7 reading responses

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1 page each 2 different books

John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government

#1 chapter 2

#2 chapter 5

#3 chapter 7&8

Marx, The Communist Manifesto

#4 chapter 15

#5 chapter 6

#6 chapter 7 part 4

#7 chapter18

Trinity Western University

Undergraduate Course Syllabus

Course Number: POLS 101

Course Name: Political Studies 101

Semester and Year: Summer 2022

Instructor: Calvin Townsend

Contact Information:

Co-requisites or Pre-requisites: None

Semester Hours: 3

Course Description:

An introduction to the basic concepts, institutions, and ruling ideas in political thought and action. Through the study of classic political texts, competing concepts like equality and freedom, justice and power, are introduced within the context of conflicting ideologies like liberalism, socialism, and conservatism. The meaning of citizenship in postmodern contemporary liberal democracies are examined and contrasted with competing visions of the good society.

Course Learning Outcomes:

The following chart demonstrates how this course participates in Trinity Western University’s Global Student Learning Outcomes. The column on the left indicates TWU’s Student Learning Outcomes relevant to this course; the column on the right provides learning outcomes specific to this course.

1. Knowledge and its application • a broad foundational knowledge of human culture and the physical and natural world. • a depth of understanding in any chosen field(s) of study. By the end of this course, students will have gained • broad foundational knowledge of the history of political thought from Plato to Nietzsche. • a depth of understanding about how ancient and modern political philosophy has shaped Western civilization. • insight into questions of human ordering, the nature of man, of the state and the best (the just) political order.
2. Cognitive complexity • skills including: critical and creative thinking, quantitative reasoning, communication, research, and information literacy. • an ability to articulate various interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives, integrating informed Christian perspectives. • an ability to respond with wisdom, humility and charity to questions, issues, and problems of the human condition. By the end of this course, students will have gained • the ability to carefully exegete a primary source. • the ability to write with clarity, precision and coherence. • an ability to articulate various interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives, integrating a Christian perspective from an informed theological-political position. • an ability to respond with wisdom, humility and charity to questions, issues, and problems of the human condition explored in ancient and modern political philosophy.
3. Aesthetic expression and interpretation • creative, performative, material and narrative forms of critical inquiry. By the end of this course, students will have gained • via performance inquiry a deeper critical understanding of conflicting ideologies like liberalism, socialism and conservativism.
4. Inter-and Intra-Personal Wellness • a holistic awareness of their personhood, purpose, and calling within the context of the communities in which they live and study. • an appreciation of the role of community in wellness. By the end of this course, students will have gained • a holistic awareness of their humanity and citizenship within the context of the political communities in which they live. • an appreciation of the role of community in civil and political society. • an understanding of the political forces that have shaped communities and the type of human it tends to produce.
5. Spiritual Formation • a spiritual dimension by means of an exposure to a reflective and caring Christ-centered community which encourages: • a further understanding of God. • a discovery of a deep and personal spiritual foundation. • an embodiment of a Christ-like way of life characterized by love for and service to others. By the end of this course, students will have gained • an understanding of the relationship between Christianity and the political order. • a spiritual dimension by means of an exposure to the politics of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. • a further understanding of the crucified God. • an understanding of the relation between the spiritual and the political. • a discovery of the power of Christian charity and the Christ-like way of life characterized by love for and service to others.
6. Social Responsibility and Global Engagement • the resources, skills, and motivation to become engaged global citizens who serve locally, nationally, and globally in socially and economically just ways. • a commitment to informed and ethical reasoning. • respect for the dignity and rights of all persons. • respect for creation and its sustainable use and care. By the end of this course, students will have gained • the resources, skills, and motivation to become engaged global citizens who serve locally, nationally, and globally in politically, socially and economically just ways. • a commitment to informed and moral/ethical/political reasoning. • respect for the dignity and rights of all persons in light of the modern natural right tradition and modern constitutionalism. • respect for creation and the Creator.
7. Leadership • skills to become creative, collaborative, informed, competent, and compassionate people who influence the various contexts into which they are called. • abilities and attitudes characterized by service, humility and integrity. By the end of this course, students will have gained • a theoretical understanding of ancient and modern concepts of political leadership. • skills to become creative, collaborative, informed, competent, and compassionate Christian leaders who influence the various contexts into which they are called. • leadership abilities characterized by service, humility and integrity.

Required Texts and Materials:

Plato, Republic
John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government
Machiavelli, The Prince.
Rousseau, The First and Second Discourses.
Marx, The Communist Manifesto

Course Activities/Requirements:

The discussion groups, tutorials and lecture classes will be conducted in a dialogue fashion with occasional orienting lectures. Students will need to be ready to discuss the assigned readings intelligently.

One seven page term paper, footnoted and bibliographed in proper academic form. Subject matter of each student’s paper will be assigned shortly after beginning of the semester.

Reading Responses (10 one page responses).

Students will be expected to come to class having read the assigned sections from Locke, Rousseau and Machiavelli in order to gain a general and intelligent acquaintance with the subject matter to be discussed. Attendance is required and will be part of the grade.

A final examination on the material covered in class will be given on the assigned date.

Course Evaluation:

Evaluation Method

Percentage

Assesses Course Learning Outcome

Reading Responses

60%

Final Exam

40%

Course Policies:

· Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism at TWU,

· Campus Closure and Class Cancellation Policy, and the

· University Standard Grading System (this policy could alternatively be located under the Course Evaluation section).

· Students With a Disability

Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism at TWU

One of the core values of Trinity Western University is the integration of academic excellence with high standards of personal, moral, and spiritual integrity. The University considers it a serious offence when an individual attempts to gain unearned academic credit. It is the student’s responsibility to be informed about what constitutes academic dishonesty. For details on this, and on identifying and avoiding plagiarism go to the University Homepage > Academics > Academic Calendar > Academic Information > Academic Policies > Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism.

Campus Closure and Class Cancellation Policy

In the event of extreme weather conditions or other emergency situations go to the University Homepage > Campus Notification (in the page footer) > Class cancellation policy.

University Standard Grading System

The Standard Grading System can be found at the University Homepage > Academics > Academic Calendar > Academic Information > Grading Practices University Homepage > Academics > Academic Calendar > Academic Information > Grading Practices.

Students with a Disability

Students with a disability who need assistance are encouraged to contact the Equity of Access Office upon admission to TWU to discuss their specific needs. All disabilities must be recently documented by an appropriately certified professional and include the educational impact of the disability along with recommended accommodations. Within the first two weeks of the semester, students must meet with their professors to agree on accommodations appropriate to each class. Students should follow the steps detailed by the Equity of Access Office outlined in the Student Life section of the University Calendar.

Approved by University Senate May 5, 2015

Second Treatise of Government

John Locke

Copyright © Jonathan Bennett 2017. All rights reserved

[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as
though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations,
are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the
omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than it is worth.—-The division into numbered
sections is Locke’s.

First launched: January 2005 Last amended: March 2008

Contents

Preface 1

Chapter 1 2

Chapter 2: The state of nature 3

Chapter 3: The state of war 7

Chapter 4: Slavery 9

Chapter 5: Property 10

Chapter 6: Paternal power 19

Chapter 7: Political or Civil Society 26

Second Treatise John Locke

Chapter 8: The beginning of political societies 32

Chapter 9: The purposes of political society and government 40

Chapter 10: The forms of a commonwealth 42

Chapter 11: The extent of the legislative power 43

Chapter 12: The legislative, executive, and federative powers of the commonwealth 46

Chapter 13: The subordination of the powers of the commonwealth 48

Chapter 14: Prerogative 53

Chapter 15: Paternal, political, and despotic power, considered together 56

Chapter 16: Conquest 58

Chapter 17: Usurpation 65

Chapter 18: Tyranny 65

Chapter 19: The dissolution of government 70

Locke on children 80

Second Treatise John Locke Preface

Preface to the two Treatises

Reader, you have here the beginning and the end of a
·two-part· treatise about government. It isn’t worthwhile to
go into what happened to the pages that should have come
in between (they were more than half the work). [The missing
pages, that were to have been included in the Second Treatise, i.e. the

second part of the two-part treatise, were simply lost. They contained an

extended attack on Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha, a defence of the divine

right of kings, published in 1680 (Filmer had died in 1653). The lost

pages presumably overlapped the attack on the same target that filled

Locke’s First Treatise of Government and also occupy a good deal of space

in the Second.] These surviving pages, I hope, are sufficient •to
establish the throne of our great restorer, our present King
William; •to justify his title ·to the throne· on the basis of
the consent of the people, which is the only lawful basis for
government, and which he possesses more fully and clearly
than any other ruler in the Christian world; and to •justify
to the world the people of England, whose love of their just
and natural rights, and their resolve to preserve them, saved
this nation when it was on the brink of slavery and ruin
·under King James II·. If these pages are as convincing
as I flatter myself that they are, the missing pages will
be no great loss, and my reader can be satisfied without
them. ·I certainly hope so, because· I don’t expect to have
either the time of the inclination to take all that trouble
again, filling up the gap in my answer by again tracking Sir
Robert ·Filmer· through all the windings and obscurities of
his amazing system. The king and the nation as a whole
have since so thoroughly refuted his hypothesis that I don’t
think anyone ever again will be •bold enough to speak up
against our common safety, and be an advocate for slavery,
or •weak enough to be deceived by contradictions dressed

up in elegant language. If you take the trouble to tackle the
parts of Sir Robert’s discourses that are not dealt with here,
stripping off the flourish of dubious expressions and trying to
turn his words into direct, positive, intelligible propositions,
and if you then compare these propositions with one another,
you will soon be satisfied that there was never so much glib
nonsense put together in fine-sounding English. If you don’t
think it worthwhile to look through all his work, just try the
part where he discusses usurpation, and see whether all your
skill is enough to make Sir Robert intelligible and consistent
with himself and with common sense. I wouldn’t speak so
plainly of a gentleman who is no longer in a position to
answer, if it weren’t that in recent years preachers have been
espousing his doctrine and making it the current orthodoxy
of our times. . . . I wouldn’t have written against Sir Robert,
labouring to show his mistakes, inconsistencies, and lack
of the biblical proofs that he boasts of having as his only
foundation, if there weren’t men among us who, by praising
his books and accepting his doctrine, clear me of the charge
of writing only against a dead adversary. They have been so
zealous about this that if I have done him any wrong I can’t
hope they will show me any mercy. I wish that where they
have done wrong to the truth and to the public, they would
•be as ready to correct it ·as I am to admit errors proved
against me·, and that they •would give due weight to the
thought that the greatest harm one can do to the monarch
and the people is to spread wrong notions about government.
If they did, it might for ever put an end to our having reason
to complain of thunderings from the pulpit! If anyone who is
really concerned about truth tries to refute my hypothesis, I
promise him either to admit any mistake he fairly convicts

1

Second Treatise John Locke Chapter 1

me of or to answer his difficulties. But he must remember
two things: •That picking holes in my discourse—objecting
to this turn of phrase or that little incident—is not the same

as answering my book. •That I shan’t let scolding pass as
argument. . . .

Chapter 1

1. In my First Treatise of Government I showed these four
things: (1) That Adam did not have, whether by natural right
as a father or through a •positive gift from God, any such
authority over his children or over the world as has been
claimed. (2) That if even he had, his heirs would not have
the same right. (3) That if the right were to be passed on
to his heirs, it would be indeterminate who were his heirs,
because there is no law of nature or •positive law of God that
settles this question in every possible case; so it wouldn’t be
determinate who inherited the right and thus was entitled to
rule. (4) Even if all that had been ·theoretically· determined,
·it would be useless in practice·: the knowledge of the chain
of heirs running back to Adam has been utterly lost, so
that nobody in all the races of mankind and families of the
world would have the slightest claim to have that ·supposed·
right of inheritance. All these premises having, as I think,
been clearly established, no rulers now on earth can derive
the faintest shadow of authority from the supposed source
of all ·human political· power, Adam’s private dominion
and paternal rule. So if you don’t want to •give reason
to think that all government in the world is the product
purely of force and violence, and men live together only by
the same rules as the lower animals, where strength settles
every issue, and so •lay a foundation for perpetual disorder

and mischief, riots, sedition and rebellion (things that the
followers of that ·‘force and violence’· hypothesis so loudly
cry out against), you will have to find another account of the
beginnings of government, another source for political power,
and another way of settling who the people are who ·ought
to· have it—other, that is, than what Sir Robert Filmer has
taught us.

[The word •‘positive’, used in section 1 and again in 13 and elsewhere,
is a technical term. A positive law is one that some legislator imposes; it

comes from the decision of some law-making authority. The contrast is

with a natural law, which isn’t •laid down by anyone but simply •arises
out of the natures of things. So a positive gift from God would be simply

a gift as ordinarily understood; Locke throws in ‘positive’, presumably,

because even a natural right that Adam had would in a sense be a

gift from God, because God gave Adam his nature; but it wouldn’t be

a positive gift, arising from an explicit gift-giving action on God’s part.

Similarly with the notion of a positive law of God’s.].

2. For this purpose, I think it may be worthwhile to state
what I think political power is; so that the power of a
•government official over a subject can be distinguished
from that of a •father over his children, a •master over his
servant, a •husband over his wife, and a •lord over his slave.
Because it sometimes happens that one man has all these

2

Second Treatise John Locke 2: The state of nature

different powers, we can get clearer about how the powers
differ by looking at the different relationships in which the
man stands: as ruler of a commonwealth, father of a family,
and captain of a galley.
3. So: I take political power to be a right to •make

laws—with the death penalty and consequently all lesser
penalties—for regulating and preserving property, and to
•employ the force of the community in enforcing such laws
and defending the commonwealth from external attack; all
this being only for the public good.

Chapter 2: The state of nature

4. To understand political power correctly and derive it
from its proper source, we must consider what state all
men are naturally in. In this state men are perfectly free
to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and
themselves, in any way they like, without asking anyone’s
permission—subject only to limits set by the law of nature.

It is also a state of equality, in which no-one has more
power and authority than anyone else; because it is simply
obvious that creatures of the same species and status, all
born to all the same advantages of nature and to the use
of the same abilities, should also be equal ·in other ways·,
with no-one being subjected to or subordinate to anyone
else, unless ·God·, the lord and master of them all, were to
declare clearly and explicitly his wish that some one person
be raised above the others and given an undoubted right to
dominion and sovereignty

5. The judicious ·Richard· Hooker regards this natural
equality of men as so obvious and unquestionable that he
bases on it men’s •obligation to love one another, on which
he builds their •duties towards each other, from which ·in
turn· he derives the great •maxims of justice and charity.

Here are his words:

A similar natural inducement has led men to realize
that they have as much duty to love others as to love
themselves. Things that are equal must be measured
by a single standard; so if I inevitably want to receive
some good—indeed as much good from every man as
any man can want for himself—how could I expect to
have any part of my desire satisfied if I am not careful
to satisfy the similar desires that other men, being
all of the same nature, are bound to have? To offer
them anything inconsistent with their desire will be to
grieve them as much as ·it would grieve· me; so that
if I do harm I must expect to suffer, because there is
no reason why others should show more love to me
than I have shown to them. Thus, my desire to be
loved as much as possible by my natural equals gives
me a natural duty to act towards them with the same
love. Everyone knows the rules and canons natural
reason has laid down for the guidance of our lives on
the basis of this relation of equality between ourselves
and those who are like us.

3

Second Treatise John Locke 2: The state of nature

6. But though this is a state of •liberty, it isn’t a state of
•licence ·in which there are no constraints on how people
behave·. A man in that state is absolutely free to dispose
of himself or his possessions, but he isn’t at liberty to
destroy himself, or even to destroy any created thing in
his possession unless its destruction is required for some
nobler purpose. The state of nature is governed by a law that
creates obligations for everyone. And reason, which is that
law, teaches anyone who takes the trouble to consult it, that
because we are all equal and independent, no-one ought to
harm anyone else in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.
This is because

•we are all the work of one omnipotent and infinitely
wise maker;

•we are all the servants of one sovereign master, sent
into the world by his order to do his business;

•we are all the property of him who made us, and he
made us to last as long as he chooses, not as long as
we choose;

•we have the same abilities, and share in one common
nature, so there can’t be any rank-ordering that would
authorize some of us to destroy others, as if we were
made to be used by one another, as the lower kinds
of creatures are made to be used by us.

Everyone is obliged to preserve himself and not opt out of
life willfully, so for the same reason everyone ought, when
his own survival isn’t at stake, to do as much as he can to
preserve the rest of mankind; and except when it’s a matter
of punishing an offender, no-one may take away or damage
anything that contributes to the preservation of someone
else’s life, liberty, health, limb, or goods.

7. So that •all men may be held back from invading the
rights of others and from harming one another, and so that
•the law of nature that aims at the peace and preservation

of all mankind may be obeyed, the enforcement of that law
of nature (in the state of nature) is in every man’s hands, so
that everyone has a right to punish law-breakers as severely
as is needed to hinder the violation of the law. For the law of
nature, like every law concerning men in this world, would be
futile if no-one had power to enforce it and thereby preserve
the innocent and restrain offenders. And in the state of
nature if anyone may punish someone for something bad
that he has done, then everyone may do so. . . .

8. That is how in a state of nature one man comes to have
a ·legitimate· power over another. It isn’t an unconditional
power, allowing him to use a captured criminal according
to the hot frenzy or unbridled extremes of his own will;
but only a power to punish him so far as calm reason and
conscience say is proportionate to his crime, namely as much
punishment as may serve for •reparation and •restraint—for
•those two are the only reasons why one man may lawfully
harm another, which is what we call ‘punishment’. By
breaking the law of nature, the offender declares himself
to live by some rule other than that of reason and common
fairness (which is the standard that God has set for the
actions of men, for their mutual security); and so he becomes
dangerous to mankind because he has disregarded and
broken the tie that is meant to secure them from injury
and violence. This is an offence against the whole ·human·
species, and against the peace and safety that the law of
nature provides for the species. Now, every man, by the right
he has to preserve mankind in general, may restrain and if
necessary destroy things that are noxious to mankind; and
so he can do to anyone who has transgressed that law as
much harm as may make him repent having done it, and
thereby deter him—and by his example deter others—from
doing the same. So for this reason every man has a right to
enforce the law of nature and punish offenders.

4

Second Treatise John Locke 2: The state of nature

9. No doubt this will seem a very strange doctrine to some
people; but before they condemn it, I challenge them to
explain what right any king or state has to put to death
or ·otherwise· punish a foreigner for a crime he commits
in their country. The right is certainly not based on their
laws, through any permission they get from the announced
will of the legislature; for such announcements don’t get
through to a foreigner: they aren’t addressed to him, and
even if they were, he isn’t obliged to listen. . . . Those who
have the supreme power of making laws in England, France
or Holland are to an Indian merely like the rest of the world,
men without authority. So if the law of nature didn’t give
every man a power to punish offences against it as he soberly
judges the case to require, I don’t see how the judiciary of
any community can punish someone from another country;
because they can’t have any more power over him than every
man can naturally have over another.

10. As well as •the crime that consists in violating the law
and departing from the right rule of reason—crime through
which man becomes so degenerate that he declares that he
is deserting the principles of human nature and becoming
vermin—there is often •transgression through which some-
one does harm to someone else. In the latter case, the person
who has been harmed has, in addition to the general right of
punishment that he shares with everyone else, a particular
right to seek reparation from the person who harmed him;
and anyone else who thinks this just may also join with
the injured party and help him to recover from the offender
such damages as may make satisfaction for the harm he has
suffered.

11. So there are two distinct rights: (i) the right that
everyone has, to punish the criminal so as to restrain him
and prevent such offences in future; (ii) the right that an

injured party has to get reparation. Now, a magistrate, who
by being magistrate has the common right of punishing
put into his hands, can by his own authority (i) cancel the
punishment of a criminal offence in a case where the public
good doesn’t demand that the law be enforced; but he can’t
(ii) cancel the satisfaction due to any private man for the
damage he has received. The only one who can do that is
the person who has been harmed. The injured party has
the power of taking for himself the goods or service of the
offender, by right of •self-preservation; and everyone has a
power to punish the crime to prevent its being committed
again, by the right he has of preserving •all mankind, and
doing everything reasonable that he can to that end. And
so it is that in the state of nature everyone has a power
to kill a murderer, both •to deter others from this crime
that no reparation can make up for, by the example of the
punishment that everyone inflicts for it, and also •to secure
men from future crimes by this criminal; the murderer has
renounced reason, the common rule and standard God has
given to mankind, and by the unjust violence and slaughter
he has committed on one person he has declared war against
all mankind, so that he can be destroyed as though he were
a lion or a tiger. . . . This is the basis for the great law of
nature, Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood
be shed. Cain was so fully convinced that everyone had a
right to destroy such a criminal that after murdering his
brother he cried out ‘Anyone who finds me will slay me’—so
plainly was this law written in the hearts of all mankind.

12. For the same reason a man in the state of nature may
punish lesser breaches of the law of nature. ‘By death?’
you may ask. I answer that each offence may be punished
severely enough to make it a bad bargain for the offender, to
give him reason to repent, and to terrify others from offending
in the same way. Every offence that can be •committed in

5

Second Treatise John Locke 2: The state of nature

the state of nature may also be •punished in the state of
nature—and punished in the same way (as far as possible)
as it would be in a commonwealth. I don’t want to go into the
details of the law of nature or of its punitive measures, ·but I
will say this much·:- It is certain that there is a •law of nature,
which is as intelligible and plain to a reasonable person who
studies it as are the •positive laws of commonwealths. [See the
explanation of ‘positive’ after section 1.] It may even be plainer—as
much plainer as •reason is ·plainer·, easier to understand,
than the fancies and intricate ·theoretical· contrivances of
men who have tried to find words that will further their
conflicting hidden interests. For that is what has gone into
the devising of most of the legislated laws of countries. Really,
such laws are right only to the extent that they are founded
on the law of nature, which is the standard by which they
should be applied and interpreted.

13. To this strange doctrine ·of mine·, namely that in the
state of nature everyone has the power to enforce the law of
nature, I expect this objection to be raised:

It is unreasonable for men to be judges in their own
cases, because self- love will bias men in favour of
themselves and their friends. And on the other side,
hostility, passion and revenge will lead them to punish
others too severely. So nothing but confusion and
disorder will follow, and that is why God has—as he
certainly has—established government to restrain the
partiality and violence of men.

I freely allow that civil government is the proper remedy for
the drawbacks of the state of nature. There must certainly
be great disadvantages in a state where men may be judges
in their own case; someone who was so •unjust as to do
his brother an injury will (we may well suppose) hardly be
so •just as to condemn himself for it! But I respond to the
objector as follows [the answer runs to the end of the section]:- If

the state of nature is intolerable because of the evils that are
bound to follow from men’s being judges in their own cases,
and government is to be the remedy for this, ·let us do a
comparison·. On the one side there is the •state of nature;
on the other there is

•government where one man—and remember that
absolute monarchs are only men!—commands a mul-
titude, is free to be the judge in his own case, and can
do what he likes to all his subjects, with no-one being
allowed to question or control those who carry out his
wishes, and everyone having to put up with whatever
he does, whether he is led by reason, mistake or
passion.

How much better it is in the state of nature, where no man
is obliged to submit to the unjust will of someone else, and
someone who judges wrongly (whether or not it is in his own
case) is answerable for that to the rest of mankind!

14. It is often asked, as though this were a mighty objection:
‘Where are there—where ever were there—any men in such
a state of nature?’ Here is an answer that may suffice in
the mean time:- The world always did and always will have
many men in the state of nature, because all monarchs and
rulers of independent governments throughout the world are
in that state. I include in this all who govern independent
communities, whether or not they are in league with others;
for the state of nature between men isn’t ended just by their
making a pact with one another. The only pact that ends the
state of nature is one in which men agree together mutually
to enter into one community and make one body politic. . . .
The promises and bargains involved in bartering between
two men on a desert island,. . . .or between a Swiss and an
Indian in the woods of America, are binding on them even
though they are perfectly in a state of nature in relation to
one another; for truth and promise-keeping belongs to men

6

Second Treatise John Locke 3: The state of war

•as men, not •as members of society—·i.e. as a matter of
natural law, not positive law·.

15. To those who deny that anyone was ever in the state of
nature, I oppose the authority of the judicious Hooker, who
writes:

The laws. . . .of nature bind men absolutely, just as
men, even if they have no settled fellowship, no solemn
agreement among themselves about what to do and
what not to do. What naturally leads us to seek
communion and fellowship with other people is the

fact that on our own we haven’t the means to provide
ourselves with an adequate store of things that we
need for the kind of life our nature desires, a life fit
for the dignity of man. It was to make up for those
defects and imperfections of the solitary life that men
first united themselves in politic societies. (The Laws
of Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk 1, sect. 10)

And I also affirm that all men are naturally in the state of
nature, and remain so until they consent to make themselves
members of some political society. I expect to make all this
very clear in later parts of this discourse.

Chapter 3: The state of war

16. The state of war is a state of enmity and destruction. So
when someone declares by word or action—not in a sudden
outburst of rage, but as a matter of calm settled design—that
he intends to end another man’s life, he puts himself into a
state of war against the other person; and he thereby exposes
his life to the risk of falling into the power of the •other person
or anyone that joins with •him in his defence and takes up
his quarrel. For it is reasonable and just that I should have a
right to destroy anything that threatens me with destruction,
because the fundamental law of nature says that men are
to be preserved as much as possible, and that when not
everyone can be preserved the safety of the innocent is to
be preferred. ·In line with this·, I may destroy a man who
makes war on me or has revealed himself as an enemy to
my life, for the same reason that I may kill a wolf or a lion;
because such men are not under the ties of the common law

of reason, have no rule except that of force and violence, and
so may be treated as beasts of prey—dangerous creatures
that will certainly destroy me if I fall into their power.

17. So it comes about that someone who tries to get another
man into his absolute power thereby puts himself into a
state of war with the other, for such an attempt amounts
to a declaration of a plan against the life of the other man.
If someone wants to get me •into his power without my
consent, I have reason to conclude that he would use me as
he pleased when he had got me •there, and would destroy
me if he wanted to; for no-one can want to have me in his
absolute power unless it’s to compel me by force to something
that is against the right of my freedom, i.e. to make me a
slave. To be sure of my own survival I must be free from such
force; and reason tells me to look on him—the person who

7

Second Treatise John Locke 3: The state of war

wants me in his power—as an enemy to my survival, wanting
to take away the freedom that is the fence to it. So someone
who tries to enslave me thereby puts himself into a state of
war with me. Someone wants to take away •the freedom of
someone else must be supposed to have a plan to take away
•everything else from the person, because freedom is the
foundation of all the rest; and that holds in a commonwealth
as well as in the state of nature.

18. This makes it lawful for me to kill a thief who hasn’t
done me any harm or declared any plan against my life, other
than using force to get me in his power so as to take away
my money or whatever else he wants. No matter what he
claims he is up to, he is using force without right, to get me
into his power; so I have no reason to think that he won’t,
when he has me in his power, take everything else away from
me as well as my liberty. So it is lawful for me to treat him
as someone who has put himself into a state of war with me,
i.e. to kill him if I can; for that is the risk he ran when he
started a war in which he is the aggressor.

19. This is the plain difference between the state of •nature
and the state of •war. Some men—·notably Hobbes·—have
treated them as the same; but in fact they are as distant from
one another as a state of •peace, good will, mutual assistance
and preservation is distant from a state of •enmity, malice,
violence and mutual destruction. A state of nature, properly
understood, involves

men living together according to reason, with no-one
on earth who stands above them all and has authority
to judge between them.

Whereas in a state of war
a man uses or declares his intention to use force
against another man, with no-one on earth to whom
the other can appeal for relief.

It is the lack of such an appeal that gives a man the right of
war against an aggressor, ·not only in a state of nature but·
even if they are both subjects in a single society. [The rest of
this section expands on Locke’s version in ways that ·dots· can’t easily
indicate.] If a thief has already stolen all that I am worth and
is not a continuing threat to me, I may not harm him except
through an appeal to the law. But if he is now setting on me
to rob me—even if it’s just my horse or my coat that he is
after—I may kill him. There is the law, which was made for
my protection, but there is no time for it to intervene to save
me from losing my goods and perhaps losing my life (and
if I lose that there is no reparation). Furthermore, it is the
thief’s fault that there is no time for an appeal to the judge
that stands over him and me—namely, the law—and so I am
allowed to make my own defence, and to be at war with the
thief and to kill him if I can. What puts men into a state
of nature is the lack of a common judge who has authority;
the use of unlawful force against a man’s person creates a
state of war, whether or not there is a common judge and
(therefore) whether or not they are in a state of nature.

20. But for men who are in a society ·under a government·,
the state of war ends when the actual force ends; and then
those on each side ·of the trouble· should equally submit
to the fair determination of the law. . . . But in the state
of nature, where there are no positive laws or judges with
authority to appeal to, once a state of war has begun it con-
tinues—with the innocent party having a right to destroy the
other if he can—until the aggressor offers peace, and seeks
reconciliation on terms that will make up for any wrongs
he has done and will give the innocent person security from
then on. What if the situation is like this?

There is time and opportunity for an appeal to the
law, and to legally constituted judges, but the remedy
is not available because of a manifest perverting

8

Second Treatise John Locke 4: Slavery

of justice, a barefaced twisting of the laws so that
they protect or even reward the violence or injuries
perpetrated by some men or some party of men.

In such a case it is hard to think we have anything but
a state of war. For wherever violence is used and injury
done, even if it is done by people appointed to administer
justice and is dressed up in the name, claims, or forms of
law, it is still violence and injury. The purpose of the law
is to protect and get compensation for the innocent, by an
unbiased treatment of all who come under it; and when this
is not genuinely done, war is made upon the sufferers, and

they—having nowhere on earth to appeal to for justice—are
left to the only remedy in such cases, an appeal to heaven.

21. ·In a state of nature· where there is no authority to
decide between contenders, and the only appeal is to heaven,
every little difference is apt to end up in war; and that is
one great reason for men to put themselves into society, and
leave the state of nature. For where there is an authority, a
power on earth from which relief can be had by appeal, the
controversy is decided by that power and the state of war is
blocked. [The remainder of the section discusses, in the light
of this, a passage in the Old Testament, Judges xi.]

Chapter 4: Slavery

22. The •natural liberty of man is
to be free from any superior power on earth, and not
to be under the will or legislative authority of men but
to be ruled only by the law of nature.

The liberty of man •in society is

to be under no legislative power except the one es-
tablished by consent in the commonwealth; and not
under the power of any will or under restraint from
any law except what is enacted by the legislature in
accordance with its mandate.

Freedom then is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us (Obser-
vations on Hobbes, Milton, etc., page 55), namely a liberty for
everyone to do what he wants, live as he pleases, and not
be tied by any laws. Rather, ·freedom is one of two things·.
•Freedom of nature is being under no restraint except the law

of nature. •Freedom of men under government is having a
standing rule to live by, common to everyone in the society in
question, and made by the legislative power that has been set
up in it; a liberty to follow one’s own will in anything that isn’t
forbidden by the rule, and not to be subject to the inconstant,
uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man. [Here and
elsewhere, Locke uses ‘arbitrary’ not in our current sense of something

like •‘decided for no reason’ or ‘decided on a whim’ or the like; but rather
in a broader sense, current in his day, as meaning merely •‘decided’ or
‘depending upon someone’s choice’. In that older and weaker sense of

the word, the fear of being under someone’s ‘arbitrary will’ is just a fear

of being at the mercy of whatever he chooses to do to you, whether or not

his choice is ‘arbitrary’ in the now-current sense.]

23. [In this section Locke writes that a man doesn’t have the
power to take his own life. He presumably means that a man

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Second Treatise John Locke 5: Property

may not rightly take his own life because the fundamental
law of nature says that men are to be preserved as much
as possible (section 16). He continues:] This freedom from
absolute, arbitrary power, is so necessary to a man’s survival,
so tightly tied to it, that losing it involves losing ·all control
over· his own life. ·That’s why no-one can voluntarily enter
into slavery·. A man doesn’t have the power to take his own
life, so he can’t voluntarily enslave himself to anyone, or put
himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of •someone else
to take away his life whenever •he pleases. Nobody can give
more power than he has; so someone who cannot take away
his own life cannot give someone else such a power over it.
If someone performs an act that deserves death, he has by
his own fault forfeited his own life; the person to whom he
has forfeited it may (when he has him in his power) delay
taking it and instead make use of the offending man for his
own purposes; and this isn’t doing him any wrong, because
whenever he finds the hardship of his slavery to outweigh
the value of his life, he has the power to resist the will of his
master, thus bringing the death that he wants.

24. What I have been discussing is the condition of complete
slavery, which is just a continuation of the state of war
between a lawful conqueror and a captive. If they enter into
any kind of pact—agreeing to limited power on the one side
and obedience on the other—the state of war and slavery
ceases for as long as the pact is in effect. For, as I have
said, no man can by an agreement pass over to someone else
something that he doesn’t himself have, namely a power over
his own life.

I admit that we find among the Jews, as well as other
nations, cases where men sold themselves; but clearly they
sold themselves only into drudgery, not slavery. It is evident
that the person who was sold wasn’t thereby put at the mercy
of an absolute, arbitrary, despotic power; for the master was
obliged at a certain time to let the other go free from his
service, and so he couldn’t at any time have the power to kill
him. Indeed the master of this kind of servant was so far
from having an arbitrary power over his •life that he couldn’t
arbitrarily even •maim him: the loss of an eye or a tooth set
him free (Exodus xxi).

Chapter 5: Property

25. God , as King David says (Psalms cxv.16), has given the
earth to the children of men—given it to mankind in common.
This is clear, whether we consider •natural reason, which
tells us that men, once they are born, have a right to survive
and thus a right to food and drink and such other things as
nature provides for their subsistence, or •revelation, which
gives us an account of the grants that God made of the world

to Adam and to Noah and his sons. Some people think that
this creates a great difficulty about how anyone should ever
come to own anything. I might answer ·that difficulty with
another difficulty, saying· that if the supposition that

God gave the world to Adam and his posterity in
common

makes it hard to see how •there can be any individual

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Second Treatise John Locke 5: Property

ownership, the supposition that
God gave the world to Adam and his successive heirs,
excluding all the rest of his posterity

makes it hard to see how •anything can be owned except by
one universal monarch. But I shan’t rest content with that,
and will try to show ·in a positive way· how men could come
to own various particular parts of something that God gave to
mankind in common, and how this could come about without
any explicit agreement among men in general. [Here and
throughout this chapter, ‘own’ will often replace Locke’s ‘have a property

in’.]

26. God, who has given the world to men in common,
has also given them reason to make use of it to the best
advantage of life and convenience. The earth and everything
in it is given to men for the support and comfort of their
existence. All the fruits it naturally produces and animals
that it feeds, as produced by the spontaneous hand of nature,
belong to mankind in common; nobody has a basic right—a
private right that excludes the rest of mankind—over any
of them as they are in their natural state. But they were
given for the use of men; and before they can be useful or
beneficial to any particular man there must be some way
for a particular man to appropriate them [= ‘come to own them’].
The wild Indians ·in north America· don’t have fences or
boundaries, and are still joint tenants ·of their territory·; but
if any one of them is to get any benefit from fruit or venison,
the food in question must be his—and his (i.e. a part of him)
in such a way that no-one else retains any right to it. [The
last clause of that is puzzling. Does Locke mean that the Indian can’t

directly get benefit from the venison except by eating it? That seems to

be the only way to make sense of ‘part of him’; but it doesn’t fit well with

the paragraph as a whole.]

27. Though •men as a whole own the earth and all inferior
creatures, every •·individual· man has a property in his own
person [= ‘owns himself’]; this is something that nobody else
has any right to. The labour of his body and the work of
his hands, we may say, are strictly his. So when he takes
something from the state that nature has provided and left it
in, he mixes his labour with it, thus joining to it something
that is his own; and in that way he makes it his property.

He has removed the item from the common state that nature
has placed it in, and through this labour the item has had
annexed to it something that excludes the common right of
other men: for this labour is unquestionably the property of
the labourer, so no other man can have a right to anything
the labour is joined to—at least where there is enough, and
as good, left in common for others. [Note Locke’s statement that
every man ‘has a property in his own person’. He often says that the

whole point of political structures is to protect ‘property’; which might be

sordidly mercantile if he weren’t talking about the protection not just of

man’s physical possessions but also of his life and liberty.]

28. Someone who eats the acorns he picked up under an
oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the forest,
has certainly appropriated them to himself! Nobody can deny
that the nourishment is his. Well, then, when did they begin
to be his?

when he digested them?
when he cooked them?
when he brought them home?
when he picked them up ·under the tree·?

It is obvious that if his first gathering didn’t make them his,
nothing else could do so. That labour •marked those things
off from the rest of the world’s contents; it •added something
to them beyond what they had been given by nature, the
common mother of all; and so they became his private right.

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Second Treatise John Locke 5: Property

Suppose we denied this, and said instead:
He had no right to the acorns or apples that he thus
appropriated, because he didn’t have the consent of
all mankind to make them his. It was robbery on his
part to take for himself something that belonged to all
men in common.

If such a consent as that was necessary, men in general
would have starved, notwithstanding the plenty God had
provided them with. We see ·the thesis I am defending at
work in our own society·. When there is some land that
has the status of a common—being held in common by the
community by agreement among them—taking any part of
what is common and removing it from the state nature leaves
it in creates ownership; and if it didn’t, the common would
be of no use. And the taking of this or that part doesn’t
depend on the express consent of all the commoners [= ‘all
those who share in the common ownership of the land’]. Thus when
my horse bites off some grass, my servant cuts turf, or I dig
up ore, in any place where I have a right to these in common
with others, the grass or turf or ore becomes my property,
without anyone’s giving it to me or consenting to my having
it. My labour in removing it out of the common state it was
in has established me as its owner.

29. If the explicit consent of every commoner was needed for
anyone to appropriate to himself any part of what is given
in common, children couldn’t cut into the meat their father
had provided for them in common without saying which
child was to have which portion. The water running in the
fountain is everyone’s, but who would doubt that the water
in the pitcher belongs to the person who drew it out?. . . .

30. Thus this law of reason makes it the case that the
Indian who kills a deer owns it; it is agreed to belong to the
person who put his labour into it, even though until then it

was the common right of everyone. Those who are counted
as the civilized part of mankind have made and multiplied
positive laws to settle property rights; but ·even· among us
this original law of nature—the law governing how property
starts when everything is held in common—still applies.
[Locke concludes the section with examples: catching a
fish, gathering ambergris, shooting a hare.]

31. You may object that if gathering the acorns etc. creates
a right to them, then anyone may hoard as much as he likes.
I answer: Not so. The very law of nature that in this way
•gives us property also •sets limits to that property. God has
given us all things richly. . . . But how far has he given them
to us? To enjoy [= ‘to use, to get benefit from’; this what ‘enjoy(ment)’
usually means in this work]. Anyone can through his labour
come to own as much as he can use in a beneficial way
before it spoils; anything beyond this is more than his share
and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to
spoil or destroy. For a long time •there could be little room for
quarrels or contentions about property established on this
basis: •there was an abundance of natural provisions and
few users of them; and •only a small part of that abundance
could be marked off by the industry of one man and hoarded
up to the disadvantage of others—especially keeping within
the bounds (set by reason) of what he could actually use.

32. But these days the chief issue about property concerns
the earth itself rather than the plants and animals that live
on it, because when you own some of the earth you own what
lives on it as well. I think it is clear that ownership of land is
acquired in the same way that I have been describing. A man
owns whatever land he tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and
can use the products of. By his labour he as it were fences
off that land from all that is held in common. Suppose
someone objected:

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Second Treatise John Locke 5: Property

He has no valid right to the land, because everyone
else has an equal title to it. So he can’t appropriate
it, he can’t ‘fence it off’, without the consent of all his
fellow-commoners, all mankind.

That is wrong. When God gave the world in common to all
mankind, he •commanded man to work, and •man needed
to work in order to survive. So •God and •his reason com-
manded man to subdue the earth, i.e. to improve it for the
benefit of life; and in doing that he expended something that
was his own, namely •his labour. A man who in obedience
to this command of God subdued, tilled and sowed any part
of the earth’s surface thereby joined to that land something
that was •his property, something that no-one else had any
title to or could rightfully take from him.

33. This appropriation of a plot of land by improving it
wasn’t done at the expense of any other man, because there
was still enough (and as good) left for others—more than
enough for the use of the people who weren’t yet provided for.
In effect, the man who ·by his labour· ‘fenced off’ some land
didn’t reduce the amount of land that was left for everyone
else: someone who leaves as much as anyone else can make
use of does as good as take nothing at all. Nobody could
think he had been harmed by someone else’s taking a long
drink of water, if there was the whole river of the same water
left for him to quench his thirst; and the ·ownership issues
concerning· land and water, where there is enough of both,
are exactly the same.

34. God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave
it them for their benefit and for the greatest conveniences of
life they could get from it, he can’t have meant it always to
remain common and uncultivated. He gave it for the use of
the reasonable and hard-working man (and labour was to
be his title to it), not to the whims or the greed of the man

who is quarrelsome and contentious. Someone who had land
left for his improvement—land as good as what had already
been taken up—had no need to complain and ought not to
concern himself with what had already been improved by
someone else’s labour. If he did, it would be obvious that he
wanted the benefit of someone else’s work, to which he had
no right, rather than the ground that God had given him in
common with others to labour on. . . .

35. In countries such as England ·now·, where there are
many people living under a government, and where there is
money and commerce, no-one can enclose or appropriate
any part of any common land without the consent of all
his fellow-commoners. That is because land that is held
in common has that status by compact, i.e. by the law of
the land, which is not to be violated. Also, although such
land is held in common by some men, it isn’t held by all
mankind; rather, it is the joint property of this county or
this village. Furthermore, after such an enclosure—·such
a ‘fencing off’·—what was left would not, from the point of
view of the rest of the commoners, be ‘as good’ as the whole
was when they could all make use of the whole. This is quite
unlike how things stood when that great common, the world,
was just starting and being populated. The law that man
was under at that time was in favour of appropriating. God
ordered man to work, and his wants forced him to do so.
That was his property, which couldn’t be taken from him
wherever he had fixed it [those five words are Locke’s]. And so
we see that •subduing or cultivating the earth and •having
dominion [here = ‘rightful control’] are joined together, the former
creating the right to the latter. . . .

36. Nature did well in setting limits to private property
through limits to how much men can work and limits to how
much they need. No man’s labour could tame or appropriate

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Second Treatise John Locke 5: Property

all the land; no man’s enjoyment could consume more than a
small part; so that it was impossible for any man in this way
to infringe on the right of another, or acquire a property to
the disadvantage of his neighbour. . . . This measure confined
every man’s possessions to a very moderate proportion, such
as he might make his own without harming anyone else, in
the first ages of the world when men were more in danger
of •getting lost by wandering off on their own in the vast
wilderness of the earth as it was then than of •being squeezed
for lack of land to cultivate. And, full as the world now seems,
the rule for land-ownership can still be adopted without
harm to anyone. Suppose a family in the state people were
in when the world was first being populated by the children
of Adam, or of Noah: let them plant on some vacant land
in the interior of America. We’ll find that the possessions
they could acquire, by the rule I have given, would not be
very large, and even today they wouldn’t adversely affect
the rest of mankind, or give them reason to complain or
think themselves harmed by this family’s encroachment.
I maintain this despite the fact that the human race has
spread itself to all the corners of the world, and infinitely
outnumbers those who were here at the beginning. Indeed,
the extent of ground is of so little value when not worked on
that I have been told that in Spain a man may be permitted
to plough, sow and reap on land to which his only title is that
he is making use of it. . . . Be this as it may (and I don’t insist
on it), I venture to assert boldly that if it weren’t for just one
thing the same rule of ownership—namely that every man is
to own as much as he could make use of—would still hold in
the world, without inconveniencing anybody, because there
is land enough in the world to suffice twice as many people
as there are. The ‘one thing’ that blocks this is the invention
of money, and men’s tacit agreement to put a value on it;
this made it possible, with men’s consent, to have larger

possessions and to have a right to them. I now proceed to
show how this has come about.

37. Men came to want more than they needed, and this
altered the intrinsic value of things: a thing’s value originally
depended only on its usefulness to the life of man; but
men came to agree that a little piece of yellow metal—which
wouldn’t fade or rot or rust—should be worth a great lump of
flesh or a whole heap of corn. Before all that happened, each
man could appropriate by his labour as much of the things of
nature as he could use, without detriment to others, because
an equal abundance was still left to those who would work as
hard on it. ·Locke now moves away from the just-announced
topic of money, and won’t return to it until section 46.· To
which let me add that someone who comes to own land
through his labour doesn’t •lessen the common stock of
mankind but •increases it. That’s because the life-support
provisions produced by one acre of enclosed and cultivated
land, are (to put it very mildly) ten times more than what
would come from an acre of equally rich land that was held
in common and not cultivated. So he who encloses land, and
gets more of the conveniences of life from ten ·cultivated·
acres than he could have had from a hundred left to nature,
can truly be said to give ninety acres to mankind. For his
labour now supplies him with provisions out of ten acres that
would have needed a hundred ·uncultivated· acres lying in
common. I have here greatly understated the productivity of
improved land, setting it at ten to one when really it is much
nearer a hundred to one. [Locke defends this by comparing a
thousand acres of ‘the wild woods and uncultivated waste of
America’ with ‘ten acres of equally fertile land in Devonshire,
where they are well cultivated’.]

[He then starts a fresh point: before land was owned,
someone could by gathering fruit or hunting animals come to
own those things, because of the labour he had put into them.

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Second Treatise John Locke 5: Property

But] if they perished in his possession without having been
properly used—if the fruits rotted or the venison putrefied
before he could use it—he offended against the common
law of nature, and was liable to be punished. For he had
encroached on his neighbour’s share, because he had no
right to these things beyond what use they could be to him
to afford him conveniences of life.

38. The same rule governed the possession of land too: he
had his own particular right to whatever grass etc. that he
sowed, reaped, stored, and made use of before it spoiled; and
to whatever animals he enclosed, fed, and made use of. But
if the grass of his enclosure rotted on the ground, or the fruit
of his planting perished without being harvested and stored,
this part of the earth was still to be looked on as waste-land
that might be owned by anyone else—despite the fact that
he had enclosed it. Thus, at the beginning, Cain might take
as much ground as he could cultivate and make it his own
land, still leaving enough for Abel’s sheep to feed on; a few
acres would serve for both. But as families increased and by
hard work enlarged their stocks, their possessions enlarged
correspondingly; but this commonly happened without any
fixed ownership of the land they made use of. In due course
they formed into groups, settled themselves together, and
built cities; and then eventually they set out the bounds
of their distinct territories, agreed on boundaries between
them and their neighbours, and established laws of their
own to settle property-rights within the society. ·These
land-ownership developments came relatively late·. For we
see that in the part of the world that was first inhabited and
was therefore probably the most densely populated, even as
late as Abraham’s time they wandered freely up and down
with the flocks and herds that they lived on; and Abraham
did this ·even· in a country where he was a foreigner. This
shows clearly that a great part of the land, at least, lay

in common; that the inhabitants didn’t value it or claim
ownership of it beyond making use of it. But when there
came to be insufficient grazing land in the same place, they
separated and enlarged their pasture where it best suited
them (as Abraham and Lot did, Genesis xiii. 5). . . .

39. The supposition that Adam had all to himself authority
over and ownership of all the world, to the exclusion of all
other men, can’t be proved, and anyway couldn’t be the basis
for anyone’s property-rights ·today·. And we don’t need it.
Supposing the world to have been given (as it was) to the
children of men in common, we see how men’s labour could
give them separate titles to different parts of it, for their
private uses; with no doubts about who has what rights, and
no room for quarrelling.

40. It isn’t as strange as it may seem at first glance that
the •property of •labour should be able to outweigh the
•community of •land. For labour affects the value of every-
thing. Think of how an acre of land planted with tobacco or
sugar, sown with wheat or barley, differs from an acre of the
same land lying in common without being cultivated; you
will see the improvement brought about by labour creates
most of the ·extra· value ·of the former·. It would be a
very conservative estimate to say that of the products of the
earth that are useful to the life of man nine tenths are the
effects of labour. Indeed, if we rightly estimate the various
expenses that have been involved in things as they come to
our use, sorting out what in them is purely due to nature and
what to labour, we’ll find that in most of them ninety-nine
hundredths ·of their value· should go in the ‘labour’ column.

41. [Locke here contrasts various ‘nations of the Americans’
with England; they have equally good soil, but an American
‘king’ lives worse than an English ‘day-labourer’, because the
Americans don’t improve their land by labour.]

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42. This will become clearer if we simply track some of the
ordinary provisions of life through their various stages up
to becoming useful to us, and see how much of their value
comes from human industry. •Bread, wine and cloth are
things we use daily, and we have plenty of them; but if it
weren’t for the labour that is put into these more useful
commodities we would have to settle for •acorns, water and
leaves or skins as our food, drink and clothing. What makes

bread more valuable than acorns,
wine more valuable than water, and
cloth or silk more valuable than leaves, skins or moss,

is wholly due to labour and industry. . . . ·One upshot of this
is that· the ground that produces the materials provides only
a very small part of the final value. So small a part that even
here in England land that is left wholly to nature, with no
improvement through cultivation. . . .is rightly called ‘waste’,
and we shall find that the benefit of it amounts to little more
than nothing.

This shows how much better it is to have a large popula-
tion than to have a large country; and shows that the great
art of government is to have the land used well, and that
any ruler will quickly be safe against his neighbours if he
has the wisdom—the godlike wisdom—to establish laws of
liberty to protect and encourage the honest industry of his
people against the oppression of power and narrowness of
party. But that is by the way; I return now to the argument
in hand.

43. [Locke again compares uncultivated American land with
cultivated land in England, this time putting the value ratio
at one to a thousand. He continues:] It is labour, then, that
puts the greatest part of value upon land, without which
it would scarcely be worth anything. We owe to labour the
greatest part of all the land’s useful products; it is labour
that makes the straw, bran, and bread of an acre of wheat

more valuable than the product of an acre of equally good
land that lies waste. The labour that goes into the bread we
eat is not just

the ploughman’s efforts, the work of the reaper and
the thresher, and the baker’s sweat,

but also
the labour of those who domesticated the oxen, who
dug and shaped the iron and stones, who felled and
framed the timber used in the plough, the mill, the
oven, or any of the vast number of other utensils that
are needed to get this corn from •sowable seed to
•edible bread.

All this should be attributed to labour; as for nature and the
land—they provided only the materials, which were almost
worthless in their raw condition. Imagine what it would be
like if every loaf of bread came to us along with a catalogue of
all the contributions that labour had made to its existence!
It would have to include the labour components in relevant
pieces of

iron, wood, leather, bark, timber, stone, bricks, coals,
lime, cloth, dyes, pitch, tar, masts, ropes, and all the
materials used in the ship that brought any of the
commodities used by any of the workmen in any part
of the work.

It would take far too long to make such a list, if indeed it was
even possible.

44. All this makes it clear that •though the things of nature
are given in common, man had in himself the great founda-
tion for ownership—namely his being master of himself, and
owner of his own person and of the actions or work done
by it; and that •most of what he applied to the support or
comfort of his being, when invention and skills had made life
more comfortable, was entirely his own and didn’t belong in
common to others.

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45. Thus labour in the beginning gave a right of ownership
wherever anyone chose to employ his labour on what was
held in common. For a long time the common holdings
were much greater than what was individually owned, and
even now they are greater than what mankind makes use of.
At first, men were mainly contented with what unassisted
nature offered to meet their needs, but then:

In some parts of the world (where the increase of peo-
ple and animals, and the use of money, had made land
scarce and thus of some value) various communities
settled the bounds of their separate territories, and
by laws within themselves regulated the properties
of the private men in their society, and in this way
by compact and agreement they settled the property
rights that labour and industry had begun. And the
leagues that have been made between different states
and kingdoms, either explicitly or tacitly disowning all
claim to one anothers’ land, have by common consent
given up their claims to their natural common right
in ·undeveloped· land in one anothers’ domains, and
so have by positive agreement settled who owns what
in various parts and parcels of the earth, ·so that, for
instance, no Englishman can claim to own an acre of
France because (i) it was uncultivated until he worked
on it and (ii) he was not a party to ‘internal’ French
laws giving its ownership to someone else·.

Even after all this, however, there are great tracts of ground
that still lie in common ·and so could legitimately be claimed
on the basis of labour·. These are in territories whose
inhabitants haven’t joined with the rest of mankind in the
consent of the use of their common money [Locke’s exact
words, starting with ‘joined’], and are lands that exceed what
the inhabitants do or can make use of. Though this can
hardly happen among people who have agreed to use money.

46. Most of the things useful to the life of man—things
that the world’s first commoners, like the Americans even
now, were forced to seek for their sheer survival—are things
of short duration, things that will decay and perish if they
are not consumed soon. ·The much more durable· gold,
silver and diamonds are things that have value by agreement
rather than because there is a real use for them in sustaining
life. ·I shall now explain how those two kinds of value came
to be linked·. Of the good things that nature has provided in
common, everyone had a right (as I have said) to as much
as he could use. Each man owned everything that •he could
bring about with his labour, everything that •his industry
could alter from the state nature had put it in. He who
gathered a hundred bushels of acorns or apples thereby
owned them; as soon as he had gathered them, they were
his. His only obligation was to be sure that he used them
before they spoiled, for otherwise he took more than his
share, and robbed others. And indeed it was foolish as well
as dishonest to hoard up more than he could use . ·Now
consider a graded trio of cases·. (i) If he gave away some
to someone else, so that it didn’t perish uselessly in his
possession, that was one way of using it. (ii) And if he traded
plums that would have rotted in a week for nuts that would
remain eatable for a year, he wasn’t harming anyone. As
long as nothing perished uselessly in his hands, he wasn’t
wasting the common stock, destroying goods that belonged
to others. (iii) If he traded his store of nuts for a piece of
metal that had a pleasing colour, or exchanged his sheep for
shells, or his wool for a sparkling pebble or a diamond, and
kept those—·the metal, shells, pebbles, diamonds·—in his
possession all his life, this wasn’t encroaching on anyone
else’s rights. . . . What would take him beyond the bounds of
his rightful property was not having a great deal but letting
something spoil instead of being used.

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47. That is how money came into use—as a durable thing
that men could keep without its spoiling, and that by mutual
consent men would take in exchange for the truly useful but
perishable supports of life.

48. And as differences in how hard men worked were apt to
make differences in how much they owned, so this invention
of money gave them the opportunity to continue and enlarge
their possessions. Consider this possibility:

An island separated from any possibility of trade with
the rest of the world; only a hundred families on the
island; but enough sheep, horses and cows and other
useful animals, enough wholesome fruits, and enough
land for corn, for a hundred thousand times as many;
but nothing on the island that is rare and durable
enough to serve as money.

On such an island, what reason could anyone have to enlarge
his possessions beyond the needs of his household, these
being met by his own industry and/or trade with other house-
holds for similarly perishable and useful commodities? Men
won’t be apt to enlarge their possessions of land—however
rich and available extra land may be—if there isn’t something
durable and scarce and ·counted as· valuable to store up.
Suppose someone has the opportunity to come to own ten
thousand (or a hundred thousand) acres of excellent land,
already cultivated and well stocked with cattle, in the middle
of the interior of America where he has no hopes of commerce
with other parts of the world through which to get money
through the sale of the product. What value will he attach
to this estate? It wouldn’t be worth his while to mark its

boundaries; he will hand it back to the wild common of
nature, apart from what it would supply for the conveniences
of life to be had there for him and his family.

49. Thus in the beginning all the world was America—even
more so than America is now, because in the beginning
no such thing as money was known anywhere. Find out
something that has the use and value of money among a
man’s neighbours and you’ll see him start to enlarge his
possessions.

50. [In this section Locke goes over it again: by tacitly
agreeing to attach value to gold, silver or other money, men
have found a way for someone to own more than he can use.
He concludes with the remark that ‘in governments, the laws
regulate the right of property, and the possession of land is
determined by positive constitutions’ (see note on ‘positive’
at the end of section 1).

51. It is easy to conceive, then, how labour could at first
create ownership of some of the common things of nature,
and how uses we could make of those things set limits to
what could be owned ·by any individual·. So there couldn’t
be any reason for quarrelling about title, or any doubt about
how much could be owned. •Right and •convenience went
together; for as a man had a •right to all he could employ his
labour upon, so he had •no temptation to labour for more
than he could use. This left no room for controversy about
the title, or for encroachment on the rights of others: what
portion a man carved out for himself was easily seen; and
it was useless as well as dishonest for him to carve out too
much or take more than he needed.

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Chapter 6: Paternal power

52. You may think that a work like the present one is not
the place for complaints about words and names that have
become current; but I think it won’t be amiss to offer new
words when the old ones are apt to lead men into mistakes.
The phrase ‘paternal power’ is probably an example of this.
It seems so to place the power of parents over their children
wholly in the father, as though the mother had no share
in it; whereas •reason and •revelation both tell us that she
has an equal title. Might it not be better to call it ‘parental
power’? Whatever obligations are laid on children by •nature
and the right of generation must certainly bind them equally
to each of the joint causes of their being generated. And
accordingly we see the •positive law of God everywhere joins
the parents together, without distinction, when it commands
the obedience of children. [Locke gives four examples, from
the old and new testaments.]

53. Had just this one thing been thought about properly,
even without going any deeper, it might have kept men from
running into the gross mistakes they have made about this
power of parents. When under the label ‘paternal power’ it
seemed to belong only to the father, it could be described as
‘absolute dominion’ and as ‘regal authority’ without seeming
ridiculous; but those phrases would have sounded strange,
and in the very name shown the absurdity ·of the doctrine in
question·, if this supposed absolute power over children had
been called ‘parental’, for that would have given away the
fact that it belonged to the mother too. Those who contend
so much for ‘the absolute power and authority of fatherhood’,
as they call it, will be in difficulties if the mother is given any
share in it. The monarchy they contend for wouldn’t be well
supported if the very name showed that the fundamental

authority from which they want to derive their government
by only a single person belonged not to one person but to
two! But no more about names.
54. I said in Chapter 2 that all men are by nature equal,
but of course I didn’t mean equality in all respects. •Age or
virtue may put some men above others; •excellence of ability
and merit may raise others above the common level; •some
may naturally owe deference to others because of their birth,
or from gratitude because of benefits they have received, or
for other reasons. But all this is consistent with the equality
that all men have in respect of jurisdiction or dominion over
one another. That was the equality I spoke of in Chapter
2—the equality that is relevant to the business in hand,
namely the equal right that every man has to his natural
freedom, without being subjected to the will or authority of
any other man.
55. I acknowledge that children are not born in this state of
full equality, though they are born to it. Their parents have
a sort of rule and jurisdiction over them when they come
into the world and for some time after that, but it’s only a
temporary one. The bonds of this subjection are like the
swaddling clothes they are wrapped up in and supported
by in the weakness of their infancy; as the child grows up,
age and reason loosen the ties, until at last they drop off
altogether and leave a man to his own devices.
56. Adam was created as a complete man, his body and
mind in full possession of their strength and reason; so he
was able, from the first instant of his coming into existence,
to provide for his own support and survival, and to govern
his actions according to the dictates of the law of reason that
God had implanted in him. The world has been populated

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with his descendants, who are all born infants, weak and
helpless, without knowledge or understanding. To make up
for the defects of this imperfect [here = ‘incomplete’] state until
till the improvement of growth and age has removed them,
Adam and Eve and all parents after them were obliged by the
law of nature to preserve, nourish, and bring up the children
they had begotten—not as their own workmanship, but as
the workmanship of their own maker, the almighty ·God·, to
whom they were to be accountable for them.

