Valentino, p.9

Valentino, page 9



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  Alexander never did what he said,

  Cesare never said what he did.

  Italian Proverb.

  Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good

  qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to

  have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and

  always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them

  is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright,

  and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to

  be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.

  And you have to understand this, that a prince, especially a new one,

  cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being

  often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to

  fidelity,[*] friendship, humanity, and religion. Therefore it is

  necessary for him to have a mind ready to turn itself accordingly as

  the winds and variations of fortune force it, yet, as I have said

  above, not to diverge from the good if he can avoid doing so, but, if

  compelled, then to know how to set about it.

  [*] "Contrary to fidelity" or "faith," "contro alla fede," and "tutto

  fede," "altogether faithful," in the next paragraph. It is

  noteworthy that these two phrases, "contro alla fede" and "tutto

  fede," were omitted in the Testina edition, which was published

  with the sanction of the papal authorities. It may be that the

  meaning attached to the word "fede" was "the faith," i.e. the

  Catholic creed, and not as rendered here "fidelity" and

  "faithful." Observe that the word "religione" was suffered to

  stand in the text of the Testina, being used to signify

  indifferently every shade of belief, as witness "the religion," a

  phrase inevitably employed to designate the Huguenot heresy. South

  in his Sermon IX, p. 69, ed. 1843, comments on this passage as

  follows: "That great patron and Coryphaeus of this tribe, Nicolo

  Machiavel, laid down this for a master rule in his political

  scheme: 'That the show of religion was helpful to the politician,

  but the reality of it hurtful and pernicious.'"

  For this reason a prince ought to take care that he never lets

  anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named

  five qualities, that he may appear to him who sees and hears him

  altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There

  is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality,

  inasmuch as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand,

  because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch

  with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what

  you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of

  the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the

  actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent

  to challenge, one judges by the result.

  For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and

  holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he

  will be praised by everybody; because the vulgar are always taken by

  what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world

  there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when

  the many have no ground to rest on.

  One prince[*] of the present time, whom it is not well to name, never

  preaches anything else but peace and good faith, and to both he is

  most hostile, and either, if he had kept it, would have deprived him

  of reputation and kingdom many a time.

  [*] Ferdinand of Aragon. "When Machiavelli was writing 'The Prince' it

  would have been clearly impossible to mention Ferdinand's name

  here without giving offence." Burd's "Il Principe," p. 308.



  Now, concerning the characteristics of which mention is made above, I

  have spoken of the more important ones, the others I wish to discuss

  briefly under this generality, that the prince must consider, as has

  been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make

  him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he

  will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other


  It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious,

  and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from

  both of which he must abstain. And when neither their property nor

  their honor is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has

  only to contend with the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease

  in many ways.

  It makes him contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous,

  effeminate, mean-spirited, irresolute, from all of which a prince

  should guard himself as from a rock; and he should endeavour to show

  in his actions greatness, courage, gravity, and fortitude; and in his

  private dealings with his subjects let him show that his judgments are

  irrevocable, and maintain himself in such reputation that no one can

  hope either to deceive him or to get round him.

  That prince is highly esteemed who conveys this impression of himself,

  and he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against; for,

  provided it is well known that he is an excellent man and revered by

  his people, he can only be attacked with difficulty. For this reason a

  prince ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his

  subjects, the other from without, on account of external powers. From

  the latter he is defended by being well armed and having good allies,

  and if he is well armed he will have good friends, and affairs will

  always remain quiet within when they are quiet without, unless they

  should have been already disturbed by conspiracy; and even should

  affairs outside be disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations

  and has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will

  resist every attack, as I said Nabis the Spartan did.

  But concerning his subjects, when affairs outside are disturbed he has

  only to fear that they will conspire secretly, from which a prince can

  easily secure himself by avoiding being hated and despised, and by

  keeping the people satisfied with him, which it is most necessary for

  him to accomplish, as I said above at length. And one of the most

  efficacious remedies that a prince can have against conspiracies is

  not to be hated and despised by the people, for he who conspires

  against a prince always expects to please them by his removal; but

  when the conspirator can only look forward to offending them, he will

  not have the courage to take such a course, for the difficulties that

  confront a conspirator are infinite. And as experience shows, many

  have been the conspiracies, but few have been successful; because he

  who conspires cannot act alone, nor can he take a companion except

  from those whom he believes to be malcontents, and as soon as you have

  opened your mind to a malcontent you have given him the m
aterial with

  which to content himself, for by denouncing you he can look for every

  advantage; so that, seeing the gain from this course to be assured,

  and seeing the other to be doubtful and full of dangers, he must be a

  very rare friend, or a thoroughly obstinate enemy of the prince, to

  keep faith with you.

