What kinds of historical examples does Machiavelli use to demonstrate his ideas in The Prince? How does his choice of examples reflect cultural ideas of the Renaissance?

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ecofan74 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In The Prince, Machiavelli draws from a variety of examples to demonstrate his points.  He cites historical texts and authors, but he also discusses the feats of historical figures to illustrate his points.  Machiavelli incorporates not only examples from antiquity but also examples roughly contemporary with his own time.  Despite the variety of sources Machiavelli uses, he does have his favorites.  He draws upon the example of Francesco Sforza and his career as the Duke of Milan on a number of occasions.  Sforza is presented as someone who has the respect of the population in Milan, but he is also someone the people will not cross.  Machiavelli also references Lorenzo de Medici, his patron on more than one occasion.  As a seemingly negative example, Mnchiavelli presents an example from antiquity.  In Greece, Antiochus, seeking to establish himself as the leader of a city, summoned the representatives of that city to a meeting.  Once they arrived, Antiochus had them locked in a chamber and killed.  As a result, Antiochus dispenses with the opposition and establishes his authority all in one act.

Machiavelli's reliance on these kinds of examples clearly sets him in the Renaissance tradition.  Renaissance writers drew a great deal from the examples of antiquity.  As the Renaissance was envisioned as the true successor of the Roman past, writers sought to establish and maintain the connection between the two periods.  Renaissance artists incorporated a great deal from the mythology of Rome into their paintings and sculpture - so much so that it challenged Christian images for the preferred subject matter among artists.  In addition, Renaissance writers adopted the literary styles of antiquity - the dialogue, for example.  As an extension of ancient Rome, it is fitting that Renaissance writers such as Machiavelli actually draw on examples from the Roman past.