Niccolò Machiavelli

Italian diplomat and political and military theorist (1469–1527)
(Redirected from Niccolo Machiavelli)

Niccolò Machiavelli (3 May 146921 June 1527) was an Italian political philosopher, historian, musician, poet, and romantic comedic playwright. Machiavelli was also a key figure in realist political theory, crucial to European statecraft during the Renaissance.

The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
See also: The Prince


It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
It is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved? It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
Friendships that are won by awards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved, yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.
The prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible … when neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has only to contend with the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease in many ways.
A prince who is not wise himself will never take good advice.

  • When evening comes, I return home and enter my study; on the threshold I take off my workday clothes, covered with mud and dirt, and put on the garments of court and palace. Fitted out appropriately, I step inside the venerable courts of the ancients, where, solicitously received by them, I nourish myself on that food that alone is mine and for which I was born; where I am unashamed to converse with them and to question them about the motives for their actions, and they, out of their human kindness, answer me. And for four hours at a time I feel no boredom, I forget all my troubles, I do not dread poverty, and I am not terrified by death. I absorb myself into them completely.
    • Letter to Francesco Vettori (10 December 1513), as translated by James Atkinson, in Prince Machiavelli (1976), p. 19
  • Now, in order to execute a political commission well, it is necessary to know the character of the prince and those who sway his counsels; ... but it is above all things necessary to make himself esteemed, which he will do if he so regulates his actions and conversation that he shall be thought a man of honour, liberal, and sincere. The latter point is highly essential, though too much neglected, as I have seen more than one so lose themselves in the opinion of princes by their duplicity, that they have been unable to conduct a negotiation of the most trifling importance. It is undoubtedly necessary for the ambassador occasionally to mask his game; but it should be done so as not to awaken suspicion and he ought also to be prepared with an answer in case of discovery.
    • "Instructions given by Niccolo Machiavelli to Rafael Girolami, Ambassador to the Emperor," The History of Florence and of the Affairs of Italy: From the Earliest Times to the Death of Lorenzo the Magnificent; Together with The Prince, and Various Historical Tracts, H.G. Bohn, Editor, p.505–06 (1854). Translations of the passage formatted in bold are often presented out of context, as in Arthur Koestler's Darkness At Noon (1941): Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.
  • In judging policies we should consider the results that have been achieved through them rather than the means by which they have been executed.
    • From an undated letter to Piero Soderini (translated here by Dr. Arthur Livingston), in The Living Thoughts of Machiavelli, by Count Carlo Sforza, published by Cassell, London (1942), p. 85

The Prince (1513)Edit

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

A variant translation of: "And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him." - The Prince (1513), Chapter XXII