  And, to reduce the matter into a small compass, I say that, on the

  side of the conspirator, there is nothing but fear, jealousy, prospect

  of punishment to terrify him; but on the side of the prince there is

  the majesty of the principality, the laws, the protection of friends

  and the state to defend him; so that, adding to all these things the

  popular goodwill, it is impossible that any one should be so rash as

  to conspire. For whereas in general the conspirator has to fear before

  the execution of his plot, in this case he has also to fear the sequel

  to the crime; because on account of it he has the people for an enemy,

  and thus cannot hope for any escape.

  Endless examples could be given on this subject, but I will be content

  with one, brought to pass within the memory of our fathers. Messer

  Annibale Bentivogli, who was prince in Bologna (grandfather of the

  present Annibale), having been murdered by the Canneschi, who had

  conspired against him, not one of his family survived but Messer

  Giovanni,[*] who was in childhood: immediately after his assassination

  the people rose and murdered all the Canneschi. This sprung from the

  popular goodwill which the house of Bentivogli enjoyed in those days

  in Bologna; which was so great that, although none remained there

  after the death of Annibale who was able to rule the state, the

  Bolognese, having information that there was one of the Bentivogli

  family in Florence, who up to that time had been considered the son of

  a blacksmith, sent to Florence for him and gave him the government of

  their city, and it was ruled by him until Messer Giovanni came in due

  course to the government.

  [*] Giovanni Bentivogli, born in Bologna 1438, died at Milan 1508. He

  ruled Bologna from 1462 to 1506. Machiavelli's strong condemnation

  of conspiracies may get its edge from his own very recent

  experience (February 1513), when he had been arrested and tortured

  for his alleged complicity in the Boscoli conspiracy.

  For this reason I consider that a prince ought to reckon conspiracies

  of little account when his people hold him in esteem; but when it is

  hostile to him, and bears hatred towards him, he ought to fear

  everything and everybody. And well-ordered states and wise princes

  have taken every care not to drive the nobles to desperation, and to

  keep the people satisfied and contented, for this is one of the most

  important objects a prince can have.

  Among the best ordered and governed kingdoms of our times is France,

  and in it are found many good institutions on which depend the liberty

  and security of the king; of these the first is the parliament and its

  authority, because he who founded the kingdom, knowing the ambition of

  the nobility and their boldness, considered that a bit to their mouths

  would be necessary to hold them in; and, on the other side, knowing

  the hatred of the people, founded in fear, against the nobles, he

  wished to protect them, yet he was not anxious for this to be the

  particular care of the king; therefore, to take away the reproach

  which he would be liable to from the nobles for favouring the people,

  and from the people for favouring the nobles, he set up an arbiter,

  who should be one who could beat down the great and favour the lesser

  without reproach to the king. Neither could you have a better or a

  more prudent arrangement, or a greater source of security to the king

  and kingdom. From this one can draw another important conclusion, that

  princes ought to leave affairs of reproach to the management of

  others, and keep those of grace in their own hands. And further, I

  consider that a prince ought to cherish the nobles, but not so as to

  make himself hated by the people.

  It may appear, perhaps, to some who have examined the lives and deaths

  of the Roman emperors that many of them would be an example contrary

  to my opinion, seeing that some of them lived nobly and showed great

  qualities of soul, nevertheless they have lost their empire or have

  been killed by subjects who have conspired against them. Wishing,

  therefore, to answer these objections, I will recall the characters of

  some of the emperors, and will show that the causes of their ruin were

  not different to those alleged by me; at the same time I will only

  submit for consideration those things that are noteworthy to him who

  studies the affairs of those times.

  It seems to me sufficient to take all those emperors who succeeded to

  the empire from Marcus the philosopher down to Maximinus; they were

  Marcus and his son Commodus, Pertinax, Julian, Severus and his son

  Antoninus Caracalla, Macrinus, Heliogabalus, Alexander, and Maximinus.

