Discourses on Livy
- "Thus it is necessary to note, men must be either enticed or snuffed out. For light offenses they avenge, grievous ones they cannot; therefore the offense done to a man must be such as to remove any fear of revenge."
- "It is necessary for the one who founds a republic, and sets laws on it, to presuppose all men evil, and always ready to put the maliciousness in their soul to use, every time they have a chance..."
Not many have had their name become synonymous with “cunning and duplicity.” But Niccolo Machiavelli, Florentine diplomat and author of 'The Prince,' is the “father of modern political theory.” Although also publishing several other books, it is his handbook for politicians – whatever the level – on the application of ruthless cunning that has made him (in)famous in civilization.
In May 1469 AD, in a period that rival city-states and the major powers of Catholic Europe battled across poor Italy, Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born in Florence, son of the attorney Bernardo and his wife Bartolomea. Moderately well educated in grammar, rhetoric, and Latin, Niccolo was an indifferent scholar. Nevertheless, when the Florentines expelled the ruling de Medici and declared a republic in 1494, young Niccolo became a diplomat for the independent state. Navigating the treacherous waters of Renaissance diplomacy, he earned a reputation for deviousness and shameless intrigue that served the republic well … until the de Medici returned to power in 1512.
Having been jailed, tortured, released, and forbidden from any active role in politics, Machiavelli’s empty days gave him the opportunity to read Roman history, ponder the political success of the Borgias (and their ultimate failure to unify Italy), and write political treatises, most notably 'The Prince.' Although Pope Clement VII (and idealists ever since) condemned the book for its supposed endorsement of rule by deceit and fear, it entered the European lexicon of “great works.” Niccolo followed this with his 'Discourses on Livy' (a handbook on how a republic should be structured) and 'On the Art of War' (a work on strategy and tactics). He died in 1527, having lived quietly in a small village outside the walls of Florence for a decade.