Discourses on Livy (1517)Edit

Whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise.
Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions.
Quotes from translations of Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio; 3 vols. published between 1512–1517 (Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius)
  • As all those have shown who have discussed civil institutions, and as every history is full of examples, it is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity; and if such malignity is hidden for a time, it proceeds from the unknown reason that would not be known because the experience of the contrary had not been seen, but time, which is said to be the father of every truth, will cause it to be discovered.
    • Book 1, Ch. 3 Variant portion: Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.
  • Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.
    • Book 1, Ch. 3 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • The demands of a free populace, too, are very seldom harmful to liberty, for they are due either to the populace being oppressed or to the suspicious that it is going to be oppressed... and, should these impressions be false, a remedy is provided in the public platform on which some man of standing can get up, appeal to the crowd, and show that it is mistaken. And though, as Tully remarks, the populace may be ignorant, it is capable of grasping the truth and readily yields when a man, worthy of confidence, lays the truth before it.
    • Book 1, Ch. 4 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • For as when much superfluous matter has gathered in simple bodies, nature makes repeated efforts to remove and purge it away, thereby promoting the health of these bodies, so likewise as regards that composite body the human race, when every province of the world so teems with inhabitants that they can neither subsist where they are nor remove elsewhere, every region being equally crowded and over-peopled, and when human craft and wickedness have reached their highest pitch, it must needs come about that the world will purge herself in one or another of these three ways, to the end that men, becoming few and contrite, may amend their lives and live with more convenience.
    • Book 1 Ch. 5 (as translated by Ninian Hill Thomson)
  • So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging.
    • Book 1, Ch. 6 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • I am firmly convinced, therefore, that to set up a republic which is to last a long time, the way to set about it is to constitute it as Sparta and Venice were constituted; to place it in a strong position, and so to fortify it that no one will dream of taking it by a sudden assault; and, on the other hand, not to make it so large as to appear formidable to its neighbors. It should in this way be able to enjoy its form of government for a long time. For war is made on a commonwealth for two reasons: to subjugate it, and for fear of being subjugated by it.
    • Book 1, Ch. 6 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • The people resemble a wild beast, which, naturally fierce and accustomed to live in the woods, has been brought up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where to conceal itself, easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again.
    • Book 1, Ch. 16
  • It was the verdict of ancient writers that men afflict themselves in evil and weary themselves in the good, and that the same effects result from both of these passions. For whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. The reason is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction to themselves from it. From this arises the changes in their fortunes; for as men desire, some to have more, some in fear of losing their acquisition, there ensues enmity and war, from which results the ruin of that province and the elevation of another.
    • Book 1, Ch. 37 Variant: Nature has so contrived that to men, though all things are objects of desire, not all things are attainable; so that desire always exceeds the power of attainment, with the result that men are ill-content with what they possess and their present state brings them little satisfaction. Hence arise the vicissitudes of their fortune. (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions. Thus, it is an easy matter for him who carefully examines past events to foresee future events in a republic and to apply the remedies employed by the ancients, or, if old remedies cannot be found, to devise new ones based upon the similarity of the events. But since these matters are neglected or not understood by those who read, or, if understood, remain unknown to those who govern, the result is that the same problems always exist in every era.
    • Book 1, Chapter 39
  • It is enough to ask somebody for his weapons without saying 'I want to kill you with them', because when you have his weapons in hand, you can satisfy your desire.
    • Book 1, Ch 44 (as translated by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella)
  • When Scipio became consul and was keen on getting the province of Africa, promising that Carthage should be completely destroyed, and the senate would not agree to this because Fabius Maximus was against it, he threatened to appeal to the people, for he knew full well how pleasing such projects are to the populace.
    • Book 1, Ch. 53 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • It is truly a marvelous thing to consider to what greatness Athens arrived in the space of one hundred years after she freed herself from the tyranny of Pisistratus; but, above all, it is even more marvelous to consider the greatness Rome reached when she freed herself from her kings. The reason is easy to understand, for it is the common good and not private gain that makes cities great. Yet, without a doubt, this common good is observed only in republics, for in them everything that promotes it is practised, and however much damage it does to this or that private individual, those who benefit from the said common good are so numerous that they are able to advance in spite of the inclination of the few citizens who are oppressed by it.
    • Book 2, Chapter 2
  • The end of the republic is to enervate and to weaken all other bodies so as to increase its own body.
    • Book 2, Ch. 3 (translation by Mansfield and Tarcov)
  • Cunning and deceit will every time serve a man better than force to rise from a base condition to great fortune.
    • Book 2, Ch. 13
  • I assert once again as a truth to which history as a whole bears witness that men may second their fortune, but cannot oppose it; that they may weave its warp, but cannot break it. Yet they should never give up, because there is always hope, though they know not the end and more towards it along roads which cross one another and as yet are unexplored; and since there is hope, they should not despair, no matter what fortune brings or in what travail they find themselves.
    • Book 2, Ch. 29 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
  • This return of Republics back to their principles also results from the simple virtue of one man, without depending on any law that excites him to any execution: none the less, they are of such influence and example that good men desire to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life contrary to those examples.
    • Book 3, Ch. 1
  • It is not titles that make men illustrious, but men who make titles illustrious.
    • Book 3, Ch. 38

The Art of War (1520)Edit

Discipline in war counts more than fury.
Quotations from translations of Dell'arte della guerra — also known as On the Art of War
  • I believe that it is possible for one to praise, without concern, any man after he is dead since every reason and supervision for adulation is lacking.
    • Book 1
  • No proceeding is better than that which you have concealed from the enemy until the time you have executed it. To know how to recognize an opportunity in war, and take it, benefits you more than anything else. Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many. Discipline in war counts more than fury.
    • Book 7; Variant translation: No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.
      Nothing is of greater importance in time of war than in knowing how to make the best use of a fair opportunity when it is offered.

