Niccolò Machiavelli Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

0111207654-Machiavelli.jpg Niccolò Machiavelli (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Machiavelli became a political figure in Florence at a young age. He became secretary to the second chancellory at twenty-nine, then spent his political career managing the day-to-day operations of the Florentine government. After losing his position in 1513, he turned to writing, often advancing arguments of a controversial nature. Although Machiavelli is most noted for his books The Prince (1532) and The Discourses (1517), he also wrote several other works and plays with the encouragement of several popes. He wrote his History of Florence (1525) with the benefit of a financial stipend from the Roman Catholic church, and his play Mandragola (1518), a story about romance and sexuality, won praise and support from Pope Leo X.

In 1559 Pope Paul IV created the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of “unholy and dangerous books.” While the pope’s edict did not explicitly prohibit the reading of Machiavelli’s works, it did describe The Prince as “unwholesome.” The church reiterated its negative appraisal of The Prince when the Council of Trent issued its own index in 1664. However, the publication of the indexes did not prevent the spread of Machiavelli’s writings. The Prince was republished in French and Latin. Interestingly, Cardinal Richelieu of France encouraged Louis Machon to prepare a volume analyzing Machiavelli in positive terms. Machon’s thesis was that Machiavelli’s writings had been misunderstood, and that The Prince was based on Christian concepts. However, the controversial nature of Machon’s claim prevented the book from being published, despite Richelieu’s backing. English translations of The Prince did not appear until the seventeenth century.

With the lack of an English translation of The Prince, Machiavelli’s political theory was introduced to England through secondary writings. Failing to portray Machiavelli’s thought accurately, these writings tended to dismiss Machiavelli’s arguments as atheistic. Innocent Gentillet’s Against Nicolas Machiavelli, Florentine, published in 1576, was a major influence on the English understanding of Machiavelli. Gentillet’s work was an attack on the policies of Catherine de Medicis, with Gentillet arguing that Catherine relied on Machiavelli’s advice in carrying out violent internal policies. Reginald Pole also played a role in shaping the English view of Machiavelli’s thought by claiming that Machiavelli’s ideas represented the embodiment of the Antichrist.


(Comprehensive Guide to Military History)

Article abstract: Military significance: Machiavelli was dismissed from government service after the fall of Florence to a papal-Spanish army; after dismissal, he wrote several works on war and politics.

Niccolò Machiavelli began working for the republican government of Florence in 1498. His duties included acting as civil servant responsible for the supervision of military operations. In 1507, he was charged with administering the citizen militia of Florence in the Pisan War. He commanded the militia against Pisa, leading to that city’s surrender in 1509. He also played a part in the preparations for the War of the Holy League (1510-1511). On August 29, 1512, the rout of the Florentine militia at the hands of a papal-Spanish army at Prato humiliated Machiavelli, as almost half of his fleeing troops were hand picked by him for valor. The subsequent collapse of the Florentine Republic led to his dismissal from government service.

After his years of service, Machiavelli wrote the works that made him famous, including Dell’ arte della guerra (1521; The Art of War, 1560). Most of this work is a detailed discussion of military management, training, order of battle, and leadership. However, the central thrust of the work contains themes found in his more well-known books, Il principe (1532; The Prince, 1640) and the Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio (1531; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, 1636). According to Machiavelli, military and political affairs are interdependent, and the art of war is contingent on the art of politics. Good laws must accompany strong armies. A ruler should rely only on his own arms, and that means a virtuous citizen army rather than mercenaries. The best military strength is found in a stable city with solid republican institutions that its patriotic citizens are ever ready to defend.

Further Reading:

Bayley, C. C. War and Society in Renaissance Florence. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961.

Hale, J. R. War and Society in Renaissance Europe, 1450-1620. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985.

Mansfield, Harvey C. Machiavelli’s Virtue. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Viroli, Maurizio. Machiavelli. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Wood, Neal. Introduction to Machiavelli’s “The Art of War.” Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs Merrill, 1965.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

On May 3, 1469, Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born in Florence, one of four children, to Ser Bernardo Machiavelli and Bartolomea de’ Nelli. As the son of a rather poor branch of a noble family, Machiavelli later said that he learned to do without before he learned to enjoy what life had to offer. Little is known of Machiavelli’s early years other than that he obtained a typical but substantial bourgeois education, also taking advantage of the extensive library that his father Bernardo had taken pains to create. It is known that as a young man he began to study Latin grammar under the guidance of a tutor named Matteo, and by the time he was twelve years old he was composing in Latin under the supervision of Paolo di...

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(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Machiavelli grew up in the Florence of Lorenzo de Medici. He was disheartened by his city’s decline following the French invasion of 1494. During the period of the Republic (1494-1512), Machiavelli, as second chancellor, was intimately involved with diplomatic relations involving France, Germany, the papacy, and other Italian states. When the Medici returned, he unsuccessfully sought employment in the government. He spent his time reflecting and writing about history and politics. His works reveal him to be a Florence patriot who held republican values. Machiavelli’s most influential book, The Prince, dedicated to the new Medici, stresses the need for rulers to develop clear objectives and pursue them vigorously and boldly. They must be willing to resort to illicit behavior in the interest of self-survival. Although Machiavelli does affirm certain principles (for example, avoid dependence on others, establish a citizen militia), he advises princes to be flexible in carrying out their policies. Machiavelli believed that governments were sustained by their own morality, which might not always coincide with acceptable Christian standards.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Niccolò Machiavelli (mah-kee-uh-VEH-lee) was born into a venerable Florentine family whose members had held political office in the past, but his parents were not wealthy. His father, Bernardo di Niccolò di Buoninsegna, was a lawyer and a lover of books. He died in May,1500. Some surviving letters and other documents indicate a close relationship between Machiavelli and his father. His mother was Bartolomea de’ Nelli, who had an interest in poetry and likely introduced it to her son. She died in October 11, 1496. Machiavelli had two sisters and one brother.

The Florence of Machiavelli’s lifetime was economically successful, and the leading family in that city was the Medici family, who had gained wealth and...

(The entire section is 798 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Niccolò Machiavelli was a major figure in the development of political theory. His treatise, The Prince, broke from the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, who believed that the purpose of politics was to encourage virtue, and instead advocated that in politics, the ends justified the means. In his other works, he made important contributions to historical accounts of Italy and to Italian Renaissance drama.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Niccolò Machiavelli (mahk-ee-uh-VEHL-ee), whose The Prince set forth in realistic and cynical terms the principles of action a ruler must use to gain and hold power, was born in 1469 into a family with a long tradition in Florentine politics. His father, Bernardo Machiavelli, was a lawyer who was forced into an ignoble position as a treasury official in Florence because his dwindling inheritance was no longer adequate to support him and his family. Niccolò Macchiavelli, growing up during the period of Girolamo Savonarola’s greatest activity, was twenty-eight years old when the reformer-monk, after having been the most powerful spiritual leader in Florence, was arrested, tortured, and hanged as a heretic in March,...

(The entire section is 541 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Niccolo Machiavelli Published by Gale Cengage

Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3, 1469. He is notable for his essays on politics, particularly his infamous treatise on...

(The entire section is 339 words.)