The Prince, AND Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius (Illustrated)

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Machiavelli does not dwell in these pages on the relationship of politics to religion, but he does make a few brief comments that illuminate his views. Still, his general view on the close affiliation of politics and religion, especially considered as an echo of the ancient understanding, serves as a corrective to what I think is a fairly common misapprehension today — namely, our tendency to think that the union of politics and religion was a peculiarly medieval phenomenon undone in the early modern period, whereas in truth this union was strong in the ancient world, was stressed, teased apart, and clarified by distinctions in the medieval period, only to be recovered in its more ancient form, in the vogue for antiquity, during the Renaissance Machiavelli being a case in point and early modern period.

It was not until the eighteenth century that the assault on the fittingness of this close alliance began in earnest. Otherwise what is constituted will be discordant in itself, and without stability. That this counsel might be pertinent to our contemporary affairs has not been entirely overlooked. Rapid social or political change is disruptive and requires or produces violence, and slow change is difficult to motivate and manage.

He sees slow change as being, on balance, preferable, and counsels authorities to proceed by subterfuge and misdirection:. For when this is attended to, the mass of mankind accept what seems as what is; nay, are often touched more nearly by appearances than by realities. Even in ideal circumstances, however, when foresight and cunning are used conscientiously, success is elusive, and this for a basic reason that is one of the main grounds for a principled conservatism:. This we see in all human affairs, and the result is, that unless fortune aid us to overcome this natural and common disadvantage, we never arrive at any excellence.

I mentioned at the beginning that the middle section of the book is devoted to an analysis of international affairs, including warfare, and there is a fair bit of material about specifically military strategy and tactics. He writes focused analyses, for instance, of the role of artillery in warfare II, 17 and on the disadvantages of fortresses II, The Romans, he notes, conquered many fortresses and, upon conquering them, invariably pulled them down.

He discusses the causes of war, the value of strength over reputation, and the dangers of using hired soldiers. Occasionally he lets drop a sentence that has something of the aphorism about it:. His main argument is that military leaders of his own time were incompetent because they failed to follow the military example set by the Romans. These Discourses do not really support that appraisal. It is true that he does not hesitate to describe ruthless or underhanded tactics that will be effective, but this is not the same as endorsing those tactics.

The most morally troublesome argument I could find concerns what actions may or may not be licit in the conduct of war; he takes an extreme position:.

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This is inconsistent not only with modern standards, but with the Just War tradition as a whole. Similarly, after describing candidly the violence which a king will sometimes have to commit in order to preserve in existence a corrupted state, he remarks as follows:. My interest in these Discourses was first aroused on account of their relation to Livy, and I certainly did appreciate the chance to revisit episodes in his history, but, as is probably evident from the comparative lack of references to Livy in these notes, I soon found that the book took on independent interest.

Reading The Prince has never been very high on my list of priorities, but it is now higher than it was before. I, For nature has so ordered it that while they desire everything, it is impossible for them to have everything, and thus their desires being always in excess of their capacity to gratify them, they remain constantly dissatisfied and discontented. And hence the vicissitudes in human affairs.

Close afterwards come those who have founded either republics or kingdoms. After them the most celebrated men are those who, placed at the head of armies, have enlarged either their own realm or that of their native country. To these may be added men of letters… I, II, This entry was posted on October 2, at am and is filed under Book Note , Books.

And, there is a scholarly debate about how much of a satire the latter ought to be understood as. In examining now all these circumstances, we see that the legislators of Rome had to do one of two things to assure to their republic the same quiet as that enjoyed by the two republics of which we have spoken; namely, either not to employ the people in the armies, like the Venetians, or not to open the doors to strangers, as had been the case in Sparta.

But the Romans in both took just the opposite course, which gave to the people greater power and infinite occasion for disturbances. But if the republic had been more tranquil, it would necessarily have resulted that she would have been more feeble, and that she would have lost with her energy also the ability of achieving that high degree of greatness to which she attained; so that to have removed the cause of trouble from Rome would have been to deprive her of her power of expansion.

Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius.

New methods are needed for new times. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Edited by the Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia, this volume was printed times and the copies were numbered from 1 to Bondanella Oxford, [c. Frank rated it it was amazing May 28,

And thus it is seen in all human affairs, upon careful examination, that you cannot avoid one inconvenience without incurring another. If therefore you wish to make a people numerous and warlike, so as to create a great empire, you will have to constitute it in such manner as will cause you more difficulty in managing it; and if you keep it either small or unarmed, and you acquire other dominions, you will not be able to hold them, or you will become so feeble that you will fall a prey to whoever attacks you.

And therefore in all our decisions we must consider well what presents the least inconveniences, and then choose the best, for we shall never find any course entirely free from objections. Rome then might, like Sparta, have created a king for life, and established a limited senate; but with her desire to become a great empire, she could not, like Sparta, limit the number of her citizens; and therefore a king for life and a limited senate would have been of no benefit to her so far as union was concerned. If any one therefore wishes to establish an entirely new republic, he will have to consider whether he wishes to have her expand in power and dominion like Rome, or whether he intends to confine her within narrow limits.

