A man of action becomes man of letters


On 7 November 1512—five hundred and five years ago— Niccolò Machiavelli was formally dismissed from his post in the chancery at the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, where he had been serving since 1498 administering the republic’s internal and external affairs.

The restoration of the Medici and the resulting fall of the Republic put an end to his public career. Although he had been a loyal and efficient servant of the Florentine government, he was removed from the office of secretary, and banished from the city.
His name was also mentioned in the course of an anti-Medici plot and he was imprisoned, and subjected to interrogation under torture
As he was entirely innocent, he was freed, but he retired to his small property at San Casciano, near Florence, where he devoted himself to literature. There he wrote his masterpiece, “The Prince”, an empirical study on power: he used a number of contemporary and ancient examples, such as Cesare Borgia or Alexander the Great, to demonstrate that ruthlessness, determination and cunning can be more effective than conventional virtue. He dedicated his book to the new Medici ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici, in the false hope of regaining employment.

The adjective Machiavellian means cunning, calculating, and unscrupulous, especially in politics, as taught in The Prince, which is regarded as one of the first leadership advice books.
Yet, while Machiavellianism is notable in Machiavelli’s works, these are really complex and much more than just “Machiavellian”

Here are five quotes:

Politics have no relation to morals”

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

“It is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”

“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”


12 thoughts on “A man of action becomes man of letters

  1. No doubt he was a practical, nonsense type of man, however his rational of doing what its necessary to succeed, conflicted with the high minded ideals established, by centuries of Religious, and Philosophical teachings were Virtue is the higher ideal we all should strive for, meanwhile Machiavelli, a man more contemporary for today standards of moral, will fit very well, like declaring torture legal, as example, justifying it, for a higher cause.
    In my opinion that sort of thinking as Machiavelli envisioned, lead us into to a slippery road, straight downhill, where the values of a ruler justify whatever means to accomplish them, trampling on the Humanist idea born from the Magna carta, and the hard fought freedom of the individual, from the clutch of the powers that be, since those days.
    We all know that the highest ideals are hard to accomplish, and at times may sound naive, but do not underestimate the need to fight all the time to accomplish them, and defend them from being rolled back, or we all will suffer because of it, the XX Century, not to go too far from our time, it’s full of examples, when totalitarian powers pretty much did as they pleased, murdering millions of people with very little done to stop it, to supposedly accomplish their ideological goals, to finally end in failure, and misery for great part of the World population.
    Machiavelli misunderstood by History, and his critics? I do not think so! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well I would not debate your point, however I am afraid he will remain controversial to the end of time, as in the past, and as today. That Machiavelli strove for realism is not doubted, but for four centuries scholars have debated how best to describe his morality. The Prince made the word “Machiavellian” a byword for deceit, despotism, and political manipulation. Even if Machiavelli was not himself evil, and suffered torture by a despot. Leo Strauss declared himself inclined toward the traditional view that Machiavelli was self-consciously a “teacher of evil,” since he counsels the princes to avoid the values of justice, mercy, temperance, wisdom, and love of their people in preference to the use of cruelty, violence, fear, and deception.
    Even myself wonder in what circle, or sphere, Dante would have run into him? If Machiavelli would had been his contemporary.
    I thank you for your patience with me, and your great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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