      Few men are brave by nature, but good discipline and experience make many so.
      Good order and discipline in an army are more to be depended upon than ferocity.
      • As translated by Neal Wood (1965)

The Mandrake (1524)Edit

Quotations in English are taken from The Essential Writings of Machiavelli, trans. Peter Constantine (Random House, 2009), ISBN 978-0307419996
  • Non è mai alcuna cosa sì disperata, che non vi sia qualche via da poterne sperare.
    • No circumstance is ever so desperate that one cannot nurture some spark of hope.
    • Act I, scene i
  • Le più caritative persone che sieno sono le donne, e le più fastidiose. Chi le scaccia, fugge e fastidii e l'utile; chi le intrattiene, ha l'utile ed e fastidii insieme. Ed è 'l vero che non è el mele sanza le mosche.
    • Women are the most charitable creatures, and the most troublesome. He who shuns women passes up the trouble, but also the benefits. He who puts up with them gains the benefits, but also the trouble. As the saying goes, there's no honey without bees.
    • Act III, scene iv
  • In terra di ciechi chi vi ha un occhio è signore.
    • In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.
    • Act III, scene ix
  • El fine si ha a riguardare in tutte le cose.
    • One must never forget to look at the aim of a matter.
    • Act III, scene xi
  • Sono maggiori li spaventi ch'e mali.
    • Fear of evil is greater than the evil itself.
    • Act III, scene xi
  • Le cattive compagnie conducono gli uomini alle forche.
    • Bad company will lead a man to the gallows!
    • Act IV, scene vi

Florentine Histories (1526)Edit

God and nature have thrown all human fortunes into the midst of mankind; and they are thus attainable rather by rapine than by industry, by wicked actions rather than by good.
Original Italian title: Istorie fiorentine (written 1526)
  • It may be observed, that provinces amid the vicissitudes to which they are subject, pass from order into confusion, and afterward recur to a state of order again; for the nature of mundane affairs not allowing them to continue in an even course, when they have arrived at their greatest perfection, they soon begin to decline. In the same manner, having been reduced by disorder, and sunk to their utmost state of depression, unable to descend lower, they, of necessity, reascend; and thus from good they gradually decline to evil, and from evil again return to good. The reason is, that valor produces peace; peace, repose; repose, disorder; disorder, ruin; so from disorder order springs; from order virtue, and from this, glory and good fortune.
  • If you only notice human proceedings, you may observe that all who attain great power and riches, make use of either force or fraud; and what they have acquired either by deceit or violence, in order to conceal the disgraceful methods of attainment, they endeavor to sanctify with the false title of honest gains. Those who either from imprudence or want of sagacity avoid doing so, are always overwhelmed with servitude and poverty; for faithful servants are always servants, and honest men are always poor; nor do any ever escape from servitude but the bold and faithless, or from poverty, but the rapacious and fraudulent. God and nature have thrown all human fortunes into the midst of mankind; and they are thus attainable rather by rapine than by industry, by wicked actions rather than by good. Hence it is that men feed upon each other, and those who cannot defend themselves must be worried.
    • Book III, Chapter 13
  • Comincionsi le guerre quando altri vuole, ma non quando altri vuole si finiscono.
    • Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.
    • Variant translation: Wars are begun at will but not ended at will.
    • Book III, Chapter 7.


