owing to the fact that the old military system was defective, and no one has come forward capable of establishing a new one. And nothing brings a man who has newly risen so much honor as the establishing of new laws and institutions of his own creation; if they have greatness in them and become well established, they will make the prince admired and revered; and there is no lack of opportunity in Italy for the introduction of every kind of reform. The people have great courage, provided it be not wanting in their leaders. Look but at their single combats, and their encounters when there are but a few on either side, and see how superior the Italians have shown themselves in strength, dexterity, and ability. But when it comes to their armies, then these qualities do not appear, because of the incapacity of the chiefs, who cannot enforce obedience from those who are versed in the art of war, and every one believes himself to be so; for up to the present time there have been none so decidedly superior in valor and good fortune that the others yielded him obedience. Thence it comes that in so great a length of time, and in the many wars that have occurred within the past twenty years, the armies, whenever wholly composed of Italians, have given but poor account of themselves. Witness first Taro, then Alessandria, Capua, Genoa, Vaila, Bologna, and Mestri.

If, then, your illustrious house is willing to follow the examples of those distinguished men who have redeemed their countries, you will before anything else, and as the very foundation of every enterprise, have to provide yourself with a national army. And you cannot have more faithful, truer, and better soldiers than the Italians. And whilst each individual is good, they will become still better when they are all united, and know that they are commanded by their own prince, who will honor and support them. It is necessary, therefore, to provide troops of this kind, so as to be able successfully to oppose Italian valor to the attacks of foreigners.

And although the infantry of the Swiss and of the Spaniards is looked upon as terrible, yet both of them have a defect, which will permit a third organization not only to resist them, but confidently hope to vanquish them. For the Spaniards cannot withstand the shock of cavalry, and the Swiss dread infantry, when they encounter it in battle as obstinate as themselves. Whence we have seen, what further experience will prove more fully, that the Spaniards cannot resist the French cavalry, and that the Swiss succumb to the Spanish infantry. And although we have not yet had a full trial of the latter, yet have we had a fair specimen of it in the battle of Ravenna, where the Spanish infantry confronted the line of battle of the Germans, who have adopted the same system as the Swiss; and where the Spaniards with great agility, and protected by their bucklers, rushed under the pikes of the Germans, and were thus able to attack them securely without the Germans being able to prevent it; and had it not been for the cavalry which fell upon the Spaniards, they might have destroyed the entire German infantry.

Knowing, then, the defects of the one and the other of these systems of infantry, you can organize a new one that shall avoid these defects, and shall be able to resist cavalry as well as infantry. And this is to be done, not by a change of arms, but by an entirely different organization and discipline. This is one of the things which, if successfully introduced, will give fame and greatness to a new prince.

You must not, then, allow this opportunity to pass, so that Italy, after waiting so long, may at last see her deliverer appear. Nor can I possibly express with what affection he would be received in all those provinces that have suffered so long from this inundation of foreign foes! — with what thirst for vengeance, with what persistent faith, with what devotion, and with what tears! What door would be closed to him? Who would refuse him obedience? What envy would dare oppose him? What Italian would refuse him homage? This barbarous dominion of the foreigner offends the very nostrils of everybody!

Let your illustrious house, then, assume this task with that courage and hopefulness which every just enterprise inspires; so that under your banner our country may recover its ancient fame, and under your auspices may be verified the words of Petrarca: —

“Virtù contro al furore

Prenderà l’arme, e fia il combatter corto;

Chè l’antico valore

Negli Italici cuor non è ancor morto.”

Canz. XVI. v. 93-96.


 [* ] This expression of taking Italy “as it were with merely a piece of chalk” (col gesso) was made use of by Alexander VI., and means that Charles VIII. had merely to send a quartermaster ahead with “a piece of chalk” to mark the houses in which the French troops were to be quartered.

 [* ] John Sharpe, an English soldier of fortune.

 [* ] 

“My cruel fate,

And doubts attending an unsettled state,

Force me to guard my coasts from foreign foes.”




With this I send you a gift which, if it bears no proportion to the extent of the obligations which I owe you, is nevertheless the best that I am able to offer to you; for I have endeavored to embody in it all that long experience and assiduous research have taught me of the affairs of the world. And as neither yourselves nor any one else can ask more than that of me, you cannot complain that I have not given you more; though you may well complain of my lack of talent when my arguments are poor, and of the fallacies of my judgment on account of the errors into which I have doubtless fallen many times. This being so, however, I know not which of us has the greater right to complain, — I, that you should have forced me to write what I should never have attempted of my own accord, or you, that I should have written without giving you cause to be satisfied.

Accept it, then, as one accepts whatever comes from friends, looking rather to the intention of him who gives, than to the thing offered. And believe me, that I feel a satisfaction in this, that, even if I have often erred in the course of this work, I have assuredly made no mistake in having chosen you above all other friends to whom to dedicate these discourses. In doing this, I give some proof of gratitude, although I may seem to have departed from the ordinary usage of writers, who generally dedicate their works to some prince; and, blinded by ambition or avarice, praise him for all the virtuous qualities he has not, instead of censuring him for his real vices, whilst I, to avoid this fault, do not address myself to such as are princes, but to those who by their infinite good qualities are worthy to be such; not to those who could load me with honors, rank, and wealth, but rather to those who have the desire to do so, but have not the power. For to judge rightly, men should esteem rather those who are, and not those who can be generous; and those who would know how to govern states, rather than those who have the right to govern, but lack the knowledge.

For this reason have historians praised Hiero of Syracuse, a mere private citizen, more than Perseus of Macedon, monarch though he was; for Hiero only lacked a principality to be a prince, whilst the other had nothing of the king except the diadem. Be it good or bad, however, you wanted this work, and such as it is I send it to you; and should you continue in the belief that my opinions are acceptable to you, I shall not fail to continue to examine this history, as I promised you in the beginning of it. Farewell!



Although the envious nature of men, so prompt to blame and so slow to praise, makes the discovery and introduction of any new principles and systems as dangerous almost as the exploration of unknown seas and continents, yet, animated by that desire which impels me to do what may prove for the common benefit of all, I have resolved to open a new route, which has not yet been followed by any one, and may prove difficult and troublesome, but may also bring me some reward in the approbation of those who will kindly appreciate my efforts.

And if my poor talents, my little experience of the present and insufficient study of the past, should make the result of my labors defective and of little utility, I shall at least have shown the way to others, who will carry out my views with greater ability, eloquence, and judgment, so that if I do not merit praise, I ought at least not to incur censure.

When we consider the general respect for antiquity, and how often — to say nothing of other examples — a great price is paid for some fragments of an antique statue, which we are anxious to possess to ornament our houses with, or to give to artists who strive to imitate them in their own works; and when we see, on the other hand, the wonderful examples which the history of ancient kingdoms and republics presents to us, the prodigies of virtue and of wisdom displayed by the kings, captains, citizens, and legislators who have sacrificed themselves for their country, — when we see these, I say, more admired than imitated, or so much neglected that not the least trace of this ancient virtue remains, we cannot but be at the same time as much surprised as afflicted. The more so as in the differences which arise between citizens, or in the maladies to which they are subjected, we see these same people have recourse to the judgments and the remedies prescribed by the ancients. The civil laws are in fact nothing but decisions given by their jurisconsults, and which, reduced to a system, direct our modern jurists in their decisions. And what is the science of medicine, but the experience of ancient physicians, which their successors have taken for their guide? And yet to found a republic, maintain states, to govern a kingdom, organize an army, conduct a war, dispense justice, and extend empires, you will find neither prince, nor republic, nor captain, nor citizen, who has recourse to the examples of antiquity! This neglect, I am persuaded, is due less to the weakness to which the vices of our education have reduced the world, than to the evils caused by the proud indolence which prevails in most of the Christian states, and to the lack of real knowledge of history, the true sense of which is not known, or the spirit of which they do not comprehend. Thus the majority of those who read it take pleasure only in the variety of the events which history relates, without ever thinking of imitating the noble actions, deeming that not only difficult, but impossible; as though heaven, the sun, the elements, and men had changed the order of their motions and power, and were different from what they were in ancient times.

Wishing, therefore, so far as in me lies, to draw mankind from this error, I have thought it proper to write upon those books of Titus Livius that have come to us entire despite the malice of time; touching upon all those matters which, after a comparison between the ancient and modern events, may seem to me necessary to facilitate their proper understanding. In this way those who read my remarks may derive those advantages which should be the aim of all study of history; and although the undertaking is difficult, yet, aided by those who have encouraged me in this attempt, I hope to carry it sufficiently far, so that but little may remain for others to carry it to its destined end.


of the beginning of cities in general, and especially that of the city of rome.

Those who read what the beginning of Rome was, and what her lawgivers and her organization, will not be astonished that so much virtue should have maintained itself during so many centuries; and that so great an empire should have sprung from it afterwards. To speak first of her origin, we will premise that all cities are founded either by natives of the country or by strangers. The little security which the natives found in living dispersed; the impossibility for each to resist isolated, either because of the situation or because of their small number, the attacks of any enemy that might present himself; the difficulty of uniting in time for defence at his approach, and the necessity of abandoning the greater number of their retreats, which quickly became a prize to the assailant, — such were the motives that caused the first inhabitants of a country to build cities for the purpose of escaping these dangers. They resolved, of their own accord, or by the advice of some one who had most authority amongst them, to live together in some place of their selection that might offer them greater conveniences and greater facility of defence. Thus, amongst many others were Athens and Venice; the first was built under the authority of Theseus, who had gathered the dispersed inhabitants; and the second owed its origin to the fact that several tribes had taken refuge on the little islands situated at the head of the Adriatic Sea, to escape from war, and from the Barbarians who after the fall of the Roman Empire had overrun Italy. These refugees of themselves, and without any prince to govern them, began to live under such laws as seemed to them best suited to maintain their new state. In this they succeeded, happily favored by the long peace, for which they were indebted to their situation upon a sea without issue, where the people that ravaged Italy could not harass them, being without any ships. Thus from that small beginning they attained that degree of power in which we see them now.

The second case is when a city is built by strangers; these may be either freemen, or subjects of a republic or of a prince, who, to relieve their states from an excessive population, or to defend a newly acquired territory which they wish to preserve without expense, send colonies there. The Romans founded many cities in this way within their empire. Sometimes cities are built by a prince, not for the purpose of living there, but merely as monuments to his glory; such was Alexandria, built by Alexander the Great. But as all these cities are at their very origin deprived of liberty, they rarely succeed in making great progress, or in being counted amongst the great powers. Such was the origin of Florence; for it was built either by the soldiers of Sylla, or perhaps by the inhabitants of Mount Fiesole, who, trusting to the long peace that prevailed in the reign of Octavian, were attracted to the plains along the Arno. Florence, thus built under the Roman Empire, could in the beginning have no growth except what depended on the will of its master.

The founders of cities are independent when they are people who, under the leadership of some prince, or by themselves, have been obliged to fly from pestilence, war, or famine, that was desolating their native country, and are seeking a new home. These either inhabit the cities of the country of which they take possession, as Moses did; or they build new ones, as was done by Æneas. In such case we are able to appreciate the talents of the founder and the success of his work, which is more or less remarkable according as he, in founding the city, displays more or less wisdom and skill. Both the one and the other are recognized by the selection of the place where he has located the city, and by the nature of the laws which he establishes in it. And as men work either from necessity or from choice, and as it has been observed that virtue has more sway where labor is the result of necessity rather than of choice, it is a matter of consideration whether it might not be better to select for the establishment of a city a sterile region, where the people, compelled by necessity to be industrious, and therefore less given to idleness, would be more united, and less exposed by the poverty of the country to occasions for discord; as was the case with Ragusa, and several other cities that were built upon an ungrateful soil. Such a selection of site would doubtless be more useful and wise if men were content with what they possess, and did not desire to exercise command over others.

Now, as people cannot make themselves secure except by being powerful, it is necessary in the founding of a city to avoid a sterile country. On the contrary, a city should be placed rather in a region where the fertility of the soil affords the means of becoming great, and of acquiring strength to repel all who might attempt to attack it, or oppose the development of its power. As to the idleness which the fertility of a country tends to encourage, the laws should compel men to labor where the sterility of the soil does not do it; as was done by those skilful and sagacious legislators who have inhabited very agreeable and fertile countries, such as are apt to make men idle and unfit for the exercise of valor. These by way of an offset to the pleasures and softness of the climate, imposed upon their soldiers the rigors of a strict discipline and severe exercises, so that they became better warriors than what nature produces in the harshest climates and most sterile countries. Amongst these legislators we may cite the founders of the kingdom of Egypt: despite of the charms of the climate, the severity of the institutions there formed excellent men; and if great antiquity had not buried their names in oblivion, we should see that they deserved more praise than Alexander the Great and many others of more recent memory. And whoever has examined the government of the Pachas of Egypt and the discipline of their Mameluke militia before it was destroyed by the Sultan Selim of Turkey, will have seen how much they dreaded idleness, and by what variety of exercises and by what severe laws they prevented in their soldiers that effeminacy which is the natural fruit of the softness of their climate.

I say, then, that for the establishment of a city it is wisest to select the most fertile spot, especially as the laws can prevent the ill effects that would otherwise result from that very fertility.

When Alexander the Great wished to build a city that should serve as a monument to his glory, his architect, Dinocrates, pointed out to him how he could build a city on Mount Athos, which place he said, besides being very strong, could be so arranged as to give the city the appearance of the human form, which would make it a wonder worthy of the greatness of its founder. Alexander having asked him what the inhabitants were to live upon, he replied, “That I have not thought of”; at which Alexander smiled, and, leaving Mount Athos as it was, he built Alexandria, where the inhabitants would be glad to remain on account of the richness of the country and the advantages which the proximity of the Nile and the sea afforded them.

If we accept the opinion that Æneas was the founder of Rome, then we must count that city as one of those built by strangers; but if Romulus is taken as its founder, then must it be classed with those built by the natives of the country. Either way it will be seen that Rome was from the first free and independent; and we shall also see (as we shall show further on) to how many privations the laws of Romulus, of Numa, and of others subjected its inhabitants; so that neither the fertility of the soil, nor the proximity of the sea, nor their many victories, nor the greatness of the Empire, could corrupt them during several centuries, and they maintained there more virtues than have ever been seen in any other republic.

The great things which Rome achieved, and of which Titus Livius has preserved the memory, have been the work either of the government or of private individuals; and as they relate either to the affairs of the interior or of the exterior, I shall begin to discourse of those internal operations of the government which I believe to be most noteworthy, and shall point out their results. This will be the subject of the discourses that will compose this First Book, or rather First Part.


of the different kinds of republics, and of what kind the roman republic was.

I will leave aside what might be said of cities which from their very birth have been subject to a foreign power, and will speak only of those whose origin has been independent, and which from the first governed themselves by their own laws, whether as republics or as principalities, and whose constitution and laws have differed as their origin. Some have had at the very beginning, or soon after, a legislator, who, like Lycurgus with the Lacedæmonians, gave them by a single act all the laws they needed. Others have owed theirs to chance and to events, and have received their laws at different times, as Rome did. It is a great good fortune for a republic to have a legislator sufficiently wise to give her laws so regulated that, without the necessity of correcting them, they afford security to those who live under them. Sparta observed her laws for more than eight hundred years without altering them and without experiencing a single dangerous disturbance. Unhappy, on the contrary, is that republic which, not having at the beginning fallen into the hands of a sagacious and skilful legislator, is herself obliged to reform her laws. More unhappy still is that republic which from the first has diverged from a good constitution. And that republic is furthest from it whose vicious institutions impede her progress, and make her leave the right path that leads to a good end; for those who are in that condition can hardly ever be brought into the right road. Those republics, on the other hand, that started without having even a perfect constitution, but made a fair beginning, and are capable of improvement, — such republics, I say, may perfect themselves by the aid of events. It is very true, however, that such reforms are never effected without danger, for the majority of men never willingly adopt any new law tending to change the constitution of the state, unless the necessity of the change is clearly demonstrated; and as such a necessity cannot make itself felt without being accompanied with danger, the republic may easily be destroyed before having perfected its constitution. That of Florence is a complete proof of this: reorganized after the revolt of Arezzo, in 1502, it was overthrown after the taking of Prato, in 1512.

Having proposed to myself to treat of the kind of government established at Rome, and of the events that led to its perfection, I must at the beginning observe that some of the writers on politics distinguished three kinds of government, viz. the monarchical, the aristocratic, and the democratic; and maintain that the legislators of a people must choose from these three the one that seems to them most suitable. Other authors, wiser according to the opinion of many, count six kinds of governments, three of which are very bad, and three good in themselves, but so liable to be corrupted that they become absolutely bad. The three good ones are those which we have just named; the three bad ones result from the degradation of the other three, and each of them resembles its corresponding original, so that the transition from the one to the other is very easy. Thus monarchy becomes tyranny; aristocracy degenerates into oligarchy; and the popular government lapses readily into licentiousness. So that a legislator who gives to a state which he founds, either of these three forms of government, constitutes it but for a brief time; for no precautions can prevent either one of the three that are reputed good, from degenerating into its opposite kind; so great are in these the attractions and resemblances between the good and the evil.

Chance has given birth to these different kinds of governments amongst men; for at the beginning of the world the inhabitants were few in number, and lived for a time dispersed, like beasts. As the human race increased, the necessity for uniting themselves for defence made itself felt; the better to attain this object, they chose the strongest and most courageous from amongst themselves and placed him at their head, promising to obey him. Thence they began to know the good and the honest, and to distinguish them from the bad and vicious; for seeing a man injure his benefactor aroused at once two sentiments in every heart, hatred against the ingrate and love for the benefactor. They blamed the first, and on the contrary honored those the more who showed themselves grateful, for each felt that he in turn might be subject to a like wrong; and to prevent similar evils, they set to work to make laws, and to institute punishments for those who contravened them. Such was the origin of justice. This caused them, when they had afterwards to choose a prince, neither to look to the strongest nor bravest, but to the wisest and most just. But when they began to make sovereignty hereditary and non-elective, the children quickly degenerated from their fathers; and, so far from trying to equal their virtues, they considered that a prince had nothing else to do than to excel all the rest in luxury, indulgence, and every other variety of pleasure. The prince consequently soon drew upon himself the general hatred. An object of hatred, he naturally felt fear; fear in turn dictated to him precautions and wrongs, and thus tyranny quickly developed itself. Such were the beginning and causes of disorders, conspiracies, and plots against the sovereigns, set on foot, not by the feeble and timid, but by those citizens who, surpassing the others in grandeur of soul, in wealth, and in courage, could not submit to the outrages and excesses of their princes.

Under such powerful leaders the masses armed themselves against the tyrant, and, after having rid themselves of him, submitted to these chiefs as their liberators. These, abhorring the very name of prince, constituted themselves a new government; and at first, bearing in mind the past tyranny, they governed in strict accordance with the laws which they had established themselves; preferring public interests to their own, and to administer and protect with greatest care both public and private affairs. The children succeeded their fathers, and ignorant of the changes of fortune, having never experienced its reverses, and indisposed to remain content with this civil equality, they in turn gave themselves up to cupidity, ambition, libertinage, and violence, and soon caused the aristocratic government to degenerate into an oligarchic tyranny, regardless of all civil rights. They soon, however, experienced the same fate as the first tyrant; the people, disgusted with their government, placed themselves at the command of whoever was willing to attack them, and this disposition soon produced an avenger, who was sufficiently well seconded to destroy them. The memory of the prince and the wrongs committed by him being still fresh in their minds, and having overthrown the oligarchy, the people were not willing to return to the government of a prince. A popular government was therefore resolved upon, and it was so organized that the authority should not again fall into the hands of a prince or a small number of nobles. And as all governments are at first looked up to with some degree of reverence, the popular state also maintained itself for a time, but which was never of long duration, and lasted generally only about as long as the generation that had established it; for it soon ran into that kind of license which inflicts injury upon public as well as private interests. Each individual only consulted his own passions, and a thousand acts of injustice were daily committed, so that, constrained by necessity, or directed by the counsels of some good man, or for the purpose of escaping from this anarchy, they returned anew to the government of a prince, and from this they generally lapsed again into anarchy, step by step, in the same manner and from the same causes as we have indicated.

Such is the circle which all republics are destined to run through. Seldom, however, do they come back to the original form of government, which results from the fact that their duration is not sufficiently long to be able to undergo these repeated changes and preserve their existence. But it may well happen that a republic lacking strength and good counsel in its difficulties becomes subject after a while to some neighboring state, that is better organized than itself; and if such is not the case, then they will be apt to revolve indefinitely in the circle of revolutions. I say, then, that all kinds of government are defective; those three which we have qualified as good because they are too short-lived, and the three bad ones because of their inherent viciousness. Thus sagacious legislators, knowing the vices of each of these systems of government by themselves, have chosen one that should partake of all of them, judging that to be the most stable and solid. In fact, when there is combined under the same constitution a prince, a nobility, and the power of the people, then these three powers will watch and keep each other reciprocally in check.

Amongst those justly celebrated for having established such a constitution, Lycurgus beyond doubt merits the highest praise. He organized the government of Sparta in such manner that, in giving to the king, the nobles, and the people each their portion of authority and duties, he created a government which maintained itself for over eight hundred years in the most perfect tranquillity, and reflected infinite glory upon this legislator. On the other hand, the constitution given by Solon to the Athenians, by which he established only a popular government, was of such short duration that before his death he saw the tyranny of Pisistratus arise. And although forty years afterwards the heirs of the tyrant were expelled, so that Athens recovered her liberties and restored the popular government according to the laws of Solon, yet it did not last over a hundred years; although a number of laws that had been overlooked by Solon were adopted, to maintain the government against the insolence of the nobles and the license of the populace. The fault he had committed in not tempering the power of the people and that of the prince and his nobles, made the duration of the government of Athens very short, as compared with that of Sparta.

But let us come to Rome. Although she had no legislator like Lycurgus, who constituted her government, at her very origin, in a manner to secure her liberty for a length of time, yet the disunion which existed between the Senate and the people produced such extraordinary events, that chance did for her what the laws had failed to do. Thus, if Rome did not attain the first degree of happiness, she at least had the second. Her first institutions were doubtless defective, but they were not in conflict with the principles that might bring her to perfection. For Romulus and all the other kings gave her many and good laws, well suited even to a free people; but as the object of these princes was to found a monarchy, and not a republic, Rome, upon becoming free, found herself lacking all those institutions that are most essential to liberty, and which her kings had not established. And although these kings lost their empire, for the reasons and in the manner which we have explained, yet those who expelled them appointed immediately two consuls in place of the king; and thus it was found that they had banished the title of king from Rome, but not the regal power. The government, composed of Consuls and a Senate, had but two of the three elements of which we have spoken, the monarchical and the aristocratic; the popular power was wanting. In the course of time, however, the insolence of the nobles, produced by the causes which we shall see further on, induced the people to rise against the others. The nobility, to save a portion of their power, were forced to yield a share of it to the people; but the Senate and the Consuls retained sufficient to maintain their rank in the state. It was then that the Tribunes of the people were created, which strengthened and confirmed the republic, being now composed of the three elements of which we have spoken above. Fortune favored her, so that, although the authority passed successively from the kings and nobles to the people, by the same degrees and for the same reasons that we have spoken of, yet the royal authority was never entirely abolished to bestow it upon the nobles; and these were never entirely deprived of their authority to give it to the people; but a combination was formed of the three powers, which rendered the constitution perfect, and this perfection was attained by the disunion of the Senate and the people, as we shall more fully show in the following two chapters.


of the events that caused the creation of tribunes in rome; which made the republic more perfect.

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate (and history is full of examples to support them) that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself; but time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light. After the expulsion of the Tarquins the greatest harmony seemed to prevail between the Senate and the people. The nobles seemed to have laid aside all their haughtiness and assumed popular manners, which made them supportable even to the lowest of the citizens. The nobility played this role so long as the Tarquins lived, without their motive being divined; for they feared the Tarquins, and also lest the ill-treated people might side with them. Their party therefore assumed all possible gentleness in their manners towards the people. But so soon as the death of the Tarquins had relieved them of their apprehensions, they began to vent upon the people all the venom they had so long retained within their breasts, and lost no opportunity to outrage them in every possible way; which is one of the proofs of the argument we have advanced, that men act right only upon compulsion; but from the moment that they have the option and liberty to commit wrong with impunity, then they never fail to carry confusion and disorder everywhere. It is this that has caused it to be said that poverty and hunger make men industrious, and that the law makes men good; and if fortunate circumstances cause good to be done without constraint, the law may be dispensed with. But when such happy influence is lacking, then the law immediately becomes necessary. Thus the nobles, after the death of the Tarquins, being no longer under the influence that had restrained them, determined to establish a new order of things, which had the same effect as the misrule of the Tarquins during their existence; and therefore, after many troubles, tumults, and dangers occasioned by the excesses which both the nobles and the people committed, they came, for the security of the people, to the creation of the Tribunes, who were endowed with so many prerogatives, and surrounded with so much respect, that they formed a powerful barrier between the Senate and the people, which curbed the insolence of the former.


the disunion of the senate and the people renders the republic of rome powerful and free.

I shall not pass over in silence the disturbances that occurred in Rome from the time of the death of the Tarquins to that of the creation of the Tribunes; and shall afterwards refute the opinion of those who claim that the Roman republic has always been a theatre of turbulence and disorder, and that if its extreme good fortune and the military discipline had not supplied the defects of her constitution, she would have deserved the lowest rank amongst the republics.

It cannot be denied that the Roman Empire was the result of good fortune and military discipline; but it seems to me that it ought to be perceived that where good discipline prevails there also will good order prevail, and good fortune rarely fails to follow in their train. Let us, however, go into details upon this point. I maintain that those who blame the quarrels of the Senate and the people of Rome condemn that which was the very origin of liberty, and that they were probably more impressed by the cries and noise which these disturbances occasioned in the public places, than by the good effect which they produced; and that they do not consider that in every republic there are two parties, that of the nobles and that of the people; and all the laws that are favorable to liberty result from the opposition of these parties to each other, as may easily be seen from the events that occurred in Rome. From the time of the Tarquins to that of the Gracchi, that is to say, within the space of over three hundred years, the differences between these parties caused but very few exiles, and cost still less blood; they cannot therefore be regarded as having been very injurious and fatal to a republic, which during the course of so many years saw on this account only eight or ten of its citizens sent into exile, and but a very small number put to death, and even but a few condemned to pecuniary fines. Nor can we regard a republic as disorderly where so many virtues were seen to shine. For good examples are the result of good education, and good education is due to good laws; and good laws in their turn spring from those very agitations which have been so inconsiderately condemned by many. For whoever will carefully examine the result of these agitations will find that they have neither caused exiles nor any violence prejudicial to the general good, and will be convinced even that they have given rise to laws that were to the advantage of public liberty. And if it be said that these are strange means, — to hear constantly the cries of the people furious against the Senate, and of a Senate declaiming against the people, to see the populace rush tumultuously through the streets, close their houses, and even leave the city of Rome, — I reply, that all these things can alarm only those who read of them, and that every free state ought to afford the people the opportunity of giving vent, so to say, to their ambition; and above all those republics which on important occasions have to avail themselves of this very people. Now such were the means employed at Rome; when the people wanted to obtain a law, they resorted to some of the extremes of which we have just spoken, or they refused to enroll themselves to serve in the wars, so that the Senate was obliged to satisfy them in some measure. The demands of a free people are rarely pernicious to their liberty; they are generally inspired by oppressions, experienced or apprehended; and if their fears are ill founded, resort is had to public assemblies where the mere eloquence of a single good and respectable man will make them sensible of their error. “The people,” says Cicero, “although ignorant, yet are capable of appreciating the truth, and yield to it readily when it is presented to them by a man whom they esteem worthy of their confidence.”

One should show then more reserve in blaming the Roman government, and consider that so many good effects, which originated in that republic, cannot but result from very good causes. If the troubles of Rome occasioned the creation of Tribunes, then they cannot be praised too highly; for besides giving to the people a share in the public administration, these Tribunes were established as the most assured guardians of Roman liberty, as we shall see in the following chapter.


to whom can the guardianship of liberty more safely be confided, to the nobles or to the people? and which of the two have most cause for creating disturbances, those who wish to acquire, or those who desire to conserve?

All the legislators that have given wise constitutions to republics have deemed it an essential precaution to establish a guard and protection to liberty; and according as this was more or less wisely placed, liberty endured a greater or less length of time. As every republic was composed of nobles and people, the question arose as to whose hands it was best to confide the protection of liberty. The Lacedæmonians, and in our day the Venetians, gave it into the hands of the nobility; but the Romans intrusted it to the people. We must examine, therefore, which of these republics made the best choice. There are strong reasons in favor of each, but, to judge by the results, we must incline in favor of the nobles, for the liberties of Sparta and Venice endured a longer space of time than those of Rome. But to come to the reasons, taking the part of Rome first, I will say, that one should always confide any deposit to those who have least desire of violating it; and doubtless, if we consider the objects of the nobles and of the people, we must see that the first have a great desire to dominate, whilst the latter have only the wish not to be dominated, and consequently a greater desire to live in the enjoyment of liberty; so that when the people are intrusted with the care of any privilege or liberty, being less disposed to encroach upon it, they will of necessity take better care of it; and being unable to take it away themselves, will prevent others from doing so.

On the contrary, it is said, in favor of the course adopted by Sparta and Venice, that the preference given to the nobility, as guardians of public liberty, has two advantages: the first, to yield something to the ambition of those who, being more engaged in the management of public affairs, find, so to say, in the weapon which the office places in their hands, a means of power that satisfies them; the other, to deprive the restless spirit of the masses of an authority calculated from its very nature to produce trouble and dissensions, and apt to drive the nobles to some act of desperation, which in time may cause the greatest misfortunes. Rome is even adduced as an example of this; for having confided, it is said, this authority to the tribunes of the people, these were seen not to be content with having only one Consul taken from this class, but wanted both to be plebeians. They afterwards claimed the Censure, the Prætoriate, and all the other dignities of the republic. And not satisfied with these advantages, and urged on by the same violence, they came in the end to idolize all those whom they saw disposed to attack the nobles, which gave rise to the power of Marius and to the ruin of Rome.

And, truly, whoever weighs all these reasons accurately may well remain in doubt which of the two classes he would choose as the guardians of liberty, not knowing which would be least dangerous, — those who seek to acquire an authority which they have not, or those who desire to preserve that which they already possess. After the nicest examination, this is what I think may be concluded from it. The question refers either to a republic that desires to extend its empire, as Rome, or to a state that confines itself merely to its own preservation. In the first case Rome should be imitated, and in the second the example of Sparta and Venice should be followed; and in the next chapter we shall see the reasons why and the means by which this is to be done.

To come back now to the question as to which men are most dangerous in a republic, those who wish to acquire power or those who fear to lose that which they possess, I will remark that Menenius and M. Fulvius, both plebeians, were named, the one Dictator and the other Commander of the Cavalry, to make investigations on the occasion of a conspiracy formed at Capua against Rome. They were also commissioned to find out all those who from ambition and by extraordinary means sought to obtain the Consulate and the other important offices of the republic. The nobility, believing that such an authority given to the Dictator was aimed against them, spread the report throughout the city that it was not they who sought thus to arrive at these honors from ambition or by illicit proceedings, but rather the plebeians, who, trusting neither to their birth nor their personal merits, thus employed extraordinary means to obtain these honors, and they particularly charged it upon the Dictator himself. This accusation was so actively followed up that Menenius felt himself obliged to convoke an assembly of the people; where, after having complained of the calumnies spread against him by the nobles, he deposed the Dictatorship and submitted himself to the judgment of the people. The cause having been pleaded, Menenius was absolved. On that occasion there was much discussion as to which was the most ambitious, he who wished to preserve power or he who wished to acquire it; as both the one and the other of these motives may be the cause of great troubles. It seems, however, that they are most frequently occasioned by those who possess; for the fear to lose stirs the same passions in men as the desire to gain, as men do not believe themselves sure of what they already possess except by acquiring still more; and, moreover, these new acquisitions are so many means of strength and power for abuses; and what is still worse is that the haughty manners and insolence of the nobles and the rich excite in the breasts of those who have neither birth nor wealth, not only the desire to possess them, but also the wish to revenge themselves by depriving the former of those riches and honors which they see them employ so badly.


whether it was possible to establish in rome a government capable of putting an end to the enmities existing between the nobles and the people.

We have discussed above the effects of the quarrels between the people and the Senate. These same differences having continued to the time of the Gracchi, when they became the cause of the loss of liberty, one might wish that Rome had done the great things we have admired, without bearing within her bosom such cause of discords. It seems to me therefore important to examine whether it was possible to establish a government in Rome that could prevent all these misunderstandings; and to do this well, we must necessarily recur to those republics that have maintained their liberties without such enmities and disturbances; we must examine what the form of their government was, and whether that could have been introduced in Rome.

In Sparta we have an example amongst the ancients, and in Venice amongst the moderns; to both these states I have already referred above. Sparta had a king and a senate, few in number, to govern her; Venice did not admit these distinctions, and gave the name of gentlemen to all who were entitled to have a part in the administration of the government. It was chance rather than foresight which gave to the latter this form of government; for having taken refuge on those shallows where the city now is, for the reasons mentioned above, the inhabitants soon became sufficiently numerous to require a regular system of laws. They consequently established a government, and assembled frequently in council to discuss the interests of the city. When it seemed to them that they were sufficiently numerous to govern themselves, they barred the way to a share in the government to the newly arrived who came to live amongst them; and finding in the course of time that the number of the latter increased sufficiently to give reputation to those who held the government in their hands, they designated the latter by the title of “gentlemen,” and the others were called the popular class. This form of government had no difficulty in establishing and maintaining itself without disturbances; for at the moment of its origin all those who inhabited Venice had the right to participate in the government, so that no one had cause to complain. Those who afterwards came to live there, finding the government firmly established, had neither a pretext for, nor the means of, creating disturbances. They had no cause, for the reason that they had not been deprived of anything; and they lacked the means, because they were kept in check by those who held the government, and who did not employ them in any affairs that might tempt them to seize authority. Besides, the new-comers in Venice were not sufficiently numerous to have produced a disproportion between the governing and the governed, for the number of nobles equalled or exceeded that of the others; and thus for these reasons Venice could establish and preserve that form of government.

Sparta, as I have said, being governed by a king and a limited senate, could maintain itself also for a long time, because there were but few inhabitants, and strangers were not permitted to come in; besides, the laws of Lycurgus had obtained such influence that their observance prevented even the slightest pretext for trouble. It was also the easier for the citizens to live in union, as Lycurgus had established equality in fortunes and inequality in conditions; for an equal poverty prevailed there, and the people were the less ambitious, as the offices of the government were given but to a few citizens, the people being excluded from them; and the nobles in the exercise of their functions did not treat the people sufficiently ill to excite in them the desire of exercising them themselves. This last advantage was due to the kings of Sparta; for being placed in this government, as it were, between the two orders, and living in the midst of the nobility, they had no better means of maintaining their authority than to protect the people against all injustice; whence these neither feared nor desired authority, and consequently there was no motive for any differences between them and the nobles, nor any cause for disturbances; and thus they could live for a long time united. Two principal causes, however, cemented this union: first, the inhabitants of Sparta were few in number, and therefore could be governed by a few; and the other was, that, by not permitting strangers to establish themselves in the republic, they had neither opportunity of becoming corrupt, nor of increasing their population to such a degree that the burden of government became difficult to the few who were charged with it.

In examining now all these circumstances, we see that the legislators of Rome had to do one of two things to assure to their republic the same quiet as that enjoyed by the two republics of which we have spoken; namely, either not to employ the people in the armies, like the Venetians, or not to open the doors to strangers, as had been the case in Sparta. But the Romans in both took just the opposite course, which gave to the people greater power and infinite occasion for disturbances. But if the republic had been more tranquil, it would necessarily have resulted that she would have been more feeble, and that she would have lost with her energy also the ability of achieving that high degree of greatness to which she attained; so that to have removed the cause of trouble from Rome would have been to deprive her of her power of expansion. And thus it is seen in all human affairs, upon careful examination, that you cannot avoid one inconvenience without incurring another. If therefore you wish to make a people numerous and warlike, so as to create a great empire, you will have to constitute it in such manner as will cause you more difficulty in managing it; and if you keep it either small or unarmed, and you acquire other dominions, you will not be able to hold them, or you will become so feeble that you will fall a prey to whoever attacks you. And therefore in all our decisions we must consider well what presents the least inconveniences, and then choose the best, for we shall never find any course entirely free from objections. Rome then might, like Sparta, have created a king for life, and established a limited senate; but with her desire to become a great empire, she could not, like Sparta, limit the number of her citizens; and therefore a king for life and a limited senate would have been of no benefit to her so far as union was concerned. If any one therefore wishes to establish an entirely new republic, he will have to consider whether he wishes to have her expand in power and dominion like Rome, or whether he intends to confine her within narrow limits. In the first case, it will be necessary to organize her as Rome was, and submit to dissensions and troubles as best he may; for without a great number of men, and these well armed, no republic can ever increase. In the second case, he may organize her like Sparta and Venice; but as expansion is the poison of such republics, he must by every means in his power prevent her from making conquests, for such acquisitions by a feeble republic always prove their ruin, as happened to both Sparta and Venice; the first of which, having subjected to her rule nearly all Greece, exposed its feeble foundations at the slightest accident, for when the rebellion of Thebes occurred, which was led by Pelopidas, the other cities of Greece also rose up and almost ruined Sparta.

In like manner, Venice, having obtained possession of a great part of Italy, and the most of it not by war, but by means of money and fraud, when occasion came for her to give proof of her strength, she lost everything in a single battle. I think, then, that to found a republic which should endure a long time it would be best to organize her internally like Sparta, or to locate her, like Venice, in some strong place; and to make her sufficiently powerful, so that no one could hope to overcome her readily, and yet on the other hand not so powerful as to make her formidable to her neighbors. In this wise she might long enjoy her independence. For there are but two motives for making war against a republic: one, the desire to subjugate her; the other, the apprehension of being subjugated by her. The two means which we have indicated remove, as it were, both these pretexts for war; for if the republic is difficult to be conquered, her defences being well organized, as I presuppose, then it will seldom or never happen that any one will venture upon the project of conquering her. If she remains quiet within her limits, and experience shows that she entertains no ambitious projects, the fear of her power will never prompt any one to attack her; and this would even be more certainly the case if her constitution and laws prohibited all aggrandizement. And I certainly think that if she could be kept in this equilibrium it would be the best political existence, and would insure to any state real tranquillity. But as all human things are kept in a perpetual movement, and can never remain stable, states naturally either rise or decline, and necessity compels them to many acts to which reason will not influence them; so that, having organized a republic competent to maintain herself without expanding, still, if forced by necessity to extend her territory, in such case we shall see her foundations give way and herself quickly brought to ruin. And thus, on the other hand, if Heaven favors her so as never to be involved in war, the continued tranquillity would enervate her, or provoke internal dissensions, which together, or either of them separately, will be apt to prove her ruin. Seeing then the impossibility of establishing in this respect a perfect equilibrium, and that a precise middle course cannot be maintained, it is proper in the organization of a republic to select the most honorable course, and to constitute her so that, even if necessity should oblige her to expand, she may yet be able to preserve her acquisitions. To return now to our first argument, I believe it therefore necessary rather to take the constitution of Rome as a model than that of any other republic, (for I do not believe that a middle course between the two can be found,) and to tolerate the differences that will arise between the Senate and the people as an unavoidable inconvenience in achieving greatness like that of Rome. Besides the other reasons alleged, which demonstrate the creation and authority of the Tribunes to have been necessary for the protection of liberty, it is easy to see the advantage which a republic must derive from the faculty of accusing, which amongst others was bestowed upon the Tribunes, as will be seen in the following chapter.


showing how necessary the faculty of accusation is in a republic for the maintenance of liberty.

No more useful and necessary authority can be given to those who are appointed as guardians of the liberty of a state, than the faculty of accusing the citizens to the people, or to any magistrate or council, for any attempt against public liberty. Such a system has two very marked advantages for a republic. The first is, that the apprehension of being accused prevents the citizens from attempting anything against the state, and should they nevertheless attempt it, they are immediately punished, without regard to persons. The other is, that it affords a way for those evil dispositions that arise in one way or another against some one citizen to vent themselves; and when these ferments cannot in some way exhaust themselves, their promoters are apt to resort to some extraordinary means, that may lead to the ruin of the republic. Nothing, on the other hand, renders a republic more firm and stable, than to organize it in such a way that the excitement of the illhumors that agitate a state may have a way prescribed by law for venting itself. This can be demonstrated by many examples, and particularly by that of Coriolanus, which Titus Livius mentions, where he says that the Roman nobility was much irritated against the people, because they believed that the people had obtained too much authority by the creation of the Tribunes who defended them; and as Rome at the time was suffering greatly from want of provisions, and the Senate had sent to Sicily for supplies of grain, Coriolanus, who was a declared enemy of the popular faction, suggested to the Senate that it afforded a favorable opportunity for them to chastise the people, and to deprive them of the authority they had acquired and assumed to the prejudice of the nobility, by not distributing the grain, and thus keeping the people in a famished condition. When this proposition came to the ears of the people, it excited so great an indignation against Coriolanus, that, on coming out of the Senate, he would have been killed in a tumultuary manner, if the Tribunes had not summoned him to appear before them and defend his cause. This occurrence shows, as we have said above, how useful and necessary it is for a republic to have laws that afford to the masses the opportunity of giving vent to the hatred they may have conceived against any citizen; for if there exist no legal means for this, they will resort to illegal ones, which beyond doubt produce much worse effects. For ordinarily when a citizen is oppressed, and even if an injustice is committed against him, it rarely causes any disturbance in the republic; for this oppression has been effected by neither private nor foreign forces, which are most destructive to public liberty, but is effected solely by the public force of the state in accordance with the established laws, which have their prescribed limits that cannot be transcended to the injury of the republic.

And to corroborate this opinion by examples, let the case of Coriolanus suffice, and let any one reflect how much evil would have resulted to the Roman republic if he had been killed in that popular outbreak; for that would have been an offence of private individuals against a private individual, which kind of offences generate fear, and fear seeks for means of defence, and for that purpose seeks partisans, and from partisans arise factions in cities, and factions cause their ruin. But as the matter was disposed of by those who had the legal authority, it prevented all those evils that would have resulted from the exercise of private force. We have seen in our time what troubles occurred in Florence because the populace could not vent their anger against one of her citizens, in the case of Francesco Valori, who was almost like a prince in that city, and being looked upon by many as an ambitious man, who by haughtiness and audacity attempted to transcend the civil authority, and there being no way in Florence for resisting this except by a faction opposed to his, it resulted that Valori, having no fear of anything but some extraordinary proceeding, began to enlist partisans who might defend him. On the other hand, those who opposed him, being without legal means for repressing him, employed illegal ones, which naturally led to an armed conflict. But if he could have been reached by lawful means, the influence of Valori would have been crushed, and he would have been the only sufferer; but being obliged to resort to illegal measures, not only he, but many other noble citizens, suffered in consequence. We may also adduce in support of the above-expressed conclusion the incident which occurred in Florence in connection with Pietro Soderini, and which resulted wholly from the fact that there were no means in that republic for bringing charges against the ambition of powerful citizens. For to accuse a noble before only eight judges did not suffice; the number of the judges should be many, for the few are apt to favor the few in their decisions. Thus, if there had been in Florence a tribunal before which the citizens could have preferred charges against Soderini, their fury against him might have been assuaged without calling in the Spanish troops; or if he had not been liable to the charges, no one would have dared to bring them against him, for fear of being himself accused in turn; and thus on both sides the animosity would have ceased, which occasioned so much trouble.

Whence we may conclude that, whenever the aid of foreign powers is called in by any party in a state, it is to be ascribed to defects in its constitution, and more especially to the want of means for enabling the people to exhaust the malign humors that spring up among men, without having recourse to extraordinary measures; all of which can easily be provided against by instituting accusations before numerous judges, and giving these sufficient influence and importance. These things were so well organized in Rome that, with the many dissensions between the Senate and the people, neither the one nor the other, nor any private citizen, ever attempted to avail of foreign force; for having the remedy at home, there was no occasion to look for it elsewhere. And although the above examples are abundantly sufficient to prove this, yet I will adduce another, mentioned by Titus Livius in his history. At Chiusi (Clusium), in those days one of the most famous cities of Tuscany, a certain Lucumones had violated the sister of Arnutes, and, unable to revenge himself because of the power of the offender, Arnutes went to call in the aid of the Gauls, who at that time ruled over the country now called Lombardy, and urged them to come with an armed force to Clusium, pointing out to them the advantage they would obtain for themselves by thus avenging him. Certainly, if Arnutes had been able to secure redress by the laws of his city, he would never have had recourse to the Barbarians.

