Detail of Machiavelli



Niccolò Machiavelli was born in the city of Florence, Italy, on May 3, 1469. His father, Bernardo Machiavelli, was a lawyer, although not a very prosperous one, with much of his income derived from family property rather than his law practice. However, he retained his membership in the lawyers' guild, which was influential in Florentine politics. As a lawyer and a man with a love of literature and writing, Bernardo probably had contacts among the powerful in Florence's political circles, which later provided Niccolò with the opportunity to enter public service. Niccolò would grow up to share his father's literary ambitions.

No official records of Machiavelli's life appear until 1498, immediately after the fall of Savonarola's government, when he would have been 29. The Florentine republic had been reinstated, and Machiavelli was appointed as secretary of the Second Chancery, a position in which he coordinated relations with Florence's territorial possessions. How he acquired this position is not clear. Participation in the government was expected of all of Florence's leading citizens, but Machiavelli's intelligence and energy must have attracted particular attention among Florence's politicians. Within a month, he also became secretary to the Council of Ten of War, Florence's foreign policy body, in which he functioned as an envoy, traveling extensively around Italy and Europe to negotiate with potential allies, gather information, and do whatever the Ten needed done. Though not officially an ambassador, a position reserved for members of aristocratic families, he was nonetheless a professional diplomat.

Machiavelli would spend 14 years as the "Florentine secretary." During this period, he had opportunities to meet and observe many of the major political figures of the period. Observing and negotiating for the Florentine republic, he visited the courts of Caterina Sforza (in 1499), King Louis XII of France (in 1500, 1504, 1510, and 1511), Cesare Borgia (in 1502 and 1503), Pandolfo Petrucci (in 1503 and 1504), Pope Julius II (in 1503 and 1506), and Emperor Maximilian II (from 1507 to 1508). These visits and his experience in foreign policy would later form the basis of many of the principles he expresses in The Prince, and the great personages that he met form the examples from which he draws his lessons.

Machiavelli's most famous work was not formally published during his lifetime, although it probably circulated in manuscript copies. The Prince was first published in 1532, with the permission of Clement VII. As evidence of its popularity, it went through seven Italian editions in the next twenty years. In 1559, all of Machiavelli's works were put on the "Index of Prohibited Books," a list of books banned by the Catholic church for heresy or immorality. This did nothing to dampen his popularity, and The Prince was soon translated into all the major European languages. Today, Machiavelli continues to be recognized as one of the first modern political thinkers and as a shrewd commentator on the psychology of leadership.


Major Works

Decennali, a long poem in two parts on the contemporary history of Florence.

 First Decennale, 1504; Second Decennale, 1509 or 1514.


The Prince (Il principe), treatise on leadership and political power, 1513.

The Mandrake Root (Mandragola), comic play, circa 1516. Mandrogola tells the story of young and beautiful Lucrezia, who is married to old and foolish Nicia. Callimaco falls in love with Lucrezia and manages to trick Nicia into giving his full approval for their love affair. It is considered one of the best Italian comedies of this period.

Discourses on Livy (Discorsi sopra la prima deca ldi Tito Livio), analysis of the Roman republic, 1514 to 1518.

Andria, comic play, circa 1517. Translation of an original by the Roman playwright Terence.

Art of War (Dell'Arte della guerra), treatise on military strategy, 1519 to 20.

Life of Castruccio Castracani (Vita di Castruccio Castracani), biography of a military leader who became ruler of Lucca, 1520.

Florentine History (Istorie fiorentine), 1520 to 1524.

Clizia, comic play circa 1525. In Clizia, young Cleandro and his aging father, Nicomaco, compete for the love of beautiful Clizia, who is Nicomaco's ward. Considered of lesser quality than Mandrogola. Based on Casina by the Roman playwright Plautus.

Belfagor, prose novella, date uncertain. Belfagor is a demon who comes to earth to take a wife in order to decide if wives cause men more suffering than Hell.




There are two types of states:

Republics and principalities. Machiavelli declares that he will not discuss republics, examining only how principalities may be acquired and governed. Principalities are inherited or new.

New principalities are either annexed to a ruler's existing territory or are completely new. New principalities are either used to being ruled by a prince or are used to being free. New principalities are acquired by luck or by strength.

Hereditary principalities, which are used to being ruled by the prince's family, are easy to maintain, because tradition keeps the prince's position stable as long as he does not make himself hated.(CHAPTER 1 –THE PRINCE )

Machiavelli refers to republics, which are governed by their citizens, and principalities or princely states, which are governed by a single, strong ruler (a prince). All principalities are governed either by a single ruler assisted by his appointed ministers or by a ruler and the hereditary nobles who hold power in their own right and have the loyalty of their subjects.