  • When Machiavelli came to the end of his life, he had a vision shortly before giving up the ghost. He saw a small company of poor scoundrels, all in rags, ill-favoured, famished, and, in short, in as bad plight as possible. He was told that these were the inhabitants of paradise, of whom it is written, Beati pauperes, quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum.[1] After they withdrew, innumerable serious and majestic personages appeared, who seemed to be sitting in a senate-house and dealing with the most important affairs of state. Among them he saw Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Plutarch, Tacitus, and others of similar character; but he was told at the same time that those venerable personages, notwithstanding their appearance, were the damned, and the souls rejected by heaven, for Sapientia huius saeculi, inimica est Dei.[2]. After this, he was asked to which of the groups he would choose to belong; he answered that he would much rather be in Hell with those great geniuses, to converse with them about affairs of state, than be condemned to the company of the verminous scoundrels that he had first been shown.
    • This account of Machiavelli's "Dream" was not published until a century after his death, in Etienne Binet's Du salut d'Origene (1629).[3]
    • There is an earlier but more oblique reference in a letter written by Giovambattista Busini in 1549: "Upon falling ill, [Machiavelli] took his usual pills and, becoming weaker as the illness grew worse, told his famous dream to Filippo [Strozzi], Francesco del Nero, Iacopo Nardi and others, and then reluctantly died, telling jokes to the last.".[4]
    • The "Dream" is commonly condensed into a more pithy form, such as "I desire to go to hell, and not to heaven. In the former place I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings, and princes, while in the latter are only beggars, monks, hermits, and apostles".[5]


  • War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms.
    • This is a quotation of Titus Livius IX:1 iustum enim est bellum quibus necessarium, et pia arma ubi nulla in armis spes est) that Machiavelli uses in Ch. 24 of Discourses on Livy; Machiavelli similarly writes that "The justice of the cause is conspicuous; for that war is just which is necessary, and those arms are sacred from which we derive our only hope." (The Prince, Ch. 26)
  • I am not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
  • Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
    • Though Machiavelli commented on the relative ease of gaining favor from friends and enemies in Chapter 20 of The Prince, quoted above, in recent years this has become more commonly and just as wrongly attributed to Sun Tzu, as this particular wording actually originates with a line spoken by Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974), written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola:
      • My father taught me many things here. He taught me in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
  • Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.
    • Quote allegedly from The Prince, but not found there textually.