But just as useful as accusations are in a republic, just so useless and pernicious are calumnies, as we shall show in the next chapter.


in proportion as accusations are useful in a republic, so are calumnies pernicious.

Despite of the courage displayed by Furius Camillus in liberating Rome from the yoke of the Gauls, which caused all the citizens of Rome to yield him the first place without deeming themselves degraded thereby, Manlius Capitolinus could not brook that so much honor and glory should be bestowed upon him; for, having himself saved the Capitol, he considered that he had contributed as much to the salvation of Rome as Furius Camillus, and that he was in no way inferior to him in military talents. So that, tormented by envy, he could not rest on account of the glory of his rival; and, finding that he could not sow discord amongst the Senators, he turned to the people and spread various sinister reports amongst them. Amongst other things, he circulated a statement that the amount of money which had been collected for payment to the Gauls had never been paid over to them, but had been appropriated by some private citizens; and that, if it were recovered from them, it might be most advantageously applied for the public good, by alleviating the taxes of the people, or by the extinction of some other debt. These statements produced a great impression among the people; so that, many of them came together at the house of Manlius, and, at his instigation, commenced to create disturbances in the city. This greatly displeased the Senate, who, deeming the occasion momentous and perilous, created a Dictator, who should take cognizance of the facts and repress the audacity of Manlius; whereupon the Dictator had him promptly summoned. They met in the public place, the Dictator surrounded by the nobles, and Manlius in the midst of the people. Manlius was called upon to specify the persons who had appropriated the money in question, according to his reports, as the Senate was as anxious as the people to know them. To this Manlius made no particular reply, but in an evasive manner said that it was unnecessary to mention the names, as they knew them very well already; whereupon the Dictator had him incarcerated. This shows how much detested calumnies are in republics, as well as under any other government, and that no means should be left unemployed to repress them in time. Now, there is no more effectual way for putting an end to calumnies than to introduce the system of legal accusations, which will be as beneficial to republics as calumnies are injurious. On the other hand, there is this difference, namely, that calumnies require neither witnesses, nor confrontings, nor any particulars to prove them, so that every citizen may be calumniated by another, whilst accusations cannot be lodged against any one without being accompanied by positive proofs and circumstances that demonstrate the truth of the accusation. Accusations must be brought before the magistrates, or the people, or the councils, whilst calumnies are spread in public places as well as in private dwellings; and calumnies are more practised where the system of accusations does not exist, and in cities the constitution of which does not admit of them. The lawgiver of a republic, therefore, should give every citizen the right to accuse another citizen without fear or suspicion; and this being done, and properly carried out, he should severely punish calumniators, who would have no right to complain of such punishment, it being open to them to bring charges against those whom they had in private calumniated. And where this system is not well established there will always be great disorders, for calumnies irritate, but do not chastise men; and those who have been thus irritated will think of strengthening themselves, hating more than fearing the slanders spread against them.

This matter, as has been said, was perfectly organized at Rome, but has always been badly managed in our city of Florence. And as in Rome this institution was productive of much good, so at Florence the lack of it did much harm. And whoever reads the history of that city will see to how many calumnies those citizens were exposed who occupied themselves with the most important public affairs. Of one it was reported that he had robbed the public treasury; of another, that he had failed in such or such an enterprise because he had been bribed; and of a third, that he had caused this or that public inconvenience for the purpose of serving his own ambition. This gave rise in every direction to hatreds amongst the citizens, whence divisions arose, and from these sprung factions that proved the ruin of the state. If the system of accusations and the punishment of calumniators had been established in Florence, those endless scandals and disturbances that occurred would never have taken place; for those citizens who had been either condemned or absolved could not have injured the city, and there would have been a much less number accused than there had been calumniated, as it would not have been as easy to accuse as to calumniate any one. And amongst the other means which ambitious citizens frequently employed to achieve power was this practice of calumniating, which, when employed against one noble citizen who opposed the ambitious projects of another, did much for the latter; for by taking the part of the people and confirming them in the ill opinion which they had of the nobles, he made them his friends.

I might adduce many examples of this, but will content myself with only one. The Florentine army which besieged Lucca was under the command of Messer Giovanni Guicciardini, Florentine commissioner. Whether it was due to his bad management or to his ill fortune, the siege proved unsuccessful. Whatever the case may have been, Messer Giovanni was charged with having been bribed by the authorities of Lucca. This calumny, favored by his enemies, drove Messer Giovanni almost to desperation; and although he was anxious to place himself in the hands of the Captain to justify himself, yet he never was allowed the opportunity, there being no means in the republic that made such a course possible. This gave rise to the greatest indignation amongst the friends of Messer Giovanni, who constituted the majority of the nobles, and also amongst those who desired a change in the government of Florence. This difficulty, together with other similar causes, increased to that degree that it resulted in the ruin of the republic.

Thus Manlius Capitolinus was a calumniator, and not an accuser; and the Romans showed in his case how calumniators ought to be punished. For they ought to be made to be accusers; and, if the accusation proves true, they should be rewarded, or at least not punished; but if it proves not to be true, then they should be punished as Manlius was.


to found a new republic, or to reform entirely the old institutions of an existing one, must be the work of one man only.

It may perhaps appear to some that I have gone too far into the details of Roman history before having made any mention of the founders of that republic, or of her institutions, her religion, and her military establishment. Not wishing, therefore, to keep any longer in suspense the desires of those who wish to understand these matters, I say that many will perhaps consider it an evil example that the founder of a civil society, as Romulus was, should first have killed his brother, and then have consented to the death of Titus Tatius, who had been elected to share the royal authority with him; from which it might be concluded that the citizens, according to the example of their prince, might, from ambition and the desire to rule, destroy those who attempt to oppose their authority. This opinion would be correct, if we do not take into consideration the object which Romulus had in view in committing that homicide. But we must assume, as a general rule, that it never or rarely happens that a republic or monarchy is well constituted, or its old institutions entirely reformed, unless it is done by only one individual; it is even necessary that he whose mind has conceived such a constitution should be alone in carrying it into effect. A sagacious legislator of a republic, therefore, whose object is to promote the public good, and not his private interests, and who prefers his country to his own successors, should concentrate all authority in himself; and a wise mind will never censure any one for having employed any extraordinary means for the purpose of establishing a kingdom or constituting a republic. It is well that, when the act accuses him, the result should excuse him; and when the result is good, as in the case of Romulus, it will always absolve him from blame. For he is to be reprehended who commits violence for the purpose of destroying, and not he who employs it for beneficent purposes. The lawgiver should, however, be sufficiently wise and virtuous not to leave this authority which he has assumed either to his heirs or to any one else; for mankind, being more prone to evil than to good, his successor might employ for evil purposes the power which he had used only for good ends. Besides, although one man alone should organize a government, yet it will not endure long if the administration of it remains on the shoulders of a single individual; it is well, then, to confide this to the charge of many, for thus it will be sustained by the many. Therefore, as the organization of anything cannot be made by many, because the divergence of their opinions hinders them from agreeing as to what is best, yet, when once they do understand it, they will not readily agree to abandon it. That Romulus deserves to be excused for the death of his brother and that of his associate, and that what he had done was for the general good, and not for the gratification of his own ambition, is proved by the fact that he immediately instituted a Senate with which to consult, and according to the opinions of which he might form his resolutions. And on carefully considering the authority which Romulus reserved for himself, we see that all he kept was the command of the army in case of war, and the power of convoking the Senate. This was seen when Rome became free, after the expulsion of the Tarquins, when there was no other innovation made upon the existing order of things than the substitution of two Consuls, appointed annually, in place of an hereditary king; which proves clearly that all the original institutions of that city were more in conformity with the requirements of a free and civil society than with an absolute and tyrannical government.

The above views might be corroborated by any number of examples, such as those of Moses, Lycurgus, Solon, and other founders of monarchies and republics, who were enabled to establish laws suitable for the general good only by keeping for themselves an exclusive authority; but all these are so well known that I will not further refer to them. I will adduce only one instance, not so celebrated, but which merits the consideration of those who aim to become good legislators: it is this. Agis, king of Sparta, desired to bring back the Spartans to the strict observance of the laws of Lycurgus, being convinced that, by deviating from them, their city had lost much of her ancient virtue, and consequently her power and dominion; but the Spartan Ephores had him promptly killed, as one who attempted to make himself a tyrant. His successor, Cleomenes, had conceived the same desire, from studying the records and writings of Agis, which he had found, and which explained his aims and intentions. Cleomenes was convinced that he would be unable to render this service to his country unless he possessed sole authority; for he judged that, owing to the ambitious nature of men, he could not promote the interests of the many against the will of the few; and therefore he availed of a convenient opportunity to have all the Ephores slain, as well as all such others as might oppose his project, after which he restored the laws of Lycurgus entirely. This course was calculated to resuscitate the greatness of Sparta, and to give Cleomenes a reputation equal to that of Lycurgus, had it not been for the power of the Macedonians and the weakness of the other Greek republics. For being soon after attacked by the Macedonians, and Sparta by herself being inferior in strength, and there being no one whom he could call to his aid, he was defeated; and thus his project, so just and laudable, was never put into execution. Considering, then, all these things, I conclude that, to found a republic, one must be alone; and that Romulus deserves to be absolved from, and not blamed for, the death of Remus and of Tatius.


in proportion as the founders of a republic or monarchy are entitled to praise, so do the founders of a tyranny deserve execration.

Of all men who have been eulogized, those deserve it most who have been the authors and founders of religions; next come such as have established republics or kingdoms. After these the most celebrated are those who have commanded armies, and have extended the possessions of their kingdom or country. To these may be added literary men, but, as these are of different kinds, they are celebrated according to their respective degrees of excellence. All others — and their number is infinite — receive such share of praise as pertains to the exercise of their arts and professions. On the contrary, those are doomed to infamy and universal execration who have destroyed religions, who have overturned republics and kingdoms, who are enemies of virtue, of letters, and of every art that is useful and honorable to mankind. Such are the impious and violent, the ignorant, the idle, the vile and degraded. And there are none so foolish or so wise, so wicked or so good, that, in choosing between these two qualities, they do not praise what is praiseworthy and blame that which deserves blame. And yet nearly all men, deceived by a false good and a false glory, allow themselves voluntarily or ignorantly to be drawn towards those who deserve more blame than praise. Such as by the establishment of a republic or kingdom could earn eternal glory for themselves incline to tyranny, without perceiving how much glory, how much honor, security, satisfaction, and tranquillity of mind, they forfeit; and what infamy, disgrace, blame, danger, and disquietude they incur. And it is impossible that those who have lived as private citizens in a republic, or those who by fortune or courage have risen to be princes of the same, if they were to read history and take the records of antiquity for example, should not prefer Scipio to Cæsar; and that those who were (originally) princes should not rather choose to be like Agesilaus, Timoleon, and Dion, than Nabis, Phalaris, and Dionysius; for they would then see how thoroughly the latter were despised, and how highly the former were appreciated. They would furthermore see that Timoleon and the others had no less authority in their country than Dionysius and Phalaris, but that they enjoyed far more security, and for a much greater length of time. Nor let any one be deceived by the glory of that Cæsar who has been so much celebrated by writers; for those who praised him were corrupted by his fortune, and frightened by the long duration of the empire that was maintained under his name, and which did not permit writers to speak of him with freedom. And if any one wishes to know what would have been said of him if writers had been free to speak their minds, let them read what Catiline said of him. Cæsar is as much more to be condemned, as he who commits an evil deed is more guilty than he who merely has the evil intention. He will also see how highly Brutus was eulogized; for, not being allowed to blame Cæsar on account of his power, they extolled his enemy. Let him also note how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an empire, conformed to the laws like good princes, than those who took the opposite course; and he will see that Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, and Marcus Aurelius did not require the Prætorians nor the multitudinous legions to defend them, because they were protected by their own good conduct, the good will of the people, and by the love of the Senate. He will furthermore see that neither the Eastern nor the Western armies sufficed to save Caligula, Nero, Vitellius, and so many other wicked Emperors, from the enemies which their bad conduct and evil lives had raised up against them.

And if the history of these men were carefully studied, it would prove an ample guide to any prince, and serve to show him the way to glory or to infamy, to security or to perpetual apprehension. For of the twenty-six Emperors that reigned from the time of Cæsar to that of Maximinius, sixteen were assassinated, and ten only died a natural death; and if, amongst those who were killed, there were one or two good ones, like Galba and Pertinax, their death was the consequence of the corruption which their predecessors had engendered amongst the soldiers. And if amongst those who died a natural death there were some wicked ones, like Severus, it was due to their extraordinary good fortune and courage, which two qualities rarely fall to the lot of such men. He will furthermore learn from the lessons of that history how an empire should be organized properly; for all the Emperors that succeeded to the throne by inheritance, except Titus, were bad, and those who became Emperors by adoption were all good, such as the five from Nero to Marcus Aurelius; and when the Empire became hereditary, it came to ruin. Let any prince now place himself in the times from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius, and let him compare them with those that preceded and followed that period, and let him choose in which of the two he would like to have been born, and in which he would like to have reigned. In the period under the good Emperors he will see the prince secure amidst his people, who are also living in security; he will see peace and justice prevail in the world, the authority of the Senate respected, the magistrates honored, the wealthy citizens enjoying their riches, nobility and virtue exalted, and everywhere will he see tranquillity and well-being. And on the other hand he will behold all animosity, license, corruption, and all noble ambition extinct. During the period of the good Emperors he will see that golden age when every one could hold and defend whatever opinion he pleased; in fine, he will see the triumph of the world, the prince surrounded with reverence and glory, and beloved by his people, who are happy in their security. If now he will but glance at the times under the other Emperors, he will behold the atrocities of war, discords and sedition, cruelty in peace as in war, many princes massacred, many civil and foreign wars, Italy afflicted and overwhelmed by fresh misfortunes, and her cities ravaged and ruined; he will see Rome in ashes, the Capitol pulled down by her own citizens, the ancient temples desolate, all religious rites and ceremonies corrupted, and the city full of adultery; he will behold the sea covered with ships full of flying exiles, and the shores stained with blood. He will see innumerable cruelties in Rome, and nobility, riches, and honor, and above all virtue, accounted capital crimes. He will see informers rewarded, servants corrupted against their masters, the freedmen arrayed against their patrons, and those who were without enemies betrayed and oppressed by their friends. And then will he recognize what infinite obligations Rome, Italy, and the whole world owed to Cæsar. And surely, if he be a man, he will be shocked at the thought of re-enacting those evil times, and be fired with an intense desire to follow the example of the good. And truly, if a prince be anxious for glory and the good opinion of the world, he should rather wish to possess a corrupt city, not to ruin it wholly like Cæsar, but to reorganize it like Romulus. For certainly the heavens cannot afford a man a greater opportunity of glory, nor could men desire a better one. And if for the proper organization of a city it should be necessary to abolish the principality, he who had failed to give her good laws for the sake of preserving his rank may be entitled to some excuse; but there would be none for him who had been able to organize the city properly and yet preserve the sovereignty. And, in fine, let him to whom Heaven has vouchsafed such an opportunity reflect that there are two ways open to him; one that will enable him to live securely and insure him glory after death, and the other that will make his life one of constant anxiety, and after death consign him to eternal infamy.


of the religion of the romans.

Although the founder of Rome was Romulus, to whom, like a daughter, she owed her birth and her education, yet the gods did not judge the laws of this prince sufficient for so great an empire, and therefore inspired the Roman Senate to elect Numa Pompilius as his successor, so that he might regulate all those things that had been omitted by Romulus. Numa, finding a very savage people, and wishing to reduce them to civil obedience by the arts of peace, had recourse to religion as the most necessary and assured support of any civil society; and he established it upon such foundations that for many centuries there was nowhere more fear of the gods than in that republic, which greatly facilitated all the enterprises which the Senate or its great men attempted. Whoever will examine the actions of the people of Rome as a body, or of many individual Romans, will see that these citizens feared much more to break an oath than the laws; like men who esteem the power of the gods more than that of men. This was particularly manifested in the conduct of Scipio and Manlius Torquatus; for after the defeat which Hannibal had inflicted upon the Romans at Cannæ many citizens had assembled together, and, frightened and trembling, agreed to leave Italy and fly to Sicily. When Scipio heard of this, he went to meet them, and with his drawn sword in hand he forced them to swear not to abandon their country. Lucius Manlius, father of Titus Manlius, who was afterwards called Torquatus, had been accused by Marcus Pomponius, one of the Tribunes of the people. Before the day of judgment Titus went to Marcus and threatened to kill him if he did not promise to withdraw the charges against his father; he compelled him to take an oath, and Marcus, although having sworn under the pressure of fear, withdrew the accusation against Lucius. And thus these citizens, whom neither the love of country nor the laws could have kept in Italy, were retained there by an oath that had been forced upon them by compulsion; and the Tribune Pomponius disregarded the hatred which he bore to the father, as well as the insult offered him by the son, for the sake of complying with his oath and preserving his honor; which can be ascribed to nothing else than the religious principles which Numa had instilled into the Romans. And whoever reads Roman history attentively will see in how great a degree religion served in the command of the armies, in uniting the people and keeping them well conducted, and in covering the wicked with shame. So that if the question were discussed whether Rome was more indebted to Romulus or to Numa, I believe that the highest merit would be conceded to Numa; for where religion exists it is easy to introduce armies and discipline, but where there are armies and no religion it is difficult to introduce the latter. And although we have seen that Romulus could organize the Senate and establish other civil and military institutions without the aid of divine authority, yet it was very necessary for Numa, who feigned that he held converse with a nymph, who dictated to him all that he wished to persuade the people to; and the reason for all this was that Numa mistrusted his own authority, lest it should prove insufficient to enable him to introduce new and unaccustomed ordinances in Rome. In truth, there never was any remarkable lawgiver amongst any people who did not resort to divine authority, as otherwise his laws would not have been accepted by the people; for there are many good laws, the importance of which is known to the sagacious lawgiver, but the reasons for which are not sufficiently evident to enable him to persuade others to submit to them; and therefore do wise men, for the purpose of removing this difficulty, resort to divine authority. Thus did Lycurgus and Solon, and many others who aimed at the same thing.

The Roman people, then, admiring the wisdom and goodness of Numa, yielded in all things to his advice. It is true that those were very religious times, and the people with whom Numa had to deal were very untutored and superstitious, which made it easy for him to carry out his designs, being able to impress upon them any new form. And doubtless, if any one wanted to establish a republic at the present time, he would find it much easier with the simple mountaineers, who are almost without any civilization, than with such as are accustomed to live in cities, where civilization is already corrupt; as a sculptor finds it easier to make a fine statue out of a crude block of marble than out of a statue badly begun by another. Considering, then, all these things, I conclude that the religion introduced by Numa into Rome was one of the chief causes of the prosperity of that city; for this religion gave rise to good laws, and good laws bring good fortune, and from good fortune results happy success in all enterprises. And as the observance of divine institutions is the cause of the greatness of republics, so the disregard of them produces their ruin; for where the fear of God is wanting, there the country will come to ruin, unless it be sustained by the fear of the prince, which may temporarily supply the want of religion. But as the lives of princes are short, the kingdom will of necessity perish as the prince fails in virtue. Whence it comes that kingdoms which depend entirely upon the virtue of one man endure but for a brief time, for his virtue passes away with his life, and it rarely happens that it is renewed in his successor, as Dante so wisely says: —

“’T is seldom human wisdom descends from sire to son;

Such is the will of Him who gave it,

That at his hands alone we may implore the boon.”

The welfare, then, of a republic or a kingdom does not consist in having a prince who governs it wisely during his lifetime, but in having one who will give it such laws that it will maintain itself even after his death. And although untutored and ignorant men are more easily persuaded to adopt new laws or new opinions, yet that does not make it impossible to persuade civilized men who claim to be enlightened. The people of Florence are far from considering themselves ignorant and benighted, and yet Brother Girolamo Savonarola succeeded in persuading them that he held converse with God. I will not pretend to judge whether it was true or not, for we must speak with all respect of so great a man; but I may well say that an immense number believed it, without having seen any extraordinary manifestations that should have made them believe it; but it was the purity of his life, the doctrines he preached, and the subjects he selected for his discourses, that sufficed to make the people have faith in him. Let no one, then, fear not to be able to accomplish what others have done, for all men (as we have said in our Preface) are born and live and die in the same way, and therefore resemble each other.


the importance of giving religion a prominent influence in a state, and how italy was ruined because she failed in this respect through the conduct of the church of rome.

Princes and republics who wish to maintain themselves free from corruption must above all things preserve the purity of all religious observances, and treat them with proper reverence; for there is no greater indication of the ruin of a country than to see religion contemned. And this is easily understood, when we know upon what the religion of a country is founded; for the essence of every religion is based upon some one main principle. The religion of the Gentiles had for its foundation the responses of the oracles, and the tenets of the augurs and aruspices; upon these alone depended all their ceremonies, rites, and sacrifices. For they readily believed that the Deity which could predict their future good or ill was also able to bestow it upon them. Thence arose their temples, their sacrifices, their supplications, and all the other ceremonies; for the oracle of Delphos, the temple of Jupiter Ammon, and other celebrated oracles, kept the world in admiration and devoutness. But when these afterwards began to speak only in accordance with the wishes of the princes, and their falsity was discovered by the people, then men became incredulous, and disposed to disturb all good institutions. It is therefore the duty of princes and heads of republics to uphold the foundations of the religion of their countries, for then it is easy to keep their people religious, and consequently well conducted and united. And therefore everything that tends to favor religion (even though it were believed to be false) should be received and availed of to strengthen it; and this should be done the more, the wiser the rulers are, and the better they understand the natural course of things. Such was, in fact, the practice observed by sagacious men; which has given rise to the belief in the miracles that are celebrated in religions, however false they may be. For the sagacious rulers have given these miracles increased importance, no matter whence or how they originated; and their authority afterwards gave them credence with the people. Rome had many such miracles; and one of the most remarkable was that which occurred when the Roman soldiers sacked the city of Veii; some of them entered the temple of Juno, and, placing themselves in front of her statue, said to her, “Will you come to Rome?” Some imagined that they observed the statue make a sign of assent, and others pretended to have heard her reply, “Yes.” Now these men, being very religious, as reported by Titus Livius, and having entered the temple quietly, they were filled with devotion and reverence, and might really have believed that they had heard a reply to their question, such as perhaps they could have presupposed. But this opinion and belief was favored and magnified by Camillus and the other Roman chiefs.

And certainly, if the Christian religion had from the beginning been maintained according to the principles of its founder, the Christian states and republics would have been much more united and happy than what they are. Nor can there be a greater proof of its decadence than to witness the fact that the nearer people are to the Church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious are they. And whoever examines the principles upon which that religion is founded, and sees how widely different from those principles its present practice and application are, will judge that her ruin or chastisement is near at hand. But as there are some of the opinion that the well-being of Italian affairs depends upon the Church of Rome, I will present such arguments against that opinion as occur to me; two of which are most important, and cannot according to my judgment be controverted. The first is, that the evil example of the court of Rome has destroyed all piety and religion in Italy, which brings in its train infinite improprieties and disorders; for as we may presuppose all good where religion prevails, so where it is wanting we have the right to suppose the very opposite. We Italians then owe to the Church of Rome and to her priests our having become irreligious and bad; but we owe her a still greater debt, and one that will be the cause of our ruin, namely, that the Church has kept and still keeps our country divided. And certainly a country can never be united and happy, except when it obeys wholly one government, whether a republic or a monarchy, as is the case in France and in Spain; and the sole cause why Italy is not in the same condition, and is not governed by either one republic or one sovereign, is the Church; for having acquired and holding a temporal dominion, yet she has never had sufficient power or courage to enable her to seize the rest of the country and make herself sole sovereign of all Italy. And on the other hand she has not been so feeble that the fear of losing her temporal power prevented her from calling in the aid of a foreign power to defend her against such others as had become too powerful in Italy; as was seen in former days by many sad experiences, when through the intervention of Charlemagne she drove out the Lombards, who were masters of nearly all Italy; and when in our times she crushed the power of the Venetians by the aid of France, and afterwards with the assistance of the Swiss drove out in turn the French. The Church, then, not having been powerful enough to be able to master all Italy, nor having permitted any other power to do so, has been the cause why Italy has never been able to unite under one head, but has always remained under a number of princes and lords, which occasioned her so many dissensions and so much weakness that she became a prey not only to the powerful barbarians, but of whoever chose to assail her. This we other Italians owe to the Church of Rome, and to none other. And any one, to be promptly convinced by experiment of the truth of all this, should have the power to transport the court of Rome to reside, with all the power it has in Italy, in the midst of the Swiss, who of all peoples nowadays live most according to their ancient customs so far as religion and their military system are concerned; and he would see in a very little while that the evil habits of that court would create more confusion in that country than anything else that could ever happen there.


how the romans availed of religion to preserve order in their city, and to carry out their enterprises and suppress disturbances.

It does not seem to me from my purpose to adduce here some examples to show how the Romans employed religion for the purpose of reorganizing their city, and to further their enterprises. And although there are many instances to be found in the writings of Titus Livius, yet I will content myself with the following. The Romans having created the Tribunes with consular powers, and selected all but one from the plebeian order, and a pestilence and famine having occurred in that year accompanied by some extraordinary phenomena, the nobles availed of this occasion of the new creation of the Tribunes, saying that the gods were angry because Rome had been wanting in respect to the majesty of her empire; and that there was no other way of placating the gods but by restoring the election of the Tribunes to its original plan. The result was, that the people, under the influence of religious fear, selected the Tribunes altogether from amongst the patricians.

It was also seen at the siege of the city of Veii, that the captains of the Roman army used religion to keep their soldiers disposed to any enterprise; for when the Lake Albano rose in that year in a very extraordinary manner, and the soldiers, tired of the long siege, wished to return to Rome, the leaders invented the story that Apollo and certain other oracles had predicted that the city of the Veienti would be taken in the year when Lake Albano should overflow its banks. The soldiers, having taken new hope from these predictions as to the capture of the city, bore the fatigues of the war and the siege cheerfully, and pushed the siege with so much energy that Camillus, who had been made Dictator, succeeded in taking that city after a siege of ten years’ duration. And thus religion judiciously used promoted the capture of Veii, and the restitution of the tribunate to the patricians, either of which, without that means, would have been with difficulty accomplished.

I will not omit to cite another example much to the purpose. The Tribune Terentillus occasioned great disturbances by promulgating a certain law, for reasons which we shall explain further on; and one of the first means to which the patricians resorted for the suppression of these tumults was religion, which they employed in two different ways. The first was the exhibition of the Sibylline Books, which predicted that, in consequence of domestic dissensions, the liberties of Rome would be seriously imperilled in that year; the fraud, although discovered by the Tribunes, yet so filled the minds of the people with terror that they were no longer disposed to follow them. The second mode was when one Appius Erdonius, with a number of bandits and four thousand slaves, seized the Capitol at night, which caused general apprehension for the safety of the city itself, in case the Equeans and Volscians, eternal enemies of Rome, should attack her at that moment. The Tribunes nevertheless persisted with great obstinacy in the promulgation of the Terentillan law, saying that the capture of the Capitol was merely fictitious; whereupon Publius Rubetius, a grave citizen of great authority, left the Senate, and with alternate entreaties and menaces harangued the people, pointing out to them the unreasonableness of their demands, and constrained them to swear that they would not refuse obedience to the Consul. The people, thus forced to obedience, recovered the Capitol; but in the taking of it the Consul Publius Valerius lost his life, and in his stead Titus Quintius was immediately chosen Consul. He, not wishing to afford the people any repose or opportunity of thinking again of the Terentillan law, ordered them to leave Rome and to march against the Volscians; saying that they were bound to follow him, because of the oath they had taken to obey the Consul. To this the Tribunes objected, saying that the oath referred to the Consul that had been killed, and not to Titus Quintius. The people, however, according to Titus Livius, preferred to obey the Consul rather than believe the Tribunes, and he speaks as follows in favor of their ancient religion: “They had not yet come to that neglect of the reverence for the gods which prevails nowadays, nor to interpreting their oaths or the laws to suit themselves.” And the Tribunes, fearing to lose all their authority, agreed with the Consul to submit to him, and that for one year nothing more should be said about the Terentillan law, and, on the other hand, that for one year the Consuls should not lead the people from Rome to war. And thus religion enabled the Senate to overcome that difficulty which without it they could never have done.


the romans interpreted the auspices according to necessity, and very wisely made show of observing religion, even when they were obliged in reality to disregard it; and if any one recklessly disparaged it, he was punished.

The system of auguries was not only, as we have said above, the principal basis of the ancient religion of the Gentiles, but was also the cause of the prosperity of the Roman republic. Whence the Romans esteemed it more than any other institution, and resorted to it in their Consular Comitii, in commencing any important enterprise, in sending armies into the field, in ordering their battles, and in every other important civil or military action. Nor would they ever have ventured upon any expedition unless the augurs had first persuaded the soldiers that the gods promised them victory. Amongst other aruspices the armies were always accompanied by a certain class of soothsayers, termed Pollari (guardians of the sacred fowls), and every time before giving battle to the enemy, they required these Pollari to ascertain the auspices; and if the fowls ate freely, then it was deemed a favorable augury, and the soldiers fought confidently, but if the fowls refused to eat, then they abstained from battle. Nevertheless, when they saw a good reason why certain things should be done, they did them anyhow, whether the auspices were favorable or not; but then they turned and interpreted the auguries so artfully, and in such manner, that seemingly no disrespect was shown to their religious belief. This was done by the Consul Papirius on the occasion of a most important battle with the Samnites, which forever enfeebled and broke the power of this warlike people. For Papirius in conducting the war against them found himself face to face with them; and as victory seemed to him certain, and wishing therefore to proceed to battle, he ordered the Pollari to ascertain the auspices. The fowls, however, did not eat; but the chief of the Pollari, seeing the great desire of the army to fight, and the confidence in victory which the general as well as the soldiers manifested, and being unwilling to deprive the army of this opportunity of achieving a success, reported to the Consul that the auspices were proceeding favorably; whereupon Papirius set his squadrons in order for battle. But one of the Pollari told certain soldiers that the fowls had not eaten, and they repeated it to Spurius Papirius, the nephew of the Consul; and when he reported this to his uncle, the latter promptly replied, that he expected him to do his duty well, and that, as regarded himself and the army, the auspices were favorable, and if the Pollarius had told a lie, it would come back upon him to his prejudice. And so that the result might correspond with the prognostication, he commanded his lieutenants to place the Pollari in the front ranks of the battle; and thus it happened that, in marching upon the enemy, the chief of the Pollari was accidentally killed by an arrow from the bow of a Roman soldier. When the Consul heard this, he said that all went well and with the favor of the gods, for by the death of this liar the army had been purged of all guilt, and that whatever anger the gods might have felt against him had been thereby appeased. And thus by apparently accommodating his designs to the auspices, Papirius resolved to give battle without letting his soldiers perceive that he had in any particular neglected his religious duties.

Appius Pulcher acted just the contrary way in Sicily during the first Punic war; for wishing to fight the Carthaginian army, he caused the Pollari to ascertain the auspices; and when they reported that the fowls did not eat, he said, “Then let us see whether they will drink,” and had them thrown into the sea; he then went to battle, and was defeated. For which he was punished at Rome, whilst Papirius was rewarded; not so much because the one had been beaten and the other victorious, but because the one had contravened the auspices with prudence, and the other with temerity. Nor had this system of consulting the auspices any other object than to inspire the soldiers on the eve of battle with that confidence which is the surest guaranty of victory. This system was practised not only by the Romans, but also by other peoples, of which it seems to me proper to adduce an example in the following chapter.


how the samnites resorted to religion as an extreme remedy for their desperate condition.

The Samnites had been repeatedly defeated by the Romans, and had been completely routed in Tuscany, their armies destroyed, and their generals killed. Their allies, such as the Tuscans, Gauls, and Umbrians, had also been beaten, so that “they could not hold out any longer with their own forces, or with those of their allies; yet would they not desist from the war, and sooner than give up the unsuccessful defence of their liberty, they preferred risking defeat rather than not make one more attempt at victory”; and therefore resolved upon one last supreme effort. And knowing that to conquer they must inspire their soldiers with obstinate courage, for which there was no more efficient means than religion, they resolved, by the advice of Ovius Paccius, their high priest, to renew one of their ancient religious practices, which was arranged in the following manner. A solemn sacrifice was first made to their gods, and then, in the midst of the bleeding victims and smoking altars, they made all the chiefs of the army swear never to give up the fight. After this, they called in their soldiers one by one, and there, before these altars and surrounded by centurions with drawn swords in their hands, they made them swear, first, not to reveal anything they had seen or heard; and then, with horrid imprecations and incantations, they exacted an oath from them, and a pledge to the gods, promptly to go wherever commanded by their chiefs, and not to fly from the enemy, and to kill instantly whomever they saw flying; and if they failed in any particular in the compliance with this oath, it would be visited upon their families and descendants. Some of the men who were frightened and refused to swear were instantly put to death by the centurions; so that those who followed were terrified by the spectacle, and all took the oath. And by way of giving a more imposing effect to their assembled troops, they clothed one half of them in white, with crests and plumes on their casques; and thus they took position at Aquilonia. Papirius marched against them, and by way of encouraging his soldiers he said to them, “Those crests and plumes cannot inflict wounds, and neither will paint or gilding prevent Roman javelins from piercing their shields.” And to diminish the impression which the oath of the enemy had produced upon his men, he said that such an oath was calculated to inspire fear, and not courage, in those who had taken it; for it caused them at the same time to fear their own citizens, their gods, and their enemies. So that, when they came to battle, the Samnites were defeated; for the Roman valor, and the fears of the Samnites, who remembered their former defeats, overcame all the obstinacy which their religion and their oath had infused into them. Nevertheless it showed that the Samnites knew of no more powerful means of reviving hope and reanimating their former courage; and proves in the most ample manner how much confidence religious faith, judiciously availed of, will inspire. And although this example might perhaps be deemed to belong elsewhere, as the event occurred amongst a foreign people, yet, as it refers to one of the most important institutions of the republic of Rome, I have thought it proper to mention it here in support of what I have said on that subject, and so as not to be obliged to recur to it hereafter.


a people that has been accustomed to live under a prince preserves its liberties with difficulty, if by accident it has become free.

Many examples in ancient history prove how difficult it is for a people that has been accustomed to live under the government of a prince to preserve its liberty, if by some accident it has recovered it, as was the case with Rome after the expulsion of the Tarquins. And this difficulty is a reasonable one; for such a people may well be compared to some wild animal, which (although by nature ferocious and savage) has been as it were subdued by having been always kept imprisoned and in servitude, and being let out into the open fields, not knowing how to provide food and shelter for itself, becomes an easy prey to the first one who attempts to chain it up again. The same thing happens to a people that has not been accustomed to self-government; for, ignorant of all public affairs, of all means of defence or offence, neither knowing the princes nor being known by them, it soon relapses under a yoke, oftentimes much heavier than the one which it had but just shaken off. This difficulty occurs even when the body of the people is not wholly corrupt; but when corruption has taken possession of the whole people, then it cannot preserve its free condition even for the shortest possible time, as we shall see further on; and therefore our argument has reference to a people where corruption has not yet become general, and where the good still prevails over the bad. To the above comes another difficulty, which is, that the state that becomes free makes enemies for itself, and not friends. All those become its enemies who were benefited by the tyrannical abuses and fattened upon the treasures of the prince, and who, being now deprived of these advantages, cannot remain content, and are therefore driven to attempt to re-establish the tyranny, so as to recover their former authority and advantages. A state then, as I have said, that becomes free, makes no friends; for free governments bestow honors and rewards only according to certain honest and fixed rules, outside of which there are neither the one nor the other. And such as obtain these honors and rewards do not consider themselves under obligations to any one, because they believe that they were entitled to them by their merits. Besides the advantages that result to the mass of the people from a free government, such as to be able freely to enjoy one’s own without apprehension, to have nothing to fear for the honor of his wife and daughters, or for himself, — all these, I say, are not appreciated by any one whilst he is in the enjoyment of them; for no one will confess himself under obligation to any one merely because he has not been injured by him.

Thus it is that a state that has freshly achieved liberty makes enemies, and no friends. And to prevent this inconvenience, and the disorders which are apt to come with it, there is no remedy more powerful, valid, healthful, and necessary than the killing of the sons of Brutus, who, as history shows, had conspired with other Roman youths for no other reason than because under the Consuls they could not have the same extraordinary advantages they had enjoyed under the kings; so that the liberty of the people seemed to have become their bondage. Whoever undertakes to govern a people under the form of either republic or monarchy, without making sure of those who are opposed to this new order of things, establishes a government of very brief duration. It is true that I regard as unfortunate those princes who, to assure their government to which the mass of the people is hostile, are obliged to resort to extraordinary measures; for he who has but a few enemies can easily make sure of them without great scandal, but he who has the masses hostile to him can never make sure of them, and the more cruelty he employs the feebler will his authority become; so that his best remedy is to try and secure the good will of the people. Although I have departed in this discourse from my subject, in speaking sometimes of a republic and sometimes of a prince, yet I will say a few words more, so as not to be obliged to come back to this matter.

A prince, then, who wishes the good will of a people that is hostile to him, (I speak of such princes as have been tyrants in their country,) should first of all ascertain what the people really desire, and he will always find that they want two things: one, to revenge themselves on those who have been the cause of their enslavement, and the other, to recover their liberty. The first of these desires the prince may satisfy entirely, and the second in part. As to the first, the following is an example in point. When Clearchus, tyrant of Heraclea, had been banished, a dissension arose between the people and the nobles of Heraclea. The latter, finding themselves the feebler of the two, resolved to recall Clearchus; and having conspired together, they placed him in opposition to the popular faction of the people of Heraclea, and thus deprived the people of their liberty. Clearchus, finding himself placed between the insolence of the nobles on the one hand, whom he could in no way content or control, and the rage of the popular faction on the other hand, who could not support the loss of their liberty, resolved suddenly to rid himself of the importunities of the nobles, and to secure to himself the good will and support of the people. Availing of a favorable opportunity, he had all the nobles massacred, to the extreme satisfaction of the people; and in this way he satisfied one of the wishes of the people, namely, the desire of revenge. But as to the other popular desire, that of recovering their liberty, the prince, not being able to satisfy that, should examine the causes that make them desire to be free; and he will find that a small part of them wish to be free for the purpose of commanding, whilst all the others, who constitute an immense majority, desire liberty so as to be able to live in greater security. For in all republics, however organized, there are never more than forty or fifty citizens who attain a position that entitles them to command. As this is a small number, it is easy to make sure of them, either by having them put out of the way, or by giving them such a share of the public honors and offices as, according to their condition, will in great measure content them. The others, who only care to live in security, are easily satisfied by institutions and laws that confirm at the same time the general security of the people and the power of the prince. When a prince does this, and the people see that by no chance he infringes the laws, they will in a very little while be content, and live in tranquillity. An example of this is the kingdom of France, where there would be no security but for the fact that the king there has bound himself by a number of laws that provide for the security of all his people. Those who organized that state wanted that the kings should dispose of the army and treasury at their own will, but that in all other matters they should conform to the laws. That sovereign, therefore, or that republic, which fails from the start to secure its authority, should do so on the first occasion, as the Romans did; and he who allows the opportunity to pass will repent too late not having done what he should have done in the beginning. The Romans, being not yet corrupted when they recovered their liberty, were able to maintain it after the death of the sons of Brutus and the expulsion of the Tarquins, by means of such laws and institutions as we have treated of above. But if the people had been corrupt, then there would have been no sufficient remedies found in Rome or elsewhere to maintain their liberty, as we shall show in the next chapter.


a corrupt people that becomes free can with greatest difficulty maintain its liberty.

I think that it was necessary for royalty to be extinguished in Rome, else she would in a very short time have become feeble and devoid of energy. For the degree of corruption to which the kings had sunk was such that, if it had continued for two or three successive reigns, and had extended from the head to the members of the body so that these had become also corrupt, it would have been impossible ever to have reformed the state. But losing the head whilst the trunk was still sound, it was easy to restore Rome to liberty and proper institutions. And it must be assumed as a well-demonstrated truth, that a corrupt people that lives under the government of a prince can never become free, even though the prince and his whole line should be extinguished; and that it would be better that the one prince should be destroyed by another. For a people in such condition can never become settled unless a new prince be created, who by his good qualities and valor can maintain their liberty; but even then it will last only during the lifetime of the new prince. It was thus that the freedom of Syracuse was preserved at different times by the valor of Dion and Timoleon during their lives, but after their death the city relapsed under the former tyranny. But there is not a more striking example of this than Rome itself, which after the expulsion of the Tarquins was enabled quickly to resume and maintain her liberty; but after the death of Cæsar, Caligula, and Nero, and after the extinction of the entire Cæsarean line, she could not even begin to re-establish her liberty, and much less preserve it. And this great difference in the condition of things in one and the same city resulted entirely from this fact, that at the time of the Tarquins the Roman people was not yet corrupt, whilst under the Cæsars it became corrupt to the lowest degree. For to preserve her sound and ready to expel the kings in the time of the Tarquins, it sufficed merely that they should take an oath never to permit any of them ever to reign again in Rome; but in the time of the Cæsars the authority of Brutus with all the Eastern legions was insufficient to keep her disposed to preserve that liberty which he, in imitation of the first Brutus, had restored to her. This was the result of that corruption which had been spread amongst the people by the faction of Marius, at the head of which was Cæsar, who had so blinded the people that they did not perceive the yoke they were imposing upon themselves.

And although the example of Rome is preferable to all others, yet will I cite on this subject some instances amongst peoples known in our times. And therefore I say that no change, however great or violent, could ever restore Milan and Naples to liberty, because the whole people of those states were thoroughly corrupt. This was seen after the death of Philip Visconti, when Milan attempted to recover her liberty, but knew not how, nor was she able to maintain it. It was a great good fortune for Rome, therefore, that no sooner did her kings become corrupt than they were expelled, before the corruption had time to extend to the heart of the people. This corruption caused endless disturbances in Rome; but as the intention of the people was good, these troubles, instead of harming, rather benefited the republic. And from this we may draw the conclusion that, where the mass of the people is sound, disturbances and tumults do no serious harm; but where corruption has penetrated the people, the best laws are of no avail, unless they are administered by a man of such supreme power that he may cause the laws to be observed until the mass has been restored to a healthy condition. And I know not whether such a case has ever occurred, or whether it possibly ever could occur (as I have said above). For if a state or city in decadence, in consequence of the corruption of the mass of its people, is ever raised up again, it must be through the virtue of some one man then living, and not by the people; and so soon as such a man dies, the people will relapse into their corrupt habits; as was the case in Thebes, which by the virtue of Epaminondas could, during his lifetime, maintain the form of a republic and its dominion, but immediately upon his death relapsed into anarchy. And the reason of this is that one man cannot live long enough to have time to bring a people back to good habits which for any length of time has indulged in evil ones. Or if one of extreme long life, or two continuous virtuous successors, do not restore the state, it will quickly lapse into ruin, no matter how many dangers and how much bloodshed have been incurred in the effort to restore it. For such corruption and incapacity to maintain free institutions results from a great inequality that exists in such a state; and to reduce the inhabitants to equality requires the application of extraordinary measures, which few know how, or are willing, to employ; as will be shown more fully elsewhere.


how in a corrupt state a free government may be maintained, assuming that one exists there already; and how it could be introduced, if none had previously existed.

I believe it will not be amiss to consider whether in a state that has become corrupt a free government that has existed there can be maintained; or if there has been none before, whether one could be established there. Upon this subject I must say that either one of them would be exceedingly difficult. And although it is impossible to give any definite rules for such a case, (as it will be necessary to proceed according to the different degrees of corruption,) yet, as it is well to reason upon all subjects, I will not leave this problem without discussing it. I will suppose a state to be corrupt to the last degree, so as to present the subject in its most difficult aspect, there being no laws nor institutions that suffice to check a general corruption. For as good habits of the people require good laws to support them, so laws, to be observed, need good habits on the part of the people. Besides, the constitution and laws established in a republic at its very origin, when men were still pure, no longer suit when men have become corrupt and bad. And although the laws may be changed according to circumstances and events, yet it is seldom or never that the constitution itself is changed; and for this reason the new laws do not suffice, for they are not in harmony with the constitution, that has remained intact. To make this matter better understood, I will explain how the government of Rome was constituted and what the nature of the laws was, which together with the magistrates restrained the citizens. The constitution of the state reposed upon the authority of the people, the Senate, the Tribunes, and the Consuls, and upon the manner of choosing and creating the magistrates, and of making the laws. These institutions were rarely or never varied by events; but the laws that restrained the citizens were often altered, such as the law relating to adultery, the sumptuary laws, that in relation to ambition, and many others, which were changed according as the citizens from one day to another became more and more corrupt. Now the constitution remaining unchanged, although no longer suitable to the corrupt people, the laws that had been changed became powerless for restraint; yet they would have answered very well if the constitution had also been modified at the same time with the laws.

