Niccolo Machiavelli tells of the methods that have been the most successful ingaining and maintaining power in non-democratic governments in his classicnovel, The Prince. Through a meticulous analysis of political history up to hispoint in time, he tells of the political strategies that had worked for rulerstime and time again and also of those that had failed. Machiavelli maintainsthat any opposition to a ruler’s power should be disposed of. He gives theexample of Agathocles who had his army quickly and ruthlessly killed the senateof Syracuse and all of the other powerful people in the city so that he couldeasily take control with no one to oppose him.
Machiavelli does not glorifythese actions. He merely states that they work. Machiavelli also put a greatvalue on having a military made up of citizens of the state rather thanmercenaries. He concluded that a citizens’ army has more to lose if defeatedand more to gain if victorious. A citizen’s army is also more likely to beloyal to its ruler while mercenaries fight purely for profit. At the moment itbecomes more profitable to take some other course of action than to follow theorders of their employer, mercenaries will do so.
Machiavelli cites severalexamples where having an army of mercenaries limited the capabilities of thestate’s military. King Louis XI employed Swiss mercenaries who fought alongside his own troops. In time the French troops were so accustomed to fightingwith the Swiss that they felt they couldn’t be victorious without them. Machiavelli also gave some examples of times when mercenaries actually turned ontheir employers such as the Carthaginians’ mercenaries that turned on themafter they fought the Romans. Machiavelli said that it was critical for a rulerto be constantly thinking of the art of war. He should come to know thelandscape of his own country in order to know the best strategies for battleshould his nation every be attacked, and through this he should also be able todeduce how to react in similar terrain in another place.
Francesco Sforza raisedhimself from a private person to the station of Duke of Milan through battle. Machiavelli believed that a ruler should know how to do wrong. He who tries todo what is morally right instead of what needs to be done will soon lose hispower. Machiavelli states that it is better to be feared than loved if onecannot be both.
A ruler should not be too merciful. Ruthlessness that sets a fewexamples is ultimately more merciful when it prevents disorder because many maydie in disorder. Hannibal was ruthless and cruel, and he was both revered andfeared in the eyes of his enormous army, allowing him to keep them under hiscommand. Machiavelli explains that a ruler should have the cunning of a fox andthe strength of a lion. Without cunning a ruler is susceptible to tricks andtraps, but without a strong military he is likely to be overwhelmed by theopposition. Alexander VI was an especially cunning ruler.
He was alwaysdeceiving someone. Deceit can often be used to manipulate others. NiccoloMachiavelli is one of the most widely read authors of all time. His book, ThePrince, has been studied by many people including Hitler and several U. S. presidents.
By the age of 29 Machiavelli was active in the Florentinegovernment, participating in several diplomatic missions to other nations thatafforded him the opportunity to observe their practices.