Quotes about MachiavelliEdit

Machiavelli is the complete contrary of a machiavellian, since he describes the tricks of power and “gives the whole show away.” The seducer and the politician, who live in the dialectic and have a feeling and instinct for it, try their best to keep it hidden. ~ Maurice Merleau-Ponty
We are much beholden to Machiavelli and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do. ~ Francis Bacon
Perhaps the most influential book ever written on the characteristics of men in politics is The Prince, by the great Renaissance Italian Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). Despite its enduring popularity, fascination, and authority it is extremely one-sided and unsystematic. ~ Robert A. Dahl
    • With such a name, there is no need for eulogy.
      • Inscribed on Machiavelli's tomb
  • He is the earliest conscious and articulate exponent of certain living forces in the present world. Religion, progressive enlightenment, the perpetual vigilance of public opinion, have not reduced his empire, or disproved the justice of his conception of mankind. He obtains a new lease of life from causes that are still prevailing, and from doctrines that are apparent in politics, philosophy, and science. Without sparing censure, or employing for comparison the grosser symptoms of the age, we find him near our common level, and perceive that he is not a vanishing type, but a constant and contemporary influence. Where it is impossible to praise, to defend, or to excuse, the burden of blame may yet be lightened by adjustment and distribution, and he is more rationally intelligible when illustrated by lights falling not only from the century he wrote in, but from our own, which has seen the course of its history twenty-five times diverted by actual or attempted crime.
    • Lord Acton, 'Introduction' to Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe, ed. L. A. Burd (1891), p. xl
  • We are much beholden to Machiavelli and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do. For it is not possible to join serpentine wisdom with the columbine innocency, except men know exactly all the conditions of the serpent; his baseness and going upon his belly, his volubility and lubricity, his envy and sting, and the rest; that is, all forms and natures of evil. For without this, virtue lieth open and unfenced. Nay, an honest man can do no good upon those that are wicked, to reclaim them, without the help of the knowledge of evil.
  • When Machiavelli advises the Prince to carry out the Machiavellian scheme of action, he invests those actions with no sort of morality or beauty. For him morality remains what it is for everyone else, and does not cease to remain so because he observes (not without melancholy) that it is incompatible with politics. ... For him evil, even if it aids politics, still remains evil. The modern realists are the moralists of realism. For them, the act which makes the State strong is invested with a moral character by the fact that it does so, and this whatever the act may be. The evil which serves politics ceases to be evil and becomes good.
  • What has been shown by Machiavelli, who is often (like Nietzsche) congratulated for tearing off hypocritical masks, brutally revealing the truth, and so on, is not that men profess one thing and do another (although no doubt he shows this too) but that when they assume that the two ideals are compatible, or perhaps are even one and the same ideal, and do not allow this assumption to be questioned, they are guilty of bad faith (as the existentialists call it, or of “false consciousness,” to use a Marxist formula) which their actual behavior exhibits. Machiavelli calls the bluff not just of official morality—the hypocrisies of ordinary life—but of one of the foundations of the central Western philosophical tradition, the belief in the ultimate compatibility of all genuine values. His own withers are unwrung. He has made his choice. He seems wholly unworried by, indeed scarcely aware of, parting company with traditional Western morality.
  • At a certain stage in my reading, I naturally met with the principal works of Machiavelli. They made a deep and lasting impression upon me, and shook my earlier faith. I derived from them not the most obvious teachings [...] but something else. Machiavelli was not a historicist: he thought it possible to restore something like the Roman Republic or Rome of the early Principate. He believed that to do this one needed a ruling class of brave, resourceful, intelligent, gifted men who knew how to seize opportunities and use them, and citizens who were adequately protected, patriotic, proud of their State, epitomes of manly, pagan virtues. [...]
    But Machiavelli also sets side by side with this the notion of Christian virtues – humility, acceptance of suffering, unworldliness, the hope of salvation in an afterlife – and he remarks that if, as he plainly himself favours, a State of a Roman type is to be established, these qualities will not promote it: those who live by the precepts of Christian morality are bound to be trampled on by the ruthless pursuit of power on the part of men who alone can re-create and dominate the republic which he wants to see. He does not condemn Christian virtues. He merely points out that the two moralities are incompatible, and he does not recognise an overarching criterion whereby we are enabled to decide the right life for men. The combination of virtù and Christian values is for him an impossibility. He simply leaves you to choose – he knows which he himself prefers.
    The idea that this planted in my mind was the realisation, which came as something of a shock, that not all the supreme values pursued by mankind now and in the past were necessarily compatible with one another. It undermined my earlier assumption, based on the philosophia perennis, that there could be no conflict between true ends, true answers to the central problems of life.
    • Isaiah Berlin, "The Pursuit of the Ideal", New York Review of Books, 17 March 1988; republished in The Crooked Timber of Humanity : Chapters in the History of Ideas (1990; 2013)
  • Machiavelli is the first important political realist... The three essential tenets implicit in Machiavelli's doctrine are the foundation-stones of the realist philosophy. In the first place, history is a sequence of cause and effect, whose course can be analysed and understood by intellectual effort, but not (as the utopians believe) directed by "imagination". Secondly, theory does not (as the utopians assume) create practice, but practice theory. In Machiavelli's words, "good counsels, whencesoever they come, are born of the wisdom of the prince, and not the wisdom of the prince from good counsels". Thirdly, politics are not (as the utopians pretend) a function of ethics, but ethics of politics. Men "are kept honest by constraint". Machiavelli recognised the importance of morality, but thought that there could be no effective morality where there was no effective authority. Morality is the product of power.
    The extraordinary vigour and vitality of Machiavelli's challenge to orthodoxy may be attested by the fact that, more than four centuries after he wrote, the most conclusive way of discrediting a political opponent is still to describe him as a disciple of Machiavelli. Bacon was one of the first to praise him for "saying openly and without hypocrisy what men are in the habit of doing, not what they ought to do".
  • Perhaps the most influential book ever written on the characteristics of men in politics is The Prince, by the great Renaissance Italian Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). Despite its enduring popularity, fascination, and authority it is extremely one-sided and unsystematic.
  • In attempting to teach the prince how to achieve, maintain, and expand power, Machiavelli made his fundamental and celebrated distinction between "the effective truth of things" and the "imaginary republics and monarchies that have never been seen nor have been known to exist." The implication was that moral and political philosophers had hitherto talked exclusively about the latter and had failed to provide guidance to the real world in which the prince must operate. This demand for a scientific, positive approach was extended only later from the prince to the individual, from the nature of the state to human nature. Machiavelli probably sensed that a realistic theory of the state required a knowledge of human nature, but his remarks on that subject, while invariably acute, are scattered and unsystematic.
