The Prince Questions and Answers
by Niccolo Machiavelli

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According to Machiavelli, what roles do fate and fortune play in life?

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Machiavelli makes a distinction between those who rise to become princes through their own abilities and those who are merely fortunate, admiring the former more and remarking that their positions are more stable. Fortune is fickle. In chapter VII, he remarks:

Those who solely by good fortune become princes from being private citizens have little trouble in rising, but have much trouble in staying at the top. They do not have any difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they have many when they reach the top.

Machiavelli's favorite example of such a prince is Cesare Borgia, who gained his power by good fortune and quickly lost it again.

There are many references in The Prince to the capricious nature of fate and fortune—particularly in chapter XXV, which is devoted to the subject. Here, Machiavelli expands on the observation he frequently makes: that the advantages and disadvantages conferred by fortune are comparatively short-lived. Fortune may sweep a fool into a position of...

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