57. The law that was to govern Adam was the very one that
was to govern all his posterity, namely the law of reason.
But his offspring entered the world differently from him,
namely by natural birth, which brought them out ignorant
and without the use of reason. So they were not immediately
under the law of reason, because nobody can be under a law
that hasn’t been made known to him; and this law is made
known only by reason, so that someone who hasn’t come to
the use of his reason can’t be said to be under it. Adam’s
children, not being under this law at birth, were not free at
that time; for law, properly understood, is not so much the
•limitation as the •direction of a free and intelligent agent to
his proper interest, and doesn’t prescribe anything that isn’t
for the general good of those under that law. If men could
be happier without it, the law would be a useless thing and
would inevitably vanish. ·Don’t think of the law as confining·:
it is wrong to label as ‘confinement’ something that hedges
us in only from bogs and precipices! So, however much
people may get this wrong, what law is for is not to abolish
or restrain freedom but to preserve and enlarge it; for in all
the states of created beings who are capable of laws, where
there is no law there is no freedom. Liberty is freedom from
restraint and violence by others; and this can’t be had where
there is no law. This freedom is not—as some say it is—a
freedom for every man to do whatever he wants to do (for

who could be free if every other man’s whims might dominate
him?); rather, it is a freedom to dispose in any way he wants
of his person, his actions, his possessions, and his whole
property—not to be subject in any of this to the arbitrary
will of anyone else but freely to follow his own will, all within
whatever limits are set by the laws that he is under.

58. So the •power that parents have over their children
arises from their •duty to take care of their offspring during
the imperfect state of childhood. What the children need,
and what the parents are obliged to provide, is the forming of
their minds and the governing of their actions; that is while
the children are still young and ignorant; when reason comes
into play the parents are released from that trouble. God
gave man an understanding to direct his actions, and (fitting
in with that) allowed him a freedom of will and of acting
within the limits set by the law he is under. But while he
is in a condition in which he hasn’t enough understanding
of his own to direct his will, he isn’t to have any will of his
own to follow. The person who •understands for him must
•will for him too; that person must prescribe to his will and
regulate his actions; but when he reaches the condition that
made his father a freeman, the son is a freeman too.

59. This holds in all the laws a man is under, whether
•natural or •civil. ·Let us look at these separately·. •If a
man is under the law of nature, what made him free under
that law? What gave him freedom to dispose of his property
according to his own will, within the limits set by that law? I
answer, a state of maturity in which he might be supposed
to be capable of knowing that law so that he could keep his
actions within the limits set by it. When he has entered that
state, he is presumed to know how far that law is to be his
guide, and how far he may make use of his freedom; and
so he comes to have that freedom. Until then, he must be

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guided by somebody else who is presumed to know how far
the law allows a liberty. If such a state of reason, such an
age of discretion, made him free, the same state will make
his son free too. •If a man is under the law of England,
what made him free under that law? That is, what gave him
the liberty to dispose of his actions and possessions as he
wishes, within the limits of what that law allows? ·I answer·,
a capacity for knowing that law—a capacity which the law
itself supposes to be present at the age of twenty-one and in
some cases sooner. If this made the father free, it will make
the son free too. Till then we see the law allows the son to
have no will: he is to be guided by the will of his father or
guardian, who is to do his understanding for him. And if the
father dies and fails to substitute a deputy in his place, or
if he doesn’t provide a tutor to govern his son while he is a
minor who lacks understanding, the law takes care to do it.
Someone else must govern him and be a will to him until
he has reached a state of freedom, and his understanding
has become fit to take over the government of his will. But
after that the father and son are equally free, as are a tutor
and his pupil after the pupil has grown up. They are equally
subjects of the same law together, and the father has no
remaining dominion over the life, liberty, or estate of his son.
This holds, whether they are only in the state of nature and
under its law or are under the positive laws of an established
government.

60. But if, through defects that happen out of the ordinary
course of nature, someone never achieves a degree of reason
that would make him capable of knowing the law and so
living within the rules of it, he is never capable of being
a free man, he is never allowed freely to follow his own
will (because he knows no bounds to it, doesn’t have the
understanding that is the will’s proper guide), but continues
under the tuition and government of others for as long as

his own understanding is incapable of taking over. And
so lunatics and idiots are never freed from the government
of their parents. [The section continues with a quotation
from Hooker, saying the same thing, and the remark that
all this comes from a duty—given by nature and by God—to
preserve one’s offspring, and hardly gives proof that parents
have ‘regal authority’.]

61. Thus we are born •free, as we are born •rational; not
that we as newborn babies actually have the use of either:
age that brings •reason brings •freedom with it. So we
see how •natural freedom is consistent with •subjection to
parents, both being based on the same principle. A child
is free by his father’s title, by his father’s understanding,
which is to govern him till he has understanding of his own.
The •freedom of a mature man and the •subjection of a
not yet mature child to his parents are so consistent with
one another, and so distinguishable, that the most blinded
contenders for monarchy-by-right-of-fatherhood can’t miss
this difference; the most obstinate of them can’t maintain
that the two are inconsistent. ·I now show their consistency
with one another within the context of Filmer’s theory of
monarchy·. Suppose their doctrine ·of monarchy· were all
true, and the right ·contemporary· heir of Adam were now
known and by that title settled as a monarch on his throne,
invested with all the absolute unlimited power that Sir Robert
Filmer talks of. If this monarch were to die just after his heir
was born, wouldn’t the child—however free and sovereign
he was—be subject to his mother and nurse, to tutors and
governors, till age and education brought him reason and
the ability to govern himself and others? The necessities of
his life, the health of his body, and the forming of his mind,
would all require that he be directed by the will of others and
not by his own will. But will anyone think that this restraint
and subjection would be inconsistent with (or deprived him

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of) the liberty or sovereignty that he had a right to, or gave
away his empire to those who had the government of him in
his youth? This government over him would only prepare
him the better and sooner for being a governor of others. If
anybody should ask me when my son is of age to be free, I
would answer: Just when his monarch is of age to govern!
As for determining when a man can be said to have achieved
enough use of reason to be capable of ·understanding and
obeying· those laws whereby he is then bound: this, says
the judicious Hooker (Ecclesiastical Polity, Book 1, section
6), is a great deal easier for sense to discern than for anyone
by skill and learning to determine [= roughly ‘easier to tell by
experience of particular cases than to lay down in general theoretical

terms’].

62. Commonwealths themselves allow that there is an age
at which men are to begin to act like free men, so that before
that age they aren’t required to take oaths of allegiance or in
any other way to declare the authority of the government of
their countries.

63. So a man’s freedom—his liberty of acting according
to his own will—is based on his having reason, which can
instruct him in the law he is to govern himself by, and make
him know to what extent he is left to the freedom of his
own will. To turn him loose and give him complete liberty
before he has reason to guide him is not allowing him his
natural privilege of being free; rather, it is pushing him out
among the lower animals and abandoning him to a state as
wretched and sub-human as theirs is. This is what gives
parents the authority to govern their children while they
are minors. God has made it their business to take this
care of their offspring, and has built into them tendencies
to gentleness and concern so as to moderate this power, so
that they will use the power, for as long as the children need

to be under it, for the children’s good.

64. But what reason can there be to expand the care that
parents owe to their offspring into an absolute arbitrary
command of the father? In fact, a father’s power reaches only
far enough to •impose the discipline that he finds effective
in giving his children the strong and healthy bodies and
vigorous and right-thinking minds that will best fit them
to be most useful to themselves and others; and, if it is
necessary in the family’s circumstances, •to make them
work, when they are able, for their own livelihood. But in
this power the mother too has her share with the father.

65. Indeed, this power is so far from being something that
the father has by a special right of nature, rather than having
it in his role as the guardian of his children, that when his
care of them comes to an end so does his power over them.
That power is inseparably tied to their nourishment and
upbringing; and it belongs as much to the foster-father
of an abandoned baby as to the natural father of another
child. That’s how little power the bare act of begetting gives
a man over his offspring: if all his care ends there, and
his only claim on the name and authority of a father is
that he begot the child, ·his power comes to nothing·. And
what will become of this paternal power in places where one
woman has more than one husband at a time? or in the
parts of America where when the husband and wife separate
(which happens frequently) the children all stay with the
mother and are wholly cared for and provided for by her? If a
father dies while the children are young, don’t they naturally
everywhere owe the same obedience to their mother, during
their minority, as they would to their father if he were still
alive? ·Obviously they do! And then, with ‘paternal power’
replaced by ‘maternal power’, the idea that governmental
power comes from this source becomes even more clearly

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incredible. For consider·: Will anyone say that the ·widowed·
mother has a legislative power over her children? that she
can make laws that will oblige the children throughout their
lives, regulating all matters having to do with property and
freedom of action? and that she can enforce the observation
of these laws with capital punishments? All of that lies
within the legitimate scope of the law-giver, and the father
doesn’t have even the shadow of it!. His command over his
children is only temporary, and doesn’t affect their life or
property. [Locke continues in this vein, repeating points
already made.]

66. But though in due course a child comes to be as free
from subjection to the will and command of his father as the
father himself is free from subjection to the will of anyone
else, and each of them is under only the restraints that also
bind the other—from the law of nature and from the civil
law of their country—this freedom that the son has doesn’t
exempt him from honouring his parents as he is required
to do by the law of God and nature. God having •made the
parents through their having children serve as instruments
in his great design of continuing the race of mankind, •laid on
them an obligation to nourish, preserve, and bring up their
offspring, and also •laid on children a perpetual obligation to
honour their parents. This honour involves an inward esteem
and reverence to be shown by all outward expressions, so it
holds the child back from anything that might ever injure or
offend, disturb or endanger, the happiness or life of those
from whom he received his own life; and draws him into doing
all he can for the defence, relief, assistance and comfort of
those by whose means he came into existence and has been
made capable of enjoying life. No state—and no kind of
freedom—can free children from this obligation. But this is
very far from giving parents a power of command over their
children, or an authority to make laws and dispose as they

please of the children’s lives or liberties. It is one thing to
be owed honour, respect, gratitude and assistance; another
to require absolute obedience and submission. A monarch
on his throne owes his mother the honour any son owes his
parents, but this doesn’t lessen his authority or entitle her
to govern him.

67. Consider these two facts: (1) While a child is a minor, its
father is temporarily in the position of a governor—a position
that ends when the child becomes an adult. (2) The child’s
duty of honour gives the parents a perpetual right to respect,
reverence, support and compliance too, in proportion to how
much care, cost, and kindness the father has put into the
child’s upbringing. This doesn’t end with minority, but holds
throughout a man’s life. The failure to distinguish these two
powers, namely

•the father’s right of upbringing during minority, and
•the parent’s right to be honoured, throughout his
life,

may have caused a great part of the mistakes about this
matter. ·But they are utterly different from one another·.
Strictly speaking, the first of them is not really a •right
of parental power but rather a privilege of children and a
•duty of parents. The nourishment and education of their
children is so much a duty of parents that nothing can
absolve them from performing it; and though the power of
commanding and punishing children goes along with the
duty, God has woven into the forces at work in human
nature such a tenderness for offspring that there is little
risk of parents using their power too severely. . . . [Sections
68–71 repeat and decorate the main themes of the chapter
up to here, without adding significant content.]

72. ·In addition to the powers of privileges discussed above·,
there is another power that a father ordinarily has, which

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gives him a hold on the obedience of his children. Although
men in general have this power, the occasions for using
it are nearly always within the private lives of families; it
seldom shows up anywhere else, and when it does it isn’t
much noticed, which is why it is generally taken to be a
part of paternal jurisdiction. What I am talking about is the
power men generally have to leave their estates to those who
please them best. Children can expect to inherit from their
father, usually in certain proportions according to the law
and custom of the country; but the father commonly has the
power to make bequests with a more or less generous hand
depending on how much each child has behaved in ways
that he has agreed with and liked.

73. This gives a considerable hold on the obedience of
children, ·and it connects with something that has been
a main topic of this treatise, namely the place of consent
in government. I shall explain·. The enjoyment of land
always involves submitting to the government of the country
where the land is. Now, it has commonly been supposed
that a father could give his offspring a binding obligation
to submit to the government of which he himself was a
subject, ·but this is wrong·. The obligation to submit to
a government is only a condition of owning the land; and
the inheritance of an estate that is under that government
reaches only those who will accept the estate when it has
that condition attached to it. So it is not a natural tie or
obligation, but a voluntary submission. Every man’s children
are by nature as free as the man himself or any of his
ancestors ever were, and while they are in that freedom
they may choose what society they will join themselves to,
what commonwealth they will submit to. But if they want to
enjoy the inheritance of their ancestors, they must take it on
the terms on which their ancestors had it, and submit to all
the conditions tied to such ownership. So this power does

indeed enable fathers to •oblige their children to obedience to
themselves even when they are adults, and most commonly
to •subject their children to this or that political power. But
neither of these comes from any special right of fatherhood,
but rather from owning the means to enforce and reward
such compliance ·with the father’s wishes or with the laws of
the commonwealth·. It is just the power that a Frenchman
has over an Englishman who hopes to inherit his estate:
that hope certainly creates a strong tie on his obedience
·to the Frenchman·; and if the estate is left to him, he can
enjoy it only on the conditions attached to the possession of
land in the country that contains it, whether it be France or
England.

74. . . . .·Despite all this·, we can see how easy it was, at
certain times and places, for the father of the family to
become its monarch. This would be so when the world
was young, and also today in some places where the low
population makes it possible for ·the· families ·of the next
generation· to spread out into the surrounding countryside
and make homes for themselves in unoccupied territory.
·That creates a situation in which a considerable number
of people, in a line of descent from a single living person,
‘the father’, are spread out across a considerable territory·.
Without some government it would be hard for them to live
together, and their common father had been a ruler from the
beginning of the infancy of his children; so the adult children
were most likely—whether explicitly or by tacit consent—to
have him continue as ruler. The only change from the
earlier state of affairs is that they •permitted the father (and
no-one else in his family) to have the executive power of the
law of nature, a power that every free man naturally has,
and by that •permission giving him a monarchical power
while they remained in it [= ‘remained in that family’?]. But this
·monarchical power within the extended family· didn’t come

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Second Treatise John Locke 6: Paternal power

from any paternal right but purely from the consent of the
adult offspring. Suppose that a foreigner comes into the
family’s territory by chance or on business and, while there,
kills a member of the family. . . . No-one doubts that in such
a case the father may condemn the foreigner and punish
him, with death or in some other way, just as he could
punish an offence by one of his children. Now, in punishing
the foreigner he can’t be exercising any paternal authority,
because the foreigner is not his child; so he must be acting
by virtue of the executive power of the law of nature, which
he had a right to ·not as a •father but· just as a •man. Any of
his adult children would also have had such a natural right
if they hadn’t laid it aside and chosen to allow this dignity
and authority to belong to the father and to no-one else in
the family.

75. Thus it was easy, almost natural, and virtually inevitable,
for children to give their tacit consent to the father’s having
authority and government. They had been accustomed in
their childhood to follow his direction, and to refer their little
differences to him; when they were grown up, who would
be fitter to rule them? They hadn’t much property, or much
envy of one anothers’ goods, so their ‘little differences’ hadn’t

become much bigger! Where could they find a fitter umpire
than he by whose care they had all been sustained and
brought up, and who had a tenderness for them all?. . . .

76. Thus the natural fathers of families gradually became
their politic monarchs as well. And when they happened to
live long and to have able and worthy heirs, they laid the
foundations for kingdoms—whether hereditary or elective—
with various different kinds of constitutions and procedures,
shaped by the effects of chance, contrivance, and particular
events. But if •monarchs are entitled to their thrones
because of their rights as fathers, and if •the natural right
of fathers to political authority is shown by the mere fact
that government has commonly been exercised by fathers,
then by the very same inference we can ‘prove’ that all
monarchs—and indeed only monarchs—should be priests,
since it is as certain •that in the beginning the father of the
family was his household’s priest as •that he was its ruler.
[In a footnote to section 74 Locke quotes a long passage
from Hooker, saying things similar to what Locke says in
that section, and referring to ‘the ancient custom’ whereby
fathers became kings and also came ‘to exercise the office of
priests’.]

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Second Treatise John Locke 7: Political or Civil Society

Chapter 7: Political or Civil Society

·CONJUGAL SOCIETY·
77. God having made man as a creature who, in God’s
own judgment, ought not to be alone, •drew him strongly—
by need, convenience, and inclination—into society, and
•equipped him with understanding and language to keep
society going and to enjoy it. The first society was between
man and wife, which gave rise to the society between parents
and children; to which in time the society between master
and servant came to be added. All these could and often did
meet together, and constitute a single family in which the
master or mistress had some appropriate sort of authority.
[In Locke’s day ‘family’ commonly meant ‘household’, i.e. including the
servants.] Each of these smaller societies, or all together, fell
short of being a political society, as we shall see if we consider
the different ends, ties, and bounds of each of them.
78. Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact
between man and woman. It mainly consists in the togeth-
erness of bodies and right of access to one another’s bodies
that is needed for procreation, which is its main purpose;
but it brings with it mutual support and assistance, and a
togetherness of interests too, this being needed to unite their
care and affection and also needed by their offspring, who
have a right to be nourished and maintained by them till
they are old enough to provide for themselves.
79. The purpose of bonding between male and female is
not just •procreation but •the continuation of the species;
·meaning that it’s not just to have children but to bring
them up·; so this link between male and female ought to last
beyond procreation, so long as is needed for the nourishment
and support of the young ones. . . . This rule that our infinite
wise maker has imposed on his creatures can be seen to be

regularly obeyed by the lower animals. In viviparous animals
that feed on grass, the bonding of male with female lasts no
longer than the mere act of copulation; because the female’s
teat is sufficient to nourish the young until they can feed
on grass, all the male has to do is to beget [= ‘to impregnate
the female’], and doesn’t concern himself with the female or
with the young, to whose nourishment he can’t contribute
anything. But in beasts of prey the conjunction lasts longer,
because the dam isn’t able to survive and to nourish her
numerous offspring by her own prey alone, this being a more
laborious way of living than feeding on grass, as well as a
more dangerous one. So the male has to help to maintain
their common family, which can’t survive unaided until the
young are able to prey for themselves. This can be seen also
with birds, whose young need food in the nest, so that the
cock and the hen continue as mates until the young can fly,
and can provide for themselves. (The only exception is some
domestic birds; the cock needn’t feed and take care of the
young brood because there is plenty of food.)

80. This brings us to what I think is the chief if not the only
reason why the human male and female are bonded together
for longer than other creatures. It is this:- Long before a
human child is able to shift for itself without help from his
parents, its mother can again conceive and bear another
child; so that the father, who is bound to take care for those
he has fathered, is obliged to continue in conjugal society
with the same woman for longer than some other creatures.
With creatures whose young can make their own way the
time of procreation comes around again, the conjugal bond
automatically dissolves and the parents are at liberty, till
Hymen [the god of marriage] at his usual anniversary season

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Second Treatise John Locke 7: Political or Civil Society

summons them again to choose new mates. We have to
admire the wisdom of the great creator: having •given man
foresight and an ability to make preparations for the future
as well dealing with present needs, God •made it necessary
that the society of man and wife should be more lasting
than that of male and female among other creatures; so that
their industry might be encouraged and their interests better
united to make provision and lay up goods for their shared
offspring—an arrangement that would be mightily disturbed
if the offspring had an uncertain mixture of parentage or if
conjugal society were often and easily dissolved.

81. But though there are these ties that make conjugal
bonds firmer and more lasting in humans than in the other
species of animals, it is still reasonable to ask:

Once procreation and upbringing have been secured,
and inheritance arranged for, why shouldn’t this
compact ·between man and wife· be like any other
voluntary compact? That is, why shouldn’t its contin-
uance depend on the consent of the parties, or on the
elapsing of a certain period of time, or on some other
condition?

·It is a reasonable question because· neither the compact
itself nor the purposes for which it was undertaken require
that it should always be for life. (Unless of course there is a
positive law ordaining that all such contracts be perpetual.)
[See the explanation of ‘positive’ on page 3.]
82. Though the husband and wife have a single common
concern, they have different •views about things and so
inevitably they will sometimes differ in what they •want to
be done. The final decision on any practical question has to
rest with someone, and it naturally falls to the man’s share,
because he is the abler [Locke’s word] and the stronger of the
two. But this applies only to things in which they have a
common interest or ownership; it leaves the wife in the full

and free possession of what by contract is her special right,
and gives the husband no more power over her life than
she has over his! The husband’s power is so far from that
of an absolute monarch that the wife is in many cases free
to separate from him, where natural right or their contract
allows it—whether that contract is made by themselves in
the state of nature, or made by the customs or laws of the
country they live in. When such a separation occurs, the
children go to the father or to the mother, depending on what
their contract says.

83. All the •purposes of marriage can be achieved under
political government as well as in the state of nature, so the
civil magistrate doesn’t interfere with any of the husband’s
or wife’s rights or powers that are naturally necessary for
those •purposes, namely procreation and mutual support
and assistance while they are together. He comes into the
picture only when called upon to decide any controversy
that may arise between man and wife about the purposes in
question. [Locke goes on to say that ‘absolute sovereignty
and power of life and death’ doesn’t naturally belong to the
husband, because this isn’t needed for the purposes for
which marriage exists; and that if it were needed for that,
matrimony would be impossible in countries whose laws
forbid any private citizen to have such authority.]

84. As for the society between parents and children, and
the distinct rights and powers belonging to each: I discussed
this fully enough in chapter 6, and needn’t say more about it
here. I think it is obvious that it is very different from politic
society.

·DOMESTIC GOVERNANCE GENERALLY·
85. ‘Master’ and ‘servant’ are names as old as history, but
very different relationships can be characterized by them.
•A free man may make himself a servant to someone else

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Second Treatise John Locke 7: Political or Civil Society

by selling to him for a specified time the service that he
undertakes to do, in exchange for wages he is to receive.
This often puts him into the household of his master, and
under its ordinary discipline, but it gives the master a power
over him that is temporary and is no greater than what
is contained in the contract between them. •But there is
another sort of servant to which we give the special name
‘slave’. A slave is someone who, being a captive taken
in a just war, is by the right of nature subjected to the
absolute command and arbitrary power of his master. A
slave has forfeited his life and with it his liberty; he has lost
all his goods, and as a slave he is not capable of having any
property; so he can’t in his condition of slavery be considered
as any part of civil society, the chief purpose of which is the
preservation of property.

86. Let us then consider a master of a family [= ‘household’]
with all these subordinate relations of wife, children, ser-
vants, and slaves, all brought together under the ·general
label of· ‘the domestic rule of a family’. This may look like a
little commonwealth in its structure and rules, but it is really
far from that in its constitution, its power and its purpose.
[Locke goes on by saying that if it were a monarchy, it would
be an extraordinarily limited one. Then:] But how a family
or any other society of men differs from a political society,
properly so-called, we shall best see by considering what
political society is.

·POLITICAL SOCIETY·

87. As I have shown, man was born with a right to perfect
freedom, and with an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights
and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other
man or men in the world. So he has by nature a power not
only •to preserve

•his property,

that is,
•his life, liberty and possessions,

against harm from other men, but •to judge and punish
breaches of the law of nature by others—punishing in the
manner he thinks the offence deserves, even punishing with
death crimes that he thinks are so dreadful as to deserve it.
But no political society can exist or survive without having
in itself the power to preserve the property—and therefore to
punish the offences—of all the members of that society; and
so there can’t be a political society except where every one of
the members has given up this natural power, passing it into
the hands of the community in all cases. . . . With all private
judgments of every particular member of the society being
excluded, the community comes to be the umpire. It acts in
this role •according to settled standing rules, impartially, the
same to all parties; acting •through men who have authority
from the community to apply those rules. This ‘umpire’
settles all the disputes that may arise between members of
the society concerning any matter of right, and punishes
offences that any member has committed against the society,
with penalties that the law has established. This makes it
easy to tell who are and who aren’t members of a political
society. Those who

are united into one body with a common established
law and judiciary to appeal to, with authority to decide
controversies and punish offenders,

are in •civil society with one another; whereas those who
have no such common appeal (I mean: no such appeal
here on earth)

are still in •the state of nature, each having to judge and to
carry out the sentence, because there isn’t anyone else to do
those things for him.

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Second Treatise John Locke 7: Political or Civil Society

88. That’s how it comes about that the commonwealth has
•the power of making laws: that is, the power to set
down what punishments are appropriate for what
crimes that members of the society commit; and
•the power of war and peace: that is, the power to
punish any harm done to any of its members by
anyone who isn’t a member;

all this being done for the preservation of the property of all
the members of the society, as far as is possible. [Note the broad
meaning given to ‘property’ near the start of section 87.] Every man
who has entered into civil society has thereby relinquished
his power to punish offences against the law of nature on the
basis of his own private judgment, •giving it to the legislature
in all cases; and along with that he has also •given to the
commonwealth a right to call on him to employ his force
for the carrying out of its judgments (which are really his
own judgments, for they are made by himself or by his
representative). So we have the distinction between the
•legislative and •executive powers of civil society. The former
are used to

judge, by •standing laws, how far offences committed
within the commonwealth are to be punished;

the latter are used to
determine, by •occasional judgments based on partic-
ular circumstances, how far harms from outside the
commonwealth are to be vindicated.

Each ·branch of a commonwealth’s power· can employ all
the force of all its members, when there is a need for it.

89. Thus, there is a political (or civil) society when and only
when a number of men are united into one society in such
a way that each of them forgoes his executive power of the
law of nature, giving it over to the public. And this comes
about wherever a number of men in the state of nature
enter into society to make one people, one body politic,

under one supreme government. (·A man can become a
member of a commonwealth without being in on its creation,
namely· when someone joins himself to a commonwealth
that is already in existence. In doing this he authorizes the
society—i.e. authorizes it legislature—to make laws for him
as the public good of the society shall require. . . .) This takes
men out of a state of nature into the state of a commonwealth,
by setting up a judge on earth with authority to settle all the
controversies and redress the harms that are done to any
member of the commonwealth. . . . Any group of men who
have no such decisive power to appeal to are still in the state
of nature, no matter what other kind of association they have
with one another.

·ABSOLUTE MONARCHY·

90. This makes it evident that absolute monarchy, which
some people regard as the only ·genuine· government in the
world, is actually inconsistent with civil society and so can’t
be a form of civil government at all! Consider what civil
society is for. It is set up

to avoid and remedy the drawbacks of the state of
nature that inevitably follow from every man’s being
judge in his own case, by setting up a known au-
thority to which every member of that society can
appeal when he has been harmed or is involved in
a dispute—an authority that everyone in the society
ought to obey.

So any people who don’t have such an authority to appeal
to for the settlement of their disputes are still in the state
of nature. Thus, every absolute monarch is in the state of
nature with respect to those who are under his dominion.
[Locke has a footnote quoting a confirmatory passage from
Hooker. Another such is attached to the next section, and
two to section 94.]

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Second Treatise John Locke 7: Political or Civil Society

91. For an absolute monarch is supposed to have both
legislative and executive power in himself alone; so there
is no judge or court of appeal that can fairly, impartially,
and authoritatively make decisions that could provide relief
and compensation for any harm that may be inflicted by the
monarch or on his orders. So such a man—call him Czar or
Grand Seignior or what you will—is as much in the state of
nature with respect to his subjects as he is with respect to
the rest of mankind. ·This is a special case of the state of
nature, because between it and the ordinary state of nature
there is· this difference, a woeful one for the subject (really,
the slave) of an absolute monarch: •in the ordinary state of
nature a man is free to judge what he has a right to, and
to use the best of his power to maintain his rights; whereas
•in an absolute monarchy, when his property is invaded by
the will of his monarch, he not only has no-one to appeal
to but he isn’t even free to judge what his rights are or to
defend them (as though he were a cat or a dog, that can’t
think for itself). He is, in short, exposed to all the misery and
inconveniences that a man can fear from someone who is in
the unrestrained state of nature and is also corrupted with
flattery and armed with power.

92. If you think that absolute power purifies men’s blood
and corrects the baseness of human nature, read history—of
this or any other age—and you’ll be convinced of the contrary.
A man who would have been insolent and injurious in
the forests of America isn’t likely to be much better on
a throne! ·Possibly even worse·, because as an absolute
monarch he may have •access to learning and religion that
will ‘justify’ everything he does to his subjects, and •the
power of arms to silence immediately all those who dare
question his actions. . . .

93. In absolute monarchies, as well in other governments
in the world, the subjects can appeal to the law and have
judges to decide disputes and restrain violence among the
subjects. Everyone thinks this to be necessary, and believes
that anyone who threatens it should be thought a declared
enemy to society and mankind. But does this come from a
true love of mankind and society, and from the charity that
we all owe to one another? There is reason to think that it
doesn’t. There is really no more to it than what any man
who loves his own power, profit, or greatness will naturally
do to prevent fights among animals that labour and drudge
purely for his pleasure and advantage, and so are taken care
of not out of any love the master has for them but out of
love for himself and for the profit they bring him. If we ask
‘What security, what fence, do we have to protect us from
the violence and oppression of this absolute ruler?’, the very
question is ·found to be· almost intolerable. They are ready
to tell you that even to ask about safety ·from the monarch·
is an offence that deserves to be punished by death. Between
•subjects, they will grant, there must be measures, laws and
judges to produce mutual peace and security: but •the ruler
ought to be absolute, and is above all such considerations;
because he has power to do more hurt and wrong, it is right
when he does it! To ask how you may be guarded from
harm coming from the direction where the strongest hand is
available to do it is to use the voice of faction and rebellion;
as if when men left the state of nature and entered into
society they agreed that all but one of them should be under
the restraint of laws, and that that one should keep all the
liberty of the state of nature, increased by power, and made
licentious by impunity. This implies that men are so foolish
that they would take care to avoid harms from polecats or
foxes, but think it is safety to be eaten by lions.

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Second Treatise John Locke 7: Political or Civil Society

94. But whatever may be soothingly said to confuse people’s
•understandings, it doesn’t stop men from •feeling. And
when they see that any man is outside the bounds of the civil
society to which they belong, and that they have no appeal
on earth against any harm he may do them, they are apt to
•think they are in the state of nature with respect to that
man, and to •take care as soon possible to regain the safety
and security in civil society which was their only reason for
entering into it in the first place. This holds for any such
man, whatever his station in life—·whether he is a monarch
or a street-sweeper·. In the early stages of a commonwealth it
may happen (this being something I shall discuss more fully
later on) that one good and excellent man comes to be pre-
eminent, his goodness and virtue causing the others to defer
to him as to a kind of natural authority; so that by everyone’s
tacit consent he comes to be the chief arbitrator of their
disputes, with no precautions taken ·against his abusing
that power· except their confidence in his uprightness and
wisdom. ·The story could unfold from there in the following
way·. The careless and unforeseeing innocence of the first
years of society—which I have been describing—establish
customs ·of deference to one individual·; some of the suc-
cessors to the first pre-eminent man are much inferior to
him; but the passage of time gives authority to customs

(some say it makes then sacred), ·and so the custom of
deference-to-one stays in place·. Eventually the people
find that, although the whole purpose of government is the
preservation of property, their property is not safe under this
government; and they conclude that the only way for them to
be safe and without anxiety—the only way for them to think
they are in a civil society—is for the legislative power to be
given to a collective body of men, call it ‘senate’, ‘parliament’,
or what you will. In this way every single person—from
the highest to the lowest—comes to be subject to the laws
that he himself, as part of the legislature, has established.
No-one has authority to take himself outside the reach of a
law once it has been made; nor can anyone by any claim of
superiority plead exemption from the laws, so as to license
offences against it by himself or his dependents. No man in
civil society can be exempted from its laws; for if any man
can do what he thinks fit, and there is no appeal on earth
for compensation or protection against any harm he may do,
isn’t he still perfectly in the state of nature, and so not a
part or member of that civil society? The only way to avoid
the answer ‘Yes’ is to say that the state of nature and civil
society are one and the same thing, and I have never yet
found anyone who is such an enthusiast for anarchy that he
would affirm that.

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

Chapter 8: The beginning of political societies

95. Men all being naturally free, equal, and independent,
no-one can be deprived of this freedom etc. and subjected to
the political power of someone else, without his own consent.
The only way anyone can strip off his natural liberty and
clothe himself in the bonds of civil society is for him to
agree with other men to unite into a community, so as to
live together comfortably, safely, and peaceably, in a secure
enjoyment of their properties and a greater security against
outsiders. Any number of men can do this, because it does
no harm to the freedom of the rest; they are left with the
liberty of the state of nature, which they had all along. When
any number of men have in this way consented to make one
community or government, this immediately incorporates
them, turns them into a single body politic in which the
majority have a right to act on behalf of the rest and to
bind them by its decisions. [‘incorporate’ comes from Latin corpus
= ‘body’.]

96. [In this section Locke makes the point that a unified
single body can move in only one way, and that must be
in the direction in which ‘the greater force carries it, which
is the consent of the majority’. Majoritarian rule is the
only possibility for united action. Locke will discuss one
alternative—namely universal agreement—in section 98.]

97. Thus every man, by agreeing with others to make one
body politic under one government, puts himself under an
obligation to everyone in that society to submit to the deci-
sions of the majority, and to be bound by it. Otherwise—that
is, if he were willing to submit himself only to the majority
acts that he approved of—the original compact through
which he and others incorporated into one society would
be meaningless; it wouldn’t be a compact if it left him as free

of obligations as he had been in the state of nature. . . .

98. For if the consent of •the majority isn’t accepted as
the act of the whole ·body politic· and as binding on every
individual, the only basis there could be for something’s
counting as an act of the whole would be its having the
consent of •every individual. But it is virtually impossible for
that ever to be had. Even with an assembly much smaller
than that of an entire commonwealth, many will be kept from
attending by ill-health or by the demands of business. For
that reason, and also because of the variety of opinions and
conflicts of interests that inevitably occur in any collection
of men, it would be absurd for them to come into society
on such terms, that is, on the basis that the society as a
whole does nothing that isn’t assented to by each and every
member of it. It would be like Cato’s coming into the theatre
only to go out again. [This refers to an episode in which the younger
Cato conspicuously walked out of a theatrical performance in ancient

Rome, to protest what he thought to be indecency in the performance.]
Such a constitution as this would give the ·supposedly·
mighty Leviathan a shorter life than the feeblest creatures; it
wouldn’t live beyond the day it was born. [For ‘Leviathan’, see Job
41. Hobbes had adapted the word as a name for the politically organised

state.] We can’t think that this is what rational creatures
would want in setting up political societies. . . .

99. So those who out of a state of nature unite into a com-
munity must be understood to give up all the power required
to secure its purposes to the majority of the community
(unless they explicitly agree on some number greater than
the majority). They achieve this simply by agreeing to unite
into one political society; that’s all the compact that is needed
between the individuals that create or join a commonwealth.

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

Thus, what begins a political society and keeps it in existence
is nothing but the consent of any number of free men capable
of a majority [Locke’s phrase] to unite and incorporate into
such a society. This is the only thing that did or could give a
beginning to any lawful government in the world.

100. To this I find two objections made. First,
History shows no examples of this, no cases where
a group of independent and equal men met together
and in this way began and set up a government.

Secondly,
It is impossible for men rightly to do this, because
all men are born under government, and so they are
bound to submit to that government and aren’t at
liberty to begin a new one.

·I shall discuss these in turn, giving twelve sections to the
first of them·.

·THE ‘HISTORY IS SILENT’ OBJECTION·
101. Here is an answer to the first objection. It is no wonder
that history gives us very little account of men living together
in the state of nature. As soon as any number of men were
brought together by the inconveniences of that state, and
by their love of society and their lack of it, they immediately
united and incorporated if they planned to continue together.
If we can conclude that men never were in the state of nature
because we don’t hear not much about them in such a state,
we can just as well conclude that the soldiers of Salmanasser
or Xerxes were never children because we hear little of
them before the time when they were men and became
soldiers. In all parts of the world there was government
before there were records; writing seldom comes in among a
people until a long stretch of civil society has, through other
more necessary arts ·such as agriculture and architecture·,
provided for their safety, ease, and affluence. When writing

does eventually come in, people begin to look into the history
of their founders, researching their origins when no memory
remains of them; for commonwealths are like individual
persons in being, usually, ignorant of their own births and
infancies; and when a commonwealth does know something
about its origins, they owe that knowledge to the records
that others happen to have kept of it. And such records as
we have of the beginnings of political states give no support
to paternal dominion, except for the Jewish state, where God
himself stepped in. They are all either plain instances of the
kind of beginning that I have described mentioned or at least
show clear signs of it.

102. Rome and Venice had their starts when a number
of men, free and independent of one another and with no
natural superiority or subjection, came together ·to form
a political society·. Anyone who denies this must have a
strange inclination to deny any evident matter of fact that
doesn’t agree with his hypothesis. [Locke then quotes an
historian who reports that in many parts of the American
continent people had lived together in ‘troops’ with no gov-
ernment at all, some of them continuing thus into Locke’s
time. Then:] You might object: ‘Every man there was born
subject to his father, or to the head of his family’; but I have
already shown that the subjection a child owes to a father
still leaves him free to join in whatever political society he
thinks fit. But be that as it may, it is obvious that these men
were actually free; and whatever superiority some political
theorists would now accord to any of them, they themselves
made no such claim; by consent they were all equal until by
that same consent they set rulers over themselves. So their
political societies all began from a voluntary union, and the
mutual agreement of men freely acting in the choice of their
governors and forms of government.

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

103. [Locke gives another example: colonists from ancient
Sparta. Then:] Thus I have given several historical examples
of free people in the state of nature who met together,
incorporated, and began a commonwealth. Anyway, if the
lack of such examples were a good argument to show that
governments couldn’t have been started in this way, the
defenders of the paternal empire ·theory of government·
would do better leave it unused rather than urging it against
natural liberty ·and thus against my theory·: my advice to
them would be not to search too much into the origins of
governments, lest they should find at the founding of most
of them something very little favourable to the design they
support and the governmental power they contend for. We
wouldn’t be running much of a risk if we said ‘Find plenty
of historical instances of governments begun on the basis of
paternal right, and we’ll accept your theory’; though really
there is no great force in an argument from what •has been
to what •should of right be, ·even if they had the historical
premise for the argument·.

104. [This short section repeats the conclusion of the
preceding sections.]

105. I don’t deny that if we look back as far as history will
take us into the origins of commonwealths, we shall generally
find them under the government and administration of one
man. Also, I am inclined to believe this:

Where a family was numerous enough to survive on
its own without mixing with others (as often happens
where there is much land and few people), the gov-
ernment commonly began in the father. By the law of
nature he had the power to punish, as he thought fit,
any offences against that law; this included punishing
his offspring when they offended, even after they
had become adults; and it is very likely that each

submitted to his own punishment and supported the
father in punishing the others when they offended,
thereby giving him power to carry out his sentence
against any transgression. This would in effect make
him the law-maker and governor over everyone who
continued to be joined up with his family. He was
the most fit to be trusted; paternal affection secured
their property and interest under his care; and the
childhood custom of obeying him made it easier to
submit to him than to anyone else. So if they had
to have •one man to rule them (for government can
hardly be avoided when men live together), who so
likely to be •the man as their common father, unless
negligence, cruelty, or some other defect of mind or
body made him unfit for it?

But when •the father died and left as his next heir someone
who was less fit to rule (because too young, or lacking in
wisdom, courage, or the like), or when •several families met
and agreed to continue together, it can’t be doubted that then
•they used their natural freedom to set up as their ruler the
one whom they judged to be the ablest and the most likely
to rule well. And so we find the people of America—ones
who lived out of the reach of the conquering swords and
spreading domination of the two great empires of Peru and
Mexico—enjoyed their own natural freedom, ·and made their
own choices of ruler·. Other things being equal, they have
commonly preferred the heir of their deceased king; but
when they find him to be any way weak or uncapable, they
pass him over and choose the toughest and bravest man as
their ruler.

106. So the prevalence in early times of government by one
man doesn’t destroy what I affirm, namely that

the beginning of political society depends upon the
individuals’ consenting to create and join into one

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

society; and when they are thus incorporated they
can set up whatever form of government they think
fit.

But people have been misled ·by the historical records· into
thinking that by nature government is monarchical, and
belongs to the father. So perhaps we should consider here
why people in the beginning generally chose this ·one-man·
form ·of government·. The father’s pre-eminence might
explain this in •the first stages of some commonwealths,
but obviously the reason why government by a single person
•continued through the years was not a respect for paternal
authority; since all small monarchies (and most are small in
their early years) have at least sometimes been elective.

107. [Locke repeats the reasons given in section 105 for
fathers to be accepted as rulers in the early years of a political
society. Then:] Add to that a further fact:-

Monarchy would be simple and obvious to men •whose
experience hadn’t instructed them in forms of gov-
ernment, and •who hadn’t encountered the ambition
or insolence of empire, which might teach them to
beware of the. . . .drawbacks of absolute power which
a hereditary monarchy was apt to lay claim to.

So it wasn’t at all strange if they didn’t take the trouble to
think much about methods of restraining any excesses on
the part of those to whom they had given authority over
them, and of balancing the power of government by placing
different parts of it in different hands. . . . It is no wonder that
they gave themselves a form of government that was not only
obvious and simple but also best suited to their present state
and condition, in which they needed defence against foreign
invasions and injuries more than they needed a multiplicity
of laws. [Locke elaborates that last point: ‘the equality of
a simple poor way of living’ meant that there would be few
internal disputes, whereas there was always a need to be

defended against foreign attack.]

108. And thus we see that the kings of the Indians in
America are little more than generals of their armies. They
command absolutely in war, because there there can’t be
a plurality of governors and so, naturally, command is
exercised on the king’s sole authority; but at home and in
times of peace they exercise very little power, and have only
a very moderate kind of sovereignty, the resolutions of peace
and war being ordinarily made either by the people as a whole
or by a council. ·It is important to keep America in mind,
because· America even now is similar to how Asia and Europe
were in the early years when there was more land than the
people could use, and the lack of people and of money left
men with no temptation to enlarge their possessions of land.

109. And thus in Israel itself the chief business of their
judges and first kings seems to have been to be leaders of
their armies. [This long section backs up that claim with a
number of Old Testament references, all from Judges and 1
Samuel.]

110. So there are two ways in which a commonwealth might
begin.

•A family gradually grew up into a commonwealth,
and the fatherly authority was passed on ·in each
generation· to the older son; everyone grew up under
this system, and tacitly submitted to it because its
easiness and equality didn’t offend anyone; until
time seemed to have confirmed it, and made it a
rule that the right to governing authority was to be
hereditary. •Several families. . . .somehow came to be
settled in proximity to one another, and formed a
social bond; they needed a general whose conduct
might defend them against their enemies in war; and
so they made one man their ruler, with no explicit

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

limitation or restraint except what was implied by the
nature of the thing [Locke’s phrase] and the purposes
of government. This lack of precautions reflected
the great mutual confidence of the men who first
started commonwealths—a product of the innocence
and sincerity of that poor but virtuous age.

Whichever of those it was that first put the rule into the
hands of a single person, it is certain that •when someone
was entrusted with the status of ruler this was for the public
good and safety, and that •in the infancies of commonwealths
those who had that status usually used it for those ends. If
they hadn’t, young societies could not have survived. . . .

111. That was in the golden age, before vain ambition and
wicked greed had corrupted men’s minds into misunder-
standing the nature of true power and honour. That age
had more virtue, and consequently better governors and
less vicious subjects, ·than we do now·; so there was (on
one side) •no stretching of powers to oppress the people, and
consequently (on the other side) •no disputatious attempts to
lessen or restrict the power of the government, and therefore
•no contest between rulers and people about governors or
government. In later ages, however, ambition and luxury
led monarchs to retain and increase their power without
doing the work for which they were given it; and led them
also (with the help of flattery) to have distinct and separate
interests from their people. So men found it necessary to
examine more carefully the origin and rights of government;
and to discover ways to restrain the excesses and prevent
the abuses of the power they had put into someone’s hands
only for their own good, finding that in fact it was being used
to hurt them. [This section has another footnote quoting
Hooker.]

112. This shows us how probable it is •that people who
were naturally free, and who by their own consent created a
government in either of the ways I have described, generally
put the rule into one man’s hands and chose to be under
the conduct of a single person, without explicitly limiting or
regulating his power, which they entrusted to his honesty
and prudence. And •that they did this without having
dreamed of monarchy being ‘by divine right’ (which indeed
no-one heard of until it was revealed to us by the theological
writers of recent years!), and without treating paternal power
as the foundation of all government. What I have said ·from
section 101 up to here· may suffice to show that as far as we
have any light from history we have reason to conclude that
all peaceful beginnings of government have been laid in the
consent of the people. I say ‘peaceful’ because I shall have
to deal later with conquest, which some regard as a way for
governments to begin.

·THE ‘BORN UNDER GOVERNMENT’ OBJECTION·

113. The other objection I find urged against my account of
how political societies begin—·see section 100·—is this:

All men are born under some government or other,
so it is impossible for anyone to be at liberty to unite
with others to begin a new government; impossible,
anyway, to do this lawfully.

If this argument is sound, how did there come to be so many
lawful monarchies in the world? To someone who accepts
the argument I say: Show me any one man in any age of the
world who was free to begin a lawful monarchy, and I’ll show
you ten other free men who were at liberty, at that time, to
unite and begin a new government of some form or other. For
it can be demonstrated that if someone who was born under
the dominion of someone else can be free enough to ·come to·
have a right to command others in a new and distinct empire,

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

everyone who is born under the dominion of someone else
can have that same freedom to become a ruler, or subject, of
a distinct separate government. And so according to this line
of thought, either •all men, however born, are free, or •there
is only one lawful monarch, one lawful government, in the
world. In the latter case, all that remains for my opponents
to do is to point him out; and when they have done that I’m
sure that all mankind will easily agree to obey him!

114. This is a sufficient answer to their objection; it shows
that the objection makes as much trouble for their position
as it does for the one they are opposing. Still, I shall try to
reveal the weakness of their argument a little further. They
say:

All men are born under some government and there-
fore can’t be at liberty to begin a new one. Everyone
is born a subject to his father, or his king, and is
therefore perpetually a subject who owes allegiance to
someone.

It is obvious mankind has never admitted or believed that
any natural subjection that they were born into without
their own consent, whether to father or to king, made them
subjects ·for the rest of their lives· and did the same to their
heirs. 115. For history, both religious and secular, is full of

examples of men removing themselves and their obedience
from the jurisdiction they were born under and from the
family or community they grew up in, and setting up new
governments in other places. That was the source of all
the numerous little commonwealths in the early years: they
went on multiplying as long as there was room enough for
them, until the stronger or luckier swallowed the weaker;
and then those large ones in turn broke into pieces which
became smaller dominions. Thus history is full of testimonies
against paternal sovereignty, plainly proving that what made

governments in the beginning was not a natural right of
the father being passed on to his heirs. If that had been
the basis of government, there couldn’t possibly have been
so many little kingdoms. There could only have been one
universal monarchy unless men had been free to choose
to separate themselves from their families and whatever
kind of government their families had set up for themselves,
and to go and make distinct commonwealths and other
governments.

116. This has been the practice of the world from its
first beginning to the present day. Men who are now born
under constituted and long-standing political states, with
established laws and set forms of government, are no more
restricted in their freedom by that fact about their birth than
they would be if they had been born in the forests among
the ungoverned inhabitants who run loose there. Those who
want to persuade us that by being born under a government
we are naturally subject to it. . . .have only one argument
for their position (setting aside the argument from paternal
power, which I have already answered), namely: our fathers
or ancestors gave up their natural liberty, and thereby bound
up themselves and their posterity to perpetual subjection to
the government to which they themselves submitted. . . . But
no-one can by any compact whatever bind his children or
posterity; for when his son becomes an adult he is altogether
as free as the father, so an act of the father can no more
give away the liberty of the son than it can give away anyone
else‘s liberty. A father can indeed attach conditions to the
inheritance of his land, so that the son can’t have possession
and enjoyment of possessions that used to be his fathers
unless he becomes ·or continues to be· a subject of the
commonwealth to which the father used to belong. Because
that estate is the father’s property, he can dispose of it in
any way he likes.

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

117. This has led to a widespread mistake ·concerning
political subjection·. Commonwealths don’t permit any
part of their land to be dismembered, or to be enjoyed
by any but their own members; so a son can’t ordinarily
enjoy the possessions—·mainly consisting of land·—of his
father except on the terms on which his father did, namely
becoming ·by his own consent· a member of that society;
and that immediately subjects him to the government he
finds established there, just as much as any other subject
of that commonwealth. So free men who are born under
government do give their consent to it, ·doing this through
the inheritance of land·; but they do this one by one, as each
reaches the age ·at which he can inherit·, rather than doing
it as group, all together; so people don’t notice this, and
think that consent isn’t given at all or isn’t necessary; from
which they infer that they are naturally subjects just as they
are naturally men.

118. But clearly that isn’t how governments themselves
understand the matter: they don’t claim that the power they
had over the father gives them power over the son, regarding
children as being their subjects just because their fathers
were so. If a subject of England has a child by an English
woman in France, whose subject is the child? Not the king of
England’s; for he must apply to be accounted an Englishman.
And not the king of France’s; for •his father is at liberty to
bring him out of France and bring him up anywhere he likes;
and anyway •who ever was judged as a traitor (or deserter)
because he left (or fought against) a country in which he
was born to parents who were foreigners there? It is clear,
then, from the practice of governments themselves as well
as from the law of right reason, that a child at birth is not
a subject of any country or government. He is under his
father’s tuition and authority until he reaches the age of
discretion; and then he is free to choose what government

he will put himself under, what body politic he will unite
himself to. . . .

119. I have shown that every man is naturally free, and
that nothing can make him subject to any earthly power
except his own consent. That raises the question: What
are we to understand as a sufficient declaration of a man’s
consent—·sufficient, that is·, to make him subject to the
laws of some government? The common distinction between
explicit and tacit consent is relevant here. Nobody doubts
that an •explicit consent of a man entering into a society
makes him perfectly a member of that society, a subject of
that government. Our remaining question concerns •tacit
consent: What counts as tacit consent, and how far does it
bind? That is: What does a man have to do to be taken to
have consented to be subject of a given government, when
he hasn’t explicitly given such consent? I answer:

If a man owns or enjoys some part of the land under a
given government, while that enjoyment lasts he gives
his tacit consent to the laws of that government and
is obliged to obey them. [See the explanation of ‘enjoyment’
in section 31.] This holds, whether •the land is the
owned property of himself and his heirs for ever, or
•he only lodges on it for a week. It holds indeed if •he
is only travelling freely on the highway; and in effect
it holds as long as •he is merely in the territories of
the government in question.

120. To understand this better, consider how •land comes
within the reach of governments. When a man first incor-
porates •himself into any commonwealth he automatically
brings with him and submits to the community •the posses-
sions that he does or will have (if they don’t already belong to
some other government). ·Why? Well·, suppose it is wrong,
and that

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Second Treatise John Locke 8: The beginning of political societies

someone could enter with others into society for se-
curing and regulating property, while assuming that
his land, his ownership of which is to be regulated
by the laws of the society, should be exempt from the
jurisdiction of the government to which he himself is
subject.

This is an outright contradiction! So the act through which
a person unites •himself—his previously free self—to any
commonwealth also unites •his possessions—his previously
free possessions—to that commonwealth. Both of them, the
person and his possessions, are subject to the government
and dominion of that commonwealth for as long as it ex-
ists. From that time on, therefore, anyone who comes to
enjoy that land—whether through inheritance, purchase,
permission, or whatever—must take it with the condition it
is already under, namely, submission to the government of
the commonwealth under whose jurisdiction it falls.

121. ·So much for •land; now for •the users of land·. If
a land-owner hasn’t actually incorporated himself in the
society ·of the commonwealth whose domain includes the
land in question·, the government ·of that commonwealth·
has direct jurisdiction only over the land; its jurisdiction
reaches as far as the land-owner only when and to the extent
that he lives on his land and enjoys it. The political obligation
that someone is under by virtue of his enjoyment of his land
begins and ends with the enjoyment. So •if a land-owner who
has given only this sort of tacit consent to the government
wants to give, sell, or otherwise get rid of his land, he is at
liberty to go and incorporate himself into some other com-
monwealth, or to agree with others to begin a new one in any

part of the world that they can find free and unpossessed. In
contrast with that, if •someone has once by actual agreement
and an explicit declaration given his consent to belonging
to some commonwealth, he is perpetually and irrevocably
obliged to continue as its subject; he can never be again
in the liberty of the state of nature—unless through some
calamity the government in question •comes to be dissolved,
or by some public act •cuts him off from being any longer a
member of that commonwealth.

122. But submitting to the laws of a country, living quietly
and enjoying privileges and protection under them, doesn’t
make a man a member of that society; all it does is to give
him local protection from, and oblige him to pay local homage
to, the government of that country. This doesn’t make
him a member of that society, a perpetual subject of that
commonwealth, any more than you would become subject to
me because you found it convenient to live for a time in my
household (though while you were there you would be obliged
to comply with the laws and submit to the government that
you found there). And so we see that foreigners who live all
their lives under another government, enjoying the privileges
and protection of it, don’t automatically come to be subjects
or members of that commonwealth (though they are bound,
·by positive law and· even in conscience, to submit to its
administration, just as its subjects or members are). Nothing
can make a man a subject except his actually entering into
the commonwealth by positive engagement, and explicit
promise and compact.—-That is what I think regarding the
beginning of political societies, and the consent that makes
one a member of a commonwealth.

39

Second Treatise John Locke 9: Purposes of society and government

Chapter 9: The purposes of political society and government

123. If man in the state of nature is as free as I have said he
is—if he is absolute lord of his own person and possessions,
equal to the greatest and subject to nobody—why will he
part with his freedom? Why will he give up this lordly status
and subject himself to the control of someone else’s power?
The answer is obvious:

Though in the state of nature he has an unrestricted
right to his possessions, he is far from assured that
he will be able to get the use of them, because they
are constantly exposed to invasion by others. All men
are kings as much as he is, every man is his equal,
and most men are not strict observers of fairness and
justice; so his hold on the property he has in this
state is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes him
willing to leave a state in which he is very free, but
which is full of fears and continual dangers; and not
unreasonably he looks for others with whom he can
enter into a society for the mutual preservation of
their •lives, •liberties and •estates, which I call by the
general name •‘property’. (The others may be ones
who are already united in such a society, or ones who
would like to be so united.)

124. So the great and chief purpose of men’s uniting into
commonwealths and putting themselves under government
is the preservation of their property. The state of nature lacks
many things that are needed for this; ·I shall discuss three
of them·. First, The state of nature lacks •an established,
settled, known law, received and accepted by common con-
sent as the standard of right and wrong and as the common
measure to decide all controversies. What about the law of
nature? Well, it is plain and intelligible to all reasonable

creatures; but men are biased by self-interest, as well as
ignorant about the law of nature because they don’t study
it; and so they aren’t apt to accept it as a law that will bind
them if it is applied to their particular cases.
125. Secondly, the state of nature lacks •a known and
impartial judge, with authority to settle all differences ac-
cording to the established law. In that state everyone is both
judge and enforcer of the law of nature, ·and few men will
play either role well·. Men are partial to themselves, so that
passion and revenge are very apt to carry them too far, and
with too much heat, in their own cases; and their negligence
and lack of concern will make them remiss in other men’s
cases.
126. Thirdly, the state of nature often lacks •a power to
back up and support a correct sentence, and to enforce it
properly. People who have committed crimes will usually, if
they can, resort to force to retain the benefits of their crime;
·this includes using force to resist punishment·; and such
resistance often makes the punishment dangerous, even
destructive, to those who try to inflict it.
127. Thus mankind are in poor shape while they remain in
the state of nature—despite all their privileges there—so that
they are quickly driven into society. That is why we seldom
find any number of men living together for long in this state.
The drawbacks it exposes them to. . . .make them take refuge
under the established laws of government, and seek there
to preserve their property. This is what makes each one of
them so willingly give up his power of punishing, a power
then to be exercised only by whoever is appointed to that
role, this being done by whatever rules are agreed on by the
community or by those whom they have authorized to draw

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Second Treatise John Locke 9: Purposes of society and government

up the rules for them. This is the basic cause, as well as the
basic justification, for the legislative and executive powers
·within a government· as well as for the governments and
societies themselves.

128. For in the state of nature a man has, along with his
liberty to enjoy innocent delights, two powers. The first is
to do whatever he thinks fit for the preservation of himself
and of others, so far as the law of nature permits. This law
makes him and all the rest of mankind into one community,
one society, distinct from all other creatures. And if it
weren’t for the corruption and viciousness of degenerate
men, there would be no need for any other law—no need
for men to separate from this great •natural community
and by •positive agreements combine into separate smaller
associations. [See the explanation of ‘positive’ on page 3.] The other
power a man has in the state of nature is the power to
punish crimes committed against the law of nature. He gives
up both these powers when he joins in a particular politic
society—a private one, so to speak—and brings himself into
any commonwealth, separate from the rest of mankind.

129. The first power. . . .he gives up to be regulated by laws
made by the society, so far as is required for the preservation
of himself and the rest of the society. Such laws greatly
restrict the liberty he had under the law of nature.

130. Secondly, he wholly gives up the power of punishing;
the natural force that he could use for punishment in the
state of nature he now puts at the disposal of the executive
power of the society. Now that he is in a new state, in which

he will enjoy many advantages from the labour, assis-

tance, and society of others in the same community,
as well as protection from the strength of the commu-
nity as a whole,

he must also ·give up something. For·
he will have to part with as much of his natural
freedom to provide for himself as is required for the
welfare, prosperity, and safety of the society.

As well as being necessary, this is fair, because the other
members of the society are doing the same thing.

131. But though men who enter into society give up the
equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state
of nature. . . .each of them does this only with the intention
of better preserving himself, his liberty and property (for no
rational creature can be thought to change his condition
intending to make it worse). So the power of the society
or legislature that they create can never be supposed to
extend further than the common good. It is obliged to secure
everyone’s property by providing against the three defects
mentioned above ·in sections 124-6·, the ones that made
the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy. Whoever has
the legislative or supreme power in any commonwealth,
therefore, is bound (1) to govern by established standing
laws, promulgated and known to the people (and not by
on-the-spot decrees), with unbiased and upright judges
appointed to apply those laws in deciding controversies; and
(2) to employ the force of the community •at home only in the
enforcement of such laws, or •abroad to prevent or correct
foreign injuries and secure the community from attack. And
all this is to be directed to the peace, safety, and public good
of the people, and to nothing else.

41

Second Treatise John Locke 10: Forms of commonwealth

Chapter 10: The forms of a commonwealth

132. When men first unite into a society, a majority of them
naturally have (as I have shown) the whole power of the
community, and may employ all that power in making laws
for the community from time to time, and enforcing those
laws through officials whom they have appointed. When
that happens, the form of the government is a thorough
democracy. Or they may put the law-making power into
the hands of a select few, and their heirs or successors;
and then the government is an oligarchy. If they put the
power into the hands of one man, their government is a
monarchy. (If the power is given to that man and his heirs,
it is an hereditary monarchy: if to him only for life, with them
retaining the power to nominate a successor, it is an elective
monarchy.) Out of these ·possibilities· a community may
make compounded and mixed forms of government if they
see fit to do so. And if the majority first give the legislative
power to one or more persons for their lifetimes or for some
stipulated period, taking the supreme power back after that
time has elapsed, then the community may dispose of it in
any way they please, and so set up a new form of government.

For the form of government depends on where the supreme
power is placed; and the supreme power is the legislative
power. (If it weren’t, legislation would be in the hands of
some less-than-supreme power, which as a legislator would
be in a position to prescribe to whoever had the supreme
power; and that doesn’t make sense.)

133. I use ‘commonwealth’ throughout this work to mean
(not a democracy or any other specific form of government,
but ·more generally·) any •independent community—·that
is, any community •that is not part of a larger political com-
munity·. The Latin word for this was civitas, for which the
best English translation is ‘commonwealth’. Used correctly, it
expresses such a society of men, which ‘community’ and ‘city’
in English do not—for there may be subordinate communities
under a ·single· government, and we use ‘city’ to mean
something quite different from ‘commonwealth’. So please
let me avoid ambiguity by using the word ‘commonwealth’ in
the sense I have explained, the sense in which I find it used
by King James I—what I think to be its genuine sense. If you
don’t like it, feel free to substitute something else.