The Turkish sultan divides his kingdom into districts that are managed by his administrators, but the king of France has to contend with many lords who have longstanding privileges. Because the sultan's administrators are dependent on him for their power, they are not likely to help a foreign invader. But if an invader had a strong enough army to win, it would be easy to keep their territory, because the people are not personally loyal to the administrators. In a kingdom like France, the nobles are always ambitious and ready to turn against the king. But if they assist you in conquering the country, they will also be ready to turn on you. Even if you kill all the royal family, the nobles remain, and you can neither satisfy them nor get rid of them. Whether one can control a territory depends less on personal ability than on the character of the territory.If the conquered territory was formerly a republic, in which the citizens were used to living under their own laws, you must destroy it, go live in it, or let the citizens live under their own laws with a government that is friendly to you. If you do not destroy the city, it will destroy you, so fiercely will the citizens remember and long for their freedom.

Machiavelli contrasts two types of government: a strongly centralized model, which he identifies with the East, and the looser confederated model that dominated in Western Europe. Machiavelli had ample opportunities to see the kinds of internal problems that afflicted decentralized collections of states. The example he cites, France, was actually remarkably stable and unified in comparison with his own region of Italy

In the late medieval period and the early Renaissance, Italy was in a bad situation. The country was being invaded by powerful foreign nation states such as France and Spain

His primary concern was to secure the unification of whole peninsula under strong central government .ho strongly felt urgency of cementing together a strong state for divided Italy.(THE  PRINCE  chapter no 2-3 )




 Human Nature - The Fundamental Cause of War:

For Machiavelli, man is dominated by his passions. He is acquisitive, shortsighted and imitative. His desires are unlimited and bear little relation to his abilities. Not only is the supply of possessions limited, but man's short-sighted, restless nature makes him constantly tire of what he has and desire new and more interesting things. This selfishness leads to conflict between those who desire to dominate and those who desire to be free from domination. Domination is itself the most powerful of emotional desires. The conflict is conducted both on the civil level between men and on the international level between groups of men.

Since conflict stems from the fundamentals of human nature, it is at least latent in all human societies and therefore inevitable. One of the fundamental concerns of politics then is the control and application of conflict in the interests of society. War and politics form an organic whole; while war is a political instrument, politics itself is a warlike activity. You are all familiar with the famous dictum of Clausewitz that war is politics conducted by other, more violent means. This idea has also been adapted by Leninists. But with a different concept of what politics is about. The Leninists actually come closer to the original view of Machiavelli, which is that it is politics that is war conducted by other, less violent means

Specific causes of war:

Among the specific causes of particular wars Machiavelli mentions lack of food, ambition of princes, internal security, avoidance of punishment, miscalculation, and necessity. While these may be the immediate objects for which a city goes to war "There are but two motives for making war against a republic, one, the desire to subjugate her, the other, the apprehension of being subjugated by her.

Kinds of war

The various causes give rise to two different kinds of war, one caused by the ambition of princes or republics and the other caused when an entire people desire to overthrow the society of another people. Thus there is a qualitative difference between wars waged for limited and unlimited objectives.

 The limited political objectives involve the seizure of some territory and or domination of another group or the unseating of a particular ruler.

 In total war the objective is the complete destruction of the opposing social and political order and if possible the extermination of the population itself. Moreover, the intensity of war - the means and methods employed - is greater when the objective is total. The unlimited character of the military operation stems from the unlimited character of the political objective sought by at least one of the belligerent.


The Model Commander:

For Machiavelli, strong and able leadership is an essential ingredient in successful government, both political and military.

His books are in effect treatises on the requirements and methods of good leadership. He devotes considerable space to what a good leader should know, how he should act, and what his characteristics are, and how a city can secure and use good leadership. And whole books have been written on this topic.

The ideal leader is the classical virtuous hero as exemplified by Romulus, Theseus, Solon, Cyrus and Alexander. He is a statesman, ideally a founder of a state or religion, or the organizer of an army. Leadership is a creative quality. It is because of its creative nature that the military profession qualifies as one of the highest. The virtue of a leader is not synonymous with success, although success is an essential ingredient. Nor is mere technical ability sufficient to make the leader virtuous. The pursuit of glory rather than material goods is the highest aim of man. True glory is achieved in the doing of something which will not only be remembered but cherished by mankind. The leader therefore must exercise self-control and moderation. He must be devoted to the common good, but so desirous of glory as to prefer the short glorious life to the long mediocre one.

