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It goes without saying that one must be exceptional to make a long-lasting impact on history and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind about the exceptionality of Niccolo Machiavelli who excelled at everything he did. He is remembered as a politician, philosopher, historian, diplomat, writer, poet, and a playwright from Italy whose works are now categorized under the Renaissance period.
Niccolo, who was also a senior official in the Florentine Republic for a long time, is one of the revered voices of the Renaissance period and was in charge of military and diplomatic affairs. Being secretary to the second Chancery of the Florence Republic between 1498 and 1512, he was in a unique position to witness the Medici’s loss of power. His most popular work, The Prince, was written in 1513 when he was exiled from city affairs. He is popular for writing lots of songs, carnivals, comedies, and poetry.
Niccolò Machiavelli – Biography
The legendary Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli lived for 58 years, from 3rd May 1469 till 21st June 1527. He was born to Bernardo di Niccolo Machiavelli, a lawyer, and Bartolomea di Stefano Nelli. Born and raised in Florence, he learned Latin, rhetoric, and grammar.
Niccolo was the first son of his father and was born during a period where different wars ravaged the land especially wars instigated by the Popes against Italian states. This might have informed his distrust for the church and its leadership. After the Medicis lost their hold in Florence, Machiavelli was then appointed to an office of the second chancery, a writing position that put him in charge of the official documents production for Florentine. After which, he became the secretary of the Dieci di Liberta e Pace.
In 1502, Niccolo Machiavelli married Marietta Corsini; the two were together until his death. Together, they had four sons and two daughters.
What Was He Famous or Known For?
Niccolo Machiavelli was involved in lots of diplomatic missions. He was well traveled which gave him the privilege and opportunity to observe leaders and broaden his horizons. His experiences premeditated his writings especially the most popular of his works.
Niccolo Machiavelli, between 1502-03, saw first hand the brutal state-building methods of Pope Alexander VI and his son, Cesare Borgia who were struggling to possess a large part of Central Italy. The Borgias used the excuse of defending the church’s interests as justification for their actions. Machiavelli was then responsible for the Militia of Florence between 1503-06.
Citizens were staffed in the military during his time because he had a distrust for mercenaries. He believed that they were unpredictable, unpatriotic, unreliable and fickle when it came to allegiance. He was successful for a while until the Medicis with Pope Julius II’s backing defeated the Florentine troop and came back into power. All these experiences influenced Niccolo Machiavelli’s political postulations and writings.
Niccolo was and is still known today for his book The Prince. He has been called the father of modern politics. The book “was banned by the Catholic church and some critics viewed the book negatively due to its controversial stance.
The book contains several maxims about politics and is addressed to a “Prince”, not in the generic or hereditary sense but the emergence of a new leader/prince. He highlights how a typical hereditary and new prince will retain power. For the “hereditary prince”, the interests of some institutions which people are used to must be balanced. But the “new prince” whereas has to first stabilize and get accustomed to his new power to build a political structure that will be enduring.
Machiavelli also emphasized that private and public morality are to be understood in order to rule effectively. And that security and stability can be achieved through moral corruption.
In The Prince, Niccolo opines that a leader shouldn’t be overly concerned about his reputation and the willingness to act and behave immorally at the right time is a quality a good leader should possess.
The most controversial of his maxims is that a ruler is better feared than loved. He believes that a loved ruler retains power out of obligation while a feared ruler retains authority by the fear of punishment. From the foregoing, critics have deduced that Niccolo Machiavelli believed in the principle “The end justifies the means”. He emphasized the occasional need for deceit, brute force and sometimes extermination of the noble family to curb any challenge of the prince’s authority.
Despite the controversial nature of the book, Niccolo Machiavelli made a lasting mark in politics and history.