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Second Treatise John Locke 11: Extent of legislative power

Chapter 11: The extent of the legislative power

[Locke’s usual meaning for the word ‘arbitrary’, explained at the end of
section 22, is at work in this and the next few chapters; but sometimes

he seems rather to use the word in its now-current stronger sense of

‘decided for no reason’ or ‘decided on a whim’ or the like. The older,

weaker sense is at work in section 135; the stronger sense seems to be

involved in section 136, at least at its start. Sometimes, as at the start of

section 137, it isn’t clear which sense is involved.]

134. The great •purpose for which men enter into society is
•to be safe and at peace in their use of their property; and the
great •instrument by which this is to be achieved is •the laws
established in that society. So the first and fundamental
positive law of any commonwealth is the establishing of the
legislative power; and the first and fundamental natural
law—which should govern even the legislature itself—is the
preservation of the society and (as far as the public good
allows it) the preservation of every person in it.

This legislature is not only the supreme power of the
commonwealth, but is sacred and unalterable in the
hands in which the community have placed it; and no
other person or organisation, whatever its form and
whatever power it has behind it, can make edicts that
have the force of law and create obligations as a law
does unless they have been permitted to do this by the
legislature that the public has chosen and appointed.

Without this, the law would lack something that it absolutely
must have if it is to be a law, namely the consent of the
society. Nobody has power to subject a society to laws
except with the society’s consent and by their authority;
and therefore all the obedience that anyone can owe, even
under the most solemn obligations, ultimately terminates
in [Locke’s three words] this supreme power—·the legislature of

the commonwealth·—and is governed by the laws it enacts.
No oaths to any foreign power, or any subordinate power in a
man’s own commonwealth, can free him from his obedience
to the legislature. . . . [This section has a long footnote,
quoting two confirmatory passages from Hooker. The next
two sections have one such footnote each.]

135. Though the legislature (whether one person or more,
whether functioning intermittently or continuously at work)
is the supreme power in every commonwealth, ·there are
four important things to be said about what it may not do. I
shall present one right away, the second in sections 136-7,
the third in 138-40, the fourth in 141·.

First, it doesn’t and can’t possibly have absolutely arbi-
trary power over the lives and fortunes of the people. For
the legislative power is simply the combined power of every
member of the society, which has been handed over to the
person or persons constituting the legislature; there can’t
be more of this power than those people had in the state of
nature before they entered into society and gave their power
to the community. Nobody can transfer to someone else
more power than he has himself; and nobody has an absolute
arbitrary power to destroy his own life, or take away someone
else’s life or property. . . . A man in the state of nature has
no arbitrary power over the life, liberty, or possessions of
someone else; he has only as much ·freedom or moral power·
as the law of nature gave him for the preservation of himself
and everyone else; this is all ·the power· he has, so it is all he
can give up to the commonwealth and thus to the legislature;
so the legislature can’t have more than this. The outer limit
of its power is set by the good of the society as a whole. It is
a power whose only purpose is preservation, and therefore

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Second Treatise John Locke 11: Extent of legislative power

the legislature can never have a right to destroy, enslave, or
deliberately impoverish the subjects. The obligations of the
law of nature don’t cease in society; in many cases indeed
they pull in tighter there, with human laws enforcing them
and punishing breaches of them. Thus the law of nature
stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well
as others. The rules that legislators make for other men’s
actions. . . .must conform to the law of nature, which is a
declaration of the will of God. The fundamental law of nature
enjoins the preservation of mankind, and no human sanction
can be valid against it.

136. Secondly, the legislature or supreme authority cannot
give itself a power to rule by sudden, arbitrary decrees. It is
bound to dispense justice and decide the rights of the subject
by published standing laws, and known authorized judges.
The law of nature is unwritten, and thus can be found only
in the minds of men; so when people mis-state or mis-apply
it (whether through passion or through self-interest) it is
hard to convince them they are wrong when there isn’t an
established judge ·to appeal to·. For this reason, the law of
nature doesn’t serve as well as it should to determine the
rights and protect the properties of those who live under it,
especially where everyone is judge, interpreter, and enforcer
of it too, even in his own case. . . . To avoid these drawbacks
which disorder men’s property in the state of nature, men
unite into societies so as to have •the united strength of the
whole society to secure and defend their properties, and have
•standing rules to hold the society together, rules that let
everyone know what is his. . . .

137. Absolute arbitrary power [section 135] and governing
without settled standing laws [section 136] are both incon-
sistent with the purposes of society and government. Men
wouldn’t quit the freedom of the state of nature for a governed

society, and tie themselves up under it, if it weren’t to
preserve their lives, liberties and fortunes with help from
stated rules of right and property. It can’t be thought that
they should intend to give to anyone an absolute arbitrary
power over their persons and estates, and strengthen the
law-officer’s hand so that he could do anything he liked with
them. This would be putting themselves into a condition
worse than the state of nature, in which they were free to
defend their right against harm from others, and [now Locke’s
exact words to the end of the sentence] were upon equal terms of
force to maintain it, whether invaded by a single man or by
many in combination. In contrast with that, if they gave
themselves up to the absolute arbitrary power and will of a
legislator, they would be disarming themselves and arming
someone else to prey on them as he chose. It is much worse
to be exposed to the arbitrary power of one man who has
the command of 100,000 than to be exposed to the arbitrary
power of 100,000 single men; because someone’s having
100,000 men under his command is no guarantee that his
will, as distinct from his force, is any better than anyone
else’s. And therefore, whatever the form of the common-
wealth, its ruling power ought to govern by laws that have
been published and taken in, and not by spur-of-the-moment
dictates and frivolous decisions. . . . This achieves two things.
(1) The people know their duty, and are safe and secure
within the limits of the law. (2) The rulers are kept within
their bounds, and are not tempted by their power to misuse
it, using it for purposes and by means that they •don’t want
the public to know and •wouldn’t willingly own up to.

138. Thirdly, the supreme power can’t take from any man
any part of his property without his consent. What men
enter into societies with governments for is the •preservation
of their property; so it would be a gross absurdity to have
a government that •deprived them of that very property! So

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Second Treatise John Locke 11: Extent of legislative power

men in society
have property,

which means that
•they have such a right to the goods that are theirs
according to the law of the community, and •nobody
has a right to take any part of those goods from them
without their own consent.

Without that second clause they would have no property at
all; for something isn’t really my property if someone else
can rightfully take it from me against my will, whenever he
pleases. Hence it is a mistake to think that the supreme
(or legislative) power of a commonwealth can do what it
likes, and dispose of the estates of a subject arbitrarily,
or take any part of them that it fancies. There is not
much fear of this with governments where the legislature
involves •assemblies whose membership varies—ones whose
members, when the assembly disbands, are subjects under
the common laws of their country, on a par with everyone
else. But in governments where the legislature is •one lasting
assembly that is always in existence, or •one man (as in
absolute monarchies), there is a danger that they will think
they have interests different from those of the rest of the
community, and so will be apt to increase their own riches
and power by taking whatever they want from the people.
·This would obviously be a terrible situation·, for a man’s
property is not at all secure, even if there are fair laws
protecting the property from the man’s fellow subjects, if
they who command those subjects have the power to take
from any one of them any part of his property that they want,
and use and dispose of it as they choose.

139. . . . .Sometimes it is necessary for power to be absolute,
but that doesn’t mean that it is arbitrary; even absolute
power, ·when it is legitimate·, is restricted to the purposes
that required it to be absolute. To see that this is so, we

need only to look at the usual form of military discipline. The
preservation of the army, and through that the preservation
of the whole commonwealth, requires absolute obedience to
the command of every superior officer; and ·even· when a
command is dangerous or unreasonable, disobedience to
it is rightly punished with death. And yet a sergeant who
could command a soldier to march up to the mouth of a
cannon, or stand in a breach ·in the defensive walls· where
he is almost sure to be killed, may not command that same
soldier to give him one penny of his money. A general who
can condemn the soldier to death for deserting his post or
for not obeying the most desperate orders may not, for all
his absolute power of life and death, help himself to the least
little thing among that soldier’s possessions. ·The reason for
the difference is clear·. The commander has his power for a•
purpose, namely the preservation of all the people; for that
•purpose blind obedience is necessary; and that is why the
general can command anything and hang men for the least
disobedience. Whereas taking a soldier’s goods has nothing
to do with that •purpose.

140. It is true that governments need a great deal of
money for their support, and it is appropriate that each
person who enjoys his share of the protection should pay
his proportion of the cost. But it must be with his consent,
i.e. the consent of the majority, given either ·directly· by
themselves or through representatives they have chosen; for
if anyone claims a power to impose taxes on the people by his
own authority and without such consent of the people, he
is invading the fundamental law of property and subverting
the purpose of government. . . .

141. Fourthly, the legislature cannot transfer the power
of making laws to any other hands. It was delegated to
them from the people, and they aren’t free to pass it on

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Second Treatise John Locke 12: Three kinds of power

to others. Only the people can decide the form of the
commonwealth, which they do by instituting a legislature
and deciding whose hands to put it into. . . . The power of
the legislature, being derived from the people by a positive
voluntary grant and institution, can’t be anything different
from what that positive grant conveyed; and what it conveyed
was the power •to make laws, not •to make legislators; so
the legislature can have no power to transfer to anyone else
their authority to make laws.
142. The legislative power of every commonwealth, in every
form of government, is subject to the following limits to the
trust that is put in them by the society and by the law of God
and the law of nature. First, they are to govern by published

established laws, not to be varied in particular cases, but
to have one rule for rich and poor, for the favourite at court
and the peasant at his plough. Secondly, these laws ought
to be designed for no other ultimate purpose than the good
of the people. Thirdly, they must not raise taxes on people’s
property without their consent, whether given directly or
through deputies. This is relevant only for governments
where the legislature is always in existence, or at least where
the people haven’t made any provision for some part of the
legislature to be chosen, from time to time, by themselves.
Fourthly, the legislature must not transfer the power of
making laws to anyone else, or place it anywhere but where
the people have placed it.

Chapter 12: The legislative, executive, and federative powers of the commonwealth

143. It is the legislative power that has a right to direct
how the force of the commonwealth shall be employed for
preserving the community and its individual members. But
laws that are to be continuously in force and constantly
enforced don’t take much time to make; so there is no need
for the legislature to be always in existence because it doesn’t
always have business to do. In well ordered commonwealths,
where the good of the whole is properly taken into account,
the legislative power is put into the hands of a number of
people who have when assembled a power to make laws,
after which they are to separate again and are to be subject
to the laws they have made. This arrangement helps to keep
a rein on them, so that they will be careful to legislate for the

public good. ·An alternative would be for the legislators to be
continuously in government service, filling the times between
legislative sessions by acting as executors of the law. But this
is rightly rejected in well ordered commonwealths· because it
may be too great a temptation to human power-seeking
frailty for the very people who have the power to make
laws also to have the power to enforce them; for if they
did, they might come to •exempt themselves from obedience
to the laws they had made, and to •adapt the law—both in
making and in enforcing it—to their own private advantage.
That would separate their interests from those of the rest of
the community, which would be contrary to the purpose of
society and government.

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Second Treatise John Locke 12: Three kinds of power

144. But once a law has been swiftly made, it has a
constant and lasting force and needs to be enforced all
the time, or at least there must always be someone on
duty to enforce it when there is need for that. So there
must be a power that—unlike the legislature—is always in
existence, a power that will see to the enforcement of the
laws that have been made and not repealed. That is how
the legislative and executive powers come to be separated
in many commonwealths. [Here and elsewhere, ‘enforce’ is used in
place of Locke’s ‘execute’. The latter remains in the adjective ‘executive’

and the noun ‘executor’; but ‘execute’ and ‘executioner’ too easily suggest

to modern ears that the topic is specifically capital punishment, which it

isn’t.]

145. In every commonwealth there is another power that
one may call ‘natural’, because it corresponds to the power
every man naturally had before he entered into society. The
members of a commonwealth are •distinct persons in relation
to one another, and as such are governed by the laws of the
society; but in relation to the rest of mankind they constitute
•one body, which relates to the rest of mankind in the way
the individual members related to one another in the state
of nature. And so when any member of the society gets into
a controversy with someone from outside it, the affair is
managed by the public; and if a member of the ·political·
body is harmed ·by an outsider·, the whole body is engaged
in getting reparation. . . .

146. This ·whole body· therefore has the power of •war and
peace, •leagues and alliances, and •all transactions with
individuals and communities outside the commonwealth.
This power might be called ‘federative’. As long as the thing
is understood, I don’t care about the name.

147. These two powers, •executive and •federative, are
distinct from one another: one involves •the enforcement
of the society’s laws upon all its members, while the other
involves •the management of the security and interest of
the public externally, in relation to those ·outsiders· from
whom it may receive benefit or damage. Although this
federative power is of great importance to the commonwealth,
it is much less capable than the executive power of being
directed by antecedent, standing, positive laws; and so it
must necessarily be left to the prudence and wisdom of those
who have the power to exercise it for the public good. ·The
reason for this difference is as follows·. The laws concerning
how subjects relate to one another are meant to •direct their
actions, and so need to •precede them. But the function of
the federative power is ·not to direct the actions of citizens
but rather· to respond to the actions of foreigners, and
the plans and interests of foreigners vary so greatly that
·they can’t be anticipated by a set of standing laws for each
eventuality; and so· the federative power must be left in great
part to the prudence of those who have it, trusting them to
do their best for the advantage of the commonwealth.

148. Though the executive and federative powers of every
community are really distinct in themselves, they are hardly
to be separated and put into the hands of distinct sets of
people. For they both require the force of the society for their
exercise, and it is hardly practicable to place the force of the
commonwealth in distinct hands, neither subordinate to the
other. If the executive and federative powers were given to
different ·groups of· people, they might act separately, thus
putting the force of the public under different commands—
and that would be apt sooner or later to cause disorder and
ruin.

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Second Treatise John Locke 13: Subordination of powers

Chapter 13: The subordination of the powers of the commonwealth

149. In a constituted commonwealth, standing on its own
basis and acting according to its own nature (i.e. acting for
the preservation of the community), there can be only one
supreme power, the legislative power, to which all the rest
are and must be subordinate. But this is only a fiduciary [=
•‘entrusted’] power to act for certain ends, so that the people
retain a supreme power to remove or alter the legislature
when they find it acting contrary to the •trust that had been
placed in it. [The root of ‘fiduciary’ is the Latin fide = ‘trust’.] All
power that is given with •trust for attaining a certain end
is limited by that purpose; when the purpose is obviously
neglected or opposed ·by the legislature·, the trust is auto-
matically forfeited and the power returns into the hands of
those who gave it. They may then make a new assignment of
it, to whomever they think best for their safety and security.
And thus the community never loses its supreme power of
saving itself from the attempts and plans of anybody, even
of their own legislators if they are so foolish or so wicked
as to develop and carry out plans against the liberties and
properties of the subject. No man or society of men has
a power to hand over their preservation (or, therefore, the
means to it) to the absolute will and arbitrary dominion of
someone else; so when someone tries to bring them into that
slavish condition, they will always have a right to •preserve
·the liberty that· they don’t have the power to part with, and
to •rid themselves of those who invade this fundamental,
sacred, and unalterable law of self-preservation, which was
their reason for entering into society in the first place. In
this respect the community may be said to be always the
supreme power; but not as considered under any ·particular·
form of government, because this power of the people can

never be exercised until the government is dissolved.

150. [This section repeats the reason, given at the end of
section 132, why the legislature must be the supreme power
in the commonwealth.]

151. In some commonwealths, where the legislature is not
always in existence, and the executive power is given to
a single person who also has a share in the legislative
power, that single person can in a reasonable sense be
called ‘supreme’. Not because •he has all the supreme
power (·which he doesn’t, because· that is the power of
law-making, ·in which he has only a share·), but because •he
has the supreme executive power, from which all the lower
law-officers derive all or most of their various subordinate
powers, and •he has no legislature superior to him. That is
because no law can be made without his consent, and he
can’t be expected to consent to any that would make him
subject to the other part of the legislature. [Interruption: Locke
has laid no basis for saying that the executive’s ‘consent’ is needed for

any new law. This entire chapter, though mostly written in the language

of general political theory, is aimed at the specific situation of England in

the early 1680s, when Locke was writing. In that situation, the ‘executive’

was the king, and his consent was constitutionally required for any

legislation. Here and at one point in section 152 Locke seems to have slid

into thinking in terms of the English politics of his time at the expense

of coherence with the political theory he has been building, and also

drifting away from his immediate framework, which is the status of the

executive at times when the legislature is not in existence. In contrast

with this, sections 154-6, concerning the executive’s power to call the

legislature into session, are thoroughly grounded in what Locke has said

up there while also being sharply relevant to the English situation, in

which Charles II had announced his right to rule without parliament.

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Second Treatise John Locke 13: Subordination of powers

England’s troubles come to the fore again at section 213, but this time by

open stipulation rather than a silent slide.] But notice that although
oaths of allegiance and loyalty are taken to him, it is to him
not as supreme legislator but as supreme executor of the law
that he and others jointly made; for •allegiance is nothing but
•obedience according to law. ·This distinction is important,
because· if this supreme executor violates the law he then
has no right to obedience; he can claim obedience ·not as
a private person but· only as the public person vested with
the power of the law; he is to be considered as the image or
representative of the commonwealth, empowered by the will
of the society as declared in its laws; and thus he has no
will, no power, other than that of the law. If he leaves this
representative function, this public will, and acts by his own
private will, he demotes himself and becomes again a single
private person, with no power or will that has any right to
obedience. . . .

152. When the executive power is placed anywhere other
than in a person who also has a share in the legislature, it is
visibly subordinate and accountable to the legislature, which
can place it elsewhere if it chooses. So what is exempt
from subordination—·i.e. isn’t subordinate to anyone or
anything·—isn’t simply

•the supreme executive power
but rather

•the supreme executive power when held by someone
who has a share in the legislature.

The latter has no distinct superior legislature to be sub-
ordinate and accountable to, except in ways that he will
consent to, so that he is only as subordinate as he himself
thinks he should be, which certainly won’t be much. I
needn’t discuss •other delegated and subordinate powers in
a commonwealth; they are so many and so infinitely various
across the different customs and constitutions of distinct

commonwealths that it’s impossible to describe them all in
detail. All I need for my purposes is to point out that none
of •them has any authority beyond what is delegated to it
by positive grant and commission, and are all of them are
accountable to some other power in the commonwealth.

153. It isn’t necessary—it isn’t even advisable—that the
legislature should be in existence all the time; but it’s
absolutely necessary that the executive power be. There
isn’t always a need for new laws to be made, but there is
always a need for laws that have been made to be enforced.
When the •legislature puts the enforcement of the laws they
make into the hands of a separate •executive power, they
retain the power to take it back again if they find cause to do
so, and to punish ·the executive· for any conduct that goes
against the laws. The same holds for the •federative power,
because it and the executive are both powers that have been
delegated by the legislature and are subordinate to it—the
legislature being supreme in a constituted commonwealth,
as I have shown. The legislature may assemble and exercise
their legislative power at the times specified by their original
constitution or at their adjournment—or, if no time has
been specified by either of these, and no other procedure is
prescribed for convoking them, they may meet at any time
they please. For the supreme power, having been placed in
them by the people, is always in them, and they may exercise
it when they please unless by their original constitution
they are limited to certain seasons or by an act of their
supreme power they have adjourned to a certain time. . . . ·In
writing about when the legislature may ‘assemble’· I have
been assuming that it consists of several persons. If it is a
single person, it can’t help being always in existence, and will
naturally have the supreme executive power as well as the
supreme legislative power. ·It may delegate executive power,
perhaps to one person, but he won’t ever have supreme

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Second Treatise John Locke 13: Subordination of powers

executive power because it isn’t ever true of him (see section
151) that ‘he has no legislature superior to him’·.

154. If the legislature or any part of it is made up of
representatives chosen by the people for a specified period of
time, after which they are to return to the ordinary condition
of subjects and to have no ·further· share in the legisla-
ture unless they are chosen again, this power of choosing
again must also be exercised by the people either at certain
appointed times or else when they are called to it. In the
latter case, the power of convoking the legislature ·by calling
for a general election· is ordinarily given to the executive,
and is to be exercised in one of these two ways. (1) If the
original constitution lays down the intervals at which the
legislature is to assemble and act, all the executive power has
to do is dutifully to issue directions for the proper conduct
of the election and the assembly. (2) Otherwise, it is left
to the executive’s prudence to call for new elections, when
the benefits or needs of the public require the amendment
of old laws or the making of new ones, or the correction
or prevention of any misfortunes that have occurred or are
threatening the people.

155. You may want to ask: ‘What if the executive power,
having control of the force of the commonwealth, makes use
of that force to prevent the legislature from meeting and
acting at a time when its original constitution specifies that
it should meet or the needs of the commonwealth require
that it do so?’ I reply: Someone who uses force against
the people, without authority and contrary to the trust they
had given him, puts himself into a state of war with the
people. They have a right to ·oppose this executive and·
reinstate their legislature in the exercise of its power. They
have set up a legislature intending it to exercise the power
of making laws—either at certain set times or when there

is need of it—and when the legislature is hindered by •any
force from doing what is needed by the society for the safety
and preservation of the people, the people have a right to
remove •that force by force. In all states and conditions,
the true remedy for unauthorized force is to oppose it with
force. . . .

156. The executive’s power of assembling and dismissing
the legislature doesn’t make him superior to it. This power
has been entrusted to him for the safety of the people, in
a situation where human affairs were too uncertain and
variable for there to be a fixed rule settling in advance
when the legislature could be assembled and disbanded.
Those who first set up the government couldn’t possibly
see into the future well enough to know in advance exactly
what time-table for the legislature would—for all time to
come!—meet the needs of the commonwealth. . . .

•Constant frequent meetings of the legislature, and
long continuations of their assemblies when there
was no need, would be burdensome to the people
and would be bound eventually to produce more
dangerous drawbacks. •Affairs might sometimes de-
velop so fast that the legislature’s help was needed
immediately, so that any delay in their convening
might endanger the public. •Sometimes too their
business might be so great that a time-limited sitting
would be too short for their work, and rob the public
of the benefit that could be had only from their mature
deliberation.

To save the community from being exposed at some time
or other to serious danger by having a legislature that met
and acted only at fixed intervals and for fixed periods, what
could be done other than entrusting it—·i.e. the power to call
the legislative assembly into session·—to the prudence of
someone who was ·always· present, was acquainted with the

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Second Treatise John Locke 13: Subordination of powers

state of public affairs, and could use this prerogative for the
public good? and where better to place this prerogative than
in the hands of him who was entrusted with the enforcement
of the laws, also for the public good? So, given that the
regulation of times for the assembling and sitting of the
legislature was not settled by the original constitution, it
naturally fell into the hands of the executive, not •as an
arbitrary power for him to exercise however he chose, but
•as something he was entrusted with to use for the public
good as changing circumstances might require. It is not my
business to consider which is the least inconvenient—

settled periods for the legislature to convene,
the monarch left free to convoke the legislature, or
a mixture of those two systems.

All I have wanted is to show that though the executive power
may have the prerogative of convoking and dissolving such
assemblies of the legislature, that doesn’t make it superior
to the legislature. [This is the first time in this work that Locke has
explicitly allowed that the holder of the delegated executive power might

be a monarch (his word is ‘prince’).]

157. Things in this world are in such a constant flux that
nothing remains for long in the same state. Thus people,
riches, trade, power, change their positions, flourishing
mighty cities come to ruin and end up as neglected des-
olate corners, while other empty places grow into populous
regions, filled with wealth and inhabitants. But things don’t
always change equally, and the reasons for various customs
and privileges may cease to apply, though people for their
own purposes keep the customs and privileges in place. So it
often happens in governments where part of the legislature
consists of representatives chosen by the people that in the
course of time this representation becomes very unequal
and disproportionate to the reasons that first supported it.
We can see what gross absurdities can come from following

a custom when there is no longer reason for it when we
see that the mere name of a town, with not even the ruins
of the actual town remaining—with virtually no housing
beyond a sheep-pen and no inhabitants beyond a single
shepherd—may send as many representatives to the grand
assembly of law-makers as a whole rich and populous county.
Foreigners stand amazed at this, and everyone must admit
that it needs to be remedied; but most people think it is hard
to find a remedy, and here is why. The setting up of the
legislature was •the original and supreme act of the society,
•coming before any of the positive laws that it passed, and
•depending wholly on the people; so no inferior power can
alter it. Thus, once the legislature has been set up (in the
kind of government I have been speaking of), the people
have no power to act as long as the government stands; and
this inconvenience is thought ·by some to be· incapable of a
remedy.

158. The welfare of the people is the supreme law [Locke gives
it in Latin] is certainly so just and fundamental a rule that
no-one who sincerely follows it can dangerously err. So it is
open to the executive, who has the power of convoking the
legislature, to do this:

Regulate the number of members of the legislature
that each place has a right to have as its representa-
tives, basing this not on precedent but on facts about
population, not on custom but on true reason. . . .

If the executive does this, it can’t be judged to have set up a
new legislature, but only to have restored the old and true
one, and to have rectified the disorders that the passage of
time had gradually and inevitably introduced. For it is the
interest as well as the intention of the people to have fair
and equal representation; so whoever brings it nearest to
that is an undoubted friend to. . . .government, and must
have the consent and approval of the community. For a

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Second Treatise John Locke 13: Subordination of powers

monarch’s prerogative is nothing but his power to provide
for the public good in cases where, because of unforeseen
and uncertain events, certain and unalterable laws could not
safely be relied on. Any exercise of the prerogative does and
always will count as just if it is done manifestly for the good
of the people and for establishing the government on its true
foundations. The power of establishing new municipalities
and thus new representatives carries with it a supposition
that in time the proportions of representation might vary:
places might come to have a just right to be represented,
though they before had none; and places that had previously
been represented might cease to have that right and be

regarded as too inconsiderable for such a privilege. What
tends to subvert government is not mere change from the
present state. . . .but the tendency of change to injure or
oppress the people and unfairly to subject one part of the
populace to the rest. Whatever is obviously of advantage to
the society and to people in general, upon just and lasting
measures, will always justify itself; and whenever the people
choose their representatives upon just and undeniably equal
measures that are suitable to the original scheme of the
government, it must be agreed to be the will and act of the
society, whoever permitted or caused them so to do. [The two
‘upon just. . . measures’ phrases are in Locke’s exact words.]

52

Second Treatise John Locke 14: Prerogative

Chapter 14: Prerogative

159. When the legislative and executive powers are in
distinct hands (as they are in all moderated monarchies and
well-formed governments), the good of the society requires
that various things should be left to the discretion of the
executive. The legislators can’t foresee and make legal
provision for everything that may in future be useful to
the community, so the executor of the laws—having the
power in his hands—has by the common law of nature a
right to make use of it for the good of the society in many
cases ·of difficulty· where the existing law •doesn’t deal
with the difficulty—until the legislature can conveniently
be assembled to make laws that •do. There are many things
that the law can’t possibly provide for, and those must be left
to the discretion of him who has the executive power in his
hands. . . . Indeed, it is appropriate that the laws themselves
should in some cases give way to the executive power, or
rather to the fundamental law of nature and government
that

All the members of the society are to be preserved as
much as may be [here = ‘as far as is reasonably possible’].

Many events may occur in which a strict and rigid adherence
to the laws may do harm; for example, a house is burning
and the fire can be stopped from spreading by pulling down
the house next door, which is against the law. Again, a
man may come within the ·punitive· reach of the law (which
doesn’t distinguish one person from another) through an
·illegal· action that deserves reward and pardon; so the ruler
should have a power to mitigate the severity of the law and
pardon some offenders. Since the purpose of government is
the preservation of all as much as may be, even the guilty
should be spared when this will do no harm to the innocent.

[Since ‘executive power’ was introduced at the start of Chapter 12, this
is the first time the executive has been referred to as ‘the ruler’.]

160. The word ‘prerogative’ is the name for
this power to act according to discretion, for the public
good, without the support of the law and sometimes
even against it.

[The remainder of this short section re-states section 159’s
reason for giving such a prerogative to the holder(s) of
executive power.]

161. This power, while employed for the benefit of the
community and in accordance with the trust and purposes
of the government, is an undoubted prerogative ·that the
executive has·, and it is never called into question. The
people seldom if ever think with careful precision about the
executive’s prerogative. They are far from examining it as
long as it is used to some extent for and not obviously against
the good of the people. If a question does arise between the
executive power and the people about something claimed as
a prerogative, the dispute is easily decided by considering
whether the disputed exercise of the prerogative tends to the
good or to the harm of the people.

162. It is easy to conceive that in the early days of gov-
ernments, when commonwealths were not much bigger
than families, they had very few laws; their governors were
like fathers watching over them for their good, and the
government was almost all prerogative. A few established
laws were all that was needed, and the ruler’s discretion
and care supplied the rest. But when weak monarchs were
led to use this power for their own private ends and not for
the public good (being led to this by their own mistakes, or

53

Second Treatise John Locke 14: Prerogative

by the flattery of others), the people had to have laws that
explicitly set limits to the prerogative with respect to matters
in which they had found it working to their disadvantage.
Thus the people found that they had to declare limitations of
prerogative, where previously they and their ancestors had
given the utmost latitude to monarchs who used the latitude
only in the right way, namely for the good of their people.

163. When the people have established positive laws setting
limits to the executive’s prerogative, some have said that in
doing this they have encroached upon the prerogative. But
those who say this have a very wrong notion of government.
The people in such a case haven’t taken from the monarch
anything that rightly belonged to him. All they have done
is to declare that the power which they had left indefinitely
in his or his ancestors’ hands, to be exercised •for their
good, wasn’t something they intended him to have if he
used it •otherwise. . . . Alterations in government that tend
to the good of the community can’t be an encroachment
upon anybody, since nobody in government can have a right
tending to any other purpose. Nothing is an encroachment
unless it prejudices or hinders the public good. Those
who say otherwise speak as if the monarch had interests
other than the good of the community, and was not given
the executive power for the good of the community—which
·attitude· is the source of almost all the evils and disorders
that happen in kingly governments. And indeed if that is
so—·i.e. if in some commonwealth the monarch does have
interests separate from those of the people·—then the people
under his government are not •a society of rational creatures
who created a community for their mutual good; they are not
•people who have set rulers over themselves to guard and
promote that good; rather, they are to be looked on as •a herd
of inferior creatures under the command of a master who

keeps them and uses them for his own pleasure or profit. If
men were so devoid of reason—so like the lower animals—as
to enter into society upon such terms, then prerogative might
indeed be what some men think it is, namely an arbitrary
power to do things that are harmful to the people.

164. But a rational creature can’t be supposed voluntarily
to subject himself to someone else for his own harm (though
someone who finds a good and wise ruler may not think it
either necessary or useful to set precise bounds to the ruler’s
power in all things). So prerogative can be nothing but •the
people’s permitting their rulers to choose freely to do for the
public good various things on which the law is silent or even
against the direct letter of the law; and •their accepting such
choices when they have been made. A •good monarch—one
mindful of the trust put into his hands, and careful about
the good of his people—can’t have too much prerogative, i.e.
power to do good. Whereas a •weak and poorly performing
monarch—

one who would claim that the power his predecessors
exercised without the direction of the law is a prerog-
ative belonging to him by the right of his position, a
right that he may exercise as he wishes, to make or
promote interests distinct from those of the public

—causes the people to claim their right, and to limit the
power that they had been content to tacitly allow while it
was exercised for their good.

165. Look into the history of England and you will find that
prerogative was always largest in the hands of our wisest
and best monarchs, because the people, seeing the over-all
tendency of their actions to be for the public good, didn’t
object to what was done outside the law for that purpose. (·I
speak of ‘the over-all tendency’ of the monarch’s conduct,
because even a good monarch· may have a frailty or make

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Second Treatise John Locke 14: Prerogative

a mistake leading to small failures to achieve the public
good. Monarchs are only men, made like other men.) So the
people, finding reason to be satisfied with these monarchs
whenever they acted outside or contrary to the letter of the
law, accepted what they did and uncomplainingly allowed
the monarchs to enlarge their prerogative as they wished.
In this the people rightly judged that the monarchs weren’t
doing anything that would harm their laws, because they
were acting consistently with the foundation and purpose of
all laws, namely the public good.

166. Some people argue that absolute monarchy is the
best government because it is what God himself governs
the universe by; and that line of thought would give these
God-like monarchs ·I have been discussing· some right to
arbitrary power on the grounds that such kings partake of
God’s wisdom and goodness. This is the basis for the saying,
The reigns of good monarchs have been always most danger-
ous to the liberties of their people. ·Here is why there is truth
in that·. Good monarchs may have successors who •have
different ideas about how to manage the government, and
who •take actions of their good predecessors as precedents
and make them the standard of their own prerogative—as
though what had been done purely for the •good of the people
they had a right to do for the •harm of the people, if they so
pleased. When this has happened it has often led to disputes
and sometimes to public disorders, before the people could
recover their original right and get something that never was
a prerogative to be openly declared not to be a prerogative. . . .
A ·genuine· prerogative is nothing but the power of doing
public good without a rule.

167. The power of calling parliaments in England—settling
their precise time, place, and duration—is certainly a pre-
rogative of the king, but one that is entrusted to him to be
used for the good of the nation. . . . [Locke then re-states the

reasons for allowing such a prerogative to the holder of the
executive power.]

168. On the matter of prerogative, there is an old question:
Who is to judge whether this power is being used rightly? I
answer: between

•an executive power that is in existence and has such
a prerogative, and •a legislature that can’t convene
without the executive’s calling them together,

there can be no judge on earth. Just as there can be none
between •the legislature and •the people in a situation where
either the executive or the legislature, having got the power
in their hands, plan or begin to enslave or destroy the people.
In this case, as in all other cases where they have no judge on
earth, the people’s only other remedy is to appeal to heaven.
In such cases the rulers, exercising a power that the people
never put into their hands,. . . .do what they have no right
to do. And when the people as a whole (or any individual
man) are deprived of their right or are subject to an exercise
of power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then
they are free to appeal to heaven if they judge the issue to
be important enough for that. And therefore, although •the
constitution of the society in question doesn’t give the people
any superior power to act as judge, making and enforcing a
decision in the case, they have, by •a law antecedent to (and
outranking) all positive laws of men, reserved to themselves
a final decision. It is the one that is open to all mankind
when no appeal can be made on earth, namely the judgment
as to whether they have just cause to make their appeal to
heaven. . . . Don’t think that this lays a perpetual foundation
for disorder; for the appeal to heaven comes into play only
when the trouble is so great that the majority feel it, are weary
of it, and see that it must be amended. But the executive
power, or wise monarchs, need never come into danger of
this; and it is the thing above all others that they need to
avoid, because it is dangerous above all others.

55

Second Treatise John Locke 15: Paternal, political, and despotic power

Chapter 15: Paternal, political, and despotic power, considered together

169. I have had occasion in earlier chapters to speak of
these separately, but it may be worthwhile to consider them
together, as the great mistakes about government that have
recently been made have (I think) arisen from confusing
these distinct powers with one another.

170. First, then, paternal or parental power is simply what
parents have over their children to govern them for their own
good until they come to the use of reason, or to a state of
knowledge that should make them capable of understanding
the rules—whether the law of nature or the civic law of
their country—that they are to govern themselves by. I
say ‘capable’ of this, meaning: as capable as the general
run of people who live as freemen under that law. The
affection and tenderness that God has planted in the hearts
of parents towards their children shows that this isn’t meant
to be a severe arbitrary government, but only for the help,
instruction, and preservation of the children. But happen
it as it will [= ‘whatever the details of how this is handled in individual
families’], I have shown that •there is no reason why parental
power should be thought ever to extend to life and death
over the children any more than over anyone else; and that
there is no basis on which to claim that parental power
should keep the adult offspring in subjection to the will of his
parents, though his having received life and upbringing from
his parents obliges him to give respect, honour, gratitude,
assistance and support, all his life, to both father and mother.
So paternal government is indeed a natural government, but
its purposes don’t stretch out to those of political government,
nor does its scope. . . . [Something connected with this section is
attached to the end of the whole work.]

171. Secondly, political power is the power that every man
has in the state of nature and gives up into the hands of the
society, and within the society to the governors whom the
society has set over itself on the explicitly stated or tacitly
understood condition that the power in question shall be
employed for their good and for the preservation of their
property. So this power. . . .is to •preserve his property by
whatever means he thinks good and ·the law of· nature
allows him, and to •punish breaches of the law of nature
by others, doing this in ways that (according to his best
judgment) are most likely to favour the preservation of
himself and of the rest of mankind. Thus, •as possessed by
each man in the state of nature, this power has as its purpose
and scope the preservation of all of the man’s society (i.e. of
all mankind); so •as power in the hands of the magistrate
it can’t have any purpose or scope other than that; and so
it can’t be an absolute arbitrary power over their lives and
fortunes, which are to be preserved as much as possible.
·It is indeed a power sometimes to deprive people of their
freedom, or even of their lives, but only under strictly set
conditions·. It is a power to make laws and to attach such
penalties to them as may help the preservation of the whole
community by cutting off the parts that are so gangrenous
that they threaten the sound and healthy parts. Those
parts and only those parts; no severity of punishment is
lawful unless it tends to preserve the life and health of the
community. And this power stems purely from compact and
agreement—from the mutual consent of those who make up
the community.

172. Thirdly, despotic power is an absolute, arbitrary power
that one man has over another to take away his life whenever

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Second Treatise John Locke 15: Paternal, political, and despotic power

he pleases. •Nature doesn’t give this power, for it doesn’t
distinguish one man from another; and it can’t be given to
someone by •agreement ·with the other man·, for no man
has such an arbitrary power over his own life, and therefore
can’t give it to someone else. Despotic power can only come
from an aggressor’s giving up his right to his own life by
putting himself into a state of war with someone else. The
aggressor has

•deserted reason, which God gave us to be the rule be-
tween man and man, and the common bond whereby
mankind is united into one fellowship and society;
•renounced the way of peace that reason teaches, and
used the force of war to achieve his unjust purposes
against someone else; and so has •walked out on his
own kind and joined the wild animals, by adopting for
his own conduct their rule of right, namely force.

In this way he has rendered himself liable to be destroyed
by the injured person or by anyone else who is willing to
join with the victim in carrying out justice, as we would
against any other wild beast or noxious brute with which
mankind can’t associate and from which it can’t be secure.
Thus, the only people who are subject to a despotic power
are captives taken in a just and lawful war—·captives, that
is, who were fighting on the unjust and unlawful side in
such a war·. This power is just a continuation of the state
of war; it doesn’t come from any agreement, and couldn’t do
so, for what agreement can be made with a man who is not
master of his own life? What condition can he perform? And

once he is allowed to be master of his own life, the despotic
and arbitrary power of his master ceases. Someone who is
master of himself and of his own life also has a right to the
means of preserving it; so that as soon as any agreement
is made, slavery ceases; and so anyone who bargains over
conditions with his captive has thereby given up his absolute
power and put an end to the state of war.

173. •Nature gives paternal power to parents for the benefit
of their children during their minority, to make up for their
lack of the skills and knowledge needed to manage their
property. (Here and throughout I use ‘property’ to refer to
the property that people have in their persons as well as in
their goods.) Voluntary •agreement gives political power to
governors for the benefit of their subjects, to secure them in
the possession and use of their properties. And •forfeiture
gives despotic power to lords for their own benefit, over
those who have been stripped of all property.

174. If you think about how these kinds of power differ in
their origins, scopes, and purposes, you will see clearly
that •paternal power comes as far short of •that of the
magistrate as •despotic goes beyond it; and that absolute
dominion—whoever has it—is so far from being one kind of
civil society that it is as inconsistent with such society as
slavery is with property. Paternal power occurs when the
child’s youth makes him unable to manage his property;
political power occurs when men have property at their own
disposal; and despotic power occurs over men who have no
property at all.

57

Second Treatise John Locke 16: Conquest

Chapter 16: Conquest

175. Though governments can’t arise in any way but the
one I have described, and political systems can’t be based
on anything but the •consent of the people, ambition has
filled the world with such disorders that this •consent is not
much noticed in the din of war that makes such a large part
of the history of mankind. As a result, many people have
mistaken the force of arms for the consent of the people—·or,
anyway, have credited armed force with doing things that
really only consent can do·—and have counted conquest as
one of the sources of government. But •conquest is as far
from •setting up any government as •demolishing a house
is from •building a new one to replace it. Conquest often
makes way for a new form of a commonwealth by destroying
one that already exists, but without the people’s consent it
can never erect a new one.

176. The aggressor who enters into a state of war with
someone else and unjustly invades his victim’s rights can’t
in this way come to have a right over whomever he has
conquered. You will easily agree with this unless you think
that robbers and pirates have a right to govern people they
have mastered by force, or that men are bound by promises
that were extorted from them by unlawful force. If a robber
breaks into my house and with a dagger at my throat makes
me sign documents conveying my estate to him, would this
give him any title to my estate? ·Obviously not! Well·, that is
just the kind of ‘title’ that an unjust conqueror wins through
his sword when he forces me into submission. The harm is
the same whether committed by the wearer of a crown or
by some petty villain, and the crime is the same too. The
offender’s status and the number of his followers make no
difference to the offence, except perhaps to make it worse.

The only difference is this: •little robbers are punished by
great robbers who want to keep them obedient, whereas
•great robbers are rewarded with laurels and processions
because they are too big to be held in the weak hands of
justice in this world, and have in their own possession the
power that ought to be used to punish them. What is my
remedy against a robber who breaks into my house? Appeal
to the law for justice. But perhaps •justice is denied, or •I
am crippled and cannot move ·so as to go to the law-court·,
or •because I have been robbed I don’t have the ·financial·
means to go to law. If God has taken away all means for
seeking remedy, there is nothing left but patience [= ‘being
resigned to what has happened’, ‘putting up with it’]. But my son
may become able to seek the relief of the law which is denied
to me; he (or his son) may renew his appeal until he recovers
what he has a right to. But the conquered and their children
have no court, no arbitrator on earth to appeal to. Then they
may appeal to heaven, as Jephtha did [Judges 11:30-31], and
repeat their appeal until they have recovered the native right
of their ancestors—namely, to have over them a legislature
that the majority approve and freely accepted. If you object
‘But this would cause endless trouble’, I answer: no more
trouble than justice causes when it lies open to all who
appeal to it! Someone who troubles his neighbour without a
cause is punished for it by the justice of the court he appeals
to; and someone who appeals to heaven had better be sure
that he has right on his side, and indeed a right that is
worth the trouble and cost of the appeal, because he will be
confronting a tribunal that can’t be deceived and will be sure
to punish everyone according to what harm he has done
to his fellow subjects (that is, to any human being). It is

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Second Treatise John Locke 16: Conquest

clear from this that someone who conquers in an •unjust
war can’t get from his conquest any right to the subjection
and obedience of the conquered.

177. But supposing victory favours the right side, let us
consider a conqueror in a •lawful war, and see what power
he gets and over whom. First, it is obvious that his conquest
doesn’t give him power over those who conquered with him.
Those who fought on his side can’t suffer by the conquest;
they must be at least as much freemen ·after the conquest·
as they were before. In most cases they serve by agreement,
on condition that they will share the spoils with their leader
and get other advantages that come with the conquering
sword—or at least have a part of the conquered country given
to them. I hope that the conquering allies are not to be made
slaves by the conquest, wearing their laurels only to show
that they are sacrifices to their leaders’ triumph! Those who
base absolute monarchy upon the right of the sword imply
that their heroes, the founders of such monarchies, are utter
Drawcansirs who forget that any officers or soldiers fought on
their side in the battles they won, or helped them to subdue
and occupy the countries they had conquered. [Drawcansir
is a blustering braggart in a 1672 play; he enters a battle and kills

all the combatants.] Some say that the English monarchy is
based on the Norman conquest, and that our monarchs have
thereby a right to absolute rule. History doesn’t support
this; but if it were true, and if William ·the Conqueror· had a
right to make war on this island, his rule through conquest
couldn’t apply to anyone except the Saxons and Britons
who were then inhabitants of this country ·and to their
descendants·. The Normans who came with him and helped
him to conquer, and all their descendants, are freemen;
they are not subjects by conquest, whatever powers conquest
bestows on the conqueror. And if you or I claim to be free

because we are descended from them, it will be very hard to
prove that we are not. And the law ·of this country· doesn’t
distinguish between the descendants of the Normans and
the descendants of the Saxons and Britons, making it clear
that the law doesn’t intend that these two groups should
differ in their freedom or privileges.

178. Suppose that the conquerors and the conquered
don’t incorporate into one people, under the same laws and
freedom. In that case (which rarely happens), what power
does a lawful conqueror have over those he has subdued?
The power he has, I say, is purely despotic. He has an
absolute power over the lives of those who have forfeited
them by waging an unjust war, but not over the lives or
fortunes of those who didn’t take part in the war, and not
over the possessions even of those who were actually engaged
in it.

179. Secondly, I say then that the conqueror gets power only
over those who have actually assisted, allowed, or consented
to the unjust force that has been used against him. The
people •never had a power to do something unjust, such
as to start an unjust war; so they •can’t have given their
governors a power to do such a thing; so they •ought not
to be charged as guilty of the violence and injustice that is
committed in an unjust war except insofar as they actually
abet it. (The reasoning behind that also supports this: if
our governors use violence or oppression against you, they
weren’t empowered to do so by the rest of us, and so we
are not guilty of what they have done.) Conquerors seldom
trouble themselves to distinguish ·combatants from innocent
civilians·, and willingly allow the confusion of war to sweep
them all into one heap; but this makes no difference to what
is right. . . .

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Second Treatise John Locke 16: Conquest

180. Thirdly, the power a conqueror gets over those he
overcomes in a just war is completely despotic: he has an
absolute power over •the lives of those who have forfeited
them by putting themselves into a state of war; but this
doesn’t give him a right and title to •their possessions. I am
sure of this, but at first sight it may seem a strange doctrine,
as it is so flatly contrary to the practice of the world. We are
all familiar with the way people, speaking of the governing
of countries, say of some person and some country that ‘He
conquered it’; as if conquest automatically conferred a right
of possession. Well, it is one part of the subjection of the
conquered not to argue against the conditions cut out to
them by the conquering sword; but what the strong and
powerful do, however universally they do it, is seldom the
rule of right.

181. In most wars force gets tangled up with damage, so
that the aggressor harms the estates of those he makes war
on; but what puts a man into the state of war is just the
use of force, not the use of force to do damage. Whether the
aggressor

begins the injury by force,
or else

inflicts the injury quietly, by fraud, and then refuses
to make reparation and maintains it by force (which
is the same thing as beginning it by force),

either way, it is the unjust use of force that makes the war.
Compare someone who •breaks open my house and violently
turns me out of doors with someone who •gets into my house
peaceably and then by force keeps me out of it. These are in
effect doing the same thing. (I am assuming that the intruder
and I have no common judge on earth to whom I can appeal
and to whom we are both obliged to submit.) It is the unjust
use of force, then, that puts a man into a state of war with

someone else and leads to his forfeiting his ·right to· life.
[Locke then repeats the comparison with wild beasts.]

182. The misdeeds of a father are not faults of his children,
who may be rational and peaceable despite their father’s
brutishness and injustice. So he by his misdeeds and
violence can only forfeit his own life, and doesn’t involve
his children in his guilt or his destruction. His goods
still continue to belong to his children. (Nature wills the
preservation of all mankind as much as possible, and makes
the goods belong to the children to help them to survive.)
Given that they haven’t taken part in the war—whether
through infancy, absence, or choice—they have done nothing
to forfeit the goods; nor has the conqueror any right to take
them away simply on the grounds that he has subdued by
force the person who attempted to destroy him. Still, he
may have some right to them, to make good the damages
he has sustained by the war and the defence of his own
right [Locke’s exact phrase]. We shall see in due course how far
this right ·of the conqueror’s· reaches into the possessions
of the conquered. Thus, someone who by conquest has
a right over a man’s person to destroy him if he pleases
doesn’t thereby get a right to possess and use his estate;
for the brutal force that the aggressor has used is what
gives his ·conquering· adversary a right to take away his
life. . . ., but what gives the adversary title to the defeated
aggressor’s goods is the damage he has sustained ·through
the aggression·. Similarly, I may kill a thief who attacks me
on the highway, but I may not take the seemingly less drastic
course of taking his money and letting him go, for this would
be robbery on my side. His force and the state of war he put
himself into made him forfeit his life, but it didn’t give me
title to his goods. So: the right of conquest extends only to
the •lives of those who took part in the war, and not to their

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•estates except to make reparation for the damages received
and the costs of the war—and even there the rights of the
innocent wife and children are to be respected.

183. However much justice the conqueror has on his side,
he has no right to seize more than the vanquished could
forfeit: the latter’s life is at the victor’s mercy, as are his
service and his goods if these are needed for reparation; but
the conqueror can’t take the goods of the conquered person’s
wife and children—for they too had a title to the goods he had
used and shared in the estate he had possessed. Consider
an example involving two men in the state of nature (as all
commonwealths are in the state of nature relative to one
another): suppose that I have injured another man and have
refused to make reparations, so it comes to a state of war in
which my defending by force what I had unjustly acquired
makes me the aggressor. In this war I am conquered; my life
then is forfeit, it is at the mercy of the other man, but not
the lives of my wife and children! They didn’t make the war
or take part in it. I couldn’t forfeit their lives, which were
not mine to forfeit. My wife had a share in my estate, and
I couldn’t forfeit that either. And my children also, being
born of me, had a right to be maintained through my labour
or my goods. Here, then, is what it comes down to:- The
conqueror has a right to reparation for damages received,
and the children have a right to their father’s estate for their
survival; as for the wife’s share, it is clear that her husband
can’t forfeit what is hers, whether it became hers through
her own work or through some agreement. What must be
done in the case ·that there is not enough to go around·? I
answer that the fundamental law of nature is that as far as
possible all should be preserved; from which it follows that
if there isn’t enough fully to •recompense the conqueror for
his losses and to •provide for the maintenance, he who has

enough and to spare must forgo some of his full reparations
and give way to the greater right of those who are in danger
of perishing without it.

184. Suppose that the rights of the conqueror are so broad
that

•the costs and damages of the war are to be reim-
bursed to the conqueror to the last penny,

and
•the children of the vanquished are to be deprived of
all their father’s goods and left to starve and die,

still this won’t give him a title to any country that he con-
quers. The ·cost of the· damages of war can hardly amount
to the value of any considerable tract of land in any part
of the world where all the land is possessed and none lies
waste. If I haven’t taken away the conqueror’s land (and as
the loser how could I?), hardly any damage I have done to
him can amount to the value of my land (supposing it to be
as much cultivated as his land is, and somewhere near the
size of his land that I had overrun). Usually in a war the
most harm that is done amounts to the destruction of the
crops and other output of a year or two (it seldom reaches
four or five). As for money and other riches and treasure that
might be taken away, these are not nature’s goods, and have
only a notional imaginary value. Nature has put no value on
them ·as men do·; they are of no more account by nature’s
standard than the wampum of the American Indians is to
a European monarch, or the silver money of Europe would
formerly have been to an Indian. If we set aside the notional
value of money, ·we are left with the value of land and the
products of land·. Even if as aggressor I spoiled five years’
worth of product ·of my victim’s land·, that doesn’t add up to
the value of ·my· land held in perpetuity; the disproportion
is greater than that between five and five hundred. (This

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is based on the assumption that all land is possessed and
none remains waste. If there is more land than people in
general can possess and make use of, and anyone has liberty
to make use of the waste, the loss of half a year’s product
of one’s land is worth more than the inheritance [Locke’s
phrase, perhaps meaning ‘the perpetual ownership of some comparable

tract of land’; this is the first occurrence of ‘inheritance’ or any cognate

of it in this chapter]; but under those circumstances conquerors
aren’t much interested in taking the lands of the vanquished.)
Thus, no damage that men in the state of nature. . . .suffer
from one another can give a conqueror power to dispossess
the descendants of the vanquished, and take from them the
inheritance that ought to be theirs and their descendants’
through all the generations. The conqueror will indeed be
apt to think himself master; and the subdued, just because
they are subdued, can’t stand up for their rights. But if that
is the whole case for giving the land of the vanquished to
the conqueror, this must rest on the ·entirely unacceptable·
principle that whoever is strongest has a right to whatever
he pleases to take.

185. Thus, the winner in a just war does not get, by winning,
any right of dominion over

•those who joined in the war on his side, •those in
the subdued country who didn’t oppose him, or •the
posterity even of those who did oppose him.

These are all free from any subjection to him, and if their
former government is dissolved they are at liberty to start
making themselves another.

186. What usually happens in fact is that the conqueror
compels them, with a sword at their breasts, to accept his
conditions and submit to whatever government he chooses
to allow them; but the question is: what right has he to do
this? If it be said that in submitting they give their consent to

the government in question, this allows that their consent is
necessary for the conqueror to have a right to rule over them,
and leaves just one question open: Does a person consent
when he makes a promise under a threat of unlawful force?
how far does such a promise bind him? I reply that it doesn’t
bind at all, because when someone gets something from me
by force, I still have a right to it, and he is obliged to give
it back to me at once. He who takes my horse from me by
force ought immediately to give it back, and I have a right to
take it back ·if I can·. By the same reasoning, he who forced
a promise from me ought immediately to give it back, i.e. to
clear me of the obligation of it; and I am entitled to take it
back, i.e. choose whether to do what I have promised to do.
The law of nature lays obligations on me only by the rules
nature prescribes, so it can’t oblige me through a violation
of nature’s rules such as extortion through force. . . .

187. It follows from all this that when the conqueror in a just
war uses his force to impose a government on the subdued
against whom he had no right of war (i.e. who didn’t join in
the war against him), they have no obligation to obey this
government.

188. But let us suppose that all the men of the community
in question, all being members of the same body politic, can
be taken to have joined in that unjust war in which they are
subdued, so that the lives of all of them are at the mercy of
the conqueror.

189. I say that this doesn’t extend to their non-adult
children; for since a father doesn’t himself have a power
over the life or liberty of his child, no act of his can possibly
forfeit the child’s life or liberty. So the children, whatever
may happen to the fathers, are freemen; the absolute power
of the conqueror reaches no further than the persons of the
men who were subdued by him, and it dies when they do.

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And if he ·spares their lives and· governs them as slaves,
subjected to his absolute arbitrary power, he has no such
right of dominion over their children. He can have no power
over them except by their own consent, whatever he may
force them to say or do; and he has no lawful authority
when their submission comes from his force rather than
their consent.

190. Every man is born with a double right:- •First, a right
of freedom to his person; no-one else has any power over
this—it is entirely his to use as he wishes. •Secondly, a right
before any other man to inherit with his brethren his father’s
goods.

191. By the •first of these a man is naturally free from
subjection to any government, even if he was born in a place
under its jurisdiction. But if he renounces obedience to the
lawful government of the country he was born in, he must
also give up the rights that he had through its laws, and the
possessions that came down to him from his ancestors (if
the government was made by their consent).

192. By the •second, the inhabitants of any country, who
are descended from those who were subdued and had a gov-
ernment forced upon them against their will, retain a right to
the possessions they inherited from their ancestors. . . . For
the original conqueror never had any title to the land of that
country, so the descendants and legatees of those who were
forced to submit to the yoke of a government by constraint
always have a right to shake it off, freeing themselves from
the usurpation or tyranny that the sword has brought down
on them, until their rulers give them a form of government
that they’ll willingly consent to. Who doubts that the Greek
Christians, descendants of the ancient possessors of that
country, are entitled to throw off the Turkish yoke under
which they have groaned for so long, whenever they have an

opportunity to do so? For no government can have a right to
obedience from a people who haven’t freely consented to it;
and they can’t be supposed to have done that until either

•they are put into a full state of liberty to choose their
government and governors,

or at least
•(1) they have standing laws to which they have given
their free consent directly or through their represen-
tatives , and also (2) they are allowed the property to
which they are entitled.

Condition (2) means that they are the proprietors of what
they have in such a way that nobody can take away any part
of it without their own consent. Without that, men under
any government are not freemen but slaves under the force
of war.

193. Even supposing that the conqueror in a just war does
have a right to the estates of the conquered, as well as
power over their persons (which he plainly doesn’t), this
still doesn’t imply that the continuing government has any
kind of absolute power. The descendants of ·those who
were conquered· will all be freemen; if the conqueror doesn’t
grant them estates and possessions to inhabit his ·newly
conquered· country, it won’t be worth anything; and if he
does grant them estates and possessions, then they have
property, and the nature of property is that without a man’s
own consent it can’t be taken from him.

194. Their persons are free by a natural right, and their
properties, whether large or small, are their own, to be dealt
with by their choice and not by the conqueror’s—otherwise
they are not properties. Suppose the conqueror gives one
man a thousand acres, for him and his heirs for ever; and
to another man he lets a thousand acres for his life, with a
rental of £50 or £500. Doesn’t the former man have a right

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to his thousand acres for ever? and doesn’t the other have
a right to his thousand acres for his lifetime, while paying
the agreed rent? And doesn’t the tenant for life own all that
his labour and industry brings in over and above his rent,
even if it is double the rent? Can anyone say that the king
(or conqueror), after making a grant, may use his power to
take away all or part of the land from the heirs of the first
man, or from the second man (the tenant) during his lifetime
when he is paying the rent? Or can he whenever he pleases
take away from either of them the goods or money they have
earned through the land in question? If he can, then all free
and voluntary contracts are nullified: all it takes to dissolve
them at any time is enough power; and all the grants and
promises of men in power are nothing but a mockery. Can
there be anything more ridiculous than to say ‘I give this to
you and your descendants for ever’, saying it in the surest
and most solemn form of gift-giving that can be devised,
when it’s understood that I have the right to take it away
from you again tomorrow if I want to?

195. I shan’t discuss now whether monarchs are exempt
from the laws of their country, but I am sure of this much:
they owe subjection to the laws of God and of nature. No
body, no power, can exempt them from the obligations of

that eternal law. Where promises are concerned, those
obligations are so great and so strong that omnipotent God
himself can be bound by them. Grants, promises, and oaths
are bonds that hold the Almighty. Compare that fact with
what some flatterers say to monarchs, ·namely that they are
so great that they needn’t keep their promises·. Yet all the
monarchs of the world, together with all their courtiers, are
by comparison with the great God like a drop in the bucket,
or a speck of dust on the balance— inconsiderable, nothing!

196. Here it is in brief: if the conqueror has a just cause, he
gets ·through his conquest· a despotic right over the persons
of all those who actually aided and supported the war against
him, and a right to use their labour and estates to make
up for the damages he has suffered and the costs he has
incurred (so long as he doesn’t infringe anyone else’s rights).
He has no power over such of the people as didn’t consent
to the war, or over the children of the captives themselves,
and no power over the possessions of either group. So his
conquest does not entitle him to have dominion over them,
or to pass on such dominion to his posterity. If he tries to
take their properties, he is an aggressor, and thereby puts
himself into a state of war against them. [The section ends
with historical and biblical examples.]

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Chapter 17: Usurpation

197. As conquest may be called a foreign usurpation,
so usurpation is a kind of domestic conquest. But the
equivalence is not exact: a ‘domestic conqueror’ might have
right on his side, but an usurper can never do so, because
an action counts as a usurpation only if it involves getting
possession of something that someone else has a right to.
A usurpation, as such, is a change only in who has the
government, not in the forms and rules of the government.
If the usurper ·goes further, and· extends his power beyond
what rightly belonged to the lawful monarchs or governors
of the commonwealth ·whom he has dislodged·, he is guilty
not merely of usurpation but also of tyranny.

198. The designation of who is to rule is as natural and
necessary a part of any lawful government as is the form of
the government itself, and is something that was originally
established by the people. Compare these two:

•having no form of government at all; •agreeing on a
monarchy, without having a procedure for deciding
who shall be monarch.