And the truth that the original institutions were no longer suitable to a corrupt state is clearly seen in these two main points, — the creation of the magistrates, and the forms used in making the laws. As regards the first, the Roman people bestowed the consulate and the other principal offices only on such as asked for them. This system was very good in the beginning, because only such citizens asked for these places as deemed themselves worthy of them, and a refusal was regarded as ignominious; so that every one strove to make himself esteemed worthy of the honor. But when the city had become corrupt, this system became most pernicious; for it was no longer the most virtuous and deserving, but the most powerful, that asked for the magistratures; and the less powerful, often the most meritorious, abstained from being candidates from fear. This state of things did not come all at once, but by degrees, as is generally the case with other vices. For after the Romans had subjugated Africa and Asia, and had reduced nearly all Greece to their obedience, they felt assured of their liberty, and saw no enemies that could cause them any apprehension. This security and the weakness of the conquered nations caused the Roman people no longer to bestow the consulate according to the merits of the candidates, but according to favor; giving that dignity to those who best knew how to entertain the people, and not to those who best knew how to conquer their enemies. After that they descended from those who were most favored to such as had most wealth and power, so that the really meritorious became wholly excluded from that dignity. Now as to the mode of making the laws. At first a Tribune or any other citizen had the right to propose any law, and every citizen could speak in favor or against it before its final adoption. This system was very good so long as the citizens were uncorrupted, for it is always well in a state that every one may propose what he deems for the public good; and it was equally well that every one should be allowed to express his opinion in relation to it, so that the people, having heard both sides, may decide in favor of the best. But when the citizens had become corrupt, this system became the worst possible, for then only the powerful proposed laws, not for the common good and the liberty of all, but for the increase of their own power, and fear restrained all the others from speaking against such laws; and thus the people were by force and fraud made to resolve upon their own ruin.

It was necessary therefore, if Rome wished to preserve her liberty in the midst of this corruption, that she should have modified her constitution, in like manner as in the progress of her existence she had made new laws; for institutions and forms should be adapted to the subject, whether it be good or evil, inasmuch as the same form cannot suit two subjects that are essentially different. But as the constitution of a state, when once it has been discovered to be no longer suitable, should be amended, either all at once, or by degrees as each defect becomes known, I say that both of these courses are equally impossible. For a gradual modification requires to be the work of some wise man, who has seen the evil from afar in its very beginning; but it is very likely that such a man may never rise up in the state, and even if he did he will hardly be able to persuade the others to what he proposes; for men accustomed to live after one fashion do not like to change, and the less so as they do not see the evil staring them in the face, but presented to them as a mere conjecture.

As to reforming these institutions all at once, when their defects have become manifest to everybody, that also is most difficult; for to do this ordinary means will not suffice; they may even be injurious under such circumstances, and therefore it becomes necessary to resort to extraordinary measures, such as violence and arms, and above all things to make one’s self absolute master of the state, so as to be able to dispose of it at will. And as the reformation of the political condition of a state presupposes a good man, whilst the making of himself prince of a republic by violence naturally presupposes a bad one, it will consequently be exceedingly rare that a good man should be found willing to employ wicked means to become prince, even though his final object be good; or that a bad man, after having become prince, should be willing to labor for good ends, and that it should enter his mind to use for good purposes that authority which he has acquired by evil means. From these combined causes arises the difficulty or impossibility of maintaining liberty in a republic that has become corrupt, or to establish it there anew. And if it has to be introduced and maintained, then it will be necessary to reduce the state to a monarchical, rather than a republican form of government; for men whose turbulence could not be controlled by the simple force of law can be controlled in a measure only by an almost regal power. And to attempt to restore men to good conduct by any other means would be either a most cruel or an impossible undertaking. This, as I have related above, was done by Cleomenes, who for the sake of being alone in the government had all the Ephores massacred; and if Romulus for the same object killed his brother and the Sabine Titus Tatius, and if both he and Cleomenes afterwards employed their power well, we must nevertheless bear in mind that neither of them had to deal with a people so tainted with corruption as that we have considered in this chapter, and therefore they could desire the good and conform their measures accordingly to achieve it.


if an able and vigorous prince is succeeded by a feeble one, the latter may for a time be able to maintain himself; but if his successor be also weak, then the latter will not be able to preserve his state.

In carefully examining the characters and conduct of Romulus, Numa, and Tullus, the first three kings of Rome, we see that she was favored by the greatest good fortune in having her first king courageous and warlike, the second peace-loving and religious, and the third equally courageous with Romulus, and preferring war to peace. For it was important for Rome that in the beginning there should arise a legislator capable of endowing her with civil institutions; but then it was essential that the succeeding kings should equal Romulus in virtue and valor, otherwise the city would have become effeminate and a prey to her neighbors. Whence we may note that a successor of less vigor and ability than the first king may yet be able to maintain a state established by the genius and courage of his predecessor, and may enjoy the fruits of his labors. But if it should happen that his life be a long one, or that his successor should not have the same good qualities and courage as the first king, then the government will necessarily go to ruin. And so, on the contrary, if one king succeeds another of equally great abilities and courage, then it will often be seen that they achieve extraordinary greatness for their state, and that their fame will rise to the very heavens. David was beyond doubt a most extraordinary man in war, in learning, and in superior judgment; and such was his military ability that, having conquered and crushed his neighbors, he left a peaceful kingdom to his son Solomon, which he was able to maintain by the arts of peace and of war, and could thus happily enjoy the results of his father’s virtue and valor. But he could not thus transmit it to his son, Rehoboam, who had neither the merits of his grandfather nor the good fortune of his father; and it was with difficulty, therefore, that he remained heir of the sixth part of the kingdom. The Sultan Bajazet of Turkey, although preferring peace to war, yet could enjoy the labors of his father Mahomet, who, having, like David, crushed his neighbors, left him a firmly established kingdom, which he could easily preserve with the arts of peace. But the empire would have gone to ruin if his son Soliman, the present Sultan, had resembled the father, and not the grandfather; but it was seen that he even exceeded the glory of the grandfather.

I say then, that, according to these examples, the successor of a wise and vigorous prince, though himself feeble, may maintain a kingdom, even if it be not constituted like France, which is maintained by the force of its ancient institutions; and I call that prince feeble who is incapable of carrying on war. I conclude, then, that the genius and courage of Romulus were such that it left Numa competent to govern Rome for many years by the arts of peace. He was succeeded by Tullus, whose courage and warlike disposition exceeded even that of Romulus. After him came Ancus, who was gifted by nature to shine equally in peace and in war. At first he was disposed to follow the ways of peace, but he soon perceived that his neighbors regarded him as effeminate, and esteemed him but little; so that he concluded that, if he wished to maintain the Roman state, he must devote himself to war, and imitate Romulus, and not Numa Pompilius. Let all princes then who govern states take example from this, that he who follows the course of Numa may keep or lose his throne, according to chance and cicumstances; but he who imitates the example of Romulus, and combines valor with prudence, will keep his throne anyhow, unless it be taken from him by some persistent and excessive force. And we may certainly assume that, if Rome had not chanced to have for her king a man who knew how by force of arms to restore her original reputation, she would not have been able, except with greatest difficulty, to gain a firm foothold and achieve the great things she did. And thus so long as she was governed by kings was she exposed to the danger of being ruined by a feeble or a wicked one.


two continuous successions of able and virtuous princes will achieve great results; and as well-constituted republics have, in the nature of things, a succession of virtuous rulers, their acquisitions and extension will consequently be very great.

After Rome had expelled her kings she was no longer exposed to the dangers which we have spoken of above, as resulting from a succession of feeble or wicked kings; for the sovereign authority was vested in the Consuls, who obtained that authority not by inheritance, or fraud, or violent ambition, but by the free suffrages of the people, and were generally most excellent men. Rome, having the benefit of the virtue and good fortune of these men from time to time, was thus enabled to attain her utmost grandeur in no greater length of time than she had existed under the rule of kings. For if, as has been seen, two successive good and valorous princes are sufficient to conquer the world, as was the case with Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great, a republic should be able to do still more, having the power to elect not only two successions, but an infinite number of most competent and virtuous rulers one after the other; and this system of electing a succession of virtuous men should ever be the established practice of every republic.


princes and republics who fail to have national armies are much to be blamed.

Such princes and republics of modern times as have no national troops for defence or attack ought well to be ashamed of it; for they should bear in mind that, according to the example of Tullus, their not having armies of their own is not from the want of men fit for military service, but that the fault is wholly theirs, in not knowing how to make soldiers of their men. For when Tullus ascended the throne, after forty years of peace, he did not find a man that had ever borne arms in war; but as he contemplated making war, he neither attempted to avail himself of the Samnites, the Tuscans, nor of any other people accustomed to fight, but, like a most sagacious prince, he resolved to employ only his own subjects; and such was his skill and courage that he promptly created an excellent army within his own kingdom. And there is nothing more true than that, if there are no soldiers where there are men, it is not owing to any natural or local defect, but is solely the fault of the prince; in proof of which I cite the following most recent example. Everybody knows that quite lately the king of England attacked the kingdom of France, and employed for that purpose no other soldiers except his own subjects; and although his own kingdom had been for over thirty years in profound peace, so that he had at first neither soldiers nor captains who had seen any active military service, yet he did not hesitate with such troops to assail a kingdom that had many experienced commanders and good soldiers, who had been continually under arms in the Italian wars. He was enabled to do this because he was a sagacious prince, and his kingdom was well ordered, so that in time of peace the military art had not been neglected. Pelopidas and Epaminondas, both of Thebes, after having liberated that city and rescued her from the yoke of the Spartan rule, found themselves in a city accustomed to servitude, and in the midst of an effeminate people. Such, however, was their wisdom and valor that they did not hesitate to put the Thebans under arms, and to take the field with them against the Spartans, whom they defeated. The historian who tells this says, that these two great citizens proved in a short time that it was not Lacedæmon alone that gave birth to warriors, but that they were produced in all countries where men were found capable of instructing others in the art of war; as was seen in the case of Tullus, who trained the Romans to war. And Virgil could not state this fact and express his approbation of it better than in the following words: “And Tullus converted his indolent men into brave soldiers.”


what we should note in the case of the three roman horatii and the alban curatii.

Tullus, king of Rome, and Metius, king of Alba, agreed that that people should be master of the other whose three champions should overcome those of the other in an appointed combat. All three of the Curatii were killed, and only one of the Roman Horatii survived; and consequently Metius, king of the Albans, and his people, became subject to the Romans. When this surviving Horatius returned to Rome he met his sister, who was contracted in marriage to one of the slain Curatii; and when he heard her lamenting the death of her lover he killed her. He was judicially tried for this crime, and after a long discussion was acquitted, not so much on account of his own merit as on account of the prayers of his father. Now there are three things to be noted in these occurrences: the first, that one should never risk his whole fortune with only a portion of his forces; the second, that in a well-ordered state a man’s merits should never extenuate his crimes; and the third, that it is never wise to enter into agreements the observance of which is doubtful. For the loss of independence is a matter of such supreme importance to a state that it is not to be supposed that any king or people will ever remain satisfied that the action of three of their citizens should subject them to servitude; as was seen in the case of Metius, who, although immediately upon the victory of the Horatii he confessed himself conquered and promised obedience to Tullus, yet on the very first expedition in which he had to take part against the Veienti he attempted by fraud to evade his obligations, like one who perceives too late the imprudence of the agreement he has made. Having said enough upon this third point, we will treat more fully of the others in the following chapters.


one should never risk one’s whole fortune unless supported by one’s entire forces, and therefore the mere guarding of passes is often dangerous.

It was never deemed wise to risk one’s whole fortune without employing at the same time one’s whole forces, and which may be done in different ways. One is the acting like Tullus and Metius, when they committed the entire fortunes of their countries, and so many brave men as both had in their armies, to the valor of only three of their citizens, who constituted but a minimum part of their respective forces. They did not perceive that by so doing all the labors of their predecessors in organizing the republic so as to insure it a long and free existence, and to make her citizens defenders of their liberty, were as it were made nugatory, by putting it in the power of so few to lose the whole. On the part of the Romans, they could certainly not have done a more ill considered thing. The same fault is almost always committed by those who, upon the approach of an enemy, attempt to hold the difficult approaches, and to guard the passes; which course will almost always prove dangerous, unless you can conveniently place all your forces there, in which case that course may be adopted; but if the locality be so rugged that you cannot keep and deploy all your forces there, then it is dangerous. I am induced to think so by the example of those who, when assailed by a powerful enemy, their country being surrounded by mountains and rugged places, never attempted to combat the enemy in the passes or mountains, but have always gone either to meet him in advance of these, or, when they did not wish to do that, have awaited his coming in easy and open places; the reason of which is the one I have above alleged. For you cannot employ a large force in guarding rugged and mountainous places; be it that you cannot obtain provisions there for any length of time, or that the defiles are so narrow as to admit of only a small number of men, so that it becomes impossible to sustain the shock of an enemy who comes in large force. Now for the enemy it is easy to come in full force, for his intention is to pass, and not to stop there; whilst on the contrary he who has to await the approach of the enemy cannot possibly keep so large a force there, for the reason that he will have to establish himself for a longer time in those confined and sterile places, not knowing when the enemy may come to make the attempt to pass. And once having lost the pass which you had hoped to hold, and upon which your people and army had confidently relied, they are generally seized with such terror that they are lost, without your having even been able to test their courage; and thus you lose your whole fortune from having risked only a portion of your forces.

It is well known what difficulties Hannibal encountered in passing the Alps that separate Lombardy from France, as well as the mountains that divide Lombardy from Tuscany; nevertheless, the Romans awaited him first on the Ticino, and afterwards in the plains of Arezzo; for they preferred rather to expose their army to being defeated in a place where they themselves had a chance of being the victors, than to move it to the mountains, to be destroyed there by the difficulties of the locality. And whoever reads history attentively will find that very few of the best commanders have attempted to hold such passes, for the very reasons which I have given, and because they cannot close them all; the mountains being in that respect like the open country, in having not only well known roads that are generally used, but also many others, which, if unknown to strangers, are yet familiar to the people of the country, by whose aid any invader may always be guided to any desired point. Of this we have a most notable and recent example in 1515, when Francis I., king of France, wanted to enter Italy for the purpose of recovering the state of Lombardy. Those who opposed him in this attempt, relied mainly upon their confident expectations that the Swiss would arrest his march in the mountain passes. But the event proved that their confidence was vain, for the king of France, leaving aside the two or three passes that were guarded by the Swiss, came by another route hitherto quite unknown, and was in Italy and upon them before they knew anything of it; so that their terror-stricken troops retreated to Milan, and the entire Milanese population yielded themselves to the French, having been disappointed in their hopes that the French would be kept out by the difficulty of passing the Alps.


well-ordered republics establish punishments and rewards for their citizens, but never set off one against the other.

The services of Horatius had been of the highest importance to Rome, for by his bravery he had conquered the Curatii; but the crime of killing his sister was atrocious, and the Romans were so outraged by this murder that he was put upon trial for his life, notwithstanding his recent great services to the state. Now, in looking at this matter superficially, it may seem like an instance of popular ingratitude; but a more careful examination, and reflection as to what the laws of a republic ought to be, will show that the people were to blame rather for the acquittal of Horatius than for having him tried. And the reason for this is, that no well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits; but having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for good conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits. And a state that properly observes this principle will long enjoy its liberty; but if otherwise, it will speedily come to ruin. For if a citizen who has rendered some eminent service to the state should add to the reputation and influence which he has thereby acquired the confident audacity of being able to commit any wrong without fear of punishment, he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law. But to preserve a wholesome fear of punishment for evil deeds, it is necessary not to omit rewarding good ones; as has been seen was done by Rome. And although a republic may be poor and able to give but little, yet she should not abstain from giving that little; for even the smallest reward for a good action — no matter how important the service to the state — will always be esteemed by the recipient as most honorable. The story of Horatius Cocles and of Mutius Scævola is well known; how the one, single-handed, kept back the enemy to give time for the destruction of a bridge, and how the other burned his hand off for having erred in his attempt to take the life of Porsenna, king of the Tuscans. As a reward for their eminent services the city of Rome gave to each of them two acres of land. The story of Manlius Capitolinus is equally well known; having saved the Capitol from the Gauls who were besieging it, he received from each of those who had been shut up in it with him a small measure of flour, which (according to the current prices of things in those days in Rome) was a reward of considerable value and importance. But when Manlius afterwards, inspired by envy or his evil nature, attempted to stir up a rebellion, and sought to gain the people over to himself, he was, regardless of his former services, precipitated from that very Capitol which it had been his previous glory to have saved.


whoever wishes to reform an existing government in a free state should at least preserve the semblance of the old forms.

He who desires or attempts to reform the government of a state, and wishes to have it accepted and capable of maintaining itself to the satisfaction of everybody, must at least retain the semblance of the old forms; so that it may seem to the people that there has been no change in the institutions, even though in fact they are entirely different from the old ones. For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often even more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are. The Romans understood this well, and for that reason, when they first recovered their liberty, and had created two Consuls in place of a king, they would not allow these more than twelve lictors, so as not to exceed the number that had served the king. Besides this, the Romans were accustomed to an annual sacrifice that could only be performed by the king in person; and as they did not wish that the people, in consequence of the absence of the king, should have occasion to regret the loss of any of their old customs, they created a special chief for that ceremony, whom they called the king of the sacrifice, and placed him under their high priest; so that the people enjoyed these annual sacrificial ceremonies, and had no pretext, from the want of them, for desiring the restoration of the kings. And this rule should be observed by all who wish to abolish an existing system of government in any state, and introduce a new and more liberal one. For as all novelties excite the minds of men, it is important to retain in such innovations as much as possible the previously existing forms. And if the number, authority, and duration of the term of service of the magistrates be changed, the titles at least ought to be preserved. This, as I have said, should be observed by whoever desires to convert an absolute government either into a republic or a monarchy; but, on the contrary, he who wishes to establish an absolute power, such as ancient writers called a tyranny, must change everything, as we shall show in the following chapter.


a new prince in a city or province conquered by him should organize everything anew.

Whoever becomes prince of a city or state, especially if the foundation of his power is feeble, and does not wish to establish there either a monarchy or a republic, will find the best means for holding that principality to organize the government entirely anew (he being himself a new prince there); that is, he should appoint new governors with new titles, new powers, and new men, and he should make the poor rich, as David did when he became king, “who heaped riches upon the needy, and dismissed the wealthy empty-handed.” Besides this, he should destroy the old cities and build new ones, and transfer the inhabitants from one place to another; in short, he should leave nothing unchanged in that province, so that there should be neither rank, nor grade, nor honor, nor wealth, that should not be recognized as coming from him. He should take Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander, for his model, who by proceeding in that manner became, from a petty king, master of all Greece. And his historian tells us that he transferred the inhabitants from one province to another, as shepherds move their flocks from place to place. Doubtless these means are cruel and destructive of all civilized life, and neither Christian nor even human, and should be avoided by every one. In fact, the life of a private citizen would be preferable to that of a king at the expense of the ruin of so many human beings. Nevertheless, whoever is unwilling to adopt the first and humane course must, if he wishes to maintain his power, follow the latter evil course. But men generally decide upon a middle course, which is most hazardous; for they know neither how to be entirely good or entirely bad, as we shall illustrate by examples in the next chapter.


showing that men are very rarely either entirely good or entirely bad.

When Pope Julius II. went, in the year 1505, to Bologna to expel the Bentivogli from that state, the government of which they had held for a hundred years, he wanted also to remove Giovanpaolo Baglioni from Perugia, who had made himself the absolute master of that city; for it was the intention of Pope Julius to destroy all the petty tyrants that occupied the possessions of the Church. Having arrived at Perugia with that purpose, which was well known to everybody, he did not wait to enter the city with his army for his protection, but went in almost alone, although Giovanpaolo had collected a large force within the city for his defence. And thus, with the customary impetuosity which characterized all his acts, Julius placed himself with only a small guard in the hands of his enemy Baglioni, whom he nevertheless carried off with him, leaving a governor in his stead to administer the state in the name of the Church. Sagacious men who were with the Pope observed his temerity and the cowardice of Baglioni, and could not understand why the latter had not by a single blow rid himself of his enemy, whereby he would have secured for himself eternal fame and rich booty, for the Pope was accompanied by all the cardinals with their valuables. Nor could they believe that he had refrained from doing this either from goodness or conscientious scruples; for no sentiment of piety or respect could enter the heart of a man of such vile character as Giovanpaolo, who had dishonored his sister and murdered his nephews and cousins for the sake of obtaining possession of the state; but they concluded that mankind were neither utterly wicked nor perfectly good, and that when a crime has in itself some grandeur or magnanimity they will not know how to attempt it. Thus Giovanpaolo Baglioni, who did not mind open incest and parricide, knew not how, or, more correctly speaking, dared not, to attempt an act (although having a justifiable opportunity) for which every one would have admired his courage, and which would have secured him eternal fame, as being the first to show these prelates how little esteem those merit who live and govern as they do; and as having done an act the greatness of which would have overshadowed the infamy and all the danger that could possibly result from it.


why rome was less ungrateful to her citizens than athens.

In reading the history of republics we find in all of them a degree of ingratitude to their citizens; this, however, seems to have been the case to a less extent in Rome than in Athens, and perhaps less even than in any other republic. In seeking for the reason of this difference, so far as Rome and Athens are concerned, I believe it was because Rome had less cause for mistrusting her citizens than Athens. In fact, from the time of the expulsion of the kings until Sylla and Marius, no Roman citizen ever attempted to deprive his country of her liberty; so that, there being no occasion to suspect her citizens, there was consequently no cause for offending them inconsiderately. The very contrary happened in Athens, for Pisistratus had by fraud robbed her of her liberty at the very time of her highest prosperity; so soon as she afterwards recovered her freedom, remembering the injuries received and her past servitude, she resented with the utmost harshness, not only all faults, but the mere semblance of faults, on the part of her citizens. It was this that gave rise to the exile and death of so many of her illustrious men, and thence came the practice of ostracism and every other violence which that city exercised at various times against some of her noblest citizens. It is a very true saying of political writers, that those states which have recovered their liberty treat their citizens with greater severity than such as have never lost it. A careful consideration of what has been said on this subject will show that Athens is neither to be blamed, nor Rome to be praised, for their respective conduct, and that it necessarily resulted entirely from the difference of the events that occurred in those cities; for a penetrating observer will not fail to see that, if Rome had been deprived of her liberty in the manner Athens was, she would not have been more indulgent to her citizens than the latter. We may judge very correctly of this by her treatment of Collatinus and Publius Valerius after the expulsion of the kings; the first was exiled for no other reason than that he bore the name of the Tarquins, and the other was equally sent into exile because he had excited suspicion by building a house on Mount Cœlius. Seeing then how suspicious and severe Rome showed herself in these two cases, we may fairly judge that she would have been liable to the charge of ingratitude, the same as Athens, if she had been offended by her citizens in the beginning of her existence, before she had grown powerful. And so as not to be obliged to return to this subject of ingratitude, I shall continue what I have to say in relation to it in the next chapter.


which of the two is most ungrateful, a people or a prince.

It seems to me proper here, in connection with the above subject, to examine whether the people or a prince is more liable to the charge of ingratitude; and by way of illustrating this question the better, I set out by saying that the vice of ingratitude springs either from avarice or fear. For when a people or a prince has sent a general on some important expedition where by his success he acquires great glory, the prince or people is in turn bound to reward him. But if instead of such reward they dishonor and wrong him, influenced thereto by avarice, then they are guilty of an inexcusable wrong, which will involve them in eternal infamy. And yet there are many princes who commit this wrong, for which fact Tacitus assigns the reason in the following sentence: “Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.” But when they fail to reward, or rather when they offend, not from avarice, but from suspicion and fear, then the people or the prince have some excuse for their ingratitude. We read of many instances of this kind; for the general who by his valor has conquered a state for his master, and won great glory for himself by his victory over the enemy, and has loaded his soldiers with rich booty, acquires necessarily with his own soldiers, as well as with those of the enemy and with the subjects of the prince, so high a reputation, that his very victory may become distasteful, and a cause for apprehension to his prince. For as the nature of men is ambitious as well as suspicious, and puts no limits to one’s good fortune, it is not impossible that the suspicion that may suddenly be aroused in the mind of the prince by the victory of the general may have been aggravated by some haughty expressions or insolent acts on his part; so that the prince will naturally be made to think of securing himself against the ambition of his general. And to do this, the means that suggest themselves to him are either to have the general killed, or to deprive him of that reputation which he has acquired with the prince’s army and the people, by using every means to prove that the general’s victory was not due to his skill and courage, but to chance and the cowardice of the enemy, or to the sagacity of the other captains who were with him in that action.

After Vespasian, whilst in Judæa, had been proclaimed Emperor by his army, Antonius Primus, who was at the head of an army in Illyria, took sides with him, and marched straight into Italy against Vitellius, then Emperor in Rome, and in the most gallant manner routed two Vitellian armies, and made himself master of Rome; so that Mutianus, who had been sent there by Vespasian, found everything achieved and all difficulties overcome. The reward which Antonius received for this service was that Mutianus deprived him of the command of the army, and gradually reduced his authority in Rome to nothing; so that Antonius, indignant, went to see Vespasian, who was still in Asia, who received him in such manner that, being soon after deprived of all rank, he died almost in despair. History is full of similar examples.

We have seen in our own day with how much courage and perseverance Gonsalvo de Cordova conducted the war in Naples for King Ferdinand of Aragon against the French; how he defeated them, and conquered the kingdom for Ferdinand; and how he was rewarded by his king, who left Spain and came to Naples, and first deprived Gonsalvo of his command of the army, and then took the control of the strong places from him, and finally carried him off with him to Spain, where Gonsalvo soon after died in obscurity.

Fear and suspicion are so natural to princes that they cannot defend themselves against them, and thus it is impossible for them to show gratitude to those who, by victories achieved under their banners, have made important conquests for them. If then a prince cannot prevent himself from committing such wrongs, it is surely no wonder, nor matter worthy of more consideration, if a people acts in a similar manner. For as a free city is generally influenced by two principal objects, the one to aggrandize herself, and the other to preserve her liberties, it is natural that she should occasionally be betrayed into faults by excessive eagerness in the pursuit of either of these objects. As to the faults that result from the desire for aggrandizement, we shall speak in another place; and those resulting from the desire to preserve her liberty are amongst others the following, namely, to injure those citizens whom she should reward, and to suspect those in whom she should place most confidence. And although the effects of such conduct occasion great evils in a republic that is already corrupt, and which often lead to despotism, — as was seen under Cæsar in Rome, who took for himself by force what ingratitude had refused him, — still, in a republic not yet entirely corrupt, they may be productive of great good in preserving her freedom for a greater length of time; as the dread of punishment will keep men better, and less ambitious.

It is true that, of all the people that ever possessed a great empire, the Romans were the least ungrateful; for it may be said that no other instance of their ingratitude can be cited than that of Scipio; for Coriolanus and Camillus were both exiled on account of the outrages which they had committed upon the people. The one was never pardoned, because he always preserved an implacable hatred against the people; but the other was not only recalled from exile, but was for the entire remainder of his life honored like a prince. The ingratitude to Scipio arose from jealousy such as never before had been felt towards any one else, and which resulted from the greatness of the enemy whom Scipio had conquered, from the great reputation which his victory after so long and perilous a war had given him, from the rapidity of his actions and the popular favor which his youth, his prudence, and other remarkable virtues had won for him. All of these were so great that everybody in Rome, even the magistrates, feared his influence and authority, which offended the intelligent men of Rome as an unheard of thing. And his manner of life was such that Cato the elder, who was reputed a man of the purest character, was the first to complain of him, saying that no city could call herself free where a citizen was feared by the magistrates. So that if in this case the people of Rome followed the opinion of Cato, they are entitled to that excuse which, as I have said above, those peoples and princes may claim who are ungrateful from suspicion and fear. In concluding, then, this discourse, I say that, as the vice of ingratitude is usually the consequence of either avarice or fear, it will be seen that the peoples never fall into this error from avarice, and that fear also makes them less liable to it than princes, inasmuch as they have less reason for fear, as we shall show further on.


how princes and republics should act to avoid the vice of ingratitude, and how a commander or a citizen should act so as not to expose himself to it.

A prince, to avoid the necessity of living in constant mistrust or of being ungrateful, should command all his expeditions in person, as the Roman Emperors did in the beginning, and as the Sultan does at the present time, and as in fact all valiant princes ever have done and will do. For if victorious, all the glory and fruits of their conquests will be theirs; but if they are not present themselves at the action, and the glory of victory falls to the share of another, then it will seem to them that the conquest will not profit them unless they extinguish that glory of another which they have failed to achieve themselves. Thus they become ungrateful and unjust, and in that way their loss will be greater than their gain. But if from indolence or want of sagacity they remain idle at home, and confide the expedition to a commander, then I have no advice to give them but to follow their own inspirations. But I say to the commander, judging that he will not be able to escape the fangs of ingratitude, that he must do one of two things: either he must leave the army immediately after victory, and place himself at the disposal of his prince, carefully avoiding all show of insolence or ambition, so that the prince, deprived of all grounds of fear or suspicion, may reward him or at least not wrong him; or if this does not suit him, then he must boldly adopt the other course, and act in all respects as though he believed the conquest were for his own account, and not for his prince, — conciliating to himself the good will of his army and of the subjected people, forming friendships and alliances with the neighboring princes, occupying the strongholds with his own men, corrupting the chiefs of his army and making sure of such as he cannot corrupt, — and in this wise seek to punish his prince in advance for the ingratitude which he is likely to show him. And there is no other way for him to do. But, as I have already said, men neither know how to be entirely good nor wholly bad; and it so happens almost invariably that a general, after a great victory, is unwilling to leave his army, and to conduct himself with becoming modesty, and knows not how to take a decided course, which has in itself something honorable and grand; and thus he remains undecided, and whilst in this ambiguous state he is crushed.

A republic that wishes to avoid the vice of ingratitude cannot employ the same means as a prince; that is to say, she cannot go and command her own expeditions, and is obliged therefore to confide them to some one of her citizens. But it is proper that I should suggest as the best means to adopt the same course that Rome did, in being less ungrateful than others, and which resulted from her institutions. For as the whole city, nobles and plebeians, devoted themselves to the business of war, there arose at all times in Rome so many brave and victorious generals, that the people had no cause for mistrusting any one of them, there being so many that they could watch each other. And thus they kept themselves so pure, and careful not to give the least umbrage, that they afforded the people not the least ground for suspecting them of ambition; and if any of them arrived at the dictatorship, their greatest glory consisted in promptly laying this dignity down again; and thus, having inspired no fear or mistrust, they gave no cause for ingratitude. A republic, then, that wishes not to have cause for ingratitude, should adopt the same system of government as Rome; and a citizen who desires to avoid the fangs of ingratitude should observe the same conduct as that of the Roman citizens.


showing that the roman generals were never severely punished for any faults they committed, not even when by their ignorance and unfortunate operations they occasioned serious losses to the republic.

The Romans (as we have shown above) were not only less ungrateful than other republics, but were also more lenient and considerate in the punishment of the generals of their armies. For if their misconduct was intentional, they punished them humanely; and if it was caused by ignorance, they not only did not punish them, but rewarded and honored them nevertheless. This mode of proceeding had been well considered by them; for they judged that it was of the greatest importance for those who commanded their armies to have their minds entirely free and unembarrassed by any anxiety other than how best to perform their duty, and therefore they did not wish to add fresh difficulties and dangers to a task in itself so difficult and perilous, being convinced that, if this were done, it would prevent any general from operating vigorously. Suppose, for instance, that they had sent an army into Greece against Philip of Macedon, or into Italy against such tribes as had at first gained some victories over them. Now, the commander of such an expedition would naturally feel the weight of all the cares attendant on such enterprises, and which are very great. But if in addition to these anxieties the mind of the general had been disturbed by the examples of other generals who had been crucified, or otherwise put to death, for having lost battles, it would have been impossible for him, under the influence of such apprehensions, to have proceeded vigorously. Judging, therefore, that the ignominy of defeat would be sufficient punishment for such a commander, they did not wish to terrify him with other penalties.

The following is an instance of how they punished intentional faults. Sergius and Virginius were encamped before Veii, each commanding a separate division of the army; Sergius being placed on the side where the Tuscans could make an attack, and Virginius on the opposite side. It happened that, Sergius being attacked by the Faliscans and other tribes, he preferred being beaten by them and put to flight rather than apply to Virginius for assistance; and, on the other hand, Virginius, waiting for his colleague to humble himself, was willing rather to see his country dishonored, and the army of Sergius routed, than march unsolicited to his succor. Certainly a very bad case and worthy of note, and well calculated to cause unfavorable conjectures as to the Roman republic, if both these generals had not been punished. It is true that, whilst any other republic would have inflicted capital punishment upon them, they were subjected by Rome only to a pecuniary fine. Not but what their misconduct merited severer punishment, but because the Romans, for the reasons above explained, would not vary from their established custom.

As regards faults committed from ignorance, there is not a more striking example than that of Varro, whose temerity caused the defeat of the Romans by Hannibal at Cannæ, which exposed the republic to the loss of her liberty. Nevertheless, as it was from ignorance, and not from evil intention, they not only did not punish him, but actually rendered him honors; and on his return, the whole order of Senators went to meet him, and, unable to congratulate him on the result of the battle, they thanked him for having returned to Rome, and for not having despaired of the cause of the republic.

When Papirius Cursor wanted to have Fabius put to death for having, contrary to his orders, given battle to the Samnites, amongst the other reasons which the father of Fabius opposed to the obstinacy of the Dictator was this, — that after the most bloody defeats the Roman people had never treated their generals as Papirius Cursor wanted to treat his victorious son.


a republic or a prince should not defer securing the good will of the people until they are themselves in difficulties.

Although the Romans happily always treated the people with liberality, yet when danger came upon them, and Porsenna attacked Rome for the purpose of restoring the Tarquins, the Senate was doubtful whether the people might not rather accept the restoration of the kings than undergo a war; and to assure themselves of the people, they relieved them of the impost on salt and of all other taxes, saying that the poor did enough for the public benefit in rearing their children; and although in consequence of this liberality the people submitted to the hardships and privations of siege, famine, and war, yet let no one, trusting to this example, defer securing the good will of the people until the moment of danger; for they will never succeed in it as the Romans did. For the masses will think that they do not owe the benefits you have bestowed upon them to you, but to your adversaries; and fearing that, when the danger is past, you will again take from them what under the pressure of danger you conceded to them, they will feel under no obligations to you. The reason why this proceeding turned out well for the Romans was that the government was still new and not yet firmly established, and the people had seen that other laws had been enacted for their benefit, such, for instance, as that of the appeal to the people; and thus they were easily persuaded that the relief from taxation which had been granted to them was not caused so much by the approach of the enemy as by the disposition of the Senate to favor them. Besides this, the memory of the kings, by whom they had been wronged and maltreated in various ways, was still fresh in their minds. And as it is rare that similar circumstances concur, so it is equally rare that similar remedies avail; and therefore republics as well as princes should think in advance what adversities may befall them, and of whom they may have need in time of trouble, and then they should comport themselves towards these in the manner they might deem necessary in case danger should come upon them. And whoever acts differently, whether prince or republic, and more especially a prince, and supposes from the above-related fact that it is time enough by benefits to secure the good will of the people when danger has come upon him, deceives himself greatly; for not only will he fail to obtain the good will of the people, but he will accelerate his own destruction.


when an evil has sprung up within a state, or come upon it from without, it is safer to temporize with it rather than to attack it violently.

As the Roman republic grew in reputation, power, and dominion, the neighboring tribes, who at first had not thought of how great a danger this new republic might prove to them, began (too late, however) to see their error; and wishing to remedy their first neglect, they united full forty tribes in a league against Rome. Hereupon the Romans resorted, amongst other measures which they were accustomed to employ in urgent dangers, to the creation of a dictator; that is to say, they gave the power to one man, who, without consulting any one else, could determine upon any course, and could have it carried into effect without any appeal. This measure, which on former occasions had proved most useful in overcoming imminent perils, was equally serviceable to them in all the critical events that occurred during the growth and development of the power of the republic. Upon this subject we must remark, first, that when any evil arises within a republic, or threatens it from without, that is to say, from an intrinsic or extrinsic cause, and has become so great as to fill every one with apprehension, the more certain remedy by far is to temporize with it, rather than to attempt to extirpate it; for almost invariably he who attempts to crush it will rather increase its force, and will accelerate the harm apprehended from it. And such evils arise more frequently in a republic from intrinsic than extrinsic causes, as it often occurs that a citizen is allowed to acquire more authority than is proper; or that changes are permitted in a law which is the very nerve and life of liberty; and then they let this evil go so far that it becomes more hazardous to correct it than to allow it to run on. And it is the more difficult to recognize these evils at their origin, as it seems natural to men always to favor the beginning of things; and these favors are more readily accorded to such acts as seem to have some merit in them, and are done by young men. For if in a republic a noble youth is seen to rise, who is possessed of some extraordinary merits, the eyes of all citizens quickly turn to him, and all hasten to show him honor, regardless of consequences; so that, if he is in any way ambitious, the gifts of nature and the favor of his fellow-citizens will soon raise him to such a height that, when the citizens become sensible of the error they have committed, they have no longer the requisite means for checking him, and their efforts to employ such as they have will only accelerate his advance to power.

Many instances of this might be cited, but I will confine myself to one which occurred in our own city of Florence. Cosimo de’ Medici, to whom the house of Medici owes the beginning of its greatness, obtained such reputation and authority through his own sagacity and the ignorance of his fellow-citizens, that he became a cause of apprehension to the government, and that the other citizens judged it hazardous to offend him, but more dangerous still to allow him to go on. At that time there lived in Florence Niccolo Uzzano, reputed a man of consummate ability in matters of state, who, having committed the first error of not foreseeing the danger that might result from the great influence of Cosimo, would never permit the Florentines, so long as he lived, to commit the second error of trying to destroy Cosimo, judging that any such attempt would lead to the ruin of the state, as in fact proved to be the case after his death. For the citizens, regardless of the counsels of Uzzano, combined against Cosimo and drove him from Florence. The consequence was that the partisans of Cosimo, to resent this insult, shortly afterwards recalled him and made him prince of the republic, which position he never would have attained but for the previous hostility manifested towards him. The same thing happened in Rome with regard to Cæsar, who by his courage and merits at first won the favor of Pompey and of other prominent citizens, but which favor was shortly after converted into fear; to which Cicero testifies, saying “that Pompey had begun too late to fear Cæsar.” This fear caused them to think of measures of safety, which however only accelerated the ruin of the republic.

I say, then, that inasmuch as it is difficult to know these evils at their first origin, owing to an illusion which all new things are apt to produce, the wiser course is to temporize with such evils when they are recognized, instead of violently attacking them; for by temporizing with them they will either die out of themselves, or at least their worst results will be long deferred. And princes or magistrates who wish to destroy such evils must watch all points, and must be careful in attacking them not to increase instead of diminishing them, for they must not believe that a fire can be extinguished by blowing upon it. They should carefully examine the extent and force of the evil, and if they think themselves sufficiently strong to combat it, then they should attack it regardless of consequences; otherwise they should let it be, and in no wise attempt it. For it will always happen as I have said above, and as it did happen to the neighboring tribes of Rome; who found that it would have been more advantageous, after Rome had grown so much in power, to placate and keep her within her limits by peaceful means, than by warlike measures to make her think of new institutions and new defences. For their league had no other effect than to unite the people of Rome more closely, and to make them more ready for war, and to cause them to adopt new institutions that enabled them in a brief time to increase their power. One of these was the creation of a Dictator, by which new institution they not only overcame the most imminent dangers, but obviated also an infinity of troubles in which they would otherwise have been involved.


the authority of the dictatorship has always proved beneficial to rome, and never injurious; it is the authority which men usurp, and not that which is given them by the free suffrages of their fellow-citizens, that is dangerous to civil liberty.

Some writers have blamed those Romans who first introduced the practice of creating Dictators, as being calculated in time to lead to despotism in Rome; alleging that the first tyrant of that city governed her under the title of Dictator, and saying that, if it had not been for this office, Cæsar never could under any other public title have imposed his despotism upon the Romans. Evidently the subject could not have been thoroughly considered by those who advance this opinion, so generally adopted without good reasons; for it was neither the name nor the rank of the Dictator that subjected Rome to servitude, but it was the authority which citizens usurped to perpetuate themselves in the government. And if the title of Dictator had not existed in Rome, some other would have been taken; for power can easily take a name, but a name cannot give power. And it is seen that the dictatorship, whenever created according to public law and not usurped by individual authority, always proved beneficial to Rome; it is the magistracies and powers that are created by illegitimate means which harm a republic, and not those that are appointed in the regular way, as was the case in Rome, where in the long course of time no Dictator ever failed to prove beneficial to the republic. The reason of this is perfectly evident: first, before a citizen can be in a position to usurp extraordinary powers, many things must concur, which in a republic as yet uncorrupted never can happen; for he must be exceedingly rich, and must have many adherents and partisans, which cannot be where the laws are observed; and even if he had them, he would never be supported by the free suffrages of the people, for such men are generally looked upon as dangerous. Besides this, Dictators were appointed only for a limited term, and not in perpetuity, and their power to act was confined to the particular occasion for which they were created. This power consisted in being able to decide alone upon the measures to be adopted for averting the pressing danger, to do whatever he deemed proper without consultation, and to inflict punishment upon any one without appeal. But the Dictator could do nothing to alter the form of the government, such as to diminish the powers of the Senate or the people, or to abrogate existing institutions and create new ones. So that, taking together the short period for which he held the office, and the limited powers which he possessed, and the fact that the Roman people were as yet uncorrupted, it is evident that it was impossible for him to exceed his powers and to harm the republic; which on the contrary, as all experience shows, was always benefited by him.

And truly, of all the institutions of Rome, this one deserves to be counted amongst those to which she was most indebted for her greatness and dominion. For without some such an institution Rome would with difficulty have escaped the many extraordinary dangers that befell her; for the customary proceedings of republics are slow, no magistrate or council being permitted to act independently, but being in almost all instances obliged to act in concert one with the other, so that often much time is required to harmonize their several opinions; and tardy measures are most dangerous when the occasion requires prompt action. And therefore all republics should have some institution similar to the dictatorship. The republic of Venice, which is pre-eminent amongst modern ones, had reserved to a small number of citizens the power of deciding all urgent matters without referring their decisions to a larger council. And when a republic lacks some such system, a strict observance of the established laws will expose her to ruin; or, to save her from such danger, the laws will have to be disregarded. Now in a well-ordered republic it should never be necessary to resort to extra-constitutional measures; for although they may for the time be beneficial, yet the precedent is pernicious, for if the practice is once established of disregarding the laws for good objects, they will in a little while be disregarded under that pretext for evil purposes. Thus no republic will ever be perfect if she has not by law provided for everything, having a remedy for every emergency, and fixed rules for applying it. And therefore I will say, in conclusion, that those republics which in time of danger cannot resort to a dictatorship, or some similar authority, will generally be ruined when grave occasions occur. It is well to note with reference to this institution how wisely the Romans had provided the mode of electing the Dictator. For as his creation reflected in some measure discredit upon the Consuls, who as chiefs of the republic had to submit to his authority the same as the other citizens, and apprehending that this might possibly excite indignation amongst the citizens, it was decided that the nomination of the Dictator should be made by the Consuls themselves; so that when an emergency occurred in which Rome needed this quasi regal power, the Consuls, having the right of creating it themselves, might thus be less sensitive than if it were imposed upon them by others. For the wounds and every other evil that men inflict upon themselves spontaneously, and of their own choice, are in the long run less painful than those inflicted by others. In later times, however, the Romans, instead of appointing a Dictator, used to confer that extraordinary power upon the Consuls in these words: “Let the Consuls see that the republic suffers no detriment.” But to return now to our subject, I conclude that the neighboring tribes of Rome, in attempting to oppress her, caused her not only to adopt new means for defending herself, but also to prepare with greater force, abler counsels, and greater authority to attack them.


the reason why the creation of decemvirs in rome was injurious to liberty, notwithstanding that they were created by the free suffrages of the people.