In the first case, it will be necessary to organize her as Rome was, and submit to dissensions and troubles as best he may; for without a great number of men, and these well armed, no republic can ever increase.

Discourses on Livy or Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius

In the second case, he may organize her like Sparta and Venice; but as expansion is the poison of such republics, he must by every means in his power prevent her from making conquests, for such acquisitions by a feeble republic always prove their ruin, as happened to both Sparta and Venice; the first of which, having subjected to her rule nearly all Greece, exposed its feeble foundations at the slightest accident, for when the rebellion of Thebes occurred, which was led by Pelopidas, the other cities of Greece also rose up and almost ruined Sparta.

In like manner, Venice, having obtained possession of a great part of Italy, and the most of it not by war, but by means of money and fraud, when occasion came for her to give proof of her strength, she lost everything in a single battle. I think, then, that to found a republic which should endure a long time it would be best to organize her internally like Sparta, or to locate her, like Venice, in some strong place; and to make her sufficiently powerful, so that no one could hope to overcome her readily, and yet on the other hand not so powerful as to make her formidable to her neighbors.

In this wise she might long enjoy her independence. For there are but two motives for making war against a republic: one, the desire to subjugate her; the other, the apprehension of being subjugated by her. The two means which we have indicated remove, as it were, both these pretexts for war; for if the republic is difficult to be conquered, her defences being well organized, as I presuppose, then it will seldom or never happen that any one will venture upon the project of conquering her. If she remains quiet within her limits, and experience shows that she entertains no ambitious projects, the fear of her power will never prompt any one to attack her; and this would even be more certainly the case if her constitution and laws prohibited all aggrandizement.

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And I certainly think that if she could be kept in this equilibrium it would be the best political existence, and would insure to any state real tranquillity. But as all human things are kept in a perpetual movement, and can never remain stable, states naturally either rise or decline, and necessity compels them to many acts to which reason will not influence them; so that, having organized a republic competent to maintain herself without expanding, still, if forced by necessity to extend her territory, in such case we shall see her foundations give way and herself quickly brought to ruin.

And thus, on the other hand, if Heaven favors her so as never to be involved in war, the continued tranquillity would enervate her, or provoke internal dissensions, which together, or either of them separately, will be apt to prove her ruin. Seeing then the impossibility of establishing in this respect a perfect equilibrium, and that a precise middle course cannot be maintained, it is proper in the organization of a republic to select the most honorable course, and to constitute her so that, even if necessity should oblige her to expand, she may yet be able to preserve her acquisitions.

To return now to our first argument, I believe it therefore necessary rather to take the constitution of Rome as a model than that of any other republic, for I do not believe that a middle course between the two can be found, and to tolerate the differences that will arise between the Senate and the people as an unavoidable inconvenience in achieving greatness like that of Rome. Besides the other reasons alleged, which demonstrate the creation and authority of the Tribunes to have been necessary for the protection of liberty, it is easy to see the advantage which a republic must derive from the faculty of accusing, which amongst others was bestowed upon the Tribunes, as will be seen in the following chapter.

No more useful and necessary authority can be given to those who are appointed as guardians of the liberty of a state, than the faculty of accusing the citizens to the people, or to any magistrate or council, for any attempt against public liberty. Such a system has two very marked advantages for a republic.


The first is, that the apprehension of being accused prevents the citizens from attempting anything against the state, and should they nevertheless attempt it, they are immediately punished, without regard to persons. The other is, that it affords a way for those evil dispositions that arise in one way or another against some one citizen to vent themselves; and when these ferments cannot in some way exhaust themselves, their promoters are apt to resort to some extraordinary means, that may lead to the ruin of the republic. Nothing, on the other hand, renders a republic more firm and stable, than to organize it in such a way that the excitement of the ill-humors that agitate a state may have a way prescribed by law for venting itself.

This can be demonstrated by many examples, and particularly by that of Coriolanus, which Titus Livius mentions, where he says that the Roman nobility was much irritated against the people, because they believed that the people had obtained too much authority by the creation of the Tribunes who defended them; and as Rome at the time was suffering greatly from want of provisions, and the Senate had sent to Sicily for supplies of grain, Coriolanus, who was a declared enemy of the popular faction, suggested to the Senate that it afforded a favorable opportunity for them to chastise the people, and to deprive them of the authority they had acquired and assumed to the prejudice of the nobility, by not distributing the grain, and thus keeping the people in a famished condition.

