Politics of Florence/Historical Figures
Seedbed of a new Political Theory: Comparing Florentine politics to Athens and the Magreb
• Florence had been free republican city-state since the 12th century, then rise of Medici
rulers in the 15th century, overthrow and brief return to republic (1494), then overthrow
and return of Medici
• A commercial crossroads and birthplace of the Renaissance in philosophy, arts,
science (Michelangelo, Galileo, etc)
Cesare Borgia as a Case Study of a Political Founder using Machiavellian Virtu to
• NM praises Cesare Borgia for his political acumen and achievements
• Borgia was an illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI. With aid from his father, he began
using an army to carve out a new unified state of Romagna, conquering Naples and
trying to overtake Papal states ruled by other noble families
• Machiavelli believes he would have succeeded except for problems:
◦ Pope Alexander died and was replaced by a rival power
◦ Borgia fell ill soon after
How is Machiavelli's concept of "Virtu" exemplified in his favorite princes?
• A "transvaluation of values" or reversal of meanings?
• A new conception of virtu derived from political realities, not moral ideal
• "I would not know how to reproach him (Cesare Borgia), on the contrary, it seems to
me he should be put forwards to be imitated . . .(32) "
• The entire Borgia family, including Cesare's sister Lucretia, had a reputation for
deception, violence, and power-seeking
The Historical Example of Agathocles: the Limits of Villainy and the Utility of "Well-used
• Machiavelli suggests that while Agathocles was politically successful, he didn't achieve
glory and is not ranked among great men because he is associated with barbarous
• But he also describes Agathocles as a case of study of some virtues and "well-used"
◦ Swift, efficient, "economical", and moves towards creating order
◦ Badly-used cr