Who does Machiavelli refer to in The Prince, and how does he refer to them?

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ecofan74 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Prince, Machiavelli makes reference to a wide variety of characters, both from antiquity and from his own time.  Machiavelli mentions two figures in particular:  Francesco Sforza and Cesare Borgia.  Francesco Sforza was the duke of Milan during Machiavelli's lifetime.  He discusses Sforza's actions in relation to the question of fortune v. prowess.  Sforza, in Machiavelli's view, acquired his kingdom purely through prowess, an admirable feat in Machiavelli's estimation.  Cesare Borgia, on the other hand, first acquired his principality through the fortune of inheriting it from his father.  He soon lost it, but he regained it through his prowess, particularly his diplomacy.  The fact Borgia was able to regain his principality after losing it only raises him in Machiavelli's estimation.  Borgia is a favorite example for Machiavelli because he illustrates many of the characteristics he seeks in an effective ruler.  An effective ruler, though he will accept fortune in his actions, would much rather prefer prowess, and Borgia represents the importance of this statement.

Aside from Sforza and Borgia, Machiavelli also mentions Agathocles.  Agathocles, a criminal, lures the senators and the wealthy citizens of Syracuse to a meeting and kills all of them, thereby gaining control of the city.  Machiavelli refers to Agathocles positively because he reflects the political ruthlessness he praises in the prince. While Machiavelli mentions a number of other important figures in The Prince, his discussion of these figures is particularly enlightening.