The anarchy will be much alike! Hence all commonwealths
with an established form of government have rules also for
appointing those who are to share in the public authority,
and settled methods of getting them into office. Whoever
gets into the exercise of any part of the power by ways other
than those prescribed by the laws of the community has no
right to be obeyed, even if he doesn’t change the form of the
commonwealth; because he is not the person the laws have
appointed, and so not the person the people have consented
to. And no such usurper—or anyone whose rule is derived
from him—can ever be entitled to his position as ruler until
the people are free to consent, and do consent, to allow and
confirm in him the power he has till then usurped.

Chapter 18: Tyranny

199. Whereas usurpation is the exercise of power to which
someone else has a right, tyranny is the exercise of power
to which nobody can have a right. That is what happens
when someone employs the power he has in his hands, not
for the good of those who are under it but for his own private
individual advantage. ·It is what happens· when a governor,
however entitled ·he is to govern·, is guided not by the law

but by his own wants, and his commands and actions are
directed not to preserving his subjects’ properties but to
satisfying his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any
other irregular passion.

200. If you doubt this to be true, or to be reasonable,
because it is written by a mere lowly subject, I hope you
will take it from the authority of a king! King James I in his

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1603 speech to the parliament said this:
In making good laws and constitutions, I will al-
ways put the welfare of the public and of the whole
commonwealth ahead of any particular and private
purposes of mine; because I think that the wealth and
welfare of the commonwealth is my greatest welfare
and worldly happiness. In this respect a lawful king
sharply differs from a tyrant: for. . . .the greatest point
of difference between the two is that whereas •the
proud and ambitious tyrant thinks his kingdom and
people are only ordained for satisfying his desires and
unreasonable appetites, •the righteous and just king
does on the contrary acknowledge that he has been
given the task of preserving the wealth and property
of his people.

And in his 1609 speech to the parliament he said:
The king binds himself by a double oath to observe
the fundamental laws of his kingdom. •Just by being
a king he tacitly binds himself to protect not just the
people but also the laws of his kingdom. By his oath at
his coronation he explicitly binds himself to the same
thing. . . . If a king governing in a settled kingdom
stops ruling according to his laws, he thereby stops
being a king and degenerates into a tyrant.

And a little after:
Therefore all kings who are not tyrants, or perjured,
will be glad to bind themselves within the limits of
their laws; and those who ·try to· persuade them
otherwise are vipers, pests, against both the king and
the commonwealth.

Thus that learned king, who had a good grasp of concepts,
distinguishes king from tyrant through this and this alone:
•a king limits his power to what the laws allow, and governs
for the good of the public, whereas •a tyrant puts his own

will and appetite ahead of everything.

201. It is a mistake to think that only monarchies can
go wrong in this way; other forms of government are also
open to it. Whenever power is put into some hands for
the government of the people and the preservation of their
properties, and is then diverted from that purpose and
used to impoverish, harass, or subdue the people to the
arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have the
power, then that immediately becomes tyranny, whether the
power-holders are one or many. There was one tyrant at
Syracuse, but we read of the thirty tyrants at Athens; and
the intolerable government of the Ten Men at Rome was no
better.

202. Wherever law ends, tyranny begins, if the breach of the
law brings harm to someone else; and anyone in authority
who exceeds the power given him by the law, using the
force at his disposal to do to the subject things that aren’t
allowed by the law, thereby stops being an officer of the
law; and because he acts without authority he may ·rightly·
be opposed, as may any other man who by force invades
the right of someone else. This is acknowledged to hold for
subordinate officers of the law. Someone who is authorized
to arrest me •in the street may be opposed as a thief and a
robber if he tries to break into •my house to arrest me—even
if I know that his legal authority (and the arrest-warrant in
his pocket) empower him to arrest me when I am •out of
my house. I’d like to know why this shouldn’t hold just as
well for the highest as well as the lowest-ranked officials of
government. Is it reasonable that the oldest brother, just
because he has most of his father’s estate, should thereby
have a right to take away any of his younger brother’s shares?
Or that a rich man who possessed a whole county should get
from that a right to seize the cottage and garden of his poor

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neighbour? Being the lawful owner of great riches,. . . .far
from being an excuse (let alone a reason) for robbery and
oppression, makes it much worse. Well, all of this applies
not only to having great wealth but equally to having great
power, which is not an entitlement to help oneself to more
and engage in one’s own kind of robbery and oppression.
Exceeding the bounds of authority is no more a right in
a great officer of government than in a low-level one, no
more justifiable in a king than in a constable. It is indeed
worse in the king because •more trust has been placed
in him, •he already has a much greater share than the
rest of his brethren, and •his education, employment, and
counsellors are supposed to have given him more knowledge
of the measures of right and wrong.

203. You may want to object:- ‘Then may the commands
of a monarch be opposed? May he be resisted whenever
anyone finds himself aggrieved and imagines he hasn’t been
treated rightly? This will unhinge and overturn all systems
of administration, leaving us with nothing but anarchy and
confusion instead of government and order.’

204. Here is my answer:- It is wrong to use force against
anything except unjust and unlawful force; whoever opposes
a government for any other reason draws on himself a just
condemnation from both God and man; and my philosophy
of these matters doesn’t bring a threat of danger or confusion,
as is often suggested. ·Here are four observations in support
of this·.

205. First:- In some countries the person of the monarch
is sacred, as a matter of law; so whatever he commands or
does, his person is still free from all question or violence, not
liable to force or to any judicial censure or condemnation.
Yet the subjects may oppose the illegal acts of any lower
official, or anyone commissioned by the monarch. In those

countries, the only way the monarch can lose his personal
immunity is by putting himself into a state of war with his
people, dissolving the government, and leaving the people to
the defence that everyone has in the state of nature. When
that happens, who can tell how it will all end? A remarkable
example of how it can end is presented to the world by a
neighbour kingdom. In all other cases the sacredness of
the monarch’s person exempts him, while the government
stands, from all violence and harm whatsoever. And this is a
wise constitution: for the harm a monarch can do unaided
is not likely to happen often, or to go very far. Even if some
monarch is weak and ill-natured enough to want to do it,
he can’t by his own personal strength subvert the laws or
oppress the body of the people. When a headstrong monarch
comes to the throne, he may do some troublesome things;
but the disadvantages of those are quite outweighed by the
peace of the public and the security of the government that
comes from having the person of the head of government
thus placed out of the reach of danger. For it is safer for the
body politic that a few private men should sometimes be in
danger of suffering than that the head of the commonwealth
should be easily and casually exposed to danger.

206. Second:- This privilege of the king’s person doesn’t con-
fer immunity against questioning, opposition, and resistance
for those who use unjust and unlawful force and claim they
were commissioned to do this by the king. Here is a plain
case of that. Someone has the king’s writ to arrest me, this
being a full commission from the king; but he can’t break
into my house to arrest me, or carry out this command of
the king’s on certain days or in certain places, if the law
forbids him to, even if the commission doesn’t state any such
exceptions. If anyone breaks the law, the king’s commission
doesn’t excuse him; for the king has his authority only

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•through the law, so he cannot empower anyone to act
•against the law. . . . The commission or command of any
government official ·from the king down to the constable· to
do something for which he has no authority is as empty and
insignificant as the ‘commission’ or command of any private
man. The only difference between the two is that the official
has authority to a certain extent and for certain purposes,
while the private man has none; ·but the restrictions on
the official’s authority are crucial·, because what gives the
right of acting is not the •commission but the •authority;
and there can be no authority against the laws. But ·when
private citizens resist commissioned but unauthorized action
by government officials·, notwithstanding such resistance
the king’s person and authority are still both secured, and
so ·there is· no danger to governor or government.

207. Third:- Consider now a government in which the person
of the ruler is not sacred. My doctrine of the lawfulness of
resisting all unlawful exercises of power won’t on every slight
occasion endanger him or disturb the government; for where
the injured party can be relieved and his damages made
good by appeal to the law, he can’t claim a right to use force,
which is only to be used where a man is prevented from
appealing to the law. No exercise of force by the government
counts as hostile if it leaves open the possibility of such an
appeal; it is only when force closes that door that it puts the
user of it into a state of war, and makes it lawful to resist
him. •A man with a sword in his hand demands my purse on
the highway when I have almost no money with me; this man
I may lawfully kill. To •another man I hand £100 to hold
while I get off my horse; he then refuses to give it back to me,
and draws his sword to defend his possession of it by force if
I try to take it back from him. The harm this man does to
me may be a hundred or even a thousand times more than

the other intended to do to me (I killed him before he really
did me any harm); and yet I can lawfully kill the one, and
cannot so much as hurt the other lawfully. The reason for
the difference is obvious. •The first man used force, which
threatened my life, and I had no time to appeal to the law to
make me safe. And once my life was taken, it would have
been too late to appeal: the law couldn’t restore life to my
dead carcass; the loss would have been irreparable; and it
is in order to prevent that that the law of nature gave me a
right to destroy the man who had put himself into a state
of war with me and threatened my destruction. But •the
second man did not put my life in danger; so I can have the
benefit of appealing to the law and getting reparation for my
£100 in that way.

208. Fourth:- If an official uses his power to maintain his
unlawful acts and to obstruct the appeal to law for a remedy,
this is manifest tyranny and there is a right to resist it;
but even in cases like this, if the harm is slight there won’t
be resistance that will disturb the government. For if the
trouble concerns the cases of only a few private men, though
they •have a right to defend themselves and to recover by
force what through unlawful force has been taken from them,
they will be disinclined to •exercise their right by engaging
in a contest in which they are sure to perish. ·And they
are sure to perish·, because it is as impossible for a few
oppressed men to disturb the government when the body of
the people don’t think themselves concerned in it as it is for
a raving madman or headstrong malcontent to overturn a
well settled state; the people being no more inclined to follow
the oppressed few ·into a fight· than to follow the solitary
madman.

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209. But suppose these illegal acts have affected the ma-
jority of the people, or have affected only a few but seem to
set a dangerous precedent threatening everyone, so that the
people are persuaded in their consciences that their laws are
in danger and—along with the laws—their estates, liberties,
and lives, and perhaps their religion too. When that happens,
I can’t see how the people can be hindered from resisting the
illegal force that has been ·or threatens to be· used against
them. Such resistance is a difficulty that will confront any
government in which the governors have managed to become
generally suspected by their people. It is the most dangerous
state that governors can possibly put themselves in, but they
don’t deserve much pity because the trouble is so easy to
avoid. If a governor really does intend the good of his people,
and the preservation of them and their laws, the people are
bound to see and feel this, just as the children in a family
will see that their father loves and takes care of them.

210. But if everyone can see in the government
•claims of one kind, and actions of another;
•skill employed to evade the law;
•prerogative employed contrary to the purpose for
which it was given (namely to do good, not harm,

to the people);
•the ministers and lower officers of the law chosen with
an eye to such purposes, and promoted or dismissed
according to whether they further or oppose them;

•various things done as try-outs of arbitrary power:
surreptitious favour shown to the religion (though
publicly denounced) which is readiest to introduce
such power, and the operators in it [= officials of the
religion in question?] supported as much as the govern-
ment can get away with, and, when open support isn’t
possible, still ·surreptitiously· approved and liked;

– if a long train of actions show the ·governmental· councils
all tending that way, how can a man not be convinced of
which way things are going and look around for some way
to save himself? Suppose you are in a ship whose captain is
steering a course towards Algiers; cross-winds, leaks in his
ship, and shortage of men and provisions often force him to
head in a different direction, but as soon as the weather and
other circumstances allow it he always turns back on course
for Algiers. Won’t you conclude that the captain is trying to
take you and everyone else in the ship to Algiers? [At that time
Algiers was a maximally unattractive destination—a centre for maritime

piracy, where many Englishmen were in slavery.]

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Chapter 19: The dissolution of government

211. Anyone who wants to speak clearly about the disso-
lution of •government ought first to distinguish that from
the dissolution of a •society. What makes a community, and
brings men out of the loose state of nature into one politic
society, is the agreement that everyone has with everyone
else to come together and act as one body and so be one
distinct commonwealth. When such a union is dissolved,
it is almost always through conquest by a foreign force; for
when that happens (so that the people can’t maintain and
support themselves as one unified and independent body),
the union constituting that body must necessarily come to
an end, returning everyone to the state he was in before,
with a liberty to provide for his own safety as he thinks fit,
in some other society. Whenever the •society is dissolved, it
is certain that the •government of that society can’t survive.
Conquerors’ swords often cut off governments at the roots,
mangling to pieces the societies and separating the subdued
or scattered multitude from the protection of the society that
ought to have preserved them from violence. This way of
dissolving of governments is too well known—and too much
allowed—for me to need to say anything more about it. It
doesn’t need much argument to show that when a society is
dissolved, its government can’t survive; just as the frame of
a house can’t survive when the materials of it are scattered
and dissipated by a whirlwind, or jumbled into a confused
heap by an earthquake.

212. Governments can be dissolved not only by being
overturned from outside but also by being dissolved from
within. ·There are two ways for this to happen. I shall
discuss one in this and the following eight sections, starting
on the second in section 221·.

The first way is by the legislature’s being altered. Civil
society is a state of peace among its members; they are
kept from the state of war by the provisions they have made
for the legislature to act as umpire, ending any conflicts
that may arise among of them. So it is •the legislature that
unites the members of a commonwealth, combining them
into one coherent living body. •It is the soul that gives form,
life, and unity to the commonwealth, bringing its various
members into relationships of mutual influence, sympathy,
and connection. Therefore, when the legislature is broken
or dissolved, dissolution and death follow for the society,
because the essence of the society, and its unity, consists
in its having one will, declared and kept by a legislature
established by the majority for that very purpose. The first
and fundamental act of a society is the constituting of a
legislature. . . . When one or more other people take it upon
themselves to make laws, without being appointed to do
so by the people, they are making laws without authority,
so the people aren’t obliged to obey; and this is a way for
them to come again out of subjection—·no longer under any
government·—and be free to constitute for themselves a new
legislature as they think best. For they will be entirely at
liberty to resist the force of those who try without authority to
impose anything upon them. When those whom the society
has chosen to be the declarers of the public will are excluded
from that role, and their place usurped by others who have
not been appointed to it, everyone is free to do what he likes.

213. This is usually brought about by members of the
commonwealth who have some power, and misuse it; so it’s
hard to think about it clearly, and know who is to blame
for it, unless we know the form of government in which it

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happens. So let us suppose that the legislature is placed
in the agreement of three distinct persons. 1. •A single
hereditary person, having the constant, supreme, executive
power, and with it the power of convoking and dissolving the
other two within certain periods of time. •2. An assembly
of hereditary nobility. •3. An assembly of representatives
chosen by the people to serve for limited periods of time.
With a government of that form, four things are evident. ·I
shall give them a section each·.

214. First, when such a single person (or king) sets up
his own arbitrary will in place of the laws, which are the
will of the society as declared by the legislature, then the
legislature is changed. What makes something the legislature
is its issuing rules and laws that are applied and required
to be obeyed; so when laws are set up and rules announced
and enforced other than those enacted by the legislature that
the society has set up, it is clear that the legislature has
been changed. Whoever subverts the old laws or introduces
new laws without the authority of fundamental appointment
[Locke’s phrase] by the society thereby disowns and overturns
the power by which the old laws were made, and in that way
sets up a new legislature.

215. Secondly, when the king prevents the legislature
from assembling at its due time, or from acting freely to
achieve the purposes for which it was set up, the legislature
is altered. What constitutes a legislature is not merely
•a certain number of men, or •a certain number of men
meeting together, unless they have the freedom to discuss
and enough time to complete the business of the good of
the society. When the freedom or the time is taken away
or altered, depriving the society of the ·fruits of· the proper
exercise of the legislature’s power, the legislature is truly
altered. . . . He who takes away the freedom or blocks the

action of the legislature in its due seasons in effect takes
away the legislature and puts an end to the government.

216. Thirdly, when, by the arbitrary power of the king
changes are made in •who is to vote ·for members of the
legislature· or in •how that vote is to be conducted, without
the consent of the people and contrary to their common
interests, there again the legislature is altered. For if the
voting is done by people other than those whom the society
has authorized to vote, or is done in another way than
what the society has prescribed, those chosen are not the
legislature appointed by the people.

217. Fourthly, if the people are delivered into the subjection
of a foreign power, whether by the king or by the legislature,
that is certainly a change of the legislature and thus a
dissolution of the government. . . .

218. It is obvious why, in a three-part form of government
such as I supposed in section 213, the dissolution of the
government in these ways is to be blamed on the king. He has
at his disposal the force, the treasure and the offices of the
state, and he may persuade himself—or be flattered by others
into thinking—that as the supreme officer of the law he isn’t
under any control. Because of all this, he is the only one in
a position to make great advances toward such changes ·of
the legislature· with a pretence of lawful authority; and he
alone has available to him the means to terrify or suppress
any who oppose him, saying that they are factious, seditious,
and enemies to the government. In contrast with him, no
other part of the legislature or the people as a whole can by
themselves try to alter the legislature except by open and
visible rebellion. . . ., and when this prevails it has much the
same effects as foreign conquest. Besides, the king in such
a form of government has the power of dissolving the other
parts of the legislature, thereby turning them into private

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persons; so they can never in opposition to him (or without
his agreement) alter the legislature by a law, his consent
being necessary to make any of their decrees valid. But if
the other parts of the legislature do in any way contribute
to any attempt on the government, and either promote such
designs or fail to block them when they could have done so,
they are guilty of taking part in this, which is certainly the
greatest crime men can be guilty of towards one another.

219. There is one more way for such a government to be dis-
solved, and that is when ·the king·, he who has the supreme
executive power, neglects and abandons his function so that
laws that have already been made can no longer be •enforced.
This is to reduce everything inevitably and immediately to
anarchy, and so in effect to dissolve the government. Laws
are not made for their own sakes but so as to serve as the
bonds of the society that will keep every part of the body
politic in its proper place and function; and they can do
that only if they are •enforced. When enforcement stops, the
government visibly comes to an end and the people become
a confused, disorderly, disconnected multitude. When there
is no longer any administration of justice for securing men’s
rights, and no remaining power within the community to
direct the public’s force or provide for its necessities, there is
certainly no government left. When the laws can’t be applied
it is the same as having no laws, and a government without
laws is an absurdity. . . .

220. In cases like these, when the government is dissolved
the people are at liberty to provide for themselves by setting
up a new legislature that differs from the previous one either
in its personnel or its structure or both, depending on what
the people find to be best for their safety and welfare. For a
society can’t ever through someone else’s fault lose its inborn
original right to preserve itself, which it can do only through

a settled legislature and a fair and impartial application of
the laws the legislature makes. But the state of mankind
is not so miserable that they can’t use this remedy until
it is too late, ·which is how things would stand if they
couldn’t work towards a remedy until the government had
entirely collapsed·. When a government has gone—whether
by oppression, trickery, or being handed over to a foreign
power—telling the people ‘You may provide for yourselves by
setting up a new legislature’ is only telling them that they
may expect relief when it is too late and the evil is past cure.
It amounts to telling them to be slaves first, and then to take
care of their liberty; and telling them when their chains are
on that they may act like freemen. This is mockery rather
than relief. Men can never be secure from tyranny if they
have no way to escape from it until they are completely under
it. And that’s why they have not only a right to get out of it
but also a right to prevent it.

221. That brings us to the second way in which governments
are dissolved (·discussion of the first began in section 212·),
namely when the •legislature or the •king act contrary to
their trust. ·I shall discuss this in two parts. The •legislature
will be dealt with in this and the following ten sections; the
king will come into section 222, but only as manipulating
the legislature. Discussion of the •king as acting other
than through the legislature will start at section 232·. The
legislature acts against the trust given to them when they
try to invade the property of the subject, and to make
themselves—or any part of the community—masters of the
lives, liberties, or fortunes of the people, having all of these
at the disposal of their will.

222. . . . .It can never be supposed to be the will of the society
that the legislature should have a power to destroy what
everyone aimed to keep safe by entering into society and

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submitting themselves to legislators of their own making.
So when the legislators try to take away and destroy the
property of the people or to reduce them to slavery, they
put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are
thereby absolved from any further obedience and are left to
the common escape that God has provided for all men against
force and violence. So whenever the legislature breaks this
fundamental rule of society and—whether through ambition,
fear, folly or corruption—try to grasp for themselves or for
anyone else an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and
estates of the people, by this breach of trust they forfeit the
power the people had put into their hands for quite different
purposes. And then the people have a right to resume their
original ·natural· liberty, and to set up a new legislature. . . .to
provide for their own safety and security. . . . What I have
said here about the legislature in general holds true also for
the supreme executive, ·the king·. He has a double trust put
in him, both •to have a part in the legislature and •to be in
charge of the enforcement of the law; and he acts against
both when he tries to set up his own arbitrary will as the law
of the society. He also acts contrary to his trust when he
either •employs the force, treasure, and offices of the society
to corrupt the representatives and win them over to his
schemes; or •openly courts the electorate, persuading them
to choose the legislators whom he has already won over to
his side by persuasion, threats, promises, or whatever—thus
getting the electorate to bring in ones who have promised
before-hand how they will vote and what legislation they
will pass. Regulating candidates and electors in this way,
re-shaping the electoral procedures—what is this but digging
up the government by the roots, and poisoning the very
fountain of public security? The people kept for themselves
the choice of their representatives, as the fences around their
properties; and the only reason they could have for this was

so that the representatives would always be freely chosen,
and—having been chosen—would freely act and advise in
ways that they judged, after examination and mature debate,
to be necessary for the commonwealth and the public good.
Representatives can’t do this if they have given their votes in
advance, before hearing the debate and weighing the reasons
on all sides. For someone to prepare such a ·legislative·
assembly as this, and try to set up the declared supporters
of his own will as the true representatives of the people and
the law-makers of the society, is certainly as great a breach of
trust, and as complete an admission that he plans to subvert
the government, as could be met with. If there is any doubt
as to whether that is what is going on, it will be blown away if
rewards and punishments are visibly employed for the same
purpose, with all the tricks of perverted law being used to
eliminate and destroy all who stand in the way of such a
design and refuse to go along with and consent to betraying
the liberties of their country. It is easy to see what power in
the society ought to be allowed to those who have used their
power contrary to the trust with which they were given it;
anyone can see that someone who has once attempted such
a thing as this can no longer be trusted ·with anything·.

223. You may want to object:
The people are ignorant and always discontented.
To base government on their unsteady opinions and
uncertain moods is to expose it to certain ruin. No
government can last for long if the people can set up
a new legislature whenever they take offence at the
old one.

I answer, Quite the contrary! It is harder to get people out
of their old forms ·of government· than some writers are apt
to suggest. It is almost impossible to get them to amend
the admitted faults in the system they have grown used

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to. And if there are any systemic defects, or less deep ones
introduced by decay or by the passage of time, it’s hard to
get them changed even when everyone sees that there’s an
opportunity to do so. This slow reluctance of the people to
give up their old constitutions has, in the many revolutions
that have occurred in this kingdom recently and in earlier
centuries, still kept us to our old legislature of •king, •lords
and •commons (or, when we didn’t keep to it, there was
a period of fruitless attempts ·to have a different form of
government·, after which we returned to the system of king,
lords, and commons). And whatever provocations have made
the crown be taken from some of our monarchs’ heads, they
never carried the people so far as to give it to someone who
is not in the same line of descent.

224. ‘But’, it will be said, ‘this hypothesis creates a ferment
for frequent rebellion!’ To which I have three answers. •First,
It doesn’t do so more than any other hypothesis does: for
when the people are made miserable and find themselves
exposed to mistreatment by arbitrary power,

praise their governors as much as you will as sons
of Jupiter, let them be sacred and divine, descended
from heaven or authorized by it, make them out to be
anyone or anything you please,

and the same thing will happen! The people who are generally
and wrongfully ill-treated will be ready on any occasion to
free themselves of a burden that sits heavily on them. They
will want an opportunity to do this, and will look for one; and
in the changes, weakness and accidents of human affairs
they usually won’t have to look for long. Someone who hasn’t
seen examples of this in his own lifetime must be very young,
and someone who can’t cite examples of it in all sorts of
governments in the world can’t have read much!

225. •Secondly, I answer that such revolutions don’t happen
with every little mismanagement in public affairs. Great
mistakes by the rulers, many wrong and inconvenient laws,
and all the slips of human frailty—these will be born by the
people without mutiny or murmur. But if a long series of
abuses, lies, and tricks, all tending the same way, make
the design visible to the people so that they can’t help
•feeling what they are oppressed by and •seeing where they
are going, it’s not surprising that they should then rouse
themselves and try to put the ruling power into hands that
will achieve for them the purposes for which government was
at first established. When those purposes are not achieved,
·governments based on· ancient names and glittering rituals
are no better than the state of nature, or pure anarchy.
Indeed, they are worse, because under such governments
the inconveniences are as great and as near as in the state
of nature, and the remedy ·for them· further off and more
difficult.

226. •Thirdly, to the charge that this hypothesis ‘creates a
ferment for frequent rebellion’ I answer that ·on the contrary·
this doctrine giving the people a power to provide anew for
their safety by establishing a new legislature, when their
legislators have acted contrary to their trust by invading
their property, is the best barrier to rebellion and the best
means to block it. Here is why. Rebellion is opposition not
to •persons but to •authority, of which the only basis is the
constitutions and laws of the government. So those who
by force break through, and by force justify their violation
of the constitution and laws, are truly and properly rebels.
For when men by entering into society and civil-government
have excluded force and introduced laws for the preservation
of property, peace, and unity among themselves, those who
set up force again in opposition to the laws do rebellare,

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that is, bring back again the state of war [bellare is Latin for
‘make war’, so that ‘rebel’ = rebellare = ‘make war again’]. Those who
are most likely to rebel ·against the constitution and the
laws· are those who are in power, because of their claim
to authority, the temptation of the force they have at their
disposal, and the flattery of those around them; and the best
way to prevent this evil is to show those likely offenders the
danger and injustice of it.

227. In both of the aforementioned cases, where
the legislature is changed,

and where
the legislators act contrary to the purpose for which
they were made legislators,

those who are guilty are guilty of rebellion. [The rest of the
section explains this. The explanation is very wordy, and
can easily be worked out from what has gone before. In brief:
someone who changes the legislature or who as a legislator
acts contrary to his trust thereby introduces a state of war,
he wars-again, he rebels.]

228. Those who say I am laying a foundation for rebellion
mean that my doctrine may lead to civil wars or internal
unrest. ·What do they infer from that·?

I tell the people •that they are absolved from obedience
when illegal attempts are made upon their liberties or
properties, and •that they may oppose the unlawful
violence of those who were their law-officers, when
they invade their properties contrary to the trust put
in them.

Do my opponents hold that this doctrine of mine is not to
be allowed because it is so destructive to the peace of the
world? That would be like saying that honest men may not
oppose robbers or pirates because this may lead to disorder
or bloodshed! If any harm comes about in such a case, it

is not to be charged against him who defends his own right
but against him who attacks his neighbours. [The rest of
the section jeeringly elaborates this comparison. A typical
sample: ‘Who would not think it an admirable peace between
the powerful and the weak when the lamb passively yields
his throat to be torn by the imperious wolf?’]

229. The purpose of government is the good of mankind.
Which is better for mankind: that the people be always
exposed to the limitless will of tyranny, or that the rulers
be sometimes liable to meet with opposition when they
grow exorbitant in the use of their power and use it for
the destruction and not the preservation of the properties of
their people?

230. Don’t say: ‘Mischief can arise from that whenever it
shall please a busy head or turbulent spirit [Locke’s phrase] to
want to alter the government.’ Indeed, men like that may
stir up trouble whenever they please, but it will be only
to their own rightful ruin and perdition. That is because
the people, who are more disposed to suffer than to right
themselves by resistance, are not likely to rise up until the
mischief has become general, and the wicked schemes of
the rulers have become visible or their attempts have made
themselves felt in the lives of the majority. They are not
moved by individual examples of injustice, here and there
an unfortunate man oppressed. But if they all become
convinced on clear evidence that schemes are being launched
against their liberties, and the general course and tendency
of things forces them to suspect the evil intention of their
governors, who is to be blamed for that? Who can help it
if rulers bring themselves under this suspicion when they
could have avoided it? Are the people to be blamed if they
have the sense of rational creatures, and think of things as
they find and feel them?. . . . I grant that the pride, ambition,

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and turbulence of private men have sometimes caused great
disorders in commonwealths, and factions have been fatal to
states and kingdoms. But whether the mischief has oftener
begun in

•the people’s irresponsibility and a desire to throw off
the lawful authority of their rulers, or in
•the rulers’ insolence and attempts to get and exercise
an arbitrary power over their people,

i.e. whether it has usually been
•disobedience or •oppression

that started the disorder, I leave to impartial history to
decide. I am sure of this, though. Anyone—whether ruler
or subject—who by force tries to invade the rights of either
monarch or people, and lays the foundation for overturning
the constitution and structure of any just government, is
highly guilty of the greatest crime a man is capable of. Such
a person must answer for all the mischiefs of blood, looting,
and desolation that come on a country when its government
is broken to pieces. And he who does it should be regarded
as the common enemy and pest of mankind, and treated
accordingly.

231. Everyone agrees that •subjects or •foreigners who bring
force against the properties of any people may be resisted
with force. But it has recently been denied that one may
resist •law-officers who do the same thing. As if those to
whom the laws give the greatest privileges and advantages
automatically get also a power to break those laws, the very
laws that put them in a better place than their brethren!
Actually, their privileged position makes their offence even
worse: in it they •show themselves as ungrateful for the
bigger share that the law gives them, and they •break the
trust that was put into their hands by their brethren.

232. Anyone who uses force without right (as everyone in
society does if he uses force without law) puts himself into
a •state of war with those against whom he uses it; and in
•that state all former bonds are cancelled, all other rights
cease, and everyone has a right to defend himself, and to
resist the aggressor. This is so obvious that Barclay himself,
that great assertor of the power and sacredness of kings, is
forced to admit that it is sometimes lawful for the people to
resist their king; and he says it, what’s more, in a chapter
in which he offers to show that the divine law blocks the
people from every kind of •rebellion! In fact his own doctrine
makes it clear that since the people may •resist in some
cases, not all resistance to monarchs is rebellion. His words
are these. [Locke gives them first in Latin in this section,
then in English occupying the whole of the next section.]

233. Someone may ask:
Must the people then always lay themselves open to
the cruelty and rage of tyranny? Must they see their
cities pillaged and reduced to ashes, their wives and
children exposed to the tyrant’s lust and fury, and
themselves and their households brought by their
king to ruin and to all the miseries of want and
oppression—and yet sit still? The common privilege
of opposing force with force, which nature allows so
freely to all other creatures for their preservation from
injury—must men alone be debarred from having it?

I answer that self-defence is a part of the law of nature,
and it can’t be denied to the community, even against the
king himself; but that law doesn’t allow them to revenge
themselves upon him. So if the king in hatred sets himself
not merely against this or that person but against the body
of the commonwealth of which he is the head, and with
intolerable ill usage cruelly tyrannizes over all or many

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of the people, then the people have a right to resist and
defend themselves from injury. But in doing this they must
be careful only to •defend themselves, and not to •attack
their king. They may make good the damages they have
received, but must not under any provocation cross the
line of appropriate reverence and respect. They may push
back the present attempt but must not take revenge for past
violences; for it is natural for us to •defend life and limb, but
it is against nature for •an inferior to punish a superior. . . .
So this is the privilege of the people in general, as compared
with any private person: particular men. . . .have no other
remedy but patience, whereas the body of the people may
respectfully resist intolerable tyranny. ·I stress intolerable;
for when the tyranny is only moderate they ought to endure
it·. [End of quotation from Barclay]

234. That is the extent to which this great advocate of
monarchical power allows for resistance.

235. It is true that he has put two limitations on such
resistance. First, •it must be done with reverence. Secondly,
•it must be without retribution or punishment because an
inferior cannot punish a superior. First, it will need some
skill to make clear how one is to resist force without striking
back, or how to strike with reverence! Someone who opposes
an assault with nothing but a shield to take the blows, or
in some more respectful posture but without a sword in his
hand tries to lessen the assailant’s confidence and force,
will quickly come to the end of his resistance and will find
that such a defence will only serve to make things worse
for him. [Locke now quotes the Latin poet Juvenal to that
effect. Then:] This will always be the outcome of such an
imaginary ‘resistance’ in which men may not strike back.
So someone who is allowed to resist must be allowed to
strike. And then let our author or anyone else join a knock

on the head or a cut on the face with as much reverence
and respect as he thinks fit. For all I know, someone who
can reconcile blows with reverence deserves to be rewarded
for his ·reconciling· labours by being beaten up only in a
civil and respectful manner. Secondly, An inferior cannot
punish a superior. That is true, generally speaking, while
he is his superior. But resisting force with force is the
state of war that levels the ground and cancels all former
relations of reverence, respect, and superiority. The only
superior/inferior relationship that remains is this: he who
opposes the unjust aggressor is his superior in that he has
a right when he wins to punish the offender, both for the
breach of the peace and for all the evils that followed from
it. So Barclay is more consistent with himself when, in
another place, he denies that it is ever lawful to resist a king.
But in that place he describes two ways in which a king
may un-king himself. [Again Locke gives them first in Latin,
starting in this section and running on to the end of 236,
and then in English in the following two sections.]

237. . . . .The people can never come by a power over the
king unless he does something that makes him cease to be a
king. When he does that, he divests himself of his crown and
dignity, and returns to the state of a private man; and then
the people become free and superior, regaining the power
that they had. . . .before they crowned him king. But there
aren’t many ways for this to happen. After considering it
thoroughly I can find only two cases in which a king ceases
to be a king and loses all power and regal authority over his
people. . . . The first is, •if he tries to overturn the government,
that is, if he plans to ruin the kingdom and commonwealth.
An example is Nero, of whom it is recorded that he resolved
to cut off the senate and people of Rome, lay the city waste
with fire and sword, and then go to some other place. And

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Caligula is reported to have openly declared that he would
no longer be a head to the people or the senate, and that he
was thinking of cutting off the worthiest men of both ranks
and then retiring to Alexandria; and that he wished that the
people had only one neck so that he could kill them all by one
blow. When any king harbours in his thoughts such plans
as these, and seriously promotes them, he thereby gives up
all care and thought of the commonwealth, and consequently
loses the power of governing his subjects—just as a master
loses command over his slaves when he abandons them.

238. The other case is •when a king makes himself depen-
dent on someone else, and subjects his kingdom—left to
him by his ancestors and freely put into his hands by the
people—to the command of that other person. Even if the
king doesn’t intend to harm the people, he has alienated [here
= ‘made to be foreign’] his kingdom: because he has •given up
the principal part of royal dignity, namely being immediately
under God supreme in his kingdom; and also •because he
betrayed or forced his people, whose liberty he ought to have
carefully preserved, into the power and dominion of a foreign
nation. By this alienation (as it were) of his kingdom he loses
the power he had in it previously, without transferring the
faintest right to those to whom he wants to give the power;
and so by this he act sets the people free, leaving them to
behave as they see fit. [End of quotation from Barclay]

239. Barclay, the great champion of absolute monarchy, is
forced to allow that in these cases a king may be resisted and
stops being a king. Cutting a long story short: when he has
no authority he is no king, and may be resisted, for where
the authority ceases the king ceases too, and becomes like
other men who have no authority. The two circumstances
that Barclay mentions don’t differ much from the ones I cited
as destructive to governments. The only difference is that

he omits the principle from which his doctrine flows, namely
the breach of trust involved in •not preserving the form of
government that had been agreed on, and in •not aiming to
achieve the purpose of government as such, which is the
public good and preservation of property. When a king has
dethroned himself and entered a state of war against his
people, what is to hinder them from prosecuting him—no
longer a king—as they would any other man who has made
war against them? Barclay and those who agree with him
would do well to answer that. Notice that Barclay says that
the people may prevent planned harm before it occurs; so
he allows resistance when tyranny is still at the design stage.
He says that when any king harbours in his thoughts and
seriously promotes such designs, he immediately gives up
all care and thought of the commonwealth; so that according
to Barclay the neglect of the public good is to be taken as an
evidence of such a design, or at least as a sufficient ground
for resistance. And he gives the reason for all this in these
words: ‘Because he betrayed or forced his people, whose
liberty he ought carefully to have preserved. . . ’ What he
adds, namely ‘. . . into the power and dominion of a foreign
nation’, signifies nothing; because the fault and forfeiture
comes from the loss of their liberty, which he ought to have
preserved, and not from any facts about which persons
the power was handed over to. Whether they are made
slaves to members of their own nation or a foreign one,
the people’s right is invaded and their liberty lost, just the
same; and this is the injury, and against only this do they
have the right of defence. And there are instances to be
found in all countries which show that what gives offence
is not the change of nationality in their governors but the
change of government. [Locke then names several writers
who agree with his position and who cannot be suspected to
be ignorant of our government or to be enemies to it’. And

78

Second Treatise John Locke 19: Dissolution of government

he writes scornfully of those who have endorsed Hooker’s
political conclusions while denying his Lockean premises.
Their work, he says, can be twisted around by ‘cunninger
workmen’ to serve even worse purposes. He describes the
latter as men who were willing when it suited them to ‘resolve
all government into absolute tyranny, and hold that all men
are born to slavery, which is what their skimpy souls fitted
them for’.]

240. At this point you are likely to ask:
Who is to be the judge of whether the monarch or
legislature have acted contrary to their trust? That
they have so acted is the sort of thing that can be
spread around among the people by discontented and
factious men, when all the king has done is to make
use of his legitimate prerogative.

To this I reply, The people should be judge; for who should
judge whether a trustee or deputy has acted well and accord-
ing to the trust reposed in him, if not the person who deputes
him? Having deputed him, he must have still a power to
discard him when he fails in his trust. If this is reasonable in
particular cases of private men, why should it be otherwise
in this most important case where the welfare of millions
is concerned, and where the threatened evil is greater, and
redressing it is very difficult, costly, and dangerous?

241. Furthermore, the question ‘Who is to be the judge?’
can’t mean that there is no judge at all; for when there is
no judicature on earth to decide controversies among men,
God in heaven is the judge. It is true that God alone is the
judge of what is right. But every man is judge for himself, in
this case as in all others, of whether another man has put
himself into a state of war with him, and whether he should
appeal to the supreme judge.

242. If a controversy arises between a king and some of
the people, in a matter of great importance where the law

is silent, or doubtful, I think the right umpire would be the
body of the people. For in cases where the king has a trust
placed in him and is dispensed from the common ordinary
rules of the law, if any ·private· men are aggrieved and think
that the king acts beyond that trust or contrary to it, the
body of the people who first placed that trust in him are
clearly the best judges of how far they meant the trust to
extend. If that way of settling the matter is turned down by
the king, or whoever is administering the government, the
only court of appeal is in heaven. . . . ·What we have here is·
properly a state of war, in which the only appeal is to heaven;
and in that state the injured party must judge for himself
when it is fit for him to make such an appeal.

243. To conclude, the power that every individual gave
to the society when he entered into it can never revert to
the individuals again as long as the society lasts, but will
always remain in the community; because without this there
can’t be a community, a commonwealth, and that would be
contrary to the original agreement. So also when the society
has placed the legislative power in any assembly of men, to
continue in them and their successors with direction and
authority for providing such successors, the legislative power
can never revert to the people while that government lasts;
because having provided a legislature with power to continue
for ever, they have given to it their political power and cannot
get it back. But •if they have set limits to the duration of their
legislature, and given this supreme power to some person or
assembly only temporarily, or •if it is forfeited through the
misbehaviour of those in authority, •at the set time or •at
the time of the forfeiture the power does revert to the society,
and then the people have a right to act as supreme and to
continue the legislature in themselves; or to set up a new
form of government, or retain the old form while placing it in
new hands, as they see fit.

79

Second Treatise John Locke On children

Locke on children

[In this work, especially in section 170, Locke endorses a kindly exercise
of parental power. His feeling for children and for how they should

be managed was notable, given his circumstances (he was a childless

bachelor) and the time and place where he lived. Here is a version of a

passage from his work Some Thoughts Concerning Education (at his time

‘education’ often meant more generally ‘upbringing’).]
62. The rebukes and criticisms that children’s faults will

sometimes make almost unavoidable should be given in calm,
serious words, and alone and in private; whereas the com-
mendations children deserve should be given in the presence
of others. This doubles the reward by spreading their praise;
and the parents’ reluctance to make the chilldren’s faults
public will make the children set a greater value on their
own good name, and teach them to be all the more careful
to preserve the good opinion of others while they think they
have it. Whereas if their misbehaviour is made public and
they are exposed to shame, they will take it that their good
name is lost; that check on them will be taken off; and the
more they suspect that their reputation with other people is
already blemished, the less they will care about preserving
others’ good thoughts of them.

63. But if children are brought up in the right way, there
won’t be as much need for the usual rewards and punish-
ments as we have imagined there is, and as the general
practice has established. All the innocent folly, playing and
childish actions of children should be left perfectly free and

unrestrained as far is consistent with the respect due to
others who are present; and that should be interpreted very
liberally. These faults (not of •the children but of •their
age) should be left to be cured by time and good examples
and increasing maturity. If that were done, children would
escape a great deal of misapplied and useless correction,
which is bad in one or other of these two ways. (1) It
fails to overpower the natural ·high-spirited· disposition of
childhood; so it is applied more and more often, always
ineffectively; and this robs it of effectiveness in cases where
it is necessary. (2) It is effective in restraining the natural
gaiety of the young, so that it serves only to harm the child’s
mental and physical make-up. When the noise and bustle
of children’s play proves to be inconvenient, or unsuitable
to the place or company they are in (which can only be
where their parents are), a look or a word from the father
or mother will be enough to get them either to leave the
room or to quieten down for a while—that is, this will be
enough if the parents have established the authority that
they should. But ·on most occasions· this playful mood,
which is wisely adapted by nature to their age and character,
should be encouraged, to keep up their spirits and improve
their strength and health, rather than curbed or restrained.
The main skill ·in child-rearing· is to bring some sport and
play into everything they have to do.

80

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2: The state of nature
  • Chapter 3: The state of war
  • Chapter 4: Slavery
  • Chapter 5: Property
  • Chapter 6: Paternal power
  • Chapter 7: Political or Civil Society
  • Chapter 8: The beginning of political societies
  • Chapter 9: The purposes of political society and government
  • Chapter 10: The forms of a commonwealth
  • Chapter 11: The extent of the legislative power
  • Chapter 12: The legislative, executive, and federative powers of the commonwealth
  • Chapter 13: The subordination of the powers of the commonwealth
  • Chapter 14: Prerogative
  • Chapter 15: Paternal, political, and despotic power, considered together
  • Chapter 16: Conquest
  • Chapter 17: Usurpation
  • Chapter 18: Tyranny
  • Chapter 19: The dissolution of government
  • Locke on children

The Prince

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The Prince

N i c c o l ò
M a c h i av e l l i

Translated and Introduced by
tim parks

P E N G U I N C L A S S I C S

an imprint of

p e n g u i n b o o k s

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PENGUIN CLASSICS

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This translation first published 2009
This edition first published in Penguin Classics 2014

001

Translation and editorial material copyright © Tim Parks, 2009
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Contents

Introduction ix

Translator’s Note xxxix

Map lvii

T H E P R I N C E

Letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici 3

1. Different kinds of states and
how to conquer them 5

2. Hereditary monarchies 7

3. Mixed monarchies 9

4. Conquered by Alexander the Great,
the Kingdom of Darius did not rebel
against his successors after his death.
Why not? 21

5. How to govern cities and states that
were previously self- governing 25

6. States won by the new ruler’s own
forces and abilities 27

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Contents

7. States won by lucky circumstance and
someone else’s armed forces 33

8. States won by crime 43

9. Monarchy with public support 49

10. Assessing a state’s strength 55

11. Church states 59

12. Different kinds of armies and a
consideration of mercenary forces 63

13. Auxiliaries, combined forces and
citizen armies 71

14. A ruler and his army 77

15. What men and particularly rulers are
praised and blamed for 81

16. Generosity and meanness 83

17. Cruelty and compassion. Whether it
is better to be feared or loved 87

18. A ruler and his promises 93

19. Avoiding contempt and hatred 97

20. Whether fortresses and other
strategies rulers frequently adopt
are useful 111

21. What a ruler should do to win
respect 117

22. A ruler’s ministers 123

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Contents

23. Avoiding flatterers 125

24. Why Italian rulers have lost
their states 129

25. The role of luck in human affairs,
and how to defend against it 133

26. An appeal to conquer Italy and free
it from foreign occupation 139

Glossary of proper names 145

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ix

Introduction

Necessity. Must. Have to. Inevitably. Bound to. These are the
words that recur insistently throughout The Prince. And
then again: success, victory, prestige, achievement, and, on the
other hand: loss, failure, defeat, death. These opposites are
linked together by an almost obsessive use of because, so
that, hence, therefore, as a result, as a consequence. From start
to finish we have a vision of man manoeuvring precariously
in a suffocating net of cause and effect. What is at stake is
survival. Anything extra is luxury.

The Prince was written by a forty- four- year- old diplomat
facing ruin. After fourteen years of influence and prestige,
a change of regime had led to his dismissal. Suspected of
conspiring against the new government, he was imprisoned
and tortured. The rapid reversal of fortunes could not have
been more devastating. Found innocent and released, he
left town to live with his wife and family on a small farm.
For a worldly man and compulsive womanizer, used to
being at the frenetic heart of public life, this too felt like
punishment. Idle and bitter, he tramped the hills by day
and, in the long, empty evenings, began to write down
some considerations on how to win power and, above
all,  how to hold on to it, how not to be a victim of

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Introduction

circumstance. The result was a slim volume that would be
a scandal for centuries.

Niccolò Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469, the
same year Lorenzo de’ Medici (il Magnifico) came to
power. First male child after two daughters, Niccolò would
grow up very close to his father, Bernardo, an ex- lawyer,
mostly unemployed, with good contacts but no significant
wealth or influence. If the son was to rise in the world,
and he was determined to do so, he would have to count
on his own wits and charm. Niccolò’s younger brother,
Totto, chose not to compete and went into the priesthood.
The boys’ mother, it should be said, was an extremely
devout woman, a writer of religious poems and hymns.
Their father on the other hand was sceptical, more at home
with the sober works of Latin antiquity than the Bible.
Niccolò may have taken his writing skills from his mother,
but over divisions on religion he stood with his father and
the Roman historians.

One says of Lorenzo il Magnifico that he ‘came to
power’, but officially Florence was a republic and since
Lorenzo was only twenty years old in 1469 he was far too
young to hold elected office; an explanation is required.
When, in the thirteenth century, the Florentines had
thrown out the noble families who used to run the town,
they introduced a republican constitution of exemplary
idealism. A government of eight priori led by one gonfalo-
niere, or prime minister, would be elected every two
months by drawing tags from a series of bags containing

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xi

Introduction

the names of well- to- do men from different guilds and
different areas of town. This lottery would allow each
major profession and each geographical area to be ade-
quately and constantly represented. Every individual (of a
certain social standing) could expect a brief share of power
in order that no one could ever seize it permanently.

The system was unworkable. Every two months a new
government might take a different position on key issues.
The potential for instability more or less obliged whichever
family was in the ascendant to step in and impose continu-
ity. From 1434 on, the Medicis –  first Cosimo, then Piero,
then Lorenzo –  had been manipulating the electoral pro-
cess to make sure that most of the names in the bags were
friendly to themselves and that all of those actually selected
for government would toe the Medici line. Hence, although
the Florentines still liked to boast that they were free citi-
zens who bowed the knee to no man, by the mid- fifteenth
century they were in fact living in something very close to
a dictatorship. When the rival Pazzi family tried to assas-
sinate Lorenzo in the Duomo in April 1478, it was because
they saw no legitimate way of putting him in his place as
an ordinary citizen. Machiavelli thus grew up in a society
where the distance between how things were actually run
and how they were described as being run could not have
been greater. He was close to his ninth birthday when the
captured Pazzi conspirators, one an archbishop, were hung
upside down from the high windows of the city’s main
government building and left there for weeks to rot. He

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Introduction

would have understood very young the price of getting it
wrong in politics.

The young Machiavelli might also have had reason to
doubt that there was any meaningful difference between
matters of religion and matters of state. The pope had
backed the Pazzi conspiracy, priests had been involved in
the assassination attempt and Lorenzo was excommuni-
cated after it failed; the religious edict was a political tool.
A war between Florence and Rome ensued and the hostility
only ended in 1480 when Turkish raids on the southern
Italian coast prompted a rare moment of unity in the pen-
insula. Years later, Lorenzo would so ingratiate himself
with a new pope as to get his son Giovanni made a cardinal
at age thirteen. From excommunication to pope’s favourite
was quite a change of fortune and once again it was more
a matter of politics than of faith. Nothing, it appeared, was
beyond the reach of wealth and astute negotiation.

At this point Machiavelli was twenty- one. We know very
little of his early adult life, but one thing he definitely did
at least once was to listen to the fiery preacher Girolamo
Savonarola, head of the influential monastery of San
Marco. Savonarola’s was a different kind of Christianity:
rather than the corrupt, pleasure- conscious world of the
papacy, whose decadence had offered no resistance to the
rise of Humanism, this austere monk represented an early
manifestation of what we have come to call fundamental-
ism, a return to the biblical text as the sole authority
on earth and a vision of the Church as embattled and

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xiii

Introduction

defensive in a world increasingly interested in values that
had little to do with the gospel story. With great conviction,
Savonarola preached the virtues of poverty, advocated the
burning of any book or work of art that was impure and
prophesied doom for the sinful Florentines in the form of
a foreign invasion. In 1494 his prophesy came true.

To get any grasp of Machiavelli’s diplomatic career and the
range of reference he draws on in The Prince, one must
have some sense of the complicated political geography
of Italy in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and
of the profound change that occurred in the 1490s, a change
that would determine Italy’s fate for the next 350 years.

For most of the fifteenth century there had been five
major players in the peninsula: the Kingdom of Naples,
the Papal States, Florence, Venice and Milan. Extending
from just south of Rome to the southernmost tip of
Calabria, the Kingdom of Naples was by far the largest.
Wedged in the centre, with only precarious access to the
sea, Florence was the smallest and weakest.

All five powers were in fierce competition for whatever
territory they could take. Having lost much of their over-
seas empire to the Turks, the Venetians were eager to
expand inside the northern Italian plain (Ferrara, Verona,
Brescia) and down the Adriatic coast (Forlì Rimini). Con-
scious of the size and power of a now unified France to
the north, Milan hoped for gains to the south and west
(Genoa) as a counter- weight. Florence simply tried to get

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Introduction

bigger in any way that was convenient. Over the previous
century the Florentines had captured Arezzo, Pisa and
Cortona and wasted huge energies in a series of failed
attempts to conquer Lucca.

Rome’s aim under any pope was always to expand north
and east into Romagna and Emilia, with a view to swal-
lowing up Perugia, Bologna, Rimini and Forlì, a project
that would bring it into conflict with both Venice and Flor-
ence. In the far south, Naples was governed by a branch
of the house of Aragon, but the crown was contested by
the Angevin kings of France and by the Spanish royal fam-
ily (also Aragons) which already ruled Sicily.

So the scenario was complicated. Scattered between the
large states were at least a score of smaller ones, some no
bigger than a town and the surrounding fields, and all con-
stantly under threat of invasion from one enemy or
another. However, if the situation was rarely static, it is
also true that there were few major changes. As soon as
one power achieved some significant military victory, the
others immediately formed an alliance against it to halt its
progress. Florence, in particular, owed its continuing inde-
pendence largely to the fact that if Venice, Milan or Rome
tried to take it, the other two would at once intervene to
prevent this happening. So for more than a hundred years
a certain balance of power had been kept. All this ended
with the French invasion of 1494.

The invasion was, as Machiavelli himself explains in The
Prince, largely the Italians’ own fault. For some time the

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xv

Introduction

five states had been in the habit of frightening each other
with the threat of foreign intervention. During the war
against Rome and Naples in 1480, Florence had invited the
French king to pursue his claim to the throne of Naples
more actively. In 1482, during a Venetian assault on Ferrara,
Florence and Milan had encouraged the Turks to step up
their attacks on Venice’s maritime possessions. Venice had
replied by inviting the Duke of Orleans to pursue his claim
to Milan. In a war against Naples in 1483, Pope Innocent
VIII had reminded the Duke of Lorraine that he too had
a claim to the southern kingdom and invited him to send
troops.

There was an element of bluff and brinkmanship in
these threats, but in 1494 when King Charles VIII of France
accepted Milan’s invitation to make good his claim to the
crown of Naples, the bluff was called. Charles marched
south with an army far larger than any Italians had seen in
living memory. From that moment on, the peninsula would
not be free from foreign intervention until the completion
of the Risorgimento in 1870. Struggling to hold Naples,
the French would invite in the Spanish from Sicily to split
the kingdom with them, and the Spanish, after Charles I
of Spain inherited the crown of the Holy Roman Empire,
would eventually push France back north of the Alps, put
Rome to the sack and dominate Italy for 150 years.

But that is to leap ahead. In 1494, when the French first
marched through Lombardy heading for Naples, Florence
was directly in their path and, what’s more, an ally of

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xvi

Introduction

Naples. At this point Lorenzo il Magnifico had been dead
for two years and the Medici regime was led by his incom-
petent son, Piero. So abject was Piero’s capitulation to
Charles, so spineless his decision simply to surrender the
city’s dependent territories, that the Florentines rebelled
against him. The Medici regime collapsed and very soon
the preacher who had been prophesying this disaster was
made gonfaloniere, first minister, this time on a yearly, rather
than a two- monthly, basis.

Girolamo Savonarola ruled Florence from 1494 to 1498,
during which time the city passed from being one of the
centres of Renaissance Humanism to a book- burning, fun-
damentalist theocracy. Realizing that Savonarola’s claim
to be God’s prophet was a far greater threat to its authority
than any Humanism, scepticism or eclecticism, the Church
in Rome did everything possible to bring about his downfall
and in 1498, having lost much of his support in Florence,
the preacher was convicted of heresy and burned at the
stake. It was shortly after these dramatic events that Nic-
colò Machiavelli succeeded in getting himself elected to
the important positions of Secretary of the Second Chan-
cery (one of two key state departments in Florence) and,
soon afterwards, Secretary of the Ten of War, a committee
that dealt with foreign relations and war preparations.

Machiavelli was twenty- eight. We have no idea how he
arrived at such appointments at this early age. There is no
record of any special experience that would warrant such
confidence in his abilities. But within months he was

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Introduction

travelling to neighbouring states to represent Florence’s
interests, and over the next fourteen years he would be
involved in important, often long- drawn- out missions to
the King of France, the pope, the Holy Roman Emperor,
Cesare Borgia, Caterina Sforza and many others. In
between these missions he was frequently and very actively
engaged in Florence’s ongoing military campaign to re- take
Pisa, which had regained its independence during the
French invasion. Pisa was crucial to Florentine commerce
in that it gave the town an outlet to the sea.

Introductions to The Prince generally play down Machi-
avelli’s abilities as a diplomat, presenting these years as
useful only in so far as they offered him the material he
would draw on for his writing after he had lost his position.
Machiavelli would not have seen things that way. For more
than a decade he was Florence’s top diplomat and proud
to be so, and if the missions he undertook did not produce
spectacular results this was largely because he was repre-
senting the weakest of the main states in Italy in a period
of particular confusion and vulnerability that would even-
tually see four foreign powers militarily involved in the
peninsula: France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and
Switzerland.

Savonarola had taken Florence towards an alliance with
France; the priest’s successors followed the same policy,
but without any clear vision of how the city might achieve
stability and security in the long term. To make matters
worse, having decided in 1502 that their gonfaloniere, or first

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xviii

Introduction

minister, should be elected for life, the Florentines gave the
job to Piero Soderini, an honourable man but chronically
incapable of making any kind of bold decision. Machia-
velli’s diplomatic career was thus mostly taken up in
attempts to persuade surrounding and threatening states
to leave Florence alone and not to expect financial or mili-
tary help from her for their wars elsewhere; that is, as far
as there was a discernible, long- term policy it was one of
prevarication. Far from home, Machiavelli would fre-
quently receive contradictory orders after he had already
started negotiating. Arriving in foreign towns, he would
find that his expense allowance wasn’t sufficient to pay
couriers to take his messages back to Florence. Sometimes
he could barely afford to feed and clothe himself. Such was
the contempt of the more powerful monarchs that he was
often obliged to wait days or even weeks before being
granted an audience.

It is in the light of these frustrations that we have to
understand Machiavelli’s growing obsession, very much in
evidence in The Prince, with the formation of a citizen army.
Florence was weak partly because of its size but mostly
because it had no military forces of its own. It relied on
mercenary armies which were notorious for evaporating
when things got tough, before the gates of Pisa for example.
A power- base built on an efficient and patriotic civilian
army would give a diplomat like Machiavelli a little more
clout and respect when he negotiated. Or so he hoped.

In June of 1502, four years into the job, Machiavelli met

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Introduction

Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI. With his father’s
support, Borgia was carving out a new state for himself
on the northern borders of the Papal States and had just
captured the city of Urbino to the east of Florence. Sent
on a mission to dissuade Borgia from advancing into Flor-
entine territory, Machiavelli was deeply impressed by the
man. Seductive, determined, cunning and ruthless, Borgia
was a leader in the epic mode. Certainly he could hardly
have been more different from the diplomat’s dithering
boss, Soderini.

Machiavelli was on another mission to Borgia in January
1503 when the adventurer invited a group of rebels to nego-
tiations in the coastal town of Senigallia, then had them
seized and murdered as soon as they were inside the town
walls. Here was a man, Machiavelli realized, determined
to take circumstance by the scruff of the neck. It was not
so much Borgia’s willingness to ignore Christian principles
that fascinated him, as his ability to assess a situation rap-
idly, make his calculations, then act decisively in whatever
way would bring the desired result. This modern, positivist
attitude, where thought and analysis serve in so far as they
produce decisive action, rather than abstract concepts, lies
at the heart of The Prince.

Meanwhile Florence continued to drift. Machiavelli was
once again on the scene in 1503, this time in Rome, when
Borgia’s empire collapsed after both he and his father fell
seriously ill; legend has it that Alexander had accidentally
poisoned them both. The pope died and the son lost his

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power- base. Three years later Machiavelli was travelling
with the later Pope Julius at the head of the papal army
when Julius demanded admission to the town of Perugia,
walked in with only a small bodyguard and told the local
tyrant, Giampaolo Baglioni, to get out or face certain
defeat. Sure that Baglioni would simply kill Julius, Machi-
avelli was amazed when the man caved in and fled. Such
were the pope’s coercive powers as he then marched north
to lay siege to Bologna that Florence was once again forced
to enter an alliance and a war in which it had no desire to
be involved.

As Secretary of the Ten of War, Machiavelli enjoyed just
one moment of personal glory, in 1509, when the citizen
army that he had finally been allowed to form overcame
Pisan resistance and took the town after a long siege. Given
the many failed attempts to capture Pisa using mercenary
armies, this victory was a powerful vindication of Machi-
avelli’s conviction that citizen armies were superior. It was
also the only occasion in his fourteen years of service when
Soderini took the initiative with success.

But in every other respect things went from bad to
worse. Florence was living on borrowed time, its freedom
dependent on the whims of others. Three years after the
capture of Pisa, when Pope Julius, now in alliance with the
Spanish, defeated the French at Ravenna, he immediately
sent an army to Florence to impose a return of the Medici
and transform the city into a puppet state dependent on
Rome. After brief resistance, the Florentine army was

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crushed at Prato a few miles to the north of the city.
Soderini escaped and the Medici returned. Machiavelli
was unemployed and unemployable.

