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  • Niccolò Machiavelli

    May 3, 1469 - June 22, 1527
    Part 2 of 11: Marietta Corsini & Cesare Borgia

    In 1502 Machiavelli married Marietta Corsini, who bore him several children, with whom, in spite of his own infidelities, he lived on good terms, and who survived him twenty-six years. In the same year Piero Soderini was chosen gonfalonier for life, in accordance with certain changes in the constitution of the state, which were intended to bring Florence closer to the Venetian type of government. Machiavelli became intimately connected with Soderini, assisted him in carrying out his policy, suggested important measures of military reform which Soderini adopted, and finally was involved in ruin by his fall.

    The year 1502 was marked by yet another decisive incident in Machiavelli's life. In October he was sent, much against his will, as envoy to the camp of Cesare Borgia, duke of Valentinois. The duke was then in Romagna, and it was Machiavelli's duty to wait upon and watch him. He was able now to observe those intricate intrigues which culminated in Cesare's murder of his disaffected captains. From what remains of Machiavelli's official letters, and from his tract upon the Modo che tenne il duca Valentino per ammazzar Vitellozzo Vitelli, we are able to appreciate the actual relations which existed between the two men, and the growth in Machiavelli's mind of a political ideal based upon his study of the duke's character. Machiavelli conceived the strongest admiration for Cesare's combination of audacity with diplomatic prudence, for his adroit use of cruelty and fraud, for his self-reliance, avoidance of half-measures, employment of native troops, and firm administration in conquered provinces. More than once, in letters to his friend Vettori, no less than in the pages of the Principe, Machiavelli afterwards expressed his belief that Cesare Borgia's behaviour in the conquest of provinces, the cementing of a new state out of scattered elements, and the dealing with false friends or doubtful allies, was worthy of all commendation and of scrupulous imitation. As he watched Cesare Borgia at this, the most brilliant period of his adventurous career, the man became idealized in his reflective but imaginative mind. Round him, as a hero, he allowed his own conceptions of the perfect prince to cluster. That Machiavelli separated the actual Cesare Borgia, whom he afterwards saw, ruined and contemptible, at Rome, from this radiant creature of his political fancy, is probable. That the Cesare of history does not exactly match the Duca Valentino of Machiavelli's writings is certain. Still the fact remains that henceforth Machiavelli cherished the ideal image of the statesman which he had modelled upon Cesare, and called this by the name of Valentino.

    Part 3: Outlines for a New Military Organization

    In this biography:
    Part 1: Early Years
    Part 2: Marietta Corsini & Cesare Borgia
    Part 3: Outlines for a New Military Organization
    Part 4: New Militia
    Part 5: Principe, Discorsi & Arte della guerra
    Part 6: Machiavelli's Study of Man
    Part 7: Medicean Princes
    Part 8: History of Florence
    Part 9: Mandragola & Clizia
    Part 10: Final Years
    Part 11: Related Articles, Sites, etc.

    This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


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