Machiavelli LECTURE 2
I – Interpretative battles over Machiavelli
a few words about Machiavelli’s life & historical context
II Classifying principalities (ch.111): a few key lessons.
* Mach's heroes (ch.6)
* Cesare Borgia
* The Prince as “armed prophet”
III – Of good armies (ch.1214) ** the story of David & Goliath
IV – (ch.1521) The qualities of a (good) prince. (of generosity, love… and other virtues)
I – Interpretative battles over Machiavelli
o Does he tell the truth?
o Is he sexist?
o Is he an anguished humanist?
ultimate realist/cynical/cold technician of politics
II Classifying principalities: Key lessons (ch. 111) *Borgia *Agathocles *Machiavelli’s
o Italy has no leader…(p. 77)
o M – if you have good art and music, it’s likely that your citizens are corrupt. No paradox. Political power is always
achieved at the expense of cultural greatness.
o States run by oligarchies (Milan, Florence, the Papal states, etc.) (5) o Machiavelli entertains the idea of a united Italy (to defeat the French and the Spanish)
o Overthrow the Medici’s oligarchic government
o Theocratic government is established
o Savonarola leads the new government
o Attacked the Pope and burnt books
o Was burned publicly
o His biggest mistake according to Machiavelli was that he wasn’t armed (he thought he could do it without an army)
o Machiavelli enters government of Florence (true republic at that time)
o He works as a civil servant for the Republic of Florence
o He cared a lot about developing a citizen’s militia
o Central principle of Machiavelli – a state should have its own troops
o The Medici return and within a few months Machiavelli is accused of conspiracy against them (imprisoned and
tortured but never confessed)
o What makes for greatness?
o Machiavelli thinks he’s the first one to understand things properly
o The Romans provide us with timeless examples
o Machiavelli picks and chooses his heroes but changes their actions and words
o Twists historical facts, numbers, dates, etc.
o The Prince – Letter to Lorenzo to try and convince him to trust him
o Lorenzo understands the people because he’s ontop, whereas Machiavelli has an understanding of rulers
because he is below (mountain analogy)
o Machiavelli offers a classification of principalities based on the circumstances by
which these principalities were acquired.
o Luck, wickedness, hereditary, etc. o Circumstances of acquisition matter a great deal
o You can’t judge what a prince should do in both domestic and foreign politics unless you take these circumstances
o Question raised by Machiavelli – how hard will it be to control a new state?
o What should you do?
o Depends – principalities that are inherited
o Let the people be, don’t change things
o Machiavelli underscores the conservative nature of the masses
o It’s easy – don’t change things
o Doesn’t require virtue (on the part of the ruler)
o Mix of old and new regime
o Establish colonies and assimilate new territories
o Minimize risks of troops misbehaving if you’re there
o Better feel for uprising and potential threats in new territory
o Colonies are cheaper than armies
o Take away property from homelanders and give it to colonizers
o Strong policy
o They will be so poor and powerless that they won’t be able to do anything
o Crush them – as a general rule (p. 9)
o Be bold, decisive, invoke violence at the beginning all at once to crush people
o Try to become friends with neighboring states – only the weaker ones
o Maintain autonomy at all costs o See problems ahead of time (foreseeing the course of events is critical)
o Art of ruling is compared to the art of the doctor (p. 11)
o “spotting the disease early”
o Time does not take care of things – cannot withhold action to prevent war – it will catch up in the future
o Founders of new powerful longlasting states (heroes)
o Did things on their own – with their own armies or virtue (skill)
o Cyrus, Romulus, Thesius, and Moses
o Responsible for their own success
o Establishing new laws (people who used to benefit = enemies. People who hope to gain = friends)
o Difficult to persuade people until they can see/feel the good of the new system
o Most important thing to found something – good army & arms
o Fortuna + virtu
o All these heroes were armed and that’s why they succeeded
o Standing army, discipline, good resources, etc.
o You need arms because at some point people might start to question you
o Force people to believe in you when they stop doing so
o Coercion is ALWAYS necessary
o P. 20 – Thus it is that all armed prophets are victorious and disarmed ones are crushed.
o Moses – needed arms and violence to succeed – arms and brute force succeed
o Prince should have a certain power of foresight and a longterm vision for the community
o (armed, foresight, and vision) o Savonarola – reestablished God’s power over the people of Florence
o Big mistake – he remained unarmed (otherwise, he did everything else correctly)
o Machiavelli speaks about him with a lot of admiration
o Extremely nasty guy
o Machiavelli thinks he’s great
o P. 22 – “could not think of a better ruler than Borgia”
o Thanks to his father and other people’s troops that he became powerful
o Borgia did everything right and his example ought to be imitated by all those who come to good fortune
o It’s very hard to hold onto power in these cases
1 These people tend to lack experience, prudence, and foresight
2 – Because these states are built quickly, they lack the foundation for greatness and longevity
3 – Hard to hold onto power because everything that’s not yours is unreliable (potentially dangerous)
o Borgia knew all these and neutralized or killed threats
o He knew he had to built power and authority in order to rule (Romania)
o Quickly and effectively
o Chap. 7 – soon after taking over this futile and unstable territory, he realized people are sick
and tired of the chaos and corruption of the nobility, so he hires Remiro d’Orco to clean out
the place. He eliminates a lot of people – particularly nobles – stability is reestablished
o Borgia knows the people are developing hate, so he sets up a court that will hear grievances against Remiro
(outlets for the resentment of people) (tribunes)
o Borgia realizes he should distance himself from Remiro since he is so hated, so he kills him.
o With the murder of 1 individual, Borgia gains a great deal of legitimate authority o The way the murder was done (p. 2425) – has Remiro chopped into 2 pieces and left in the public square
o It left the people content and in awe
o Borgia, by one action, satisfies the people and gives him power
o Deterrent and gift to the people
o Machiavelli can find no flaw with Borgia’s actions (perfect example)
o Borgia failed, did not complete his mission – create a longlasting, republican, powerful regime (true Machiavellian
o Downfall – fortuna? (bad luck) or bad judgment?
o The latter, he should have tried to veto the choice of Julius the 2 as the next Pope because he was an enemy.
That was the cause of his destruction.
Agathocles (principality come to power through wickedness)
o Rose through the army and became a powerful ruler
o Took power over Syracuse thanks to the consent of his fellow citizens and thanks to violence and wickedness
o He established a tyranny – become a tyrant through a mix of bold and risky moves
o P. 28 – one ought not kill fellow citizens, betray ones friends…one can acquire power, but not glory…his inhuman
cruelty and brutality mean it would be wrong to praise him as one of the finest men…
o We should admire him for his skills in battle, but wrong to praise him as one of the finest men due to