  • If one desires to learn at one blow, to what degree of hideousness the fact can attain, viewed at the distance of centuries, let him look at Machiavelli. Machiavelli is not an evil genius, nor a demon, nor a miserable and cowardly writer; he is nothing but the fact. And he is not only the Italian fact; he is the European fact, the fact of the sixteenth century. He seems hideous, and so he is, in the presence of the moral idea of the nineteenth..
  • The cool cynicism of Machiavelli's teaching is impressive. Not only does he recommend to princes absolute unscrupulousness; his advice is based on the assumption that all their subjects are gullible and guided solely by self-interest. Some have been shocked by the book's immorality; others have found its lack of humbug refreshing. Few, however, have been persuaded to admire the models held up by Machiavelli, such as Pope Alexander VI and his son Cesare Borgia.
    • Anthony Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy, Vol. III. The Rise of Modern Philosophy (2006), Ch. 9. Political Philosophy
  • There is really very little of Machiavelli's one can accept or use in the contemporary world. The one thing I find interesting in Machiavelli is his estimate of the prince's will. Interesting, but not such as to influence me. If you want to know who has influenced me most, I'll answer with two philosophers' names: Spinoza and Kant. Which makes it all the more peculiar that you choose to associate me with Machiavelli.
    • Henry Kissinger, in interview with Oriana Fallaci, The New Republic (December 16, 1972)
  • Machiavelli is the complete contrary of a machiavellian, since he describes the tricks of power and “gives the whole show away.” The seducer and the politician, who live in the dialectic and have a feeling and instinct for it, try their best to keep it hidden.
  • My vacation, my preference, my cure for all things Platonic has always been Thucydides. Thucydides, and perhaps Machiavelli's Principe are most closely related to me in terms of their unconditional will not to be fooled and to see reason in reality, - not in 'reason', and even less in ‘morality’...
  • It has been said that the project of Machiavelli was to expound a science of politics, but this, I think, misses the significant point. [...] The project of Machiavelli was, then, to provide a crib to politics, a political training in default of a political education, a technique for the ruler who had no tradition. He supplied a demand of his time; and he was personally and temperamentally interested in supplying the demand because he felt the 'fascination of what is difficult'. The new ruler was more interesting because he was far more likely than the educated hereditary ruler to get himself into a tricky situation and to need the help of advice. But, like the great progenitors of Rationalism in general (Bacon and Descartes), Machiavelli was aware of the limitations of technical knowledge; it was not Machiavelli himself, but his followers, who believed in the sovereignty of technique, who believed that government was nothing more than 'public administration' and could be learned from a book. And to the new prince he offered not only his book, but also, what would make up for the inevitable deficiencies of his book - himself: he never lost the sense that politics, after all, are diplomacy, not the application of a technique.
    • Michael Oakeshott, "Rationalism in Politics" (1947), published in Rationalism in Politics and other essays (1962)
  • Machiavelli was the first philosopher to define politics as treachery. This is not to say that he approved of treachery, only that he wished to describe politics as various forms of it. That he set out to do so, however, is no doubt why for almost five hundred years the single most influential of all modern political thinkers, as this biography hopes to show, has himself been described as revolting, nauseating, unprincipled and evil.
    • Paul Oppenheimer, Machiavelli: A Life Beyond Ideology (2011), "Introduction: Modern Evil and The Sack of Rome"
  • It is this that Samuel insisted on to the Hebrews; it is this that Machiavelli clearly demonstrated. While pretending to give lessons to kings, he gave great ones to peoples. The Prince of Machiavelli is the book for republicans.
  • Machiavelli was an honorable man and a good citizen; but, attached to the house of the Medici, he was forced, during the oppression of his country, to conceal his love for liberty. The mere choice of his execrable hero sufficiently manifests his secret intention; and the opposition between the maxims of his book the Prince and those of his Discourses on Titus Livius and his History of Florence shows that this profound politician has had hitherto only superficial or corrupt readers. The court of Rome has strictly prohibited his book; I certainly believe it, for it is that court which he most clearly depicts.
  • This misfortune occurred to Machiavelli, who, had he been a Machiavellian, would sooner have written an edifying book than his ill-reputed Prince. In actuality, Machiavelli was on the defensive as was also his country, Italy, which in the sixteenth century had been invaded by Germans, Frenchmen, Spaniards, and Turks. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the situation of the ideological defensive was repeated in Germany-during the revolutionary and Napoleonic invasions of the French. When it became important for the German people to defend themselves against an expanding enemy armed with a humanitarian ideology, Machiavelli was rehabilitated by Fichte and Hegel.
  • In the case of a prince whose sole motive is lust for power, the means he must employ to strengthen and preserve his state have been described at some length by that keen observer, Machiavelli, but with what purpose appears uncertain. If he did have some good purpose in mind, as one should believe of so wise a man, it must have been to show how foolish are the attempts so often made to get rid of a tyrant while yet the causes that have made the prince a tyrant cannot be removed; on the contrary, they become more firmly established as the prince is given more grounds for fear.
  • Call me a dreamer, but one day, my name will become an adjective for everything cynical and untrustworthy in human nature.
  • The founder of modern political philosophy is Machiavelli. He tried to effect, and he did effect, a break with the whole tradition of political philosophy. He compared his achievement to that of men like Columbus. He claimed to have discovered a new moral continent. His claim is well founded; his political teaching is "wholly new." The only question is whether the new continent is fit for human habitation.
    • Leo Strauss, "What is Political Philosophy?", published in What is Political Philosophy? And Other Studies (1959)
  • We would like to believe that Machiavelli's insights can be retained and his extremism discarded, that his notion of esecuzione can be absorbed into the modern liberal constitution without the tyrannical requirement of uno solo that may give us a shiver or may merely seem quaint.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli was the restorer of the Roman conception of politics as civil wisdom—that is, the idea of politics as the wisdom of the citizen whose aim is to preserve the civil life—and the founder of the theory of modern republicanism based pon this conception. He was a founder, but in a very different sense from the usual meaning of the word, and most of the pompous titles which have been attributed to him should be put aside, beginning with the least justified of all, that of founder of the modern science of politics.
    • Maurizio Viroli, Machiavelli (1998), "Introduction"
  • The elements of Realpolitik, exhaustively listed, are these: The ruler's, and later the state's, interest provides the spring of action; the necessities of policy arise from the unregulated competition of states; calculation based on these necessities can discover the policies that will best serve a state's interests; success is the ultimate test of policy, and success is defined as preserving and strengthening the state . Ever since Machiavelli, interest and necessity — and raison d'état, the phrase that comprehends them-have remained the key concepts of Realpolitik. From Machiavelli through Meinecke and Morgenthau the elements of the approach and the reasoning remain constant. Machiavelli stands so clearly as the exponent of Realpolitik that one easily slips into thinking that he developed the closely associated idea of balance of power as well . Although he did not, his conviction that politics can be explained in its own terms established the ground on which balance-of-power theory can be built.
    • Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979) Chapter 6. Anarchic Structures and Balances of Power