The election of ten citizens by the Roman people to make the laws in Rome, who in course of time became tyrants, and regardlessly destroyed her liberty, seems to be in contradiction with what I have said in the preceding chapter; namely, that the authority which is violently usurped, and not that which is conferred by the free suffrages of the people, is hurtful to republics. In this, however, there are two things to be considered; namely, the manner in which the authority is bestowed, and the length of time for which it is given. For when full power is conferred for any length of time (and I call a year or more a long time) it is always dangerous, and will be productive of good or ill effects, according as those upon whom it is conferred are themselves good or bad. And if we examine the power given to the Decemvirs and that of the Dictators, we shall find that of the former beyond comparison the greater. For at the creation of a Dictator, the Tribunes, the Consuls, and the Senate all remained with their respective powers, of which they could not be deprived by the Dictator. And even if he could have removed any one from the consulate or from the Senate, yet he could not abrogate the senatorial order and make new laws himself. So that the Senate, the Consuls, and the Tribunes, remaining in full authority, served as it were as a guard to watch that the Dictator did not transcend his powers. But in the creation of the Decemvirs just the opposite was the case; for their appointment cancelled that of the Consuls and Tribunes, and to the Decemvirs the power was given to make new laws, and in fact to do everything that the Roman people were competent to do. So that, finding themselves alone, without Tribunes or Consuls, and without the necessity of appealing to the Roman people, and having therefore no one to watch them, they were enabled in the second year, instigated by the ambition of Appius, to become overbearing, and to abuse their power. And therefore, when we said that an authority conferred by the free suffrages of the people never harmed a republic, we presupposed that the people, in giving that power, would limit it, as well as the time during which it was to be exercised. But if from having been deceived, or from any other reason, they are induced to give this power imprudently, and in the way in which the Roman people gave it to the Decemvirs, then the same thing will happen to them as happened to the Romans. This is easily proved by examining the causes that kept the Dictators within the limits of their duties, and those which made the Decemvirs transcend theirs; and by examining, further, the conduct of those republics that were well constituted, in giving power for any length of time, as the Spartans did to their kings, and as the Venetians gave to their Doges. In both these cases we see that guardians were appointed to watch that neither the king nor the Doge could abuse the power intrusted to him. Nor is it of any advantage in such a case that the mass of the people is not corrupt, for absolute authority will very quickly corrupt the people, and will create friends and partisans for itself. Nor is it any disadvantage to be poor and without family influence, for riches and every other favor will quickly run after power, as we shall show in the case of the creation of the Decemvirs.


citizens who have been honored with the higher offices should not disdain less important ones.

The Romans had made Marcus Fabius and C. Manilius Consuls, and had gained a most glorious victory over the Veienti and the Etruscans, which, however, cost the life of Quintus Fabius, brother of the Consul, and who had himself been Consul the year before. This ought to make us reflect how well the institutions of that city were calculated to make her great, and what an error other republics commit in deviating from her system. For although the Romans were great lovers of glory, yet they did not esteem it dishonorable to obey those whom they had at a previous time commanded, or to serve in that army of which themselves had been chiefs. This custom is entirely contrary to the opinion, rules, and practice of our times; and in Venice they even yet hold to the error that a citizen who has once held a high post under the state would be dishonored by accepting a lower one; and the city consents to what she cannot change. However honorable this may be for a private citizen, yet for the public it is absolutely useless. A republic can and should have more hope and confidence in that citizen who from a superior grade descends to accept a less important one, than in him who from an inferior employment mounts to the exercise of a superior one; for the latter cannot reasonably be relied upon unless he is surrounded by men of such respectability and virtue that his inexperience may in some measure be compensated for by their counsel and authority. If they had had the same prejudice in Rome as in Venice and the other modern states, so that a man who had once been Consul had refused to return to the army except in the quality of Consul, it would have given rise to infinite inconveniences, greatly to the prejudice of public liberty, because of the errors of the new men in office, as well as of their ambition, which they could indulge the more freely, not having any men around them in whose presence they would be afraid to commit such faults; and thus they would have been more unrestrained, which would have resulted greatly to the public detriment.


what troubles resulted in rome from the enactment of the agrarian law, and how very wrong it is to make laws that are retrospective and contrary to old established customs.

It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise. The reason of this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it; desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. This causes the changes in their fortunes; for as some men desire to have more, whilst others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences; and this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another. I have made these remarks because the Roman people were not content with having secured themselves against the nobles by the creation of the Tribunes, to which they had been driven by necessity. Having obtained this, they soon began to fight from ambition, and wanted to divide with the nobles their honors and possessions, being those things which men value most. Thence the frenzy that occasioned the contentions about the agrarian law, which finally caused the destruction of the Roman republic. Now, as in well-regulated republics the state ought to be rich and the citizens poor, it was evident that the agrarian law was in some respects defective; it was either in the beginning so made that it required constant modifications; or the changes in it had been so long deferred that it became most obnoxious because it was retrospective in its action; or perhaps it had been good in the beginning, and had afterwards become corrupted in its application. But whichever it may have been, this law could never be discussed in Rome without causing the most violent excitement in the city. There were two principal points in this law; one provided that no citizen could possess more than a certain number of acres of land, and the other that all the lands taken from their enemies should be divided amongst the Roman people. This affected the nobles disadvantageously in two ways; for those who had more land than the law allowed (which was the case with the greater part of the nobles) had to be deprived of it; and by dividing amongst the people the lands taken from the enemy, it took from the nobles the chance of enriching themselves thereby, as they had previously done. Now, as it was a powerful class that had been thus affected, and who considered resistance to this law as a defence of the public good, whenever the subject was brought up, it occasioned, as we have said, the most violent disturbances. The nobles used all patience and every means in their power to gain time and delay action upon the subject, either by calling out an army, or by getting one Tribune to oppose another who had proposed the law, or sometimes by yielding in part, or even by sending a colony to any place where lands were to be divided. This was done with the country of Antium, respecting which this law had caused a dispute; and therefore a colony drawn from amongst the citizens of Rome was sent there, to whom that country was assigned. In reference to this, Titus Livius makes the notable remark, that “it was difficult to find any one in Rome willing to inscribe his name to go to that colony; so much more ready were the people to desire possessions in Rome than to go and have them in Antium.”

The troubles about this agrarian law continued to disturb Rome for some time, so that the Romans began to send their armies to the extreme ends of Italy, or even beyond; after which matters were seemingly calmed down, owing to the fact that the lands taken from the enemy were at a great distance from Rome, and remote from the eyes of the people, and were situated where it was not easy to cultivate them, and consequently they were less desirable. Besides this, the Romans became less disposed to deprive their vanquished enemies of their lands, as they had done before; and when they did so deprive any of them of their possessions, they sent colonies to occupy them; so that from these several causes the agrarian law lay, as it were, dormant until the time of the Gracchi, who, after having revived it, wholly destroyed the Roman republic. For the power of the adversaries of the law had increased twofold in the mean time, and its revival excited such feelings of hatred between the people and the Senate, that it led to violence and bloodshed beyond all bounds or precedent. So that, the magistrates being unable to check these disturbances, and neither party having any confidence in the public authorities, they both resorted to private expedients, and each of the factions began to look for a chief capable of defending them against the other. In these extreme troubles and disorders the people began to cast their eyes upon Marius, on account of his reputation, which was so great that they had made him Consul four times in succession, and with such short intervals between these several consulates that he was enabled to nominate himself three times more for that office. The nobility, seeing no other remedy against these abuses, gave their favor to Sylla, and made him chief of their party. Thus civil war was provoked, and after much bloodshed and varied fortunes the nobility retained the upper hand. In the time of Cæsar and Pompey these troubles were revived, Cæsar placing himself at the head of the party of Marius, and Pompey upholding that of Sylla; conflicts of arms ensued, and Cæsar remained master and became the first tyrant of Rome, so that that city never afterwards recovered her liberty.

Such was the beginning and the end of the agrarian law. And as I have demonstrated elsewhere that the differences between the Senate and the people had been instrumental in preserving liberty in Rome, because they had given rise to the enactment of laws favorable to liberty, therefore the results of this agrarian law may seem in contradiction with that previous conclusion. But I do not on that account change my opinion, for the ambition of the nobles is so great, that, if it is not repressed by various ways and means in any city, it will quickly bring that city to ruin. So that if the contentions about the agrarian law needed three hundred years to bring Rome to a state of servitude, she would have been brought there much quicker if the people, by these laws and other means, had not for so great a length of time kept the ambition of the nobles in check. This shows us also how much more people value riches than honors; for the Roman nobility always yielded to the people without serious difficulties in the matter of honors, but when it came to a question of property, then they resisted with so much pertinacity that the people, to satisfy their thirst for riches, resorted to the above-described extraordinary proceedings. The chief promoters of these disorders were the Gracchi, whose intentions in this matter were more praiseworthy than their prudence. For to attempt to eradicate an abuse that has grown up in a republic by the enactment of retrospective laws, is a most inconsiderate proceeding, and (as we have amply discussed above) only serves to accelerate the fatal results which the abuse tends to bring about; but by temporizing, the end will either be delayed, or the evil will exhaust itself before it attains that end.


feeble republics are irresolute, and know not how to take a decided part; and whenever they do, it is more the result of necessity than of choice.

The prevalence of a terrible pestilence in Rome made the Volscians and Equeans think the moment favorable for attacking her. They therefore raised a powerful army, and assailed the Latins and Ernicians, who seeing their country ravaged felt constrained to notify the Romans, so that they might come to their defence; but they, being afflicted by the pestilence, replied to the application of the Latins and Ernicians that they must defend themselves with their own armies, as they were not then in condition to aid them. In this we recognize the sagacity as well as the generosity of the Roman Senate, who, although it was their policy under all circumstances to remain the chief source for directing the resolves and actions of their subjects, yet they were never ashamed when necessity obliged them to adopt a course different from their usual custom, or at variance with previous resolutions. I say this, because on other occasions the same Senate had forbidden those same people to arm and defend themselves; so that to a less sagacious Senate it would have seemed a lowering of their dignity now to concede to these people the privilege of their own defence. But this Senate always judged things as they ought to be judged, and always took the least objectionable course as the best. They well knew the evil of not being able to defend their subjects, and of allowing them to arm and defend themselves without the assistance of the Romans, for the reason given, and for many others that are easily understood; nevertheless, knowing that the Latins and Ernicians would have armed themselves anyhow from necessity, the enemy being upon them, they took the honorable course, and decided that what these people would have been obliged to do anyhow should be done with their sanction; so that, having once disobeyed from necessity, they might not accustom themselves to disobeying from choice.

And although this would seem the proper course for every republic to have pursued under the circumstances, yet feeble and ill-advised republics would never have known how to do it, nor how to gain honor to themselves from an occasion of necessity. The Duke Valentino had taken Faenza, and forced Bologna to submit to his terms; wishing after that to return to Rome by way of Tuscany, he sent a messenger to Florence to ask permission for the passage of himself and his army through their territory. The authorities of Florence held a consultation as to what they should do under the circumstances, but no one advised granting the permission; in which respect they did not follow the Roman policy. For as the Duke had a very strong army, and the Florentines being almost without troops, so that they could not have prevented him from passing, it would have been much more to their credit and honor if the Duke had passed with their permission rather than by force; as it was, they had nothing but shame, which would have been greatly less if they had acted differently. But it is the worst fault of feeble republics to be irresolute, so that whatever part they take is dictated by force; and if any good results from it, it is caused less by their sagacity than by their necessity. I will cite two other instances of this which occurred in our time, and in our own city of Florence.

In the year 1500, when King Louis XII. of France had retaken Milan he was anxious to restore Pisa to the Florentines, so as to receive the fifty thousand ducats that had been promised him for such restitution. He sent his army towards Pisa under command of M. de Beaumont, who, although French, was yet a man in whom the Florentines had great confidence. This general placed his army between Cascina and Pisa, with the view of assailing the walls of the latter city; but after having been a few days engaged in making preparations for the assault, the Pisans sent a deputation to him with offers to give up the city to the French army, on condition that he should pledge himself in the king’s name not to hand over the city to the Florentines until four months after the surrender. The Florentines wholly refused to assent to such an arrangement, and the consequence was that, after having commenced the siege, M. de Beaumont was obliged to raise it and retire with shame. This refusal on the part of the Florentines had no other cause than their mistrust of the king of France, into whose hands they had been obliged to place themselves in consequence of their own irresoluteness; and in thus not trusting him, they lost sight of the fact, that it would have been much easier for the king to have restored Pisa to them after once being inside of the city, and had he then not given it up to them, he would openly have exposed his perfidy; but not having the city, he could only make them a promise of it, which promise they had to purchase of him. It would therefore have been much more to their advantage to have consented to M. de Beaumont’s taking Pisa under any pledge, as was proved by subsequent experience in the year 1502.

When Arezzo revolted, the king of France sent to the aid of the Florentines the Signor Imbault, with a body of French troops. Very soon after arriving near Arezzo he began to negotiate with the Aretines as to terms of surrender; these were willing to give up the place on certain pledges, similar to those asked by the Pisans. The proposition was rejected in Florence; and when this became known to the Signor Imbault, he concluded that the Florentines little understood their interests, and took upon himself to conclude the negotiations of surrender without the participation of the Florentine commissioners; and accordingly he entered Arezzo with his troops, giving the Florentines to understand that they were fools and did not understand the ways of the world, and that, if they wanted Arezzo, they should let the king know it, who was much better able to give it to them with his troops inside of that city than when they were outside of it. There was no end to the abuse heaped upon the Signor Imbault by the Florentines, until at last they found out that, if M. de Beaumont had acted in a similar manner, they would have had Pisa as they had Arezzo.

And so, to return to our subject, irresolute republics never take a wise course except by force; for their weakness never allows them to resolve upon anything where there is a doubt; and if that doubt is not overcome by some force, they remain forever in a state of suspense.


the same accidents often happen to different peoples.

Whoever considers the past and the present will readily observe that all cities and all peoples are and ever have been animated by the same desires and the same passions; so that it is easy, by diligent study of the past, to foresee what is likely to happen in the future in any republic, and to apply those remedies that were used by the ancients, or, not finding any that were employed by them, to devise new ones from the similarity of the events. But as such considerations are neglected or not understood by most of those who read, or, if understood by these, are unknown by those who govern, it follows that the same troubles generally recur in all republics.

The city of Florence, having after the year 1494 lost a portion of her dominions, such as Pisa and other places, was obliged to make war upon him who held these places; and as he was powerful, they expended great sums of money without any advantage. These large expenditures necessitated heavy taxes, and these caused infinite complaints from the people; and as the war was conducted by a council composed of ten citizens who were called “the Ten of the War,” the mass of the people began to hold them in aversion, as being the cause of the war and its expenses, and began to persuade themselves that, if this council were done away with, the war would also be ended. Thus when the time came for reappointing the Ten, they allowed their term to expire without renewing the council, and committed their functions to the Signoria. This course was the more pernicious, as it not only did not relieve them of the war, as the people had persuaded themselves that it would, but it removed the men who had conducted it with prudence, and produced altogether such disorder, that they lost, besides Pisa, Arezzo and many other places; so that the people, perceiving the error they had committed, and that the cause of the evil was the fever and not the physician, re-established the Council of Ten.

A similar ill-feeling had arisen in Rome against the Consuls; for the people, seeing one war growing out of another, and that there was no prospect of repose for them, instead of charging the cause of these wars, as they should have done, upon the ambition of their neighbors who sought to overwhelm them, attributed it to the ambition of the nobles, who, unable to oppress the people within the city of Rome where they were defended by the Tribunes, wished to lead the people outside of Rome, where, being without any support or protection, they could oppress them at will. And therefore they thought that it would be necessary either to remove the Consuls altogether, or to regulate their power in such manner that they should have no authority over the people either at home or abroad. The first who attempted to introduce such a law was one of the Tribunes named Terentillus; he proposed the creation of a Council of Five to examine into the powers of the Consuls and to limit it. This greatly excited the nobles, to whom it seemed as though the very majesty of the empire would thereby be annihilated, and that the nobility would lose all rank in the republic. Nevertheless, such was the obstinacy of the Tribunes that the consular dignity was abolished; and after some other regulations it was finally resolved rather to create Tribunes with consular powers, than to continue the Consuls, so great was their aversion to that office and authority. And this system was continued for a long time, until they saw the error they had committed, and re-established the Consuls; just as in Florence they returned to the Council of Ten.


of the creation of the decemvirs in rome, and what is noteworthy in it; and where we shall consider amongst many other things how the same accidents may save or ruin a republic.

As I wish particularly to discuss the events that followed the creation of the Decemvirs in Rome, it seems to me not superfluous to narrate first all that happened in consequence of this creation, and afterwards to discuss the more notable points; many of which are well worthy of careful reflection by those who wish to maintain the liberty of a republic, as well as those who desire to suppress it. For we shall see in this discussion many errors committed by the Senate, as well as by the people, prejudicial to liberty; and many errors committed by Appius, chief of the Decemvirate detrimental to that tyranny which he intended to have established in Rome. After many contentions between the people and the nobles respecting the adoption of new laws in Rome, by which the liberty of the state should be firmly established, it was agreed to send Spurius Posthumus with two other citizens to Athens for copies of the laws which Solon had given to that city, so that they might model the new Roman laws upon those. After their return to Rome a commission had to be appointed for the examination and preparation of the new laws, and for this purpose ten citizens were chosen for one year, amongst whom was Appius Claudius, a sagacious but turbulent man. And in order that these might make such laws irrespective of any other authority, they suppressed all the other magistracies in Rome, and particularly the Tribunes and the Consuls; the appeal to the people was also suppressed, so that this new magistracy of ten became absolute masters of Rome. Appius very soon absorbed all the authority of his colleagues in himself by reason of his favor with the people; for he had made himself so popular by his manners, that it seemed a wonder how he could in so short a time have acquired, as it were, a new nature and a new spirit, having until then been regarded as a cruel persecutor of the people. The Ten bore themselves very civilly and modestly, having but ten lictors to walk before him whom they had elected to preside over them; and although they had absolute authority, yet, when they had occasion to punish a Roman citizen for homicide, they cited him before the people and made them judge him.

These Decemvirs wrote their laws upon ten tablets, and before finally confirming them exposed them in public, in order that they might be read and discussed by everybody, and that they might learn whether the laws were in any way defective, so that they might be amended before their final confirmation. Hereupon Appius caused a rumor to be circulated throughout Rome, that, if two more tablets were added to the ten, the laws would be still more perfect, so that this opinion, generally accredited, afforded the people the opportunity to reappoint the Ten for another year, of which they readily availed, partly because it relieved them from renominating Consuls, and partly because they hoped also to remain without Tribunes, who were the judges of their causes, as has been said above. When it was resolved, therefore, to reappoint the Ten, the whole nobility strove to obtain these honors, and amongst the foremost was Appius; and such was his urbanity towards the people in asking for it, that it began to excite suspicion amongst his colleagues, “for they could not possibly believe that there could be such spontaneous affability with so much natural arrogance and pride.” And as they feared to oppose him openly, they resolved to do it by artifice; and although he was the youngest of them all, they devolved upon him the authority to propose the future Ten to the people, believing that he would observe the practice of others to whom this confidence had been shown, and not propose himself, which was regarded in Rome as an improper and ignominious thing to do. “But he, in fact, converted the impediment into his opportunity,” and did not hesitate to nominate himself as the very first, to the astonishment and disgust of all the nobles; and then he nominated nine others to suit himself. This renewal of the Decemvirs for another year began to show to the people and the nobility the mistake they had made. For Appius “quickly put an end to his assumed character” and began to display his innate arrogance; and in the course of a few days he animated his colleagues with his own spirit, and, for the purpose of intimidating the people and the Senate, they employed, instead of twelve lictors, one hundred and twenty. For some days the fear was general, and very soon after they began to disregard the Senate and to beat the people; and if any of them had been maltreated by one Decemvir and appealed for redress to another, he was treated worse on that appeal than he had been in the first instance; so that the people, having become sensible of their error, began, full of affliction, to look for help to the nobles, “there to catch a breath of liberty where before they had feared servitude, to avoid which they had brought the republic to this condition.” To the nobles this affliction of the people was welcome, for they hoped that, “wearied of the existing state of things, they would themselves come to desire the re-establishment of the Consuls.” The last days of the year now had come, and the additional two tables of the laws were made, but not yet published. The Decemvirs took occasion thence to continue the exercise of their office, and began to use violence in order to retain the government, and to make the young nobles their satellites, upon whom they bestowed the possessions of those whom they condemned; “by which gifts these youths were corrupted, so as to prefer their own license to the general liberty.”

It happened at this time that the Sabines and Volscians began a war against the Romans; the apprehension of which made the Decemvirs sensible of the weakness of their government, for without the Senate they could not make war, and to assemble it seemed to them the loss of their authority. Compelled by necessity, however, they resolved upon doing so, and having assembled the Senate, many of the Senators, and particularly Valerius and Horatius, spoke strongly against the arrogance of the Ten; and their authority would have been entirely destroyed had it not been that the Senate, on account of the jealousy of the people, was unwilling to display its authority; thinking that, if the Decemvirs resigned their office voluntarily, the Tribunes of the people might possibly be re-established. They resolved, therefore, upon the war, and two armies were put into the field, commanded in part by the Decemvirs. Appius remained in Rome to conduct the government of the city; it was then that he became enamored of Virginia, and on his attempting to carry her off by force, her father Virginius killed her to save her from her ravisher. This provoked violent disturbances in Rome and in the army, who, having been joined by the people of Rome, marched to the Mons Sacer, where they remained until the Decemvirs abdicated their magistracy, and the Consuls and Tribunes were re-established, and Rome was restored to its ancient liberty and form of government.

Here we must note that the necessity of creating the tyranny of the Decemvirs in Rome arose from the same causes that generally produce tyrannies in cities; that is to say, the too great desire of the people to be free, and the equally too great desire of the nobles to dominate. And if the two parties do not agree to secure liberty by law, and either the one or the other throws all its influence in favor of one man, then a tyranny is the natural result. The people and the nobles of Rome agreed to create the Decemvirs, and to endow them with such great powers, from the desire which the one party had to destroy the consular office, and the other that of the Tribunes. Having created the Ten, it seemed to the people that Appius had come over to them and would aid them to keep the nobility down, and therefore they supported him. Now when a people goes so far as to commit the error of giving power to one man so that he may defeat those whom they hate, and if this man be shrewd, it will always end in his becoming their tyrant. For with the support of the people he will be enabled to destroy the nobility, and after these are crushed he will not fail in turn to crush the people; and by the time that they become sensible of their own enslavement, they will have no one to look to for succor. This is the course which all those have followed who have imposed tyrannies upon republics. And if Appius had done the same, his despotism would have had more vitality, and would not have been overthrown so quickly; but he did exactly the reverse, and could not have acted with more imprudence. For to hold his despotic authority he made himself the enemy of those who had given it to him, and who could have maintained him in it; and he equally made himself the friend of those who had in no way contributed to it, and who could do nothing to keep him in it; and he ruined those who were his friends, and sought to make those his friends who never could become so. For although it is the nature of the nobility to desire to dominate, yet those who have no share in such domination are the enemies of the tyrant, who can never win them all over to him, because of their extreme ambition and avarice, which are so great that the tyrant can never have riches and honors enough to bestow to satisfy them all. And thus Appius, in abandoning the people and allying himself with the nobles, committed a manifest error, both for the reasons above stated, and because, to hold a government by violence, it is necessary that the oppressor should be more powerful than the oppressed. Whence it is that those tyrants who have the masses for friends and the nobles for enemies are more secure in the possession of their power, because their despotism is sustained by a greater force than that of those who have the people for their enemies and the nobles for their friends. For with the support of the people his internal forces suffice to sustain him, as was the case with Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, when he was assailed by all Greece and the Romans; he made sure of the few nobles, and having the people his friends he succeeded in defending himself by their aid, which he never would have been able to do had the people been hostile to him. But the internal forces of the other class, being but few in numbers, are insufficient to maintain him, and therefore it becomes necessary to look for support elsewhere; and this may be of three different kinds. One is to have a body guard composed of foreigners; another is to arm the people of the country, and have them serve in place of the people of the city; and the third is to form an alliance with powerful neighbors able to defend you. By carefully employing these means a tyrant may still be able to maintain himself, notwithstanding that the people are opposed to him. But Appius could not arm the country people for his support, the country and city of Rome being one and the same thing; and what he might have done he knew not how to do, and so his power was lost at the very outset. Both the Senate and the people of Rome committed the greatest errors in the creation of the Decemvirate; and although we have maintained, in speaking of the Dictator, that only self-constituted authorities, and never those created by the people, are dangerous to liberty, yet when the people do create a magistracy, they should do it in such a way that the magistrates should have some hesitation before they abuse their powers. But the people of Rome, instead of establishing checks to prevent the Decemvirs from employing their authority for evil, removed all control, and made the Ten the only magistracy in Rome; abrogating all the others, because of the excessive eagerness of the Senate to get rid of the Tribunes, and that of the people to destroy the consulate. This blinded them so that both contributed to provoke the disorders that resulted from the Decemvirate. “For,” as King Ferdinand said, “men often act like certain small birds of prey, who, prompted by their nature, pursue their victims so eagerly that they do not see the larger bird above them, ready to pounce down upon and kill them.”

This discourse, as we proposed in the beginning, will have shown the error which the Roman people committed in their efforts to save their liberty, as well as the error of Appius in attempting to seize despotic powers.


it is imprudent and unprofitable suddenly to change from humility to pride, and from gentleness to cruelty.

Besides the other errors committed by Appius in attempting to maintain his tyranny, that of changing too suddenly from one quality to the extreme opposite was of no little moment. Although his astuteness in deceiving the people by simulating to be of their party was well employed, and equally so the means he used to bring about the reappointment of the Ten, as well as his audacity in nominating himself, contrary to the expectations of the nobles, and in naming colleagues to suit his own purposes; yet it was very ill-judged in him suddenly to change his character, and from having been a friend of the people, all at once to show himself their enemy, — from being humane to become haughty, and from being easy of access to become difficult, — and to do this so suddenly and without excuse that everybody could see the falseness of his soul. For he who for a time has seemed good, and for purposes of his own wants to become bad, should do it gradually, and should seem to be brought to it by the force of circumstances; so that, before his changed nature deprives him of his former friends, he may have gained new ones, and that his authority may not be diminished by the change. Otherwise his deception will be discovered, and he will lose his friends and be ruined.


how easily men may be corrupted.

In connection with this matter of the Decemvirate, we should notice also how easily men are corrupted and become wicked, although originally good and well educated. This may be observed in those young nobles whom Appius had chosen for his followers, and who, for the small advantages they derived from it, became supporters of his tyranny; also in Quintus Fabius, one of the second Decemvirate, who, having been one of the best of men, but blinded by a little ambition and seduced by the villany of Appius, changed his good habits into the worst, and became like Appius himself. All this, if carefully studied by the legislators of republics and monarchies, will make them more prompt in restraining the passions of men, and depriving them of all hopes of being able to do wrong with impunity.


those only who combat for their own glory are good and loyal soldiers.

We will consider in this chapter how great a difference there is between an army that is well disposed, and which fights for its own glory, and one that is ill disposed, and has to fight only for the ambition of another; for whilst the Roman armies were habitually victorious under the Consuls, they were invariably beaten under the Decemvirs. This example in part explains the reasons of the uselessness of mercenary troops, who have nothing to make them fight but the small stipend they receive, which is not and cannot be sufficient to make them loyal, or so devoted as to be willing to die for you. For armies that have no such affection towards him for whom they fight as to make them his partisans, will never have bravery enough to resist an enemy who has the least courage. And as this love and devotion can only be found in your own subjects, it is necessary for the purpose of holding a government, or to maintain a republic or kingdom, to have your army composed of your own subjects, as will be seen to have been done by all those whose armies have achieved great successes. The Roman armies under the Decemvirs had the same courage as before, but they had not the same disposition, and therefore did not achieve the customary good results. But so soon as the rule of the Decemvirs had been destroyed, and the armies began again to fight as freemen, they became animated by their ancient spirit, and consequently their enterprises resulted happily, as of old.


a multitude without a chief is useless; and it is not well to threaten before having the power to act.

The death of Virginia had caused the Roman people to retire, armed, to the Mons Sacer. The Senate sent ambassadors to them to ask by what authority they had abandoned their captains and retired to the mountains, and so highly was the authority of the Senate respected, that, the people being without a chief, no one dared to answer; as Titus Livius says, “not for want of plenty to say in reply, but because they lacked some one to make the answer for them”; which is a case in point showing the uselessness of a multitude without a head. Virginius perceived this difficulty, and by his order they appointed twenty military Tribunes to act as their chiefs, to answer for them and to confer with the Senate. They demanded that the Senators Valerius and Horatius should be sent to them, and that they would make known their will to them. But these Senators would not go until after the Ten had resigned their magistracy; after which, having arrived at the Mons Sacer, where the people were, these demanded of them the re-establishment of the Tribunes of the people, and that no magistrates should be appointed without an appeal to the people; and, furthermore, that all the Decemvirs should be delivered up to them, as they wanted to burn them alive. Valerius and Horatius approved of their first demands, but objected to the latter as impious, saying, “You condemn cruelty, and fall into the same crime yourselves”; and advised them to say nothing about the Decemvirs, as they themselves would see that their office and authority should be taken from them, and that the people afterwards would not lack opportunity to satisfy their vengeance. From this we plainly see the folly and imprudence of demanding a thing, and saying beforehand that it is intended to be used for evil; and that one should never show one’s intentions, but endeavor to obtain one’s desires anyhow. For it is enough to ask a man to give up his arms, without telling him that you intend killing him with them; after you have the arms in hand, then you can do your will with them.


it is a bad example not to observe the laws, especially on the part of those who have made them; and it is dangerous for those who govern cities to harass the people with constant wrongs.

The agreement between the Senate and the people having been carried into effect, and Rome restored to her ancient form of government, Virginius cited Appius before the people to defend his cause. He appeared accompanied by many nobles. Virginius insisted upon his being imprisoned, whereupon Appius loudly demanded to appeal to the people. Virginius maintained that he was unworthy of the privilege of that appeal, which he had himself destroyed, and not entitled to have for his defenders the very people whom he had offended. Appius replied that the people had no right to violate that appeal which they themselves had instituted with so much jealousy. But he was nevertheless incarcerated, and before the day of judgment came he committed suicide. And although the crimes of Appius merited the highest degree of punishment, yet it was inconsistent with a proper regard for liberty to violate the law, and especially one so recently made. For I think that there can be no worse example in a republic than to make a law and not to observe it; the more so when it is disregarded by the very parties who made it.

In the year 1494 Florence had reformed its government with the aid of Brother Girolamo Savonarola (whose writings exhibit so much learning, prudence, and courage); and amongst other provisions for the security of the citizens a law had been made which permitted an appeal to the people from the decisions which the Council of Eight and the Signoria might render in cases affecting the state, which had involved great discussions and difficulties in its passage. It happened that shortly after its confirmation five citizens were condemned to death by the Signoria on account of crimes against the state; and when these men wished to appeal to the people, they were not allowed to do so, in manifest disregard of the law. This occurrence did more than anything else to diminish the influence of Savonarola; for if the appeal was useful, then the law should have been observed, and if it was not useful, then it should never have been made. And this circumstance was the more remarked, as Brother Girolamo in his many subsequent preachings never condemned those who had broken the law, and rather excused the act in the manner of one unwilling to condemn what suited his purposes, yet unable to excuse it wholly. Having thus manifested his ambitious and partial spirit, it cost him his reputation and much trouble.

A government also does great wrong constantly to excite the resentment of its subjects by fresh injuries to this or that individual amongst them. This was the case after the Decemvirate, for all the Ten and many other citizens were at different times accused and condemned, so as to create the greatest alarm amongst the nobles, for it seemed as though these condemnations would never cease until the entire nobility should have been destroyed. All this would have produced the worst effects if the Tribune Marcus Duellius had not prevented it by issuing an edict that for the period of one year no one should be allowed to cite or accuse a Roman citizen, and this reassured the whole nobility. These examples show how dangerous it is for a republic or a prince to keep the minds of their subjects in a state of apprehension by pains and penalties constantly suspended over their heads. And certainly no more pernicious course could be pursued; for men who are kept in doubt and uncertainty as to their lives will resort to every kind of measure to secure themselves against danger, and will necessarily become more audacious and inclined to violent changes. It is important, therefore, either never to attack any one, or to inflict punishment by a single act of rigor, and afterwards to reassure the public mind by such acts as will restore calmness and confidence.


men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.

The people of Rome, having recovered their liberty, resumed their original rank in the state, and obtained even more influence than before by means of a number of laws that confirmed their power. It seemed reasonable, therefore, that Rome should now enjoy a period of quiet. But experience proved the contrary, for every day there were new dissensions and disorders. As Titus Livius has most judiciously given the causes that produced these, it seems to me proper to quote his own words, where he says: “The pride of the people or of the nobles always increased as the opposite party was humbled; when the people kept within proper bounds, the young nobles began to insult them, and the Tribunes could do little to prevent it, being themselves outraged. The nobles, on the other hand, although they felt that their young men were too insolent, yet, seeing that the restraints imposed by law could not be observed, preferred that they should be transgressed by their own party rather than by the people. And thus the desire of liberty caused one party to raise themselves in proportion as they oppressed the other. And it is the course of such movements that men, in attempting to avoid fear themselves, give others cause for fear; and the injuries which they ward off from themselves they inflict upon others, as though there were a necessity either to oppress or to be oppressed.” In this we see one of the modes in which republics are brought to ruin, and how men rise from one ambition to another; and we recognize the truth of the sentence which Sallust puts into the mouth of Cæsar, “that all evil examples have their origin in good beginnings.” The ambitious citizens of a republic seek in the first instance (as we have said above) to make themselves sure against the attacks, not only of individuals, but even of the magistrates. To enable them to do this, they seek to gain friends, either by apparently honest ways, or by assisting men with money, or by defending them against the powerful; and as this seems virtuous, almost everybody is readily deceived by it, and therefore no one opposes it, until the ambitious individual has, without hindrance, grown so powerful that private citzens fear him and the magistrates treat him with consideration. And when he has risen to that point, no one at the beginning having interfered with his greatness, it becomes in the end most dangerous to attempt to put him down, for the reasons I have given above when speaking of the danger of trying to abate an evil that has already attained a considerable growth in a city; so that in the end the matter is reduced to this, that you must endeavor to destroy the evil at the risk of sudden ruin, or, by allowing it to go on, submit to manifest servitude, unless the death of the individual or some other accident intervenes to rid the state of him. For when it has once come to that point that the citizens and the magistrates are afraid to offend him and his adherents, it will afterwards not require much effort on his part to make them render judgments and attack persons according to his will. For this reason republics should make it one of their aims to watch that none of their citizens should be allowed to do harm on pretence of doing good, and that no one should acquire an influence that would injure instead of promoting liberty; of which we shall speak more at length in another place.


although men are apt to deceive themselves in general matters, yet they rarely do so in particulars.

The people of Rome, as has been related above, having become disgusted with the name of Consul, wanted either to have the Consuls chosen from amongst the plebeians, or that their powers should be limited. The nobility, unwilling to discredit the consular dignity by either of such changes, took a middle course, and consented that four Tribunes should be created, with consular powers, who might be taken either from the nobles or the plebeians. This satisfied the people, as it seemed to destroy the consulate, and to give them a share in the highest magistracy. This gave rise to a remarkable case; for when the election of these Tribunes came on, and the people might have elected all plebeians, they chose, instead, all from the patricians, whence Titus Livius says: “The result of this election teaches us how different minds are during the contentions for liberty and for honors, from what they are when they have to give an impartial judgment after the contest is over.” In examining whence this difference arises, I believe that it comes from this, that men are apt to deceive themselves upon general matters, but not so much so when they come to particulars. As a general thing, the Roman people believed themselves entitled to the consulate, being the majority in the city, and having to bear more of the dangers of war, and as it was the vigor of their arms that preserved the liberty of Rome and established its power. And (as I have said) as their desire seemed to them reasonable, they were resolved to obtain it by any means. But when they had to judge of the particular qualifications of their individual candidates, they discovered their unfitness, and therefore decided that not one of them was worthy of that dignity, to which as a body they considered themselves entitled. Thus ashamed of their own candidates, they had recourse to those whom they deemed worthy of the office. Titus Livius, naturally admiring this decision, says: “Where will you find nowadays this modesty and equity, this loftiness of soul, whch in those days pervaded the whole people?”

In corroboration of this example we may adduce another notable one which occurred in Capua, after Hannibal had defeated the Romans at Cannæ. Whilst all Italy rose up in consequence of this defeat, Capua still remained in a state of insubordination, because of the hatred that existed between the people and the Senate. Pacovius Calanus being at that time one of the supreme magistrates, and foreseeing the dangers that would result from the disorders in that city, resolved by means of the authority of his office to try and reconcile the people and the Senate; with this purpose he caused the Senate to be assembled, and stated to them the animosity which the people felt towards them, and the danger to which they were exposed of being massacred by them if the city were given up to Hannibal in consequence of the defeat of the Romans. He then added, that, if they would leave it to him to manage the matter, he would find means of restoring harmony between the two orders; but that, for this purpose, he would shut them up in their palace, and by seemingly putting them into the power of the people he would save them. The Senators yielded to his suggestion; whereupon Pacovius shut the Senate up in their palace, and then assembled the people and said to them that “the time had arrived when they might subdue the pride of the nobles and revenge themselves for the injuries received at their hands, and that he held the Senate shut up in their palace for this purpose. But believing that they would be unwilling to allow the city to be without a government, it would be necessary, before killing the old Senators, to choose new ones; and that therefore he had put the names of all the Senators into an urn, and would proceed to draw them in their presence, and that one after another those who were drawn should die, after their successors had been elected.” And when the first was drawn and his name proclaimed the people raised a great noise, calling him proud, arrogant, and cruel; but when Pacovius asked them to choose another in his place, the whole assembly became quiet, and after a little time one was named by the people; but at the mention of his name some began to whistle, some to laugh, some to speak ill of him in one way, and some in another; and thus, one after another, those that were named were pronounced by them unworthy of the senatorial dignity, so that Pacovius took occasion to speak to them as follows: “Since you are of the opinion that the city would fare ill without a Senate, and as you cannot agree upon the successors of the old Senators, it seems to me it would be well for you to become reconciled with the present Senate, for the fear to which they have been subjected has in great measure humbled them, and you will now find in them that humanity which you in vain look for elsewhere.” This suggestion prevailed, and a reconciliation between the two orders followed, and the people, when they came to act upon particulars, discovered the error into which they had fallen in looking at the subject in general.

After the expulsion in 1414 of the principal citizens from Florence, there being no regular government, but rather a certain ambitious license, so that things were going from worse to worse, many of the popular party, seeing the ruin of the city, and not comprehending the cause of it, attributed it to a few powerful citizens, who fomented these disorders so as to enable them to make a government to suit themselves, and to deprive them of their liberty. They went through the Loggia and public places speaking against those prominent citizens, and threatening that, if ever they should themselves become members of the Signoria, they would unveil their deceitful practices, and would punish them for it. It happened in several instances that these citizens did attain to the highest magistracy, and when they had risen to that place, and were enabled to see matters more closely, they discovered the real causes of the disorders, and the dangers that threatened the state, as well as the difficulty of remedying them. And seeing that the times, and not the men, caused the disorders, they promptly changed their opinions and actions, because the knowledge of things in particular had removed from their minds that delusion into which they had fallen by looking at things in general. So that those who at first had heard them speak whilst they were still private citizens, and afterwards saw them remain inactive when they had risen to the supreme magistracy, believed that this was caused, not by the real knowledge of things, but by their having been perverted and corrupted by the great. And as this happened with many, and repeatedly, it gave rise to a saying, “That these people have one mind in the public places, and another mind in the palace.” Reflecting now upon all that has been said, we see that the quickest way of opening the eyes of the people is to find the means of making them descend to particulars, seeing that to look at things only in a general way deceives them; as Pacovius did with regard to Capua and the Roman Senate. I believe also that we may conclude from it that no wise man should ever disregard the popular judgment upon particular matters, such as the distribution of honors and dignities; for in these things the people never deceive themselves, or, if they do, it is much less frequently than a small body would do, who had been especially charged with such distributions. Nor does it seem to me superfluous to show in the following chapter the course which the Senate took to deceive the people in the distributions that devolved upon them.


one of the means of preventing an important magistracy from being conferred upon a vile and wicked individual is to have it applied for by one still more vile and wicked, or by the most noble and deserving in the state.

When the Roman Senate apprehended lest the Tribunes with consular powers should be taken from amongst the plebeians, they adopted one of the two following methods: either they caused the most distinguished and influential men of Rome to become candidates, or by suitable means they bribed some of the most sordid and ignoble to come forward as candidates at the same time with the better quality of plebeians, who usually asked for these offices. This latter course caused the people to be ashamed of bestowing them upon such candidates, and the former course made them ashamed to refuse them to such honorable citizens. All of which corroborates what I have maintained in the preceding chapter, that in general matters the people are apt to deceive themselves, but rarely in particulars.


if cities which from their beginning have enjoyed liberty, like rome, have found difficulties in devising laws that would preserve their liberties, those that have had their origin in servitude find it impossible to succeed in making such laws.

The progress of the Roman republic demonstrates how difficult it is in the constitution of a republic to provide necessary laws for the maintenance of liberty; for notwithstanding the many laws established, first by Romulus, and afterwards by Numa, by Tullus Hostilius, and by Servius, and finally by the Decemvirs created for that purpose, yet fresh necessities constantly developed themselves in the management of the affairs of that city, which made it indispensable to enact new laws. This was the case when they instituted the Censorship, which was one of the most important provisions that helped to preserve the liberties of Rome, so long as liberty existed there. For the Censors being the supreme arbiters of the manners and customs of the Romans, they became the most potent instrument in retarding the progress of corruption in Rome. But it was a serious mistake to create these Censors for a term of five years, although it was corrected after a brief time by the prudence of the Dictator Mamercus, who by a new law reduced the term of office of that new magistracy to eighteen months; which so irritated the Censors then in office that they deprived Mamercus of the right of entrance into the Senate, which act was much blamed by the people as well as by the patricians. And as history does not inform us whether Mamercus had any remedy against this, we must assume either that history is defective upon this point, or that the Roman laws in that respect were not good; for it is not well that a republic should be constituted in such fashion that a citizen can be oppressed without recourse for having promulgated a law for the benefit of liberty.

But to return to our subject, I say that the institution of this new magistracy gives rise to the reflection, that if a city, which from its origin has enjoyed liberty but has of itself become corrupt, has great difficulties in devising good laws for the maintenance of liberty, it is not to be wondered at if a city that had its origin in servitude finds it, not only difficult, but actually impossible, ever to organize a government that will secure its liberty and tranquillity. This, as will be seen, was the case with the city of Florence, which from her first beginning had been subjected to the Roman Empire, and, having always existed under a foreign government, remained for a long time in this subject condition without ever attempting to free herself. And when afterwards the opportunity occurred for her to gain her liberty in a measure, she began by making a constitution that was a mixture of her old and bad institutions with new ones, and consequently could not be good. And thus she has gone on for the two hundred years of which we have any reliable account, without ever having a government that could really be called a republic. The difficulties which Florence experienced have ever been the same in those cities whose origin was similar to hers. And although Florence repeatedly gave ample authority, by public and free suffrage, to a few of her citizens to reform the government, yet these never organized it for the general good, but always with the view of benefiting their own party, which, instead of establishing order in the city, only tended to increase the disorders. And to illustrate my argument by some particular instance, I will observe that one of the most important points to be considered by him who wishes to establish a republic is the question in whose hands he shall place the power over the life and death of its citizens. The constitution of Rome was excellent upon this point, for there an appeal to the people was the ordinary practice, and when an important case occurred, where it would have been perilous to delay execution by such an appeal, they had recourse to the Dictator, who had the right of immediate execution; this, however, was resorted to only in cases of extreme necessity. But in Florence, and in other cities who like her had their origin in servitude, the power of life and death was lodged in the hands of a stranger, sent by the prince to exercise that power. When these cities afterwards became free, they left that power in the hands of a foreigner, whom they called “the Captain.” But the facility with which he could be corrupted by the powerful citizens made this a most pernicious system; and in the course of the mutations of their governments that system was changed, and a council of eight citizens was appointed to perform the functions of the Captain; which only made matters worse, for the reason which we have given elsewhere, that a tribunal of a few is always under the control of a few powerful citizens.

Venice knew well how to guard against such an abuse. There the Council of Ten had power to punish any citizen without appeal; but as this number would have been insufficient to punish the powerful, although they had the authority, they established the Council of Forty. Moreover the Council of the Pregadi (which is the highest council) had the power of capital punishment. So that where there was an occasion there was also not wanting a tribunal capable of keeping the most powerful in check. It is no wonder, then, — seeing that even in Rome, where the laws had been made by herself with the aid of her most sagacious citizens, every day fresh occasions arose that made it necessary to have new laws for the protection of liberty, — that in other cities whose beginnings were vicious such difficulties should present themselves as made a proper organization impossible.


no council or magistrate should have it in their power to stop the public business of a city.