  There is first to note that, whereas in other principalities the

  ambition of the nobles and the insolence of the people only have to be

  contended with, the Roman emperors had a third difficulty in having to

  put up with the cruelty and avarice of their soldiers, a matter so

  beset with difficulties that it was the ruin of many; for it was a

  hard thing to give satisfaction both to soldiers and people; because

  the people loved peace, and for this reason they loved the unaspiring

  prince, whilst the soldiers loved the warlike prince who was bold,

  cruel, and rapacious, which qualities they were quite willing he

  should exercise upon the people, so that they could get double pay and

  give vent to their own greed and cruelty. Hence it arose that those

  emperors were always overthrown who, either by birth or training, had

  no great authority, and most of them, especially those who came new to

  the principality, recognizing the difficulty of these two opposing

  humours, were inclined to give satisfaction to the soldiers, caring

  little about injuring the people. Which course was necessary, because,

  as princes cannot help being hated by someone, they ought, in the

  first place, to avoid being hated by every one, and when they cannot

  compass this, they ought to endeavour with the utmost diligence to

  avoid the hatred of the most powerful. Therefore, those emperors who

  through inexperience had need of special favour adhered more readily

  to the soldiers than to the people; a course which turned out

  advantageous to them or not, accordingly as the prince knew how to

  maintain authority over them.

  From these causes it arose that Marcus, Pertinax, and Alexander, being

  all men of modest life, lovers of justice, enemies to cruelty, humane,

  and benignant, came to a sad end except Marcus; he alone lived and

  died honoured, because he had succeeded to the throne by hereditary

  title, and owed nothing either to the soldiers or the people; and

  afterwards, being possessed of many virtues which made him respected,

  he always kept both orders in their places wh
ilst he lived, and was

  neither hated nor despised.

  But Pertinax was created emperor against the wishes of the soldiers,

  who, being accustomed to live licentiously under Commodus, could not

  endure the honest life to which Pertinax wished to reduce them; thus,

  having given cause for hatred, to which hatred there was added

  contempt for his old age, he was overthrown at the very beginning of

  his administration. And here it should be noted that hatred is

  acquired as much by good works as by bad ones, therefore, as I said

  before, a prince wishing to keep his state is very often forced to do

  evil; for when that body is corrupt whom you think you have need of to

  maintain yourself--it may be either the people or the soldiers or the

  nobles--you have to submit to its humours and to gratify them, and

  then good works will do you harm.

  But let us come to Alexander, who was a man of such great goodness,

  that among the other praises which are accorded him is this, that in

  the fourteen years he held the empire no one was ever put to death by

  him unjudged; nevertheless, being considered effeminate and a man who

  allowed himself to be governed by his mother, he became despised, the

  army conspired against him, and murdered him.

  Turning now to the opposite characters of Commodus, Severus, Antoninus

  Caracalla, and Maximinus, you will find them all cruel and rapacious--

  men who, to satisfy their soldiers, did not hesitate to commit every

  kind of iniquity against the people; and all, except Severus, came to

  a bad end; but in Severus there was so much valour that, keeping the

  soldiers friendly, although the people were oppressed by him, he

  reigned successfully; for his valour made him so much admired in the

  sight of the soldiers and people that the latter were kept in a way

  astonished and awed and the former respectful and satisfied. And

  because the actions of this man, as a new prince, were great, I wish

  to show briefly that he knew well how to counterfeit the fox and the

  lion, which natures, as I said above, it is necessary for a prince to


  Knowing the sloth of the Emperor Julian, he persuaded the army in

  Sclavonia, of which he was captain, that it would be right to go to

  Rome and avenge the death of Pertinax, who had been killed by the

  praetorian soldiers; and under this pretext, without appearing to

  aspire to the throne, he moved the army on Rome, and reached Italy

  before it was known that he had started. On his arrival at Rome, the

  Senate, through fear, elected him emperor and killed Julian. After

  this there remained for Severus, who wished to make himself master of

  the whole empire, two difficulties; one in Asia, where Niger, head of

  the Asiatic army, had caused himself to be proclaimed emperor; the

  other in the west where Albinus was, who also aspired to the throne.

  And as he considered it dangerous to declare himself hostile to both,

  he decided to attack Niger and to deceive Albinus. To the latter he

  wrote that, being elected emperor by the Senate, he was willing to

  share that dignity with him and sent him the title of Caesar; and,

  moreover, that the Senate had made Albinus his colleague; which things

  were accepted by Albinus as true. But after Severus had conquered and

  killed Niger, and settled oriental affairs, he returned to Rome and

  complained to the Senate that Albinus, little recognizing the benefits

  that he had received from him, had by treachery sought to murder him,

  and for this ingratitude he was compelled to punish him. Afterwards he

  sought him out in France, and took from him his government and life.

  He who will, therefore, carefully examine the actions of this man will

  find him a most valiant lion and a most cunning fox; he will find him

  feared and respected by every one, and not hated by the army; and it

  need not be wondered at that he, a new man, was able to hold the

  empire so well, because his supreme renown always protected him from

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