Leadership involves not only creative effort but also a constant struggle with fortuna an idea derived from classical ideas of fate. The world is in a constant state of change. Fortuna represents the incalculable in the nature of events.

It is impossible for man to foresee everything in order to dominate fortuna. Yet through the use of reason and dynamic leadership the commander should be able to channel events to further his own designs. Of prime importance in keeping ahead of fortuna is the ability to stay flexible enough always to anticipate changing conditions and change with the times. The inability of most men to change their habits and modus operandi constitutes one of their major weaknesses.

The importance of good leadership for Machiavelli stems from his ideas on imitation and his belief in the creative powers needed by the founders of both cities and armies. The faults of people spring from the faults of their leaders.



Conducting warfare is one of the principal duties of the leader, hence it must be the subject of careful study. "A prince should therefore have no other aim or thought, nor take up any other thing for his study, but war and its organization and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary to one who commands." This admonition is not meant to imply that war in the usual sense is the only activity of a ruler, but that the procedures associated with war have application to all phases of the ruler's activities.


Psychological Warfare:

Machiavelli applies his theory of human nature to military problems and develops major roles for religion, appearances and necessity. He believes that man's desires to acquire money, power, and glory are not sufficient in themselves to overcome an even stronger desire to stay alive.

 Fear dominates men's minds when they are faced with danger, and their desires cannot be counted on to make them risk death in battle. The commander must have recourse to other means to persuade his men to fight. Among these are music, oratory, and rewards. Three additional means are religion, appearances and necessity (art on war ).

The role of money in war:

Machiavelli discusses this at length because he disagrees with the common opinion that "money is the sinews of war". He notes that gold will not buy trustworthy soldiers, but good soldiers will always find gold.

The small stipend given soldiers in not enough to make them die for their leader. Riches along with natural geographic strength and the favorable disposition of the people is one of the many secondary requirements for success, but the primary one is a strong army.

The role of Religion:

Machiavelli emphasizes the importance of religion. He stresses its utility as a means for instilling a willingness to fight. In this he is writing about ideology in general. It served four military purposes for the Romans.

  • Predicting a favorable outcome increased confidence.

  • The oath threatened punishment from the gods for cowardice.

  • Religion educated the troops in the concepts of love of country and

  • exalted the heroic individual devoted to public service.

Machiavelli does not mention religion as an ideological belief to be fought for, for itself.


Since men are shortsighted and prone to believe what they want to believe, the general should use every means possible to make his army appear strongest and best. Appearances is also the foundation for use of stratagems and deceits. Machiavelli mentions many of the stratagems employed by ancient armies.


Necessity plays a determining role in military strategy. It is necessity which causes many wars. Necessity will make one or the other side fight harder. The able general takes necessity into account and actively uses it.


Besides evidencing leadership traits and knowing how to use psychological techniques, the commander must be thoroughly familiar with the tools of his trade. Of fundamental importance is the appreciation of the necessity for careful, detailed planning. Of equal importance is the recognition that there are certain general principles which should not be violated. Machiavelli is one of the first military theorists to point out that the scientific study of war requires an understanding of the principles on which it is based.

Estimate of the situation

Proper planning and a careful estimate of the situation are important before beginning a war. Machiavelli lists all the ingredients found in modern estimates including enemy, own forces, terrain, weather, etc

Principles of War

Machiavelli's list of principles in The Art of War is a mixture of general principles and specific tactical maneuvers

Machiavelli  sees conquering and keeping territory at a profit as the political objective. The defeat of the enemy army is the strategic and tactical objective. While victory in battle is the objective of all armies, the general should never come to a general  engagement unless forced to do so. It is more advantageous to defeat the enemy by destroying his will to resist through the use of psychological warfare and "peace campaigns". It is always possible to find allies within the opposing society who will act as a "fifth column". Even so, the use of all these other methods ultimately rests on having the undoubted ability to wage violent war in the open and to make war "short and sharp".

Since war is caused by a "thirst for domination", it is foolish to try to appease an aggressor. It is almost always better to allow something to be taken by force than to yield it to the apprehension of force, because to yield from fear for the purpose of avoiding war merely encourages the enemy to try for more.


The offensive is the cardinal principle, because it enables the leader to keep ahead of his enemies and fortuna. By keeping the initiative the ruler can channel the course of history. The principle of the offensive must be applied flexibly. When external and internal evils arise at the same time temporizing may be necessary in order to be able to build up strength while one or the other dies out. Machiavelli discusses in some detail the relevant considerations one must take into account when deciding on taking the strategic offensive or defensive.