The scandalous nature of The Prince was largely deter-
mined by its structure rather than any conscious desire to
shock. Originally entitled On Principalities, the book opens
with an attempt to categorize different kinds of states and
governments at different moments of their development,
then, moving back and forth between ancient and modern
history, to establish some universal principles relative to
the business of taking and holding power in each kind of
state. Given Machiavelli’s experience, wide reading and
determined intellectual honesty, the project obliged him
to explain that there were many occasions when winning
and holding political power was possible only if a leader
was ready to act outside the moral codes that applied to
ordinary individuals. Public opinion was such, he explained,
that, once victory was achieved, nobody was going to put
the winner on trial. Political leaders were above the law.

Had Machiavelli insisted on deploring this unhappy state
of affairs, had he dwelt on other criteria for judging a
leader, aside from his mere ability to stay in power and
build a strong state, had he told us with appropriate piety
that power was hardly worth having if you had to sell your
soul to get it, he could have headed off a great deal of
criticism while still delivering the same information. But
aside from one or two token regrets that the world is not

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a nicer place, Machiavelli does not do this. It wasn’t his
project. Rather he takes it for granted that we already know
that life, particularly political life, is routinely, and some-
times unspeakably, cruel, and that once established in a
position of power a ruler may have no choice but to kill
or be killed.

This is where the words ‘of necessity’, ‘must’ and ‘have
to’ become so ominous. For The Prince is most convincing
and most scandalous not in its famous general statements – 
that the end justifies the means, that men must be pampered
or crushed, that the only sure way of keeping a conquered
territory is to devastate it utterly, and so on –  but in the
many historical examples of barbarous behaviour that
Machiavelli puts before us, without any hand- wringing, as
things that were bound to happen: the Venetians find that
their mercenary leader Carmagnola is not putting much
effort into his fighting any more, but they are afraid that
if they dismiss him he will walk off with the territory he
previously captured for them: ‘at which point the only safe
thing to do was to kill him.’ Hiero of Syracuse, when given
command of his country’s army, finds that they are all
mercenaries and ‘realizing that they could neither make
use of them, nor let them go, he had them all cut to pieces.’

The climax of this approach comes with Machiavelli’s
presentation of the ruthless Cesare Borgia as a model for
any man determined to win a state for himself (as if such
a project were not essentially dissimilar from building a
house or starting a business). Having tamed and unified

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the Romagna with the help of his cruel minister Remirro
de Orco, Machiavelli tells us, Borgia decided to deflect
people’s hatred away from himself by putting the blame
for all atrocities on his minister and then doing away with
him: so ‘he had de Orco beheaded and his corpse put on
display one morning in the piazza in Cesena with a wooden
block and a bloody knife beside. The ferocity of the spec-
tacle left people both gratified and shocked.’

It’s hard not to feel, as we read the chapters on Borgia,
that this is the point where Machiavelli’s book ceases to be
the learned, but fairly tame, On Principalities and is trans-
formed into the extraordinary and disturbing work that
would eventually be called The Prince. In short, Machiavel-
li’s attention has shifted from a methodical analysis of
different political systems to a gripping and personally
engaged account of the psychology of the leader who has
placed himself beyond the constrictions of Christian ethics
and lives in a delirium of pure power. For a diplomat like
Machiavelli, who had spent his life among the powerful
but never really held the knife by the handle, a state
employee so scrupulously honest that when investigated
for embezzlement he ended up being reimbursed monies
that were due to him, it was all too easy to fall into a state
of envy and almost longing when contemplating the awe-
some Borgia who had no qualms about taking anything
that came his way and never dreamed of being honest to
anyone.

At a deep level, then, the scandal of The Prince is

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intimately tied up with the scandal of all writers of fiction
and history who in the quiet of their studies take vicarious
enjoyment in the ruthlessness of the characters they
describe –  but with this difference: Machiavelli systematizes
such behaviour and appears to recommend it, if only to
those few who are committed to winning and holding
political power. The author’s description, in a letter to a
friend, of his state of mind when writing the book makes
it clear what a relief it was, during these months immedi-
ately following his dismissal, imprisonment and torture,
to imagine himself back in the world of politics and, if
only on paper, on a par with history’s great heroes.

Come evening, I walk home and go into my study. In the
passage I take off my ordinary clothes, caked with mud
and slime, and put on my formal palace gowns. Then when
I’m properly dressed I take my place in the courts of the
past where the ancients welcome me kindly and I eat my
fill of the only food that is really mine and that I was born
for. I’m quite at ease talking to them and asking them why
they did the things they did, and they are generous with
their answers. So for four hours at a time I feel no pain, I
forget all my worries, I’m not afraid of poverty and death
doesn’t frighten me. I put myself entirely in their minds.

In so far as The Prince remains a persuasive account of how
political power is won and lost it is so because it eventually
focuses on the mind, or, to be more precise, on the

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interaction of individual and collective psychologies, the
latter fairly predictable, the former infinitely varied, the
two together dangerously volatile. The book is not a care-
ful elaboration of a rigid, predetermined vision. More and
more, as Machiavelli rapidly assesses different kinds of
states and forms of government, different contexts, differ-
ent men and their successes and failures, he runs up against
two factors that defy codification: the role of luck and the
mystery of personality. By the end of the book he is beyond
the stage of offering heroes and success stories as models,
aware that if there is one circumstance that a man cannot
easily change it is his own character: even had he wanted
to, Soderini could not have modelled himself on Borgia,
nor vice versa.

In particular Machiavelli is fascinated by the way certain
personality traits can mesh positively or negatively with
certain sets of historical circumstances. A man can be suc-
cessful in one situation then fail miserably in another; a
policy that works well in one moment is a disaster the next.
Rather than one ideal ruler, then, different men are required
for different situations. The only key to permanent political
success would be always to adapt one’s deepest instincts
to new events, but, as Machiavelli ruefully observes, that
would effectively mean the end of ‘luck’ and the end of
history.

Machiavelli’s own mind was deeply divided during the
writing of The Prince and it is the resulting tension that
accounts for much of the book’s fascination and ambiguity.

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On the one hand, as a form of private therapy, he was
disinterestedly pursuing the truth about power and politics:
to establish how states really were won and lost would give
him an illusion of control and bolster his self- esteem. At
the same time, and perhaps less consciously, he was vicari-
ously enjoying, in the stories of Borgia and others, the sort
of dramatic political achievements that had always been
denied to him. In this regard it’s interesting to see how
rapidly he glosses over Borgia’s abject fall from power, his
arrest, imprisonment and death, almost as if the author
were in denial about his hero’s ultimate fallibility.

Therapeutic as this might have been, however, at another
level The Prince was clearly written for publication and
meant as a public performance. Machiavelli loves to show
off his intelligence, his range of reference, his clever rea-
soning. Even here, though, his intentions were divided and
perhaps contradictory. At his most passionate and focused
he was involved in a debate with all the great historians
and philosophers of the past and determined to show his
contemporaries that his own mind was as sharp as the best.
But in a more practical mood Machiavelli was planning to
use the book as a passport to get himself back into a job:
so evident and compelling, he hoped, would his analytical
skills appear, that the ruler to whom he formally gave and
dedicated the book would necessarily want to employ him;
hence the flattering tone of the opening dedication and
the addition of The Prince’s final patriotic pages proposing

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that the ruler in question should be the man to rid Italy of
foreign oppression.

Who was this ruler? Shortly before Machiavelli had been
released from prison, Pope Julius had died and been
replaced by Giovanni de’ Medici, il Magnifico’s son, the
man who had become a cardinal at thirteen. This was
March 1513. When he started work on The Prince some
months later, Machiavelli had intended to dedicate the
book to Giovanni’s brother, Giuliano, who had been put
in charge of Florence after the Medicis’ return. However,
when the effeminate Giuliano began to move away from
politics and was replaced in Florence by his aggressive,
warlike nephew Lorenzo, Machiavelli decided to switch
the dedication to the younger man.

Thus far the writer showed himself flexible in the face
of changing events. Yet there is something ingenuous and
almost endearing in the clever diplomat’s miscalculation
here. The brilliant reasoning required to convince yourself
that you had got a grip on politics and history, the profound
analysis that would demonstrate to your fellow intellectu-
als that you were as clear- headed as Livy, Tacitus and
Thucydides put together, were not the qualities that a
young and hardly well- read Medici prince was likely to
comprehend, never mind enjoy.

Given the book in 1515, Lorenzo probably never opened
it and certainly didn’t take time to study Machiavelli’s care-
fully crafted reflections. Then, even if he had read it, would

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Introduction

Lorenzo, or indeed any other ruler, have wanted to employ
a diplomat who had gone on record as saying that trickery
was largely the name of the game and that though it wasn’t
important to have a religious faith it was absolutely essen-
tial to appear to have one? Machiavelli should have been
the first to understand that as an instrument for furthering
his diplomatic career, rather than a literary and philosoph-
ical achievement in its own right, the book’s honesty would
be self- defeating: the two goals were never compatible.

Surprised and disappointed by The Prince’s failure, Mach-
iavelli went back to womanizing. Aside from routine
whoring, he fell in and out of love easily, pursuing passion
without discretion or restraint. And just as he had more
luck with romance than diplomacy, he had more success
when he wrote ironic, sex- centred comedies rather than
candid but dangerous political analyses. In 1518 the first
performance of his play The Mandragola, in which a young
man invents the most absurd subterfuges to get a married
woman into bed, won Machiavelli immediate celebrity;
some years later Clizia, which this time has an older man
hell- bent on having his way with a very young woman,
confirmed his talent.

But literary success was not enough for Machiavelli. It
was active politics that interested him, and, though he
laboured for ten years or so on his Discourses on Livy, then
on a long history of Florence and finally on a short work
entitled The Art of War, it was his old job as the city’s prin-
cipal ambassador that he always yearned for. Finally, in

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1525, Pope Clement VII, alias Giulio de’ Medici (Giovanni’s
cousin), drew the ex- diplomat back into politics, asking
him for advice on how to deal with the growing antagon-
ism between the French and the Spanish. As an eventual
clash between the two great powers inside Italy loomed
ever closer, Machiavelli was given the task of overseeing
Florence’s defensive walls. When the crunch came, how-
ever, and the armies of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire,
now united under the same crown, marched south into
Italy, they simply bypassed Florence, went straight to Rome
and sacked it. It was an occasion of the most disgraceful
savagery on a scale Italy had not witnessed for centuries.
In the aftermath, the Medici regime in Florence collapsed
and once again Machiavelli was out of favour. Over-
whelmed with disappointment and in the habit of taking
medicines that weren’t good for him, he died in June 1527,
aged fifty- eight, having accepted, no doubt after careful
calculation, extreme unction.

That there are many different roads to notoriety and that
a man’s achievements may combine with historical events
in unexpected ways, are truths Machiavelli was well aware
of. So he would have appreciated the irony that it was
largely due to Luther’s Protestant reform and the ensuing
wars of religion that his name became the object of the
most implacable vilification and, as a consequence, univer-
sally famous.

The turning point came in 1572. The Prince had not been

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published in Machiavelli’s lifetime. After circulating for
years in manuscript form, then in a printed Latin edition
(still entitled On Principalities), it finally appeared in Italian
in 1532, only to be put on Pope Paul IV’s Index of Prohibited
Books in 1559, this partly in response to the prompting of
the English cardinal Reginald Pole, who maintained that,
written as it was by ‘Satan’s finger’, The Prince was largely
responsible for Henry VIII’s decision to take the English
Church away from Rome.

Meantime, in France, the conflict between the Protest-
ant Huguenots and the Catholics was intensifying and
would reach a head under the reign of the sickly young
Charles IX, who for the most part was controlled by his
mother, the Italian, indeed Florentine, Catherine de’ Med-
ici, daughter of the same Lorenzo de’ Medici to whom
Machiavelli had dedicated The Prince. Catherine had
brought a great many Italian favourites into the French
court, a move guaranteed to arouse anti- Italian feeling. In
general, she sought to dampen down the religious conflict
which threatened to tear France apart, but nevertheless
she would be held responsible for the St Bartholomew’s
Day Massacre of 1572 when thousands of Huguenots were
murdered. One potential victim, Innocent Gentillet,
escaped to Protestant Geneva and wrote a Discours contre
Machiavel that was to set the tone for anti- Machiavellian
criticism for decades to come.

Intended as an attack on Catherine de’ Medici and mili-
tant French Catholicism, and hence a defence of the

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Huguenots, the book described Catherine as a compulsive
reader of Machiavelli and, playing on anti- Italian feeling,
claimed that both queen and writer were representative of
a callous and villainous trait in Italian national character.
Listed out of context, the ideas developed in The Prince
were schematized and simplified, allowing readers to
imagine they had read Machiavelli himself when what they
were actually getting was a travesty that legitimized any
form of brutality and rejoiced in amoral calculation.

From this point on, Machiavelli’s name escaped from
the restricted circle of intellectual reflection and became
a popular term of denigration. ‘Mach Evil’ and ‘Match- a-
villain’ were typical English corruptions, ‘Mitchell Wylie’
a Scottish. Many critics would not bother reading his work
in the original but take their information from Gentillet,
whose ‘ Anti- Machiavel’, as his book became known, was
quickly translated into Latin for English readers and then,
some twenty years later, directly into English. At this point
(the end of the sixteenth century) the first English trans-
lation of Machiavelli’s work was yet to appear.

Ironically, in the years after the St Bartholomew’s Day
Massacre, as Catherine de’ Medici struggled to find some
solution to France’s civil wars, and in particular to convince
Catholics of the need to tolerate the existence of the
Huguenots, if only in Huguenot enclaves, both she and
her supposed mentor Machiavelli once again came under
attack, this time from the Catholic side. The accusation
now was that, in the attempt to avoid conflict, religious

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truths of supreme importance were being subordinated
to questions of political convenience, something that
would eventually transform France, the Catholics feared,
into a secular state.

Here the criticism comes closer to the real spirit of
Machiavelli. Renaissance Humanism in general had shifted
the focus of intellectual reflection from questions of the-
ology and metaphysical truth to matters of immediate and
practical human interest. In general, however, lip service
had always been paid to the ultimate superiority of reli-
gious matters and writers had avoided suggesting that there
might be a profound incompatibility between rival value
systems: it was perfectly possible, that is, to be a good Chris-
tian and an effective political leader.

Machiavelli, on the contrary, made it clear that, as he
saw it, Christian principles and effective political leadership
were not always compatible; situations would arise where
one was bound to choose between the two. It was not,
as his critics claimed, that he rejected all ethical values
outright; the strength, unity and independence of a people
and state certainly constituted goals worth fighting
for (‘I love my country more than my soul’, Machiavelli
declared in a letter to fellow historian Francesco Guicciar-
dini). But such goals could not always be achieved without
abandoning Christian principles; two value- systems were
at loggerheads. To make matters worse, Machiavelli did
not appear to be concerned about this. He took it as an
evident truth: Christian principles were admirable, but not

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applicable for politicians in certain circumstances; the idea
that all human behaviour could be assessed in relation to
one set of values was naive and utopian. It was in so far as
Machiavelli allowed these dangerous implications to sur-
face in his writing that he both unmasked, and himself
became identified with, what we might call the unaccept-
able face of Renaissance Humanism.

How much the presentation of the Machiavellian villain
in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, from Kyd and Marlowe,
through to Middleton, Shakespeare and ultimately Ben
Jonson, owed to Gentillet’s ‘ Anti- Machiavel’ and how much
to a direct knowledge of Machiavelli’s writings is still a
matter of academic dispute. In the 1580s an Italian version
of The Prince was printed in England, avoiding a publication
ban by claiming falsely on the frontispiece that it was
printed in Italy. Many educated English people at the time
had a good knowledge of Italian. Sir Francis Bacon had
certainly read The Prince before its first legal publication in
English in 1640, defending the Florentine in the Advancement
of Learning (1605) with the remark: ‘We are much beholden
to Machiavel and others, that write what men do and not
what they ought to do.’

But the ‘murderous Machiavel’ who gets more than
400 mentions in Elizabethan drama, thus making the Flor-
entine’s name synonymous with the idea of villainy for
centuries to come, is another matter. The Roman author
Seneca had long ago established a tradition in tragic drama
that featured an evil, calculating tyrant who would stop at

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nothing to grasp all the power he could. Renaissance Italian
theatre had updated this type of villain with elements from
Machiavelli, transforming the character into an unscrupu-
lous courtier who takes pleasure in wicked calculation and
cruelty. It was from this model that the English theatre
developed its endless mani festations of the devious rogue
(pander, miser, or revengeful cuckold) who administers
poisons with aplomb and is never without a dagger
beneath his cloak.

From the point of view of the dramatist, an unscrupu-
lous character who has a secret agenda and relies on his
presumed intellectual superiority to dupe those around
him is obviously an exciting proposition. Such a figure can
be depended upon to create tension, keep the plot moving
and allow for resolutions where the larger group’s benign
order once again imposes itself after the tragic disturbance
caused by the wicked, scheming individual. Beyond a super-
ficial repulsion that the audience feels towards such a
character, be it Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, Webster’s Flami-
neo in The White Devil, or Shakespeare’s Iago, there is also
an undercurrent of excitement at the thought that it might
be possible to take life entirely into one’s hands, manipulate
people and circumstances at will and generally pursue one’s
selfish goals without a thought for moral codes or eternal
damnation: in this sense the Machiavellian villain looks
ahead to the worst of modern individualism.

Then there was also, of course, the contrasting pleasure
of seeing the clever schemer ‘hoist with his own petard’.

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As the years passed and the high tension of Jacobean tra-
gedy relaxed into the comedies of Ben Jonson and his
contemporaries, the evil Machiavel became a pathetic fail-
ure whose complacently wicked designs inevitably and
reassuringly led to his making a fool of himself. Fading out
of British drama in the mid- seventeenth century, this stock
figure is still resurrected from time to time, most recently
and hilariously in Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder, a charac-
ter who adds a visceral cowardice to the already long list
of Machiavel’s vices.

To a great extent, no doubt, it was this identification of
Machiavelli’s name with everything that was evil which
kept The Prince in print and guaranteed that, despite the
papal ban, it would be widely read. But there was more.
As medieval Christianity and scholasticism sank into the
past and science and reason made their slow, often unwel-
come advances, as Europe got used to religious schism and
competing versions of the truth, the overriding question
for any modern ruler inevitably became: how can I con-
vince people that I have a legitimate, reasonable right to
hold power and to govern? In England Charles Stuart
would insist on the notion that kings had a divine right,
this at a time when so many English monarchs had seized
their crowns by force and cunning. Curiously enough,
Charles’s great antagonist Cromwell felt that he too had
a  direct line to God and legitimacy, but through belief
and piety rather than family and inheritance. Officially a
parliamentarian, Cromwell frequently governed without

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parliament or elections for fear the people might not see
things God’s way.

Meantime, across Europe, the princes and princesses of
ancient noble families took to marrying and remarrying
each other in an ever- thickening web of defensive alliances,
as if density of blood and lineage might offer protection
against the threat of usurpers or, worse still, republicanism
and democracy. No family was more practised at this
upmarket dating game than the Medici, who, partly thanks
to an extraordinary network of connections, would hang
on in Florence in a client- state twilight lasting more than
200 undistinguished years. Meantime, from Paris to Madrid
to Naples, the court clothes became finer, the statues and
monuments more pompous and the whole royal charade
more colourful and more solemn, as though people might
somehow be dazzled into believing that a king or a duke
really did have a right to rule. Many prestigious works of
art were commissioned with precisely this idea in mind.

But most of all Europe’s rulers worked hard to put a
halo round their crowned heads, to appear religious and
at all costs to uphold the Faith, sensing that this too would
bolster their position and draw attention away from the
mystery of their privileges. Later still, particularly after
the French Revolution had destroyed any illusions about
the rights of monarchs, the rather desperate card of
‘respectability’ was played. Members of court, Napoleon
ordered, shortly after usurping power, must attend soirées
with their wives, to appear respectable and avoid gossip.

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‘The death of conversation’, Talleyrand opined. Certainly,
when a leader has to rely on appearing respectable to claim
legitimacy, he is on thin ice indeed.

To this long- drawn- out conspiracy of pomp and pious
circumstance, Machiavelli’s little book was a constant
threat. It reminded people that power is always up for
grabs, always a question of what can be taken by force or
treachery, and always, despite all protests to the contrary,
the prime concern of any ruler. In their attempt to dis-
credit The Prince, both religious and state authorities played
up the author’s admiration for the ruthless Borgia, and
never mentioned his perception that in the long run a ruler
must avoid being hated by his people and must always put
their interests before those of the aristocracy; the people
are so many, Machiavelli reflected, that power ultimately
lies with them.

Liberal and left- wing thinkers were not slow to pick up
on this aspect of the book. As Rousseau saw it, the whole
of The Prince was itself a Machiavellian ruse: the author
had only pretended to give lessons to kings whereas in fact
his real aim was to teach people to be free by showing them
that royal power was no more than subterfuge. Both Spi-
noza and, later, the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo saw it the
same way: The Prince was a cautionary tale about how
power really worked, the underlying intention being to
deprive those who held it of dignity and glamour and teach
the people as a whole how to resist it; Machiavelli after all
declared himself a republican and a libertarian. The

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Introduction

communist leader Antonio Gramsci would even see The
Prince as looking forward to the dictatorship of the
proletariat.

Others took a more traditional view: Bertrand Russell
described The Prince as ‘a handbook for gangsters’, and in
so doing did no more than repeat the position of Frederick
the Great, who wrote a book to refute Machiavelli and
present a more idealistic vision of monarchical govern-
ment. Others again ( Jakob Burckhardt and Friedrich
Meinecke) found a space between denigration and admir-
ation to suggest that the novelty of Machiavelli was to
present leadership and nation- building as creative processes
that should be judged not morally but aesthetically; in a
manner that looked forward to Nietzsche the charismatic
leader made a work of art of himself and his government.
Mussolini simply took the book at face value: it was a useful
‘vade mecum for statesmen’, he enthused.

But whatever our interpretation of his intentions, one
reaction that Machiavelli never seems to provoke is indif-
ference. Reading The Prince it is impossible not to engage
with the disturbing notion that politics cannot be governed
by the ethical codes that most of us seek to observe in our
ordinary lives. And however we react to this idea, once we
have closed the book it will be very hard to go on thinking
of our own leaders in quite the same way as we did before.

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Translator’s Note

Translations have a way of gathering dust. This isn’t true
of an original text. When we read Chaucer or Shakespeare
we may need a gloss, or in the case of Chaucer a modern
translation, but we only look at these things so that we can
then enjoy the work as it was first written. And we’re struck
by its immediacy and freshness, as if we had been able to
learn a foreign language in a very short space of time with
little effort and maximum reward.

This is not the case with an old translation. If we read
Pope’s translation of Homer today, we read it because we
want to read Pope, not Homer. Linguistically, the transla-
tion draws our attention more to the language and poetry
of our eighteenth century than to Homer or ancient
Greece.

So to attempt a new translation of Machiavelli is not to
dismiss previous translations as poor. We are just acknowl-
edging that these older versions now draw attention to
themselves as moments in the English language. My efforts
of course will some day meet the same fate. Such distrac-
tions are particularly unfortunate with Machiavelli, who
insisted that he was only interested in style in so far as it
could deliver content without frills or distraction. ‘I haven’t

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Translator’s Note

prettified the book,’ he tells us, ‘or padded it out with long
sentences or pompous, pretentious words, or any of the
irrelevant flourishes and attractions so many writers use;
I didn’t want it to please for anything but the range and
seriousness of its subject matter.’

I have taken that statement of intention as my guide in
this translation, attempting wherever possible to free the
text from the archaisms and corrosive quaintness of older
English versions, to get to the essential meaning of the
original and deliver it, as we say today, but perhaps not
tomorrow, straight.

It isn’t easy. The first problem, and one that sets up all
the others, is already there in the title: The Prince. What is
a prince for Machiavelli? Well, a duke is a prince. The pope
is a prince. A Roman emperor is a prince. The King of
France is a prince. The Lord of Imola is a prince.

This won’t work in modern English. The English have
Prince Charles. And the thing about Prince Charles is that
he is not King Charles and probably never will be. And
even if he were king he would wield no real power, not
even the kind of power the pope wields, and we never think
of the pope as a king or prince.

The only other idea we have of ‘the prince’, in English,
is Prince Charming. This concept is a long way from the
ageing Prince Charles and even further from the kind of
prince Machiavelli was talking about. Machiavelli’s word
‘prince’ does not mean ‘the son of the king’, and even less
‘an attractive young suitor’. Machiavelli’s ‘principe’ refers

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Translator’s Note

generically to men of power, men who rule a state. The
prince is the first, or principal, man.

So the translator is tempted to use the word ‘king’. At
least in the past a king stood at the apex of a hierarchical
system, he was the man who mattered. But it is difficult,
translating Machiavelli, to use the word ‘king’ to refer to
the lord of Imola, or a pope, or a Roman emperor. In the
end, as far as possible, I have resolved this problem by using
the rather unattractive word ‘ruler’, or even the more gen-
eric ‘leader’, though always making it clear that we’re
talking about the political leader of a state. The book’s
famous title, however, must be left as it is.

Even harder to solve is the translation of ‘virtù’, together
with a number of other words that cluster round it. It
would be so easy to write the English cognate ‘virtue’,
meaning the opposite of vice, but this is not what Machi-
avelli was talking about. He was not interested in the
polarity ‘good’/‘evil’, but in winning and losing, strength
and weakness, success and failure. For Machiavelli ‘virtù’
was any quality of character that enabled you to take pol-
itical power or to hold on to it; in short, a winning trait. It
could be courage in battle, or strength of personality, or
political cunning, or it might even be the kind of ruthless
cruelty that lets your subjects know you mean business.
But one can hardly write ‘cunning’ or ‘cruelty’ for ‘virtù’,
even if one knows that in this context that is what the text
means; because then you would lose the sense that
although Machiavelli is not talking about the moral virtues

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Translator’s Note

he nevertheless wants to give a positive connotation to the
particular qualities he is talking about: this cruelty is aimed
at solving problems, retaining power, keeping a state
strong, hence, in this context it is a ‘virtù’.

Ugly though it may sound, then, I have sometimes been
obliged to translate ‘virtù’ as ‘positive qualities’ or ‘strength
of character’, except of course on those occasions –  because
there are some –  when Machiavelli does mean ‘virtues’
in the moral sense: in which case he’s usually talking
about the importance of faking them even if you may not
have them. Faking, of course, when cunningly deployed
for an appropriate end, is another important virtù. The spin
doctor was not a notion invented in the 1990s.

Related to both these particular problems  –  prince,
virtue –  is the more general difficulty that so many of the
key words Machiavelli uses have English cognates through
Latin –  for tuna, audace, circospetto, malignità, diligente, etc.
In some cases they are true cognates –  prudente/prudent,
for example –  but even then to use the cognate pulls us
back to a rather dusty, archaic style. Aren’t the words ‘care-
ful’ or ‘cautious’ or ‘considered’ more often used now than
the word ‘prudent’?

Something of the same difficulty can occur where there
is no cognate in English but a traditional and consolidated
dictionary equivalent for an old Italian term. Machiavelli
frequently uses the word ‘savio’, which has usually been
translated ‘wise’, but again this invites the English version

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Translator’s Note

to drift towards that slightly stilted archaic style so often
used to render great texts from the past; ‘sensible’ or on
other occasions ‘shrewd’ are choices that, depending on
the context, can combine accuracy with a prose that draws
less attention to itself as a translation.

So the constantly recurring question as one translates
The Prince is: what words would we use today to describe
the qualities and situations Machiavelli is talking about?
Of course sometimes there are no modern words, because
there are certain things –  siege engines, cavalry attacks –  that
we don’t talk about any more. On the whole, though,
Machiavelli is chiefly interested in psychology or, rather, in
the interaction of different personalities in crisis situations,
and here, so long as the translator avoids the temptation
to introduce misleading contemporary jargon, a great deal
can be done to get The Prince into clear, contemporary
English.

However, the difficulty of these lexical choices is infin-
itely compounded by Machiavelli’s wayward grammar and
extremely flexible syntax. Written in 1513, The Prince is not
easily comprehensible to Italians today. Recent editions of
the work are usually parallel texts with a modern Italian
translation printed beside the original. The obstacle for the
Italian reader, however, is hardly lexical at all –  in the end
he can understand a good ninety per cent of the words
Machiavelli is using –  rather it has to do with a combination
of extreme compression of thought, obsolete, sometimes

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Translator’s Note

erratic grammar, and, above all, a syntax where subordin-
ate and pre- modifying clauses abound in ways that the
modern reader is not used to.

We are not talking here about those complex but always
elegant Ciceronian sentences so admired and frequently
mimicked by the English Augustans. Machiavelli has a
more spoken, flexible, persuading, sometimes brusque
voice, and to get that tone in English one has to opt for a
syntax that is quite different from the original Italian. In
particular, the sequence with which information is deliv-
ered within the sentence frequently has to be reorganized.
Here, to give the reader a sense of what he can expect, are
three versions of the same paragraph, the last being my
own. I haven’t chosen anything especially complex; it’s a
fairly ordinary passage in which, as so often, Machiavelli
poses a situation, then considers possible responses to it
and the consequences of each response. The first transla-
tion is from W. K. Marriot and was published in 1908.

A prince is also respected when he is either a true friend
or a downright enemy, that is to say, when, without any
reservation, he declares himself in favour of one party
against the other; which course will always be more advan-
tageous than standing neutral; because if two of your
powerful neighbours come to blows, they are of such a
character that, if one of them conquers, you have either
to fear him or not. In either case it will always be more
advantageous for you to declare yourself and to make war

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xlv

Translator’s Note

strenuously; because, in the first case, if you do not declare
yourself, you will invariably fall a prey to the conqueror,
to the pleasure and satisfaction of him who has been con-
quered, and you will have no reasons to offer, nor anything
to protect or to shelter you. Because he who conquers does
not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time
of trial; and he who loses will not harbour you because
you did not willingly, sword in hand, court his fate.

The second is from George Bull, published in 1961.

A prince also wins prestige for being a true friend or a
true enemy, that is, for revealing himself without any
reservation in favour of one side against another. This pol-
icy is always more advantageous than neutrality. For
instance, if the powers neighbouring on you come to
blows, either they are such that, if one of them conquers,
you will be in danger, or they are not. In either case it will
always be to your advantage to declare yourself and to
wage a vigorous war; because, in the first case, if you do
not declare yourself you will always be at the mercy of the
conqueror, much to the pleasure and satisfaction of the one
who has been beaten, and you will have no justification
nor any way to obtain protection or refuge. The conqueror
does not want doubtful friends who do not help him when
he is in difficulties; the loser repudiates you because you
were unwilling to go, arms in hand, and throw in your
lot with him.

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Translator’s Note

And here is my own.

A ruler will also be respected when he is a genuine friend
and a genuine enemy, that is, when he declares himself
unambiguously for one side and against the other. This
policy will always bring better results than neutrality. For
example, if you have two powerful neighbours who go to
war, you may or may not have reason to fear the winner
afterwards. Either way it will always be better to take sides
and fight hard. If you do have cause to fear but stay neutral,
you’ll still be gobbled up by the winner to the amusement
and satisfaction of the loser; you’ll have no excuses, no
defence and nowhere to hide. Because a winner doesn’t
want half- hearted friends who don’t help him in a crisis;
and the loser will have nothing to do with you since you
didn’t choose to fight alongside him and share his fate.

A typically tricky moment in this passage comes when
Machiavelli says of these neighbouring powers:

. . . o sono di qualità che, vincendo uno di quelli, tu abbia
a temere del vincitore, o no.

Literally:

. . . either they are of qualities that, winning one of those,
you ought to fear the winner, or not.

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Translator’s Note

Here Marriot gives:

. . . they are of such a character that, if one of them con-
quers, you have either to fear him or not.

And Bull:

. . . either they are such that, if one of them conquers, you
will be in danger, or they are not.

Here it’s clear that Bull is closer to modern prose, yet
one still feels that nobody writing down this idea today
in English would introduce the second part of Machiavelli’s
alternative as Bull does by tagging that ‘or they are not’ on
to the end of the sentence after the introduction of an ‘if ’
clause. If we follow Bull’s general structure but move
the alternative forward  –  thus, ‘either they are or they
aren’t such that if one of them conquers, you will be in
danger’ –  the sentence gains in fluency. In the end, however,
the simplest solution seemed to me to shift the alternative
aspect towards the verb ‘fear’ and away from a description
of the two states; this leaves the sense of the sentence intact
and allows us to get closer to the original’s telegraphic
delivery.

. . . you may or may not have reason to fear the winner
afterwards.

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Translator’s Note

Let me say at this point that I have the greatest respect
for both these earlier translations and indeed various
others. I owe a lot to them, because, although I have always
translated directly from the original, I have then gone
to these and to the modern Italian translations to see
where they disagree and to mull over what I can learn from
them. The original text is such that on occasion all four
of the translations I have been looking at, two English and
two Italian, offer different interpretations. In these cases
one really must attune oneself to Machiavelli’s mental pro-
cesses, his insistence on logic, reason and deduction, and
remember that every clause, if not every word, is there for
a purpose.

Here is a small example. Having stated that rulers must
at all costs avoid being hated by their subjects, and that
such hatred is almost always the cause of a leader’s down-
fall, Machiavelli foresees that some people will object that
this wasn’t the case with many Roman emperors who
either held on to power despite being hated by the people,
or lost it despite being loved. ‘To meet these objections’,
he tells us, ‘I shall consider the qualities of some of these
emperors, showing how the causes of their downfall are
not at all out of line with my reasoning above.’ So far so
good, but this sentence then ends:

. . . e parte metterò in considerazione quelle cose che sono
notabili a chi legge le azioni di quelli tempi.

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Translator’s Note

Translating word for word, this gives:

. . . and part I will put in consideration those things that
are important to people who read the events of those times.

What is this about? Why did Machiavelli feel the need to
add these words to a sentence that already seems clear
enough. Bull offers:

. . . I shall submit for consideration examples which are
well known to students of the period.

This may sound sensible and vaguely academic, but it
simply isn’t accurate: the word ‘parte’ has gone; to ‘submit
for consideration’ may be a standard English formula, but
does it mean the same as Machiavelli’s actually rather
unusual ‘put in consideration’? ‘Notabile’ doesn’t so much
mean ‘well known’ as ‘worthy of note’ or ‘important’. Mar-
riot gives:

. . . at the same time I will only submit for consideration
those things that are noteworthy to him who studies the
affairs of those times.

Again we have the standard ‘submit for consideration’,
while ‘at the same time’ and ‘only’ are both translator’s
additions. It now sounds as if Machiavelli is reassuring us

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l

Translator’s Note

that he will only look at examples that are relevant, but
this sort of defensiveness is not the author’s way. Why
would the reader have suspected him of introducing irrele-
vant examples?

One modern Italian translation gives: ‘e in parte indi-
cherò quei fatti che sono important per chi si interessa alla
storia di quei tempi.’ Literally: ‘and in part I will indicate
those facts that are important for people interested in the
history of those times.’

This is now extremely close to our literal translation of
Machiavelli’s original but still not particularly helpful.
What is the author getting at? What does the phrase add
to what has already been said?

Another Italian translation gives: ‘nello stesso tempo
indicherò i fatti che devono essere messi in evidenza da chi
si interessa alla storia di quei tempi.’ Literally: ‘at the same
time I will indicate the facts that must be put in evidence
by people interested in the history of those times.’

Despite the fact that ‘parte’ has once again been mysteri-
ously transformed into ‘at the same time’ –  a classic filler
when a translator is lost –  an idea at last emerges: that there
are facts that people interested in those times ‘must put in
evidence’, and the implication is that without these facts
we won’t understand what has to be understood if we are
to be persuaded by the author’s argument.

At this point the translator tries to enter Machiavelli’s
reasoning, reassured by the knowledge that here we have
an author who always put sense and clarity before anything

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Translator’s Note

else. Machiavelli, remember, is facing objections from
people who claim that the question of whether a ruler’s
people do or do not hate him is not the crucial criterion
when it comes to considering whether that leader will sur-
vive. Those objections, what’s more, are based on the lives
of certain Roman emperors. What Machiavelli is going
to  show in the following paragraphs is that the nature
of power and political institutions in the Roman empire
was profoundly different from that in a modern (early
sixteenth- century) state, the key difference being the exist-
ence, in Roman times, of a strong standing army that, for
safety’s sake, a leader had to satisfy before satisfying the
people and that could often only be kept happy by allowing
it to treat the people very harshly, stealing and raping at
will. What this little clause appears to be doing, then, is
preparing us for Machiavelli’s approach to answering the
objection that has been raised: it is a question, he is going
to tell us, of understanding a different historical context.

The word ‘parte’ could be short for ‘a parte’ (apart, sep-
arately) or ‘in parte’ (in part), as both the Italian translations
take it. Now perhaps we can read the sentence as a whole
thus:

To meet these objections, I shall consider the qualities of
some of these emperors, showing how the causes of their
downfall are not at all out of line with my reasoning above,
and bringing into the argument some of the context that
historians of the period consider important.

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Translator’s Note

The original ‘mettere in considerazione’ (‘put in consider-
ation’) is used only once in the whole of The Prince (having
the text in electronic form is a huge help to the translator),
hence the decision not to translate with a standard formula
such as ‘submit for consideration’, but to give a more pre-
cise sense to the words with the expression ‘bringing into
the argument’: Machiavelli is advising us that for these
particular examples he will have to fill in a different context.
The idea of ‘parte’ I have understood as ‘in part’, and then
for the sake of fluency rendered it with ‘some’: the author
can’t bring in all the context, but some of it.

One has no way of knowing whether this is exactly what
Machiavelli meant, but the sentence now gives an internal
cohesion to the passage that was lacking in other versions.
And if we return to our word- for- word translation of the
original – ‘and part I will put in consideration those things
that are important to people who read the events of those
times’ –  we see that it can indeed be read in the way we
have chosen to render it.

One particularly pernicious problem a translator faces as
he grapples with The Prince is the book’s reputation. Machi-
avelli is a scandal, every schoolboy knows, because he puts
the ends before the means to the point of condoning acts
of violence, cruelty and betrayal, something Christian and
modern western ethics consider unacceptable: we don’t
condone a brutal killing just because it puts an end to a
riot and we are no longer at ease with the idea of torture,

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Translator’s Note

even when it might prevent a terrorist atrocity. The climax
of this scandal comes with the author’s discussion of
Cesare Borgia, a man who rose to power and kept it with
the use of extraordinary treachery and cruelty. The temp-
tation for the translator is to play to the reputation of the
book, underlining Machiavelli’s extreme views and making
sure the text doesn’t ‘disappoint’, even when its tone and
subtlety are not, perhaps, exactly what readers were
expecting.

At the end of the discussion of Borgia, having recounted
how he eventually lost power when his father, Pope Alex-
ander, suddenly and unexpectedly died and a pope hostile
to Borgia was elected, Machiavelli writes: ‘Raccolte io
adunque tutte le azioni del duca, non saprei riprenderlo.’
Literally, we have: ‘Having gathered then all the actions of
the duke, I would not know how to reproach him.’

Bull gives: ‘So having summed up all that the duke did,
I cannot possibly censure him.’ Here the word ‘censure’
has a strong moral connotation, and the statement is made
stronger still by the introduction of ‘can’t possibly’, which
seems a heavy interpretation of the standard Italian for-
mula ‘I wouldn’t know how to’. In Bull’s version it seems
that Machiavelli is making a point of telling us that he has
no moral objections to anything Cesare Borgia did, this in
line with the author’s reputation for cynicism.

Marriot more cautiously gives: ‘When all the actions of
the duke are recalled, I do not know how to blame him’,
and both Italian translations take the same line. The fact

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Translator’s Note

is that just as the word ‘virtù is rarely used in a strictly moral
context, so the word ‘riprendere’, ‘reproach’, refers not to
moral behaviour, but to the question: did the duke get
something wrong, did he make a mistake? A key to reading
the word comes at the opening to the next paragraph
where we have: ‘Solamente si può accusarlo nella creazione
di Iulio pontefice, nella quale lui ebbe mala elezione’,
which, more or less literally, gives us: ‘The only thing Bor-
gia can be accused of is his role in the election of Pope
Julius, where he made a bad choice’ (that is, as far as his
own interests were concerned, he backed the wrong man).

Here we approach the subtler scandal of Machiavelli’s
text: it is not that the author is insisting that Borgia’s
immoral acts should not be censured, rather that Machi-
avelli is just not interested in discussing the moral aspect
of the question at all, or not from a Christian point of view.
For him it is a case of shrewd or mistaken choices, not of
good or evil. When he proposes Borgia as a model, neither
morality nor immorality come into it, only the fact that
this man knew how to win power and hold it and build a
strong state.

Finally, one can’t help noticing a certain Victorian bashful-
ness in previous translations. Machiavelli was a notorious
womanizer and in writing The Prince he believed he was
addressing an audience of men who had no worries about
political correctness. When he says ‘la fortuna è donna, et
è necessario, volendola tenere sotto, batterla et urtarla’ – 

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Translator’s Note

literally: ‘fortune is woman and it is necessary wanting to
keep her underneath to beat her and shove her’ –  there is
an obvious sexual reference. The phrase comes in the last
paragraph of The Prince proper (the closing exhortation is
very much a piece apart) and Machiavelli wants to go out
on a strong but, as he no doubt saw it, witty note.

Here is Marriot’s version of the whole last paragraph:

I conclude, therefore, that fortune being changeful and
mankind steadfast in their ways, so long as the two are in
agreement men are successful, but unsuccessful when they
fall out. For my part I consider that it is better to be adven-
turous than cautious, because fortune is a woman, and if
you wish to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill- use
her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered
by the adventurous rather than by those who go to work
more coldly. She is, therefore, always, woman- like, a lover
of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent,
and with more audacity command her.

And Bull’s:

I conclude, therefore, that as fortune is changeable whereas
men are obstinate in their ways, men prosper so long as
fortune and policy are in accord, and where there is a clash
they fail. I hold strongly to this: that it is better to be impetu-
ous than circumspect; because fortune is a woman and if
she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce

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Translator’s Note

her. Experience shows that she is more often subdued by
men who do this than by those who act coldly. Always,
being a woman, she favours young men, because they are
less circumspect and more ardent, and because they com-
mand her with greater audacity.

I hope I am getting closer to the spirit of the thing and, for
better or worse, the kind of man Machiavelli was, offering
this:

To conclude then: fortune varies but men go on regardless.
When their approach suits the times they’re successful, and
when it doesn’t they’re not. My opinion on the matter is
this: it’s better to be impulsive than cautious; fortune is
female and if you want to stay on top of her you have to
slap and thrust. You’ll see she’s more likely to yield that way
than to men who go about her coldly. And being a woman
she likes her men young, because they’re not so cagey,
they’re wilder and more daring when they master her.

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DUCHY OF

SAVOY

KINGDOM OF

NAPLES

0 100 Miles

0 150 Km50 100

50

Rome

Naples

Messina

KINGDOM OF
SICILY

T y r r h e n i a n

S e a

KINGDOM OF
SARDINIA

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Bologna

Padua

Venice

Florence

PAPAL

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Milan

DUCHY OF
MILAN

REPUBLIC
OF SIENA

A d r i a t i c

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EMPIRE

Turin

Siena

Perugia

Magione

Urbino

Ancona

Senigallia
Pesaro

Rimini
Cesena

Ravenna

Prato
LuccaPisa

DUCHY OF
MODENA

AquileiaVerona

Parma

Caravaggio

DUCHY
OF MANTUA

DUCHY OF
FERRARA

KINGDOM OF
HUNGARY

REPUBLIC OF
FLORENCE

REP. OF
LUCCA

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Italy in 1500

Boundary of the
Holy Roman Empire

Forli

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T H E P R I N C E

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 1 28/05/2015 14:14

.

Letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici

People trying to attract the good will of a sovereign usually
offer him something they care a lot about themselves, or
something they’ve seen he particularly likes. So rulers are
always being given horses, arms, gold brocades, jewels and
whatever finery seems appropriate. Eager myself to bring
Your Highness some token of my loyalty, I realized there was
nothing more precious or important to me than my know-
ledge of great men and their doings, a knowledge gained
through long experience of contemporary affairs and a con-
stant study of ancient history. Having thought over all I’ve
learned, and analysed it with the utmost care, I’ve written
everything down in a short book that I am now sending to
Your Highness.

And though this gift is no doubt unworthy of you, I feel
sure the experience it contains will make it welcome,
especially when you think that I could hardly offer anything
better than the chance to grasp in a few hours what I have
discovered and assimilated over many years of danger and
discomfort. I haven’t prettified the book or padded it out with
long sentences or pompous, pretentious words, or any of the
irrelevant flourishes and attractions so many writers use; I
didn’t want it to please for anything but the range and serious-
ness of its subject matter. Nor, I hope, will you think it
presumptuous that a man of low, really the lowest, station
should set out to discuss the way princes ought to govern

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 2 28/05/2015 14:14

.

Letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici

People trying to attract the good will of a sovereign usually
offer him something they care a lot about themselves, or
something they’ve seen he particularly likes. So rulers are
always being given horses, arms, gold brocades, jewels and
whatever finery seems appropriate. Eager myself to bring
Your Highness some token of my loyalty, I realized there was
nothing more precious or important to me than my know-
ledge of great men and their doings, a knowledge gained
through long experience of contemporary affairs and a con-
stant study of ancient history. Having thought over all I’ve
learned, and analysed it with the utmost care, I’ve written
everything down in a short book that I am now sending to
Your Highness.

And though this gift is no doubt unworthy of you, I feel
sure the experience it contains will make it welcome,
especially when you think that I could hardly offer anything
better than the chance to grasp in a few hours what I have
discovered and assimilated over many years of danger and
discomfort. I haven’t prettified the book or padded it out with
long sentences or pompous, pretentious words, or any of the
irrelevant flourishes and attractions so many writers use; I
didn’t want it to please for anything but the range and serious-
ness of its subject matter. Nor, I hope, will you think it
presumptuous that a man of low, really the lowest, station
should set out to discuss the way princes ought to govern

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 3 28/05/2015 14:14

4 t h e p r i n c e

their peoples. Just as artists who draw landscapes get down
in the valley to study the mountains and go up to the moun-
tains to look down on the valley, so one has to be a prince to
get to know the character of a people and a man of the people
to know the character of a prince.

Your Highness, please take this small gift in the spirit in
which it is given. Study it carefully and you will find that my
most earnest wish is that you should achieve the greatness
that your status and qualities promise. Then if, from the high
peak of your position, you ever look down on those far below,
you will see how very ungenerously and unfairly life continues
to treat me.

1

Different kinds of states and how
to conquer them

All states and governments that ever ruled over men have
been either republics or monarchies. Monarchies may be
hereditary, if the ruler’s family has governed for gener-
ations, or new. New monarchies can either be entirely new,
as when Francesco Sforza captured Milan, or they could be
territories a ruler has added to his existing hereditary state
by conquest, as when the King of Spain took Naples. An
additional territory won by conquest will be accustomed
either to living under a monarch or to the freedom of self-
government and may be conquered by the new ruler’s own
army or that of a third party, by luck or deservedly.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 4 28/05/2015 14:14

4 t h e p r i n c e

their peoples. Just as artists who draw landscapes get down
in the valley to study the mountains and go up to the moun-
tains to look down on the valley, so one has to be a prince to
get to know the character of a people and a man of the people
to know the character of a prince.

Your Highness, please take this small gift in the spirit in
which it is given. Study it carefully and you will find that my
most earnest wish is that you should achieve the greatness
that your status and qualities promise. Then if, from the high
peak of your position, you ever look down on those far below,
you will see how very ungenerously and unfairly life continues
to treat me.

1

Different kinds of states and how
to conquer them

All states and governments that ever ruled over men have
been either republics or monarchies. Monarchies may be
hereditary, if the ruler’s family has governed for gener-
ations, or new. New monarchies can either be entirely new,
as when Francesco Sforza captured Milan, or they could be
territories a ruler has added to his existing hereditary state
by conquest, as when the King of Spain took Naples. An
additional territory won by conquest will be accustomed
either to living under a monarch or to the freedom of self-
government and may be conquered by the new ruler’s own
army or that of a third party, by luck or deservedly.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 5 28/05/2015 14:14

2

Hereditary monarchies

I won’t be considering republics since I’ve written about them
at length elsewhere. Instead I’ll concentrate on monarchies,
taking the situations mentioned above and discussing how
each kind of state can best be governed and held.

So I’ll begin by noting that hereditary monarchies where
people have long been used to the ruler’s family are far easier
to hold than new ones; all a monarch need do is avoid
upsetting the order established by his predecessors, trim
policies to circumstances when there is trouble, and, assum-
ing he is of average ability, he will keep his kingdom for life.
Only extraordinary and overwhelming force will be able to
take it off him and even then he’ll win it back as soon as the
occupying power runs into trouble.

An example of this situation in Italy is the Duchy of Ferrara.
In 1484 and 1510 the Duchy was briefly conquered by foreign
powers, first the Venetians, then Pope Julius, but these defeats
had nothing to do with the territory’s having a well-
established ruling family. A ruler who inherits power has less
reason or need to upset his subjects than a new one and as a
result is better loved. If he doesn’t go out of his way to get him-
self hated, it’s reasonable to suppose his people will wish him
well. When a dynasty survives for generations memories fade
and likewise motives for change; upheaval, on the contrary,
always leaves the scaffolding for building further change.

3

Mixed monarchies

When a monarchy is new, things are harder. If it’s not entirely
new but a territory added to an existing monarchy (let’s call
this overall situation ‘mixed’) instabilities are caused first and
foremost by what is an inevitable problem for all new regimes:
that men are quick to change ruler when they imagine they
can improve their lot – it is this conviction that prompts them
to take up arms and rebel – then later they discover they were
wrong and that things have got worse rather than better.
Again this is in the normal, natural way of things: a ruler is
bound to upset the people in his new territories, first with
his occupying army and then with all the endless injustices
consequent on any invasion. So not only do you make enemies
of those whose interests you damaged when you occupied the
territory, but you can’t even keep the friendship of the people
who helped you to take power, this for the simple reason that
you can’t give them as much as they expected. And you can’t
get tough with them either, since you still need them; because
however strong your armies, you’ll always need local support
to occupy a new territory. This is why Louis XII, King of
France, took Milan so quickly and equally quickly lost it. The
first time this happened Duke Ludovico was able to retake
the city with his own forces, because the people who had
previously opened the gates to Louis saw their mistake, real-
ized they wouldn’t be getting the benefits they’d hoped for

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 6 28/05/2015 14:14

2

Hereditary monarchies

I won’t be considering republics since I’ve written about them
at length elsewhere. Instead I’ll concentrate on monarchies,
taking the situations mentioned above and discussing how
each kind of state can best be governed and held.

So I’ll begin by noting that hereditary monarchies where
people have long been used to the ruler’s family are far easier
to hold than new ones; all a monarch need do is avoid
upsetting the order established by his predecessors, trim
policies to circumstances when there is trouble, and, assum-
ing he is of average ability, he will keep his kingdom for life.
Only extraordinary and overwhelming force will be able to
take it off him and even then he’ll win it back as soon as the
occupying power runs into trouble.

An example of this situation in Italy is the Duchy of Ferrara.
In 1484 and 1510 the Duchy was briefly conquered by foreign
powers, first the Venetians, then Pope Julius, but these defeats
had nothing to do with the territory’s having a well-
established ruling family. A ruler who inherits power has less
reason or need to upset his subjects than a new one and as a
result is better loved. If he doesn’t go out of his way to get him-
self hated, it’s reasonable to suppose his people will wish him
well. When a dynasty survives for generations memories fade
and likewise motives for change; upheaval, on the contrary,
always leaves the scaffolding for building further change.

3

Mixed monarchies

When a monarchy is new, things are harder. If it’s not entirely
new but a territory added to an existing monarchy (let’s call
this overall situation ‘mixed’) instabilities are caused first and
foremost by what is an inevitable problem for all new regimes:
that men are quick to change ruler when they imagine they
can improve their lot – it is this conviction that prompts them
to take up arms and rebel – then later they discover they were
wrong and that things have got worse rather than better.
Again this is in the normal, natural way of things: a ruler is
bound to upset the people in his new territories, first with
his occupying army and then with all the endless injustices
consequent on any invasion. So not only do you make enemies
of those whose interests you damaged when you occupied the
territory, but you can’t even keep the friendship of the people
who helped you to take power, this for the simple reason that
you can’t give them as much as they expected. And you can’t
get tough with them either, since you still need them; because
however strong your armies, you’ll always need local support
to occupy a new territory. This is why Louis XII, King of
France, took Milan so quickly and equally quickly lost it. The
first time this happened Duke Ludovico was able to retake
the city with his own forces, because the people who had
previously opened the gates to Louis saw their mistake, real-
ized they wouldn’t be getting the benefits they’d hoped for

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 7 28/05/2015 14:14

8 t h e p r i n c e

and didn’t want to submit to the harsh conditions imposed
by the new king.

Of course, when a king returns to win back a territory that
has rebelled like this, he is less likely to lose it a second time.
Having learned from the rebellion, he’ll have fewer scruples
when it comes to punishing troublemakers, interrogating sus-
pects and strengthening any weak points in his defences. So
while the first time Louis invaded Milan it took no more than
a little sword-rattling along the borders from Ludovico to
force a retreat, the second time it would take the whole world
to defeat his armies and drive them out of Italy. This for the
reasons listed above. All the same, they were driven out both
times.

The general reasons behind the first French defeat have
been discussed. It remains to explain why Louis lost Milan
the second time and to see what counter-measures he could
have taken and what options a ruler has in a situation like
this if he wants to hold on to his conquest.

Needless to say, any territory annexed to the realm of a
conquering ruler may or may not be in the same geographical
region and share the same language. If it is and the language
is shared, the territory will be much easier to hold on to,
especially if its people are not used to the freedom of self-
government. In that case all you have to do is eliminate the
family of the previous ruler and your hold on power is guaran-
teed. Everything else in the territory can then be left as it was
and, given that there are no profound differences in customs,
people will accept the situation quietly enough. Certainly
this has proved true in Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony and
Normandy, all of which have now been under French rule for
many years. Even where there is some difference in language,
the customs of these territories are similar and people can get
along with each other. So a ruler who has taken territories in
these circumstances must have two priorities: first, to elimin-
ate the family of the previous rulers; second, to leave all laws

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 9

and taxes as they were. In this way the acquired territory and
the king’s original possessions will soon form a single entity.

But when a ruler occupies a state in an area that has a
different language, different customs and different insti-
tutions, then things get tough. To hold on to a new possession
in these circumstances takes a lot of luck and hard work.
Perhaps the most effective solution is for the new ruler to go
and live there himself. This will improve security and make
the territory more stable. The Turkish sultan did this in
Greece, and all the other measures he took to hold on to the
country would have been ineffective if he hadn’t. When you’re
actually there, you can see when things start going wrong and
nip rebellion in the bud; when you’re far away you only find
out about it when it’s too late. Another advantage is that the
new territory won’t be plundered by your officials. Its subjects
will be happy that they can appeal to a ruler who is living
among them. So, if they’re intending to be obedient, they’ll
have one more reason to love you, and if they’re not, all the
more reason to fear you. Anyone planning an attack from
outside will think twice about it. So, if you go and live in the
new territory you’ve taken, you’re very unlikely to lose it.

Another good solution is to establish colonies in one or
two places. These work rather like chains to bind the captured
state to your own. If you don’t do this you’ll have to keep
large numbers of infantry and cavalry in the territory.
Colonies don’t cost a great deal. You can send and maintain
them very cheaply and they only arouse the hostility of the
people whose houses and land are expropriated to give to the
colonists. Since that will only be a very small proportion of
the population, and since these people will now be poor and
will have fled to different places, they can hardly cause much
trouble. Everyone else will be unaffected (hence prone to keep
quiet) and at the same time frightened of stepping out of line
for fear of having their own houses and land taken away.
In conclusion, colonies are cheap, more loyal, provoke less

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 8 28/05/2015 14:14

8 t h e p r i n c e

and didn’t want to submit to the harsh conditions imposed
by the new king.

Of course, when a king returns to win back a territory that
has rebelled like this, he is less likely to lose it a second time.
Having learned from the rebellion, he’ll have fewer scruples
when it comes to punishing troublemakers, interrogating sus-
pects and strengthening any weak points in his defences. So
while the first time Louis invaded Milan it took no more than
a little sword-rattling along the borders from Ludovico to
force a retreat, the second time it would take the whole world
to defeat his armies and drive them out of Italy. This for the
reasons listed above. All the same, they were driven out both
times.

The general reasons behind the first French defeat have
been discussed. It remains to explain why Louis lost Milan
the second time and to see what counter-measures he could
have taken and what options a ruler has in a situation like
this if he wants to hold on to his conquest.

Needless to say, any territory annexed to the realm of a
conquering ruler may or may not be in the same geographical
region and share the same language. If it is and the language
is shared, the territory will be much easier to hold on to,
especially if its people are not used to the freedom of self-
government. In that case all you have to do is eliminate the
family of the previous ruler and your hold on power is guaran-
teed. Everything else in the territory can then be left as it was
and, given that there are no profound differences in customs,
people will accept the situation quietly enough. Certainly
this has proved true in Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony and
Normandy, all of which have now been under French rule for
many years. Even where there is some difference in language,
the customs of these territories are similar and people can get
along with each other. So a ruler who has taken territories in
these circumstances must have two priorities: first, to elimin-
ate the family of the previous rulers; second, to leave all laws

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 9

and taxes as they were. In this way the acquired territory and
the king’s original possessions will soon form a single entity.

But when a ruler occupies a state in an area that has a
different language, different customs and different insti-
tutions, then things get tough. To hold on to a new possession
in these circumstances takes a lot of luck and hard work.
Perhaps the most effective solution is for the new ruler to go
and live there himself. This will improve security and make
the territory more stable. The Turkish sultan did this in
Greece, and all the other measures he took to hold on to the
country would have been ineffective if he hadn’t. When you’re
actually there, you can see when things start going wrong and
nip rebellion in the bud; when you’re far away you only find
out about it when it’s too late. Another advantage is that the
new territory won’t be plundered by your officials. Its subjects
will be happy that they can appeal to a ruler who is living
among them. So, if they’re intending to be obedient, they’ll
have one more reason to love you, and if they’re not, all the
more reason to fear you. Anyone planning an attack from
outside will think twice about it. So, if you go and live in the
new territory you’ve taken, you’re very unlikely to lose it.

Another good solution is to establish colonies in one or
two places. These work rather like chains to bind the captured
state to your own. If you don’t do this you’ll have to keep
large numbers of infantry and cavalry in the territory.
Colonies don’t cost a great deal. You can send and maintain
them very cheaply and they only arouse the hostility of the
people whose houses and land are expropriated to give to the
colonists. Since that will only be a very small proportion of
the population, and since these people will now be poor and
will have fled to different places, they can hardly cause much
trouble. Everyone else will be unaffected (hence prone to keep
quiet) and at the same time frightened of stepping out of line
for fear of having their own houses and land taken away.
In conclusion, colonies are cheap, more loyal, provoke less

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 9 28/05/2015 14:14

10 t h e p r i n c e

hostility among your new subjects, and, as I’ve said, those
few who are provoked can’t fight back since they’ll be dispos-
sessed refugees. In this regard it’s worth noting that in general
you must either pamper people or destroy them; harm them
just a little and they’ll hit back; harm them seriously and they
won’t be able to. So if you’re going to do people harm, make
sure you needn’t worry about their reaction. If, on the other
hand, you decide to send an occupying army rather than
establish colonies, the operation will be far more expensive
and all the revenues from the new territory will be used up in
defending it, turning what should have been a gain into a loss.
And you’ll provoke more hostility: an army moving about
and requisitioning lodgings will do damage across the entire
territory, something that has consequences for the whole
population and turns them all into enemies. And these are
enemies who can hit back, people beaten but still on their
own ground. So however you look at it military garrisons are
as pointless as colonies are useful.