  1. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
  2. The wisdom of this world is the enemy of God
  3. Binet, Estienne (1629) (in French). Du Salut D'Origene. Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy. pp. 359-361. . Original French: On arrive à ce detestable poinct d'honneur, où arriva Machiauel sur la fin de sa vie: car il eut cette illusion peu deuant que rendre son esprit. II vit un tas de pauures gens, comme coquins, deschirez, affamez, contrefaits, fort mal en ordre, & en assez petit nombre, on luy dit que c'estoit ceux de Paradis, desquels il estoit ecrit: "Beati pauperes, quoniam ipsorum est regnum cælorum". Ceux-cy estans retirez, on fit paroistre vn nombre innombrable de personnages pleins de grauité & de majesté, on les voyoit comme un Senat, où on traitoit d'affaires d'estat, & fort serieuses, il entrevid Platon, Aristote, Seneque, Plutarque, Tacite, & d'autres de cette qualité. II demanda qui estoient ces Messieurs-là si venerables, on luy dit que c'estoient les damnez, & que c'estoient des ames reprouuées du Ciel, "Sapientia huius sæculi, inimica est Dei". Cela estant passé, on luy demanda desquels il vouloit estre. II respondit, qu'il aymoit beaucoup mieux estre en enfer auec ces grands esprits, pour deuiser auec eux des affaires d'Estat, que d'estre auec cette vermine de ces belistres qu'on luy auoit fait voir.
  4. Busini, Giovanni Battista; Gaetano Milanese (ed.) (1860) (in Italian). Lettere di Giovambattista Busini a Benedetto Varchi. Florence: Felice le Monnier. pp. 84-85. . Original Italian: Ammalato cominciò a pigliar di queste pillole, ed a indebolire ed aggravar nel male; onde raccontò quel tanto celebrato sogno a Filippo, a Francesco del Nero ed a Iacopo Nardi, e ad altri, e cosi si morì malissimo contento, burlando.
  5. Marvin, Frederic Rowland (1902). The Last Words (real and Traditional) of Distinguished Men and Women. Revell. p. 178. 