When this proposition came to the ears of the people, it excited so great an indignation against Coriolanus, that, on coming out of the Senate, he would have been killed in a tumultuary manner, if the Tribunes had not summoned him to appear before them and defend his cause. This occurrence shows, as we have said above, how useful and necessary it is for a republic to have laws that afford to the masses the opportunity of giving vent to the hatred they may have conceived against any citizen; for if there exist no legal means for this, they will resort to illegal ones, which beyond doubt produce much worse effects.

For ordinarily when a citizen is oppressed, and even if an injustice is committed against him, it rarely causes any disturbance in the republic; for this oppression has been effected by neither private nor foreign forces, which are most destructive to public liberty, but is effected solely by the public force of the state in accordance with the established laws, which have their prescribed limits that cannot be transcended to the injury of the republic.

And to corroborate this opinion by examples, let the case of Coriolanus suffice, and let any one reflect how much evil would have resulted to the Roman republic if he had been killed in that popular outbreak; for that would have been an offence of private individuals against a private individual, which kind of offences generate fear, and fear seeks for means of defence, and for that purpose seeks partisans, and from partisans arise factions in cities, and factions cause their ruin.

But as the matter was disposed of by those who had the legal authority, it prevented all those evils that would have resulted from the exercise of private force. We have seen in our time what troubles occurred in Florence because the populace could not vent their anger against one of her citizens, in the case of Francesco Valori, who was almost like a prince in that city, and being looked upon by many as an ambitious man, who by haughtiness and audacity attempted to transcend the civil authority, and there being no way in Florence for resisting this except by a faction opposed to his, it resulted that Valori, having no fear of anything but some extraordinary proceeding, began to enlist partisans who might defend him.

On the other hand, those who opposed him, being without legal means for repressing him, employed illegal ones, which naturally led to an armed conflict. But if he could have been reached by lawful means, the influence of Valori would have been crushed, and he would have been the only sufferer; but being obliged to resort to illegal measures, not only he, but many other noble citizens, suffered in consequence. We may also adduce in support of the above-expressed conclusion the incident which occurred in Florence in connection with Pietro Soderini, and which resulted wholly from the fact that there were no means in that republic for bringing charges against the ambition of powerful citizens.

For to accuse a noble before only eight judges did not suffice; the number of the judges should be many, for the few are apt to favor the few in their decisions.

Thus, if there had been in Florence a tribunal before which the citizens could have preferred charges against Soderini, their fury against him might have been assuaged without calling in the Spanish troops; or if he had not been liable to the charges, no one would have dared to bring them against him, for fear of being himself accused in turn; and thus on both sides the animosity would have ceased, which occasioned so much trouble.

Whence we may conclude that, whenever the aid of foreign powers is called in by any party in a state, it is to be ascribed to defects in its constitution, and more especially to the want of means for enabling the people to exhaust the malign humors that spring up among men, without having recourse to extraordinary measures; all of which can easily be provided against by instituting accusations before numerous judges, and giving these sufficient influence and importance.

These things were so well organized in Rome that, with the many dissensions between the Senate and the people, neither the one nor the other, nor any private citizen, ever attempted to avail of foreign force; for having the remedy at home, there was no occasion to look for it elsewhere. And although the above examples are abundantly sufficient to prove this, yet I will adduce another, mentioned by Titus Livius in his history. At Chiusi Clusium , in those days one of the most famous cities of Tuscany, a certain Lucumones had violated the sister of Arnutes, and, unable to revenge himself because of the power of the offender, Arnutes went to call in the aid of the Gauls, who at that time ruled over the country now called Lombardy, and urged them to come with an armed force to Clusium, pointing out to them the advantage they would obtain for themselves by thus avenging him.

Certainly, if Arnutes had been able to secure redress by the laws of his city, he would never have had recourse to the Barbarians. But just as useful as accusations are in a republic, just so useless and pernicious are calumnies, as we shall show in the next chapter. Despite of the courage displayed by Furius Camillus in liberating Rome from the yoke of the Gauls, which caused all the citizens of Rome to yield him the first place without deeming themselves degraded thereby, Manlius Capitolinus could not brook that so much honor and glory should be bestowed upon him; for, having himself saved the Capitol, he considered that he had contributed as much to the salvation of Rome as Furius Camillus, and that he was in no way inferior to him in military talents.

So that, tormented by envy, he could not rest on account of the glory of his rival; and, finding that he could not sow discord amongst the Senators, he turned to the people and spread various sinister reports amongst them. Amongst other things, he circulated a statement that the amount of money which had been collected for payment to the Gauls had never been paid over to them, but had been appropriated by some private citizens; and that, if it were recovered from them, it might be most advantageously applied for the public good, by alleviating the taxes of the people, or by the extinction of some other debt.

These statements produced a great impression among the people; so that, many of them came together at the house of Manlius, and, at his instigation, commenced to create disturbances in the city.

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This greatly displeased the Senate, who, deeming the occasion momentous and perilous, created a Dictator, who should take cognizance of the facts and repress the audacity of Manlius; whereupon the Dictator had him promptly summoned.