Academic journal article International Journal of Communication Research

Niccolò Machiavelli

Academic journal article International Journal of Communication Research

Niccolò Machiavelli

Article excerpt

Since love and fear can hardly exist together,

if we must choose between them,

it is far safer to be feared than loved.


The Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher and playwright Niccolô di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (3 May 1469-21 June 1527) lived in Florence during the Renaissance. His controversial masterpiece, The Pñ nce, was written 500 years ago. On this anniversary, I decided to remind our readers about the great significance of his highly debatable political and philosophical opinions, in which he endorsed a dictatorial system of governing, that, "in certain instances, becomes necessary and must be enforced by a prince if he wants to accomplish an outright control of a city, state, or a country". The Prince was published after Machiavelli's death inl532.

In 1494, the Medici family, one of the most influential political dynasties of Italy, which ruled Florence for sixty years, was temporarily removed from power and expelled. The invading French army, led by Charles Vlll, approached the city and forced Piero de' Medici to capitulate. Following his departure, for a short time, Florence fell under the spell of Girolamo Savonarola, a fanatical Dominican friar.

The dream of Florence's citizens to create a republic led by a democratic government was initially inspired by his preachings but soon after the Medicis' abrupt departure, he began challenging the Florentines to accept his religious fanaticism. Savonarola intended to transform Florence into a "Christian City" and impose on its people an ascetic life style. He began calling Florence "The New Jerusalem". After disobeying repeatedly Pope Alexander VI orders to stop all heretical activities, he was arrested, tortured, and finally, forced to confess that all his prophesies, clamorously proclaimed in churches or public squares of the city, were invented lies and phantasies. He was hanged and burned in the center of Flforence on May 23, 1498. Shortly after Savonarola's execution, just a month later, Machiavelli was elected as head of the second chancery. As secretary of the Dieci di Liberta e Pace, he was responsible for the diplomatic council and the military affairs of the city as well. While appointed to carry out tough and complicated diplomatic missions, he traveled to the courts of Louis XII of France, Ferdinand II of Aragon in Spain, followed by Germany, the Papacy in Rome and the Italian states.

For 13 years, between 1499 and 1512, he became an accomplished diplomat, representing Florence's interests successfully. Under his eyes took place the brutal policy of state-building methods, employed by Cesare Borgia (14751507) and his father Pope Alexander VI. Both were engaged in taking, under the Vatican's rule and possession, large parts of Italy. Cesare Borgia committed a chain of unspeakable crimes under the pretext that the interests of the Catholic Church must be protected by all means available. During that time, in 1503, Machiavelli was appointed commander of theFlorentine army. Instead of mercenaries, he used a citizens' militia to defend the city. In his book, The Art of War, he justified why it made sense to employ an army of locals, even if untrained in warfare. His conclusion that the city's citizens had genuine reasons to defend their properties and interests, proved to be correct. In 1509, under his command, the army of citizen-soldiers defeated Pisa. However the Medici, in August 1512, at Prato, helped by Pope Julius 11, trounced Florence using a large army of Spanish mercenaries. The city-state and the republic were dissolved. In 1512 Machiavelli was removed from office. Shortly after, in 1513, he was accused of conspiracy, arrested, imprisoned and tortured but, at the end of his trial, found not guilty and released from jail. After retiring to his estate at Sant' Andrea, near San Casciano in Val di Pesa, he began writing his political treatises, out of which, some made him famous. Machiavelli wrote also a few plays, performed at Florence's theater, which were loved by his contemporaries. …

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