When Quintius Cincinnatus and Julius Mentus were Consuls of Rome, a disagreement arose between them, which caused an interruption of all the public business of the state. When this came to the knowledge of the Senate, they advised the creation of a Dictator, who might do what the discord between the Consuls had prevented them from doing. But the Consuls, disagreeing upon every other matter, agreed only in this one thing, — not to appoint a Dictator. So that the Senate, having no alternative, had recourse to the assistance of the Tribunes, who together with the Senate forced the Consuls to obedience. Whence we should note, in the first instance, the usefulness of the tribunate, which served not only to restrain the violence of the nobles against the people, but also against each other; and, secondly, that the institutions of a city never should place it in the power of a few to interrupt all the important business of the republic. For instance, if you give to a council authority to distribute honors and offices, or devolve upon any magistracy the administration of a certain business, it is proper to impose upon them either the necessity of doing it under all circumstances, or to provide that, in case of their not doing it themselves, it can and shall be done by some one else; otherwise, the constitution would be defective upon this point, and likely to involve the state in great dangers, as we have seen would have been the case in Rome, if they could not have opposed the authority of the Tribunes to the obstinacy of the Consuls.

In the republic of Venice the Grand Council distributed the honors and the offices; it happened several times that this body, from discontent or some erroneous suggestions, did not appoint successors to the magistrates of the city or of the provinces. This caused the greatest possible disorders, for all of a sudden both the city and its subject provinces lacked their legitimate judges; nor could they obtain anything if the majority of the council was not either satisfied or deceived. And this inconvenience would have led to the worst consequences for the city, if the prudent citizens had not provided against it, by availing of the first convenient occasion to make a law that all the public functionaries in the city and in the provinces should never vacate their offices until their successors had been elected and were ready to fill their places. And thus they deprived the Grand Council of the power to expose the republic to great dangers by arresting all public business.


a republic or a prince must feign to do of their own liberality that to which necessity compels them.

Prudent men make the best of circumstances in their actions, and, although constrained by necessity to a certain course, make it appear as if done from their own liberality. This discretion was wisely used by the Roman Senate when they resolved to pay the soldiery out of the public treasury, who before had been obliged to maintain themselves. But as the Senate perceived that war could not be carried on for a length of time in this manner, as they could neither lay siege to places nor move armies to a distance, and judging it necessary to be able to do both, they resolved to pay them from the public funds; yet they did it in such a manner as to gain credit for that to which necessity compelled them; and this favor was so acceptable to the populace that Rome was wild with joy, thinking it a great benefit, which they had never expected and would not have sought themselves. And although the Tribunes endeavored to expose this delusion, showing that it made the burden of the people heavier instead of easier, still they could not prevent its acceptance by the people. This burden was further increased by the manner in which the Senate levied the taxes, imposing the heaviest and largest upon the nobility, and requiring them to pay first of all.


there is no surer and less objectionable mode of repressing the insolence of an individual ambitious of power, who arises in a republic, than to forestall him in the ways by which he expects to arrive at that power.

We have seen in the preceding chapter how much credit the patricians gained with the people of Rome by the apparent benefit bestowed upon them, both by the pay granted to the soldiers as well as by the manner of distributing the imposts. If the nobility had understood how to maintain this feeling, all causes for further disturbances would have been removed, and the Tribunes would have lost the influence which they had over the people of Rome. For in truth there is no better nor easier mode in republics, and especially in such as are corrupt, for successfully opposing the ambition of any citizen, than to occupy in advance of him those ways by which he expects to attain the rank he aims at. If this mode had been employed by the adversaries of Cosimo de’ Medici, it would have been much better than to expel him from Florence; for if they had adopted his plan of favoring the people, they would have succeeded without any disturbances or violence in depriving him of the weapons which he himself employed with so much skill.

Pietro Soderini had obtained great influence in the city of Florence by no other means than by gaining the good will of the people, which gave him the reputation of being a great friend of liberty; it would have been a much easier and more honest way for those who envied his reputation and influence, as well as less hazardous for themselves and less injurious to the city, to have forestalled him in the ways by which he gained his power, rather than to oppose him in such manner as to involve in his destruction also the ruin of the whole republic. For if they had taken from his hands the weapon that gave him his strength, (which might easily have been done,) they could have opposed him boldly and without suspicion in all the councils and public assemblies. It may be said, perhaps, that if those citizens who hated Pietro committed an error in leaving him the means of gaining such influence with the people, Pietro himself erred in turn in not seizing in advance the means which his adversaries employed to make him feared as a dangerous man; which was excusable, however, in Soderini, as it would have been difficult for him to have done so, nor would it have been honest in him, for the means employed against him consisted merely in favoring the Medici. It was in that way that his enemies attacked and finally ruined him. Pietro could not therefore in honesty have adopted a course by which through his influence he would have destroyed that liberty of which he was considered the especial guardian. Such a change to the side of the Medici on the part of Soderini could not have been made suddenly, nor could it have been kept secret. And the very moment that it should have been discovered that he had become friendly to the Medici, he would have become suspect and odious to the people, and would thus have afforded his enemies much better opportunity for destroying him than they had had previously.

Before deciding upon any course, therefore, men should well consider the objections and dangers which it presents; and if its perils exceed its advantages, they should avoid it, even though it had been in accordance with their previous determination; for to do otherwise would expose them to a similar experience as that of Cicero, who, wishing to destroy the credit and power of Mark Antony, only increased it. For Antony, having been declared an enemy of the Senate, had collected a large army, composed in great part of soldiers who had served under Cæsar; Cicero wishing to withdraw these soldiers from him, advised the Senate to employ Octavian, and to send him with the army and the Consuls against Antony, alleging that so soon as the soldiers of Antony should hear the name of Octavian, the nephew of Cæsar, and who had himself called Cæsar, they would leave the former and join Octavian; and that Antony, thus bereft of support, would easily be crushed. But it resulted just the other way, for Antony managed to win Octavian over to himself, who, abandoning Cicero and the Senate, allied himself with the former, which brought about the complete ruin of the party of the patricians. This might easily have been foreseen, and therefore they should not have followed the advice of Cicero, but should have borne in mind the name and character of him who had vanquished his enemies with so much glory, and seized for himself the sovereignty of Rome; and then they might have known that they could not expect from his adherents anything favorable to liberty.


how by the delusions of seeming good the people are often misled to desire their own ruin; and how they are frequently influenced by great hopes and brave promises.

After the capture of the city of the Veienti, the Roman people became possessed of the idea that it would be advantageous for the city of Rome if one half of its inhabitants were to go and settle at Veii; arguing that, inasmuch as that city was rich in lands and houses and near to Rome, one half of the Roman citizens might thus enrich themselves without in any way disturbing by their proximity the public affairs of Rome. This project seemed to the Senate and the most sagacious men of Rome useless, and fraught with danger, so much so that they declared openly that they would rather suffer death than give their consent. When the subject came to be discussed, the people became so much excited against the Senate that it would have led to violence and bloodshed, had not the Senate sheltered itself behind some of the oldest and most esteemed citizens, the reverence for whom restrained the people from carrying their insolence farther. Here we have to note two things; first, that the people often, deceived by an illusive good, desire their own ruin, and, unless they are made sensible of the evil of the one and the benefit of the other course by some one in whom they have confidence, they will expose the republic to infinite peril and damage. And if it happens that the people have no confidence in any one, as sometimes will be the case when they have been deceived before by events or men, then it will inevitably lead to the ruin of the state. Dante says upon this point in his discourse “On Monarchy,” that the people often shout, “Life to our death, and death to our life!” It is this want of confidence on the part of the people that causes good measures to be often rejected in republics, as we have related above of the Venetians, who when attacked by so many enemies could not make up their minds to conciliate some of them by giving to them what they had taken from others; it was this that brought the war upon them, and caused the other powers to form a league against them before their final ruin.

If we consider now what is easy and what difficult to persuade a people to, we may make this distinction: either what you wish to persuade them to represents at first sight gain or loss, or it seems brave or cowardly. And if you propose to them anything that upon its face seems profitable and courageous, though there be really a loss concealed under it which may involve the ruin of the republic, the multitude will ever be most easily persuaded to it. But if the measure proposed seems doubtful and likely to cause loss, then it will be difficult to persuade the people to it, even though the benefit and welfare of the republic were concealed under it. All this is supported by numerous examples amongst the Romans as well as strangers, and both in modern and in ancient times.

It was this that produced the unfavorable opinion in Rome of Fabius Maximus, who could not persuade the people of Rome that it would be advantageous for that republic to proceed slowly with the war, and to bear the assaults of Hannibal without engaging in battle with him; because the Roman people considered this course as cowardly, and did not see the advantages that would be gained by it, and Fabius had not the faculty of demonstrating these to them. The people are apt to be so blinded upon questions of courage that, although the Roman people had committed the great error of giving authority to the commander of the cavalry of the army of Fabius to engage in battle contrary to the will of Fabius, so that the Roman camp would have been broken up but for the prudence of Fabius, which remedied the error; yet this experience did not suffice them, for they subsequently made Varro Consul, for no other reason than because he had proclaimed in all the streets and public places of Rome that, if only authority were given to him, he would cut Hannibal to pieces. This occasioned the battle and defeat of Cannæ, and almost caused the ruin of Rome. I will adduce another striking example upon this point. Hannibal had been eight or ten years in Italy, and had drenched the soil of the whole country with the blood of the Romans, when there presented himself before the Senate one M. Centenius Penula, a man of the vilest character, (although he had held some command in the militia,) and offered, if they would give him authority to collect an army of volunteers in whatever place in Italy he pleased, he would in the least possible time deliver Hannibal dead or alive into their hands. This proposition seemed most foolhardy to the Senate; nevertheless, fearing that, if they refused him and the proposition should afterwards become known to the people, it might give rise to disturbances or jealousy and ill feeling against the senatorial order, they acceded to the request of Penula, preferring to expose all who might follow him to the greatest danger, rather than run the risk of causing fresh discontents amongst the people; well knowing how readily they would accept such a proposition, and how difficult it would be to dissuade them from it. Centenius Penula therefore went with an unorganized and undisciplined crowd to find Hannibal, and no sooner did he meet him than himself and all his followers were routed and cut to pieces.

In the city of Athens in Greece, Nicias, one of the most wise and prudent of men, could not persuade the people that it would not be well for them to make war upon Sicily; and the Athenians resolved upon it, contrary to the advice of their wisest men, and the ruin of Athens was the consequence. When Scipio was made Consul, and wished to have the province of Africa, he promised to all the destruction of Carthage; and when the Senate declined to accord him that province, because of the adverse opinion of Fabius Maximus, he threatened to bring the matter before the people, well knowing that similar propositions always find favor with the people.

We may also cite on this point some examples drawn from the history of our own city of Florence. Messer Ercole Bentivogli, commander of the Florentine troops, and Antonio Giacomini, after having defeated Bartolommeo d’Alviano at San Vincenti, went to lay siege to Pisa, which enterprise was resolved upon by the people in consequence of the brave promises made by Messer Ercole, although many of the most prudent citizens objected, but could not prevent it, being carried away by the general will of the people, who relied upon the commander’s brilliant promises.

I say then that there is no easier way to ruin a republic, where the people have power, than to involve them in daring enterprises; for where the people have influence they will always be ready to engage in them, and no contrary opinion will prevent them. But if such enterprises cause the ruin of states, they still more frequently cause the ruin of the particular citizens who are placed at the head to conduct them. For when defeat comes, instead of the successes which the people expected, they charge it neither upon the ill fortune or incompetence of their leaders, but upon their wickedness and ignorance; and generally either kill, imprison, or exile them, as happened to many Carthaginian and Athenian generals. Their previous victories are of no advantage to them, for they are all cancelled by present defeat, as was the case with our Giacomini, who, in consequence of his failure to take Pisa, which the people expected, as he had promised it, fell into such disgrace with the people that, notwithstanding his previous good services, his life was saved only through the humanity of the authorities, who protected him against the people.


how much influence a great man has in restraining an excited multitude.

The second thing to note in connection with the subject of the preceding chapter is, that nothing is so apt to restrain an excited multitude as the reverence inspired by some grave and dignified man of authority who opposes them; and therefore it is not without reason that Virgil says: —

“And when they saw a man of grave aspect

And full of virtue and of years,

At once they all were hushed,

And, listening, stood with eager ears.”

Therefore whoever is at the head of an army, or whoever happens to be a magistrate in a city where sedition has broken out, should present himself before the multitude with all possible grace and dignity, and attired with all the insignia of his rank, so as to inspire the more respect. A few years since Florence was divided into two factions, who called themselves the Frateschi and the Arrabiati (madmen). On coming to arms, the Frateschi were beaten; amongst these was Paolantonio Soderini, a citizen then in high repute. During these disturbances the people went armed to his house with the intent of sacking it. Messer Francesco, his brother, then Bishop of Volterra, and now Cardinal, happened by chance to be in the house; and so soon as he heard the noise and saw the crowd, he dressed himself in his best garments, and over them he put his episcopal chasuble, and then went to meet the armed mob, and by the influence of his person and his words he stopped their further violence, which was much talked about and praised in the city for many days.

I conclude, then, that there is no better or safer way of appeasing an excited mob than the presence of some man of imposing appearance and highly respected. And to come back to the preceding text, we see with what obstinacy the Roman people had taken up the plan of going to Veii, because they deemed it advantageous and did not perceive the danger it involved; and how the discontent of the people, which had been excited by the opposition of the Senate to this project, would have led to violence, had not their fury been restrained by the most grave and reverend Senators.


public affairs are easily managed in a city where the body of the people is not corrupt; and where equality exists, there no principality can be established; nor can a republic be established where there is no equality.

Having sufficiently discussed the subject as to what is to be hoped and feared for states that are corrupt, it seems to me not amiss now to examine a resolution of the Senate of Rome in relation to the vow which Camillus had made, to give the tenth part of the booty taken from the Veienti to Apollo. These spoils having fallen into the hands of the Roman people, and there being no other way of having a correct account of it, the Roman Senate issued an edict that every one should bring to the public treasury one tenth part of the booty he had received. And although this decree was not carried into effect, the Senate having devised other ways and means for satisfying Apollo and the people, nevertheless we can see from that resolution how entirely the Senate trusted in the honesty of the people; and how confident they were that no one would fail to return exactly what had been ordered by that edict. And on the other hand we see how the people never for a moment thought of evading it in any way by giving less than what they ought to give, and how they preferred rather to relieve themselves of this imposition by open demonstrations of indignation. This example, together with the many others heretofore cited, proves how much probity and religion these people had, and how much good there was to be hoped for from them. And truly, where this probity does not exist, no good is to be expected, as in fact it is vain to look for anything good from those countries which we see nowadays so corrupt, as is the case above all others with Italy. France and Spain also have their share of corruption, and if we do not see so many disorders and troubles in those countries as is the case daily in Italy, it is not so much owing to the goodness of their people, in which they are greatly deficient, as to the fact that they have each a king who keeps them united not only by his virtue, but also by the institutions of those kingdoms, which are as yet preserved pure.

In Germany alone do we see that probity and religion still exist largely amongst the people, in consequence of which many republics exist there in the full enjoyment of liberty, observing their laws in such manner that no one from within or without could venture upon an attempt to master them. And in proof that the ancient virtue still prevails there in great part, I will cite an example similar to that given above of the Senate and people of Rome. When these republics have occasion to spend any considerable amount of money for public account, their magistrates or councils, who have authority in these matters, impose upon all the inhabitants a tax of one or two per cent of their possessions. When such a resolution has been passed according to the laws of the country, every citizen presents himself before the collectors of this impost, and, after having taken an oath to pay the just amount, deposits in a strong-box provided for the purpose the sum which according to his conscience he ought to pay, without any one’s witnessing what he pays. From this we may judge of the extent of the probity and religion that still exist amongst those people. And we must presume that every one pays the true amount, for if this were not the case the impost would not yield the amount intended according to the estimates based upon former impositions; the fraud would thus be discovered, and other means would be employed to collect the amount required. This honesty is the more to be admired as it is so very rare that it is found only in that country; and this results from two causes. The one is, that the Germans have no great commerce with their neighbors, few strangers coming amongst them, and they rarely visiting foreign countries, but being content to remain at home and to live on what their country produces, and to clothe themselves with the wool from their own flocks, which takes away all occasion for intimate intercourse with strangers and all opportunity of corruption. Thus they have been prevented from adopting either French, Spanish, or Italian customs, and these nations are the great corrupters of the world. The other cause is, that those republics which have thus preserved their political existence uncorrupted do not permit any of their citizens to be or to live in the manner of gentlemen, but rather maintain amongst them a perfect equality, and are the most decided enemies of the lords and gentlemen that exist in the country; so that, if by chance any of them fall into their hands, they kill them, as being the chief promoters of all corruption and troubles.

And to explain more clearly what is meant by the term gentlemen, I say that those are called gentlemen who live idly upon the proceeds of their extensive possessions, without devoting themselves to agriculture or any other useful pursuit to gain a living. Such men are pernicious to any country or republic; but more pernicious even than these are such as have, besides their other possessions, castles which they command, and subjects who obey them. This class of men abound in the kingdom of Naples, in the Roman territory, in the Romagna, and in Lombardy; whence it is that no republic has ever been able to exist in those countries, nor have they been able to preserve any regular political existence, for that class of men are everywhere enemies of all civil government. And to attempt the establishment of a republic in a country so constituted would be impossible. The only way to establish any kind of order there is to found a monarchical government; for where the body of the people is so thoroughly corrupt that the laws are powerless for restraint, it becomes necessary to establish some superior power which, with a royal hand, and with full and absolute powers, may put a curb upon the excessive ambition and corruption of the powerful. This is verified by the example of Tuscany, where in a comparatively small extent of territory there have for a long time existed three republics, Florence, Sienna, and Lucca; and although the other cities of this territory are in a measure subject to these, yet we see that in spirit and by their institutions they maintain, or attempt to maintain their liberty; all of which is due to the fact that there are in that country no lords possessing castles, and exceedingly few or no gentlemen. On the contrary, there is such a general equality that it would be easy for any man of sagacity, well versed in the ancient forms of civil government, to introduce a republic there; but the misfortunes of that country have been so great that up to the present time no man has arisen who has had the power and ability to do so.

We may then draw the following conclusion from what has been said: that if any one should wish to establish a republic in a country where there are many gentlemen, he will not succeed until he has destroyed them all; and whoever desires to establish a kingdom or principality where liberty and equality prevail, will equally fail, unless he withdraws from that general equality a number of the boldest and most ambitious spirits, and makes gentlemen of them, not merely in name but in fact, by giving to them castles and possessions, as well as money and subjects; so that surrounded by these he may be able to maintain his power, and that by his support they may satisfy their ambition, and the others may be constrained to submit to that yoke to which force alone has been able to subject them. And as in this way definite relations will be established between the ruler and his subjects, each will be maintained in their respective ranks. But to establish a republic in a country better adapted to a monarchy, or a monarchy where a republic would be more suitable, requires a man of rare genius and power, and therefore out of the many that have attempted it but few have succeeded; for the greatness of the enterprise frightens men so that they fail even in the very beginning. Perhaps the opinion which I have expressed, that a republic cannot be established where there are gentlemen may seem to be contradicted by the experience of the Venetian republic, in which none but gentlemen could attain to any rank or public employment. And yet this example is in no way opposed to my theory, for the gentlemen of Venice are so more in name than in fact; for they have no great revenues from estates, their riches being founded upon commerce and movable property, and moreover none of them have castles or jurisdiction over subjects, but the name of gentleman is only a title of dignity and respect, and is in no way based upon the things that gentlemen enjoy in other countries. And as all other republics have different classes under different names, so Venice is divided into gentlemen and commonalty, and the former have all the offices and honors, from which the latter are entirely excluded; and this distribution causes no disorders in that republic, for the reasons elsewhere given. Let republics, then, be established where equality exists, and, on the contrary, principalities where great inequality prevails; otherwise the governments will lack proper proportions and have but little durability.


the occurrence of important events in any city or country is generally preceded by signs and portents, or by men who predict them.

Whence it comes I know not, but both ancient and modern instances prove that no great events ever occur in any city or country that have not been predicted by soothsayers, revelations, or by portents and other celestial signs. And not to go from home in proof of this, everybody knows how the descent into Italy of Charles VIII., king of France, was predicted by Brother Girolamo Savonarola; and how, besides this, it was said throughout Italy that at Arezzo there had been seen and heard in the air armed men fighting together. Moreover everybody remembers how, before the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici the elder, the highest pinnacle of the dome of Florence was struck by a bolt from heaven, doing great damage to that building. It is also well known how, before Pietro Soderini, who had been made Gonfaloniere for life, was expelled and deprived of his rank by the people of Florence, the palace itself was struck by lightning. Many more examples might be adduced, which I leave, however, lest I should become tedious. I will relate merely what, according to Titus Livius, happened before the coming of the Gauls to Rome. One Marcius Cædicius, a plebeian, reported to the Senate that, passing through the Via Nuova at midnight, he had heard a voice louder than that of any man which commanded him to notify the Senate that the Gauls were coming to Rome. To explain these things a man should have knowledge of things natural and supernatural, which I have not. It may be, however, as certain philosophers maintain, that the air is peopled with spirits, who by their superior intelligence foresee future events, and out of pity for mankind warn them by such signs, so that they may prepare against the coming evils. Be this as it may, however, the truth of the fact exists, that these portents are invariably followed by the most remarkable events.


the people as a body are courageous, but individually they are cowardly and feeble.

After the ruin of their country by the invasion of the Gauls, many Romans had gone to live at Veii, contrary to the constitution and the orders of the Senate. To remedy this evil the Senate published an edict commanding every one to return within a given time to inhabit Rome, on pain of certain penalties. At first those against whom this edict was aimed made light of it and derided it, but when the prescribed time approached they all hastened to obey. Titus Livius says on this point, “From being brave and insolent as a body, fear made them individually obedient.” And truly nothing can better illustrate the character of a multitude than this example; for they are often audacious and loud in their denunciations of the decisions of their rulers, but when punishment stares them in the face, then, distrustful of each other, they rush to obey. Thus we see that whatever may be said of the good or evil disposition of the people is of little consequence, if you are well prepared to assert and maintain your authority should they be well disposed, and to defend yourself if their disposition be otherwise. This has reference specially to such evil dispositions as arise in the minds of the people from causes other than the loss of liberty, or that of a prince to whom they are much attached and who is still living; in such cases the most powerful remedies are required to restrain them, as these causes are more formidable than any others. But indispositions arising from other causes are easily controlled, especially if the multitude have no chief to whom they can look for support; for whilst on the one hand a loose mob without any leader is most formidable, yet on the other hand it is also most cowardly and feeble; and even if they are armed they will be easily subdued, if you can only shelter yourself against their first fury; for when their spirits are cooled down a little, and they see that they have all to return to their homes, they begin to mistrust themselves, and to think of their individual safety either by flight or submission. An excited multitude, therefore, that wishes to avoid such a result will have promptly to create a chief for itself, who shall direct and keep them united, and provide for their defence; as the Roman people did when, after the death of Virginia, they left Rome and appointed from amongst themselves twenty Tribunes for their protection. And unless they do this they will experience what Titus Livius has said in the above-quoted words, that united in one body they are brave and insolent, but when afterwards each begins to think of his own danger, they become cowardly and feeble.


the people are wiser and more constant than princes.

Titus Livius as well as all other historians affirm that nothing is more uncertain and inconstant than the multitude; for it appears from what he relates of the actions of men, that in many instances the multitude, after having condemned a man to death, bitterly lamented it, and most earnestly wished him back. This was the case with the Roman people and Manlius Capitolinus, whom they had condemned to death and afterwards most earnestly desired him back, as our author says in the following words: “No sooner had they found out that they had nothing to fear from him, than they began to regret and to wish him back.” And elsewhere, when he relates the events that occurred in Syracuse after the death of Hieronymus, nephew of Hiero, he says: “It is the nature of the multitude either humbly to serve or insolently to dominate.” I know not whether, in undertaking to defend a cause against the accusations of all writers, I do not assume a task so hard and so beset with difficulties as to oblige me to abandon it with shame, or to go on with it at the risk of being weighed down by it. Be that as it may, however, I think, and ever shall think, that it cannot be wrong to defend one’s opinions with arguments founded upon reason, without employing force or authority.

I say, then, that individual men, and especially princes, may be charged with the same defects of which writers accuse the people; for whoever is not controlled by laws will commit the same errors as an unbridled multitude. This may easily be verified, for there have been and still are plenty of princes, and a few good and wise ones, such, I mean, as needed not the curb that controlled them. Amongst these, however, are not to be counted either the kings that lived in Egypt at that ancient period when that country was governed by laws, or those that arose in Sparta; neither such as are born in our day in France, for that country is more thoroughly regulated by laws than any other of which we have any knowledge in modern times. And those kings that arise under such constitutions are not to be classed amongst the number of those whose individual nature we have to consider, and see whether it resembles that of the people; but they should be compared with a people equally controlled by law as those kings were, and then we shall find in that multitude the same good qualities as in those kings, and we shall see that such a people neither obey with servility nor command with insolence. Such were the people of Rome, who, so long as that republic remained uncorrupted, neither obeyed basely nor ruled insolently, but rather held its rank honorably, supporting the laws and their magistrates. And when the unrighteous ambition of some noble made it necessary for them to rise up in self-defence, they did so, as in the case of Manlius, the Decemvirs, and others who attempted to oppress them; and so when the public good required them to obey the Dictators and Consuls, they promptly yielded obedience. And if the Roman people regretted Manlius Capitolinus after his death, it is not to be wondered at; for they regretted his virtues, which had been such that the remembrance of them filled every one with pity, and would have had the power to produce the same effect upon any prince; for all writers agree that virtue is to be admired and praised, even in one’s enemies. And if intense desire could have restored Manlius to life, the Roman people would nevertheless have pronounced the same judgment against him as they did the first time, when they took him from prison and condemned him to death. And so we have seen princes that were esteemed wise, who have caused persons to be put to death and afterwards regretted it deeply; such as Alexander the Great with regard to Clitus and other friends, and Herod with his wife Mariamne. But what our historian says of the character of the multitude does not apply to a people regulated by laws, as the Romans were, but to an unbridled multitude, such as the Syracusans; who committed all the excesses to which infuriated and unbridled men abandon themselves, as did Alexander the Great and Herod in the above-mentioned cases.

Therefore, the character of the people is not to be blamed any more than that of princes, for both alike are liable to err when they are without any control. Besides the examples already given, I could adduce numerous others from amongst the Roman Emperors and other tyrants and princes, who have displayed as much inconstancy and recklessness as any populace ever did. Contrary to the general opinion, then, which maintains that the people, when they govern, are inconsistent, unstable, and ungrateful, I conclude and affirm that these defects are not more natural to the people than they are to princes. To charge the people and princes equally with them may be the truth, but to except princes from them would be a great mistake. For a people that governs and is well regulated by laws will be stable, prudent, and grateful, as much so, and even more, according to my opinion, than a prince, although he be esteemed wise; and, on the other hand, a prince, freed from the restraints of the law, will be more ungrateful, inconstant, and imprudent than a people similarly situated. The difference in their conduct is not due to any difference in their nature (for that is the same, and if there be any difference for good, it is on the side of the people); but to the greater or less respect they have for the laws under which they respectively live. And whoever studies the Roman people will see that for four hundred years they have been haters of royalty, and lovers of the glory and common good of their country; and he will find any number of examples that will prove both the one and the other. And should any one allege the ingratitude which the Roman people displayed towards Scipio, I shall reply the same as I have said in another place on this subject, where I have demonstrated that the people are less ungrateful than princes. But as regards prudence and stability, I say that the people are more prudent and stable, and have better judgment than a prince; and it is not without good reason that it is said, “The voice of the people is the voice of God”; for we see popular opinion prognosticate events in such a wonderful manner that it would almost seem as if the people had some occult virtue, which enables them to foresee the good and the evil. As to the people’s capacity of judging of things, it is exceedingly rare that, when they hear two orators of equal talents advocate different measures, they do not decide in favor of the best of the two; which proves their ability to discern the truth of what they hear. And if occasionally they are misled in matters involving questions of courage or seeming utility, (as has been said above,) so is a prince also many times misled by his own passions, which are much greater than those of the people. We also see that in the election of their magistrates they make far better choice than princes; and no people will ever be persuaded to elect a man of infamous character and corrupt habits to any post of dignity, to which a prince is easily influenced in a thousand different ways. When we see a people take an aversion to anything, they persist in it for many centuries, which we never find to be the case with princes. Upon both these points the Roman people shall serve me as a proof, who in the many elections of Consuls and Tribunes had to regret only four times the choice they had made. The Roman people held the name of king in such detestation, as we have said, that no extent of services rendered by any of its citizens who attempted to usurp that title could save him from his merited punishment. We furthermore see the cities where the people are masters make the greatest progress in the least possible time, and much greater than such as have always been governed by princes; as was the case with Rome after the expulsion of the kings, and with Athens after they rid themselves of Pisistratus; and this can be attributed to no other cause than that the governments of the people are better than those of princes.

It would be useless to object to my opinion by referring to what our historian has said in the passages quoted above, and elsewhere; for if we compare the faults of a people with those of princes, as well as their respective good qualities, we shall find the people vastly superior in all that is good and glorious. And if princes show themselves superior in the making of laws, and in the forming of civil institutions and new statutes and ordinances, the people are superior in maintaining those institutions, laws, and ordinances, which certainly places them on a par with those who established them.

And finally to sum up this matter, I say that both governments of princes and of the people have lasted a long time, but both required to be regulated by laws. For a prince who knows no other control but his own will is like a madman, and a people that can do as it pleases will hardly be wise. If now we compare a prince who is controlled by laws, and a people that is untrammelled by them, we shall find more virtue in the people than in the prince; and if we compare them when both are freed from such control, we shall see that the people are guilty of fewer excesses than the prince, and that the errors of the people are of less importance, and therefore more easily remedied. For a licentious and mutinous people may easily be brought back to good conduct by the influence and persuasion of a good man, but an evil-minded prince is not amenable to such influences, and therefore there is no other remedy against him but cold steel. We may judge then from this of the relative defects of the one and the other; if words suffice to correct those of the people, whilst those of the prince can only be remedied by violence, no one can fail to see that where the greater remedy is required, there also the defects must be greater. The follies which a people commits at the moment of its greatest license are not what is most to be feared; it is not the immediate evil that may result from them that inspires apprehension, but the fact that such general confusion might afford the opportunity for a tyrant to seize the government. But with evil-disposed princes the contrary is the case; it is the immediate present that causes fear, and there is hope only in the future; for men will persuade themselves that the termination of his wicked life may give them a chance of liberty. Thus we see the difference between the one and the other to be, that the one touches the present and the other the future. The excesses of the people are directed against those whom they suspect of interfering with the public good; whilst those of princes are against apprehended interference with their individual interests. The general prejudice against the people results from the fact that everybody can freely and fearlessly speak ill of them in mass, even whilst they are at the height of their power; but a prince can only be spoken of with the greatest circumspection and apprehension. And as the subject leads me to it, I deem it not amiss to examine in the following chapter whether alliances with a republic or with a prince are most to be trusted.


leagues and alliances with republics are more to be trusted than those with princes.

As it is of daily occurrence that princes or republics contract leagues or friendships with each other, or that in like manner treaties and alliances are formed between a republic and a prince, it seems to me proper to examine whose faith is most constant and most to be relied upon, that of a republic or that of a prince. In examining the whole subject I believe that in many instances they are equal, but that in others there is a difference; and I believe, moreover, that agreements which are the result of force will no more be observed by a prince than by a republic, and, where either the one or the other is apprehensive of losing their state, that to save it both will break their faith and be guilty of ingratitude. Demetrius, called the Conqueror of Cities, had conferred infinite benefits upon the Athenians. It happened that, having been defeated by his enemies, he took refuge in Athens as a city that was friendly to him, and which he had laid under obligations; but the Athenians refused to receive him, which gave Demetrius more pain than the loss of his men and the destruction of his army. Pompey, after his defeat by Cæsar in Thessaly, took refuge in Egypt with Ptolemy, whom on a former occasion he had reinstated in his kingdom, but was treacherously put to death by him. Both these instances are attributable to the same reasons; yet we see that the republic acted with more humanity and inflicted less injury than the prince. Wherever fear dominates, there we shall find equal want of faith in both, although the same influence may cause either a prince or a republic to keep faith at the risk of ruin. For it may well happen that the prince is the ally of some powerful potentate, who for the moment may not be able to assist him, but who, the prince may hope, will be able to reinstate him in his possessions; or he may believe that, having acted as his partisan, his powerful ally will make no treaties or alliances with his enemies. Such was the fate of those princes of the kingdom of Naples who adhered to the French party. And with regard to republics this occurred with Saguntum in Spain, which hazarded her own safety for the sake of adhering to the Roman party; and with Florence when in the year 1512 she followed the fortune of the French. Taking all things together now, I believe that in such cases which involve imminent peril there will be found somewhat more of stability in republics than in princes. For even if the republics were inspired by the same feelings and intentions as the princes, yet the fact of their movements being slower will make them take more time in forming resolutions, and therefore they will less promptly break their faith.

Alliances are broken from considerations of interest; and in this respect republics are much more careful in the observance of treaties than princes. It would be easy to cite instances where princes for the smallest advantage have broken their faith, and where the greatest advantages have failed to induce republics to disregard theirs; as in the case of the proposal of Themistocles to the Athenians, when in a general assembly he told them that he had something to suggest that would be of greatest advantage to their country; but that it was of such a nature that he could not disclose it publicly without depriving them of the opportunity of availing of it. The people of Athens therefore appointed Aristides to whom Themistocles might communicate his suggestion, upon which they would decide according to the judgment of Aristides. Themistocles thereupon showed him that the fleet of united Greece, relying upon the treaty still in force, was in such position that they could easily make themselves masters of it or destroy it, which would make the Athenians arbiters of all Greece. Whereupon Aristides reported to the people that the proposed plan of Themistocles was highly advantageous but most dishonest, and therefore the people absolutely rejected it; which would not have been done by Philip of Macedon, nor many other princes, who would only have looked to the advantages, and who have gained more by their perfidy than by any other means.

I do not speak of the breaking of treaties because of an occasional non-observance, that being an ordinary matter; but I speak of the breaking of treaties from some extraordinary cause; and here I believe, from what has been said, that the people are less frequently guilty of this than princes, and are therefore more to be trusted.


how the consulates and some other magistracies were bestowed in rome without regard to the age of persons.

We see from the course of history that the Roman republic, after the plebeians became entitled to the consulate, admitted all its citizens to this dignity without distinction of age or birth. In truth, age never formed a necessary qualification for public office; merit was the only consideration, whether found in young or old men. This is evidenced by the case of Valerius Corvinus, who was made Consul at twenty-three years of age; it was he who said to his soldiers that “the consulate was the reward of merit, and not of birth.” Upon this subject much may be said. As regards birth, that point was conceded from necessity, and the same necessity that existed in Rome will be felt in every republic that aims to achieve the same success as Rome; for men cannot be made to bear labor and privations without the inducement of a corresponding reward, nor can they be deprived of such hope of reward without danger. It was proper, therefore, that the people should at an early period have had the hope of obtaining the right to the consulate, and that they should nurse that hope for a while, without realizing it; and when after a while that hope no longer sufficed them, the reality had to be conceded to them. The state that does not admit its people to a share of its glory may treat them in its own way, as we have discussed elsewhere; but a state that wishes to undertake what Rome has done cannot make such a distinction.

And admitting that this may be so with regard to birth, then the question of age is necessarily also disposed of; for in electing a young man to an office which demands the prudence of an old man, it is necessary, if the election rests with the people, that he should have made himself worthy of that distinction by some extraordinary action. And when a young man has so much merit as to have distinguished himself by some notable action, it would be a great loss for the state not to be able to avail of his talents and services; and that he should have to wait until old age has robbed him of that vigor of mind and activity of which the state might have the benefit in his earlier age, as Rome had of Valerius Corvinus, of Scipio, of Pompey, and of many others who had the honors of triumph when very young men.



Men ever praise the olden time, and find fault with the present, though often without reason. They are such partisans of the past that they extol not only the times which they know only by the accounts left of them by historians, but, having grown old, they also laud all they remember to have seen in their youth. Their opinion is generally erroneous in that respect, and I think the reasons which cause this illusion are various. The first I believe to be the fact that we never know the whole truth about the past, and very frequently writers conceal such events as would reflect disgrace upon their century, whilst they magnify and amplify those that lend lustre to it. The majority of authors obey the fortune of conquerors to that degree that, by way of rendering their victories more glorious, they exaggerate not only the valiant deeds of the victor, but also of the vanquished; so that future generations of the countries of both will have cause to wonder at those men and times, and are obliged to praise and admire them to the utmost. Another reason is that men’s hatreds generally spring from fear or envy. Now, these two powerful reasons of hatred do not exist for us with regard to the past, which can no longer inspire either apprehension or envy. But it is very different with the affairs of the present, in which we ourselves are either actors or spectators, and of which we have a complete knowledge, nothing being concealed from us; and knowing the good together with many other things that are displeasing to us, we are forced to conclude that the present is inferior to the past, though in reality it may be much more worthy of glory and fame. I do not speak of matters pertaining to the arts, which shine by their intrinsic merits, which time can neither add to nor diminish; but I speak of such things as pertain to the actions and manners of men, of which we do not possess such manifest evidence.

I repeat, then, that this practice of praising and decrying is very general, though it cannot be said that it is always erroneous; for sometimes our judgment is of necessity correct, human affairs being in a state of perpetual movement, always either ascending or declining. We see, for instance, a city or country with a government well organized by some man of superior ability; for a time it progresses and attains a great prosperity through the talents of its lawgiver. Now, if any one living at such a period should praise the past more than the time in which he lives, he would certainly be deceiving himself; and this error will be found due to the reasons above indicated. But should he live in that city or country at the period after it shall have passed the zenith of its glory and in the time of its decline, then he would not be wrong in praising the past. Reflecting now upon the course of human affairs, I think that, as a whole, the world remains very much in the same condition, and the good in it always balances the evil; but the good and the evil change from one country to another, as we learn from the history of those ancient kingdoms that differed from each other in manners, whilst the world at large remained the same. The only difference being, that all the virtues that first found a place in Assyria were thence transferred to Media, and afterwards passed to Persia, and from there they came into Italy and to Rome. And if after the fall of the Roman Empire none other sprung up that endured for any length of time, and where the aggregate virtues of the world were kept together, we nevertheless see them scattered amongst many nations, as, for instance, in the kingdom of France, the Turkish empire, or that of the Sultan of Egypt, and nowadays the people of Germany, and before them those famous Saracens, who achieved such great things and conquered so great a part of the world, after having destroyed the Roman Empire of the East. The different peoples of these several countries, then, after the fall of the Roman Empire, have possessed and possess still in great part that virtue which is so much lamented and so sincerely praised. And those who live in those countries and praise the past more than the present may deceive themselves; but whoever is born in Italy and Greece, and has not become either an Ultramontane in Italy or a Turk in Greece, has good reason to find fault with his own and to praise the olden times; for in their past there are many things worthy of the highest admiration, whilst the present has nothing that compensates for all the extreme misery, infamy, and degradation of a period where there is neither observance of religion, law, or military discipline, and which is stained by every species of the lowest brutality; and these vices are the more detestable as they exist amongst those who sit in the tribunals as judges, and hold all power in their hands, and claim to be adored.

But to return to our argument, I say that, if men’s judgment is at fault upon the point whether the present age be better than the past, of which latter, owing to its antiquity, they cannot have such perfect knowledge as of their own period, the judgment of old men of what they have seen in their youth and in their old age should not be false, inasmuch as they have equally seen both the one and the other. This would be true, if men at the different periods of their lives had the same judgment and the same appetites. But as these vary (though the times do not), things cannot appear the same to men who have other tastes, other delights, and other considerations in age from what they had in youth. For as men when they age lose their strength and energy, whilst their prudence and judgment improve, so the same things that in youth appeared to them supportable and good, will of necessity, when they have grown old, seem to them insupportable and evil; and when they should blame their own judgment they find fault with the times. Moreover, as human desires are insatiable, (because their nature is to have and to do everything whilst fortune limits their possessions and capacity of enjoyment,) this gives rise to a constant discontent in the human mind and a weariness of the things they possess; and it is this which makes them decry the present, praise the past, and desire the future, and all this without any reasonable motive. I know not, then, whether I deserve to be classed with those who deceive themselves, if in these Discourses I shall laud too much the times of ancient Rome and censure those of our own day. And truly, if the virtues that ruled then and the vices that prevail now were not as clear as the sun, I should be more reticent in my expressions, lest I should fall into the very error for which I reproach others. But the matter being so manifest that everybody sees it, I shall boldly and openly say what I think of the former times and of the present, so as to excite in the minds of the young men who may read my writings the desire to avoid the evils of the latter, and to prepare themselves to imitate the virtues of the former, whenever fortune presents them the occasion. For it is the duty of an honest man to teach others that good which the malignity of the times and of fortune has prevented his doing himself; so that amongst the many capable ones whom he has instructed, some one perhaps, more favored by Heaven, may perform it.

Having in the preceding Book treated of the conduct of the Romans in matters relating to their internal affairs, I shall in this Book speak of what the Roman people did in relation to the aggrandizement of their empire.


the greatness of the romans was due more to their valor and ability than to good fortune.

Many authors, amongst them that most serious writer Plutarch, have held the opinion that the people of Rome were more indebted in the acquisition of their empire to the favors of Fortune than to their own merits. And amongst other reasons adduced by Plutarch is, that by their own confession it appears that the Roman people ascribed all their victories to Fortune, because they built more temples to that goddess than to any other deity. It seems that Livius accepts that opinion, for he rarely makes a Roman speak of valor without coupling fortune with it. Now I do not share that opinion at all, and do not believe that it can be sustained; for if no other republic has ever been known to make such conquests, it is admitted that none other was so well organized for that purpose as Rome. It was the valor of her armies that achieved those conquests, but it was the wisdom of her conduct and the nature of her institutions, as established by her first legislator, that enabled her to preserve these acquisitions, as we shall more fully set forth in the succeeding chapters. But it is said that the fact that the Roman people never had two important wars on hand at the same time was due more to their good fortune than their wisdom; for they did not engage in war with the Latins until they had beaten the Samnites so completely that the Romans themselves had to protect them with their arms; nor did they combat the Tuscans until after they had subjugated the Latins, and had by repeated defeats completely enervated the Samnites. Doubtless if these two powerful nations had united against Rome whilst their strength was yet unbroken, it may readily be supposed that they could have destroyed the Roman republic.

But however this may have been, certain it is that the Romans never had two important wars to sustain at the same time; but it rather appears that the beginning of one caused the termination of the other, or that the ending of one gave rise to the next. This is readily seen by examining the succession of their wars; for, leaving aside the one they were engaged in before the capture of Rome by the Gauls, we see that whilst they fought against the Equeans and the Volscians at a time when these nations were still powerful, no other people rose up to attack them at the same time. But when these were subdued, then occurred the war against the Samnites; and although the Latins revolted before that war was concluded, yet when this revolt broke out the Samnites had already formed a league with the Romans, and it was by the aid of their army that they broke down the pride of the Latins. And when these were subdued, the war with the Samnites was renewed; but the repeated defeats inflicted upon them by the Romans had so enfeebled their forces, that, when the war with the Tuscans occurred, that also was quickly terminated. But the Samnites rose up once more when Pyrrhus came into Italy; and when he was beaten and driven back to Greece, the first war with the Carthaginians was begun, which was hardly terminated before the combined Gauls conspired against Rome, and poured down through the various passes of the Alps in great numbers, but were defeated with terrible carnage between Popolonia and Pisa, where now stands the tower of San Vincenti. After this war was finished, the Romans were not engaged in any other of importance during a period of twenty years; for they only fought the Ligurians and a remnant of Gauls who were in Lombardy. And thus they remained until the second Carthaginian war broke out, and occupied them for sixteen years. When this had been most gloriously concluded, the Macedonian war occurred; and after that the war with Antiochus and Asia. When these had been victoriously terminated, there remained in the whole world neither prince nor republic that could, alone or unitedly, have resisted the Roman power. Considering now the succession of these wars, prior to the last victory, and the manner in which they were conducted, we cannot fail to recognize in them a combination of good fortune with the greatest valor and prudence. And if we examine into the cause of that good fortune we shall readily find it; for it is most certain that when a prince or a people attain that degree of reputation that all the neighboring princes and peoples fear to attack him, none of them will ever venture to do it except under the force of necessity; so that it will be, as it were, at the option of that potent prince or people to make war upon such neighboring powers as may seem advantageous, whilst adroitly keeping the others quiet. And this he can easily do, partly by the respect they have for his power, and partly because they are deceived by the means employed to keep them quiet. And other powers that are more distant and have no immediate intercourse with him, will look upon this as a matter too remote for them to be concerned about, and will continue in this error until the conflagration spreads to their door, when they will have no means for extinguishing it except their own forces, which will no longer suffice when the fire has once gained the upper hand. I will say nothing of how the Samnites remained indifferent spectators when they saw the Volscians and Equeans defeated by the Romans; and not to be too prolix I will at once come to the Carthaginians, who had already acquired great power and reputation when the Romans were fighting with the Samnites and the Tuscans; for they were masters of all Africa, they held Sardinia and Sicily, and had already a foothold in Spain. Their own power, and the fact that they were remote from the confines of Rome, made them indifferent about attacking the Romans, or succoring the Samnites and Tuscans, but they did what men are apt to do with regard to a growing power, they rather sought by an alliance with the Romans to secure their friendship. Nor did they become aware of the error they had committed until after the Romans, having subjugated all the nations situated between them and the Carthaginians, began to contest the dominion of Sicily and Spain with them. The same thing happened to the Gauls as to the Carthaginians, and also to King Philip of Macedon and to Antiochus. Each one of these believed that, whilst the Romans were occupied with the other, they would be overcome, and that then it would be time enough either by peace or war to secure themselves against the Romans. So that I believe that the good fortune which followed the Romans in these parts would have equally attended other princes who had acted as the Romans did, and had displayed the same courage and sagacity.

