"Conquered states that have been accustomed to liberty and the government of their own laws can be held by the conqueror in three different ways. The first is to ruin them; the second, for the conqueror to go and reside there in person; and the third is to allow them to continue to live under their own laws, subject to a regular tribute, and to create in them a government of a few, who will keep the country friendly to the conqueror."

Niccolò Machiavelli was from one of the most noble Florentine families, but nonetheless grew up in relative poverty, denied the luxuries which he felt his name had a right to. Born on May 3rd, 1469, his education was far from thorough and he later wrote that he "learnt to do without before he learnt to enjoy". His escape from his frugal lifestyle was in books and he read a great deal as a child. It was this reduced upbringing which gave him the drive to become one of the most powerful statesmen in Italian history.

Italy in the fifteenth century was divided into many different nation states, which were not to be united until well into the nineteenth century under Cavour and Garibaldi. Florence was one of the most powerful and was known for the great artists and politicians it produced. It was also a Republic, and Machiavelli's first role in this Republic was in the Chancery, where he began to make a name for himself after successful diplomatic visits to France in 1500.

It was whilst visiting the manipulative and egomaniacal Cesare Borgia that Machiavelli first began to imagine the qualities of his 'Prince'. Borgia was a ruthless tyrant who was trying to establish a principality for himself in Central Italy. Meanwhile, Machiavelli continued to build his own power in Florence, both politically and militarily, leading several forays against the breakaway Republic of Pisa. He was known throughout Florence for his bravery and fervent nationalism.

In 1512, the Holy Roman Empire invaded Florence, overthrew the Republic, and reinstated the exiled Medici family. Machiavelli was imprisoned. After leaving prison, he returned in poverty to the house of his childhood where he wrote his masterpiece, The Prince. He was never to regain the political power of his youth, but served in a clerical post under Guilio de'Medici, who looked more favourably upon him than the other Medicis. This was to prove his undoing. The Medicis were again overthrown, and the new Republic associated Machiavelli with the Medicis. It seems that Machiavelli was adept at writing about political intrigue, but in practice was caught out time and time again. He grew depressed at the Republic's lack of sympathy for him and died on June 21st, 1527.

Niccola Machiavelli online Extensive resource site
The History Guide Rectures on modern European intellectual History
Lucidcafe A brief biography on Niccola Machiavelli, Italian Statesman and Political Philosopher Informative extensive resource site on Niccola Machiovelli

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