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Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli Niccolò Machiavelli[1†]

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was an Italian diplomat, author, philosopher, and historian who lived during the Renaissance[1†][2†][3†]. He is best known for his political treatise, The Prince (Il Principe), written around 1513 but not published until 1532, five years after his death[1†][2†][3†].

Machiavelli has often been called the father of modern political philosophy and political science[1†]. For many years, he served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs[1†]. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is also important to historians and scholars of Italian correspondence[1†].

Machiavelli’s work, The Prince, has been surrounded by controversy since it was published. Some consider it to be a straightforward description of political reality. Others view The Prince as a manual, teaching would-be tyrants how they should seize and maintain power[1†]. His works were a major influence on Enlightenment authors who revived interest in classical republicanism, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and James Harrington[1†]. Machiavelli’s political realism has continued to influence generations of academics and politicians, including Hannah Arendt and Otto von Bismarck[1†].

Early Years and Education

Niccolò Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469, in Florence, Italy[2†][4†][5†][6†][7†]. He was born into a family of nobility, though they were not wealthy[2†][4†]. His parents, Bernardo and Bartolomea, had three other children, two daughters and a son[2†][4†]. Bernardo was a lawyer and small landowner with a small salary[2†][4†]. Despite the family’s financial situation, Machiavelli’s father, Bernardo, was able to provide his son with an education at home due to his profession as a lawyer[2†][6†][7†].

From the age of seven, Machiavelli began his education[2†][4†][5†]. He studied grammar, rhetoric, and Latin[2†][5†]. Little is known about his early life in Florence, which at the time was a thriving center of philosophy and a brilliant showcase of the arts[2†]. However, it is known that he attended lectures by Marcello Virgilio Adriani, who chaired the Studio Fiorentino[2†]. He seems to have acquired the typical humanist education that was expected of officials of the Florentine Chancery[2†].

In a letter to a friend in 1498, Machiavelli writes of listening to the sermons of Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98), a Dominican friar who moved to Florence in 1482 and in the 1490s attracted a party of popular supporters with his thinly veiled accusations against the government, the clergy, and the pope[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Niccolò Machiavelli’s career began in earnest when he was appointed as the chancellor and secretary of the second chancellery of the Florentine Republic in 1498[8†]. This was a government in Florence where the leaders were elected by the people[8†]. His responsibilities in this role included implementing the policies of his superiors, writing diplomatic letters, reading reports, writing reports, and maintaining accurate notes[8†].

During his tenure as a chancellor, Machiavelli carried out numerous diplomatic missions on behalf of his nation[8†]. It is believed that he undertook around twenty-three missions throughout his career[8†]. These visits to foreign states had varying degrees of success, but there is no question that Machiavelli did well as a diplomat[8†]. He made four trips to France and two visits to the court of Rome[8†].

After suffering imprisonment and torture, he retired to his farm near San Casciano, where he lived with his wife and six children and devoted his time to study and writing[8†][9†]. His works included The Prince; the Discourses on the First Decade of Livy; The Art of War and the comedy, Mandragola, a satire on seduction[8†][9†].

Machiavelli’s two most important works are Discourses on Livy (1531) and The Prince (1532), both of which were published after his death[8†][2†]. He wrote several other works, including Florentine Histories (1532) and The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca (1520)[8†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Niccolò Machiavelli’s works have had a profound impact on political philosophy. His most notable works include:

  1. The Prince (Il Principe): This is Machiavelli’s most famous work, written around 1513 but not published until 1532, five years after his death[2†][1†]. The Prince is a political treatise that offers advice on political leadership, most notably the need for rulers to be prepared to act immorally when necessary[2†][1†].
  2. Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (Discorsi Sopra La Prima Deca Di Tito Livio): This work, composed around 1517, is less well-known than The Prince but has been said to have paved the way for modern republicanism[2†][1†]. It provides an analysis of the early Roman historian Livy’s work and presents Machiavelli’s views on republics, including the belief that a republic’s stability depends on its ability to adapt to changing circumstances[2†][1†].
  3. The Art of War: In this work, Machiavelli discusses military matters, an area in which he had considerable practical experience[2†][9†].
  4. The Mandrake (La Mandragola): This is a satirical play by Machiavelli where he demonstrates his skill in handling complex and traditional themes[2†][10†].
  5. The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca: This is a biographical account of Castruccio Castracani, a medieval Tuscan condottiere[2†].
  6. Florentine Histories: Commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, later Pope Clement VII, in 1520, Machiavelli finished this comprehensive history of Florence in 1525[2†][9†].
  7. On the Way to Deal with the Rebel Subjects of the Valdichiana: This is one of Machiavelli’s lesser-known works[2†].