A ruler who has moved into a new region with a different
language and customs must also make himself leader and
protector of the weaker neighbouring powers, while doing
what he can to undermine the stronger. In particular, he must
take care that no foreign power strong enough to compete
with his own gets a chance to penetrate the area. People who
are discontented, whether out of fear or frustrated ambition,
will always encourage a foreign power to intervene. It was
the Aetolians who invited the Romans into Greece. Every
time the Romans moved into a new region it was on the
invitation of local people. And it’s in the nature of things that
as soon as a powerful foreign ruler moves into a region, all the
weaker local powers support him, if only out of resentment
towards the stronger states that previously kept them down.
So the new ruler will have no trouble winning their support;
they’ll all run to ally themselves with the territory he has
taken. He just has to watch out that they don’t grab too much

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 11

power and authority. Then, with his own strength and their
support, he can easily undermine the more powerful neigh-
bours and hence dominate the region. However, an invader
who fails to manage relations with his new neighbours will
soon lose what territory he has taken; and even while he’s
still holding on to it, he’ll be up against all kinds of trouble
and hostility.

The Romans followed these principles whenever they took
a new province: they sent colonists; they established friendly
relations with weaker neighbours, though without allowing
them to increase their power; they undermined stronger neigh-
bours and they prevented powerful rulers outside the region
from gaining influence there. Their handling of Greece will
be example enough: they established good relations with the
Achaeans and the Aetolians; Macedonia’s power was under-
mined; they drove out Antiochus. They didn’t reward the
good behaviour of the Achaeans and the Aetolians by
allowing them any new territory and whenever Philip con-
vinced them to establish friendly relations with him they made
sure he was weakened as a result. Antiochus, for all his
strength, was never allowed any influence in the region. The
Romans were simply doing what all wise rulers must: not
restricting themselves to dealing with present threats but using
every means at their disposal to foresee and forestall future
problems as well. Seen in advance, trouble is easily dealt with;
wait until it’s on top of you and your reaction will come too
late, the malaise is already irreversible.

Remember what the doctors tell us about tuberculosis: in
its early stages it’s easy to cure and hard to diagnose, but if
you don’t spot it and treat it, as time goes by it gets easy to
diagnose and hard to cure. So it is with affairs of state. See
trouble in advance (but you have to be shrewd) and you can
clear it up quickly. Miss it, and by the time it’s big enough
for everyone to see it will be too late to do anything about it.

However, since they had this capacity for seeing a threat in

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 10 28/05/2015 14:14

10 t h e p r i n c e

hostility among your new subjects, and, as I’ve said, those
few who are provoked can’t fight back since they’ll be dispos-
sessed refugees. In this regard it’s worth noting that in general
you must either pamper people or destroy them; harm them
just a little and they’ll hit back; harm them seriously and they
won’t be able to. So if you’re going to do people harm, make
sure you needn’t worry about their reaction. If, on the other
hand, you decide to send an occupying army rather than
establish colonies, the operation will be far more expensive
and all the revenues from the new territory will be used up in
defending it, turning what should have been a gain into a loss.
And you’ll provoke more hostility: an army moving about
and requisitioning lodgings will do damage across the entire
territory, something that has consequences for the whole
population and turns them all into enemies. And these are
enemies who can hit back, people beaten but still on their
own ground. So however you look at it military garrisons are
as pointless as colonies are useful.

A ruler who has moved into a new region with a different
language and customs must also make himself leader and
protector of the weaker neighbouring powers, while doing
what he can to undermine the stronger. In particular, he must
take care that no foreign power strong enough to compete
with his own gets a chance to penetrate the area. People who
are discontented, whether out of fear or frustrated ambition,
will always encourage a foreign power to intervene. It was
the Aetolians who invited the Romans into Greece. Every
time the Romans moved into a new region it was on the
invitation of local people. And it’s in the nature of things that
as soon as a powerful foreign ruler moves into a region, all the
weaker local powers support him, if only out of resentment
towards the stronger states that previously kept them down.
So the new ruler will have no trouble winning their support;
they’ll all run to ally themselves with the territory he has
taken. He just has to watch out that they don’t grab too much

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 11

power and authority. Then, with his own strength and their
support, he can easily undermine the more powerful neigh-
bours and hence dominate the region. However, an invader
who fails to manage relations with his new neighbours will
soon lose what territory he has taken; and even while he’s
still holding on to it, he’ll be up against all kinds of trouble
and hostility.

The Romans followed these principles whenever they took
a new province: they sent colonists; they established friendly
relations with weaker neighbours, though without allowing
them to increase their power; they undermined stronger neigh-
bours and they prevented powerful rulers outside the region
from gaining influence there. Their handling of Greece will
be example enough: they established good relations with the
Achaeans and the Aetolians; Macedonia’s power was under-
mined; they drove out Antiochus. They didn’t reward the
good behaviour of the Achaeans and the Aetolians by
allowing them any new territory and whenever Philip con-
vinced them to establish friendly relations with him they made
sure he was weakened as a result. Antiochus, for all his
strength, was never allowed any influence in the region. The
Romans were simply doing what all wise rulers must: not
restricting themselves to dealing with present threats but using
every means at their disposal to foresee and forestall future
problems as well. Seen in advance, trouble is easily dealt with;
wait until it’s on top of you and your reaction will come too
late, the malaise is already irreversible.

Remember what the doctors tell us about tuberculosis: in
its early stages it’s easy to cure and hard to diagnose, but if
you don’t spot it and treat it, as time goes by it gets easy to
diagnose and hard to cure. So it is with affairs of state. See
trouble in advance (but you have to be shrewd) and you can
clear it up quickly. Miss it, and by the time it’s big enough
for everyone to see it will be too late to do anything about it.

However, since they had this capacity for seeing a threat in

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 11 28/05/2015 14:14

12 t h e p r i n c e

advance, the Romans always knew how to respond. They
never put off a war when they saw trouble coming; they knew
it couldn’t be avoided in the long run and that the odds would
simply shift in favour of their enemies. They chose to fight
Philip and Antiochus in Greece, so as not to have to fight them
in Italy. They could have put off both wars, but they didn’t.
They never took the line our pundits are constantly giving us
today – relax, time is on your side – but rather they put their
faith in their own foresight and spirit. Time hurries everything
on and can just as easily make things worse as better.

But let’s get back to the King of France and see if he took
any of the measures we’ve been discussing. And when I say
the King, I mean Louis, not Charles, since Louis held territory
in Italy for longer than Charles and it’s easier to see what his
methods were. You’ll notice that he did the opposite of what
a ruler must do to hold on to conquests in a region whose
customs and language differ from those of his home kingdom.

It was Venetian ambitions that brought Louis into Italy.
The Venetians planned to take half of Lombardy while he
seized the other half. I’m not going to criticize Louis for
agreeing to this. He wanted to get a first foothold in Italy, he
didn’t have any friends in the region – on the contrary, thanks
to King Charles’s behaviour before him, all doors were barred
– so he was forced to accept what allies he found. And the
arrangement would have worked if he hadn’t made mistakes
in other departments. Taking Lombardy, the king recovered
in one blow the reputation that Charles had lost. Genoa
surrendered. The Florentines offered an alliance. The Marquis
of Mantua, the Duke of Ferrara, Bentivogli of Bologna,
Caterina Sforza of Forlı̀, the lords of Faenza, Pesaro, Rimini,
Camerino and Piombino, as well as the republics of Lucca,
Pisa and Siena, all queued up to make friends. At which point
the Venetians were in a position to see how rash they had
been when they proposed the initial deal: for two towns in
Lombardy they had made Louis king over a third of Italy.

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 13

Think how easily Louis could have held on to his position
in Italy if he had observed the rules outlined above and
guaranteed security and protection to all those friends. There
were so many of them and they were so weak and frightened,
either of Venice or Rome, that they were simply forced to side
with Louis. Then with their help he could easily have defended
himself against the states that were still powerful. But no
sooner had he arrived in Milan than Louis did the opposite;
he helped Pope Alexander to invade Romagna. He didn’t see
that this decision weakened his own position, losing him
friends and the support of those who had run to him for help,
while reinforcing the pope, adding temporal dominion to the
spiritual power that already gives a pope so much authority.
Having made that first mistake, he was dragged in deeper,
since, to curb Alexander’s ambitions and prevent him from
taking control of Tuscany, he was forced to advance further
into Italy himself. Not content with having lost his friends
and increased the power of the Church, he was eager now to
get hold of the Kingdom of Naples and so made an agreement
to split it with the King of Spain. Until then Louis had been the
dominant power in Italy, but this move introduced another
equally great power into the peninsula, with the result that
anyone in the region who had ambitions or was disgruntled
with Louis now had someone else to turn to. Louis could
have kept Naples under a client king but instead he kicked
the man out and brought in a king who was powerful enough
to kick him out.

The desire to conquer more territory really is a very natural,
ordinary thing and whenever men have the resources to do
so they’ll always be praised, or at least not blamed. But when
they don’t have the resources, yet carry on regardless, then
they’re at fault and deserve what blame they get. If Louis was
in a position to capture the Kingdom of Naples with his own
forces, then he should have gone ahead and done it; if he
wasn’t, he certainly shouldn’t have split the territory with

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12 t h e p r i n c e

advance, the Romans always knew how to respond. They
never put off a war when they saw trouble coming; they knew
it couldn’t be avoided in the long run and that the odds would
simply shift in favour of their enemies. They chose to fight
Philip and Antiochus in Greece, so as not to have to fight them
in Italy. They could have put off both wars, but they didn’t.
They never took the line our pundits are constantly giving us
today – relax, time is on your side – but rather they put their
faith in their own foresight and spirit. Time hurries everything
on and can just as easily make things worse as better.

But let’s get back to the King of France and see if he took
any of the measures we’ve been discussing. And when I say
the King, I mean Louis, not Charles, since Louis held territory
in Italy for longer than Charles and it’s easier to see what his
methods were. You’ll notice that he did the opposite of what
a ruler must do to hold on to conquests in a region whose
customs and language differ from those of his home kingdom.

It was Venetian ambitions that brought Louis into Italy.
The Venetians planned to take half of Lombardy while he
seized the other half. I’m not going to criticize Louis for
agreeing to this. He wanted to get a first foothold in Italy, he
didn’t have any friends in the region – on the contrary, thanks
to King Charles’s behaviour before him, all doors were barred
– so he was forced to accept what allies he found. And the
arrangement would have worked if he hadn’t made mistakes
in other departments. Taking Lombardy, the king recovered
in one blow the reputation that Charles had lost. Genoa
surrendered. The Florentines offered an alliance. The Marquis
of Mantua, the Duke of Ferrara, Bentivogli of Bologna,
Caterina Sforza of Forlı̀, the lords of Faenza, Pesaro, Rimini,
Camerino and Piombino, as well as the republics of Lucca,
Pisa and Siena, all queued up to make friends. At which point
the Venetians were in a position to see how rash they had
been when they proposed the initial deal: for two towns in
Lombardy they had made Louis king over a third of Italy.

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 13

Think how easily Louis could have held on to his position
in Italy if he had observed the rules outlined above and
guaranteed security and protection to all those friends. There
were so many of them and they were so weak and frightened,
either of Venice or Rome, that they were simply forced to side
with Louis. Then with their help he could easily have defended
himself against the states that were still powerful. But no
sooner had he arrived in Milan than Louis did the opposite;
he helped Pope Alexander to invade Romagna. He didn’t see
that this decision weakened his own position, losing him
friends and the support of those who had run to him for help,
while reinforcing the pope, adding temporal dominion to the
spiritual power that already gives a pope so much authority.
Having made that first mistake, he was dragged in deeper,
since, to curb Alexander’s ambitions and prevent him from
taking control of Tuscany, he was forced to advance further
into Italy himself. Not content with having lost his friends
and increased the power of the Church, he was eager now to
get hold of the Kingdom of Naples and so made an agreement
to split it with the King of Spain. Until then Louis had been the
dominant power in Italy, but this move introduced another
equally great power into the peninsula, with the result that
anyone in the region who had ambitions or was disgruntled
with Louis now had someone else to turn to. Louis could
have kept Naples under a client king but instead he kicked
the man out and brought in a king who was powerful enough
to kick him out.

The desire to conquer more territory really is a very natural,
ordinary thing and whenever men have the resources to do
so they’ll always be praised, or at least not blamed. But when
they don’t have the resources, yet carry on regardless, then
they’re at fault and deserve what blame they get. If Louis was
in a position to capture the Kingdom of Naples with his own
forces, then he should have gone ahead and done it; if he
wasn’t, he certainly shouldn’t have split the territory with

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14 t h e p r i n c e

another king. Sharing Lombardy with the Venetians was
forgivable, in that it gave him a foothold in Italy; but there
was nothing necessary about sharing Naples with Spain and
hence it was a mistake.

So Louis made five mistakes: he eliminated the weaker
states; he enhanced the power of one of Italy’s stronger states;
he brought in an extremely powerful foreign king; he didn’t
go to live in the territory he’d acquired and he didn’t establish
colonies there.

All the same, these mistakes might not have done serious
damage during his lifetime had he not now made a sixth by
stripping Venice of its power. Of course, if he hadn’t increased
the pope’s power and brought Spain into Italy, it would have
been quite reasonable and even necessary to cut the Venetians
down to size. But having taken those earlier decisions, he
should never have reduced Venice to such a state of weakness.
As long as Venice was militarily strong, no one else was
going to try to take Lombardy from the French; the Venetians
wouldn’t have allowed another state to attack the region
unless they were going to get territory themselves and the
other states would never have wanted to take Lombardy from
France if it meant giving it to Venice; plus, they would never
have had the courage to confront France and Venice together.
Someone might object: but Louis gave Romagna to Pope
Alexander and Naples to Spain to avoid war; in which case,
let me repeat what I said earlier: you must never fail to respond
to trouble just to avoid war, because in the end you won’t
avoid it, you’ll just be putting it off to your enemy’s advan-
tage. Someone else might insist that Louis had promised
the pope he would attack Venice on his behalf in return for
the pope’s granting the French king a divorce and making the
Archbishop of Rouen a cardinal; in this case let me refer the
reader to what I’ll be saying later about when rulers should,
or then again shouldn’t, keep their promises.

So Louis lost Lombardy because he didn’t take the measures

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 15

others have taken when they conquered territory and were
determined to hold on to it. There’s nothing mysterious about
this; it’s all very normal and reasonable. In fact I discussed
the matter in Nantes with the Cardinal of Rouen when Duke
Valentino (that was what people used to call Cesare Borgia,
Pope Alexander’s son) was invading Romagna; and when the
cardinal told me that the Italians knew nothing about war, I
told him that the French knew nothing about politics, because
if they did they wouldn’t be letting the pope grow so powerful.
And as it turned out, it was Rome and Spain, the two states
whose power in Italy France had built up, that proved
France’s downfall. From which we can infer a general rule
that always holds, or almost always: that to help another ruler
to grow powerful is to prepare your own ruin; because it
takes flair or military strength to build up a new power, and
both will seem threatening to the person who has benefited
from them.

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14 t h e p r i n c e

another king. Sharing Lombardy with the Venetians was
forgivable, in that it gave him a foothold in Italy; but there
was nothing necessary about sharing Naples with Spain and
hence it was a mistake.

So Louis made five mistakes: he eliminated the weaker
states; he enhanced the power of one of Italy’s stronger states;
he brought in an extremely powerful foreign king; he didn’t
go to live in the territory he’d acquired and he didn’t establish
colonies there.

All the same, these mistakes might not have done serious
damage during his lifetime had he not now made a sixth by
stripping Venice of its power. Of course, if he hadn’t increased
the pope’s power and brought Spain into Italy, it would have
been quite reasonable and even necessary to cut the Venetians
down to size. But having taken those earlier decisions, he
should never have reduced Venice to such a state of weakness.
As long as Venice was militarily strong, no one else was
going to try to take Lombardy from the French; the Venetians
wouldn’t have allowed another state to attack the region
unless they were going to get territory themselves and the
other states would never have wanted to take Lombardy from
France if it meant giving it to Venice; plus, they would never
have had the courage to confront France and Venice together.
Someone might object: but Louis gave Romagna to Pope
Alexander and Naples to Spain to avoid war; in which case,
let me repeat what I said earlier: you must never fail to respond
to trouble just to avoid war, because in the end you won’t
avoid it, you’ll just be putting it off to your enemy’s advan-
tage. Someone else might insist that Louis had promised
the pope he would attack Venice on his behalf in return for
the pope’s granting the French king a divorce and making the
Archbishop of Rouen a cardinal; in this case let me refer the
reader to what I’ll be saying later about when rulers should,
or then again shouldn’t, keep their promises.

So Louis lost Lombardy because he didn’t take the measures

m i x e d m o n a r c h i e s 15

others have taken when they conquered territory and were
determined to hold on to it. There’s nothing mysterious about
this; it’s all very normal and reasonable. In fact I discussed
the matter in Nantes with the Cardinal of Rouen when Duke
Valentino (that was what people used to call Cesare Borgia,
Pope Alexander’s son) was invading Romagna; and when the
cardinal told me that the Italians knew nothing about war, I
told him that the French knew nothing about politics, because
if they did they wouldn’t be letting the pope grow so powerful.
And as it turned out, it was Rome and Spain, the two states
whose power in Italy France had built up, that proved
France’s downfall. From which we can infer a general rule
that always holds, or almost always: that to help another ruler
to grow powerful is to prepare your own ruin; because it
takes flair or military strength to build up a new power, and
both will seem threatening to the person who has benefited
from them.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 15 28/05/2015 14:14

4

Conquered by Alexander the Great, the
Kingdom of Darius did not rebel against
his successors after his death. Why not?

Now that we’ve seen how difficult it is to hold on to recently
acquired territory some readers will be surprised to recall
what happened when Alexander the Great conquered Asia in
just a few years, then died very soon after his victory was
complete. You would have thought the whole area would
have rebelled, yet Alexander’s successors held on to it and
the only trouble they had arose from their own personal
ambitions and infighting. To explain this situation let’s start
by remembering that all monarchies on record have been
governed in one of two ways: either by a king and the servants
he appoints as ministers to run his kingdom; or by a king and
a number of barons, who are not appointed by the king
but hold their positions thanks to hereditary privilege. These
barons have their own lands and their own subjects who
recognize the barons as their masters and are naturally loyal
to them. Where a state is governed by a king and his ministers
the king is more powerful since he is the only person in the
state whom people recognize as superior. When they obey
someone else it is only because he is a minister or official and
they have no special loyalty to him.

Examples of these two forms of government in our own
times are Turkey and France. The whole of Turkey is gov-
erned by one ruler, or sultan. Everyone serves him. He divides
his realm into provinces, or sanjaks, and sends administrators
to run them, appointing and dismissing them as he sees fit.

w h y t h e k i n g d o m o f d a r i u s d i d n o t r e b e l 17

The King of France, on the other hand, is surrounded by any
number of barons whose rights date back to ancient times
and who are acknowledged and loved by their subjects. Each
baron has specific privileges which a king can only take away
at his peril. Looking at these two kinds of states, it’s clear
that Turkey is hard to conquer but once conquered very easy
to hold. France on the other hand will be somewhat easier to
conquer but very hard to hold.

The reason why it’s hard to conquer a country like Turkey
is that there are no barons to invite you in and you can’t expect
anyone to make your invasion easier by rebelling against the
king. This follows naturally from the situation as described
above; since all subjects are the king’s servants and indebted
to him it’s hard to corrupt them, and even assuming you do
manage to bribe someone he’s not likely to be much help
because he can’t bring any local people along with him, this
again for the reasons I’ve explained. So, anyone attacking this
kind of country has to reckon that he will find it united against
him and hence has to rely on his own armed forces rather
than on any mutiny in enemy ranks. But once you have won
and routed the enemy and made sure he can’t rebuild his
armies, then the only thing to worry about is the king and his
family. Eliminate them and no one else can threaten you since
no one commands the loyalty of the people. Just as before
your victory you couldn’t look to any barons for help, so
after it there are none around to pose a threat.

The opposite is true in countries run along French lines.
Here you can make inroads easily enough, winning the sup-
port of a baron or two. There’s always someone unhappy
with the king and eager for change. Then these people are
well placed to get you a foothold in the country and help you
to victory. But afterwards you’re going to have all kinds of
problems holding on to what you’ve won, problems with the
people who fought on your side and problems with those who
fought against you and lost. This time it won’t be enough to

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 16 28/05/2015 14:14

4

Conquered by Alexander the Great, the
Kingdom of Darius did not rebel against
his successors after his death. Why not?

Now that we’ve seen how difficult it is to hold on to recently
acquired territory some readers will be surprised to recall
what happened when Alexander the Great conquered Asia in
just a few years, then died very soon after his victory was
complete. You would have thought the whole area would
have rebelled, yet Alexander’s successors held on to it and
the only trouble they had arose from their own personal
ambitions and infighting. To explain this situation let’s start
by remembering that all monarchies on record have been
governed in one of two ways: either by a king and the servants
he appoints as ministers to run his kingdom; or by a king and
a number of barons, who are not appointed by the king
but hold their positions thanks to hereditary privilege. These
barons have their own lands and their own subjects who
recognize the barons as their masters and are naturally loyal
to them. Where a state is governed by a king and his ministers
the king is more powerful since he is the only person in the
state whom people recognize as superior. When they obey
someone else it is only because he is a minister or official and
they have no special loyalty to him.

Examples of these two forms of government in our own
times are Turkey and France. The whole of Turkey is gov-
erned by one ruler, or sultan. Everyone serves him. He divides
his realm into provinces, or sanjaks, and sends administrators
to run them, appointing and dismissing them as he sees fit.

w h y t h e k i n g d o m o f d a r i u s d i d n o t r e b e l 17

The King of France, on the other hand, is surrounded by any
number of barons whose rights date back to ancient times
and who are acknowledged and loved by their subjects. Each
baron has specific privileges which a king can only take away
at his peril. Looking at these two kinds of states, it’s clear
that Turkey is hard to conquer but once conquered very easy
to hold. France on the other hand will be somewhat easier to
conquer but very hard to hold.

The reason why it’s hard to conquer a country like Turkey
is that there are no barons to invite you in and you can’t expect
anyone to make your invasion easier by rebelling against the
king. This follows naturally from the situation as described
above; since all subjects are the king’s servants and indebted
to him it’s hard to corrupt them, and even assuming you do
manage to bribe someone he’s not likely to be much help
because he can’t bring any local people along with him, this
again for the reasons I’ve explained. So, anyone attacking this
kind of country has to reckon that he will find it united against
him and hence has to rely on his own armed forces rather
than on any mutiny in enemy ranks. But once you have won
and routed the enemy and made sure he can’t rebuild his
armies, then the only thing to worry about is the king and his
family. Eliminate them and no one else can threaten you since
no one commands the loyalty of the people. Just as before
your victory you couldn’t look to any barons for help, so
after it there are none around to pose a threat.

The opposite is true in countries run along French lines.
Here you can make inroads easily enough, winning the sup-
port of a baron or two. There’s always someone unhappy
with the king and eager for change. Then these people are
well placed to get you a foothold in the country and help you
to victory. But afterwards you’re going to have all kinds of
problems holding on to what you’ve won, problems with the
people who fought on your side and problems with those who
fought against you and lost. This time it won’t be enough to

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 17 28/05/2015 14:14

18 t h e p r i n c e

eliminate the king’s family because there will always be barons
ready to assume authority when circumstances swing their
way, and, since you can never give them everything they want
and never eliminate them all, you’ll lose the territory you took
as soon as your enemies get an opportunity to rebel.

If we go back now to the Kingdom of Darius, we’ll find
that it was of the Turkish variety. So Alexander first had to
defeat its entire army and get control of the country; but once
he’d done that, and once Darius was dead, he was securely in
command for the reasons cited above. And if his successors
had been united they could have run the region without any
worries; in fact the only trouble was the infighting they started
themselves. But states organized the French way can never be
held so easily. The frequent uprisings against Roman power
in Spain, Gaul and Greece, for example, were the result of
those regions’ being internally divided into so many princi-
palities. So long as people remembered their old loyalties to
local lords, Rome was never in complete control. But once
the power and permanence of empire had extinguished those
loyalties, then Rome became the undisputed master of the
region. In fact, when the Romans started fighting among
themselves, each warring commander was able to bring the
province he was running into the conflict on his side, since
once the families of the old local rulers had been eliminated
the only authority people recognized was Rome’s representa-
tive. When you take all this into account, it’s really not sur-
prising how easy it was for Alexander to hold Asia, nor how
hard it was for many others, Pyrrhus for example, to hold on
to the territories they took. It wasn’t a question of the abilities
of each particular conqueror, but of the different kinds of
state they had invaded.

5

How to govern cities and states that were
previously self-governing

When the states you invade have been accustomed to gov-
erning themselves without a monarch and living in freedom
under their own laws, then there are three ways of holding
on to them: the first is to reduce them to rubble; the second
is to go and live there yourself; the third is to let them go on
living under their own laws, make them pay you a tax and
install a government of just a few local people to keep the
state as a whole friendly. Since this government has been set
up by the invading ruler, its members know they can’t survive
without his support and will do everything they can to defend
his authority. Once you’ve decided not to destroy it, the best
way to hold a previously self-governing city is with the help
of its own citizens.

Let’s take our examples from Sparta and Rome. The Spartans
held Athens and Thebes by setting up governments run by a
few local people, but in the end they lost these towns. The
Romans razed Capua, Carthage and Numantia to the ground
and that way held on to them. They tried to hold Greece
in much the same way the Spartans had, granting it self-
government and leaving it its own laws, but it didn’t work
and eventually they were forced to destroy quite a number of
cities so as to keep hold of the region as a whole.

The truth is that the only sure way to hold such places is
to destroy them. If you conquer a city accustomed to self-
government and opt not to destroy it you can expect it to

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18 t h e p r i n c e

eliminate the king’s family because there will always be barons
ready to assume authority when circumstances swing their
way, and, since you can never give them everything they want
and never eliminate them all, you’ll lose the territory you took
as soon as your enemies get an opportunity to rebel.

If we go back now to the Kingdom of Darius, we’ll find
that it was of the Turkish variety. So Alexander first had to
defeat its entire army and get control of the country; but once
he’d done that, and once Darius was dead, he was securely in
command for the reasons cited above. And if his successors
had been united they could have run the region without any
worries; in fact the only trouble was the infighting they started
themselves. But states organized the French way can never be
held so easily. The frequent uprisings against Roman power
in Spain, Gaul and Greece, for example, were the result of
those regions’ being internally divided into so many princi-
palities. So long as people remembered their old loyalties to
local lords, Rome was never in complete control. But once
the power and permanence of empire had extinguished those
loyalties, then Rome became the undisputed master of the
region. In fact, when the Romans started fighting among
themselves, each warring commander was able to bring the
province he was running into the conflict on his side, since
once the families of the old local rulers had been eliminated
the only authority people recognized was Rome’s representa-
tive. When you take all this into account, it’s really not sur-
prising how easy it was for Alexander to hold Asia, nor how
hard it was for many others, Pyrrhus for example, to hold on
to the territories they took. It wasn’t a question of the abilities
of each particular conqueror, but of the different kinds of
state they had invaded.

5

How to govern cities and states that were
previously self-governing

When the states you invade have been accustomed to gov-
erning themselves without a monarch and living in freedom
under their own laws, then there are three ways of holding
on to them: the first is to reduce them to rubble; the second
is to go and live there yourself; the third is to let them go on
living under their own laws, make them pay you a tax and
install a government of just a few local people to keep the
state as a whole friendly. Since this government has been set
up by the invading ruler, its members know they can’t survive
without his support and will do everything they can to defend
his authority. Once you’ve decided not to destroy it, the best
way to hold a previously self-governing city is with the help
of its own citizens.

Let’s take our examples from Sparta and Rome. The Spartans
held Athens and Thebes by setting up governments run by a
few local people, but in the end they lost these towns. The
Romans razed Capua, Carthage and Numantia to the ground
and that way held on to them. They tried to hold Greece
in much the same way the Spartans had, granting it self-
government and leaving it its own laws, but it didn’t work
and eventually they were forced to destroy quite a number of
cities so as to keep hold of the region as a whole.

The truth is that the only sure way to hold such places is
to destroy them. If you conquer a city accustomed to self-
government and opt not to destroy it you can expect it to

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 19 28/05/2015 14:14

20 t h e p r i n c e

destroy you. Rebelling, its people will always rally to the
cry of freedom and the inspiration of their old institutions. It
doesn’t matter how long they’ve been occupied or how benevo-
lent the occupation, these things will never be forgotten.
Whatever you do, whatever measures you take, if the popu-
lation hasn’t been routed and dispersed so that its freedoms
and traditions are quite forgotten, they will rise up to fight
for those principles at the first opportunity; just as the Pisans
did after a hundred years of Florentine dominion.

But when a people has been accustomed to living under a
ruler and the ruler’s family has been eliminated, then, since
they’re used to obeying but now have no one to follow, they
won’t be able to choose a new leader from among themselves
nor to live in freedom without one, so they’ll be slower to
rebel and an invader can win them over and gain their loyalty
more easily. Republics, on the other hand, have more life in
them, more hatred and a greater thirst for revenge. Their
memory of old freedoms lingers on and won’t let them rest.
In these cases, your only options are to reduce the place to
rubble or go and live there yourself.

6

States won by the new ruler’s own
forces and abilities

In the following discussion dealing with states where both the
ruler and the form of government are entirely new, no one
should be surprised if I choose to cite the most impressive
examples. The fact is that although people almost always
proceed by imitation, following in another man’s footsteps,
you can never tread a model’s path or reproduce his qualities
exactly. So, if you’re sensible, you set out to follow a trail
blazed by someone who was truly great, someone really worth
imitating, so that even if you’re not on the same level yourself
at least you’ll reflect a little of his brilliance. It’s like the clever
archer who senses that his target is too far off, knows the
limitations of his bow, and so aims far higher than he nor-
mally would, not because he really wants his arrow to go that
high, but to have it fall from a height on to his target.

So let’s start by saying that when it comes to entirely new
regimes where a new ruler has seized the state, the ease or
difficulty of his staying in power will be in proportion to his
abilities or failings. And since you can’t go from being an
ordinary citizen to a ruler without either talent or favourable
circumstances, we must suppose that one or the other of
these factors will be offsetting, at least in part, a great many
difficulties. That said, those who haven’t relied too much
on lucky circumstances have lasted longer. Another positive
factor is that since in this case the ruler doesn’t already possess
another state, he will be forced to live in his new territory.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 20 28/05/2015 14:14

20 t h e p r i n c e

destroy you. Rebelling, its people will always rally to the
cry of freedom and the inspiration of their old institutions. It
doesn’t matter how long they’ve been occupied or how benevo-
lent the occupation, these things will never be forgotten.
Whatever you do, whatever measures you take, if the popu-
lation hasn’t been routed and dispersed so that its freedoms
and traditions are quite forgotten, they will rise up to fight
for those principles at the first opportunity; just as the Pisans
did after a hundred years of Florentine dominion.

But when a people has been accustomed to living under a
ruler and the ruler’s family has been eliminated, then, since
they’re used to obeying but now have no one to follow, they
won’t be able to choose a new leader from among themselves
nor to live in freedom without one, so they’ll be slower to
rebel and an invader can win them over and gain their loyalty
more easily. Republics, on the other hand, have more life in
them, more hatred and a greater thirst for revenge. Their
memory of old freedoms lingers on and won’t let them rest.
In these cases, your only options are to reduce the place to
rubble or go and live there yourself.

6

States won by the new ruler’s own
forces and abilities

In the following discussion dealing with states where both the
ruler and the form of government are entirely new, no one
should be surprised if I choose to cite the most impressive
examples. The fact is that although people almost always
proceed by imitation, following in another man’s footsteps,
you can never tread a model’s path or reproduce his qualities
exactly. So, if you’re sensible, you set out to follow a trail
blazed by someone who was truly great, someone really worth
imitating, so that even if you’re not on the same level yourself
at least you’ll reflect a little of his brilliance. It’s like the clever
archer who senses that his target is too far off, knows the
limitations of his bow, and so aims far higher than he nor-
mally would, not because he really wants his arrow to go that
high, but to have it fall from a height on to his target.

So let’s start by saying that when it comes to entirely new
regimes where a new ruler has seized the state, the ease or
difficulty of his staying in power will be in proportion to his
abilities or failings. And since you can’t go from being an
ordinary citizen to a ruler without either talent or favourable
circumstances, we must suppose that one or the other of
these factors will be offsetting, at least in part, a great many
difficulties. That said, those who haven’t relied too much
on lucky circumstances have lasted longer. Another positive
factor is that since in this case the ruler doesn’t already possess
another state, he will be forced to live in his new territory.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 21 28/05/2015 14:14

22 t h e p r i n c e

But to turn to those who became rulers through their own
qualities rather than by luck, no doubt the most impressive
are: Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus and suchlike figures.
And though we can hardly say much about Moses, since he
merely carried out God’s orders, all the same we have to
admire him for the grace that made him worthy of God’s
attention. But let’s look at Cyrus and other men who won
and founded kingdoms. We’ll find they are all admirable and
when we look into the specific actions each took and the
institutions they established, we’ll see they don’t differ that
much from what Moses did under divine guidance. Analysing
their lives and achievements, we notice that the only part luck
played was in giving them an initial opportunity: they were
granted the raw material and had the chance to mould it into
whatever shape they wanted. Without this opportunity their
talent would have gone unused, and without their talent the
opportunity would have gone begging.

So, if Moses hadn’t found the people of Israel in Egypt,
enslaved and oppressed and in need of a leader to get them
out of the situation, they would never have been willing to
follow him. If Romulus hadn’t been abandoned at birth and
chosen to leave Alba Longa, how could he have become king
and founder of Rome? If Cyrus hadn’t found the Persians
ready to rebel against the occupation of the Medes, and the
Medes undisciplined and effeminate after a long period of
peace, he couldn’t have achieved what he did. And Theseus
could hardly have shown his qualities if the Athenians hadn’t
first been defeated and dispersed. These opportunities made
these men’s fortunes and it was because of their remarkable
qualities that they were able to recognize and grasp the oppor-
tunities, bringing glory and even greater good fortune to their
countries.

These men and others like them who rise to sovereignty
through their own abilities face all kinds of difficulties when
setting up their states but then hold on to them fairly easily.

s t a t e s w o n b y t h e n e w r u l e r ’ s o w n f o r c e s 23

The initial difficulties depend in large part on the fact that in
order to establish their government and guarantee its security
they have to impose a new administrative system and new
procedures. Here we have to bear in mind that nothing is
harder to organize, more likely to fail, or more dangerous
to see through, than the introduction of a new system of
government. The person bringing in the changes will make
enemies of everyone who was doing well under the old system,
while the people who stand to gain from the new arrange-
ments will not offer wholehearted support, partly because
they are afraid of their opponents, who still have the laws on
their side, and partly because people are naturally sceptical:
no one really believes in change until they’ve had solid experi-
ence of it. So as soon as the opponents of the new system see
a chance, they’ll go on the offensive with the determination
of an embattled faction, while its supporters will offer only
half-hearted resistance, something that will put the new ruler’s
position at risk too.

To get a better grasp of the problem, we have to ask: is the
leader introducing the changes relying on his own resources,
or does he depend on other people’s support; that is, does he
have to beg help to achieve his goals, or can he impose them?
If he’s begging help, he’s bound to fail and will get nowhere.
But if he’s got his own resources and can impose his plans,
then it’s unlikely he’ll be running serious risks. This is why
the visionary who has armed force on his side has always won
through, while unarmed even your visionary is always a loser.
Because on top of everything else, we must remember that the
general public’s mood will swing. It’s easy to convince people
of something, but hard to keep them convinced. So when they
stop believing in you, you must be in a position to force them
to believe.

Moses, Cyrus, Theseus and Romulus couldn’t have got
people to respect their new laws for long if they hadn’t pos-
sessed armed force. We saw what happened in our own times

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 22 28/05/2015 14:14

22 t h e p r i n c e

But to turn to those who became rulers through their own
qualities rather than by luck, no doubt the most impressive
are: Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, Theseus and suchlike figures.
And though we can hardly say much about Moses, since he
merely carried out God’s orders, all the same we have to
admire him for the grace that made him worthy of God’s
attention. But let’s look at Cyrus and other men who won
and founded kingdoms. We’ll find they are all admirable and
when we look into the specific actions each took and the
institutions they established, we’ll see they don’t differ that
much from what Moses did under divine guidance. Analysing
their lives and achievements, we notice that the only part luck
played was in giving them an initial opportunity: they were
granted the raw material and had the chance to mould it into
whatever shape they wanted. Without this opportunity their
talent would have gone unused, and without their talent the
opportunity would have gone begging.

So, if Moses hadn’t found the people of Israel in Egypt,
enslaved and oppressed and in need of a leader to get them
out of the situation, they would never have been willing to
follow him. If Romulus hadn’t been abandoned at birth and
chosen to leave Alba Longa, how could he have become king
and founder of Rome? If Cyrus hadn’t found the Persians
ready to rebel against the occupation of the Medes, and the
Medes undisciplined and effeminate after a long period of
peace, he couldn’t have achieved what he did. And Theseus
could hardly have shown his qualities if the Athenians hadn’t
first been defeated and dispersed. These opportunities made
these men’s fortunes and it was because of their remarkable
qualities that they were able to recognize and grasp the oppor-
tunities, bringing glory and even greater good fortune to their
countries.

These men and others like them who rise to sovereignty
through their own abilities face all kinds of difficulties when
setting up their states but then hold on to them fairly easily.

s t a t e s w o n b y t h e n e w r u l e r ’ s o w n f o r c e s 23

The initial difficulties depend in large part on the fact that in
order to establish their government and guarantee its security
they have to impose a new administrative system and new
procedures. Here we have to bear in mind that nothing is
harder to organize, more likely to fail, or more dangerous
to see through, than the introduction of a new system of
government. The person bringing in the changes will make
enemies of everyone who was doing well under the old system,
while the people who stand to gain from the new arrange-
ments will not offer wholehearted support, partly because
they are afraid of their opponents, who still have the laws on
their side, and partly because people are naturally sceptical:
no one really believes in change until they’ve had solid experi-
ence of it. So as soon as the opponents of the new system see
a chance, they’ll go on the offensive with the determination
of an embattled faction, while its supporters will offer only
half-hearted resistance, something that will put the new ruler’s
position at risk too.

To get a better grasp of the problem, we have to ask: is the
leader introducing the changes relying on his own resources,
or does he depend on other people’s support; that is, does he
have to beg help to achieve his goals, or can he impose them?
If he’s begging help, he’s bound to fail and will get nowhere.
But if he’s got his own resources and can impose his plans,
then it’s unlikely he’ll be running serious risks. This is why
the visionary who has armed force on his side has always won
through, while unarmed even your visionary is always a loser.
Because on top of everything else, we must remember that the
general public’s mood will swing. It’s easy to convince people
of something, but hard to keep them convinced. So when they
stop believing in you, you must be in a position to force them
to believe.

Moses, Cyrus, Theseus and Romulus couldn’t have got
people to respect their new laws for long if they hadn’t pos-
sessed armed force. We saw what happened in our own times

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 23 28/05/2015 14:14

24 t h e p r i n c e

to Girolamo Savonarola: he was overthrown along with all
his reforms when people stopped believing in him. He had no
way of keeping the initial believers on board or forcing the
sceptical to see the light. But any new ruler bringing in changes
will have to deal with huge obstacles and dangers, mostly in
the early stages, and must overcome them with his own abil-
ities. Once he’s done that and eliminated those who resented
his achievements, so that people start to respect and admire
him, then he can enjoy his power in safety and will live
honoured and fulfilled.

I’ve mentioned four exceptional leaders but now I want to
bring in a lesser man, Hiero of Syracuse, who nevertheless
had some of the same qualities as the others and will serve as
an example of a whole category. Originally an ordinary
citizen, Hiero became King of Syracuse. Once again the only
luck he had lay in the initial situation: under threat from
Carthage, the Syracusans elected him as their military com-
mander and he was so successful they then made him king. In
fact, even as a private citizen he was so capable that one writer
said of him: ‘He had all it takes to be a king except a kingdom.’
Hiero disbanded the existing army and mustered a new one.
He broke off old alliances and made new ones; that way, with
his own soldiers and his own allies to support him, he had
laid the foundation for building whatever he wanted. So it
cost him considerable effort to establish his power, but very
little to hold on to it.

7

States won by lucky circumstance
and someone else’s armed forces

A private citizen who becomes a ruler out of sheer good luck
needn’t make much effort to take his state but will have to
sweat if he is to hold on to it. He has no trouble climbing on
to his pedestal, since he is lifted there; but as soon as he is up
on top, there will be any number of problems. I’m talking
about situations where someone buys a territory with money,
or is simply granted it as a favour. This was the case with
quite a few rulers of cities in Ionia and the Hellespont: Darius
gave them their thrones so that they would govern with his
security and prestige in mind. Another example is those
emperors who started out as private citizens and rose to power
by bribing the army.

These men rely entirely on the support and continuing
success of the people who gave them their power, which is to
say on two extremely unreliable and unstable quantities. They
don’t know how to hang on to power and even if they did,
they wouldn’t be able to. They don’t know how because,
unless they are remarkably gifted and competent, we can
hardly suppose that their lives as private citizens have
equipped them for command. They won’t be able to in any
event because they don’t possess an army that can be relied
on to stay friendly and loyal. Like anything that appears
suddenly and grows fast, regimes that come out of nothing
inevitably have shallow roots and will tend to crash in the
first storm. Unless of course the man who is suddenly made a

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 24 28/05/2015 14:14

24 t h e p r i n c e

to Girolamo Savonarola: he was overthrown along with all
his reforms when people stopped believing in him. He had no
way of keeping the initial believers on board or forcing the
sceptical to see the light. But any new ruler bringing in changes
will have to deal with huge obstacles and dangers, mostly in
the early stages, and must overcome them with his own abil-
ities. Once he’s done that and eliminated those who resented
his achievements, so that people start to respect and admire
him, then he can enjoy his power in safety and will live
honoured and fulfilled.

I’ve mentioned four exceptional leaders but now I want to
bring in a lesser man, Hiero of Syracuse, who nevertheless
had some of the same qualities as the others and will serve as
an example of a whole category. Originally an ordinary
citizen, Hiero became King of Syracuse. Once again the only
luck he had lay in the initial situation: under threat from
Carthage, the Syracusans elected him as their military com-
mander and he was so successful they then made him king. In
fact, even as a private citizen he was so capable that one writer
said of him: ‘He had all it takes to be a king except a kingdom.’
Hiero disbanded the existing army and mustered a new one.
He broke off old alliances and made new ones; that way, with
his own soldiers and his own allies to support him, he had
laid the foundation for building whatever he wanted. So it
cost him considerable effort to establish his power, but very
little to hold on to it.

7

States won by lucky circumstance
and someone else’s armed forces

A private citizen who becomes a ruler out of sheer good luck
needn’t make much effort to take his state but will have to
sweat if he is to hold on to it. He has no trouble climbing on
to his pedestal, since he is lifted there; but as soon as he is up
on top, there will be any number of problems. I’m talking
about situations where someone buys a territory with money,
or is simply granted it as a favour. This was the case with
quite a few rulers of cities in Ionia and the Hellespont: Darius
gave them their thrones so that they would govern with his
security and prestige in mind. Another example is those
emperors who started out as private citizens and rose to power
by bribing the army.

These men rely entirely on the support and continuing
success of the people who gave them their power, which is to
say on two extremely unreliable and unstable quantities. They
don’t know how to hang on to power and even if they did,
they wouldn’t be able to. They don’t know how because,
unless they are remarkably gifted and competent, we can
hardly suppose that their lives as private citizens have
equipped them for command. They won’t be able to in any
event because they don’t possess an army that can be relied
on to stay friendly and loyal. Like anything that appears
suddenly and grows fast, regimes that come out of nothing
inevitably have shallow roots and will tend to crash in the
first storm. Unless of course the man who is suddenly made a

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 25 28/05/2015 14:14

26 t h e p r i n c e

ruler turns out to be so talented that he immediately sets to
work to defend what luck has brought his way and to build
the foundations that another leader would have established
before coming to power.

I’d like to mention two men from our own times who
achieved power in these different ways, one through his own
abilities and one by luck. The people I have in mind are
Francesco Sforza and Cesare Borgia. With the right policies
and great courage, Sforza, a commoner, became Duke of
Milan and, having won power with enormous effort, held
on to it easily enough. Borgia, on the other hand, or Duke
Valentino as he was commonly known, received his territories
thanks to his father’s position, and when his father died he
lost them, this despite the fact that he used all means available
and did everything a sensible, capable man could have done
to lay the foundations for his own rule in the lands that
another man’s army and position had won for him. As we
said earlier on, if you haven’t laid the foundations before
becoming king, it takes very special qualities to do it after-
wards, and even then it’ll be tough for the architect and risky
for the building. If we look carefully at Borgia’s strategies,
we’ll see that he did in fact lay down good foundations for
future power; and I think it makes sense to discuss how he
did it, because I wouldn’t know what better advice to give a
ruler new to power than to follow his example. If his efforts
eventually came to nothing, it was not due to his own short-
comings, but to an extraordinary run of bad luck.

When Pope Alexander VI decided to turn his son into a
powerful duke, he faced all kinds of obstacles, present and
future. First, he couldn’t see how he could make him ruler of
anywhere that wasn’t Church territory. But he knew that if he
gave away Church land, the Duke of Milan and the Venetians
would block him, since Faenza and Rimini were already under
Venetian protection. What’s more, the armies then operating
in Italy, particularly those the pope might have called on for

s t a t e s w o n b y l u c k y c i r c u m s t a n c e 27

help, were all controlled by people – the Orsini, the Colonna
and associated families – who had reason to fear papal expan-
sionism, and hence couldn’t be trusted. What Alexander had
to do then was undermine the status quo and the authority of
his rivals so as to seize control of part of their lands with
impunity. This turned out to be easy because, for reasons all
their own, the Venetians were now determined to bring the
French back into Italy. Rather than opposing the move, the
pope smoothed the way by dissolving King Louis’s first
marriage for him.

So the French king entered Italy with Venetian help and
papal consent. No sooner had he taken Milan than the pope
got the king to send troops to help his son, Borgia, take
Romagna, something that would have been impossible with-
out Louis’s support. With the forces of the Colonna family
now beaten, Borgia faced two obstacles if he was to hold on
to Romagna and acquire further territory: the first was his
own army, which he suspected of disloyalty; the second was
French policy. Duke Valentino had been using the forces of
the Orsini family but was afraid they would stop obeying his
orders, preventing him from making new gains and perhaps
depriving him of the old. And he had the same worries about
the King of France. His doubts about the Orsinis were con-
firmed when, after taking Faenza, he attacked Bologna, and
saw the soldiers anything but enthusiastic. Louis’s position
became clear when, having taken Urbino, Borgia advanced
towards Tuscany only to have the French king insist he turn
back. After that he decided never to rely on other people’s
armies and authority again.

So first of all he weakened the Orsini and Colonna factions
in Rome by luring the noblemen who supported them over
to his side with generous salaries and military and political
appointments in line with each man’s rank. In a few months
old loyalties were forgotten and they were all for the duke.
Then, having broken up the Colonna leaders, he waited for a

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 26 28/05/2015 14:14

26 t h e p r i n c e

ruler turns out to be so talented that he immediately sets to
work to defend what luck has brought his way and to build
the foundations that another leader would have established
before coming to power.

I’d like to mention two men from our own times who
achieved power in these different ways, one through his own
abilities and one by luck. The people I have in mind are
Francesco Sforza and Cesare Borgia. With the right policies
and great courage, Sforza, a commoner, became Duke of
Milan and, having won power with enormous effort, held
on to it easily enough. Borgia, on the other hand, or Duke
Valentino as he was commonly known, received his territories
thanks to his father’s position, and when his father died he
lost them, this despite the fact that he used all means available
and did everything a sensible, capable man could have done
to lay the foundations for his own rule in the lands that
another man’s army and position had won for him. As we
said earlier on, if you haven’t laid the foundations before
becoming king, it takes very special qualities to do it after-
wards, and even then it’ll be tough for the architect and risky
for the building. If we look carefully at Borgia’s strategies,
we’ll see that he did in fact lay down good foundations for
future power; and I think it makes sense to discuss how he
did it, because I wouldn’t know what better advice to give a
ruler new to power than to follow his example. If his efforts
eventually came to nothing, it was not due to his own short-
comings, but to an extraordinary run of bad luck.

When Pope Alexander VI decided to turn his son into a
powerful duke, he faced all kinds of obstacles, present and
future. First, he couldn’t see how he could make him ruler of
anywhere that wasn’t Church territory. But he knew that if he
gave away Church land, the Duke of Milan and the Venetians
would block him, since Faenza and Rimini were already under
Venetian protection. What’s more, the armies then operating
in Italy, particularly those the pope might have called on for

s t a t e s w o n b y l u c k y c i r c u m s t a n c e 27

help, were all controlled by people – the Orsini, the Colonna
and associated families – who had reason to fear papal expan-
sionism, and hence couldn’t be trusted. What Alexander had
to do then was undermine the status quo and the authority of
his rivals so as to seize control of part of their lands with
impunity. This turned out to be easy because, for reasons all
their own, the Venetians were now determined to bring the
French back into Italy. Rather than opposing the move, the
pope smoothed the way by dissolving King Louis’s first
marriage for him.

So the French king entered Italy with Venetian help and
papal consent. No sooner had he taken Milan than the pope
got the king to send troops to help his son, Borgia, take
Romagna, something that would have been impossible with-
out Louis’s support. With the forces of the Colonna family
now beaten, Borgia faced two obstacles if he was to hold on
to Romagna and acquire further territory: the first was his
own army, which he suspected of disloyalty; the second was
French policy. Duke Valentino had been using the forces of
the Orsini family but was afraid they would stop obeying his
orders, preventing him from making new gains and perhaps
depriving him of the old. And he had the same worries about
the King of France. His doubts about the Orsinis were con-
firmed when, after taking Faenza, he attacked Bologna, and
saw the soldiers anything but enthusiastic. Louis’s position
became clear when, having taken Urbino, Borgia advanced
towards Tuscany only to have the French king insist he turn
back. After that he decided never to rely on other people’s
armies and authority again.

So first of all he weakened the Orsini and Colonna factions
in Rome by luring the noblemen who supported them over
to his side with generous salaries and military and political
appointments in line with each man’s rank. In a few months
old loyalties were forgotten and they were all for the duke.
Then, having broken up the Colonna leaders, he waited for a

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 27 28/05/2015 14:14

28 t h e p r i n c e

chance to eliminate the main Orsini men. The chance came
and he took it. Having realized, too late, that the growing
power of Borgia and the Church would be their ruin, the
Orsini arranged to meet together at Magione, near Perugia.
The meeting produced a rebellion in Urbino, uprisings in
Romagna and all kinds of dangers for Borgia. But with the
help of the French he won through.

Having recovered credibility, and not wanting to have to
put the loyalty of the French or anyone else to the test, Borgia
turned to trickery. He was so good at disguising his intentions
that even the Orsini made peace with him, sending Paulo
Orsini as mediator. Borgia was extremely generous to Paulo,
reassuring him with gifts of money, clothes and horses, until
the ingenuous Orsinis eventually responded and accepted an
invitation to Senigallia, thus delivering themselves into the
duke’s hands. Having killed the Orsini leaders then and forced
their followers to become his allies, Borgia had laid solid
foundations for his power: he held Romagna and the Duchy
of Urbino and, what’s more, he felt he had won the support of
the local people who were beginning to enjoy some prosperity.

Since this last achievement deserves to be more widely
known and imitated, I want to give it the proper space. On
taking control of Romagna, Borgia found it had been run by
weak leaders who had been stripping the people of their
wealth rather than governing them, and provoking division
rather than unity, with the result that theft, feuds and all
kinds of injustice were endemic. So he decided some good
government was required to pacify the area and force people
to respect authority. With this in mind, he appointed Remirro
de Orco, a cruel, no-nonsense man, and gave him complete
control. In a short while de Orco pacified and united the
area, establishing a considerable reputation for himself in the
process. At this point the duke decided that such draconian
powers were no longer necessary and might cause resentment.
So he set up a civil court of law in the middle of the territory

s t a t e s w o n b y l u c k y c i r c u m s t a n c e 29

to which every town was to send a representative and he
placed a distinguished man in charge. And since he was aware
that the recent severity had led some people to hate him, in
order to have them change their minds, and hence win them
over entirely to his side, he decided to show that if the regime
had been cruel, that was due to the brutal nature of his
minister, not to him. So as soon as he found a pretext, he had
de Orco beheaded and his corpse put on display one morning
in the piazza in Cesena with a wooden block and a bloody
knife beside. The ferocity of the spectacle left people both
gratified and shocked.

But let’s get back to where we left off. Borgia had consoli-
dated his power and secured himself against most immediate
dangers, building up an army of his own and seeing off the
majority of the other armies that had been near enough to
attack him. At this point the only obstacle to further expan-
sion was the King of France. Borgia knew the king had real-
ized he’d made a mistake supporting him earlier on and hence
would not put up with further adventures. So he began to
look around for new alliances and was less than generous in
his support when Louis marched south to fight the Spanish
who were besieging Gaeta in the northern part of the King-
dom of Naples. His aim was to be safe from French inter-
ference, something he would have managed soon enough no
doubt, if his father, Pope Alexander, had not died.

So that was how Borgia dealt with the immediate situation.
As far as the future was concerned, what worried the duke

most of all was that his father’s eventual successor would be
hostile and try to deprive him of the territory Pope Alexander
had given him. He devised four strategies to guard against
this: first, eliminate the families of all the local rulers whose
land he had taken, thus denying a new pope the option of
restoring them; second, win the support of all the noble
families of Rome (as we’ve already seen) so as to put the
brakes on any papal initiative; third, get as much control as

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 28 28/05/2015 14:14

28 t h e p r i n c e

chance to eliminate the main Orsini men. The chance came
and he took it. Having realized, too late, that the growing
power of Borgia and the Church would be their ruin, the
Orsini arranged to meet together at Magione, near Perugia.
The meeting produced a rebellion in Urbino, uprisings in
Romagna and all kinds of dangers for Borgia. But with the
help of the French he won through.

Having recovered credibility, and not wanting to have to
put the loyalty of the French or anyone else to the test, Borgia
turned to trickery. He was so good at disguising his intentions
that even the Orsini made peace with him, sending Paulo
Orsini as mediator. Borgia was extremely generous to Paulo,
reassuring him with gifts of money, clothes and horses, until
the ingenuous Orsinis eventually responded and accepted an
invitation to Senigallia, thus delivering themselves into the
duke’s hands. Having killed the Orsini leaders then and forced
their followers to become his allies, Borgia had laid solid
foundations for his power: he held Romagna and the Duchy
of Urbino and, what’s more, he felt he had won the support of
the local people who were beginning to enjoy some prosperity.

Since this last achievement deserves to be more widely
known and imitated, I want to give it the proper space. On
taking control of Romagna, Borgia found it had been run by
weak leaders who had been stripping the people of their
wealth rather than governing them, and provoking division
rather than unity, with the result that theft, feuds and all
kinds of injustice were endemic. So he decided some good
government was required to pacify the area and force people
to respect authority. With this in mind, he appointed Remirro
de Orco, a cruel, no-nonsense man, and gave him complete
control. In a short while de Orco pacified and united the
area, establishing a considerable reputation for himself in the
process. At this point the duke decided that such draconian
powers were no longer necessary and might cause resentment.
So he set up a civil court of law in the middle of the territory

s t a t e s w o n b y l u c k y c i r c u m s t a n c e 29

to which every town was to send a representative and he
placed a distinguished man in charge. And since he was aware
that the recent severity had led some people to hate him, in
order to have them change their minds, and hence win them
over entirely to his side, he decided to show that if the regime
had been cruel, that was due to the brutal nature of his
minister, not to him. So as soon as he found a pretext, he had
de Orco beheaded and his corpse put on display one morning
in the piazza in Cesena with a wooden block and a bloody
knife beside. The ferocity of the spectacle left people both
gratified and shocked.

But let’s get back to where we left off. Borgia had consoli-
dated his power and secured himself against most immediate
dangers, building up an army of his own and seeing off the
majority of the other armies that had been near enough to
attack him. At this point the only obstacle to further expan-
sion was the King of France. Borgia knew the king had real-
ized he’d made a mistake supporting him earlier on and hence
would not put up with further adventures. So he began to
look around for new alliances and was less than generous in
his support when Louis marched south to fight the Spanish
who were besieging Gaeta in the northern part of the King-
dom of Naples. His aim was to be safe from French inter-
ference, something he would have managed soon enough no
doubt, if his father, Pope Alexander, had not died.

So that was how Borgia dealt with the immediate situation.
As far as the future was concerned, what worried the duke

most of all was that his father’s eventual successor would be
hostile and try to deprive him of the territory Pope Alexander
had given him. He devised four strategies to guard against
this: first, eliminate the families of all the local rulers whose
land he had taken, thus denying a new pope the option of
restoring them; second, win the support of all the noble
families of Rome (as we’ve already seen) so as to put the
brakes on any papal initiative; third, get as much control as

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 29 28/05/2015 14:14

30 t h e p r i n c e

possible of the College that would elect the next pope; fourth,
win so much territory before the pope died as to be able to
resist a first attack with his own resources. By the time his
father died he had achieved three of these four goals and
wasn’t far off achieving the fourth. He had killed all the local
rulers he could get his hands on and hardly anyone had
escaped; he had won over the Roman nobility and he had
enormous influence over the Electoral College. As far as
extending his territory was concerned, he was aiming to be-
come master of all Tuscany, having already captured Perugia
and Piombino and taken Pisa under his protection.

As soon as France’s restraining influence weakened (actu-
ally, it already had, since, having lost the Kingdom of Naples
to Spain, the French – and the Spanish too for that matter –
now needed Borgia’s support) he would grab Pisa. At that
point Lucca and Siena would quickly surrender, partly out of
fear and partly thanks to their old enmity with Florence, after
which the Florentines would be unable to defend themselves.
If Borgia had managed all this (and he was almost there the
very year Alexander died) he would have accumulated so
much power and prestige that he could have responded to
any aggression with his own forces and talent and wouldn’t
have needed to rely on anyone else’s armies or authority. But
Alexander died just five years after his son had first drawn his
sword. Only in Romagna had Borgia consolidated his power;
all his other territorial gains were still shaky. He was isolated,
caught between two extremely powerful, hostile armies, and,
what’s more, mortally ill.

Borgia was so ruthless and so talented, he knew so well
that you have to win over people or destroy them and he had
built up such solid foundations for his power in such a short
time that if he hadn’t had these two armies threatening him,
or if he hadn’t been so ill, he would have overcome every
obstacle. That the foundations Borgia had built were sound
was soon evident: Romagna waited loyally for more than a

s t a t e s w o n b y l u c k y c i r c u m s t a n c e 31

month while he lay half dead in Rome, and in Rome itself no
one took advantage of his weakness; when his enemies, the
Baglionis, Vitellis and Orsinis, turned up no one went over
to their side. And though Borgia wasn’t able to choose who
would be the new pope, at least he was in a position to block
anyone he didn’t want. So if he had been in good health when
his father died, everything would have been easy. He himself
told me, in the days when the College was meeting to elect
Julius II, that he had thought over what might happen on his
father’s death and had made plans for every contingency; it
was just that it never occurred to him that when the time
came he too might be at death’s door.