See alsoEdit

Social and political philosophers
Classic AristotleAureliusAverroesChanakyaCiceroConfuciusLaoziMenciusMoziPlatoPlutarchPolybiusSocratesSun TzuThucydidesXenophonXun Zi
Conservative BolingbrokeBonaldBossuetBurkeBurnhamCarlyleColeridgeComteCortésDmowskiDurkheimEvolaFichteFilmerGentileHamannHegelHerderHobbesHoppeHumeHuntingtonJüngerKirkLe BonLeibnizKuehnelt-LeddihnMaistreMansfieldMoreMoscaOakeshottParetoPetersonRenanSantayanaSchmittScrutonSowellSpenglerStraussTaineTocqueville • Vico
Liberal ArendtAronBastiatBeccariaBenthamBerlinBoétieCamusCondorcetConstantDworkinEmersonErasmusFranklinFukuyamaHayekJeffersonKantLockeMachiavelliMadisonMillMiltonMisesMontaigneMontesquieuNietzscheNozickOrtegaPopperRandRawlsRothbardRousseauSadeSchillerSimmelSmithSpencerSpinozade StaëlStirnerThoreauTocquevilleTuckerVoltaireWeberWollstonecraft
Religious al-GhazaliAmbedkarAquinasAugustineAurobindoCalvinDanteGandhiGirardGregoryGuénonJesusJohn of SalisburyJungKierkegaardKołakowskiLewisLutherMaimonidesMalebrancheMaritainMuhammadMüntzerNiebuhrOckhamOrigenPhiloPizanQutbRadhakrishnanShariatiSolzhenitsynTaylorTertullianVivekanandaWeil
Socialist AdornoAgambenBadiouBakuninBaudrillardBaumanBernsteinButlerChomskyde BeauvoirDebordDeleuzeDeweyDu BoisEngelsFanonFoucaultFourierFrommGodwinGoldmanGramsciHabermasKropotkinLeninLuxemburgMaoMarcuseMarxMazziniNegriOwenPaineRousseauRussellSaint-SimonSartreSkinnerSorelTrotskyWalzerŽižek

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