It would be proper and interesting here to show the course which the Romans adopted when they entered the territory of an enemy, but that we have already explained this at length in our treatise of “The Prince.” I will only say in a few words that they always endeavored to have some friend in these new countries who could aid them by opening the way for them to enter, and also serve as a means for retaining their possession. Thus we see that by the aid of the Capuans they entered Samnium, and through the Camertini they got into Tuscany; the Mamertini helped them into Sicily, the Saguntines into Spain, Masinissa into Africa, and the Massilians and Eduans into Gaul. And thus they never lacked similar support to facilitate their enterprises, both in the acquisition and preservation of new provinces. And those people who will observe the same mode of proceeding will find that they have less need of fortune than those who do not. And to enable everybody to know how much more the valor and ability of the Romans served them in the conquest of their empire than Fortune, we will discuss in the following chapter the characters of the different peoples whom the Romans had to encounter, and with what obstinate courage they defended their liberty.


what nations the romans had to contend against, and with what obstinacy they defended their liberty.

Nothing required so much effort on the part of the Romans to subdue the nations around them, as well as those of more distant countries, as the love of liberty which these people cherished in those days; and which they defended with so much obstinacy, that nothing but the exceeding valor of the Romans could ever have subjugated them. For we know from many instances to what danger they exposed themselves to preserve or recover their liberty, and what vengeance they practised upon those who had deprived them of it. The lessons of history teach us also, on the other hand, the injuries people suffer from servitude. And whilst in our own times there is only one country in which we can say that free communities exist, in those ancient times all countries contained numerous cities that enjoyed entire liberty. In the times of which we are now speaking, there were in Italy from the mountains that divide the present Tuscany from Lombardy, down to the extreme point, a number of independent nations, such as the Tuscans, the Romans, the Samnites, and many others, that inhabited the rest of Italy. Nor is there ever any mention of there having been other kings besides those that reigned in Rome, and Porsenna, king of the Tuscans, whose line became extinct in a manner not mentioned in history. But we do see that, at the time when the Romans went to besiege Veii, Tuscany was free, and so prized her liberty and hated the very name of king, that when the Veienti had created a king in their city for its defence, and applied to the Tuscans for help against the Romans, it was resolved, after repeated deliberations, not to grant such assistance to the Veienti so long as they lived under that king; for the Tuscans deemed it not well to engage in the defence of those who had voluntarily subjected themselves to the rule of one man. And it is easy to understand whence that affection for liberty arose in the people, for they had seen that cities never increased in dominion or wealth unless they were free. And certainly it is wonderful to think of the greatness which Athens attained within the space of a hundred years after having freed herself from the tyranny of Pisistratus; and still more wonderful is it to reflect upon the greatness which Rome achieved after she was rid of her kings. The cause of this is manifest, for it is not individual prosperity, but the general good, that makes cities great; and certainly the general good is regarded nowhere but in republics, because whatever they do is for the common benefit, and should it happen to prove an injury to one or more individuals, those for whose benefit the thing is done are so numerous that they can always carry the measure against the few that are injured by it. But the very reverse happens where there is a prince whose private interests are generally in opposition to those of the city, whilst the measures taken for the benefit of the city are seldom deemed personally advantageous by the prince. This state of things soon leads to a tyranny, the least evil of which is to check the advance of the city in its career of prosperity, so that it grows neither in power nor wealth, but on the contrary rather retrogrades. And if fate should have it that the tyrant is enterprising, and by his courage and valor extends his dominions, it will never be for the benefit of the city, but only for his own; for he will never bestow honors and office upon the good and brave citizens over whom he tyrannizes, so that he may not have occasion to suspect and fear them. Nor will he make the states which he conquers subject or tributary to the city of which he is the despot, because it would not be to his advantage to make that city powerful, but it will always be for his interest to keep the state disunited, so that each place and country shall recognize him only as master; thus he alone, and not his country, profits by his conquests. Those who desire to have this opinion confirmed by many other arguments, need but read Xenophon’s treatise “On Tyranny.”

It is no wonder, then, that the ancients hated tyranny and loved freedom, and that the very name of Liberty should have been held in such esteem by them; as was shown by the Syracusans when Hieronymus, the nephew of Hiero, was killed. When his death became known to his army, which was near Syracuse, it caused at first some disturbances, and they were about committing violence upon his murderers; but when they learnt that the cry of Liberty had been raised in Syracuse, they were delighted, and instantly returned to order. Their fury against the tyrannicides was quelled, and they thought only of how a free government might be established in Syracuse. Nor can we wonder that the people indulge in extraordinary revenge against those who have robbed them of their liberty; of which we could cite many instances, but will quote only one that occurred in Corcyra, a city of Greece, during the Peloponnesian war. Greece was at that time divided into two parties, one of which adhered to the Athenians, and the other to the Spartans, and a similar division of parties existed in most of the Greek cities. It happened that in Corcyra the nobles, being the stronger party, seized upon the liberties of the people; but with the assistance of the Athenians the popular party recovered its power, and, having seized the nobles, they tied their hands behind their backs, and threw them into a prison large enough to hold them all. They thence took eight or ten at a time, under pretence of sending them into exile in different directions; but instead of that they killed them with many cruelties. When the remainder became aware of this, they resolved if possible to escape such an ignominious death; and having armed themselves as well as they could, they resisted those who attempted to enter the prison; but when the people heard this disturbance, they pulled down the roof and upper portion of the prison, and suffocated the nobles within under its ruins. Many such notable and horrible cases occurred in that country, which shows that the people will avenge their lost liberty with more energy than when it is merely threatened.

Reflecting now as to whence it came that in ancient times the people were more devoted to liberty than in the present, I believe that it resulted from this, that men were stronger in those days, which I believe to be attributable to the difference of education, founded upon the difference of their religion and ours. For, as our religion teaches us the truth and the true way of life, it causes us to attach less value to the honors and possessions of this world; whilst the Pagans, esteeming those things as the highest good, were more energetic and ferocious in their actions. We may observe this also in most of their institutions, beginning with the magnificence of their sacrifices as compared with the humility of ours, which are gentle solemnities rather than magnificent ones, and have nothing of energy or ferocity in them, whilst in theirs there was no lack of pomp and show, to which was superadded the ferocious and bloody nature of the sacrifice by the slaughter of many animals, and the familiarity with this terrible sight assimilated the nature of men to their sacrificial ceremonies. Besides this, the Pagan religion deified only men who had achieved great glory, such as commanders of armies and chiefs of republics, whilst ours glorifies more the humble and contemplative men than the men of action. Our religion, moreover, places the supreme happiness in humility, lowliness, and a contempt for worldly objects, whilst the other, on the contrary, places the supreme good in grandeur of soul, strength of body, and all such other qualities as render men formidable; and if our religion claims of us fortitude of soul, it is more to enable us to suffer than to achieve great deeds.

These principles seem to me to have made men feeble, and caused them to become an easy prey to evil-minded men, who can control them more securely, seeing that the great body of men, for the sake of gaining Paradise, are more disposed to endure injuries than to avenge them. And although it would seem that the world has become effeminate and Heaven disarmed, yet this arises unquestionably from the baseness of men, who have interpreted our religion according to the promptings of indolence rather than those of virtue. For if we were to reflect that our religion permits us to exalt and defend our country, we should see that according to it we ought also to love and honor our country, and prepare ourselves so as to be capable of defending her. It is this education, then, and this false interpretation of our religion, that is the cause of there not being so many republics nowadays as there were anciently; and that there is no longer the same love of liberty amongst the people now as there was then. I believe, however, that another reason for this will be found in the fact that the Roman Empire, by force of arms, destroyed all the republics and free cities; and although that empire was afterwards itself dissolved, yet these cities could not reunite themselves nor reorganize their civil institutions, except in a very few instances.

Be that, however, as it may, the Romans found everywhere a league of republics, well armed for the most obstinate defence of their liberties, showing that it required the rare ability and extreme valor of the Romans to subjugate them. And to give but one example of this, we will confine ourselves to the case of the Samnites, which really seems marvellous. This people Titus Livius himself admits to have been so powerful and valiant in arms that, until the time of the Consul Papirius Cursor, grandson of the first Papirius, a period of forty years, they were able to resist the Romans, notwithstanding their many defeats, the destruction of their cities, and much slaughter. That country, which was then so thickly inhabited and contained so many cities, is now almost a desert; and yet it was originally so powerful and well governed that it would have been unconquerable by any other than Roman valor. It is easy to discover the cause of this different state of things, for it all comes from this, that formerly that people enjoyed freedom, and now they live in servitude; for, as I have already said above, only those cities and countries that are free can achieve greatness. Population is greater there because marriages are more free and offer more advantages to the citizen; for people will gladly have children when they know that they can support them, and that they will not be deprived of their patrimony, and where they know that their children not only are born free and not slaves, but, if they possess talents and virtue, can arrive at the highest dignities of the state. In free countries we also see wealth increase more rapidly, both that which results from the culture of the soil and that which is produced by industry and art; for everybody gladly multiplies those things, and seeks to acquire those goods the possession of which he can tranquilly enjoy. Thence men vie with each other to increase both private and public wealth, which consequently increase in an extraordinary manner. But the contrary of all this takes place in countries that are subject to another; and the more rigorous the subjection of the people, the more will they be deprived of all the good to which they had previously been accustomed. And the hardest of all servitudes is to be subject to a republic, and this for these reasons: first, because it is more enduring, and there is no hope of escaping from it; and secondly, because republics aim to enervate and weaken all other states so as to increase their own power. This is not the case with a prince who holds another country in subjection, unless indeed he should be a barbarous devastator of countries and a destroyer of all human civilization, such as the princes of the Orient. But if he be possessed of only ordinary humanity, he will treat all cities that are subject to him equally well, and will leave them in the enjoyment of their arts and industries, and measurably all their ancient institutions. So that if they cannot grow the same as if they were free, they will at least not be ruined whilst in bondage; and by this is understood that bondage into which cities fall that become subject to a stranger, for of that to one of their own citizens we have already spoken above.

Considering now all that has been said, we need not wonder at the power which the Samnites possessed, so long as they were free, nor at the feeble condition to which they afterwards became reduced when they were subjugated. Titus Livius testifies to this in several instances, and mainly in speaking of the war with Hannibal, where he states that the Samnites, pressed by a legion of Romans which was at Nola, sent messengers to Hannibal to implore his assistance. These said in their address that for a hundred years they had combated the Romans with their own soldiers and generals, and had many times sustained the contest against two consular armies and two Consuls at once; but that now they had been reduced so low that they were hardly able to defend themselves against the one small Roman legion that was stationed at Nola.


rome became great by ruining her neighboring cities, and by freely admitting strangers to her privileges and honors.

Crescit interea Roma, Albæ ruinis.” Those who desire a city to achieve great empire must endeavor by all possible means to make her populous; for without an abundance of inhabitants it is impossible ever to make a city powerful. This may be done in two ways; either by attracting population by the advantages offered, or by compulsion. The first is to make it easy and secure for strangers to come and establish themselves there, and the second is to destroy the neighboring cities, and to compel their inhabitants to come and dwell in yours. These principles were so strictly observed by the Romans, that, in the time of the sixth king, Rome had already eighty thousand inhabitants capable of bearing arms. The Romans acted like a good husbandman, who for the purpose of strengthening a tree and making it produce more fruit and to mature it better, cuts off the first shoots it puts out, so that by retaining the sap and vigor in the trunk the tree may afterwards put forth more abundant branches and fruit. And that this is a good plan for aggrandizing a city and extending its empire, is proved by the example of Sparta and Athens, both most warlike republics, and regulated by most excellent laws; and yet they did not attain the same greatness as Rome, which was far less well regulated. No other reason can be assigned for this than the above; for Rome, from having by the above two methods increased its population, was enabled to put two hundred thousand men into the field, whilst Sparta and Athens could not raise more than twenty thousand each. And this resulted not from Rome’s being more favorably situated, but solely from the difference in their mode of proceeding. For Lycurgus, the founder of the Spartan republic, believing that nothing would more readily destroy his laws than the admixture of new inhabitants, did everything possible to prevent strangers from coming into the city. Besides prohibiting their obtaining citizenship by marriage, and all other intercourse and commerce that bring men together, he ordered that in his republic only leather money should be used, so as to indispose all strangers from bringing merchandise into Sparta, or exercising any kind of art or industry there, so that the city never could increase in population. Now, as all the actions of men resemble those of nature, it is neither natural nor possible that a slender trunk should support great branches; and thus a small republic cannot conquer and hold cities and kingdoms that are larger and more powerful than herself, and if she does conquer them, she will experience the same fate as a tree whose branches are larger than the trunk, which will not be able to support them, and will be bent by every little breeze that blows. Such was the case with Sparta when she had conquered all the cities of Greece; but no sooner did Thebes revolt, than all the other cities revolted likewise, and the trunk was quickly left without any branches. This could not have happened to Rome, whose trunk was so strong that it could easily support all its branches. The above modes of proceeding, then, together with others of which we shall speak hereafter, made Rome great and most powerful, which Titus Livius points out in these few words: “Rome grew, whilst Alba was ruined.”


the ancient republics employed three different methods for aggrandizing themselves.

Whoever has studied ancient history will have found that the republics had three methods of aggrandizement. One of these was that observed by the ancient Tuscans, namely, to form a confederation of several republics, neither of which had any eminence over the other in rank or authority; and in their conquests of other cities they associated these with themselves, in a similar manner to that practised by the Swiss nowadays, and as was done anciently in Greece by the Achaians and the Ætolians. But as the Romans had many wars with the Tuscans, I will (by way of illustrating the first method) give a more particular account of these people. Before the establishment of the Roman empire, the Tuscans were very powerful in Italy, both by land and by sea; and although we have no particular history of them, yet there are some traditions and vestiges of their greatness; and it is known that they sent a colony to the shores of the sea north of them, which they called Adria, and which became so important that it gave its name to that sea, which is still called the “Adriatic.” It is also known that they subjected to their authority the entire country stretching from the Tiber to the foot of the Alps, comprising the main body of Italy; although two hundred years before the Romans became so powerful the Tuscans lost their dominion over that part of the country which is now called Lombardy. This province had been seized and occupied by the Gauls, who either from necessity, or attracted by the soft climate and the fruits of Italy, and especially the wine, came there led by their chief Bellovesus; and having routed and driven out its inhabitants, they established themselves there and built numerous cities, and gave that country their own name of Gallia, which it bore until subjugated by the Romans. The Tuscans then lived in perfect equality, and employed for their aggrandizement the first method mentioned above. Their confederation consisted of twelve cities, amongst which were Clusium, Veii, Fiesole, Volterra, and others, who governed their empire; their conquests, however, could not extend beyond Italy, a considerable part of which remained still independent of them for reasons which we will state further on.

The second method employed by the ancient republics for their aggrandizement was to make associates of other states; reserving to themselves, however, the rights of sovereignty, the seat of empire, and the glory of their enterprises. This was the method observed by the Romans. The third method was to make the conquered people immediately subjects, and not associates, and was practised by the Spartans and Athenians. Of these three methods the latter is perfectly useless, as was proved by these two republics, who perished from no other cause than from having made conquests which they could not maintain. For to undertake the government of conquered cities by violence, especially when they have been accustomed to the enjoyment of liberty, is a most difficult and troublesome task; and unless you are powerfully armed, you will never secure their obedience nor be able to govern them. And to enable you to be thus powerful it becomes necessary to have associates, by whose aid you can increase the population of your own city; and as neither Sparta nor Athens did either of these things, their conquests proved perfectly useless. Rome, on the contrary, followed the second plan, and did both things, and consequently rose to such exceeding power; and as she was the only state that persistently adhered to this system, so she was also the only one that attained such great power. Having created for herself many associates throughout Italy, she granted to them in many respects an almost entire equality, always, however, reserving to herself the seat of empire and the right of command; so that these associates (without being themselves aware of it) devoted their own efforts and blood to their own subjugation. For so soon as the Romans began to lead their armies beyond the limits of Italy, they reduced other kingdoms to provinces, and made subjects of those who, having been accustomed to live under kings, were indifferent to becoming subjects of another; and from having Roman governors, and having been conquered by Roman arms, they recognized no superior to the Romans. Thus the associates of Rome in Italy found themselves all at once surrounded by Roman subjects, and at the same time pressed by a powerful city like Rome; and when they became aware of the trap into which they had been led, it was too late to remedy the evil, for Rome had become too powerful by the acquisition of foreign provinces, as also within herself by the increased population which she had armed. And although these associates conspired together to revenge the wrongs inflicted upon them by Rome, yet they were quickly subdued, and their condition made even worse; for from associates they were degraded to subjects. This mode of proceeding (as has been said) was practised only by the Romans; and a republic desirous of aggrandizement should adopt no other plan, for experience has proved that there is none better or more sure.

The first method of which we have spoken, that of forming confederations like those of the Tuscans, Achaians, and Ætolians, or the Swiss of the present day, is next best after that practised by the Romans; for if it does not admit of extensive conquests, it has at least two other advantages: the one, not to become easily involved in war, and the other, that whatever conquests are made are easily preserved. The reason why a confederation of republics cannot well make extensive conquests is, that they are not a compact body, and do not have a central seat of power, which embarrasses consultation and concentrated action. It also makes them less desirous of dominion, for, being composed of numerous communities that are to share in this dominion, they do not value conquests as much as a single republic that expects to enjoy the exclusive benefit of them herself. Furthermore, they are governed by a council, which naturally causes their resolutions to be more tardy than those that emanate from a single centre. Experience has also shown that this system of confederation has certain limits, which they have in no instance transgressed; being composed of twelve or fourteen states at most, they cannot well extend beyond that number, as their mutual defence would become difficult, and therefore they seek no further extension of their dominion, — either because necessity does not push them to it, or because they see no advantage in further conquests, for the reason given above. For in such case they would have to do one of two things: either to continue adding other states to their confederation, which would then become so numerous as to create confusion, or they would have to make the conquered people subjects. And as they see the difficulties of this, and the little advantage that would result from it, they attach no value to an extension of their dominion. When therefore these confederations have become sufficiently strong by their number, so that they consider themselves secure, they are apt to do two things: one, to take smaller states under their protection, and thus to obtain money from them which they can easily divide amongst themselves; and the other is to engage in the military service and pay of one prince or another, as the Swiss do nowadays, and as we read in history was done by those mentioned above. Titus Livius gives us proof of this when he relates how Philip, king of Macedon, being engaged in negotiations with Titus Quintius Flaminius in presence of one of the prætors of the Ætolians, addressed that prætor and reproached him with the avarice and lack of good faith of the Ætolians; saying that “they were not ashamed to take military service under any one, and at the same time supply troops to his enemy, so that the Ætolian colors were often seen in both opposing armies.” We see therefore that this system of confederations has always been the same, and has ever produced the same results. We also see that to make conquered people subjects has ever been a source of weakness and of little profit, and that when carried too far it has quickly proved ruinous to the conqueror. And if this system of making subjects is disadvantageous to warlike republics, how much more pernicious must it be for such as have no armies, as is the case with the Italian republics of our day?

All this proves, therefore, the excellence of the plan adopted by the Romans, which is the more to be admired as they had no previous example to guide them, and which has not been followed by any other state since Rome. As to the system of confederations, that has been followed only by the Swiss, and by the Suabian league. In conclusion, we will state that many wise institutions of the Romans, both as regards the government of their internal and external affairs, have not only not been imitated in our times, but have not even been taken into account by any one, being deemed by some not to have been founded in truth, by some to be impossible, and by others inapplicable and useless; so that by remaining in this ignorance Italy has become the prey of whoever has chosen to attack her. But if it has seemed too difficult to imitate the example of the Romans, certainly that of the ancient Tuscans should not be deemed so, especially by the Tuscans of the present day. For if they failed to acquire that power in Italy which the Roman method of proceeding would have given them, they at least lived for a long time in security, with much glory of dominion and of arms, and high praise for their manners and religion. This power and glory of the ancient Tuscans was first checked by the Gauls, and afterwards crushed by the Romans; and was so completely annihilated, that, although two thousand years ago the power of the Tuscans was very great, yet now there is scarcely any memento or vestige of it. And this has caused me to consider as to whence this oblivion of things arises, which I propose to discuss in the following chapter.


the changes of religion and of languages, together with the occurrence of deluges and pestilences, destroy the record of things.

To those philosophers who maintain that the world has existed from eternity, we might reply, that, if it were really of such antiquity, there would reasonably be some record beyond five thousand years, were it not that we see how the records of time are destroyed by various causes, some being the acts of men and some of Heaven. Those that are the acts of men are the changes of religion and of language; for when a new sect springs up, that is to say a new religion, the first effort is (by way of asserting itself and gaining influence) to destroy the old or existing one; and when it happens that the founders of the new religion speak a different language, then the destruction of the old religion is easily effected. This we know from observing the proceedings of the Christians against the heathen religion; for they destroyed all its institutions and all its ceremonies, and effaced all record of the ancient theology. It is true that they did not succeed in destroying entirely the record of the glorious deeds of the illustrious men of the ancient creed, for they were forced to keep up the Latin language by the necessity of writing their new laws in that tongue; but if they could have written them in a new language (bearing in mind their other persecutions), there would have been no record whatever left of preceding events. Whoever reads the proceedings of St. Gregory, and of the other heads of the Christian religion, will see with what obstinacy they persecuted all ancient memorials, burning the works of the historians and of the poets, destroying the statues and images and despoiling everything else that gave but an indication of antiquity. So that, if they had added a new language to this persecution, everything relating to previous events would in a very short time have been sunk in oblivion.

It is reasonable to suppose that what the Christians practised towards the Pagans, these practised in like manner upon their predecessors. And as the religions changed two or three times in six thousand years, all memory of the things done before that time was lost; and if nevertheless some vestiges of it remain, they are regarded as fabulous, and are believed by no one; as is the case with the history of Diodorus Siculus, who gives an account of some forty or fifty thousand years, yet is generally looked upon as being mendacious, and I believe with justice.

As to causes produced by Heaven, they are such as destroy the human race, and reduce the inhabitants of some parts of the world to a very few in number; such as pestilence, famine, or inundations. Of this the latter are the most important, partly because they are most universal, and partly because the few that escape are chiefly ignorant mountaineers, who, having no knowledge of antiquity themselves, cannot transmit any to posterity. And should there be amongst those who escape any that have such knowledge, they conceal or pervert it in their own fashion, for the purpose of gaining influence and reputation; so that there remains to their successors only just so much as they were disposed to write, and no more. And that such inundations, pestilences, and famines occur cannot be doubted, both because all history is full of accounts of them, and because we see the effects of them in the oblivion of things, and also because it seems reasonable that they should occur. For in nature as in simple bodies, when there is an accumulation of superfluous matter, a spontaneous purgation takes place, which preserves the health of that body. And so it is with that compound body, the human race; when countries become overpopulated and there is no longer any room for all the inhabitants to live, nor any other places for them to go to, these being likewise all fully occupied, — and when human cunning and wickedness have gone as far as they can go, — then of necessity the world must relieve itself of this excess of population by one of those three causes; so that mankind, having been chastised and reduced in numbers, may become better and live with more convenience. Tuscany then, as I have said above, was once powerful, religious, and virtuous; it had its own customs and language; but all this was destroyed by the Roman power, so that there remained nothing of it but the memory of its name.


of the manner in which the romans conducted their wars.

Having explained the means which the Romans employed for their aggrandizement, we will now show how they conducted their wars; and we shall see with how much prudence they deviated in all their actions from the methods universally adopted by other nations, so as to make their road to supreme power easy. The object of those who make war, either from choice or ambition, is to conquer and to maintain their conquests, and to do this in such a manner as to enrich themselves and not to impoverish the conquered country. To do this, then, the conqueror should take care not to spend too much, and in all things mainly to look to the public benefit; and therefore he should imitate the manner and conduct of the Romans, which was first of all to “make the war short and sharp,” as the French say; for as they always put powerful armies into the field, they brought all the wars which they had with the Latins, the Samnites, and the Tuscans to a very speedy conclusion. And if we note all they did from the foundation of Rome until the siege of Veii, we shall observe that all their expeditions were completed in six, ten, or at most twenty days. For it was their custom so soon as war was declared to take the field immediately with their armies, and promptly to meet the enemy and give him battle; and when they had gained it, the enemy (to save his country from being devastated) came to terms, and the Romans condemned him to cede a portion of his territory, which they converted into private possessions, or established colonies upon it, and which, from being situated upon their confines, served as a guard to the Roman frontier, with equal benefit to the colonists who received these possessions and to Rome, which was thus guarded without expense. Nor can any plan be more effectual, secure, or more beneficial; for so long as the enemy remained quiet, so long did that guard suffice; and if he came out in force to threaten the colony, the Romans also took the field in force and quickly engaged him in battle and defeated him, and, having imposed upon him heavier conditions than before, they returned home. And thus they increased from day to day their reputation with their enemies, as well as their strength within their own state. They adhered closely to this system until after the siege of Veii, when they changed it. And to enable them to carry on longer wars, and at greater distances, they began to pay their soldiers, which until then they had not done, not deeming it necessary for short wars. But notwithstanding their paying their troops so as to enable them to keep the field longer, yet they never varied from their original system of finishing the wars as quickly as possible, according to time and place; nor did they ever omit the establishment of colonies. For apart from their usual custom, the ambition of the Consuls also contributed to make the wars short, for being elected only for one year, the half of which they were obliged to remain in quarters, they naturally wanted to finish the wars quickly, so as to enable them to have the honors of triumph; and the establishment of colonies proved of the greatest public advantage and convenience. In the distribution of the booty the Romans, however, made some changes. In this they were not so liberal as they had been at first, partly because it did not seem to them so necessary since the soldiers received regular pay, and partly because the booty was so much larger that they applied it to the enriching of the public treasury, so that they might be able to carry on their enterprises without subjecting the city to any contributions; and in this way the public treasury became in a short time very rich. These two ways, then, of disposing of the booty and of establishing colonies caused the Romans to become enriched by their wars, whilst less wise states were impoverished by theirs; and this at last came to such a point that a Consul was not considered as having merited the honors of triumph if he did not bring home to the treasury large quantities of gold and silver, and all sorts of other booty.

And by their above-described conduct in terminating each war promptly, but exhausting at the same time their enemies by the constant renewal of the wars, and by defeating their armies and devastating their territories, and imposing conditions that were most advantageous to themselves, the Romans steadily increased their wealth and power.


how much land the romans allowed to each colonist.

It is difficult to find out the truth as to the precise extent of land which the Romans conceded to each colonist. I believe they gave them more or less, according to the locality where they established the colony; but I judge that, under all circumstances and in all localities, the quantity of land bestowed was small. For the reasons, first, that they might send a greater number of men to the colonies, who were to serve as a guard to the country; and, secondly, because the Romans were poor at home, and it would not have been reasonable that they should have wished their colonists to become accustomed to too much abundance.

Titus Livius tells us that, after the taking of Veii, the Romans established a colony there, and distributed to each man three and seven twelfths jugers, equal to two and two thirds acres English measure. For besides the above considerations, they judged that it was not the extent of land, but its good cultivation, that made wealth. It is necessary also that each colony should have public pastures for their cattle, and forests to supply wood for fuel, without which no colony could exist.


the reasons why people leave their own country to spread over others.

Since we have discussed above the manner in which the Romans conducted their wars, and how the Tuscans were attacked by the Gauls, it seems to me not foreign to the subject to point out that there are two different kinds of war. The one springs from the ambition of princes or republics that seek to extend their empire; such were the wars of Alexander the Great, and those of the Romans, and those which two hostile powers carry on against each other. These wars are dangerous, but never go so far as to drive all its inhabitants out of a province, because the conqueror is satisfied with the submission of the people, and generally leaves them their dwellings and possessions, and even the enjoyment of their own institutions. The other kind of war is when an entire people, constrained by famine or war, leave their country with their families for the purpose of seeking a new home in a new country, not for the purpose of subjecting it to their dominion as in the first case, but with the intention of taking absolute possession of it themselves and driving out or killing its original inhabitants. This kind of war is most frightful and cruel; and it is of this kind of war that Sallust speaks at the end of the history of Jugurtha, when he says that, after Jugurtha was vanquished, they heard of the movements of the Gauls, who were coming into Italy. He then tells us that the Romans had combated all the other nations only for the purpose of subjecting them to their empire, but that in their contest with the Gauls each side fought for its very existence. A prince or a republic that assails another country is satisfied merely to kill its chiefs, but when an entire people aims to possess itself of a country and to live upon that which gives support to its original inhabitants, it must necessarily destroy them all.

The Romans had three such most dangerous wars to sustain. The first was when Rome itself was taken by the same Gauls, who, as we have said, had taken Lombardy from the Tuscans, and established themselves in that country. Titus Livius assigns two causes for this invasion: the first, which I have already mentioned, was that the Gauls were tempted by the delicious fruits, and especially the wine of Italy, which they had not in their own country; the second was that Gaul was so overpopulated that the country could not support all its inhabitants, and therefore its chiefs deemed it necessary that a portion of them should go in search of a new country for their dwelling-place. Having formed that resolution they chose as captains of those who were to leave Bellovesus and Sicovesus, two of their princes, of whom the first came into Italy and the other went to Spain. It was this descent of Bellovesus into Italy that led to the occupation of Lombardy, and afterwards to the first attack of the Gauls upon Rome. The second war with the Gauls occurred soon after the first Carthaginian war, and it was then that the Romans slaughtered over two hundred thousand Gauls between Piombino and Pisa. The third war of this kind was when the Teutons and the Cimbrians came into Italy, who, after having defeated several Roman armies, were themselves utterly vanquished by Marius. The Romans then were victorious in these three most perilous wars; and it required all their energy to enable them to be successful; for we see that when their armies afterwards lost their ancient valor, the Roman Empire was destroyed by similar hordes, such as the Goths, Vandals, and others, who made themselves masters of the whole Western Empire.

These tribes migrated from their own countries, as we have said above, driven by hunger, or war, or some other scourge, which they had experienced at home and which obliged them to seek new dwelling-places elsewhere. Sometimes they came in overwhelming numbers, making violent irruptions into other countries, killing the inhabitants and taking possession of their goods, establishing new kingdoms and changing the very names of the countries. This was done by Moses, and equally by those Barbarian tribes that took possession of the Roman Empire. In fact, the new names which we find in Italy and in other countries have no other origin than in the fact of being so called by their new occupants; such for instance as Lombardy, which was called Cisalpine Gaul, whilst France was called Transalpine Gaul, and now it is called after the Franks who conquered it. Slavonia was called Illyria, Hungary Pannonia, England Britannia; and thus many other countries have changed names, to enumerate which would be tedious. Moses also changed the name of that part of Syria which he occupied into Judæa. And as I have said above that peoples are sometimes driven from their own countries by war, which obliges them to seek new dwelling-places, I will cite the example of the Maurusians, originally inhabiting Syria, who, when they heard of the coming of the Hebrews, considered themselves not strong enough to resist them, and therefore deemed it best to leave their country and save themselves, rather than to attempt to save the former and be themselves destroyed. They therefore left Syria with their families and went into Africa, where they established themselves, after driving away the original inhabitants whom they found there. And thus the same people, who were incapable of defending their own country, yet could seize and occupy that of others. Procopius, who wrote an account of the war which Belisarius carried on against the Vandals who had taken possession of Africa, relates that he himself had seen inscriptions on certain columns in the places that were inhabited by these Maurusians, in these words: “We Maurusians who fled from before Jesus the Robber, son of Nava,” — whence we see the reason of their having left Syria. Those people, therefore, who are driven from their own country by the extremest necessity are the most dangerous, and can be resisted only when opposed by formidable armies. But when such as are obliged to leave their own country are not numerous, then of course they are less dangerous than a whole people such as we have spoken of; for they cannot then effect anything by force, but must employ cunning and address to obtain possession of some abiding-place; and having succeeded in this, they must seek to maintain themselves there by friendships and alliances. It was thus that Æneas did, and Dido and the Massilians and others, who all maintained themselves in the places where they had established themselves with the consent of the inhabitants of those countries.

The great hordes of Barbarians that have overrun other countries have nearly all come from Scythia, a cold and sterile country, whence they were compelled to migrate, the population being very great and the country too poor to support it; there being many causes that drove them away, and none to retain them. And if there have been no similar irruptions of Barbarians during the past few hundred years, it is owing to a variety of reasons. The first was the great migration that occurred at the time of the decline of the Roman Empire, when more than thirty entire tribes left Scythia. The second was that Germany and Hungary, whence also similar swarms of people had issued, have so improved their countries that their population can exist there with comfort, and therefore have no occasion for migrating. And furthermore the men of these two nations are most warlike, and thus serve as a dike and bulwark to keep the Scythians, whose country joins theirs, from presuming to pass them. There have been also at times great movements amongst the Tartar hordes, but these have been checked by the Hungarians and the Poles, who have often boasted that had it not been for their armies both Italy and the Church would many a time have felt the pressure of these Tartar hordes. Let this suffice of those people.


what the causes are that most frequently provoke war between sovereigns.

The cause of the war between the Romans and the Samnites, who had for a long time been allies, was that which generally produces ruptures between great powers. This cause is sometimes due to accident, or it results from the policy of the party that desires to make the war. Between the Romans and the Samnites the cause of war was accidental; for the intention of the Samnites in attacking the Sidicians, and afterwards the Campanians, was not to provoke war with the Romans. But the Campanians, being hard pressed, appealed for help to Rome, against the wishes both of the Romans and the Samnites, and gave themselves entirely to the Romans, who for their defence had to take the war upon themselves, believing that they could not with honor avoid it. For although they felt that it was not reasonable that they should defend the Campanians against the Samnites, who were their own allies, yet it seemed to them that it would be disgraceful in them not to defend them as voluntary subjects; persuaded that, if they did not undertake their defence, it would have the effect of alienating forever all those who might desire to come voluntarily under their dominion. And as the aim of Rome was empire and glory, and not repose, they could not decline this opportunity.

A similar occasion gave rise to the first war against the Carthaginians, when the Romans undertook the defence of the Messenians in Sicily, which may also be attributed to accident. But the second war between the Romans and Carthaginians was not accidental; for Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, assailed the Saguntines, who were the allies of the Romans in Spain, not so much for the purpose of injuring the Saguntines as to provoke the Romans to arms, so as to have occasion to combat them and pass into Italy. This mode of provoking new wars has always been common amongst potentates, who want at least to make a show of respect for treaties. For if I desire to make war upon any prince with whom I have concluded treaties that have been faithfully observed for a length of time, I shall attack some friend or ally of his under some color of justification, well knowing that, in thus attacking his friend, he will resent it, and I shall then have grounds for declaring war against him; or, if he does not resent it, he will thereby manifest his weakness and lack of fidelity in not defending an ally entitled to his protection. And one or the other of these means will make him lose his reputation, and facilitate the execution of my designs.

We must note, in relation to the course of the Campanians in giving themselves as voluntary subjects to the Romans by way of inducing these to assume the war against the Samnites, that the best remedy which a city has, that is unable to defend herself alone, and is yet resolved anyhow to resist her aggressor, is to give herself freely to whomever she desires for her defender; as the Campanians did to the Romans, and the Florentines to King Robert of Naples, who, though unwilling to defend them as friends, yet defended them afterwards as subjects against the power of Castruccio of Lucca, when he pressed them hard.


money is not the sinews of war, although it is generally so considered.

Every one may begin a war at his pleasure, but cannot so finish it. A prince, therefore, before engaging in any enterprise should well measure his strength, and govern himself accordingly; and he must be very careful not to deceive himself in the estimate of his strength, which he will assuredly do if he measures it by his money, or by the situation of his country, or the good disposition of his people, unless he has at the same time an armed force of his own. For although the above things will increase his strength, yet they will not give it to him, and of themselves are nothing, and will be of no use without a devoted army. Neither abundance of money nor natural strength of the country will suffice, nor will the loyalty and good will of his subjects endure, for these cannot remain faithful to a prince who is incapable of defending them. Neither mountains nor lakes nor inaccessible places will present any difficulties to an enemy where there is a lack of brave defenders. And money alone, so far from being a means of defence, will only render a prince the more liable to being plundered. There cannot, therefore, be a more erroneous opinion than that money is the sinews of war. This was said by Quintus Curtius in the war between Antipater of Macedon and the king of Sparta, when he tells that want of money obliged the king of Sparta to come to battle, and that he was routed; whilst, if he could have delayed the battle a few days, the news of the death of Alexander would have reached Greece, and in that case he would have remained victor without fighting. But lacking money, and fearing the defection of his army, who were unpaid, he was obliged to try the fortune of battle, and was defeated; and in consequence of this, Quintus Curtius affirms money to be the sinews of war. This opinion is constantly quoted, and is acted upon by princes who are unwise enough to follow it; for relying upon it, they believe that plenty of money is all they require for their defence, never thinking that, if treasure were sufficient to insure victory, Darius would have vanquished Alexander, and the Greeks would have triumphed over the Romans; and, in our day, Duke Charles the Bold would have beaten the Swiss; and, quite recently, the Pope and the Florentines together would have had no difficulty in defeating Francesco Maria, nephew of Pope Julius II., in the war of Urbino. All that we have named were vanquished by those who regarded good troops, and not money, as the sinews of war. Amongst other objects of interest which Crœsus, king of Lydia, showed to Solon of Athens, was his countless treasure; and to the question as to what he thought of his power, Solon replied, “that he did not consider him powerful on that account, because war was made with iron, and not with gold, and that some one might come who had more iron than he, and would take his gold from him.” When after the death of Alexander the Great an immense swarm of Gauls descended into Greece, and thence into Asia, they sent ambassadors to the king of Macedon to treat with him for peace. The king, by way of showing his power, and to dazzle them, displayed before them great quantities of gold and silver; whereupon the ambassadors of the Gauls, who had already as good as signed the treaty, broke off all further negotiations, excited by the intense desire to possess themselves of all this gold; and thus the very treasure which the king had accumulated for his defence brought about his spoliation. The Venetians, a few years ago, having also their treasury full, lost their entire state without their money availing them in the least in their defence.

I maintain, then, contrary to the general opinion, that the sinews of war are not gold, but good soldiers; for gold alone will not procure good soldiers, but good soldiers will always procure gold. Had the Romans attempted to make their wars with gold instead of with iron, all the treasure of the world would not have sufficed them, considering the great enterprises they were engaged in, and the difficulties they had to encounter. But by making their wars with iron, they never suffered for the want of gold; for it was brought to them, even into their camp, by those who feared them. And if want of money forced the king of Sparta to try the fortune of battle, it was no more than what often happened from other causes; for we have seen that armies short of provisions, and having to starve or hazard a battle, will always prefer the latter as the more honorable course, and where fortune may yet in some way favor them. It has also often happened that a general, seeing that his opposing enemy is about to receive reinforcements, has preferred to run the risk of a battle at once, rather than wait until his enemy is reinforced and fight him then under greater disadvantage. We have seen also in the case of Asdrubal, when he was attacked upon the river Metaurus by Claudius Nero, together with another Roman Consul, that a general who has to choose between battle or flight will always prefer to fight, as then, even in the most doubtful case, there is still a chance of victory, whilst in flight his loss is certain anyhow.

There are, then, an infinity of reasons that may induce a general to give battle against his will, and the want of money may in some instances be one of them; but that is no reason why money should be deemed the sinews of war, which more than anything else will influence him to that course. I repeat it again, then, that it is not gold, but good soldiers, that insure success in war. Certainly money is a necessity, but a secondary one, which good soldiers will overcome; for it is as impossible that good soldiers should not be able to procure gold, as it is impossible for gold to procure good soldiers. History proves in a thousand cases what I maintain, notwithstanding that Pericles counselled the Athenians to make war with the entire Peloponnesus, demonstrating to them that by perseverance and the power of money they would be successful. And although it is true that the Athenians obtained some successes in that war, yet they succumbed in the end; and good counsels and the good soldiers of Sparta prevailed over the perseverance and money of the Athenians. But the testimony of Titus Livius upon this question is more direct than any other, where, in discussing whether Alexander the Great, had he come into Italy, would have vanquished the Romans, he points out that there are three things pre-eminently necessary to success in war, — plenty of good troops, sagacious commanders, and good fortune; and in examining afterwards whether the Romans or Alexander excelled most in these three points, he draws his conclusion without ever mentioning the subject of money. The Campanians, when requested by the Sidicians to take up arms in their behalf against the Samnites, may have measured their strength by their money, and not by their soldiers; for having resolved to grant the required assistance, they were constrained after two defeats to become tributary to the Romans to save themselves.


it is not wise to form an alliance with a prince that has more reputation than power.

Titus Livius, wishing to show the error of the Sidicians in trusting to the aid of the Campanians, and the mistake of the latter in thinking themselves able to help them, could not have expressed this idea more forcibly than in these words: “The Campanians brought a greater name in aid of the Sidicians than forces for their protection.” Whence we should conclude that the alliances made with princes who on account of their remoteness cannot conveniently come to your assistance, or who lack the power to do so from internal dissensions or from any other cause, bring more reputation than substantial help to those who rely upon them. This happened in our day to the Florentines, when they were assailed in 1479 by the Pope and the king of Naples, and when they derived from their alliance with the king of France “more reputation than protection.” The same thing would also happen to any one who should engage in any enterprise relying upon the friendship of the Emperor Maximilian; for that would be one of those alliances that would bring to him who made it “more reputation than protection,” like what we have said of the Campanians and the Sidicians.

The Campanians, then, made a mistake in imagining themselves more powerful than they were in reality; and thus a want of proper judgment sometimes causes men, who are incompetent to defend themselves, to engage in war for the defence of others. This was done also by the Tarentines, who, when the Roman army was opposing that of the Samnites, sent ambassadors to the Roman Consul to let him know that they wanted peace between the two nations, and that they were ready to make war upon the one that should refuse peace. Whereupon the Consul, laughing at their proposition, caused his bugles to sound to battle in presence of the ambassadors, and commanded his army to attack the enemy; thus showing to the Tarentines by act and not by words of what answer he deemed their proposal worthy.

Having discussed in the present chapter the wrong course which princes sometimes take for the defence of others, I will in the next speak of the means they should employ for their own defence.


whether it is better, when apprehending an attack, to await it at home, or to carry the war into the enemy’s country.

I have heard men of much practical experience in the art of war discuss the question whether, supposing there to be two princes of nearly equal power, one of whom, being the most spirited, has declared war against the other, it be better for the latter to await the attack within his own territory, or to march directly into the country of the former and attack him; and I have heard them give good reasons in favor of either proceeding. Those favoring the latter course cited the advice given by Crœsus to Cyrus, to whom, upon arriving at the confines of the Messagetes, their queen, Tamiris, sent to ask which course he preferred, whether to come into her kingdom and attack her there, in which case she would await him, or that she should come out to meet him beyond her confines. When the matter was under discussion, Crœsus, contrary to the opinion of the others, advised Cyrus to attack Tamiris within her own possessions, alleging that, if he were to defeat her away from her country, he would not be able to take her kingdom from her, as she would in that case have time to recover; but if he vanquished her within her dominions, he would be able to follow her in her flight, and thus, without giving her time to recover, he could deprive her of her state. They cited also the advice which Hannibal gave to Antiochus, when that king contemplated war against the Romans, on which occasion that general pointed out to him that the Romans could never be beaten except in Italy, for there he could turn against them their arms, their allies, and their wealth; but if he combated them away from Italy, leaving them that country undisturbed, he would leave them a never-failing source of supply of forces whenever they might need them; and he concluded that it would be easier to take the city of Rome from the Romans than their empire, and all Italy sooner than her provinces. They furthermore adduced the case of Agathocles, who, not being able to sustain the attacks of the Carthaginians at home, became the assailant himself, and reduced them to the necessity of suing for peace. They also cited Scipio, who, to relieve Italy, carried the war into Africa.

