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  • Niccolò Machiavelli
    May 3, 1469 - June 22, 1527
    Part 7 of 11: Medicean Princes

    After finishing the Principe, Machiavelli thought of dedicating it to one of the Medicean princes, with the avowed hope that he might thereby regain their favour and find public employment. He wrote to Vettori on the subject, and Giuliano de' Medici, duke of Nemours, seemed to him the proper person. The choice was reasonable. No sooner had Leo been made pope than he formed schemes for the aggrandizement of his family. Giuliano was offered and refused the duchy of Urbino. Later on, Leo designed for him a duchy in Emilia, to be cemented out of Parma, Piacenza, Reggio and Modena. Supported by the power of the papacy, with the goodwill of Florence to back him, Giuliano would have found himself in a position somewhat better than that of Cesare Borgia; and Borgia's creation of the duchy of Romagna might have served as his model. Machiavelli therefore was justified in feeling that here was an opportunity for putting his cherished schemes in practice, and that a prince with such alliances might even advance to the grand end of the unification of Italy. Giuliano, however, died in 1506. Then Machiavelli turned his thoughts towards Lorenzo, duke of Urbino. The choice of this man as a possible Italian liberator reminds us of the choice of Don Micheletto as general of the Florentine militia. To Lorenzo the Principe was dedicated, but without result. The Medici, as yet at all events, could not employ Machiavelli, and had not in themselves the stuff to found Italian kingdoms.

    Machiavelli, meanwhile, was reading his Discorsi to a select audience in the Rucellai gardens, fanning that republican enthusiasm which never lay long dormant among the Florentines. Towards the year 1519 both Leo X. and his cousin, the cardinal Giulio de' Medici, were much perplexed about the management of the republic. It seemed necessary, if possible, in the gradual extinction of their family to give the city at least a semblance of self-government. They applied to several celebrated politicians, among others to Machiavelli, for advice in the emergency. The result was a treatise in which he deduced practical conclusions from the past history and present temper of the city, blending these with his favourite principles of government in general. He earnestly admonished Leo, for his own sake and for Florence, to found a permanent and free state system for the republic, reminding him in terms of noble eloquence how splendid is the glory of the man who shall confer such benefits upon a people. The year 1520 saw the composition of the Arte della guerra and the Vita di Castruccio.

    The first of these is a methodical treatise, setting forth Machiavelli's views on military matters, digesting his theories respecting the superiority of national troops, the inefficiency of fortresses, the necessity of relying upon infantry in war, and the comparative insignificance of artillery. It is strongly coloured with his enthusiasm for ancient Rome; and specially upon the topic of artillery it displays a want of insight into the actualities of modern warfare. We may regard it as a supplement or appendix to the Principe and the Discorsi, since Machiavelli held it for a fundamental axiom that states are powerless unless completely armed in permanence. The peroration contains a noble appeal to the Italian liberator of his dreams, and a parallel from Macedonian history, which, read by the light of this century, sounds like a prophecy of Piedmont.

    Part 8: History of Florence


    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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