Having given this summary of everything Cesare Borgia
did, I can’t find anything to criticize; on the contrary, and as
I said, I mean to propose him as a model for anyone who
comes to power through fortunate circumstances or with the
help of another ruler’s armed forces. Given his great determi-
nation and considerable ambitions, Borgia could hardly have
behaved any differently; only the combination of Alexander’s
early death and his own illness prevented him from achieving
his goals. A new ruler who reckons he must ward off enemies
and woo friends, overcome obstacles by force or fraud, have
himself loved and feared by his people, followed and respected
by his soldiers, who must eliminate enemies likely or certain
to attack him, reform old institutions, show himself both
severe and gracious, generous and spontaneous, break up a
disloyal army and build a new one, keep the friendship of
kings and princes so that they support him with deference, or
at least think twice before harming him, will find no better
recent example to study than the policies of Cesare Borgia.

The only criticism one can level at him is his role in the
election of Pope Julius. As we’ve said, Borgia wasn’t in a
position to impose the pope he wanted but he did have influ-
ence enough to keep out the candidates he didn’t want. And
he should never have allowed a cardinal whose interests he

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 30 28/05/2015 14:14

30 t h e p r i n c e

possible of the College that would elect the next pope; fourth,
win so much territory before the pope died as to be able to
resist a first attack with his own resources. By the time his
father died he had achieved three of these four goals and
wasn’t far off achieving the fourth. He had killed all the local
rulers he could get his hands on and hardly anyone had
escaped; he had won over the Roman nobility and he had
enormous influence over the Electoral College. As far as
extending his territory was concerned, he was aiming to be-
come master of all Tuscany, having already captured Perugia
and Piombino and taken Pisa under his protection.

As soon as France’s restraining influence weakened (actu-
ally, it already had, since, having lost the Kingdom of Naples
to Spain, the French – and the Spanish too for that matter –
now needed Borgia’s support) he would grab Pisa. At that
point Lucca and Siena would quickly surrender, partly out of
fear and partly thanks to their old enmity with Florence, after
which the Florentines would be unable to defend themselves.
If Borgia had managed all this (and he was almost there the
very year Alexander died) he would have accumulated so
much power and prestige that he could have responded to
any aggression with his own forces and talent and wouldn’t
have needed to rely on anyone else’s armies or authority. But
Alexander died just five years after his son had first drawn his
sword. Only in Romagna had Borgia consolidated his power;
all his other territorial gains were still shaky. He was isolated,
caught between two extremely powerful, hostile armies, and,
what’s more, mortally ill.

Borgia was so ruthless and so talented, he knew so well
that you have to win over people or destroy them and he had
built up such solid foundations for his power in such a short
time that if he hadn’t had these two armies threatening him,
or if he hadn’t been so ill, he would have overcome every
obstacle. That the foundations Borgia had built were sound
was soon evident: Romagna waited loyally for more than a

s t a t e s w o n b y l u c k y c i r c u m s t a n c e 31

month while he lay half dead in Rome, and in Rome itself no
one took advantage of his weakness; when his enemies, the
Baglionis, Vitellis and Orsinis, turned up no one went over
to their side. And though Borgia wasn’t able to choose who
would be the new pope, at least he was in a position to block
anyone he didn’t want. So if he had been in good health when
his father died, everything would have been easy. He himself
told me, in the days when the College was meeting to elect
Julius II, that he had thought over what might happen on his
father’s death and had made plans for every contingency; it
was just that it never occurred to him that when the time
came he too might be at death’s door.

Having given this summary of everything Cesare Borgia
did, I can’t find anything to criticize; on the contrary, and as
I said, I mean to propose him as a model for anyone who
comes to power through fortunate circumstances or with the
help of another ruler’s armed forces. Given his great determi-
nation and considerable ambitions, Borgia could hardly have
behaved any differently; only the combination of Alexander’s
early death and his own illness prevented him from achieving
his goals. A new ruler who reckons he must ward off enemies
and woo friends, overcome obstacles by force or fraud, have
himself loved and feared by his people, followed and respected
by his soldiers, who must eliminate enemies likely or certain
to attack him, reform old institutions, show himself both
severe and gracious, generous and spontaneous, break up a
disloyal army and build a new one, keep the friendship of
kings and princes so that they support him with deference, or
at least think twice before harming him, will find no better
recent example to study than the policies of Cesare Borgia.

The only criticism one can level at him is his role in the
election of Pope Julius. As we’ve said, Borgia wasn’t in a
position to impose the pope he wanted but he did have influ-
ence enough to keep out the candidates he didn’t want. And
he should never have allowed a cardinal whose interests he

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 31 28/05/2015 14:14

32 t h e p r i n c e

had damaged, or who as pope would have reason to fear him,
to win the election. Because it’s fear or hatred that makes
men attack each other. The cardinals Borgia had wronged
were, among others, Giuliano della Rovere, cardinal of San
Pietro ad Vincula, Cardinal Colonna, cardinal of San Giorgio
of Savona, and Ascanio Sforza. All the others, with the excep-
tion of the cardinal of Rouen and the Spanish cardinals, would
have had reason to fear him had they become pope. With the
King of France behind him, the cardinal of Rouen was a very
powerful man, while the Spanish cardinals were related to
Borgia and indebted to him. So the best solution for Borgia
was a Spanish pope; failing that, he should have let Rouen
take the throne, but not Giuliano della Rovere. Anyone who
thinks that an important man will forget past grievances just
because he’s received some new promotion must think again.
Borgia miscalculated in this election, and the mistake was
fatal.

8

States won by crime

Aside from lucky circumstances and positive qualities, there
are two other ways a private citizen can become a ruler and
we should include them in our discussion, though one of these
would find more space in a book about republics. They are,
first, when a man seizes power by some terrible crime and,
second, when a private citizen becomes hereditary ruler with
the support of his fellow citizens. As for achieving kingship
by crime, we’ll discuss two examples, one from ancient history
and one from modern times, and look no deeper into the
question, since these will be models enough for anyone
obliged to take this course.

Agathocles was a Sicilian. From being a private citizen, one
of the lowest of the low in fact, he became King of Syracuse.
Born a potter’s son, he lived a life of depravity from start to
finish. All the same, mixed with that depravity were such
excellent mental and physical qualities that, having joined
the Syracusan army, he rose through the ranks and eventu-
ally became commander-in-chief. Once he’d taken charge,
Agathocles decided to make himself king, using whatever
violence was necessary to keep the power conferred on him
as commander without being obliged to anyone. He discussed
his intentions with Hamilcar, a Carthaginian whose army was
then fighting in Sicily, and reached an agreement with him.
Then one morning he called an assembly of the people and
the Senate as if he had important state business to discuss.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 32 28/05/2015 14:14

32 t h e p r i n c e

had damaged, or who as pope would have reason to fear him,
to win the election. Because it’s fear or hatred that makes
men attack each other. The cardinals Borgia had wronged
were, among others, Giuliano della Rovere, cardinal of San
Pietro ad Vincula, Cardinal Colonna, cardinal of San Giorgio
of Savona, and Ascanio Sforza. All the others, with the excep-
tion of the cardinal of Rouen and the Spanish cardinals, would
have had reason to fear him had they become pope. With the
King of France behind him, the cardinal of Rouen was a very
powerful man, while the Spanish cardinals were related to
Borgia and indebted to him. So the best solution for Borgia
was a Spanish pope; failing that, he should have let Rouen
take the throne, but not Giuliano della Rovere. Anyone who
thinks that an important man will forget past grievances just
because he’s received some new promotion must think again.
Borgia miscalculated in this election, and the mistake was
fatal.

8

States won by crime

Aside from lucky circumstances and positive qualities, there
are two other ways a private citizen can become a ruler and
we should include them in our discussion, though one of these
would find more space in a book about republics. They are,
first, when a man seizes power by some terrible crime and,
second, when a private citizen becomes hereditary ruler with
the support of his fellow citizens. As for achieving kingship
by crime, we’ll discuss two examples, one from ancient history
and one from modern times, and look no deeper into the
question, since these will be models enough for anyone
obliged to take this course.

Agathocles was a Sicilian. From being a private citizen, one
of the lowest of the low in fact, he became King of Syracuse.
Born a potter’s son, he lived a life of depravity from start to
finish. All the same, mixed with that depravity were such
excellent mental and physical qualities that, having joined
the Syracusan army, he rose through the ranks and eventu-
ally became commander-in-chief. Once he’d taken charge,
Agathocles decided to make himself king, using whatever
violence was necessary to keep the power conferred on him
as commander without being obliged to anyone. He discussed
his intentions with Hamilcar, a Carthaginian whose army was
then fighting in Sicily, and reached an agreement with him.
Then one morning he called an assembly of the people and
the Senate as if he had important state business to discuss.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 33 28/05/2015 14:14

34 t h e p r i n c e

At a prearranged signal his soldiers moved in and killed all
the senators and richest men in town. After this massacre
Agathocles became King of Syracuse and held his throne
without any resistance from the people. Twice defeated by
the Carthaginians and then actually besieged, not only did he
manage to defend his town but, leaving some men behind to
resist the siege, he led the rest out of Syracuse to attack Africa.
The siege was lifted and the Carthaginians pushed to the brink
of collapse, at which point they accepted an agreement which
allowed them to keep Africa and left Sicily to Agathocles.

Looking at Agathocles’ life and achievements, you won’t
find much that can be attributed to luck. As I said, he had no
backers or benefactors when he took power but rose through
the ranks, surviving all kinds of hardships and dangers. And
when he’d got power he knew how to take tough, dangerous
decisions to hold on to it. On the other hand, we can hardly
describe killing fellow citizens, betraying friends and living
without loyalty, mercy or creed as signs of talent. Methods
like that may bring you power, but not glory. If you consider
Agathocles’ ability to take risks and come out on top, and his
remarkable spirit when it came to facing and overcoming
obstacles, it’s hard to see why he isn’t rated as highly as the
most outstanding military leaders. But his brutality, cruelty
and inhumanity, together with the endless crimes he com-
mitted, mean he has no place among the men we most admire.
In conclusion, we can’t attribute Agathocles’ achievements to
luck or to positive qualities, since he needed neither.

In our own times, we have the example of Oliverotto, a
man from the town of Fermo who lived during the papacy of
Alexander VI. Orphaned of his father while still very young,
Oliverotto was brought up by his uncle, Giovanni Fogliani,
who had him join the army under Paulo Vitelli in the hope
that, with military discipline, he would rise to a high rank. On
Paulo’s death, Oliverotto served under his brother, Vitellozzo,
and being very capable, with a strong personality and power-

s t a t e s w o n b y c r i m e 35

ful physique, he soon became the army’s top man. But since
he felt that working with others was demeaning, he decided
to take Fermo for himself. Having got the support of some of
the town’s citizens, people who preferred to see their city
enslaved rather than free, and with the backing of Vitellozzo,
he wrote to Giovanni Fogliani saying that now so many years
had gone by he was eager to come home and see his uncle
again, visit the town, and check over some of his property.
And since, he wrote, he’d been working hard for nothing but
the prestige of his position, he wanted to ride into town in
style with a hundred mounted friends and servants beside
him; that way his fellow citizens would see that he hadn’t been
wasting his time. And he asked his uncle please to arrange for
the people of Fermo to organize an appropriate reception,
something that would not only honour him but also his uncle,
who had brought him up.

Giovanni spared no effort to do his nephew proud and,
after the people of Fermo had given him a formal reception,
Oliverotto was welcomed into his uncle’s house. A few days
later, having used the time to make secret arrangements for
the crime he was planning, he threw an impressive banquet
to which he invited Giovanni Fogliani and all the town’s
leading men. After they’d finished eating and sat through all
the entertainments you get on these occasions, Oliverotto
slyly launched into some weighty reflections on the power
and achievements of Pope Alexander and his son Cesare
Borgia. When Giovanni and the others joined the conver-
sation, Oliverotto suddenly got to his feet and said these were
matters best discussed in a more private place and he headed
for another room with Giovanni and all the other citizens
trailing after him. They had barely sat down before
Oliverotto’s soldiers rushed out of their hiding places and
killed the lot of them.

After the massacre, Oliverotto got on his horse, rode round
the town and surrounded the chief magistrate in the state

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 34 28/05/2015 14:14

34 t h e p r i n c e

At a prearranged signal his soldiers moved in and killed all
the senators and richest men in town. After this massacre
Agathocles became King of Syracuse and held his throne
without any resistance from the people. Twice defeated by
the Carthaginians and then actually besieged, not only did he
manage to defend his town but, leaving some men behind to
resist the siege, he led the rest out of Syracuse to attack Africa.
The siege was lifted and the Carthaginians pushed to the brink
of collapse, at which point they accepted an agreement which
allowed them to keep Africa and left Sicily to Agathocles.

Looking at Agathocles’ life and achievements, you won’t
find much that can be attributed to luck. As I said, he had no
backers or benefactors when he took power but rose through
the ranks, surviving all kinds of hardships and dangers. And
when he’d got power he knew how to take tough, dangerous
decisions to hold on to it. On the other hand, we can hardly
describe killing fellow citizens, betraying friends and living
without loyalty, mercy or creed as signs of talent. Methods
like that may bring you power, but not glory. If you consider
Agathocles’ ability to take risks and come out on top, and his
remarkable spirit when it came to facing and overcoming
obstacles, it’s hard to see why he isn’t rated as highly as the
most outstanding military leaders. But his brutality, cruelty
and inhumanity, together with the endless crimes he com-
mitted, mean he has no place among the men we most admire.
In conclusion, we can’t attribute Agathocles’ achievements to
luck or to positive qualities, since he needed neither.

In our own times, we have the example of Oliverotto, a
man from the town of Fermo who lived during the papacy of
Alexander VI. Orphaned of his father while still very young,
Oliverotto was brought up by his uncle, Giovanni Fogliani,
who had him join the army under Paulo Vitelli in the hope
that, with military discipline, he would rise to a high rank. On
Paulo’s death, Oliverotto served under his brother, Vitellozzo,
and being very capable, with a strong personality and power-

s t a t e s w o n b y c r i m e 35

ful physique, he soon became the army’s top man. But since
he felt that working with others was demeaning, he decided
to take Fermo for himself. Having got the support of some of
the town’s citizens, people who preferred to see their city
enslaved rather than free, and with the backing of Vitellozzo,
he wrote to Giovanni Fogliani saying that now so many years
had gone by he was eager to come home and see his uncle
again, visit the town, and check over some of his property.
And since, he wrote, he’d been working hard for nothing but
the prestige of his position, he wanted to ride into town in
style with a hundred mounted friends and servants beside
him; that way his fellow citizens would see that he hadn’t been
wasting his time. And he asked his uncle please to arrange for
the people of Fermo to organize an appropriate reception,
something that would not only honour him but also his uncle,
who had brought him up.

Giovanni spared no effort to do his nephew proud and,
after the people of Fermo had given him a formal reception,
Oliverotto was welcomed into his uncle’s house. A few days
later, having used the time to make secret arrangements for
the crime he was planning, he threw an impressive banquet
to which he invited Giovanni Fogliani and all the town’s
leading men. After they’d finished eating and sat through all
the entertainments you get on these occasions, Oliverotto
slyly launched into some weighty reflections on the power
and achievements of Pope Alexander and his son Cesare
Borgia. When Giovanni and the others joined the conver-
sation, Oliverotto suddenly got to his feet and said these were
matters best discussed in a more private place and he headed
for another room with Giovanni and all the other citizens
trailing after him. They had barely sat down before
Oliverotto’s soldiers rushed out of their hiding places and
killed the lot of them.

After the massacre, Oliverotto got on his horse, rode round
the town and surrounded the chief magistrate in the state

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 35 28/05/2015 14:14

36 t h e p r i n c e

palace, with the result that people were forced to do what he
said and set up a government with Oliverotto as the ruler.
Having killed everyone who opposed the coup and might hit
back, he strengthened his position by setting up a new army
and new civil institutions, so that within the year he was not
only undisputed master of Fermo but also a serious threat to
the neighbouring towns. And as with Agathocles, it would
have been very hard to unseat Oliverotto, had he not let
himself be fooled by Cesare Borgia, when, as explained earlier
on, Borgia lured the Orsini and Vitelli men to Senigallia.
Oliverotto went with them and so, just a year after killing
his uncle, he was strangled along with Vitellozzo Vitelli, his
mentor in courage and crime.

You might well wonder how on earth, after all their count-
less betrayals and cruelties, men like Agathocles could sit safe
on their thrones for years and even defend themselves against
foreign enemies without their citizens ever conspiring against
them; and this while many others, equally ready to use cruelty,
weren’t even able to hold on to their power in peacetime,
never mind in war. I think it’s a question of whether cruelty
is well or badly used. Cruelty well used (if we can ever speak
well of something bad) is short-lived and decisive, no more
than is necessary to secure your position and then stop; you
don’t go on being cruel but use the power it has given you to
deliver maximum benefits to your subjects. Cruelty is badly
used when you’re not drastic enough at the beginning but
grow increasingly cruel later on, rather than easing off. A
leader who takes the first approach has a chance, like Aga-
thocles, of improving his position with his subjects and with
God too; go the other way and you have no chance at all.

It’s worth noting that when you take hold of a state, you
must assess how much violence and cruelty will be necessary
and get it over with at once, so as not to have to be cruel on
a regular basis. When you’ve stopped using violence your
subjects will be reassured and you can then win them over

s t a t e s w o n b y c r i m e 37

with generosity. If you don’t do all it takes at the beginning,
because you were badly advised or didn’t have the nerve, then
you’ll always have to be wielding the knife; and you’ll never
be able to count on your subjects, since with all the violence
you’re handing out they won’t be able to count on you. So
get the violence over with as soon as possible; that way there’ll
be less time for people to taste its bitterness and they’ll be less
hostile. Favours, on the other hand, should be given out
slowly, one by one, so that they can be properly savoured.
Most of all, though, a ruler should have the kind of relation-
ship with his subjects where nothing that can happen, good
or bad, will force him to change his approach, because if hard
times demand it, your cruelty will come too late, while any
concessions you make will be seen as wrung out of you and
no one will be impressed.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 36 28/05/2015 14:14

36 t h e p r i n c e

palace, with the result that people were forced to do what he
said and set up a government with Oliverotto as the ruler.
Having killed everyone who opposed the coup and might hit
back, he strengthened his position by setting up a new army
and new civil institutions, so that within the year he was not
only undisputed master of Fermo but also a serious threat to
the neighbouring towns. And as with Agathocles, it would
have been very hard to unseat Oliverotto, had he not let
himself be fooled by Cesare Borgia, when, as explained earlier
on, Borgia lured the Orsini and Vitelli men to Senigallia.
Oliverotto went with them and so, just a year after killing
his uncle, he was strangled along with Vitellozzo Vitelli, his
mentor in courage and crime.

You might well wonder how on earth, after all their count-
less betrayals and cruelties, men like Agathocles could sit safe
on their thrones for years and even defend themselves against
foreign enemies without their citizens ever conspiring against
them; and this while many others, equally ready to use cruelty,
weren’t even able to hold on to their power in peacetime,
never mind in war. I think it’s a question of whether cruelty
is well or badly used. Cruelty well used (if we can ever speak
well of something bad) is short-lived and decisive, no more
than is necessary to secure your position and then stop; you
don’t go on being cruel but use the power it has given you to
deliver maximum benefits to your subjects. Cruelty is badly
used when you’re not drastic enough at the beginning but
grow increasingly cruel later on, rather than easing off. A
leader who takes the first approach has a chance, like Aga-
thocles, of improving his position with his subjects and with
God too; go the other way and you have no chance at all.

It’s worth noting that when you take hold of a state, you
must assess how much violence and cruelty will be necessary
and get it over with at once, so as not to have to be cruel on
a regular basis. When you’ve stopped using violence your
subjects will be reassured and you can then win them over

s t a t e s w o n b y c r i m e 37

with generosity. If you don’t do all it takes at the beginning,
because you were badly advised or didn’t have the nerve, then
you’ll always have to be wielding the knife; and you’ll never
be able to count on your subjects, since with all the violence
you’re handing out they won’t be able to count on you. So
get the violence over with as soon as possible; that way there’ll
be less time for people to taste its bitterness and they’ll be less
hostile. Favours, on the other hand, should be given out
slowly, one by one, so that they can be properly savoured.
Most of all, though, a ruler should have the kind of relation-
ship with his subjects where nothing that can happen, good
or bad, will force him to change his approach, because if hard
times demand it, your cruelty will come too late, while any
concessions you make will be seen as wrung out of you and
no one will be impressed.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 37 28/05/2015 14:14

9

Monarchy with public support

Now let’s turn to our second case, where a private citizen
becomes king in his own country not by crime or unacceptable
violence, but with the support of his fellow-citizens. We can
call this a monarchy with public support and to become its
king you don’t have to be wholly brilliant or extraordinarily
lucky, just shrewd in a lucky way. Obviously, to take control
of this kind of state you need the support of either the common
people or the wealthy families, the nobles. In every city one
finds these two conflicting political positions: there are the
common people who are eager not to be ordered around and
oppressed by the noble families, and there are the nobles who
are eager to oppress the common people and order them
around. These opposing impulses will lead to one of three
different situations: a monarchy, a republic, or anarchy.

A monarchy can be brought about either by the common
people or the nobles, when one or the other party finds it
convenient. Seeing that they can’t control the people, the
wealthy families begin to concentrate prestige on one of their
number and make him king so as to be able to get what they
want in his shadow. Likewise, the people, seeing that they
can’t resist the power of the nobles, concentrate prestige on
one citizen and make him king so that his authority will
protect them. A king who comes to power with the help of
the rich nobles will have more trouble keeping it than the
king who gets there with the support of the people, because

m o n a r c h y w i t h p u b l i c s u p p o r t 39

he will be surrounded by men who consider themselves his
equals, and that will make it hard for him to give them orders
or to manage affairs as he wants.

But a man coming to power with the support of the
common people holds it alone and has no one, or hardly
anyone, around him who’s unwilling to obey. What’s more,
you can’t in good faith give the nobles what they want without
doing harm to others; but you can with the people. Because
the people’s aspirations are more honourable than those of
the nobles: the nobles want to oppress the people, while the
people want to be free from oppression. What’s more, a king
can never be safe if the common people are hostile to him,
because there are so many of them; but he can protect himself
against the nobles, since there are not so many. The worst a
king can expect if the people turn hostile is that they will
desert him; but when the nobles turn against him, he has
to fear not only desertion, but a direct attack. The nobles are
smarter, they see further ahead, they always move early
enough to save their skins, ingratiating themselves with who-
ever they think will turn out the winner. Then, of necessity, a
king will always have to live with the same common people;
but he can perfectly well get by without the same nobles, since
he can make and unmake noblemen every day, giving and
taking away honours as he likes.

Let’s settle this question of the nobles. As I see it, they can
be divided for the most part into two categories: either they
behave in such a way as to tie themselves entirely to your
destiny, or they don’t. Those who do tie themselves and aren’t
greedy should be honoured and loved; the ones who don’t
can be further divided into two groups. Maybe they are
anxious men, naturally lacking in character, in which case
you’d better make use of them, especially the ones with good
advice to offer, since when things are going well they’ll respect
you and when things are tough you needn’t fear them; but if
they’re hanging back out of calculation and ambition that’s a

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 38 28/05/2015 14:14

9

Monarchy with public support

Now let’s turn to our second case, where a private citizen
becomes king in his own country not by crime or unacceptable
violence, but with the support of his fellow-citizens. We can
call this a monarchy with public support and to become its
king you don’t have to be wholly brilliant or extraordinarily
lucky, just shrewd in a lucky way. Obviously, to take control
of this kind of state you need the support of either the common
people or the wealthy families, the nobles. In every city one
finds these two conflicting political positions: there are the
common people who are eager not to be ordered around and
oppressed by the noble families, and there are the nobles who
are eager to oppress the common people and order them
around. These opposing impulses will lead to one of three
different situations: a monarchy, a republic, or anarchy.

A monarchy can be brought about either by the common
people or the nobles, when one or the other party finds it
convenient. Seeing that they can’t control the people, the
wealthy families begin to concentrate prestige on one of their
number and make him king so as to be able to get what they
want in his shadow. Likewise, the people, seeing that they
can’t resist the power of the nobles, concentrate prestige on
one citizen and make him king so that his authority will
protect them. A king who comes to power with the help of
the rich nobles will have more trouble keeping it than the
king who gets there with the support of the people, because

m o n a r c h y w i t h p u b l i c s u p p o r t 39

he will be surrounded by men who consider themselves his
equals, and that will make it hard for him to give them orders
or to manage affairs as he wants.

But a man coming to power with the support of the
common people holds it alone and has no one, or hardly
anyone, around him who’s unwilling to obey. What’s more,
you can’t in good faith give the nobles what they want without
doing harm to others; but you can with the people. Because
the people’s aspirations are more honourable than those of
the nobles: the nobles want to oppress the people, while the
people want to be free from oppression. What’s more, a king
can never be safe if the common people are hostile to him,
because there are so many of them; but he can protect himself
against the nobles, since there are not so many. The worst a
king can expect if the people turn hostile is that they will
desert him; but when the nobles turn against him, he has
to fear not only desertion, but a direct attack. The nobles are
smarter, they see further ahead, they always move early
enough to save their skins, ingratiating themselves with who-
ever they think will turn out the winner. Then, of necessity, a
king will always have to live with the same common people;
but he can perfectly well get by without the same nobles, since
he can make and unmake noblemen every day, giving and
taking away honours as he likes.

Let’s settle this question of the nobles. As I see it, they can
be divided for the most part into two categories: either they
behave in such a way as to tie themselves entirely to your
destiny, or they don’t. Those who do tie themselves and aren’t
greedy should be honoured and loved; the ones who don’t
can be further divided into two groups. Maybe they are
anxious men, naturally lacking in character, in which case
you’d better make use of them, especially the ones with good
advice to offer, since when things are going well they’ll respect
you and when things are tough you needn’t fear them; but if
they’re hanging back out of calculation and ambition that’s a

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 39 28/05/2015 14:14

40 t h e p r i n c e

sign they’re looking more to their own interests than to yours.
These are the ones you have to watch out for and guard
against as if they were already declared enemies, because,
inevitably, when things start going wrong, these men will be
working to bring you down.

A man who becomes king with the support of the people,
then, must keep those people on his side. This is easy enough
since all they want is to be free from oppression. But the man
who becomes king against the will of the majority and with
the support of the wealthy nobles must make it an absolute
priority to win over the affection of the common people. This
will be easy if he takes them under his protection. When
people are treated well by someone they thought was hostile
they respond with even greater loyalty; they’ll go over to his
side at once and be even more devoted than if he had taken
power with their support. There are all kinds of ways a king
can win the people’s affection, but since these depend on
particular circumstances and one can hardly lay down rules,
I’ll leave them out of our discussion. I’ll just conclude, then,
that a ruler must have the people on his side; otherwise when
things get tough there’ll be no way out.

Nabis, the Spartan king, was besieged by forces from all
over Greece plus a hugely successful Roman army, but he
held out and defended his country and his position against
the lot of them. All he had to do when danger threatened was
take precautions to deal with a few internal enemies, but if
he’d had the people against him, this wouldn’t have been
enough. And if anyone objects to my reasoning here with that
trite proverb: the man who builds his house on the people is
building on mud, my answer is that this is true if it’s a private
citizen doing the building and imagining the people will come
to his rescue when he’s in trouble with the law or his enemies.
Men like this usually find themselves being let down, as did
the Gracchi brothers in Rome and Giorgio Scali in Florence.
But when it’s a king building on the people, and when he’s a

m o n a r c h y w i t h p u b l i c s u p p o r t 41

man of spirit who knows how to lead and doesn’t panic when
things get tough, a man who takes the right precautions and
whose personality and style of government keeps everybody
in a positive state of mind, then the people will never let him
down and time will show what solid foundations he laid.

This kind of ruler is most at risk when passing from publicly
supported leadership to absolute rule. At this point he either
commands directly himself or gives orders by proxy through
magistrates. If he’s ruling by proxy he’ll be weaker and
exposed to greater risks, since he now depends entirely on the
good will of the men appointed as magistrates and they can
very easily strip him of his power, particularly when times are
hard, either by attacking him directly or by just not carrying
out his orders. Once the trouble has begun, the ruler won’t
have time to take absolute command himself because his
citizens and subjects will be used to taking orders from magis-
trates and they aren’t going to start obeying him in a moment
of crisis; so when he’s up against it, he’ll always be struggling
to find anyone he can trust. A ruler in this position mustn’t
count on what he sees when things are going well and the
citizens need his government. Then everybody comes running,
everyone is promising this and that, everyone is ready to die
for him, since there is no question of dying. But when things
get tough and it’s the government that needs the citizens,
then hardly anyone shows. And what’s so dangerous about a
critical moment like this is that you only get one shot at it. So
if he’s sensible the ruler must work out a situation where
his citizens will always need both his government and him,
however well or badly things are going. Then they will always
be loyal.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 40 28/05/2015 14:14

40 t h e p r i n c e

sign they’re looking more to their own interests than to yours.
These are the ones you have to watch out for and guard
against as if they were already declared enemies, because,
inevitably, when things start going wrong, these men will be
working to bring you down.

A man who becomes king with the support of the people,
then, must keep those people on his side. This is easy enough
since all they want is to be free from oppression. But the man
who becomes king against the will of the majority and with
the support of the wealthy nobles must make it an absolute
priority to win over the affection of the common people. This
will be easy if he takes them under his protection. When
people are treated well by someone they thought was hostile
they respond with even greater loyalty; they’ll go over to his
side at once and be even more devoted than if he had taken
power with their support. There are all kinds of ways a king
can win the people’s affection, but since these depend on
particular circumstances and one can hardly lay down rules,
I’ll leave them out of our discussion. I’ll just conclude, then,
that a ruler must have the people on his side; otherwise when
things get tough there’ll be no way out.

Nabis, the Spartan king, was besieged by forces from all
over Greece plus a hugely successful Roman army, but he
held out and defended his country and his position against
the lot of them. All he had to do when danger threatened was
take precautions to deal with a few internal enemies, but if
he’d had the people against him, this wouldn’t have been
enough. And if anyone objects to my reasoning here with that
trite proverb: the man who builds his house on the people is
building on mud, my answer is that this is true if it’s a private
citizen doing the building and imagining the people will come
to his rescue when he’s in trouble with the law or his enemies.
Men like this usually find themselves being let down, as did
the Gracchi brothers in Rome and Giorgio Scali in Florence.
But when it’s a king building on the people, and when he’s a

m o n a r c h y w i t h p u b l i c s u p p o r t 41

man of spirit who knows how to lead and doesn’t panic when
things get tough, a man who takes the right precautions and
whose personality and style of government keeps everybody
in a positive state of mind, then the people will never let him
down and time will show what solid foundations he laid.

This kind of ruler is most at risk when passing from publicly
supported leadership to absolute rule. At this point he either
commands directly himself or gives orders by proxy through
magistrates. If he’s ruling by proxy he’ll be weaker and
exposed to greater risks, since he now depends entirely on the
good will of the men appointed as magistrates and they can
very easily strip him of his power, particularly when times are
hard, either by attacking him directly or by just not carrying
out his orders. Once the trouble has begun, the ruler won’t
have time to take absolute command himself because his
citizens and subjects will be used to taking orders from magis-
trates and they aren’t going to start obeying him in a moment
of crisis; so when he’s up against it, he’ll always be struggling
to find anyone he can trust. A ruler in this position mustn’t
count on what he sees when things are going well and the
citizens need his government. Then everybody comes running,
everyone is promising this and that, everyone is ready to die
for him, since there is no question of dying. But when things
get tough and it’s the government that needs the citizens,
then hardly anyone shows. And what’s so dangerous about a
critical moment like this is that you only get one shot at it. So
if he’s sensible the ruler must work out a situation where
his citizens will always need both his government and him,
however well or badly things are going. Then they will always
be loyal.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 41 28/05/2015 14:14

10

Assessing a state’s strength

When looking at the nature of these various states one
important question to ask is: if attacked, does a ruler have
sufficient power to defend himself with his own resources, or
will he always have to rely on the protection of others? To
make the question more precise, let’s say that a ruler who
has enough men or enough money to put together an army
that can take on all comers is, by my definition, capable
of defending himself, while a ruler who can’t take on an
enemy in the field but has to withdraw behind his city
walls and defend those, is one who will always be in need of
outside help. We’ve already said something about the first
kind of ruler [Chapter 6] and later on there’ll be more
[Chapters 11–13]. As for the second kind, one can only
encourage them to fortify their home towns and keep them
well supplied, while leaving the surrounding countryside
entirely to its fate. If a ruler has built good fortifications and
managed his relationship with his subjects as suggested above
and further elaborated in the following pages, his enemies
will always think twice before attacking him. People are
always wary of projects that present obvious difficulties, and
attacking a well-defended town and a ruler whose subjects
don’t hate him is never an easy proposition.

German cities are completely independent, don’t have much
territory around them and obey the emperor only when it
suits. They are not afraid of him, nor of any other powerful

a s s e s s i n g a s t a t e ’ s s t r e n g t h 43

rulers in the area. This is because these towns are so well
fortified that everyone realizes what an arduous, wearisome
business it would be to attack them. They all have properly
sized moats and walls; they have the necessary artillery; they
have public warehouses with food, drink and firewood for a
year; what’s more, to keep people well fed without draining
the public purse, they stock materials for a year’s worth of
work in whatever trades are the lifeblood of the city and
whatever jobs the common folk earn their keep with. They
hold military exercises in high regard and make all kinds of
arrangements to make sure they’re routinely practised.

So, a ruler whose city is well fortified and who doesn’t
inspire hatred among his subjects isn’t going to be attacked,
and even if he is, his attackers will leave humiliated, because
the world is such a changeable place that it’s almost impos-
sible to keep an army camped outside a city’s walls doing
nothing for a whole year. Someone will object: what if people
have houses outside the walls and see them being burned
down; won’t they get impatient; won’t the long siege and their
worries for their own futures make them forget their ruler?
My answer is that a leader with power and personality will
always get round problems like this; he can raise hopes that
the siege won’t last long; he can frighten people with stories
about the enemy’s cruelty; he can move quickly to block
anyone who seems too hot-headed. Aside from this, it’s obvi-
ous that the enemy is going to be burning and razing the
countryside as he approaches the town at a time when people
are still enthusiastic and determined to resist. This actually
gives the ruler less cause for concern, because a few days later,
when hearts are cooling, the damage is already done, the blow
struck, and there’s no way back. As a result, people will rally
round their ruler all the more, they’ll see him as indebted to
them because their houses have been burned and their prop-
erty destroyed in his defence. It’s human nature to tie yourself
to a leader as much for the services you’ve done him as the

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 42 28/05/2015 14:14

10

Assessing a state’s strength

When looking at the nature of these various states one
important question to ask is: if attacked, does a ruler have
sufficient power to defend himself with his own resources, or
will he always have to rely on the protection of others? To
make the question more precise, let’s say that a ruler who
has enough men or enough money to put together an army
that can take on all comers is, by my definition, capable
of defending himself, while a ruler who can’t take on an
enemy in the field but has to withdraw behind his city
walls and defend those, is one who will always be in need of
outside help. We’ve already said something about the first
kind of ruler [Chapter 6] and later on there’ll be more
[Chapters 11–13]. As for the second kind, one can only
encourage them to fortify their home towns and keep them
well supplied, while leaving the surrounding countryside
entirely to its fate. If a ruler has built good fortifications and
managed his relationship with his subjects as suggested above
and further elaborated in the following pages, his enemies
will always think twice before attacking him. People are
always wary of projects that present obvious difficulties, and
attacking a well-defended town and a ruler whose subjects
don’t hate him is never an easy proposition.

German cities are completely independent, don’t have much
territory around them and obey the emperor only when it
suits. They are not afraid of him, nor of any other powerful

a s s e s s i n g a s t a t e ’ s s t r e n g t h 43

rulers in the area. This is because these towns are so well
fortified that everyone realizes what an arduous, wearisome
business it would be to attack them. They all have properly
sized moats and walls; they have the necessary artillery; they
have public warehouses with food, drink and firewood for a
year; what’s more, to keep people well fed without draining
the public purse, they stock materials for a year’s worth of
work in whatever trades are the lifeblood of the city and
whatever jobs the common folk earn their keep with. They
hold military exercises in high regard and make all kinds of
arrangements to make sure they’re routinely practised.

So, a ruler whose city is well fortified and who doesn’t
inspire hatred among his subjects isn’t going to be attacked,
and even if he is, his attackers will leave humiliated, because
the world is such a changeable place that it’s almost impos-
sible to keep an army camped outside a city’s walls doing
nothing for a whole year. Someone will object: what if people
have houses outside the walls and see them being burned
down; won’t they get impatient; won’t the long siege and their
worries for their own futures make them forget their ruler?
My answer is that a leader with power and personality will
always get round problems like this; he can raise hopes that
the siege won’t last long; he can frighten people with stories
about the enemy’s cruelty; he can move quickly to block
anyone who seems too hot-headed. Aside from this, it’s obvi-
ous that the enemy is going to be burning and razing the
countryside as he approaches the town at a time when people
are still enthusiastic and determined to resist. This actually
gives the ruler less cause for concern, because a few days later,
when hearts are cooling, the damage is already done, the blow
struck, and there’s no way back. As a result, people will rally
round their ruler all the more, they’ll see him as indebted to
them because their houses have been burned and their prop-
erty destroyed in his defence. It’s human nature to tie yourself
to a leader as much for the services you’ve done him as the

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 43 28/05/2015 14:14

44 t h e p r i n c e

good he’s done you. Hence, when you think about it, if the
ruler is sensible, it won’t be that hard to keep people solid
throughout the siege, so long as they have food to eat and
weapons to defend themselves.

11

Church states

The last kind of state we have to look at is the Church state.
In this case all the difficulties an eventual ruler must face come
before he takes power; because while you need ability or luck
to take a state like this you can hold on to it without either.
Church states are upheld by ancient religious institutions that
are so strong and well established as to keep their rulers in
power no matter what they do or how they live. Only Church
leaders possess states without defending them and subjects
without governing them. And even when undefended their
states are not taken off them; even when left ungoverned their
subjects don’t rebel; they don’t think about changing ruler
and wouldn’t be able to anyway. So this is the only form of
government that is secure and relaxed.

But since Church states depend on forces beyond the reach
of human reason, I shall say no more about them. God created
them and sustains them and it would be rash and presump-
tuous for a mere man to discuss them. All the same, if someone
were to ask me how the Church has increased its temporal
power so dramatically in recent times, progressing from a
situation prior to Pope Alexander where even the most insig-
nificant rulers of Italy hardly rated the Church at all in tem-
poral terms to one where a pope can scare the King of France
himself and chase him out of Italy and crush the Venetians,
then I think it would be worthwhile sorting out the facts for
the record, however well known they may already be.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 44 28/05/2015 14:14

44 t h e p r i n c e

good he’s done you. Hence, when you think about it, if the
ruler is sensible, it won’t be that hard to keep people solid
throughout the siege, so long as they have food to eat and
weapons to defend themselves.

11

Church states

The last kind of state we have to look at is the Church state.
In this case all the difficulties an eventual ruler must face come
before he takes power; because while you need ability or luck
to take a state like this you can hold on to it without either.
Church states are upheld by ancient religious institutions that
are so strong and well established as to keep their rulers in
power no matter what they do or how they live. Only Church
leaders possess states without defending them and subjects
without governing them. And even when undefended their
states are not taken off them; even when left ungoverned their
subjects don’t rebel; they don’t think about changing ruler
and wouldn’t be able to anyway. So this is the only form of
government that is secure and relaxed.

But since Church states depend on forces beyond the reach
of human reason, I shall say no more about them. God created
them and sustains them and it would be rash and presump-
tuous for a mere man to discuss them. All the same, if someone
were to ask me how the Church has increased its temporal
power so dramatically in recent times, progressing from a
situation prior to Pope Alexander where even the most insig-
nificant rulers of Italy hardly rated the Church at all in tem-
poral terms to one where a pope can scare the King of France
himself and chase him out of Italy and crush the Venetians,
then I think it would be worthwhile sorting out the facts for
the record, however well known they may already be.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 45 28/05/2015 14:14

46 t h e p r i n c e

Before Charles, King of France, came down into Italy, the
country was controlled by the pope, the Venetians, the King
of Naples, the Duke of Milan and the Florentines. Necessarily,
these powerful states had two main concerns: to keep foreign
armies out of Italy and to prevent each other from grabbing
more territory. The pope and the Venetians were the most
eager expansionists. The only way to hold back the Venetians
was for all the other states to band together, as they did in
the defence of Ferrara; to frustrate the pope, on the other
hand, they relied on the Roman barons. Since these barons
were divided into two factions, the Orsinis and the Colonnas,
they always had something to fight about, and with their
swords drawn under the pope’s nose they kept him weak and
indecisive. And though from time to time you might get a
really determined pope, like Sixtus, all the same he was never
quite cunning enough or lucky enough to solve the problem.
The reason was that papacies tended to be short-lived. In the
ten years, on average, that a pope was in power he might just
manage to beat down one of the two factions; but if, for
example, one pope had almost finished off the Colonnas,
the next would be hostile to the Orsinis and so resurrect the
Colonnas, but without quite having the time to see off the
Orsinis. This is why the Italian states did not rate the pope’s
temporal power very highly.

Then came Alexander VI, who more than any other pope
in history showed what could be done with finance and force
of arms. Using Valentino Borgia and taking advantage of the
intrusions of the French, he made all the gains I mentioned in
my discussion of Duke Valentino. And though Alexander’s
aim was to make his son great, not the Church, all the same
his achievements enhanced the power of the Church, which,
after his and then Valentino’s death, inherited his conquests.
So on his election Pope Julius took over a Church that now
possessed the whole of Romagna and was all the more power-
ful because Alexander had quashed the Roman barons and

c h u r c h s t a t e s 47

their factions. He also found a new way of increasing Church
income which had never been used before.*

Julius not only followed Alexander’s lead, but went further.
He aimed to take Bologna, defeat the Venetians and push the
French out of Italy. In the end all three goals were achieved
and Julius’s credit was the greater because he did it for the
glory of the Church, not out of private interest. He kept the
Orsini and Colonna factions in the same reduced state he
found them in, and, though one or two of their leaders tried
to change things, two obstacles held them back: the first was
the Church’s power, which unnerved them, and the second
was the fact that they had no cardinals. Cardinals are always a
cause of internal division; when they have their own cardinals,
these factions are never quiet, because the cardinals feed party
animosity both inside and outside Rome and the barons are
forced to come to their party’s defence. So it’s the ambition
of the cardinals that prompts hostility and conflict between
the barons. On Julius’s death, his Holiness Pope Leo found
the papacy in an extremely strong position and it is to be
hoped that while his predecessors made the Church great by
armed force, he can make it even greater and more praise-
worthy thanks to his goodness and many, many other virtues.

* The sale of Church benefices and indulgences.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 46 28/05/2015 14:14

46 t h e p r i n c e

Before Charles, King of France, came down into Italy, the
country was controlled by the pope, the Venetians, the King
of Naples, the Duke of Milan and the Florentines. Necessarily,
these powerful states had two main concerns: to keep foreign
armies out of Italy and to prevent each other from grabbing
more territory. The pope and the Venetians were the most
eager expansionists. The only way to hold back the Venetians
was for all the other states to band together, as they did in
the defence of Ferrara; to frustrate the pope, on the other
hand, they relied on the Roman barons. Since these barons
were divided into two factions, the Orsinis and the Colonnas,
they always had something to fight about, and with their
swords drawn under the pope’s nose they kept him weak and
indecisive. And though from time to time you might get a
really determined pope, like Sixtus, all the same he was never
quite cunning enough or lucky enough to solve the problem.
The reason was that papacies tended to be short-lived. In the
ten years, on average, that a pope was in power he might just
manage to beat down one of the two factions; but if, for
example, one pope had almost finished off the Colonnas,
the next would be hostile to the Orsinis and so resurrect the
Colonnas, but without quite having the time to see off the
Orsinis. This is why the Italian states did not rate the pope’s
temporal power very highly.

Then came Alexander VI, who more than any other pope
in history showed what could be done with finance and force
of arms. Using Valentino Borgia and taking advantage of the
intrusions of the French, he made all the gains I mentioned in
my discussion of Duke Valentino. And though Alexander’s
aim was to make his son great, not the Church, all the same
his achievements enhanced the power of the Church, which,
after his and then Valentino’s death, inherited his conquests.
So on his election Pope Julius took over a Church that now
possessed the whole of Romagna and was all the more power-
ful because Alexander had quashed the Roman barons and

c h u r c h s t a t e s 47

their factions. He also found a new way of increasing Church
income which had never been used before.*

Julius not only followed Alexander’s lead, but went further.
He aimed to take Bologna, defeat the Venetians and push the
French out of Italy. In the end all three goals were achieved
and Julius’s credit was the greater because he did it for the
glory of the Church, not out of private interest. He kept the
Orsini and Colonna factions in the same reduced state he
found them in, and, though one or two of their leaders tried
to change things, two obstacles held them back: the first was
the Church’s power, which unnerved them, and the second
was the fact that they had no cardinals. Cardinals are always a
cause of internal division; when they have their own cardinals,
these factions are never quiet, because the cardinals feed party
animosity both inside and outside Rome and the barons are
forced to come to their party’s defence. So it’s the ambition
of the cardinals that prompts hostility and conflict between
the barons. On Julius’s death, his Holiness Pope Leo found
the papacy in an extremely strong position and it is to be
hoped that while his predecessors made the Church great by
armed force, he can make it even greater and more praise-
worthy thanks to his goodness and many, many other virtues.

* The sale of Church benefices and indulgences.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 47 28/05/2015 14:14

12

Different kinds of armies and a
consideration of mercenary forces

Now that I’ve given a detailed account of the characteristics
of the states I set out to talk about, and examined to some
extent the reasons for their being powerful or weak and the
ways people in the past have tried to take and to hold them,
I shall offer a more general discussion of the means of attack
and defence available to each kind of state. We’ve already
said that a ruler’s power must be based on solid foundations;
otherwise he’s bound to fall. And the main foundations of any
state, whether it be new, or old, or a new territory acquired by
an old regime, are good laws and good armed forces. And
since you can’t have good laws if you don’t have good armed
forces, while if you have good armed forces good laws inevi-
tably follow, I’ll leave aside a discussion of the law and go
straight to the question of the army.

Now, the armies a ruler is depending on to defend his state
will either be his own, or mercenaries, or auxiliaries, or some
combination of these. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless
and dangerous. If you are counting on mercenaries to defend
your state you will never be stable or secure, because mercen-
aries are ambitious, undisciplined, disloyal and they quarrel
among themselves. Courageous with friends and cowardly
with enemies, they have no fear of God and keep no promises.
With mercenaries the only way to delay disaster is to delay
the battle; in peacetime they plunder you and in wartime they
let the enemy plunder you. Why? Because the only interest

d i f f e r e n t k i n d s o f a r m i e s 49

they have in you and their only reason for fighting is the
meagre salary you’re paying them, and that’s not reason
enough to make them want to die for you. Sure, they’re happy
to be your soldiers while you’re not at war, but when war
comes, they run for it, or just disappear.

It shouldn’t be hard to convince the reader of this, since
Italy’s present ruin has been caused precisely by a prolonged
dependence on mercenaries. It’s true that mercenary forces
did win some battles and seemed courageous when fighting
other mercenaries; but as soon as a foreign army turned up
we saw what they were made of: Charles, King of France,
didn’t even have to fight; his men just put chalk crosses on
the buildings they planned to use as billets. When Savonarola
said we brought this on ourselves with our own sins, he was
right; except the sins were not what he was thinking of, but
the ones I’ve been talking about. And because they were our
rulers’ sins, it was our rulers who paid the price.

I’d like to offer a better explanation of why mercenaries are
not a good idea. A mercenary commander may or may not be
an excellent military leader: if he is, you can’t trust him because
he will always aspire to power himself, either by attacking you,
his paymaster, or by attacking others against your wishes; but
if he isn’t a capable leader, he’ll ruin you anyway. And if some-
one objects that it hardly matters who commands the army
since commanders always behave like this, whether mercenary
or no, my response is as follows: armed forces are always at the
service of a hereditary ruler or a republic. A ruler must go in
person and act as commander himself; a republic must send
its citizens; if it sends a man who turns out to be no good it
must replace him; if he is good it must keep him in line with
laws that prevent him exceeding his brief. Experience shows
that only rulers and republics with their own armies make
serious progress, while mercenaries bring nothing but trouble.
And a republic with a citizen army is less likely to fall victim
to a coup than a republic paying for mercenary armies.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 48 28/05/2015 14:14

12

Different kinds of armies and a
consideration of mercenary forces

Now that I’ve given a detailed account of the characteristics
of the states I set out to talk about, and examined to some
extent the reasons for their being powerful or weak and the
ways people in the past have tried to take and to hold them,
I shall offer a more general discussion of the means of attack
and defence available to each kind of state. We’ve already
said that a ruler’s power must be based on solid foundations;
otherwise he’s bound to fall. And the main foundations of any
state, whether it be new, or old, or a new territory acquired by
an old regime, are good laws and good armed forces. And
since you can’t have good laws if you don’t have good armed
forces, while if you have good armed forces good laws inevi-
tably follow, I’ll leave aside a discussion of the law and go
straight to the question of the army.

Now, the armies a ruler is depending on to defend his state
will either be his own, or mercenaries, or auxiliaries, or some
combination of these. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless
and dangerous. If you are counting on mercenaries to defend
your state you will never be stable or secure, because mercen-
aries are ambitious, undisciplined, disloyal and they quarrel
among themselves. Courageous with friends and cowardly
with enemies, they have no fear of God and keep no promises.
With mercenaries the only way to delay disaster is to delay
the battle; in peacetime they plunder you and in wartime they
let the enemy plunder you. Why? Because the only interest

d i f f e r e n t k i n d s o f a r m i e s 49

they have in you and their only reason for fighting is the
meagre salary you’re paying them, and that’s not reason
enough to make them want to die for you. Sure, they’re happy
to be your soldiers while you’re not at war, but when war
comes, they run for it, or just disappear.

It shouldn’t be hard to convince the reader of this, since
Italy’s present ruin has been caused precisely by a prolonged
dependence on mercenaries. It’s true that mercenary forces
did win some battles and seemed courageous when fighting
other mercenaries; but as soon as a foreign army turned up
we saw what they were made of: Charles, King of France,
didn’t even have to fight; his men just put chalk crosses on
the buildings they planned to use as billets. When Savonarola
said we brought this on ourselves with our own sins, he was
right; except the sins were not what he was thinking of, but
the ones I’ve been talking about. And because they were our
rulers’ sins, it was our rulers who paid the price.

I’d like to offer a better explanation of why mercenaries are
not a good idea. A mercenary commander may or may not be
an excellent military leader: if he is, you can’t trust him because
he will always aspire to power himself, either by attacking you,
his paymaster, or by attacking others against your wishes; but
if he isn’t a capable leader, he’ll ruin you anyway. And if some-
one objects that it hardly matters who commands the army
since commanders always behave like this, whether mercenary
or no, my response is as follows: armed forces are always at the
service of a hereditary ruler or a republic. A ruler must go in
person and act as commander himself; a republic must send
its citizens; if it sends a man who turns out to be no good it
must replace him; if he is good it must keep him in line with
laws that prevent him exceeding his brief. Experience shows
that only rulers and republics with their own armies make
serious progress, while mercenaries bring nothing but trouble.
And a republic with a citizen army is less likely to fall victim
to a coup than a republic paying for mercenary armies.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 49 28/05/2015 14:14

50 t h e p r i n c e

Rome and Sparta stood for many centuries armed and free.
The Swiss are extremely well armed and completely free. One
example of the use of mercenaries in ancient times is Carthage.
After the first war with Rome the Carthaginians were almost
overthrown by their mercenaries despite the fact that these
men were commanded by Carthaginian citizens. After the
death of Epaminondas the Thebans made Philip of Macedonia
commander of their army and no sooner had he won the war
than he stripped them of their freedom. On the death of
Filippo Maria Visconti, the Milanese hired Francesco Sforza
to fight against the Venetians. Having beaten the Venetians
at Caravaggio, Sforza joined forces with them to overthrow
his paymasters, the Milanese. When Francesco’s father was
mercenary commander for Queen Joanna of Naples, he sud-
denly made off and left her undefended so that she had to put
herself into the hands of the King of Aragon or risk losing her
kingdom.

It’s true that in the past both Venice and Florence did
increase their territories with the use of mercenaries whose
commanders did not seize power but actually defended their
employers. The fact is that the Florentines were lucky; various
powerful captains were indeed potential threats, but one
didn’t win his war, while others either found themselves facing
strong opposition or turned their ambitions elsewhere. The
one who didn’t win was Giovanni Acuto [ John Hawkwood],
and since he lost we don’t know whether he would have been
loyal or not; but everyone must admit that, had he won, the
Florentines would have been at his mercy. Francesco Sforza
had the forces of Braccio da Montone against him and the
two commanders kept each other in check: Sforza turned his
ambitions to Lombardy while Braccio went to fight Rome
and Naples.

But let’s remember what happened just a short while ago.
Florence took on Paulo Vitelli as military commander, an
extremely serious man who had come from nothing to achieve

d i f f e r e n t k i n d s o f a r m i e s 51

enormous prestige. Had he taken Pisa for them, you could
hardly deny that the Florentines would have been right to
hang on to him, because if he had gone over to the enemy,
they wouldn’t have had a chance; but keeping him would
have meant accepting him as their ruler.

Turning to the Venetians, we find they fought confidently
and successfully when they fought for themselves, at sea that
is, where both nobles and armed commoners showed great
courage. But when they began to fight on land, they left
these strengths behind and, like other Italian states, hired
mercenaries. In the early stages of their expansion on the
mainland they had so little territory and so much prestige
they hardly needed to worry about their mercenary com-
manders; but when they pushed deeper into the peninsula,
under the leadership of Carmagnola, they got a taste of the
trouble mercenaries bring. They’d seen what a fine com-
mander Carmagnola was and under his leadership they had
defeated the Duke of Milan, so they soon noticed when he
lost his enthusiasm for the war. They realized they couldn’t
win anything else with him, because that wasn’t what he
wanted, but they couldn’t fire him either for fear of losing
what they had previously won; at which point the only safe
thing to do was to kill him. Later they hired Bartolomeo da
Bergamo, Ruberto da San Severino, Niccolò Orsini, Count of
Pitigliano, and other such mercenary commanders who were
always more likely to lose than win, and in fact at the battle
of Vailà the Venetians eventually lost in a single day all the
gains they had so determinedly accumulated over the past
800 years. The fact is that mercenaries bring only slow, belated,
unconvincing victories, then sudden, bewildering defeats.
Since these examples all have to do with Italy, which has been
dominated by mercenaries for many years, I’d now like to get
a broader view of the problem, because if we can trace its
origin and developments it will be easier to find a solution.

What we must remember is that over recent centuries, as

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 50 28/05/2015 14:14

50 t h e p r i n c e

Rome and Sparta stood for many centuries armed and free.
The Swiss are extremely well armed and completely free. One
example of the use of mercenaries in ancient times is Carthage.
After the first war with Rome the Carthaginians were almost
overthrown by their mercenaries despite the fact that these
men were commanded by Carthaginian citizens. After the
death of Epaminondas the Thebans made Philip of Macedonia
commander of their army and no sooner had he won the war
than he stripped them of their freedom. On the death of
Filippo Maria Visconti, the Milanese hired Francesco Sforza
to fight against the Venetians. Having beaten the Venetians
at Caravaggio, Sforza joined forces with them to overthrow
his paymasters, the Milanese. When Francesco’s father was
mercenary commander for Queen Joanna of Naples, he sud-
denly made off and left her undefended so that she had to put
herself into the hands of the King of Aragon or risk losing her
kingdom.

It’s true that in the past both Venice and Florence did
increase their territories with the use of mercenaries whose
commanders did not seize power but actually defended their
employers. The fact is that the Florentines were lucky; various
powerful captains were indeed potential threats, but one
didn’t win his war, while others either found themselves facing
strong opposition or turned their ambitions elsewhere. The
one who didn’t win was Giovanni Acuto [ John Hawkwood],
and since he lost we don’t know whether he would have been
loyal or not; but everyone must admit that, had he won, the
Florentines would have been at his mercy. Francesco Sforza
had the forces of Braccio da Montone against him and the
two commanders kept each other in check: Sforza turned his
ambitions to Lombardy while Braccio went to fight Rome
and Naples.

But let’s remember what happened just a short while ago.
Florence took on Paulo Vitelli as military commander, an
extremely serious man who had come from nothing to achieve

d i f f e r e n t k i n d s o f a r m i e s 51

enormous prestige. Had he taken Pisa for them, you could
hardly deny that the Florentines would have been right to
hang on to him, because if he had gone over to the enemy,
they wouldn’t have had a chance; but keeping him would
have meant accepting him as their ruler.

Turning to the Venetians, we find they fought confidently
and successfully when they fought for themselves, at sea that
is, where both nobles and armed commoners showed great
courage. But when they began to fight on land, they left
these strengths behind and, like other Italian states, hired
mercenaries. In the early stages of their expansion on the
mainland they had so little territory and so much prestige
they hardly needed to worry about their mercenary com-
manders; but when they pushed deeper into the peninsula,
under the leadership of Carmagnola, they got a taste of the
trouble mercenaries bring. They’d seen what a fine com-
mander Carmagnola was and under his leadership they had
defeated the Duke of Milan, so they soon noticed when he
lost his enthusiasm for the war. They realized they couldn’t
win anything else with him, because that wasn’t what he
wanted, but they couldn’t fire him either for fear of losing
what they had previously won; at which point the only safe
thing to do was to kill him. Later they hired Bartolomeo da
Bergamo, Ruberto da San Severino, Niccolò Orsini, Count of
Pitigliano, and other such mercenary commanders who were
always more likely to lose than win, and in fact at the battle
of Vailà the Venetians eventually lost in a single day all the
gains they had so determinedly accumulated over the past
800 years. The fact is that mercenaries bring only slow, belated,
unconvincing victories, then sudden, bewildering defeats.
Since these examples all have to do with Italy, which has been
dominated by mercenaries for many years, I’d now like to get
a broader view of the problem, because if we can trace its
origin and developments it will be easier to find a solution.

What we must remember is that over recent centuries, as

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 51 28/05/2015 14:14

52 t h e p r i n c e

the empire began to lose its hold in Italy while the pope
increased his temporal power, so the country broke up into
smaller states. Many of the larger cities rose up against the
local nobles who had needed the emperor’s backing to keep
control of them; the Church supported the rebels to increase
its own political influence. In many other towns private
citizens took over as rulers. The result was that with much of
Italy now controlled by the Church and republics, which is
to say by people who had no experience of war, leaders
began to hire men from outside. The first successful mercenary
commander was Alberigo da Conio from Romagna. With
what they learned from him, Braccio da Montone and
Francesco Sforza and others would become arbiters of Italy’s
destiny. After them came all the other mercenary commanders
down to our own times. And the end result of all their genius
is that Italy was overrun by Charles, ransacked by Louis, torn
apart by Ferdinand and humiliated by the Swiss.

The mercenaries’ first tactic was to increase their own
importance by playing down the importance of infantry. Hav-
ing no territory of their own and living on what they got from
fighting, they couldn’t feed large numbers of infantry, while
smaller numbers weren’t sufficiently impressive; so they con-
centrated on cavalry and were fed and respected with more
manageable numbers. Things reached the point where an
army of 20,000 would have fewer than 2,000 infantry. Aside
from this the mercenaries did everything possible to avoid
hard work and danger; they wouldn’t kill each other in
combat but took prisoners, then didn’t even ask for a ran-
som. They wouldn’t attack fortifications at night; and they
wouldn’t leave their own fortifications to attack a besieging
army’s camp. They didn’t dig ditches or build stockades round
their camps; in winter they didn’t camp out at all. All these
omissions became accepted practice for the simple reason, as
I said, that they wanted to steer clear of danger and hard
work. Thus they brought Italy to slavery and humiliation.