Those of the opposite opinion maintained that the greatest evil that can be inflicted upon an enemy is to draw him away from his own country; and, in support of that opinion, quoted the Athenians, who, so long as they made war at their convenience at home, were always victorious, but when they sent their army to a distance from home into Sicily, lost their liberty. They cited the poetic fable, according to which Antæus, king of Libya, being attacked by Hercules the Egyptian, proved unconquerable so long as he remained within the limits of his own kingdom, but when he was drawn away from home by the artfulness of Hercules lost his state and his life. This gave rise to the fable that the giant Antæus, in his contest with Hercules, recovered his strength whenever thrown to the ground, the earth being his mother; and therefore Hercules, upon observing this, lifted him high in the air and crushed him. Amongst modern instances they cited the well-known case of King Ferdinand of Naples, esteemed one of the wisest princes of his time. When, two years before his death, the report came to him that Charles VIII., king of France, intended to attack him, he at once set to work to prepare for the war; but falling sick and about to die, he left, amongst other instructions to his son Alfonso, the advice to await the enemy within his kingdom, and on no account to move his forces outside of his own dominions. Alfonso, however, did not heed this advice, but sent his army into the Romagna, and, without fighting, lost it and his state. Besides the instances quoted, the reasons brought forward in favor of one or the other opinion were, that he who attacks acts with more spirit than he who awaits the attack, and so inspires the troops with greater confidence; by attacking the enemy in his own country, you deprive him also of many advantages in availing of his resources; his subjects, who are plundered, can afford him no assistance, and the presence of the enemy constrains the prince to be more considerate in exacting money or too many other services from them; so that, as Alexander said, the very sources that enable him to sustain the war will be dried up. Besides, the attacking troops, being in a strange country, feel the necessity of fighting, which very necessity inspires them with greater courage.

On the other hand, it is said that by awaiting the enemy many advantages are gained, for without inconveniencing your own people you may cause great inconvenience to the enemy in the supply of provisions and all the other things that an army requires. By the better knowledge of the country you can impede the enemy’s designs; and the facility of uniting all your troops enables you to oppose him with greater numbers, whilst he has not been able to withdraw all his forces from his own country. And then in case of defeat you can more readily reorganize your army, because many of your soldiers will escape, finding ready places of refuge near at hand. Nor have you to send to a distance for reinforcements, so that you are enabled to employ all your forces without risking all your fortune, whilst in a distant war you risk all your fortune without being able to employ all your forces. Some by way of more effectually weakening the enemy permit him to enter some days’ march into their country, and allow him to take a number of places, so that his army may be weakened by his having to garrison those places, and then they may be able to combat him the more easily.

But to say now what I think on the subject, I believe that we must make this distinction. A country is either well armed, as that of the Romans was, or as that of the Swiss is nowadays; or it is not well armed, as was the case with the Carthaginians, and is at present with France and Italy. In the latter case you must keep the enemy at a distance; for as your strength consists in your money, and not in soldiers, you are lost whenever you are prevented from availing of your financial resources, and nothing interferes so much with that as war within your own territory. The Carthaginians are an instance of this: so long as they were undisturbed at home, their revenues enabled them to carry on the war against the Romans; but when they were attacked in their own country, they were not able even to resist Agathocles. The Florentines could not defend themselves against Castruccio, lord of Lucca, who had attacked them at home, so that they were obliged to give themselves to Robert of Naples to obtain his protection. But after the death of Castruccio these same Florentines had the courage to attack the Duke of Milan within his own dominions, and to deprive him of his state. As much courage as they displayed in the war at a distance, just so much weakness did they exhibit in the war at home. But when nations are armed as the Romans were and the Swiss are, then it becomes the more difficult to overcome them the nearer home they are attacked; for then these states can unite more forces to resist an invasion than to attack an enemy at a distance. Nor does the authority of Hannibal affect my opinion upon that point; for his passions and his interests dictated the counsel he had given to Antiochus. For if the Romans had experienced in Gaul three such defeats as they suffered at the hands of Hannibal in Italy, they would certainly have been ruined; for they could not have availed of the fragments of their armies as they did in Italy, and could not have reorganized them with the same ease; nor could they have resisted the enemy so well with the same forces. They never sent more than fifty thousand men to invade any province; but to defend themselves at home against the Gauls after the first Punic war, they put eighteen hundred thousand men under arms. Nor could they have vanquished the Gauls in Lombardy as they did in Tuscany, for they could not have moved so large a force against that numerous enemy at so great a distance, nor carried on the war there with the same advantages. The Cimbrians routed a Roman army in Germany, and the Romans could not repair the disaster; but when the Cimbrians came into Italy, the Romans were able to unite all their forces and destroyed the Cimbrians. The Swiss are easily beaten when away from home, where they cannot send more than thirty or forty thousand men; but it is most difficult to overcome them at home, where they are able to gather together a hundred thousand men.

I conclude then, again, that a prince who has his people well armed and disciplined for war should always await a powerful and dangerous enemy at home, and should not go to meet him at a distance. But a prince whose subjects are unarmed, and the country unaccustomed to war, should always keep it as far away from home as possible; and thus both one and the other will best defend themselves, each in his own way.


cunning and deceit will serve a man better than force to rise from a base condition to great fortune.

I believe it to be most true that it seldom happens that men rise from low condition to high rank without employing either force or fraud, unless that rank should be attained either by gift or inheritance. Nor do I believe that force alone will ever be found to suffice, whilst it will often be the case that cunning alone serves the purpose; as is clearly seen by whoever reads the life of Philip of Macedon, or that of Agathocles the Sicilian, and many others, who from the lowest or most moderate condition have achieved thrones and great empires. Xenophon shows in his Life of Cyrus the necessity of deception to success: the first expedition of Cyrus against the king of Armenia is replete with fraud, and it was deceit alone, and not force, that enabled him to seize that kingdom. And Xenophon draws no other conclusion from it than that a prince who wishes to achieve great things must learn to deceive. Cyrus also practised a variety of deceptions upon Cyaxares, king of the Medes, his maternal uncle; and Xenophon shows that without these frauds Cyrus would never have achieved the greatness which he did attain. Nor do I believe that there was ever a man who from obscure condition arrived at great power by merely employing open force; but there are many who have succeeded by fraud alone, as, for instance, Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti in taking the state and sovereignty of Lombardy from his uncle, Messer Bernabo. And that which princes are obliged to do in the beginning of their rise, republics are equally obliged to practise until they have become powerful enough so that force alone suffices them. And as Rome employed every means, by chance or choice, to promote her aggrandizement, so she also did not hesitate to employ fraud; nor could she have practised a greater fraud than by taking the course we have explained above of making other peoples her allies and associates, and under that title making them slaves, as she did with the Latins and other neighboring nations. For first she availed of their arms to subdue their mutual neighbors, and thus to increase her state and reputation; and after having subdued these, her power increased to that degree that she could subjugate each people separately in turn. The Latins never became aware that they were wholly slaves until they had witnessed two defeats of the Samnites, and saw them obliged to accept the terms of peace dictated to them. As this victory greatly increased the reputation of the Romans with the more distant princes, who felt the weight of their name before experiencing that of their arms, so it excited envy and apprehension in those who had seen and felt their arms, amongst whom were the Latins. And this jealousy and fear were so powerful that not only the Latins, but also the colonies which the Romans had established in Latium, together with the Campanians, whose defence the Romans had but a short time previously undertaken, conspired together against the Romans. The Latins began the war in the way we have shown that most wars are begun, not by attacking the Romans, but by defending the Sidicians from the Samnites, against whom the latter were making war with the permission of the Romans. And that it is true that the Latins began the war because they had at last become aware of the bad faith of the Romans is demonstrated by Titus Livius, when at an assembly of the Latin people he puts the following words into the mouth of Annius Setinus, a Latin Prætor: “For if now we can bear servitude under the specious name of equal confederates,” &c.

We see therefore that the Romans in the early beginning of their power already employed fraud, which it has ever been necessary for those to practise who from small beginnings wish to rise to the highest degree of power; and then it is the less censurable the more it is concealed, as was that practised by the Romans.


men often deceive themselves in believing that by humility they can overcome insolence.

We often see that humility not only is of no service, but is actually hurtful, especially when employed towards insolent men, who from jealousy or some other motive have conceived a hatred against you. Of this our historian gives proof on the occasion of the war between the Romans and Latins. For when the Samnites complained to the Romans that the Latins had attacked them, the Romans, unwilling to irritate the Latins, declined to forbid them to continue that war: this not only had the desired effect of not irritating them, but actually encouraged them to that degree that they almost immediately displayed open enmity towards the Romans. This appears from the words employed by the same Latin Prætor Annius, at the same assembly mentioned above, when he said: “You have put their patience to the proof in refusing them troops; who can doubt that this would have excited their resentment, and yet they have quietly borne this vexation. They have heard that we are arming against their allies the Samnites, and yet have not stirred from their city. Whence then comes their great modesty, but from their knowledge of our power and their own?” These words show in the clearest manner to what degree the patience of the Romans increased the insolence of the Latins. And therefore no prince should ever forego his rank, nor should he ever voluntarily give up anything (wishing to do so honorably) unless he is able or believes himself able to hold it. For it is almost always better (matters having come to the point that he cannot give it up in the above manner) to allow it to be taken from him by force, rather than by the apprehension of force. For if he yields it from fear, it is for the purpose of avoiding war, and he will rarely escape from that; for he to whom he has from cowardice conceded the one thing will not be satisfied, but will want to take other things from him, and his arrogance will increase as his esteem for the prince is lessened. And, on the other hand, the zeal of the prince’s friends will be chilled on seeing him appear feeble or cowardly. But if, so soon as he discerns his adversary’s intention, he prepares his forces, even though they be inferior, the enemy will begin to respect him, and the other neighboring princes will appreciate him the more; and seeing him armed for defence, those even will come to his aid who, seeing him give up himself, would never have assisted him.

This reasoning applies to the case when there is only one enemy; but when there are several, it will always be a wise plan for the prince to yield something of his possessions to some one of them, either for the purpose of gaining him over if war has already been declared, or to detach him from the enemies that are leagued against him.


feeble states are always undecided in their resolves; and slow resolves are invariably injurious.

In connection with this war between the Latins and the Romans, and its origin, we should observe that it is well in all deliberations to come at once to the essential point, and not always to remain in a state of indecision and uncertainty. This was evidenced in the council which the Latins held on the occasion when they contemplated detaching themselves from the Romans. For the Romans, being apprised of the evil disposition of the Latin people, wished to assure themselves upon that point, and to see whether they might regain their friendship without resorting to arms, and therefore requested the Latins to send eight of their citizens to Rome for a conference. When the Latins were informed of this, conscious of having done many things that were displeasing to the Romans, they convoked a council to decide as to who should go to Rome, and to instruct them as to what they should say. And whilst discussing the matter, their Prætor Annius said these words: “I hold it to be of the highest importance for our interests that we should think rather of what we shall do than what we shall say; when we have decided upon that, it will be easy to accommodate our words to our acts.” Certainly a most correct maxim, and one that should be borne in mind by all princes and republics; for it is impossible to explain one’s self properly when in doubt and indecision as to what is to be done; but once resolved and decided, it is easy to find suitable words. I have the more willingly remarked upon this point as I have often known such indecision to interfere with proper public action, to the detriment and shame of our republic. And it will always happen that in doubtful cases, where prompt resolution is required, there will be this indecision when weak men have to deliberate and resolve. Slow and dilatory deliberations are not less injurious than indecision, especially when you have to decide in favor of an ally; for tardiness helps no one, and generally injures yourself. It ordinarily arises from lack of courage or force, or from the evil disposition of those who have to deliberate, being influenced by passion to ruin the state or to serve some personal interests, and who therefore do not allow the deliberations to proceed, but thwart and impede them in every way. Good citizens therefore never impede deliberations, especially in matters that admit of no delay, even if they see the popular impulse tending to a dangerous course.

After the death of Hieronymus, tyrant of Syracuse, and whilst the war between the Carthaginians and Romans was at its height, a difference arose amongst the Syracusans whether they should declare in favor of the Romans or the Carthaginians. And party feeling ran so high that the matter remained undecided, and they came to no conclusion until finally Apollonides, one of the first men of Syracuse, in a speech full of good sense, showed them “that those were to blame who were of the opinion that they should adhere to the cause of the Romans, and not those who wanted them to support the Carthaginians; but that their indecision and tardiness in determining either one way or the other was greatly to be deprecated, because that indecision would assuredly lead to the ruin of the republic; but when they once had decided upon a course, whatever it might be, they might then hope to derive some advantage from it.” Titus Livius could not have shown the disadvantages of indecision more strikingly than by this example. He shows it also in the case of the Latins, when they had asked the Lavinians for help against the Romans. These delayed so long before determining upon it, that, when they had finally just marched out of the city to render the wished for succor, the news came that the Latins were routed; this caused their Prætor Milonius to say, “that this short march would cost them dear with the Romans; for if they had decided at once either to assist the Latins or not, they would in the latter case not have irritated the Romans; and in the former case, their help, having come in time, might by the junction of their forces have enabled the Latins to be victorious; but that, by delaying their decision, they could but lose in either case,” — as indeed it happened.

If the Florentines had acted upon this principle they would not have suffered so much trouble and injury from the French, when King Louis XII. of France came into Italy to attack Lodovico, Duke of Milan. For when that king meditated this descent, he sought the alliance of the Florentines; and their ambassadors to the king agreed with him that Florence should remain neutral, on condition that the king after arriving in Italy should take their state under his protection, and that the republic should have one month’s time to ratify this treaty. But this ratification was protracted so long by those who most imprudently favored the cause of Duke Lodovico, that before it was done the king had already been victorious; and when finally the Florentines wished to ratify the treaty, he declined it, seeing that the friendship of the Florentines was not a voluntary but a forced one. This cost the Florentines a great deal of money, and came near losing them their state, as happened to them another time afterwards from a similar cause. And this course was the more reprehensible as it was not even of service to Duke Lodovico, who, had he been victorious, would have shown even more resentment against the Florentines than King Louis did.

Although I have already in another chapter treated of the evils resulting to republics from such weakness, yet, as the opportunity presented itself anew, I wished to repeat it, because it seems to me one of the things which republics similar to ours should note especially.


wherein the military system differs from that of the ancients.

The most important battle ever fought by the Romans in any war was that with the Latins during the consulate of Torquatus and Decius. As by the loss of this battle the Latins, as a matter of course, became slaves to the Romans, so would the latter have become slaves to the Latins if these had been victorious. Titus Livius is also of the same opinion; and represents the two armies to have been in all respects equal as regards numbers, discipline, bravery, and obstinacy, the only difference having been in the commanders, those of the Roman army having displayed more skill and heroism than those of the Latins. We also observe, in the course of this battle, two unprecedented occurrences, the like of which have hardly ever been known since; for to sustain the courage of their soldiers, and render them obedient to command and more determined in action, one of the two Consuls killed himself, and the other slew his son. The equality which Titus Livius says existed between the two armies resulted from the fact that they had for a long time combated together, spoke the same language, had the same discipline and the same arms; and therefore their order of battle was the same, and the very names of the divisions of their armies and their officers were identical. Being then of equal strength and courage, it was necessary that something extraordinary should occur to give greater steadiness and obstinacy to the courage of the one than the other; for, as we have said elsewhere, victory depends upon this stubbornness, for so long as that endures in the combatants, no army will ever turn its back. And to make that spirit more enduring in the hearts of the Romans than with the Latins, partly chance and partly the heroism of the Consuls gave occasion to Torquatus to sacrifice his son, and Decius to kill himself.

In demonstrating this equality of the two contending armies, Titus Livius gives the whole organization of the Roman armies, and their order of battle; as he has explained this very fully, I shall not repeat it here, but will only remark upon such points as seem to me especially noteworthy, and the neglect of which by all the commanders of our times has given rise to great disorders in the armies during battle. I say, then, that from the evidence of Titus Livius we gather that the Roman armies were composed of three main divisions; the first was called “Hastati,” the second “Principi,” and the third “Triarii,” and each of these divisions had its cavalry. In the ordering of a battle they placed the Hastati in front, directly behind came the Principi, and the third rank was formed of the Triarii. The cavalry of all of them were placed to the right and left of each line, and these squadrons, from their form and the place they occupied, were called “Alæ,” or wings, because they seemed like two wings of the body of the army. The division of the Hastati, which was in front, was closely serried, so that they might more effectually strike the enemy, or sustain the shock of his attack. The line of the Principi (not being the first to engage in the fight, and bound to support the first line when it was struck or in danger of being overcome) was not closely serried like the first, but kept its ranks open so as to receive within them the first, without being thrown into confusion by it, whenever the pressure of the enemy obliged them to retreat. The third line, or the Triarii, had to keep its ranks even more open than the second, so that in case of need it might receive within them the lines of both the Hastati and the Principi. These three lines thus deployed began the battle, and if the line of the Hastati was forced or beaten, they retreated within the open ranks of the Principi, and the two lines thus united into one renewed the fight; and if these were also forced and repulsed, they all fell back within the open ranks of the Triarii, and all three lines, now forming but one body, again resumed the battle; and if they were overpowered (having no further reserve to fall back upon) the day was lost. And as every time that the line of the Triarii became engaged, the army was considered in danger, it gave rise to the saying, “The matter has come to the Triarii,” which was as much as to say, “We have come to our last resource.”

The commanders of our day, having entirely abandoned the ancient military organization and discipline, have also abandoned this plan of order of battle, which is none the less a most important one. For a general who disposes his army in such manner that it can rally three several times in the course of a battle, must have fortune against him three times before being defeated, and must have an enemy opposed to him sufficiently superior to overcome him three times. But if an army can resist only a single shock, as is the case nowadays with the Christian armies, it may easily lose the battle; for with the slightest disorder even the most mediocre courage may carry off the victory. And what prevents our armies from being able to rally three times is the abandonment of the old Roman method of receiving one rank within another; and this has arisen from the present system of order of battle, which has one of these two defects: either the troops are formed shoulder to shoulder in one line, so as to present a very wide front and very little depth, which makes the order of battle very weak, being so thin; or, by way of making it stronger, they reduce the width of front, and form their troops according to the Roman fashion. In the latter case, if the first rank is broken, it will be unable to fall back into the second rank, which has no open spaces to receive it, and they will fall into utter confusion, and be disorganized; for if the front rank be struck, it will recoil upon the second line, and if the second line wishes to come to the front, it is impeded by the first. Thus the first line pushing upon the second, and the second upon the third, there ensues such confusion that the slightest accident may cause the loss of the whole army.

At the battle of Ravenna, which according to our modern ideas was a well-contested battle, in which the French commander, Gaston de Foix, was killed, the French and Spanish troops formed in the manner first above described, that is to say, the two armies were placed side by side, so as to present a very wide front and but little depth. And this is the order generally adopted by modern commanders when they have a large plain for their battle-ground, as at Ravenna; for they are so convinced of the disorder produced by the falling back of the first line upon the second, that they avoid as much as possible the system of several successive lines, and form a wide front, as we have explained. But when the nature of the country restricts them in this, they are obliged to adopt the other system, without thinking of preventing its disadvantages. In similar disorder their cavalry rides through the enemy’s country for the purpose of plunder, or some other hostile purpose. At Santo Regolo and elsewhere, in the war which the Florentines carried on against the Pisans on account of their rebellion, after the coming into Italy of Charles VIII., king of France, the Florentines owed their defeat to nothing but their own cavalry, which being in front was repulsed by the enemy, and, being thrown back upon the Florentine infantry, broke through their lines; whereupon all the rest of the army turned their backs and took to flight. Messer Criaco del Borgo, general of the Florentine infantry, has repeatedly assured me himself that he would never have been routed but for his own cavalry. The Swiss, who are masters in the modern art of war, whenever they serve with the French, are above all careful to place themselves at the wings, so that, in case the cavalry of their allies is repulsed, it may not be thrown back upon them.

Although this would seem easy to understand, and even more easy to do, yet there has been thus far not one of our modern commanders who has imitated the method of the ancient Romans, and corrected the faults of the modern system. They divide their armies also into three corps, calling the first the “Vanguard,” the second the “Corps of Battle,” and the third the “Rear-guard”; but this division is of little use to them, except in providing quarters for them separately; for in active service it is rare that they do not unite them all into one body, so that all share the same fortune of battle. And generally, by way of excusing their ignorance, they allege that the force of the artillery will not allow them in the present day to follow the ancient practices; but this point we will discuss in the following chapter, where we shall examine the question whether the use of artillery really prevents the adoption of the ancient method.


of the value of artillery to modern armies, and whether the general opinion respecting it is correct.

Considering the many open field fights, or pitched battles as they are called in our day, that were fought by the Romans at various times, I have reflected upon the opinion so universally entertained, that, if artillery had existed in ancient times, the Romans would not have been allowed so easily to conquer provinces and make other peoples tributary to themselves; nor would they in any way have been able to extend their dominions so largely. It is further said, that the use of these fire-arms prevents men from displaying the same personal valor as they could in ancient times; that it is more difficult to join battle than formerly, and that the same organization and discipline of armies cannot be preserved; and that henceforth the battles will be fought mainly by artillery. I deem it, therefore, not from our purpose to examine whether these opinions are correct, and in how far the introduction of artillery has increased or diminished the strength of armies, and whether it gives or takes away from good commanders the opportunity of acting valiantly.

I shall begin by examining the first proposition, that the Romans never could have carried their conquests so far if artillery had been in use in their time. To this I reply, that wars are either defensive or aggressive, and thus we must inquire first whether artillery be most useful for attack or for defence. Whatever may be said on either side of the question, I believe that it is beyond comparison more damaging to him who has to defend himself than to him who attacks. My reason for saying this is, that he who is on the defensive is either within some fortified place, or he is in camp protected by intrenchments. If he is within a fortified place, it is either a small one, such as they generally are, or it is a large one. In the first case he is certainly lost, for the power of artillery is such that even the strongest walls will in a few days be battered down by it; and if he who is within has not a considerable space for retreat, and cannot protect himself by new ditches and earthworks, he is lost, and will not be able to resist the enemy, who will rush in through the breach in the wall, and whatever artillery he may have will in that case be of no use to him, for it is a maxim that artillery cannot resist an assault of troops in mass; and thus the fury of the Ultramontanes has never been resisted by those defending fortified places. The assaults of the Italians in battle are easily resisted when made, not in serried masses, but in small detachments, which assaults they very properly call skirmishes; and when they deliberately attempt in this disorderly manner to enter a breach where there is artillery, they go to manifest destruction, for in such case the artillery within is effective. But when a breach is assaulted by troops in dense masses, where one pushes upon the other, unless impeded by ditches and earthworks, they will succeed in entering any place; and although some will be killed, yet not so many as to prevent the victory. The truth of this has been demonstrated by many captures of strong places by the Ultramontanes in Italy, and especially that of Brescia; for when that city had revolted against the French, the citadel being still held by the king of France, the Venetians, by way of resisting the attacks of those who might enter the place, had mounted artillery in every convenient place, in front and flank, along the streets that lead from the citadel to the city. The French commander, Gaston de Foix, however, paid no attention to this, but marched down on foot with his troops, through the midst of the artillery, and took the city; and according to report his troops did not suffer seriously. Thus, whoever is besieged in a small place, having no space to enable him to retreat behind ditches and earthworks, after the walls are breached, and having to rely for his further defence solely upon his artillery, will quickly be lost. But supposing that you have to defend a large place, with ample space for convenient retreat, even then I maintain that the employment of artillery is without comparison more advantageous for the besiegers than the besieged. For to make artillery damage the besieger it must necessarily be placed higher than the level of the surrounding country, otherwise every little earthwork that the enemy may throw up will secure him against all your efforts to injure him; so that being obliged to raise your artillery upon your walls, or to elevate it in some other way above the level of the country, you expose yourself to two difficulties: the first, that you cannot thus place artillery of the same caliber and power as the besieger’s, as that requires considerable space; the second is, that even if you should be able thus to place your guns, you cannot make your batteries secure against the artillery of the assailant, who has the advantage of being able to place his on higher ground, having all the convenience of space for manœuvring his guns which the besieged lacks. So that it is impossible for him who defends the place to keep his guns in an elevated position if the besieger has plenty and powerful artillery; and if his batteries are too low, then they are to a great extent useless, as we have said above. Thus the defence of fortified cities depends upon the arms and valor of the garrison, the same as in ancient times, and upon artillery of small caliber, and the little advantage derived from that is almost entirely counterbalanced by disadvantages; for it obliges you to give but little elevation to your walls and to bury them, as it were, in the ditches; so that when you come to a hand-to-hand fight after the walls are breached or the ditches filled up, you will be at greater disadvantage than before; and therefore, as we have said above, the use of artillery is of greater advantage to the besieger than to the besieged.

In the third case, when you intrench yourself in camp, so as not to be forced to deliver battle except at your convenience or advantage, I maintain that under those circumstances you have generally no better means for defence or combat than what the ancients had; and often even your artillery operates to your disadvantage, for if the enemy turns your intrenchments so as to get into your rear, and has but slightly the advantage of you in the ground, which may easily happen, so as to place him but a little higher than you are, or should he attack you before your intrenchments are sufficiently completed to cover you effectually, he may quickly dislodge you, and thus there is nothing left you but to issue from your intrenchments and come to battle. This happened to the Spaniards at the battle of Ravenna, who, being posted between the river Ronco and an earthwork which had not been raised high enough, and the French having slightly the advantage of the ground, were forced by the latter to leave their intrenchments and come to open battle. But supposing, as must often happen, that you have chosen the highest ground in the neighborhood for your camp, and that your intrenchments are good and sufficient, so that owing to your position and your other preparations the enemy does not venture to attack you, in that case he will resort to the same means as the ancients did when the adversary had placed himself in an impregnable position; that is, he will scour the country, plunder the towns and villages of your allies, and cut off your supplies of provisions, so that you will be forced to abandon your intrenchments and come to battle, where your artillery will avail you but little, as we shall show further on. If now we recall to mind the manner in which the Romans made war, and remember that all their wars were aggressive and not defensive, we must see (from all that has been said above) that they would have had even greater advantages if they had had the use of artillery, and that their conquests would have been even more rapid than they were.

Now, as to the second proposition, that, since the introduction of artillery men cannot display the same personal bravery as anciently, I maintain that, where men have to present themselves to the fire in small and scattered numbers, they are exposed to greater danger than when in ancient times they had to escalade a place, or make similar assaults, in which they had to act, not in a compact body, but singly and one after the other. It is also true that the lives of the commanders and principal officers of the armies are more exposed now than formerly; for as they can be reached everywhere by the artillery, it is of no use for them to place themselves in the rear ranks, protected by their best men. Nevertheless, we see that these dangers rarely cause any extraordinary losses; for places that are well supplied with artillery are not taken by escalade, nor are they attempted to be taken by feeble assaults, but are regularly besieged, as was done in ancient days. And even with such places as can be taken by assault, the danger is not much greater now than then; for even in those days the ancients did not lack means of defending their places by throwing projectiles upon the enemy, which, although not so noisy as cannon, yet were equally effective in the killing of men. As to the danger of death to which commanders and leaders of bands are said to be more exposed nowadays, the twenty-four years during which the last war in Italy was protracted furnish fewer examples of generals killed than any ten years of war of the ancients. For with the exception of the Count Louis de Mirandola, who was killed at Ferrara when the Venetians besieged that city a few years ago, and the Duke of Nemours, who was killed at Cirignuola, none were killed by artillery; for Gaston de Foix was killed by the sword, and not by a bullet. So that if men nowadays give less proof of valor than formerly, it is not chargeable to the introduction of artillery, but to bad discipline and the feebleness of the armies, which being in the aggregate deficient in courage and vigor, cannot show it in their individual parts.

As to the other proposition advanced, that there are nowadays no more hand-to-hand fights, and that hereafter war will be made altogether with artillery, I maintain that this opinion is wholly erroneous, and will be so regarded by all those generals who desire to manage their armies in the manner of the ancients. For whoever wishes to form a good army must, by real or sham fights, train his troops to attack the enemy sword in hand, and to seize hold of him bodily; and he must rely more upon infantry than upon cavalry, for reasons which I will explain further on. And by thus relying upon the infantry, and upon the above-indicated mode of training them, artillery will prove entirely useless. For the infantry, in engaging the enemy hand to hand, can more easily escape the effects of the artillery than it could in ancient times the rush of the elephants and the scythe chariots, and other now obsolete means of attack which the Roman infantry had to encounter, and against which they knew how to defend themselves. And they would most probably have found also the means of escaping the effects of the artillery, as the time during which its fire is most damaging is so much less than that during which the elephants and the scythe chariots were dangerous. For whilst these carried disorder into the ranks in the very midst of the fight, the artillery interferes with you only at the beginning of the battle, and then it is easily avoided by the infantry, either by availing of the natural cover of the ground, or by lying down during the fire. And experience has shown even this to be hardly necessary, especially with regard to heavy artillery, which cannot be so accurately directed; for when aimed too high the balls pass over you, and when too low they do not reach you. And when you have engaged the enemy hand to hand, then it is perfectly evident that neither light nor heavy artillery can do you any more damage; for if the enemy has planted his guns in the front, they will fall into your hands, and if in the rear, then they will damage his own troops sooner than yours; and if he places his guns on the flank, they cannot injure you to that degree but that you can rush up and capture them, the same as in the first case. All this cannot be gainsaid, for we have seen how the Swiss at Novara, in 1513, without cavalry or artillery, went to encounter the French, who were well provided in their intrenchments with artillery, and routed them without suffering much from the effect of the guns. And the reason of this is, that, besides the other things mentioned above, the artillery, to be well served, needs to be protected by walls, ditches, or earthworks; and if it lacks this protection it is either captured or becomes useless, as generally happens in open field battles, when it is protected only by men. On the flank the artillery cannot be employed differently from what the ancients did their catapults and other engines of war, which were always placed outside of the squadrons, so that they should not break the ranks; and whenever they were hard pushed by cavalry or other troops, they promptly took shelter behind the legions. And whoever employs artillery differently does not understand the matter well, and relies upon that which may easily disappoint him. And if the Turks by means of their artillery gained the victory over the Persians and the Egyptians, it resulted from no other merit than the unusual noise, which frightened the cavalry. I will conclude this chapter, therefore, by saying that artillery is useful in an army when the soldiers are animated by the same valor as that of the ancient Romans, but without that it is perfectly inefficient, especially against courageous troops.


according to the authority of the romans and the example of ancient armies we should value infantry more than cavalry.

It can be clearly demonstrated by many arguments and facts, that in all their military operations the Romans valued foot soldiers more than cavalry, and that they based all their plans upon the former. This is proved by many instances, one of the most striking of which occurred at the battle with the Latins near the Lake Regillus; when the Roman army had already begun to give way, they made their cavalry dismount to assist the infantry, and, thus supported, they renewed the fight and carried off the victory. This shows clearly that the Romans relied more upon the same men when on foot than on horseback. They employed the same expedient in several other combats, and found it always of greatest value in moments of danger. I care not for the opinion of Hannibal upon this point, who, on seeing at the battle of Cannæ that the Roman Consul made the cavalry dismount, by way of deriding this manœuvre, said, “I would rather they should deliver them to me bound.” Although this was the opinion of a most distinguished soldier, yet, if we have to decide the question upon authority, I would rather trust to that of the Roman republic, and the many eminent commanders which she produced, than to the single opinion of Hannibal; although even without referring to authorities there are plenty of manifest reasons. For a man on foot can go into many places where he could not penetrate on horseback; infantry can be made to preserve their ranks, and can be taught to reform them when broken; whilst it is difficult to make horses keep their ranks, and impossible to reform them when once broken. Besides this we find amongst horses (the same as amongst men) some that lack spirit and some that have too much. And it often happens that a spirited horse is ridden by a coward, or a timid horse by a man of courage; however this disparity may arise, it renders both useless, and invariably causes disorder. Well-disciplined infantry can easily break a squadron of cavalry, but it is with the greatest difficulty that cavalry can break the ranks of infantry. This opinion is corroborated not only by many examples of ancient and modern times, but is also sustained by the authority of those who study and direct the affairs of civilized societies; from which it appears that at first war was made exclusively with cavalry, because disciplined infantry had not yet been organized; but no sooner was this done than it was at once found to be more useful than cavalry, which, however, is also very necessary in armies, for the purposes of reconnoissance, to secure and ravage the country, to pursue a flying enemy, and to oppose the adversary’s cavalry. But the infantry must ever be regarded and valued as the very foundation and nerve of an army.

And thus amongst the greatest faults of the Italian princes, which have made Italy slave to the foreigner, is that they have made too little account of infantry, having given all their care and attention to mounted troops. This error has been caused by the evil disposition of the commanders and the ignorance of the rulers; for during the past twenty-five years the Italian armed forces have been entirely under the control of men who held no government or state, who were in a measure mere soldiers of fortune, whose chief thought was to promote their own influence and reputation by their arms, whilst the princes themselves were wholly without any armed force of their own. And as these adventurers could not keep a large force of foot soldiers in their pay, having no subjects of whom they could avail for that purpose, and as a small number would not have had the effect of making them formidable, they employed mounted men; for the pay of two or three hundred horse kept a condottiere in credit, and this payment was not so large but what princes possessing states could conveniently meet it. And to facilitate this and maintain their own credit, they did all they could to destroy all affection for and reputation of the infantry, and to transfer it to their mounted men; and so increased this disorder, that the infantry constituted the smallest part of some of the largest armies. This practice, together with other disorders which occurred at the same time, so enfeebled our armies that Italy has remained ever since an easy victim of the Ultramontanes. This error of preferring cavalry to infantry is proved still more palpably by another Roman example. The Romans were besieging Sora, and a squadron of cavalry having issued from the city for the purpose of harassing the Roman camp, the master of the Roman horse went to meet it with his cavalry, and came to a hand-to-hand fight with them. Chance would have it that at the first shock both captains were killed; the combat continued nevertheless, though both parties were left without any one to direct them, when the Romans, the more easily to overcome the enemy, dismounted, thus forcing the others to do the same in self-defence; the Romans, however, carried off the victory.

Nothing could more conclusively prove the superiority of infantry over cavalry than this instance; for in the other cases cited, the Consuls caused the cavalry to dismount for the purpose of assisting the infantry, which was suffering and needed support, but here it was neither to help their own nor to combat the enemy’s infantry, but it was a combat of cavalry against cavalry, and despairing of success the Romans judged that by dismounting victory would be more easy, and the result proved their judgment correct. I maintain further that a well-disciplined body of infantry can only be overcome with greatest difficulty, and then only by another body of infantry. Crassus and Mark Antony invaded Parthia, and advanced many days’ journey into the interior with a Roman army composed of a large body of infantry and but few horse. They had to encounter the innumerable cavalry of the Parthians, and Crassus with a portion of the army was slain; but Mark Antony saved himself and the remainder of the army in the most gallant manner. But even in this mishap of the Romans we see how greatly superior infantry is to cavalry; for although being in a wide and open country, where there are but few mountains and still fewer rivers, remote from the sea and far from all conveniences, yet Mark Antony saved himself most skilfully, according to the judgment of the Parthians themselves; and the entire Parthian cavalry never ventured to attack his ranks. And the loss of Crassus is shown by a careful examination of the history of this expedition to have been more the result of deception than because he was overpowered, for even in his greatest straits the Parthians never dared to attack him in front, but hovered upon his flank, and by interrupting his supplies and deluding him by false promises of provisions they reduced him to the last extremity.

I believe I should have greater difficulty in proving the superiority of infantry over cavalry, were it not that there are plenty of modern examples which bear amplest testimony upon this point. We have seen nine thousand Swiss at Novara attack and defeat ten thousand horse and as many infantry, for the cavalry could do them no harm, and, the infantry being for the most part Gascons and ill-disciplined, the Swiss made no account of them. We have subsequently seen twenty-six thousand Swiss at Marignan attack Francis I., king of France, whose army consisted of twenty thousand horse and forty thousand infantry, and one hundred pieces of artillery; and if they were not victorious, as at Novara, they nevertheless fought most bravely during two entire days, and though defeated in the end, yet they saved the half of their army. Marcus Attilius Regulus risked with his infantry not only the attack of the Numidian cavalry, but also the charge of the elephants; and although unsuccessful in carrying out his designs, yet it was not because his infantry was not such but what he believed it capable of overcoming those difficulties. I repeat, therefore, that to be able to overcome a well-ordered infantry, it is necessary to oppose to them one even better organized and disciplined, otherwise defeat is certain.

In the time of Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan, some sixteen thousand Swiss descended into Lombardy. The Duke, having at that time Carmignuola in his service as captain, sent him with about five thousand horse and a small body of infantry to meet the Swiss. This commander, not knowing the Swiss method of fighting, went to meet them with his mounted men, presuming that he would be able to rout them at the first shock; but he found them immovable, and, having lost a large number of his men, he retreated. Being however a most able and courageous soldier, and full of resources in every emergency, he reformed his men and renewed the attack, after having first made all his men-at-arms dismount, whom he placed in front of his infantry, and thus assailed the Swiss, who were unable to defend themselves against them. The men-at-arms of Carmignuola being now on foot and well armed, and protected by armor, easily penetrated the ranks of the Swiss, without themselves suffering much harm; and having once broken the ranks of the adversary they did them great damage, so that of all the Swiss none escaped except such as were spared by the humanity of Carmignuola.

I believe that many recognize the superiority of infantry over cavalry, but the times are unhappily such that neither the example of the ancients or the moderns, nor the admission of their having been in error, will suffice to induce the princes of the present day to alter their minds, or to make them think that to give reputation to the army of any state it is necessary to revive the discipline of the ancients, cherish and honor it, and give it life, so that in return it may give life and reputation to the state. And as they deviate from this, so they deviate from the other matters referred to above; and thus it is that their conquests become a burden to the state, instead of contributing to its greatness, as we shall show further on.


conquests made by republics that are not well constituted, and do not follow in their conduct the example of the romans, are more conducive to their ruin than to their advancement.

The false opinions, founded upon bad examples, that have been introduced amongst us in this corrupt century, prevent men from liberating themselves from the force of their accustomed habits. Would it have been possible thirty years ago to have persuaded an Italian that ten thousand infantry could have attacked, in an open plain, ten thousand cavalry and as many infantry? and not only to have fought, but actually to have defeated them, as we have seen that the Swiss did at the battle of Novara, already referred to? And although history is full of such examples, yet they would not have believed it; and if they had, they would have said that nowadays the troops are better armed, and that a squadron of mounted men would be able to charge a solid wall of rock, and therefore could not be resisted by mere infantry. And with such erroneous arguments their judgments are corrupted, forgetting that Lucullus, with a comparatively small body of infantry, routed one hundred and fifty thousand cavalry of King Tigranes, amongst which there was a corps perfectly similar to the men-at-arms of the present day. The fallacy of these opinions had to be demonstrated by the example of the troops of the Ultramontanes. And as we have to admit the truth of what history tells us in regard to the infantry of the ancients, so we ought also to believe in the truth and utility of their other institutions; thus republics and princes would have committed fewer errors, and would have been stronger in resisting the assaults of any enemy that might unawares have come upon them. They would not have put their hope in flight, and those who had the direction of the government of states would have been better able to point out the means of aggrandizement, or the means of preservation. They would have believed that to increase the number of their citizens, to gain allies instead of subjects, to establish colonies to guard the conquered territories, to turn all booty over to the public treasury, to subdue the enemy by incursions and battles and by sieges, to keep the state rich and the individual citizen poor, and above all to maintain a well-disciplined army, — that all these are the true means of aggrandizing a republic and founding a great empire. And if these means had not suited them, they would at least have been convinced that acquisitions by any other means would lead to the ruin of a state; they would have put a curb upon all ambition by regulating the internal affairs of their city by good laws and customs, prohibiting all conquests and confining themselves merely to providing for their security and defence; as is done by the republics of Germany, who live in that manner, and have thus enjoyed their liberty for a long time.

Nevertheless (as I have said when discussing the difference between a state organized for conquest and one that aims only at its own preservation) it is impossible for a republic to remain long in the quiet enjoyment of her freedom within her limited confines; for even if she does not molest others, others will molest her, and from being thus molested will spring the desire and necessity of conquests, and even if she has no foreign foes, she will find domestic enemies amongst her own citizens, for such seems to be the inevitable fate of all large cities. The fact that the free cities of Germany have been able to exist in this fashion for a length of time, is owing to certain conditions prevailing in that country, such as are not found elsewhere, and without which they could not have maintained their institutions and existence. That part of Germany of which I speak was formerly subject to the Roman Empire, the same as France and Spain; but during the decadence of that empire, when its dominion was reduced to Germany, the more powerful cities of that country began to free themselves by purchase, according to the weakness or necessity of the Emperors, by the payment of a small annual quit-rent. And gradually all the cities that held directly from the Emperor, and were not subject to any prince, purchased their liberty in like manner. It happened at about the same time when these cities bought their freedom, that certain communities subject to the Duke of Austria revolted against him; amongst these were Fribourg, the Swiss, and others, who, prospering from the start, gradually became formidable to their neighbors; and this was particularly the case with the Swiss communities. And thus Germany is now divided between the Emperor, certain princes, the republics called free or imperial cities, and the Swiss communities; and the reason why amongst these states with such a diversity of forms of government we see no wars, or only wars of short duration, is that this shadow of an Emperor, although having no direct power, yet has so much influence over them that, by interposing his authority as a conciliator and mediator, he quickly puts an end to any differences that occur between them. The most important wars, and those that have lasted longest, were those between the Swiss and the Duke of Austria; and although for a long while past the Emperor and the Duke of Austria have been one and the same person, yet he has never been able to overcome the courage of the Swiss, and force alone has been able to bring about treaties of peace between them. Nor has the rest of Germany afforded him much help against the Swiss, partly because the free cities do not wish to interfere with those who desire to live in freedom like themselves, and partly because the princes are unable to assist him from poverty, or unwilling, from jealousy of his power. The free cities of Germany, then, can live in the tranquil enjoyment of their small domain, having no occasion for wishing to increase it, because of the protection of the Imperial authority; and they live united within their walls because they have an enemy near who would quickly avail himself of any internal dissension to seize and occupy their cities. But if Germany were differently constituted, they would have to seek to aggrandize themselves, and would have to abandon their quiet life.

As the same conditions do not exist in other countries they cannot adopt the same system as these free imperial cities, but must seek to increase their power by leagues and alliances, or to extend it like the Romans. And whoever attempts any other mode will quickly come to ruin, for in a thousand ways, and for many reasons, acquisitions of territory may prove injurious; for one may well extend one’s dominion without increasing one’s power, but the acquisition of dominion without power is sure to bring with it ruin. Whoever impoverishes himself by war acquires no power, even though he be victorious, for his conquests cost him more than they are worth. This the Venetians did, and the Florentines, who were much weaker when they held, the one Lombardy, and the other Tuscany, than they were when the one was satisfied with the dominion of the sea, and the other with her six miles of territory. All of which resulted from their desire of aggrandizement, without the knowledge of the proper means. And they deserve the more blame, as they had less excuse, having before their eyes the method practised by the Romans, which they might have followed, whilst the Romans, having no precedents to guide them, had to develop the system exclusively by their own sagacity. Moreover acquisitions sometimes prove most injurious even to a well-regulated republic, when they consist either in a city or province that has been enervated by pleasures and luxury; for these indulgences and habits become contagious by intercourse with the inhabitants. This happened to the Romans when they took Capua, and afterwards also to Hannibal; and if this city had been at a greater distance from Rome, and if the excesses of the soldiers had not been so promptly corrected, or if Rome herself had at that time been in the least degree corrupted, the acquisition of Capua would undoubtedly have proved the ruin of the Roman republic. Titus Livius bears witness to this in the following words: “Capua, the seat of all sensual pleasures and least conducive to military discipline, had already turned the captivated spirits of the soldiers from the remembrance of their own country.” And truly cities or provinces of similar character revenge themselves upon their conquerors without battles and without blood; for by communicating to them their own corrupt habits and manners, they expose them to being vanquished by whoever chooses to attack them. Juvenal well understood this when he says in one of his satires that the conquest of foreign countries had caused the Romans to adopt foreign manners and customs, and that, in exchange for their accustomed frugality and other most admirable virtues, “Gluttony and luxury dwell there, and will avenge the conquered universe.” If then conquests proved so very nearly pernicious to Rome, in the days when she displayed so much wisdom and virtue in her conduct, what would the consequence be to those who deviate so far from that example? And what would it be, if to the other errors (which we have discussed so fully above) they add the employment of mercenaries or auxiliary troops? The dangers so frequently resulting from that we will point out in the next chapter.


of the dangers to which princes and republics are exposed that employ auxiliary or mercenary troops.

