Hope Greenberg
History 300
Daily Question: July 19, 1993

Briefly answer each of the following:
1) By what means does Machiavelli seek to "prove" his various theories and interpretations?
2) Why, according to Machiavelli, have the Italian princes lost their states?
3) Why does Machiavelli admire Cesare Borgia?
4) How does Machiavelli define morality for a prince?

In his final exhortation to Lorenzo Medici to liberate Italy from the barbarians, Machiavelli reminds his prince to "call up before you the actions and the lives of those named above" (i.e. leaders of the past and present). While he goes on to say that they, though "rare and marvelous" were only men, he holds them up as examples of the points that he wishes to make. Through their lives and their careers he gives credence and support to his arguments, assuming that history is only repetition and that what worked for those in the past will work for those in the present.

These arguments define a prince in terms that some might find cynical, others atrocious, and still others indicative of hard-headed reality. In any case, most would agree that Machiavelli's definition of morality as applied to princes is not that which is generally accepted as such. He portrays a prince whose only goal and only guide must be his acquisition and maintenance of power. His prince must be strong, even if that strength relies on what others might term cruelty. However, he must not oppress the people‹not because of any altruism but because without their support he cannot maintain his state. He must be frugal‹because lavishness, while it may buy some support, cannot buy all the support he needs, and because he must save up against that day when his position might be threatened. He must embark on "great enterprises and rare examples"‹not because these are noble but because they will provide distractions for those who might otherwise plot against him.

Machiavelli holds up Cesare Borgia as an example of what a prince should be. He describes the craftiness (like a fox) and strength (like a lion) that Borgia shows in his single-minded pursuit of power. His ability to manipulate his enemies, his use of a tyrant to subdue the people and his later disposal of that tool to "gain [the people] to himself," and his attempt to secure both the secular and church leaders, are all presented as models of proper behavior.

While he blames misfortune and illness for Cesare Borgia's failure to fulfill his dreams of power, he is not so quick to excuse other Italian princes. His principal argument against them can be seen in the following: "If one keeps his state founded on mercenary arms, he will never be at rest or secure, because those arms are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, unfaithful..." However, he also points out these princes failed to make the people their friends or did "not know how to secure themselves against the great." He berates these princes for their "indolence" in assuming that their position is immutable and that they need not guard against future challenges from within and without. As Machiavelli has sought to prove throughout this work, a prince who wishes to remain in power must be ever vigilant.


If Ferdinand of Spain had been Italian, do you think Machiavelli would have used him as his prime example of a proper prince?

How did Lorenzo or those around him receive "The Prince" (well obviously he didn't give Machiavelli a job) and what is its history after that?

This file is part of Hope Greenberg's Graduate Portfolio for the course History 300. Created 15 October 1996.