A son can bear with equanimity the loss of his father, but the loss of his inheritance may drive him to despair.
Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 - 1527) remains one of the most controversial figures of political history. 'The Prince' is his highly controversial manual of political conduct and the application of power, written in 1513 for the Medici, following their return to power in Florence. His ideas are finding new relevance in the world of corporate business.
Niccolò Machiavelli was born on 3 May 1469 in Florence, Italy, the third son of attorney Bernardo di Niccolò Machiavelli, and his wife, Bartolomea di Stefano Nelli. The Machiavelli family are believed to be descended from the old marquesses of Tuscany, who produced holders of a number of prestigious posts. Machiavelli was born in a tumultuous era, when Popes waged war, and the wealthy Italian city-states might, anytime, fall piecemeal to foreign powers such as France, Spain and The Holy Roman Empire. Political and military alliances continually changed. Condottieri, (the mercenary soldier leaders of the professional, military companies, contracted by the Italian city-states) changed sides without warning, and governments rose and fell on a weekly basis.
Rigorously trained to manhood by his father, Machiavelli was taught grammar, rhetoric and Latin. He did not learn Greek, even though Florence was, at the time, one of the centres of Greek scholarship in Europe. Between 1503 and 1506, Machiavelli was responsible for the Florentine militia, including the City’s defense. He distrusted mercenaries, preferring a politically invested citizen-militia – a philosophy that bore fruit, when his Florentine citizen soldiers defeated Pisa in 1509. Yet, in August of 1512, the Medici, helped by Pope Julius II, used Spanish troops to defeat the Florentines at Prato. Piero Soderini resigned as Florentine head of state, and went into exile. Following this, the Florentine city-state and the Republic were dissolved.
For his significant role in the republic’s anti-Medici government, Niccolò Machiavelli was deposed from office, and, in 1513, was accused of conspiracy, and arrested. Despite torture with the rope (the prisoner is hanged from his wrists, bound behind his back, forcing the arms to bear the body’s weight, thus dislocating the shoulders), he denied involvement and was released. It was then, retiring to his estate at Sant’ Andrea in Percussina, near Florence, that he wrote the political treatises that earned his intellectual place in the development of political philosophy and political conduct. Machiavelli died in 1527 at the age of 58. He was buried at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. An epitaph honouring him is inscribed in a small monument.
Machiavelli’s most famous and enduring work is The Prince, written in 1513 for the Medici, and published in 1515, after he had retired to his estate at Sant’ Andrea.