Each of these works offers a unique insight into Machiavelli’s political and philosophical thought. They range from practical guides for rulers, such as The Prince, to more theoretical discussions of politics and history, such as the Discourses on Livy and the Florentine Histories[2†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Niccolò Machiavelli is unquestionably one of the most profound and original political theorists in history[11†]. His reputation rests not only on his most famous and influential work, The Prince, but also on his other political works and even his literary and dramatic efforts such as The Mandrake and Clizia[11†].

Machiavelli’s best-known work, The Prince, has had a profound impact on the development of political thought[11†]. In it, he provides practical advice by which a prince, properly trained in the workings of politics, might acquire and maintain a state and muster enough virtú to overcome and keep in check fortuna[11†]. This work implies Machiavelli’s tenet that politics and morality are independent of each other and that the behavior of people or the course of events is no longer necessarily determined by dogmas or fate[11†].

In his Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli attempted to analyze the proper functioning of a republican state so that the laws of ancient Rome could be successfully reapplied in a modern state to achieve national strength and unity[11†]. His work, The Art of War, is a dialogue on military tactics with examples drawn from both ancient and modern history[11†].

Machiavelli’s political realism, as demonstrated in his works, has continued to influence generations of academics and politicians[11†]. However, his works have also been surrounded by controversy. Some consider The Prince to be a straightforward description of political reality, while others view it as a manual teaching would-be tyrants how to seize and maintain power[11†].

Despite the controversy, Machiavelli’s works have contributed significantly to political philosophy and continue to be studied and analyzed for their insights into political leadership and strategy[11†].

Personal Life

Niccolò Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469, in Florence, Italy, to parents Bernardo and Bartolomea[4†]. His father, Bernardo, was a lawyer and small landowner[4†][2†]. Machiavelli’s family was of nobility, though not wealthy[4†]. He had two sisters and a brother[4†].

Machiavelli was married to Marietta Corsini in 1502[4†]. Together, they had four sons and two daughters[4†]. His extramarital activities occasionally caused scandal[4†][12†]. His grandson, Giovanni Ricci, is credited with saving many of Machiavelli’s letters and writings[4†].

After being accused of conspiracy to overthrow the Medici family, Machiavelli was imprisoned and tortured, then sent into exile[4†][13†]. After his release, he retired to his country house in San Casciano Val di Pesa, about ten miles southwest of Florence[4†][13†]. It was here, between 1513 and 1527, that he wrote his masterpieces[4†][13†].

Machiavelli passed away on June 21, 1527, in Florence[4†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Niccolò Machiavelli’s realistic approach to politics and power dynamics challenged traditional ideals and paved the way for new perspectives on governance and human nature[14†]. His work, particularly “The Prince”, has had a profound impact on political theory, inspiring the separation of powers characteristic of modern democratic systems[14†].

Machiavelli has long been associated with the practice of diabolical expediency in the field of politics[14†][15†]. However, his views are not as extreme as later portrayed, but show a sense of pragmatism[14†][15†]. He believed that in order to maintain power, sometimes the end justifies the means[14†][15†].

Despite the controversy surrounding his work, Machiavelli is considered one of the greatest political thinkers in history[14†][16†]. His writings were meant to warn about the dangers of what we call Machiavellianism today[14†][16†]. The term “Machiavellian” has come to mean deceitful, unscrupulous, and manipulative, but it’s important to note that Machiavelli’s intention was to provide an objective description of political reality[14†][17†].

His legacy continues to influence political philosophy and the study of power dynamics, making him a pivotal figure in political theory[14†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Niccolò Machiavelli [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Niccolo Machiavelli: Italian statesman and writer [website] - link
  3. Wikiwand - Niccolò Machiavelli - Wikiwand [website] - link
  4. Encyclopedia of World Biography - NiccolÒ Machiavelli Biography [website] - link
  5. The Famous People - Niccolò Machiavelli Biography [website] - link
  6. Britannica Kids - Niccolò Machiavelli [website] - link
  7. The School of Life - Niccolò Machiavelli [website] - link
  8. ealthResearchFunding.org - 10 Major Accomplishments of Niccolo Machiavelli [website] - link
  9. Wikipedia (English) - Timeline of Niccolò Machiavelli [website] - link
  10. The Literature Network - Niccolo Machiavelli [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Niccolò Machiavelli Analysis [website] - link
  12. Great Thinkers - Biography - Machiavelli [website] - link
  13. ThoughtCo - Niccolò Machiavelli's Life, Philosophy, & Influence [website] - link
  14. Philosophy Light - Niccolo Machiavelli: Life, Philosophy and Legacy [website] - link
  15. Timeline of Humanity - Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 to 1527) [website] - link
  16. Providentia - Just a moment... [website] - link
  17. Britannica - Niccolò Machiavelli and his famous work The Prince [website] - link
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