Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

"I have composed a little work On principalities; there I plunge as deeply as I can into this subject, discussing what a principality is, what kinds there are, how they are acquired. how they are maintained, why they are lost."

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."

On Line Machiavelli Biography

The Oxford Modern Political Theorists Page has a Machaivelli Biography

Machiavelli Time Line

1469May 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.


Time Line Sources