Were it not that I have in another work of mine treated at length of the uselessness of mercenaries and auxiliaries, and of the advantage of having national troops, I should discuss that subject more fully here; as it is, however, I shall refer to it but briefly, for I do not think that I ought to pass it over entirely, having found a most striking example of it related by Titus Livius. I understand by auxiliary troops such as a prince or republic sends to your aid, but which are paid, and the commander of which is appointed by the prince or republic. Titus Livius relates the following. The Romans had on different occasions defeated the Samnites with the troops which had been sent from Rome to aid the Capuans; and having relieved these of the war of the Samnites, they returned to Rome, leaving, however, two legions in the country for the protection of the Capuans, who had been deprived of their garrison, so as to save their city from falling again a prey to the Samnites. These legions, plunged in idleness, became so fond of Capua that, forgetful of their own country and of the respect due to the Senate, they conspired to make themselves masters of that country, which they had defended with their valor, deeming the inhabitants, who were incapable of protecting themselves, unworthy of its possession. When this plot became known to the Romans, they suppressed and punished it, as we shall more fully relate when we come to speak of conspiracies.

I repeat, then, that of all kinds of troops, auxiliaries are the most dangerous; for the prince or republic that calls them to their assistance has no control or authority whatever over them, as that remains entirely with him who sends them; for, as I have said, auxiliary troops that are sent you by any prince are under officers appointed by him, under his banner, and are paid by him, as was the case with the army sent by the Romans to Capua. Such troops, when victorious, generally plunder as well him to whose assistance they were sent as the enemy against whom they have been employed; and this they do either from the perfidy of the prince who sends them, or from their own ambition. And although it was not the intention of the Romans to break the treaty and convention they had made with the Capuans, yet the opportunity and facility of taking the country from the Capuans seemed so great to the soldiers that it suggested the thought and prompted the attempt. We might cite many more examples, but this one suffices, together with that of the people of Rhegium, who lost their city and their lives by a legion which the Romans had sent there to garrison the place. A prince or republic, then, should adopt any other course rather than bring auxiliaries into their state for its defence, especially when their reliance is wholly upon them; for any treaty or convention with the enemy, however hard the conditions, will be less hard to bear than the danger from auxiliaries. And if we read carefully the history of the past, and observe the course of present events, we shall find that for one who derived benefit from auxiliaries there are an endless number who have been disappointed. And in truth no more favorable opportunity could be presented to an ambitious prince or republic for seizing a city or a province, than to be asked to send troops there to assist in its defence. And therefore any one whose ambition so far misleads him as to call in strangers to aid in his defence, or in an attack upon others, seeks to acquire that which he will not be able to hold, and which after acquiring will be easily taken from him. But the ambition of men is such that, to gratify a present desire, they think not of the evils which will in a short time result from it. Nor will they be influenced by the examples of antiquity, which I have cited upon this and other points; for if they were, they would see that the more liberality they show to their neighbors, and the less desire they manifest to rob them of their territory, the more readily will those neighbors throw themselves into their arms, as we shall see further on from the conduct of the Capuans.


the first prætor sent by the romans anywhere was to capua, four hundred years after they began to make war upon that city.

We have shown very fully in preceding chapters how differently the Romans proceeded towards the peoples they conquered from what is done in the present day by those who extend their jurisdiction; and how they left the people of those places which they did not destroy in the enjoyment of their own laws and institutions, even when they made subjects of them, and not mere allies; and how they avoided leaving any evidence of the Roman authority there, but simply imposed upon the people certain conditions, and so long as these were faithfully complied with, so long did they maintain those people in their dignity and state. And we know that this system was practised by them until they carried their conquests beyond the confines of Italy, and began to reduce the conquered kingdoms and states to the condition of provinces. The most striking illustration of this was that the first Prætor whom they sent to any place was to Capua; and this was done not from any ambitious views of their own, but because they had been requested to do it by the Capuans themselves. For dissensions having arisen between them, they deemed it necessary to have some Roman citizen reside in their city who should restore order and union amongst them. Influenced by this example and impelled by a similar necessity, the people of Antium asked the Romans to send them also a Prætor. So that Titus Livius says, in relation to this incident, “that the Romans conquered as much by their justice as by their arms.” We see, therefore, how much this mode of proceeding facilitated the aggrandizement of the Roman Empire; for those cities mainly that are accustomed to enjoy liberty, and to be governed by their own citizens, remain more quiet and content under a government which they do not see (even should it involve some inconvenience) than under one which they have daily before their eyes, and which would seem constantly to remind them of their servitude. Another advantage resulting to a prince from being thus at a distance is his not having under his immediate control the judges and magistrates that decide civil and criminal causes, as no sentence pronounced by them will bring censure or odium upon him, and thus he escapes many occasions for calumny and hatred.

I might cite many examples of ancient times in support of the truth of what I say, but will only adduce one recent one in Italy. It is well known that Genoa has several times been taken by the French, and the king has always (with the exception of the present time) sent French governors there to administer it in his name. Only at the present time he has allowed the city to govern itself by a Genoese governor, not because the king preferred it, but from the force of circumstances. And most assuredly, if we examine which of these two modes gives most security to the king and satisfaction to the Genoese, we shall find it to be the latter. Besides this the people will the more readily throw themselves into your arms, the less disposition you manifest to subjugate them; and they will be the less apprehensive of any attempt on your part upon their liberties, the more humane and affable you show yourself towards them. It was this affability and liberality that caused the Capuans to apply to the Romans for a Prætor. If, on the other hand, the Romans had manifested the slightest desire to send one there, it would at once have excited jealousy in the minds of the Capuans, and would have alienated them from the Romans.

But why need we go to Capua and to Rome for examples, when we have plenty in Florence and in Tuscany? Every one knows how the city of Pistoja long since placed herself voluntarily under the dominion of the Florentines; and it is equally well known what bitter enmity exists between the Florentines, the Pisans, the Lucchese, and the Siennese. This diversity of affection has not arisen because the Pistojans do not value their liberty as highly as the others do theirs, or do not esteem themselves as much as the others do; but because the Florentines have always borne themselves like brothers towards the Pistojans, and like enemies towards the others. It was this that induced the Pistojans to place themselves voluntarily under the government of Florence, whilst the others always have made, and continue to make, the most strenuous efforts to avoid becoming subject to the Florentines. And doubtless, if the Florentines had attached their neighbors to themselves by treaties of amity, or by rendering them assistance, instead of frightening them off, they would now be the undisputed masters of Tuscany. I do not mean to say by this, however, that arms and force are never to be employed, but that they should be reserved as the last resort when other means fail.


how often the judgments of men in important matters are erroneous.

Those who have been present at any deliberative assemblies of men will have observed how erroneous their opinions often are; and in fact, unless they are directed by superior men, they are apt to be contrary to all reason. But as superior men in corrupt republics (especially in periods of peace and quiet) are generally hated, either from jealousy or the ambition of others, it follows that the preference is given to what common error approves, or to what is suggested by men who are more desirous of pleasing the masses than of promoting the general good. When, however, adversity comes, then the error is discovered, and then the people fly for safety to those whom in prosperity they had neglected, as we shall show at length in its proper place. Certain events also easily mislead men who have not a great deal of experience, for they have in them so much that resembles truth that men easily persuade themselves that they are correct in the judgment they have formed upon the subject. Such was the error committed by the Latins when they followed the advice of the Prætor Numicius, after they had been defeated by the Romans; and such also was the error, so generally believed in a few years ago, when Francis I., king of France, attempted the conquest of Milan, which was defended by the Swiss.

When, after the death of Louis XII., Francis, Duke of Angoulême, succeeded to the throne of France, he desired to recover for his kingdom the Duchy of Milan, which a few years previously had been taken by the Swiss, with the aid of Pope Julius II. For this purpose he wanted to have allies in Italy to facilitate his enterprise; and besides the Venetians, whom King Louis had already gained over, he tried to secure the support of the Florentines and of Pope Leo X., deeming their alliance most important to his success, inasmuch as the king of Spain had troops in Lombardy, and the forces of the Emperor of Germany held Verona. The Pope, however, did not yield to the solicitations of the French king, but was persuaded by his counsellors (according to report) to remain neutral. These had demonstrated to him that the surest means of victory for the Church would be to have neither the king of France nor the Swiss too powerful in Italy, and that, if he wished to restore the Church to her former liberty, it was necessary to free her from the yoke of both the one and the other of these powers. And as it would be impossible to overcome either of them separately, and still less both of them together, it would be best to allow either of them to defeat the other, and that then the Church, with the aid of her friends, could with safety assail the one that had remained victorious. And certainly a more favorable opportunity than the present could not offer for the execution of this plan, as both parties were in the field face to face, and the Pope had his forces well organized, and might show himself on the confines of Lombardy, near to both armies, under color of wishing merely to protect his own possessions, where he could remain quietly until a battle should take place, which it was reasonable to suppose would be a bloody one, both armies being equally strong and brave; and that this would leave the victor so weakened that it would be easy for the Pope to attack and defeat him; and that thus he would, with great glory to himself, remain master of Lombardy and arbiter of all Italy. The result, however, proved how completely erroneous this judgment was. The Swiss were defeated after a most bloody fight; but the Spanish and Papal troops, so far from presuming to attack the victorious French, took to flight. Nor would that have availed for their safety, had it not been for the humanity or indifference of the French king, who cared not for a second victory, but was satisfied to conclude a treaty of peace with the Church.

The advice under which the Pope had acted in this matter was founded upon reasons which, taken separately, were sound enough, but viewed as a whole were entirely false. For it rarely happens that the victor in a battle loses many of his men; he loses only those that are killed in the fight, and none by flight; and in the heat of the action, when men are contending hand to hand, few are actually killed, because such a combat lasts but a short time. But even if it were continued longer, and many of the victorious army were slain, the prestige which follows victory and the terror which it brings with it are such that it greatly outweighs the loss which the conqueror suffers by the death of his men. So that an army that attacks him in the belief that he has been weakened, would find itself greatly mistaken, unless it should be sufficiently powerful to be able to have contended with him at any time even before the victory. In such case it may, according to its valor and fortune, either win or lose; but even then, the army that has already fought a battle and been victorious will have rather the advantage over the other. This was conclusively proved by the experience of the Latins, both because of the error committed by the Prætor Numicius and by the ills which those people suffered who believed him when, after the defeat of the Latins by the Romans, he went through all Latium crying that now was the time for attacking the Romans, because they had been so weakened by the battle which they had fought with the Latins, and because the victory which they had gained was really only such in name, inasmuch as their losses had been quite as great as though they had been defeated, and that the smallest force that were now to oppose them would completely destroy them. In consequence of which the people who accepted the advice of Numicius raised a new army, but were quickly beaten by the Romans, and suffered all the evils that will ever befall those who hold similar erroneous opinions.


how much the romans avoided half-way measures when they had to decide upon the fate of their subjects.

Such was the state of things in Latium that they could neither bear peace nor war.” Of all the unhappy conditions to which princes or republics can be reduced, the most unhappy is that when they are unwilling to accept peace and incapable of sustaining war; and to this condition those are reduced who consider themselves oppressed by the terms of peace, and who, if they wished to make war, would have to yield themselves a prey to their allies, or victims to their enemies. And all this results from following evil counsels, and from taking a wrong course because of not having estimated their forces correctly, as has been shown above. Princes or republics who form a proper estimate of their forces will hardly ever be reduced to a condition similar to that of the Latins, who made terms with the Romans when they ought not to have done it, and declared war when they should not have done it; and so managed that both the friendship and the enmity of Rome proved equally injurious to them. The Latins were defeated and reduced to the greatest extremities, first by Manlius Torquatus, and afterwards by Camillus, who after having compelled them to surrender at discretion, and having placed Roman garrisons in all their towns and taken hostages from each, returned to Rome and reported to the Senate that all Latium was in the hands of the Roman people. And as the action of the Roman Senate on this occasion was very remarkable and worthy of being noted, so that it may serve as an example to any prince to whom a similar occasion may be presented, I shall quote the very words which Livius puts into the mouth of Camillus, which show both the manner in which the Romans proceeded in their aggrandizement, and how in all decisions of state they avoided half-way measures and always went to extremes. For government consists mainly in so keeping your subjects that they shall be neither able nor disposed to injure you; and this is done by depriving them of all means of injuring you, or by bestowing such benefits upon them that it would not be reasonable for them to desire any change of fortune. This will be best understood, first from the proposition of Camillus, and then from the decision of the Senate upon the subject. “The immortal gods thus leave you masters of the course you have to take, and have placed it in your hands to decide whether Latium shall exist or not. You can secure a perpetual peace with Latium by employing, according to your choice, either severity or clemency. Will you proceed with cruel severity against the vanquished who have surrendered to you at discretion? If so, you are at liberty to destroy all Latium; or will you rather, in accordance with the example of your ancestors, increase the power of the Roman republic by granting to the vanquished the rights of citizenship? If so, you have now the opportunity for most glorious increase. Certainly that empire is the most firm and assured where obedience is cheerfully rendered; whilst, therefore, the minds of these people are in a state of stupor and suspense between hope and fear, it behooves you to assure yourselves either by severity or by bestowing benefits upon them.” This proposition of Camillus was followed by the resolve of the Senate in conformity with the address of the Consul; so that they sought town after town of any importance in Latium, and either heaped benefits upon them or destroyed them; granting to some exemptions and privileges, giving them the rights of citizenship, and making in every way sure of them. The others were destroyed; colonies were sent there, and the inhabitants were transferred to Rome, or so entirely dispersed that they could neither by arms nor in any other way do any injury to Rome.

And it was thus that the Romans never took any undecided middle course in important affairs, as I have stated above. All princes and republics should imitate this example, and this is the course which the Florentines ought to have adopted when in 1502 Arezzo and the entire Val di Chiana revolted. Had they done so, they would have fairly established their dominion over them, and have greatly increased the city of Florence, and given her those fields which she lacked for her subsistence. But they took that middle course which is pernicious in the extreme, when the question to be decided affects the fate of men. They exiled a portion of the Aretines, and a portion of them they condemned to death; and all of them were deprived of their ancient rank and honors, which they had enjoyed in their city, and yet the city itself was left entire. And when some one in the public councils advised the destruction of Arezzo, those who were deemed the most prudent replied, that it would be but little honor for the republic to destroy that city, inasmuch as it would have the appearance of their having done it because Florence lacked the power to hold it. This was one of those specious reasons that seem true, but are not; on the same principle we should not be able to kill a parricide, or any other criminal or infamous person, lest it should be deemed dishonorable to the prince to show that he lacked force to restrain a single person. And those who reason thus do not see that often individual men, and sometimes a whole city, will act so culpably against the state that as an example to others and for his own security the prince has no other remedy but to destroy it entirely. Honor consists in being able, and knowing when and how, to chastise evil-doers; and a prince who fails to punish them, so that they shall not be able to do any more harm, will be regarded as either ignorant or cowardly. The propriety of the decisions of the Romans, when required to make any, is proved also by the judgment given against the Privernati. And here we must remark two things from the text of Livius; the one where he says, above, that rebellious subjects must either be conciliated by benefits or destroyed; and the other, where he points out the advantage of frankness and courage, especially when exhibited in the presence of judicious men. The Roman Senate was assembled to judge the inhabitants of Privernum, who had revolted, but had by force been brought back to obedience to the Romans. The Privernati had sent a number of their citizens to implore the clemency of the Roman Senate, and having been brought into the presence of that body, one of them was asked by a Senator, “What punishment he thought that his people had deserved?” To which the Privernate answered, “That punishment which men merit who believe themselves worthy of liberty.” Whereupon the Consul replied, “If we remit your punishment, what sort of a peace may we hope to conclude with you?” To which the other responded, “An eternal and sincere peace, if you grant us good conditions; but if otherwise it will be but of short duration.” And although this reply displeased some, yet the wiser part of the Senate said, “that this was the answer of a free and brave man, and that they could not believe that either a people or an individual would otherwise than from necessity remain in a condition that was painful to them; and that there could be no reliance upon any peace unless it was voluntary, and that it was hopeless to look for good faith from those who were treated as slaves.” After these words the Senate resolved that the Privernati should be admitted to the citizenship of Rome, and in conferring the honor of these privileges upon them, said, “that men who hold their liberty above everything else were worthy of being Roman citizens.” So much did the frank and high-minded reply of the Privernati please the magnanimous Romans; in fact, any other would have been false and cowardly. And those who believe men to be otherwise, especially such as are or consider themselves free, deceive themselves; and under this illusion they are apt to take a course that is neither good in itself nor satisfactory to those who are affected by it. And this occasions the frequent rebellions and the ruin of states.

But to come back to my proposition, I conclude from the two examples given that, when a decision has to be made involving the fate of powerful cities that are accustomed to free institutions, they must either be destroyed, or conciliated by benefits. Any other course will be useless; and, above all, half measures should be avoided, these being most dangerous, as was proved by the Samnites, who, when they had hemmed the Romans in between the Caudine forks, disregarded the advice of an old man, who counselled them either to let the Romans depart honorably, or to kill them all. And by taking the middle course of disarming them and obliging them to pass under a yoke, they let them depart with shame and rage in their hearts. So that the Samnites soon after found, to their cost, how salutary the old man’s advice had been, and how injurious the course which they had adopted, as we shall more fully show in another place.


fortresses are generally more injurious than useful.

It may perhaps seem to the learned men of our time that the Romans acted without proper consideration when, in their desire to make sure of the people of Latium and of the city of Privernum, they did not build some fortresses there to serve as a check, and as a guaranty of their fidelity; especially as it is a general saying of our wiseacres in Florence that Pisa and other similar cities should be held by citadels. Doubtless, if the Romans had been of the same composition, they would have constructed fortresses; but as they were men of very different courage, judgment, and power, they did not build them. And so long as Rome was free, and adhered to her old customs and admirable constitution, they never built fortresses to hold either cities or countries which they had conquered, although they preserved some of the strong places which they found already existing. Seeing, then, the mode of proceeding of the Romans in this respect, and that of the princes of our present time, it seems to me proper to examine whether it is well to build fortresses, and whether they are of benefit or injury to him who builds them. We must consider, then, the object of fortresses, with reference to their serving as a means of defence against a foreign enemy as well as against one’s own subjects.

In the first case, I maintain they are unnecessary, and in the second decidedly injurious. I will begin by explaining why they are injurious in the second case, and therefore say that whenever either princes or republics are afraid lest their subjects should revolt, it results mainly from the hatred of the subjects on account of the bad treatment experienced from those who govern them; and this comes either from the belief that they can best be controlled by force, or from lack of sound judgment in governing them. And one of the things that induce the belief that they can be controlled by force is the possession of fortresses with which to menace them; and thus the ill treatment that engenders hatred in the subjects arises in great measure from the fact that the prince or republic hold the fortresses, which (if this be true) are therefore by far more injurious than useful. For in the first instance (as has been said) they cause you to be more violent and audacious towards your subjects; and next, they do not afford the security which you imagine; for all the measures of force and violence that you employ to hold a people amount to nothing, except these two: either you must keep a good army always ready to take the field, as the Romans did; or you must scatter, disorganize, and destroy the people so completely that they can in no way injure you; for, were you merely to improverish them, “the spoliated still have their arms”; if you disarm them, “their fury will serve them instead of arms”; if you kill the chiefs and continue to oppress the others, new chiefs will spring up like the heads of the Hydra. If you build fortresses they may serve in time of peace to encourage you to oppress your subjects; but in time of war they are most useless, because they will be assailed by the enemy as well as by your subjects, and cannot possibly resist both. And if ever they were useless, it is now in our day, on account of the power of artillery, in consequence of which small places, where you cannot retreat behind second intrenchments, cannot possibly be defended, as has been explained above.

I will discuss this subject in a more familiar manner. Prince or republic, you would either keep the people of your own city in check by means of fortresses, or you wish to hold a city that has been taken in war. I shall turn to the prince, and say to him that “nothing can be more useless than such a fortress for keeping your own citizens in check, for the reasons given above; for it will make you more prompt and regardless in oppressing them, which will expose you to ruin by exciting your subjects against you to that degree that you will not be able to defend the very citadel that has provoked it.” A good and wise prince, desirous of maintaining that character, and to avoid giving the opportunity to his sons to become oppressive, will never build fortresses, so that they may place their reliance upon the good will of their subjects, and not upon the strength of citadels. And although Count Francesco Sforza, who had become Duke of Milan, and was reputed a sagacious man, caused a citadel to be built at Milan, yet I maintain that in that respect he did not prove himself wise, for the result demonstrated that that citadel, so far from giving security to his heirs, proved their ruin; for in the belief that, being perfectly secure by the protection which this citadel afforded, they might with impunity outrage and oppress their citizens, they indulged in all sorts of violence, which made them so odious that they lost their state at the first attack of an enemy; and the citadel, which during peace had done them so much harm, was of no service in defending them in war. For if they had not had it, and had not unwisely treated their citizens so harshly, they would sooner have discovered their danger, and would have retreated; and would then have been able to resist the impetuous assault of the French more bravely without the citadel, but supported by the good will of their people, than with the citadel and the hostility of their people.

In truth, fortresses are of no advantage to you in any way, for they are lost either by the treachery of those who are put to guard them, or by the violence of the assailants, or by famine. And if you want to have any benefit from fortresses, and have them serve you in recovering the state that you may have lost, when the only thing that remains to you is the citadel, you must have an army with which you can attack the enemy that has dispossessed you of your state; and if you have such an army you would recover your state anyhow, even if there were no such citadel, — in fact, even more easily, for the people would be more friendly to you, because they would not have received bad treatment at your hands when you were relying upon your fortress. And experience has shown that the citadel of Milan was of no use, either to the Sforzas or to the French, in times of adversity for either the one or the other; but that it rather wrought harm and ruin to both, because in consequence of their reliance upon it they gave no thought to holding that state by means of more just and proper government. Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino, son of Frederick, who in his day was esteemed one of the most distinguished captains, was driven from his state by Cesar Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI. When afterwards in the course of events he regained his possessions, he caused all the fortresses in the state to be destroyed, because he believed them to be injurious. For, being beloved by his subjects, he did not need them on their account, and with regard to his enemies, he had seen that he could not hold them without an army in the field, and therefore he resolved to destroy them. Pope Julius II., after having driven the Bentivogli out of Bologna, built a citadel there, and then caused one of his governors to have some of the people assassinated. This caused a revolt, and the Pope quickly lost the citadel; so that it proved to have been of no use to him, but rather an injury, the more so as it might have been of some service had he borne himself differently towards the people. Niccolo da Castello, father of the Vitelli, having returned to his country whence he had been exiled, promptly razed two fortresses that had been built by Sixtus IV., deeming that it was only the good will of the people, and not the fortresses, that could maintain him in that state. But the most recent and most notable instance, and the one most fit to prove the futility of building and the advantage of destroying fortresses, is that which occurred at Genoa in our immediate time. It is well known that in 1507 Genoa revolted against Louis XII., king of France, who came with all his forces to recover that city, and, having succeeded in this, he caused the construction of the most formidable citadel that had ever been built; for owing to its situation and other circumstances, it seemed actually impregnable, being placed upon the point of a high hill that extended into the sea, called by the Genoese Codefa, and thus commanding the entire port of Genoa, and a considerable portion of the surrounding country. It happened afterwards, in the year 1512, that the French, being driven out of Italy, Genoa revolted in spite of the citadel (which remained in the hands of the French). The government was seized by Ottaviano Fregoso, who, after sixteen months of great effort, took the city by famine. Every one believed, and many advised, that he would preserve the citadel as a refuge in any event; but being a very sagacious man, and knowing that it was the good will of the people, and not fortresses, that maintain princes in their states, he had the citadel destroyed. And thus, instead of founding his state upon the strength of the fortress, but upon his valor and prudence, he has held it ever since to this day. And where formerly a thousand foot soldiers sufficed to overturn the government of Genoa, more than ten thousand could not now injure him; which shows that the destruction of the citadel did no more injure Ottaviano than the building of it protected the king of France; for when the latter was able to come into Italy at the head of an army, he recovered Genoa without the aid of a citadel; but without such an army he could not hold Genoa, although he had the support of a citadel, the building of which caused him great expense and its loss much disgrace, whilst to Ottaviano the taking of it brought much glory and its destruction great advantage.

But let us come now to republics that build fortresses, not within their own territory, but in that which they conquer. And if the example of France and Genoa does not suffice to expose the fallacy of this, the case of Florence and Pisa certainly will; for the Florentines built a citadel to hold that city, ignorant of the principle that to hold a city that had always hated everything that bore the name of Florentine, that had enjoyed free institutions, and that had resorted to rebellion as a refuge for liberty, it was necessary to follow the practice of the old Romans, either to convert her into an ally and associate, or to destroy her entirely. How much reliance can be placed upon fortresses was shown when King Charles came into Italy, to whom they all surrendered, either through the treachery of their governors, or from fear of a worse fate. If there had been no citadel the Florentines would not have based their hopes of holding Pisa upon this means, and the king of France never would have been able in that way to deprive the Florentines of that city. The means which they in that case would have employed to hold Pisa until then, would perhaps have sufficed to preserve it altogether, and certainly would have stood the test better than the citadel.

I conclude, then, that to hold one’s own country fortresses are injurious, and to hold conquered territory they are useless. The authority of the Romans is enough for me: they razed the strong places in the countries which they wished to hold, and never built any new ones. And if the example of Tarentum in ancient times, and that of Brescia in modern times, be quoted in opposition to my opinion, both of which places were recovered from their revolted inhabitants by means of their citadels, I reply, that for the recovery of Tarentum Fabius Maximus was sent at the beginning of the year with the entire army, and he would have succeeded in retaking that city independent of the citadel, although he made use of it; for if the citadel had not existed, he would have found other means of accomplishing the same end. And truly I do not see of what sort of advantage a fortress can be, if to recover possession of your country it is necessary to send a consular army with a Fabius Maximus to command it. That the Romans would have retaken Tarentum anyhow is proved by the example of Capua, where there was no citadel, and which they recovered by the mere valor of their army. But let us come to Brescia. I say that it rarely happens, as it did in this case, that when a city revolts, and whilst the citadel remains in your hands, you should have a powerful army near at hand, like that of the French; for Gaston de Foix was with his army at Bologna, and the moment he heard of the loss of Brescia he marched his army there, and, having arrived, recovered the place by means of the citadel. But the citadel of Brescia to be thus of service needed a Gaston de Foix with the French army to come to its support within three days. Thus this example does not suffice to controvert the instances I have adduced; for a number of fortresses have been taken and retaken in the wars of our times, according as the one or the other party were the stronger or the weaker in the field; not only in Lombardy, but also in the Romagna, in the kingdom of Naples, and in fact throughout all Italy. But as to the building of fortresses for defence against foreign enemies, I say that they are not needed by those peoples or kingdoms that have good armies; for good armies suffice for their defence without fortresses, but fortresses without good armies are incompetent for defence. Experience proves this to be the case with those who manage their government and other affairs well, as was the case with the Romans and Spartans; for whilst the Romans built no fortresses, the Spartans not only refrained from doing so, but even did not permit their city to be protected by walls, for they wanted to rely solely upon the valor of their men for their defence, and upon no other means. And therefore when a Spartan was asked by an Athenian whether he did not think the walls of Athens admirable, he replied, “Yes, if the city were inhabited by women.”

The prince, then, who has a good army, may have upon his frontiers, or on the sea, some fortresses that may for some days hold an enemy in check, to enable the prince to gather his forces; such fortresses may occasionally be useful to him, but not necessary. But when the prince has not a good army, then fortresses whether within his territory or upon the frontiers are either injurious or useless to him; injurious, because they are easily lost, and when lost are turned against him; and even if they are so strong that the enemy cannot take them, he will march by with his army and leave them in the rear; and thus they are of no benefit, for good armies, unless opposed by equally powerful ones, march into the enemy’s country regardless of cities or fortresses, which they leave in their rear. We have many instances of this in ancient history; and Francesco Maria did the same thing quite recently, when, marching to attack Urbino, he left ten hostile cities behind him without paying the least attention to them. A prince then, who can raise a good army, need not build any fortresses; and one who cannot should not build any. It is proper enough that he should fortify the city in which he resides, so as to be able to resist the first shock of an enemy, and to afford himself the time to negotiate, or to obtain aid from without for his relief; but anything more is mere waste of money in time of peace, and useless in time of war. And thus whoever reflects upon all I have said upon the subject will see that the same wisdom which inspired the Romans in all other matters equally guided them in their decisions respecting the Latins and the Privernati, when, instead of relying upon fortresses, they secured the allegiance of these people by wiser and more magnanimous means.


it is an error to take advantage of the internal dissensions of a city, and to attempt to take possession of it whilst in that condition.

The dissensions between the people and the nobility in the Roman republic were so great, that the Veienti together with the Tuscans, thought the opportunity favorable for crushing out the name of Rome entirely; and having formed an army and made incursions into the Roman territory, the Senate sent Cn. Manlius and M. Fabius against them; and when they had moved their army near to that of the Veienti, these began with insults and attacks to abuse and offend the Romans, with such a degree of temerity and insolence that it caused the Romans to forget their dissensions and to become united; so that when it came to a regular battle between them and the Veienti and Tuscans, the Romans completely defeated and routed them. This shows how apt men are to deceive themselves (as we have shown above) in deciding upon what course they are to take, and how frequently they lose where they had confidently hoped to win. The Veienti thought that, by assailing the Romans at a moment when they were divided by internal dissensions, they would have an easy victory over them; but their very attack restored union amongst the Romans, and that caused the defeat of the Veienti. These dissensions in republics are generally the result of idleness and peace, whilst apprehension and war are productive of union; and therefore if the Veienti had been wise, the more they had seen the Romans divided amongst themselves, the more they would have kept war away from them, and should have tried to subjugate them by the arts of peace. The way to do this is to try and win the confidence of the citizens that are divided amongst themselves, and to manage to become the arbiter between them, unless they should have come to arms; but having come to arms, then sparingly to favor the weaker party, so as to keep up the war and make them exhaust themselves, and not to give them occasion for the apprehension, by a display of your forces, that you intend to subjugate them and make yourself their prince. And if this course be well carried out, it will generally end in your obtaining the object you aim at. The city of Pistoja (as I have said in another chapter) did not come to the republic of Florence by any other than the above means; for its people being divided amongst themselves, the Florentines favored first one party and then the other, and brought them to that point that, wearied of their disturbed existence, they threw themselves spontaneously into the arms of Florence. The city of Sienna changed her government through the influence of the Florentines only when these aided her with small and unimportant favors; for had these favors been large and of importance, the Siennese would immediately have united in defence of the existing government. I will add one more example to the above. Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan, often made war upon Florence, relying upon her internal dissensions, but was always the loser; so that he said, in lamenting his unsuccessful attempts, that “the follies of the Florentines have cost him two millions in gold.”

The Veienti and the Tuscans then (as I have said above) were deluded by the hope of being able to take advantage of the dissensions of the Romans, and were in the end defeated by them in battle. And in the same way will all those be deceived who in a similar manner and for similar reasons believe that they can subjugate a people.


contempt and insults engender hatred against those who indulge in them, without being of any advantage to them.

I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy; but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you. This was seen in the case of the Veienti, of whom we have spoken in the preceding chapter, who added insulting words against the Romans to the injuries of war, which no prudent captain should permit his soldiers to indulge in, for they inflame and excite the enemy to revenge, and in no way impede his attacking you (as has been said), so that they are in fact so many weapons that will be turned against you. A striking instance of this occurred in Asia, when Gabades, commander of the Persians, having for a long time besieged Amida and becoming weary of the siege, resolved to abandon it; and having already broken up his camp, the inhabitants of the place came upon the walls, and, inflated with the thought of victory, assailed his army with every kind of insult, vilifying them and accusing and reproaching them for their cowardice and poltroonery. Gabades, irritated by this, changed his mind and resumed the siege, and his indignation at these insults so stimulated his efforts, that he took the city in a few days, and gave it up to sack and pillage. The same thing happened to the Veienti, who, not content with making war upon the Romans, outraged them with insulting words, advancing up to the very stockade of their camp to fling insults at them, thus irritating the Romans more by their words than their arms; so that the soldiers, who at first had fought unwillingly, now constrained the Consuls to bring on a battle, in which they made the Veienti suffer the penalties of their insolence. It is the duty, therefore, of every good general of an army, or chief of a republic, to use all proper means to prevent such insults and reproaches from being indulged in by citizens or soldiers, either amongst themselves or against the enemy; for if used against an enemy they give rise to the above-described inconveniences, and between the soldiers and the citizens it is even worse, unless they are promptly put a stop to, as has ever been done by prudent rulers. The Roman legion that had been left at Capua, having conspired against the Capuans, (as we shall relate in its place,) and this conspiracy having given rise to a sedition which was quelled by Valerius Corvinus, one of the stipulations of the convention that was concluded with them provided the severest penalties against whoever should at any time reproach the soldiers with this selection. Tiberius Gracchus, who in the war with Hannibal had been called to the command of a certain number of slaves, who had been armed because of the scarcity of freemen, ordered amongst the first things that the penalty of death should be inflicted upon whoever reproached any of them with their former servitude; so dangerous did the Romans esteem it to treat men with contempt, or to reproach them with any previous disgrace, because nothing is more irritating and calculated to excite greater indignation than such reproaches, whether founded upon truth or not; “for harsh sarcasms, even if they have but the least truth in them, leave their bitterness rankling in the memory.”


wise princes and republics should content themselves with victory; for when they aim at more, they generally lose.

The use of insulting language towards an enemy arises generally from the insolence of victory, or from the false hope of victory, which latter misleads men as often in their actions as in their words; for when this false hope takes possession of the mind, it makes men go beyond the mark, and causes them often to sacrifice a certain good for an uncertain better. And as this matter well merits consideration, it seems to me better to demonstrate it by ancient and modern examples, rather than attempt to do so by arguments, which will not do as well. After Hannibal had defeated the Romans at Cannæ, he sent messengers to Carthage to announce his victory and to ask for support. The question as to what should be done was warmly discussed in the Senate of Carthage. Hanno, an old and sagacious citizen, advised that they should prudently avail of the victory to make peace with the Romans, which, he argued, they could do now with much more favorable conditions, having been victorious, than they could possibly have expected if they had been defeated; and that the object of the Carthaginians should be to show to the Romans that, whilst they were able to combat them, yet having won a victory they were not disposed to risk losing the fruits of it by the hope of still further successes. The Carthaginian Senate did not adopt this course, though they recognized the wisdom of it after the opportunity was lost. After Alexander the Great had conquered the entire Orient, the republic of Tyre, (most eminent and powerful in those days, the city being situated upon the water like that of the Venetians,) seeing the success and power of Alexander, sent ambassadors to him to assure him of their friendly disposition, and of their readiness to render him obedience, but that they could not consent to receive him or his forces within their city. Whereupon Alexander became indignant that a city should attempt to close her gates to him when all the rest of the world had thrown open theirs; he declined to receive the ambassadors, and, refusing the terms offered to him, he began to lay siege to the city. Tyre being surrounded by water, and abundantly supplied with provisions and all munitions necessary for her defence, Alexander found after four months of siege that the taking of the city would require more of his time and glory than most of his other conquests had done, and therefore resolved to try negotiations and to concede to the Tyrians all they themselves had asked. But the Tyrians on their part, having become elated, now refused to make terms, and killed the messengers whom Alexander had sent to them. This so enraged Alexander that he assaulted the city with such vigor that he captured and destroyed her, and made slaves of her men. In the year 1502 a Spanish army came into the Florentine dominions for the purpose of reinstating the Medici in the government of Florence, and to levy contributions from the city; the Spaniards had been called there by the citizens themselves, who had encouraged them with the hope that they would take up arms in their favor so soon as they should have entered the Florentine territory. But when the Spaniards had arrived in the plains of Florence, they found no one coming to their support, and having run out of provisions they attempted to open negotiations; but the citizens of Florence had become insolent, and declined all terms. The loss of Prato and the ruin of their own state were the consequence of this conduct. Princes that are attacked cannot then commit a greater error, especially when their assailant greatly exceeds them in power, than to refuse all accommodation, and more particularly when it has been offered; for no terms will ever be so hard but what they will afford some advantage to him who accepts them, so that he really obtains thereby a share of the victory. And therefore the people of Tyre should have been satisfied to have Alexander accept the propositions which he had at first refused; for it would have been victory enough for them to have made so great a conqueror, with arms in hand, come to their own terms. And so it should also have sufficed the Florentines, and it would have been a great victory for them, if the Spaniards had yielded in something to their will, without accomplishing all their own designs, which had for their object to change the government of Florence, to detach it from France, and to levy contributions from it. If out of these three objects the Spaniards had gained two, leaving to the people of Florence the first, namely its government, it would have been to some extent an honorable and satisfactory arrangement for both parties, and the people ought not to have cared about the two last points provided they preserved their liberty; nor should they (even if they had seen a chance of a greater and almost certain victory) have exposed their independence to the hazards of fortune, because that was their last stake, which no prudent man will ever risk except from extreme necessity.

Hannibal left Italy after sixteen years of triumphs, having been recalled by the Carthaginians to come to the rescue of his own country; he found Asdrubal and Syphax utterly beaten, the kingdom of Numidia lost, Carthage confined to the limits of her walls, and having no other resources to look to but him and his army. Knowing that this was the last resource of his country, Hannibal did not want to risk it without having first tried all other means, and was not ashamed to ask for peace, convinced that peace and not war was the only means of saving his country. The Romans having refused his request, he resolved to fight, though almost certain of defeat, judging that there might possibly be a chance of his being victorious, and that at least he should lose gloriously. And if so great and valiant a general as Hannibal, with his entire army, sought peace rather than risk a battle, seeing that his defeat would expose his country to enslavement, what should any less valiant and experienced generals do? But men always commit the error of not knowing where to limit their hopes, and by trusting to these rather than to a just measure of their resources, they are generally ruined.


how dangerous it is for a republic or a prince not to avenge a public or a private injury.

What men will do from indignation and resentment is clearly seen from what happened to the Romans when they had sent the three Fabii as ambassadors to the Gauls, who had come to attack the Tuscans, and more especially the city of Clusium. The inhabitants having sent to Rome for assistance, the Romans sent ambassadors to the Gauls to notify them to abstain from making war upon their allies, the Tuscans. These ambassadors being more accustomed to act than to speak, and having arrived at the place at the very moment when the Tuscans and Gauls were engaged in battle, threw themselves upon the latter to combat them. Having been recognized by these, all the resentment which before they had felt towards the Tuscans was now turned against the Romans; and was increased even, because the Gauls complained through their ambassadors to the Romans of this wrong, and having demanded as a reparation therefor that the three Fabii should be delivered up to them, the Romans not only did not surrender or punish them in any way, but at the next assembling of the Comitii they were made Tribunes, with consular powers. When the Gauls saw the very men who should have been chastised thus rewarded with honors, they regarded it as an intentional insult and disgrace to themselves; and, exasperated by anger and indignation, they attacked Rome and captured the whole city, excepting only the Capitol. This misfortune was brought upon themselves by the Romans, through nothing but their disregard of justice, and because their ambassadors, who had violated the laws of nations, instead of being punished, had been rewarded with high honors.

This shows how careful republics and princes should be to avoid similar wrongs, either to an entire people or to an individual; for if any man be grievously wronged, either by a state or by another individual, and satisfactory reparation be not made to him, if he lives in a republic he will revenge himself, even if it involves the ruin of the state, and if he lives under a prince, and be at all high-spirited, he will never rest until he have revenged himself upon him in some way, though he may see that it will cause his own ruin. To prove the truth of this, we have a most flagrant and authentic instance in the case of Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Amongst the followers of his court was Pausanias, a noble youth of rare beauty, of whom Attalus, one of the chief officers of Philip, had become greatly enamored; and having several times pressed Pausanias to yield to his unnatural desires, which the youth had indignantly repelled, Attalus resolved by perfidy and force to obtain what he could not have otherwise. He therefore gave a grand banquet, to which he invited Pausanias, amongst a number of other nobles. After all had feasted and were filled with wine, he had Pausanias seized and carried to a retired place; and after having vented his own unnatural lust upon him; by way of subjecting him to still greater shame he caused a number of his other guests to subject him to a similar abuse. Pausanias repeatedly complained to Philip of this outrage, who for a while indulged him with the promise of revenge; but he not only failed to perform it, but promoted Attalus to the governorship of one of the Greek provinces. Whereupon Pausanias, seeing his enemy honored instead of being chastised, turned his whole resentment from him who had wronged him against Philip, for not having avenged him; and one morning, on the solemn occasion of the nuptials of the daughter of Philip with Alexander of Epirus, whilst Philip, accompanied by the two Alexanders, his son and son-in-law, was on his way to the temple to celebrate the marriage of his daughter, Pausanias slew him. This example, very similar to that of the Romans, should make all rulers remember never to esteem a man so lightly as to believe that, having heaped injuries and insults upon him, he will not seek to revenge himself, even at the risk of his own life.


fortune blinds the minds of men when she does not wish them to oppose her designs.

If we observe carefully the course of human affairs, we shall often notice accidents and occurrences against which it seems to be the will of Heaven that we should not have provided. And if the events to which I refer occurred at Rome, where there was so much virtue, so much religion, and such order, it is no wonder that similar circumstances occur even much more frequently in a city or province deficient in the above advantages. As the case in point is most remarkable in proving the power of Heaven over human affairs, Titus Livius relates it at length in the most effective language, saying that “Heaven, wishing to make the Romans feel its power, first caused the Fabii, who had been sent as ambassadors to the Gauls, to commit a grave error; and then, in consequence of this act, it excited the Gauls to make war upon Rome. Afterwards, Heaven ordained that nothing worthy of the Roman people should be done to meet this war, having first caused Camillus, the only citizen capable of averting so great an evil, to be exiled to Ardea; and afterwards, the same people who had repeatedly created a Dictator to check the impetuous attacks of the Volscians and other neighboring enemies, failed to do so when the Gauls were marching upon Rome.” They also displayed great lack of zeal and diligence in their levies of troops, which were very insufficient; and altogether they were so slow in taking up arms, that they were barely in time to encounter the Gauls upon the river Allia, ten miles from Rome. Here the Tribunes established their camp, without any sign of their customary diligence, without proper examination of the ground, without surrounding the camp with either ditch or stockade, and without any of those precautions which divine or human reason would prompt. And in their order of battle they formed their ranks open and feeble, so that neither the soldiers nor the captains did anything worthy of the Roman discipline; for they fought without bloodshed, and fled even before they were fairly attacked. The greater part of the army went off to Veii, and the rest retreated to Rome, where they went direct to the Capitol, without entering even their own houses. And the Senate, so far from defending Rome (any more than the others), did not even close its gates; a portion sought safety in flight, and a portion took refuge in the Capitol with the remnant of the army. It is true that in the defence of this citadel they employed some method and prudence; they did not encumber it with useless men; they supplied it with all the provisions possible, so as to be able to support a long siege; and the crowd of useless old men, women, and children fled and dispersed in great part to the neighboring places, and the others remained in Rome, a prey to the Gauls; so that any one who had read of the deeds done by this people so many years before, and had then witnessed their conduct on that occasion, could not possibly have believed them to be the same people. And Titus Livius, who has given an account of all the above troubles, concludes by saying, “Fortune thus blinds the minds of men when she does not wish them to resist her power.”

Nothing could be more true than this conclusion; and therefore men who habitually live in great adversity or prosperity deserve less praise or less blame. For it will generally be found that they have been brought to their ruin or their greatness by some great occasion offered by Heaven, which gives them the opportunity, or deprives them of the power, to conduct themselves with courage and wisdom. It certainly is the course of Fortune, when she wishes to effect some great result, to select for her instrument a man of such spirit and ability that he will recognize the opportunity which is afforded him. And thus, in the same way, when she wishes to effect the ruin and destruction of states, she places men at the head who contribute to and hasten such ruin; and if there be any one powerful enough to resist her, she has him killed, or deprives him of all means of doing any good. The instances cited show clearly how Fortune, by way of strengthening Rome and carrying her to that greatness to which she attained, deemed it necessary to subject her to defeat, (as we shall show in the beginning of the following Book,) but did not wish to ruin her entirely. And therefore we see how she caused Camillus to be exiled, but not killed; how she caused the city of Rome to be taken by the Gauls, but not the citadel; and in the same w