Mass and economy of force:

Machiavelli discusses Mass several times and urges the commander to never risk his whole fortune on only a part of his forces. He does not discuss the modern concept of economy of force explicitly. 

Unity of command

This is one of Machiavelli's important principles. He discusses both the necessity for unity of political and military leadership and the narrower question of unity of command within the command element of a field army.

Surprise and Security

Machiavelli emphasizes the value of surprise and the consequent need for security. Secrecy of plans is one of the most important aspects of all operations. These principles rely on the use of deceit and the doctrine of appearances.


Condoterri: were powerful military leaders brought in by merchant oligarchies to establish order in the northern Italian communes., Machiavelli was highly dissatisfied with Italian army organization of that time .the system was based upon condotta and the condottieri-the later being contractor and the former the contract of servicespecifying the size , type serving period etc .

Machiavelli  rejected this old condoterri idea and emphasized on the formation of model army ,

The Model Army

Machiavelli devotes much attention to the proper composition of the army. He denounces mercenaries and insists on the recruitment of a militia composed of native citizens.

 These should be conscripted, not volunteers, but the citizen's education should stress the necessity for military service as a civic duty. He also does not approve of professional soldiers, even citizens, but wants military service to be a temporary activity of citizens having other means of livelihood. Machiavelli gives political as well as military reasons for his views. In fact it is the political considerations which are paramount. These extend also into the specific details of how the militia is to be recruited, paid and commanded.


The proposal to draw the citizen militia from an armed populace does not mean to arm everyone. Machiavelli considers an armed mob to be dangerous and worthless. Only selected, trustworthy individuals having specific character traits and skills should be considered.

Discipline and Training:

The need for strict discipline cannot be stressed too often. It is necessary for the internal security of a country because it makes the soldiers less likely to violate the laws, even though they have the weapons. Rigorous training in peacetime to include participation in sham battles is essential, both to develop specific skills and to develop discipline


Machiavelli finds contemporary armies greatly lacking in proper logistic procedures and recommends a return to the exemplary Roman routine. He especially mentions food supply and medical practice as important areas for the commander' s attention.


He describes the proper siting and layout of a camp in great detail. Again, his model is the Roman practice.

Arms and Armor:

The roles that various weapons have played in the success or failure of ancient and contemporary armies bear analysis. Machiavelli discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the pike, sword, and firearms. He proposes to organize his model regiment of 6000 men with 3000 armed with sword and shield, 2000 with pike and 1000 with arquebus . He mentions cavalry only briefly because contemporary cavalry is already better than infantry, but it is the infantry that is the key element in the army.


The army is to be formed of two native and two allied regiments of 6000 men each. The regiment is composed of ten battalions of 400 heavy infantry and 50 light infantry each plus an extra unit of 1000 pikemen and 500 extra light infantry. Each battalion is commanded by a Lt Col assisted by 5 captains and 45 corporals. The extra pikemen are also commanded by 3 Lt Co l's and the extra light infantry by two Lt Co l's. A colonel commands the entire regiment.

Each battalion has 36 horsemen and the regiment has a unit of 150 heavy cavalry and one of 150 light cavalry.

Promotion is up through the ranks and by merit. The senior Lt. Col commands the first battalion and the junior the 10th, so that each promotion brings a corresponding shift in position within the regiment. The officer corps is also rotated between regiments to prevent anyone from acquiring a personal following.

Machiavelli gives a very detailed account of the basic formations to be used. There are three basic combat formations for the battalion, the oblong rectangle, the square with horns, and the hollow square.


Order of Battle:

Machiavelli draws his army up on the battlefield in Roman fashion, in three lines in which the battalions are disposed in checkerboard fashion. He gives a full description of a set-piece battle to illustrate the formation and proper interaction of each subunit. He also goes into considerable detail to explain the proper formation and procedure for conducting a march, both in one's own country and in the face of the enemy. The relative value of infantry and cavalry was one of the current issues of the day to which Machiavelli addressed himself. He clearly favors infantry. The role and value of artillery also merits his attention. He disagrees with many contemporaries who said that artillery would eliminate both the opportunity for individual valor and close combat. In this he was correct, but at the same time he went too far the other way and did not recognize the valuable role artillery would soon play.



Fortifications and Siege Warfare:

Machiavelli was primarily concerned with the political and strategic use of fortifications and their attack and defense. That he was aware also of the technical aspects of fortification design is evidenced by his supervision of the strengthening of the city walls of Florence. He was also called upon to make a detailed technical report recommending new fortifications.