Niccolò Machiavelli
Italian political philosopher


For Machiavelli, Florence was the object of his patrioism, and which he tried to serve with single minded devotion. Unfortunately for him, the days of Floretine greatness were largely past when he reached maturity. Two years after the death of Lorenzo de Medici in 1492, the French invaded Italy and in the ensuring struggles between great powers, Florence was reduced from a first rate Italian power to a second rate power dominated by Spain. The Florentine Republic for which he worked as a high level civil servant was swept away in 1512 leaving him unemployed.

The Prince embodies Machiavelli's response to the Italian crisis of disunity and foreign domination. Out of its pages, as George Bull put it in his introduction to the work, "strides the figure of the autocrat, the new man, ruthless, efficient, and defiant, the literary forerunner of the new monarchs of the sixteenth century."

Machiavelli's aim in the Prince is to tell the new rulers how to remain in power once they have gained it. The best way is to rule well. If this is not possible, then Machiavelli presents a variety of strategems for remaining in power. It is these which have given us the adjective "Machiavellian."

Chapter 00


Those who desire to win the favour of princes generally endeavour 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 recognise 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.

The remainder of this work is organized into Chapters 1 - 26 with Appendices A through F and can be accessed on the Internet at these ONLINE links:

Bibliography Mania or
Constitution Net

Although those were working links when this page was constructed they may have moved or no longer be accessible. A Web search using "Machaivelli" should produce other sites with the material.

Machiavelli Time Line
1469 May 3, born in Florence the son of a jurist.
1494 The Medici expelled from Florence. Machiavelli Appointed clerk to Adriani in the second chancery.
1498 Adriani becomes chancelor and Machiavelli succeeds him as second chancellor and secretary.
1499 Sent to Forli to negotiate the continuance of a loan to Catherine Sforza.
1500 Sent to France where he meets with Louis XII and the Cardinal of Rouen.
1502 Marries Marietta Corsini. Sent to Romagna as envoy to Cesare Borgia where he witnessed the events leading up to Borgia's murder. Machiavelli's political philosophy was highly influenced by his study of Cesare Borgia.
1503 January, returns to Florence.
1504 Second mission to France.
1506 December, submits a plan to reorganize the military to Pierre Soderini, Florence's gonfalonier, and it is accepted.
1508 Sent to Bolzano to the court of the Emporer Maximilian.
1510 Sent once more to France.
1512 The Medici returns with a Spanish army and Florence throws out Soderini and welcomes the Medici. Machiavelli dismissed from office and retires to San Casciano.
1513 Imprisoned after accused of participation in a conspiracy. Is tortured and then released upon Giovanni de Medici's election to the papacy. Returns to San Casciano and writes The Prince.
1515 Writes La Mandragola.
1519 Consulted by the Medici on a new constitution for Florence which he offers in his Discourses.
1520 Appearance of The Art of War and The Life of Castruccio Castracane. Commissioned to write the History of Florence.
1526 Clement VII employes Machiavelli first in inspecting the fortifications of Florence and then sending him to attend the historian Francesco Guicciardini. He meets Guicciardini in Bologna later in the year as well.
1527 June 20, dies in Florence.


  • The Prince
  • La Mandragola
  • The Art of War
  • The Life of Castruccio Castracane
  • History of Florence
  • Numerous essays on the military and politics

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