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Niccolò MachiavelliMay 3, 1469 - June 22, 1527
Part 7 of 11: Medicean Princes
Machiavelli, meanwhile, was reading his Discorsi to a select audience in the Rucellai gardens, fanning that republican enthusiasm which never lay long dormant among the Florentines. Towards the year 1519 both Leo X. and his cousin, the cardinal Giulio de' Medici, were much perplexed about the management of the republic. It seemed necessary, if possible, in the gradual extinction of their family to give the city at least a semblance of self-government. They applied to several celebrated politicians, among others to Machiavelli, for advice in the emergency. The result was a treatise in which he deduced practical conclusions from the past history and present temper of the city, blending these with his favourite principles of government in general. He earnestly admonished Leo, for his own sake and for Florence, to found a permanent and free state system for the republic, reminding him in terms of noble eloquence how splendid is the glory of the man who shall confer such benefits upon a people. The year 1520 saw the composition of the Arte della guerra and the Vita di Castruccio.
The first of these is a methodical treatise, setting forth Machiavelli's views on military matters, digesting his theories respecting the superiority of national troops, the inefficiency of fortresses, the necessity of relying upon infantry in war, and the comparative insignificance of artillery. It is strongly coloured with his enthusiasm for ancient Rome; and specially upon the topic of artillery it displays a want of insight into the actualities of modern warfare. We may regard it as a supplement or appendix to the Principe and the Discorsi, since Machiavelli held it for a fundamental axiom that states are powerless unless completely armed in permanence. The peroration contains a noble appeal to the Italian liberator of his dreams, and a parallel from Macedonian history, which, read by the light of this century, sounds like a prophecy of Piedmont.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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