13

Auxiliaries, combined forces and
citizen armies

Auxiliary armies – that is, when you ask a powerful ruler to
send military help to defend your town – are likewise useless.
In recent times we have the example of Pope Julius during his
Ferrara campaign: having seen what a sad lot his mercenaries
were in battle, he reached an agreement with Ferdinand, King
of Spain, to have his forces come to help. Auxiliaries may be
efficient and useful when it comes to achieving their own
ends, but they are almost always counterproductive for those
who invite them in, because if they lose, you lose too, and if
they win, you are at their mercy.

Although ancient history is full of pertinent examples, I’d
like to stick to this recent case of Pope Julius II, whose decision
to put himself entirely in a foreign army’s hands merely to
take Ferrara could hardly have been more rash. But he was
lucky and the unlikely outcome of the campaign spared him
the possible consequences of his mistake: when his Spanish
auxiliaries were beaten at Ravenna, the Swiss turned up and
against all expectations – the pope’s included – routed the
hitherto victorious French, so that Julius escaped being a
prisoner either to his enemies, who had fled, or to his auxil-
iaries, who weren’t the ones to win the day for him. The
Florentines, who had no armed forces at all, took 10,000
French auxiliaries to lay siege to Pisa, a decision that put them
in greater danger than any they had experienced in their whole
troubled history. To fight his neighbours, the emperor of

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 52 28/05/2015 14:14

52 t h e p r i n c e

the empire began to lose its hold in Italy while the pope
increased his temporal power, so the country broke up into
smaller states. Many of the larger cities rose up against the
local nobles who had needed the emperor’s backing to keep
control of them; the Church supported the rebels to increase
its own political influence. In many other towns private
citizens took over as rulers. The result was that with much of
Italy now controlled by the Church and republics, which is
to say by people who had no experience of war, leaders
began to hire men from outside. The first successful mercenary
commander was Alberigo da Conio from Romagna. With
what they learned from him, Braccio da Montone and
Francesco Sforza and others would become arbiters of Italy’s
destiny. After them came all the other mercenary commanders
down to our own times. And the end result of all their genius
is that Italy was overrun by Charles, ransacked by Louis, torn
apart by Ferdinand and humiliated by the Swiss.

The mercenaries’ first tactic was to increase their own
importance by playing down the importance of infantry. Hav-
ing no territory of their own and living on what they got from
fighting, they couldn’t feed large numbers of infantry, while
smaller numbers weren’t sufficiently impressive; so they con-
centrated on cavalry and were fed and respected with more
manageable numbers. Things reached the point where an
army of 20,000 would have fewer than 2,000 infantry. Aside
from this the mercenaries did everything possible to avoid
hard work and danger; they wouldn’t kill each other in
combat but took prisoners, then didn’t even ask for a ran-
som. They wouldn’t attack fortifications at night; and they
wouldn’t leave their own fortifications to attack a besieging
army’s camp. They didn’t dig ditches or build stockades round
their camps; in winter they didn’t camp out at all. All these
omissions became accepted practice for the simple reason, as
I said, that they wanted to steer clear of danger and hard
work. Thus they brought Italy to slavery and humiliation.

13

Auxiliaries, combined forces and
citizen armies

Auxiliary armies – that is, when you ask a powerful ruler to
send military help to defend your town – are likewise useless.
In recent times we have the example of Pope Julius during his
Ferrara campaign: having seen what a sad lot his mercenaries
were in battle, he reached an agreement with Ferdinand, King
of Spain, to have his forces come to help. Auxiliaries may be
efficient and useful when it comes to achieving their own
ends, but they are almost always counterproductive for those
who invite them in, because if they lose, you lose too, and if
they win, you are at their mercy.

Although ancient history is full of pertinent examples, I’d
like to stick to this recent case of Pope Julius II, whose decision
to put himself entirely in a foreign army’s hands merely to
take Ferrara could hardly have been more rash. But he was
lucky and the unlikely outcome of the campaign spared him
the possible consequences of his mistake: when his Spanish
auxiliaries were beaten at Ravenna, the Swiss turned up and
against all expectations – the pope’s included – routed the
hitherto victorious French, so that Julius escaped being a
prisoner either to his enemies, who had fled, or to his auxil-
iaries, who weren’t the ones to win the day for him. The
Florentines, who had no armed forces at all, took 10,000
French auxiliaries to lay siege to Pisa, a decision that put them
in greater danger than any they had experienced in their whole
troubled history. To fight his neighbours, the emperor of

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 53 28/05/2015 14:14

54 t h e p r i n c e

Constantinople brought 10,000 Turks into Greece and when
the war was over they wouldn’t leave, which was how the
infidels began to get control of Greece.

So anyone looking for a no-win situation should turn to
auxiliaries, because they are far more dangerous even than
mercenaries. With auxiliaries your ruin is guaranteed: they
are a tightly knit force and every one of them obedient to
someone else; when mercenaries win they need time and a
convenient opportunity before they can attack you, if only
because they’re not a solid united force, you chose them,
you’re paying them, and hence it will take the man you put
in command a while to build up sufficient authority to turn
against you. To summarize, the big danger with mercenaries
is their indecision, with auxiliaries their determination.

So, sensible rulers have always avoided using auxiliaries
and mercenaries, relying instead on their own men and even
preferring to lose with their own troops than to win with
others, on the principle that a victory won with foreign forces
is not a real victory at all. As always Cesare Borgia offers a
good example. He invaded Romagna with an army entirely
made up of French auxiliaries and took Imola and Forlı̀ with
them; but since he felt they weren’t reliable he turned to
mercenaries as a less dangerous option. He hired the Orsini
and Vitelli armies, but when he found that they dithered in
battle and were disloyal and dangerous, he had them killed
and trained his own men. It’s easy to see the difference
between these various kinds of armies if you look at the duke’s
standing when he had just the French, when he had the Orsinis
and the Vitellis, and when he had his own soldiers and relied
on his own resources. With each change his prestige grew and
he was only truly respected when everyone could see that his
troops were entirely his own.

I had planned to stick to these recent Italian examples, but
I wouldn’t like to leave out Hiero of Syracuse since he is
one of the men I talked about before. Given command, as I

auxiliaries, combined forces and citizen armies 55

explained, of the Syracusan armies, Hiero soon realized that
the mercenaries among them were no good, led as they were
by men like our Italian commanders. Realizing that he could
neither make use of them nor let them go, he had them all cut
to pieces, and from then on fought only with his own soldiers.
I’d also like to bring in a parable from the Old Testament.
When David offered to go and fight the Philistine trouble-
maker, Goliath, on Saul’s behalf, Saul gave him his own
weapons to bolster the boy’s courage. But no sooner had
David put them on than he refused the gift, saying he wouldn’t
feel confident with them, he would rather face the enemy with
his own sling and knife. In the end, other people’s arms are
either too loose, too heavy or too tight.

When, with luck and good leadership, Charles VII,
Louis XI’s father, had pushed the English out of France, he
saw that a ruler needs his own troops and so set up a standing
army of both cavalry and infantry. Later, his son Louis dis-
banded the infantry and began to hire Swiss mercenaries.
It’s now plain that this mistake, together with others that
followed, is what lies behind France’s present troubles. By
giving this important role to the Swiss, Louis had weakened
his whole army, since, with no infantry of their own, his
cavalry were now relying on others, and once they’d got
used to fighting alongside the Swiss they started to think
they couldn’t win without them. As a result the French are
unable to take on the Swiss in battle and won’t fight anyone
else without their help. So French forces are now mixed,
part mercenary and part their own men. Such composite
forces are much better than just auxiliaries or just mercen-
aries, but much worse than having all your own men. France’s
situation proves the point, because if the standing army
Charles recruited had been reinforced or just maintained, the
French would be unbeatable. But men are so thoughtless
they’ll opt for a diet that tastes good without realizing there’s
a hidden poison in it: it’s like the problem I mentioned earlier

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 54 28/05/2015 14:14

54 t h e p r i n c e

Constantinople brought 10,000 Turks into Greece and when
the war was over they wouldn’t leave, which was how the
infidels began to get control of Greece.

So anyone looking for a no-win situation should turn to
auxiliaries, because they are far more dangerous even than
mercenaries. With auxiliaries your ruin is guaranteed: they
are a tightly knit force and every one of them obedient to
someone else; when mercenaries win they need time and a
convenient opportunity before they can attack you, if only
because they’re not a solid united force, you chose them,
you’re paying them, and hence it will take the man you put
in command a while to build up sufficient authority to turn
against you. To summarize, the big danger with mercenaries
is their indecision, with auxiliaries their determination.

So, sensible rulers have always avoided using auxiliaries
and mercenaries, relying instead on their own men and even
preferring to lose with their own troops than to win with
others, on the principle that a victory won with foreign forces
is not a real victory at all. As always Cesare Borgia offers a
good example. He invaded Romagna with an army entirely
made up of French auxiliaries and took Imola and Forlı̀ with
them; but since he felt they weren’t reliable he turned to
mercenaries as a less dangerous option. He hired the Orsini
and Vitelli armies, but when he found that they dithered in
battle and were disloyal and dangerous, he had them killed
and trained his own men. It’s easy to see the difference
between these various kinds of armies if you look at the duke’s
standing when he had just the French, when he had the Orsinis
and the Vitellis, and when he had his own soldiers and relied
on his own resources. With each change his prestige grew and
he was only truly respected when everyone could see that his
troops were entirely his own.

I had planned to stick to these recent Italian examples, but
I wouldn’t like to leave out Hiero of Syracuse since he is
one of the men I talked about before. Given command, as I

auxiliaries, combined forces and citizen armies 55

explained, of the Syracusan armies, Hiero soon realized that
the mercenaries among them were no good, led as they were
by men like our Italian commanders. Realizing that he could
neither make use of them nor let them go, he had them all cut
to pieces, and from then on fought only with his own soldiers.
I’d also like to bring in a parable from the Old Testament.
When David offered to go and fight the Philistine trouble-
maker, Goliath, on Saul’s behalf, Saul gave him his own
weapons to bolster the boy’s courage. But no sooner had
David put them on than he refused the gift, saying he wouldn’t
feel confident with them, he would rather face the enemy with
his own sling and knife. In the end, other people’s arms are
either too loose, too heavy or too tight.

When, with luck and good leadership, Charles VII,
Louis XI’s father, had pushed the English out of France, he
saw that a ruler needs his own troops and so set up a standing
army of both cavalry and infantry. Later, his son Louis dis-
banded the infantry and began to hire Swiss mercenaries.
It’s now plain that this mistake, together with others that
followed, is what lies behind France’s present troubles. By
giving this important role to the Swiss, Louis had weakened
his whole army, since, with no infantry of their own, his
cavalry were now relying on others, and once they’d got
used to fighting alongside the Swiss they started to think
they couldn’t win without them. As a result the French are
unable to take on the Swiss in battle and won’t fight anyone
else without their help. So French forces are now mixed,
part mercenary and part their own men. Such composite
forces are much better than just auxiliaries or just mercen-
aries, but much worse than having all your own men. France’s
situation proves the point, because if the standing army
Charles recruited had been reinforced or just maintained, the
French would be unbeatable. But men are so thoughtless
they’ll opt for a diet that tastes good without realizing there’s
a hidden poison in it: it’s like the problem I mentioned earlier

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 55 28/05/2015 14:14

56 t h e p r i n c e

about people not diagnosing tuberculosis until it’s too late.
So, if a man can’t spot a problem in the making, he can’t

really be a wise leader. But very few men have this gift. If you
look for the initial cause of the collapse of the Roman empire,
you’ll find it was when they started hiring Goths as mercen-
aries. From that moment on the strength of the empire began
to decline and all the determination that drained out of it
went to strengthen its rivals.

So, to conclude: no state is secure without its own army; if
it hasn’t got men to defend it determinedly and loyally in a
crisis, it is simply relying on luck. As those who understand
these things have always thought and said: There is nothing
so weak and unstable as a reputation for power that is not
backed up by its own army.* And having your own army
means having a force made up of subjects, or citizens, or
men dependent on you. All other forces are mercenaries or
auxiliaries. To see how to set up your own armed forces, all
you need do is consider how the four men I mentioned above
organized and arranged theirs, or Philip, Alexander the
Great’s father, or many other kingdoms and republics. They
are all entirely reliable models.

* Quod nihil sit tam infirmum aut instabile quam fama potentiae non sua
vi nixa.

14

A ruler and his army

A ruler, then, must have no other aim or consideration, nor
seek to develop any other vocation outside war, the organiz-
ation of the army and military discipline. This is the only
proper vocation of the man in command. And it’s such a
potent one that it not only keeps those born to rule on their
thrones but often raises private citizens to political power.
Vice versa, when rulers think more about frills than fight-
ing they lose their thrones. In fact, the thing most likely to
bring about a ruler’s downfall is his neglect of the art of
war; the thing most likely to win him power is becoming an
expert in it.

A military man with his own army, Francesco Sforza rose
from commoner to Duke of Milan; shunning military hard-
ships, his sons fell from dukes to commoners. For one of the
many negative consequences of not having an army is that
people will find you pathetic, and this is a stigma a ruler must
guard against, as I’ll explain. The fact is that between a man
who has an army and a man who hasn’t there is simply no
comparison. And there is no reason why a man who com-
mands an armed force should willingly obey a man who
doesn’t, or why a man who doesn’t command an army should
live safely beside a servant who does. The one will harbour
contempt and the other suspicion and they won’t be able to
work well together. So, quite apart from the other disadvan-
tages, a ruler who doesn’t involve himself in military matters

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 56 28/05/2015 14:14

56 t h e p r i n c e

about people not diagnosing tuberculosis until it’s too late.
So, if a man can’t spot a problem in the making, he can’t

really be a wise leader. But very few men have this gift. If you
look for the initial cause of the collapse of the Roman empire,
you’ll find it was when they started hiring Goths as mercen-
aries. From that moment on the strength of the empire began
to decline and all the determination that drained out of it
went to strengthen its rivals.

So, to conclude: no state is secure without its own army; if
it hasn’t got men to defend it determinedly and loyally in a
crisis, it is simply relying on luck. As those who understand
these things have always thought and said: There is nothing
so weak and unstable as a reputation for power that is not
backed up by its own army.* And having your own army
means having a force made up of subjects, or citizens, or
men dependent on you. All other forces are mercenaries or
auxiliaries. To see how to set up your own armed forces, all
you need do is consider how the four men I mentioned above
organized and arranged theirs, or Philip, Alexander the
Great’s father, or many other kingdoms and republics. They
are all entirely reliable models.

* Quod nihil sit tam infirmum aut instabile quam fama potentiae non sua
vi nixa.

14

A ruler and his army

A ruler, then, must have no other aim or consideration, nor
seek to develop any other vocation outside war, the organiz-
ation of the army and military discipline. This is the only
proper vocation of the man in command. And it’s such a
potent one that it not only keeps those born to rule on their
thrones but often raises private citizens to political power.
Vice versa, when rulers think more about frills than fight-
ing they lose their thrones. In fact, the thing most likely to
bring about a ruler’s downfall is his neglect of the art of
war; the thing most likely to win him power is becoming an
expert in it.

A military man with his own army, Francesco Sforza rose
from commoner to Duke of Milan; shunning military hard-
ships, his sons fell from dukes to commoners. For one of the
many negative consequences of not having an army is that
people will find you pathetic, and this is a stigma a ruler must
guard against, as I’ll explain. The fact is that between a man
who has an army and a man who hasn’t there is simply no
comparison. And there is no reason why a man who com-
mands an armed force should willingly obey a man who
doesn’t, or why a man who doesn’t command an army should
live safely beside a servant who does. The one will harbour
contempt and the other suspicion and they won’t be able to
work well together. So, quite apart from the other disadvan-
tages, a ruler who doesn’t involve himself in military matters

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 57 28/05/2015 14:14

58 t h e p r i n c e

won’t, as I’ve said, have his soldiers’ respect and won’t be
able to trust them.

A ruler, then, must never stop thinking about war and
preparing for war and he must work at it even more in peace-
time than in war itself. He can do this in two ways, physically
and mentally. Physically, aside from keeping his men exer-
cised and disciplined, he should go hunting a great deal, which
will toughen up his body. It will also help him get to know
different landscapes, how the mountains rise and the valleys
open out, the lie of the plains, what rivers and marshes are
like. These are things he should study really carefully since
this kind of knowledge is useful in two ways. First, he’ll get
to know his own country and hence will have a better sense
of how it can be defended. Second, familiarity with these
places will make it easier for him to grasp the topography of
places he needs to understand but hasn’t seen before. The
hills, valleys, plains, rivers and marshes of Tuscany, for
example, have much in common with those of other areas, so
that knowing the lie of the land in one region makes it easier
to get to know it in another. The ruler who doesn’t have
this facility lacks the first thing a commander needs, because
understanding the land helps you find the enemy, lead your
army by the right route, choose a place to camp, plan out the
battle and lay siege to a town, all in the best way possible.

One of the things historians admired about the Achaean
leader Philopoemen was that even in peacetime he thought of
nothing but military strategy and when he was in the country
with his friends he would often stop and ask them: If the
enemy were over there on that hill and we were down here
with our army, who would be in the better position? How
could we attack them without breaking ranks? If we decided
to retreat, how would we do it? And if they retreated, how
would we go after them? And as he and his friends went along
he would list all the predicaments an army can find itself in.
He listened to their ideas, expressed and explained his own;

a r u l e r a n d h i s a r m y 59

so much so that, thanks to this constant work of mental
preparation, when he was back leading his armies there was
simply nothing that could happen that he didn’t know how
to deal with.

Another thing a ruler must do to exercise his mind is read
history, in particular accounts of great leaders and their
achievements. He should look at their wartime strategies and
study the reasons for their victories and defeats so as to avoid
the failures and imitate the successes. Above all he must do
what some great men have done in the past: take as model a
leader who’s been much praised and admired and keep his
example and achievements in mind at all times. Alexander
the Great, it seems, modelled himself on Achilles, Caesar on
Alexander and Scipio on Cyrus. Anyone who reads Xeno-
phon’s life of Cyrus will see how valuable his example was to
Scipio, and how closely Scipio’s decency, charm, humanity
and generosity conform to the description Xenophon gives of
Cyrus. A sensible leader must follow this advice and never
relax in peacetime but work hard to make the most of it and
turn it to his advantage in the tough times ahead. That way,
when his luck does turn, he’ll be ready.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 58 28/05/2015 14:14

58 t h e p r i n c e

won’t, as I’ve said, have his soldiers’ respect and won’t be
able to trust them.

A ruler, then, must never stop thinking about war and
preparing for war and he must work at it even more in peace-
time than in war itself. He can do this in two ways, physically
and mentally. Physically, aside from keeping his men exer-
cised and disciplined, he should go hunting a great deal, which
will toughen up his body. It will also help him get to know
different landscapes, how the mountains rise and the valleys
open out, the lie of the plains, what rivers and marshes are
like. These are things he should study really carefully since
this kind of knowledge is useful in two ways. First, he’ll get
to know his own country and hence will have a better sense
of how it can be defended. Second, familiarity with these
places will make it easier for him to grasp the topography of
places he needs to understand but hasn’t seen before. The
hills, valleys, plains, rivers and marshes of Tuscany, for
example, have much in common with those of other areas, so
that knowing the lie of the land in one region makes it easier
to get to know it in another. The ruler who doesn’t have
this facility lacks the first thing a commander needs, because
understanding the land helps you find the enemy, lead your
army by the right route, choose a place to camp, plan out the
battle and lay siege to a town, all in the best way possible.

One of the things historians admired about the Achaean
leader Philopoemen was that even in peacetime he thought of
nothing but military strategy and when he was in the country
with his friends he would often stop and ask them: If the
enemy were over there on that hill and we were down here
with our army, who would be in the better position? How
could we attack them without breaking ranks? If we decided
to retreat, how would we do it? And if they retreated, how
would we go after them? And as he and his friends went along
he would list all the predicaments an army can find itself in.
He listened to their ideas, expressed and explained his own;

a r u l e r a n d h i s a r m y 59

so much so that, thanks to this constant work of mental
preparation, when he was back leading his armies there was
simply nothing that could happen that he didn’t know how
to deal with.

Another thing a ruler must do to exercise his mind is read
history, in particular accounts of great leaders and their
achievements. He should look at their wartime strategies and
study the reasons for their victories and defeats so as to avoid
the failures and imitate the successes. Above all he must do
what some great men have done in the past: take as model a
leader who’s been much praised and admired and keep his
example and achievements in mind at all times. Alexander
the Great, it seems, modelled himself on Achilles, Caesar on
Alexander and Scipio on Cyrus. Anyone who reads Xeno-
phon’s life of Cyrus will see how valuable his example was to
Scipio, and how closely Scipio’s decency, charm, humanity
and generosity conform to the description Xenophon gives of
Cyrus. A sensible leader must follow this advice and never
relax in peacetime but work hard to make the most of it and
turn it to his advantage in the tough times ahead. That way,
when his luck does turn, he’ll be ready.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 59 28/05/2015 14:14

15

What men and particularly rulers are
praised and blamed for

It’s time to look at how a ruler should behave with his subjects
and his friends. Given that a great deal has already been
written about this, I fear people may find my contribution
presumptuous, especially since, here more than elsewhere, the
code of conduct I’m offering will be rather controversial.
But since my aim was to write something useful for anyone
interested, I felt it would be appropriate to go to the real truth
of the matter, not to repeat other people’s fantasies. Many
writers have dreamed up republics and kingdoms that bear
no resemblance to experience and never existed in reality;
there is such a gap between how people actually live and how
they ought to live that anyone who declines to behave as
people do, in order to behave as they should, is schooling
himself for catastrophe and had better forget personal secur-
ity: if you always want to play the good man in a world where
most people are not good, you’ll end up badly. Hence, if a
ruler wants to survive, he’ll have to learn to stop being good,
at least when the occasion demands.

So leaving aside things people have dreamed up about rulers
and concentrating instead on reality, let’s say that when we
talk about anyone, but especially about leaders, who are more
exposed than others to the public eye, what we point are the
qualities that prompt praise or blame. One man is thought
generous and another miserly; one is seen as benevolent,
another as grasping; one cruel, the other kind; one treacherous,

w h a t r u l e r s a r e p r a i s e d a n d b l a m e d f o r 61

another loyal; one effeminate and fearful, another bold and
brave; one considerate, another arrogant; one promiscuous,
another chaste; one straightforward, another devious; one
stubborn, another accommodating; one solemn, another
superficial; one religious, another unbelieving, and so on.

And I’m sure we’d all agree that it would be an excellent
thing if a ruler were to have all the good qualities mentioned
above and none of the bad; but since it’s in the nature of life
that you can’t have or practise all those qualities all of the
time, a ruler must take care to avoid the disgrace that goes
with the kind of failings that could lose him his position. As
for failings that wouldn’t lead to his losing power, he should
avoid them if he can; but if he can’t, he needn’t worry too
much. In the same way, he mustn’t be concerned about the
bad reputation that comes with those negative qualities that
are almost essential if he is to hold on to power. If you think
about it, there’ll always be something that looks morally right
but would actually lead a ruler to disaster, and something else
that looks wrong but will bring security and success.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 60 28/05/2015 14:14

15

What men and particularly rulers are
praised and blamed for

It’s time to look at how a ruler should behave with his subjects
and his friends. Given that a great deal has already been
written about this, I fear people may find my contribution
presumptuous, especially since, here more than elsewhere, the
code of conduct I’m offering will be rather controversial.
But since my aim was to write something useful for anyone
interested, I felt it would be appropriate to go to the real truth
of the matter, not to repeat other people’s fantasies. Many
writers have dreamed up republics and kingdoms that bear
no resemblance to experience and never existed in reality;
there is such a gap between how people actually live and how
they ought to live that anyone who declines to behave as
people do, in order to behave as they should, is schooling
himself for catastrophe and had better forget personal secur-
ity: if you always want to play the good man in a world where
most people are not good, you’ll end up badly. Hence, if a
ruler wants to survive, he’ll have to learn to stop being good,
at least when the occasion demands.

So leaving aside things people have dreamed up about rulers
and concentrating instead on reality, let’s say that when we
talk about anyone, but especially about leaders, who are more
exposed than others to the public eye, what we point are the
qualities that prompt praise or blame. One man is thought
generous and another miserly; one is seen as benevolent,
another as grasping; one cruel, the other kind; one treacherous,

w h a t r u l e r s a r e p r a i s e d a n d b l a m e d f o r 61

another loyal; one effeminate and fearful, another bold and
brave; one considerate, another arrogant; one promiscuous,
another chaste; one straightforward, another devious; one
stubborn, another accommodating; one solemn, another
superficial; one religious, another unbelieving, and so on.

And I’m sure we’d all agree that it would be an excellent
thing if a ruler were to have all the good qualities mentioned
above and none of the bad; but since it’s in the nature of life
that you can’t have or practise all those qualities all of the
time, a ruler must take care to avoid the disgrace that goes
with the kind of failings that could lose him his position. As
for failings that wouldn’t lead to his losing power, he should
avoid them if he can; but if he can’t, he needn’t worry too
much. In the same way, he mustn’t be concerned about the
bad reputation that comes with those negative qualities that
are almost essential if he is to hold on to power. If you think
about it, there’ll always be something that looks morally right
but would actually lead a ruler to disaster, and something else
that looks wrong but will bring security and success.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 61 28/05/2015 14:14

16

Generosity and meanness

If we take the first of the qualities listed above, we can say
that it would be nice to be seen as generous. All the same,
being generous just to be seen to be so will damage you.
Generosity practised out of real good will, as it should be,
risks passing unnoticed and you won’t escape a reputation
for meanness. Hence, if you’re determined to have people
think of you as generous, you’ll have to be lavish in every
possible way; naturally, a ruler who follows this policy will
soon use up all his wealth to the point that, if he wants to
keep up his reputation, he’ll have to impose special taxes and
do everything a ruler can to raise cash. His people will start
to hate him and no one will respect him now he has no money.
Since his generosity will have damaged the majority and bene-
fited only a few, he’ll be vulnerable to the first bad news, and
the first real danger may well topple him. When he realizes
this and tries to change his ways, he’ll immediately be accused
of meanness.

Since a ruler can’t be generous and show it without putting
himself at risk, if he’s sensible he won’t mind getting a repu-
tation for meanness. With time, when people see that his
penny-pinching means he doesn’t need to raise taxes and can
defend the country against attack and embark on campaigns
without putting a burden on his people, he’ll increasingly be
seen as generous – generous to those he takes nothing from,
which is to say almost everybody, and mean to those who get

g e n e r o s i t y a n d m e a n n e s s 63

nothing from him, which is to say very few. In our own
times the only leaders we’ve seen doing great things were
all reckoned mean. The others were failures. Pope Julius II
exploited his reputation for generosity to get the papacy, then
gladly let it go to finance his wars. The present King of France
has fought many wars without resorting to new taxes, some-
thing he can do because his constant cost-cutting has provided
for the extra expenditure. The present King of Spain would
not have won all the wars he has if he had had a reputation
for generosity.

So, if as a result he has the resources to defend his country,
isn’t obliged to steal from his subjects or prey on others, and
is in no danger of falling into poverty, a ruler need hardly
worry about a reputation for meanness; it is one of the nega-
tive qualities that keep him in power. And if someone protests:
But it was generosity that won Caesar the empire and many
others have risen to the highest positions because they were
and were seen to be generous, my response is: A ruler in
power and a man seeking power are two different things. For
the ruler already in power generosity is dangerous; for the
man seeking power it is essential. Caesar was one of a number
of men who wanted to become emperor of Rome; but if he’d
survived as emperor and gone on spending in the same way,
he would have destroyed the empire. And if someone were to
object: Many rulers who scored great military victories were
considered extremely generous, I’d reply: Either a ruler is
spending his own and his subjects’ money, or someone else’s.
When the money is his own or his subjects’, he should go easy;
when it’s someone else’s, he should be as lavish as he can.

A ruler leading his armies and living on plunder, pillage
and extortion is using other people’s money and had better
be generous with it, otherwise his soldiers won’t follow him.
What’s not your own or your subjects’ can be given away
freely: Cyrus did this; so did Caesar and Alexander. Spending
other people’s money doesn’t lower your standing – it raises

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 62 28/05/2015 14:14

16

Generosity and meanness

If we take the first of the qualities listed above, we can say
that it would be nice to be seen as generous. All the same,
being generous just to be seen to be so will damage you.
Generosity practised out of real good will, as it should be,
risks passing unnoticed and you won’t escape a reputation
for meanness. Hence, if you’re determined to have people
think of you as generous, you’ll have to be lavish in every
possible way; naturally, a ruler who follows this policy will
soon use up all his wealth to the point that, if he wants to
keep up his reputation, he’ll have to impose special taxes and
do everything a ruler can to raise cash. His people will start
to hate him and no one will respect him now he has no money.
Since his generosity will have damaged the majority and bene-
fited only a few, he’ll be vulnerable to the first bad news, and
the first real danger may well topple him. When he realizes
this and tries to change his ways, he’ll immediately be accused
of meanness.

Since a ruler can’t be generous and show it without putting
himself at risk, if he’s sensible he won’t mind getting a repu-
tation for meanness. With time, when people see that his
penny-pinching means he doesn’t need to raise taxes and can
defend the country against attack and embark on campaigns
without putting a burden on his people, he’ll increasingly be
seen as generous – generous to those he takes nothing from,
which is to say almost everybody, and mean to those who get

g e n e r o s i t y a n d m e a n n e s s 63

nothing from him, which is to say very few. In our own
times the only leaders we’ve seen doing great things were
all reckoned mean. The others were failures. Pope Julius II
exploited his reputation for generosity to get the papacy, then
gladly let it go to finance his wars. The present King of France
has fought many wars without resorting to new taxes, some-
thing he can do because his constant cost-cutting has provided
for the extra expenditure. The present King of Spain would
not have won all the wars he has if he had had a reputation
for generosity.

So, if as a result he has the resources to defend his country,
isn’t obliged to steal from his subjects or prey on others, and
is in no danger of falling into poverty, a ruler need hardly
worry about a reputation for meanness; it is one of the nega-
tive qualities that keep him in power. And if someone protests:
But it was generosity that won Caesar the empire and many
others have risen to the highest positions because they were
and were seen to be generous, my response is: A ruler in
power and a man seeking power are two different things. For
the ruler already in power generosity is dangerous; for the
man seeking power it is essential. Caesar was one of a number
of men who wanted to become emperor of Rome; but if he’d
survived as emperor and gone on spending in the same way,
he would have destroyed the empire. And if someone were to
object: Many rulers who scored great military victories were
considered extremely generous, I’d reply: Either a ruler is
spending his own and his subjects’ money, or someone else’s.
When the money is his own or his subjects’, he should go easy;
when it’s someone else’s, he should be as lavish as he can.

A ruler leading his armies and living on plunder, pillage
and extortion is using other people’s money and had better
be generous with it, otherwise his soldiers won’t follow him.
What’s not your own or your subjects’ can be given away
freely: Cyrus did this; so did Caesar and Alexander. Spending
other people’s money doesn’t lower your standing – it raises

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 63 28/05/2015 14:14

64 t h e p r i n c e

it. It’s only spending your own money that puts you at risk.
Nothing consumes itself so much as generosity, because while
you practise it you’re losing the wherewithal to go on practis-
ing it. Either you fall into poverty and are despised for it, or,
to avoid poverty, you become grasping and hateful. Above
all else a king must guard against being despised and hated.
Generosity leads to both. It’s far more sensible to keep a
reputation for meanness, which carries a stigma but doesn’t
rouse people’s hatred, than to strive to be seen as generous and
find at the end of the day that you’re thought of as grasping,
something that carries a stigma and gets you hated too.

17

Cruelty and compassion. Whether it’s
better to be feared or loved

Continuing with our list of qualities, I’m sure every leader
would wish to be seen as compassionate rather than cruel.
All the same he must be careful not to use his compassion
unwisely. Cesare Borgia was thought to be cruel, yet his
cruelty restored order to Romagna and united it, making the
region peaceful and loyal. When you think about it, he was
much more compassionate than the Florentines whose reluc-
tance to be thought cruel led to disaster in Pistoia. A ruler
mustn’t worry about being labelled cruel when it’s a question
of keeping his subjects loyal and united; using a little exem-
plary severity, he will prove more compassionate than the
leader whose excessive compassion leads to public disorder,
muggings and murder. That kind of trouble tends to harm
everyone, while the death sentences that a ruler hands out
affect only the individuals involved. But of all rulers, a man
new to power simply cannot avoid a reputation for cruelty,
since a newly conquered state is a very dangerous place. Virgil
puts these words in Queen Dido’s mouth:

The difficult situation and the newness of my kingdom
Force me to do these things, and guard my borders everywhere.*

* Res dura, et regni novitas me talia cogunt
Moliri, et late fines custode tueri.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 64 28/05/2015 14:14

64 t h e p r i n c e

it. It’s only spending your own money that puts you at risk.
Nothing consumes itself so much as generosity, because while
you practise it you’re losing the wherewithal to go on practis-
ing it. Either you fall into poverty and are despised for it, or,
to avoid poverty, you become grasping and hateful. Above
all else a king must guard against being despised and hated.
Generosity leads to both. It’s far more sensible to keep a
reputation for meanness, which carries a stigma but doesn’t
rouse people’s hatred, than to strive to be seen as generous and
find at the end of the day that you’re thought of as grasping,
something that carries a stigma and gets you hated too.

17

Cruelty and compassion. Whether it’s
better to be feared or loved

Continuing with our list of qualities, I’m sure every leader
would wish to be seen as compassionate rather than cruel.
All the same he must be careful not to use his compassion
unwisely. Cesare Borgia was thought to be cruel, yet his
cruelty restored order to Romagna and united it, making the
region peaceful and loyal. When you think about it, he was
much more compassionate than the Florentines whose reluc-
tance to be thought cruel led to disaster in Pistoia. A ruler
mustn’t worry about being labelled cruel when it’s a question
of keeping his subjects loyal and united; using a little exem-
plary severity, he will prove more compassionate than the
leader whose excessive compassion leads to public disorder,
muggings and murder. That kind of trouble tends to harm
everyone, while the death sentences that a ruler hands out
affect only the individuals involved. But of all rulers, a man
new to power simply cannot avoid a reputation for cruelty,
since a newly conquered state is a very dangerous place. Virgil
puts these words in Queen Dido’s mouth:

The difficult situation and the newness of my kingdom
Force me to do these things, and guard my borders everywhere.*

* Res dura, et regni novitas me talia cogunt
Moliri, et late fines custode tueri.

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66 t h e p r i n c e

All the same, a leader must think carefully before believing
and responding to certain allegations and not get frightened
over nothing. He should go about things coolly, cautiously
and humanely: if he’s too trusting, he’ll get careless, and if he
trusts no one he’ll make himself unbearable.

These reflections prompt the question: is it better to be
loved rather than feared, or vice versa? The answer is that
one would prefer to be both but, since they don’t go together
easily, if you have to choose, it’s much safer to be feared than
loved. We can say this of most people: that they are ungrateful
and unreliable; they lie, they fake, they’re greedy for cash and
they melt away in the face of danger. So long as you’re gener-
ous and, as I said before, not in immediate danger, they’re all
on your side: they’d shed their blood for you, they’d give you
their belongings, their lives, their children. But when you need
them they turn their backs on you. The ruler who has relied
entirely on their promises and taken no other precautions is
lost. Friendship that comes at a price, and not because people
admire your spirit and achievements, may indeed have been
paid for, but that doesn’t mean you really possess it and you
certainly won’t be able to count on it when you need it. Men
are less worried about letting down someone who has made
himself loved than someone who makes himself feared. Love
binds when someone recognizes he should be grateful to you,
but, since men are a sad lot, gratitude is forgotten the moment
it’s inconvenient. Fear means fear of punishment, and that’s
something people never forget.

All the same, while a ruler can’t expect to inspire love
when making himself feared, he must avoid arousing hatred.
Actually, being feared is perfectly compatible with not being
hated. And a ruler won’t be hated if he keeps his hands off
his subjects’ property and their women. If he really has to
have someone executed, he should only do it when he has
proper justification and manifest cause. Above all, he mustn’t
seize other people’s property. A man will sooner forget the

c r u e l t y a n d c o m p a s s i o n 67

death of his father than the loss of his inheritance. Of course
there are always reasons for taking people’s property and a
ruler who has started to live that way will never be short of
pretexts for grabbing more. On the other hand, reasons for
executing a man come more rarely and pass more quickly.

But when a ruler is leading his army and commanding large
numbers of soldiers, then above all he must have no qualms
about getting a reputation for cruelty; otherwise it will be
quite impossible to keep the army united and fit for combat.
One of Hannibal’s most admirable achievements was that
despite leading a huge and decidedly multiracial army far
from home there was never any dissent among the men or
rebellion against their leader whether in victory or defeat. The
only possible explanation for this was Hannibal’s tremendous
cruelty, which, together with his countless positive qualities,
meant that his soldiers always looked up to him with respect
and terror. The positive qualities without the cruelty wouldn’t
have produced the same effect. Historians are just not think-
ing when they praise him for this achievement and then
condemn him for the cruelty that made it possible.

To show that Hannibal’s other qualities wouldn’t have
done the job alone we can take the case of Scipio, whose army
mutinied in Spain. Scipio was an extremely rare commander
not only in his own times but in the whole of recorded history,
but he was too easy-going and as a result gave his troops a
freedom that was hardly conducive to military discipline.
Fabius Maximus condemned him for this in the Senate, claim-
ing that he had corrupted the Roman army. When one of
his officers sacked the town of Locri, Scipio again showed
leniency; he didn’t carry out reprisals on behalf of the towns-
folk and failed to punish the officer’s presumption, so much
so that someone defending Scipio in the Senate remarked that
he was one of those many men who don’t make mistakes
themselves, but find it hard to punish others who do. If
Scipio had gone on leading his armies like this, with time his

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66 t h e p r i n c e

All the same, a leader must think carefully before believing
and responding to certain allegations and not get frightened
over nothing. He should go about things coolly, cautiously
and humanely: if he’s too trusting, he’ll get careless, and if he
trusts no one he’ll make himself unbearable.

These reflections prompt the question: is it better to be
loved rather than feared, or vice versa? The answer is that
one would prefer to be both but, since they don’t go together
easily, if you have to choose, it’s much safer to be feared than
loved. We can say this of most people: that they are ungrateful
and unreliable; they lie, they fake, they’re greedy for cash and
they melt away in the face of danger. So long as you’re gener-
ous and, as I said before, not in immediate danger, they’re all
on your side: they’d shed their blood for you, they’d give you
their belongings, their lives, their children. But when you need
them they turn their backs on you. The ruler who has relied
entirely on their promises and taken no other precautions is
lost. Friendship that comes at a price, and not because people
admire your spirit and achievements, may indeed have been
paid for, but that doesn’t mean you really possess it and you
certainly won’t be able to count on it when you need it. Men
are less worried about letting down someone who has made
himself loved than someone who makes himself feared. Love
binds when someone recognizes he should be grateful to you,
but, since men are a sad lot, gratitude is forgotten the moment
it’s inconvenient. Fear means fear of punishment, and that’s
something people never forget.

All the same, while a ruler can’t expect to inspire love
when making himself feared, he must avoid arousing hatred.
Actually, being feared is perfectly compatible with not being
hated. And a ruler won’t be hated if he keeps his hands off
his subjects’ property and their women. If he really has to
have someone executed, he should only do it when he has
proper justification and manifest cause. Above all, he mustn’t
seize other people’s property. A man will sooner forget the

c r u e l t y a n d c o m p a s s i o n 67

death of his father than the loss of his inheritance. Of course
there are always reasons for taking people’s property and a
ruler who has started to live that way will never be short of
pretexts for grabbing more. On the other hand, reasons for
executing a man come more rarely and pass more quickly.

But when a ruler is leading his army and commanding large
numbers of soldiers, then above all he must have no qualms
about getting a reputation for cruelty; otherwise it will be
quite impossible to keep the army united and fit for combat.
One of Hannibal’s most admirable achievements was that
despite leading a huge and decidedly multiracial army far
from home there was never any dissent among the men or
rebellion against their leader whether in victory or defeat. The
only possible explanation for this was Hannibal’s tremendous
cruelty, which, together with his countless positive qualities,
meant that his soldiers always looked up to him with respect
and terror. The positive qualities without the cruelty wouldn’t
have produced the same effect. Historians are just not think-
ing when they praise him for this achievement and then
condemn him for the cruelty that made it possible.

To show that Hannibal’s other qualities wouldn’t have
done the job alone we can take the case of Scipio, whose army
mutinied in Spain. Scipio was an extremely rare commander
not only in his own times but in the whole of recorded history,
but he was too easy-going and as a result gave his troops a
freedom that was hardly conducive to military discipline.
Fabius Maximus condemned him for this in the Senate, claim-
ing that he had corrupted the Roman army. When one of
his officers sacked the town of Locri, Scipio again showed
leniency; he didn’t carry out reprisals on behalf of the towns-
folk and failed to punish the officer’s presumption, so much
so that someone defending Scipio in the Senate remarked that
he was one of those many men who don’t make mistakes
themselves, but find it hard to punish others who do. If
Scipio had gone on leading his armies like this, with time his

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68 t h e p r i n c e

temperament would have undermined his fame and dimin-
ished his glory, but since he took his orders from the Senate,
not only was the failing covered up but it actually enhanced
his reputation.

Going back, then, to the question of being feared or loved,
my conclusion is that since people decide for themselves
whether to love a ruler or not, while it’s the ruler who decides
whether they’re going to fear him, a sensible man will base
his power on what he controls, not on what others have
freedom to choose. But he must take care, as I said, that
people don’t come to hate him.

18

A ruler and his promises

Everyone will appreciate how admirable it is for a ruler to
keep his word and be honest rather than deceitful. However,
in our own times we’ve had examples of leaders who’ve done
great things without worrying too much about keeping their
word. Outwitting opponents with their cunning, these men
achieved more than leaders who behaved honestly.

The reader should bear in mind that there are two ways of
doing battle: using the law and using force. Typically, humans
use laws and animals force. But since playing by the law often
proves inadequate, it makes sense to resort to force as well.
Hence a ruler must be able to exploit both the man and the
beast in himself to the full. In ancient times writers used fables
to teach their leaders this lesson: they tell how Achilles and
many other leaders were sent to the centaur Chiron to be fed
and brought up under his discipline. This story of having a
teacher who was half-man and half-beast obviously meant
that a ruler had to be able to draw on both natures. If he had
only one, he wouldn’t survive.

Since a ruler has to be able to act the beast, he should take
on the traits of the fox and the lion; the lion can’t defend itself
against snares and the fox can’t defend itself from wolves. So
you have to play the fox to see the snares and the lion to scare
off the wolves. A ruler who just plays the lion and forgets the
fox doesn’t know what he’s doing. Hence a sensible leader
cannot and must not keep his word if by doing so he puts

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 68 28/05/2015 14:14

68 t h e p r i n c e

temperament would have undermined his fame and dimin-
ished his glory, but since he took his orders from the Senate,
not only was the failing covered up but it actually enhanced
his reputation.

Going back, then, to the question of being feared or loved,
my conclusion is that since people decide for themselves
whether to love a ruler or not, while it’s the ruler who decides
whether they’re going to fear him, a sensible man will base
his power on what he controls, not on what others have
freedom to choose. But he must take care, as I said, that
people don’t come to hate him.

18

A ruler and his promises

Everyone will appreciate how admirable it is for a ruler to
keep his word and be honest rather than deceitful. However,
in our own times we’ve had examples of leaders who’ve done
great things without worrying too much about keeping their
word. Outwitting opponents with their cunning, these men
achieved more than leaders who behaved honestly.

The reader should bear in mind that there are two ways of
doing battle: using the law and using force. Typically, humans
use laws and animals force. But since playing by the law often
proves inadequate, it makes sense to resort to force as well.
Hence a ruler must be able to exploit both the man and the
beast in himself to the full. In ancient times writers used fables
to teach their leaders this lesson: they tell how Achilles and
many other leaders were sent to the centaur Chiron to be fed
and brought up under his discipline. This story of having a
teacher who was half-man and half-beast obviously meant
that a ruler had to be able to draw on both natures. If he had
only one, he wouldn’t survive.

Since a ruler has to be able to act the beast, he should take
on the traits of the fox and the lion; the lion can’t defend itself
against snares and the fox can’t defend itself from wolves. So
you have to play the fox to see the snares and the lion to scare
off the wolves. A ruler who just plays the lion and forgets the
fox doesn’t know what he’s doing. Hence a sensible leader
cannot and must not keep his word if by doing so he puts

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 69 28/05/2015 14:14

70 t h e p r i n c e

himself at risk, and if the reasons that made him give his word
in the first place are no longer valid. If all men were good,
this would be bad advice, but since they are a sad lot and
won’t be keeping their promises to you, you hardly need to
keep yours to them. Anyway, a ruler will never be short of
good reasons to explain away a broken promise. It would be
easy to cite any number of examples from modern times to
show just how many peace treaties and other commitments
have been rendered null and void by rulers not keeping their
word. Those best at playing the fox have done better than the
others. But you have to know how to disguise your slyness,
how to pretend one thing and cover up another. People are
so gullible and so caught up with immediate concerns that a
con man will always find someone ready to be conned.

There’s one recent example that really should be men-
tioned. Pope Alexander VI never did anything but con people.
That was all he ever thought about. And he always found
people he could con. No one ever gave more convincing
promises than Alexander, or swore greater oaths to back them
up, and no one ever kept his promises less; yet his deceptions
always worked, because he knew this side of human nature
so well.

So, a leader doesn’t have to possess all the virtuous qualities
I’ve mentioned, but it’s absolutely imperative that he seem to
possess them. I’ll go so far as to say this: if he had those
qualities and observed them all the time, he’d be putting
himself at risk. It’s seeming to be virtuous that helps; as, for
example, seeming to be compassionate, loyal, humane, honest
and religious. And you can even be those things, so long as
you’re always mentally prepared to change as soon as your
interests are threatened. What you have to understand is that
a ruler, especially a ruler new to power, can’t always behave
in ways that would make people think a man good, because
to stay in power he’s frequently obliged to act against loyalty,
against charity, against humanity and against religion. What

a r u l e r a n d h i s p r o m i s e s 71

matters is that he has the sort of character that can change
tack as luck and circumstances demand, and, as I’ve already
said, stick to the good if he can but know how to be bad
when the occasion demands.

So a ruler must be extremely careful not to say anything
that doesn’t appear to be inspired by the five virtues listed
above; he must seem and sound wholly compassionate,
wholly loyal, wholly humane, wholly honest and wholly
religious. There is nothing more important than appearing to
be religious. In general people judge more by appearances
than first-hand experience, because everyone gets to see you
but hardly anyone deals with you directly. Everyone sees what
you seem to be, few have experience of who you really are,
and those few won’t have the courage to stand up to majority
opinion underwritten by the authority of state. When they’re
weighing up what someone has achieved – and this is particu-
larly true with rulers, who can’t be held to account – people
look at the end result. So if a leader does what it takes to
win power and keep it, his methods will always be reckoned
honourable and widely praised. The crowd is won over by
appearances and final results. And the world is all crowd: the
dissenting few find no space so long as the majority have any
grounds at all for their opinions. There’s a certain king today*
– I’d better not call him by name – who never stops preaching
peace and trust and is actually sworn enemy to both; and if
he had ever practised either he would have lost his authority
or his kingdom many times over.

* Ferdinand of Aragon.

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70 t h e p r i n c e

himself at risk, and if the reasons that made him give his word
in the first place are no longer valid. If all men were good,
this would be bad advice, but since they are a sad lot and
won’t be keeping their promises to you, you hardly need to
keep yours to them. Anyway, a ruler will never be short of
good reasons to explain away a broken promise. It would be
easy to cite any number of examples from modern times to
show just how many peace treaties and other commitments
have been rendered null and void by rulers not keeping their
word. Those best at playing the fox have done better than the
others. But you have to know how to disguise your slyness,
how to pretend one thing and cover up another. People are
so gullible and so caught up with immediate concerns that a
con man will always find someone ready to be conned.

There’s one recent example that really should be men-
tioned. Pope Alexander VI never did anything but con people.
That was all he ever thought about. And he always found
people he could con. No one ever gave more convincing
promises than Alexander, or swore greater oaths to back them
up, and no one ever kept his promises less; yet his deceptions
always worked, because he knew this side of human nature
so well.

So, a leader doesn’t have to possess all the virtuous qualities
I’ve mentioned, but it’s absolutely imperative that he seem to
possess them. I’ll go so far as to say this: if he had those
qualities and observed them all the time, he’d be putting
himself at risk. It’s seeming to be virtuous that helps; as, for
example, seeming to be compassionate, loyal, humane, honest
and religious. And you can even be those things, so long as
you’re always mentally prepared to change as soon as your
interests are threatened. What you have to understand is that
a ruler, especially a ruler new to power, can’t always behave
in ways that would make people think a man good, because
to stay in power he’s frequently obliged to act against loyalty,
against charity, against humanity and against religion. What

a r u l e r a n d h i s p r o m i s e s 71

matters is that he has the sort of character that can change
tack as luck and circumstances demand, and, as I’ve already
said, stick to the good if he can but know how to be bad
when the occasion demands.

So a ruler must be extremely careful not to say anything
that doesn’t appear to be inspired by the five virtues listed
above; he must seem and sound wholly compassionate,
wholly loyal, wholly humane, wholly honest and wholly
religious. There is nothing more important than appearing to
be religious. In general people judge more by appearances
than first-hand experience, because everyone gets to see you
but hardly anyone deals with you directly. Everyone sees what
you seem to be, few have experience of who you really are,
and those few won’t have the courage to stand up to majority
opinion underwritten by the authority of state. When they’re
weighing up what someone has achieved – and this is particu-
larly true with rulers, who can’t be held to account – people
look at the end result. So if a leader does what it takes to
win power and keep it, his methods will always be reckoned
honourable and widely praised. The crowd is won over by
appearances and final results. And the world is all crowd: the
dissenting few find no space so long as the majority have any
grounds at all for their opinions. There’s a certain king today*
– I’d better not call him by name – who never stops preaching
peace and trust and is actually sworn enemy to both; and if
he had ever practised either he would have lost his authority
or his kingdom many times over.

* Ferdinand of Aragon.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 71 28/05/2015 14:14

19

Avoiding contempt and hatred

Now that I’ve discussed the most important of the qualities I
listed I’d like to look at the others more briefly in relation to
the principle, already mentioned, that a ruler must avoid any
behaviour that will lead to his being hated or held in con-
tempt; every time he manages this he’s done what a ruler
should and can indulge other bad habits without worrying
about the consequences. As I’ve already said, what most leads
to a ruler being hated is seizing and stealing his subjects’
property and women; that he must not do. As long as you
don’t deprive them of property or honour most men will be
happy enough and you’ll only have to watch out for the
ambitious few who can easily be reined back in various ways.
You’ll be held in contempt, on the other hand, if you’re seen
as changeable, superficial, effeminate, fearful or indecisive.
So a ruler must avoid those qualities like so many stumbling
blocks and act in such a way that everything he does gives an
impression of greatness, spirit, seriousness and strength; when
presiding over disputes between citizens he should insist that
his decision is final and make sure no one imagines they can
trick or outwit him.

The ruler who projects this impression of himself will be
highly thought of and it’s hard to conspire against a man who
is well thought of. Then so long as he has a reputation for
excellence and is respected by his people it will be hard for
outside enemies to attack him either. A ruler must guard

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 73

against two kinds of danger: one internal, coming from his
own people; the other external, coming from foreign powers.
To defend yourself against foreign powers you need a good
army and good allies. And if you have a good army you’ll
always have good allies, and when you’re secure against
foreign powers you’ll always be secure internally too, assum-
ing there wasn’t already a conspiracy under way. Then even
when a foreign power does move against you, if you’ve lived
and organized yourself as I’ve suggested, you only have to
keep your nerve and you’ll survive any and every attack, like
the Spartan ruler Nabis in the example I gave earlier.

To get back to the internal situation: when there is no threat
from outside, a ruler must take care that his subjects don’t
start conspiring against him. He can guard against this by
making sure he isn’t hated or despised and that people are
happy with him, all of which is very important, as I’ve
explained at length. In fact, one of the most powerful prevent-
ive measures against conspiracies is simply not being hated
by a majority of the people. People planning a conspiracy
must believe that killing the ruler will be popular; when they
realize that, on the contrary, it would be unpopular they
lose heart, because conspiracies are always beset with endless
difficulties. Experience shows that for every successful con-
spiracy there are any number of failures. A conspirator can’t
act alone and can look for accomplices only among people he
believes are unhappy with the situation. But as soon as he
reveals his intentions to someone else he’s giving that person
the chance to improve his position, since obviously there are
all kinds of advantages to be had from betraying a conspiracy.
When you reckon that the benefits of betrayal are assured,
while joining a conspiracy is a risky and extremely dangerous
business, the man will have to be a rare friend indeed, or a
very bitter enemy of the government, if he’s going to keep
faith.

To summarize: on the conspirator’s side all you have is

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 72 28/05/2015 14:14

19

Avoiding contempt and hatred

Now that I’ve discussed the most important of the qualities I
listed I’d like to look at the others more briefly in relation to
the principle, already mentioned, that a ruler must avoid any
behaviour that will lead to his being hated or held in con-
tempt; every time he manages this he’s done what a ruler
should and can indulge other bad habits without worrying
about the consequences. As I’ve already said, what most leads
to a ruler being hated is seizing and stealing his subjects’
property and women; that he must not do. As long as you
don’t deprive them of property or honour most men will be
happy enough and you’ll only have to watch out for the
ambitious few who can easily be reined back in various ways.
You’ll be held in contempt, on the other hand, if you’re seen
as changeable, superficial, effeminate, fearful or indecisive.
So a ruler must avoid those qualities like so many stumbling
blocks and act in such a way that everything he does gives an
impression of greatness, spirit, seriousness and strength; when
presiding over disputes between citizens he should insist that
his decision is final and make sure no one imagines they can
trick or outwit him.

The ruler who projects this impression of himself will be
highly thought of and it’s hard to conspire against a man who
is well thought of. Then so long as he has a reputation for
excellence and is respected by his people it will be hard for
outside enemies to attack him either. A ruler must guard

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 73

against two kinds of danger: one internal, coming from his
own people; the other external, coming from foreign powers.
To defend yourself against foreign powers you need a good
army and good allies. And if you have a good army you’ll
always have good allies, and when you’re secure against
foreign powers you’ll always be secure internally too, assum-
ing there wasn’t already a conspiracy under way. Then even
when a foreign power does move against you, if you’ve lived
and organized yourself as I’ve suggested, you only have to
keep your nerve and you’ll survive any and every attack, like
the Spartan ruler Nabis in the example I gave earlier.

To get back to the internal situation: when there is no threat
from outside, a ruler must take care that his subjects don’t
start conspiring against him. He can guard against this by
making sure he isn’t hated or despised and that people are
happy with him, all of which is very important, as I’ve
explained at length. In fact, one of the most powerful prevent-
ive measures against conspiracies is simply not being hated
by a majority of the people. People planning a conspiracy
must believe that killing the ruler will be popular; when they
realize that, on the contrary, it would be unpopular they
lose heart, because conspiracies are always beset with endless
difficulties. Experience shows that for every successful con-
spiracy there are any number of failures. A conspirator can’t
act alone and can look for accomplices only among people he
believes are unhappy with the situation. But as soon as he
reveals his intentions to someone else he’s giving that person
the chance to improve his position, since obviously there are
all kinds of advantages to be had from betraying a conspiracy.
When you reckon that the benefits of betrayal are assured,
while joining a conspiracy is a risky and extremely dangerous
business, the man will have to be a rare friend indeed, or a
very bitter enemy of the government, if he’s going to keep
faith.

To summarize: on the conspirator’s side all you have is

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74 t h e p r i n c e

fear, envy and the demoralizing prospect of punishment, while
the ruler on his side has the authority of the government and
its laws plus the protection of his friends and the state. Add
to all that the good will of the people and it’s extremely
unlikely that anyone will be so crazy as to start a conspiracy.
Because, while in general a conspirator has most to fear prior
to the coup, in this case, with the people against him, he’s
going to be in danger afterwards too and the fact that he’s seen
off the ruler doesn’t mean he can expect to escape unscathed.

I could give infinite examples of this but let’s make do
with just one that happened in our fathers’ times. Annibale
Bentivogli, grandfather of the present Annibale, was Duke of
Bologna when the Canneschis conspired against him and
killed him. At that point the only surviving Bentivogli was his
son, Giovanni, who was still a baby. All the same, immediately
after the murder, the people rose up and killed all the Can-
neschis. This was because the Bentivogli family was extremely
popular at the time. In fact, when the Bolognese realized that
with Annibale dead there were no family members capable of
ruling the town, they went to Florence to get a man who was
supposedly a Bentivogli, though until shortly before that he
had passed himself off as the son of a blacksmith; they asked
him to govern Bologna and he duly did so until Giovanni was
old enough to take over.

My conclusion, then, is that so long as he has the people
on his side a ruler needn’t worry about conspiracies, but
when they are against him and hate him he’ll have to watch
everyone’s every move. Sensible rulers and well-run states
have always done all they can not to drive the nobles to
despair and to keep the people happy and satisfied; indeed
this is one of a ruler’s most important tasks.

One of the better organized and well-governed states in our
own times is France. It is full of good institutions which
guarantee the king’s security and freedom of action. The most
important of these is parliament and parliamentary authority.

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 75

In fact the king who set up the country’s constitution was
aware of the ambition and presumption of the nobles and
reckoned they needed a bit in their mouths to rein them back.
He also knew how much the people hated and feared the
nobles and he wanted to protect them. But it was important
that the king shouldn’t be personally responsible for doing
this since then he might be blamed by the nobles for favouring
the people or by the people for favouring the nobles. So he
introduced an independent body, parliament, that could keep
the nobles in their place and protect the people without the
king’s being responsible. There really couldn’t be a better or
more sensible institution, nor one more conducive to the
security of the king and the realm. This prompts the following
reflection: that a ruler must get others to carry out policies
that will provoke protest, keeping those that inspire gratitude
to himself. In conclusion, let me repeat that a ruler should
respect the nobles but must make sure he is not hated by the
people.

Perhaps many readers familiar with the fate of certain
Roman emperors will feel that their examples contradict these
opinions of mine, in that they consistently behaved well and
showed great character but nevertheless lost their empire or
even their lives at the hands of subjects who conspired against
them. To meet these objections, I shall consider the qualities
of some of these emperors, showing how the causes of their
downfall are not at all out of line with my reasoning above,
and bringing into the argument some of the context that
historians of the period consider important. I hope it will be
enough to take all the emperors who held power from the
philosopher Marcus Aurelius down to Maximinus, which is
to say: Marcus, his son Commodus, Pertinax, Julian, Severus,
Antoninus Caracalla his son, Macrinus, Heliogabalus,
Alexander and Maximinus.

The first thing to note is that, while in other states a ruler
has only to guard against the ambition of the nobles and

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 74 28/05/2015 14:14

74 t h e p r i n c e

fear, envy and the demoralizing prospect of punishment, while
the ruler on his side has the authority of the government and
its laws plus the protection of his friends and the state. Add
to all that the good will of the people and it’s extremely
unlikely that anyone will be so crazy as to start a conspiracy.
Because, while in general a conspirator has most to fear prior
to the coup, in this case, with the people against him, he’s
going to be in danger afterwards too and the fact that he’s seen
off the ruler doesn’t mean he can expect to escape unscathed.

I could give infinite examples of this but let’s make do
with just one that happened in our fathers’ times. Annibale
Bentivogli, grandfather of the present Annibale, was Duke of
Bologna when the Canneschis conspired against him and
killed him. At that point the only surviving Bentivogli was his
son, Giovanni, who was still a baby. All the same, immediately
after the murder, the people rose up and killed all the Can-
neschis. This was because the Bentivogli family was extremely
popular at the time. In fact, when the Bolognese realized that
with Annibale dead there were no family members capable of
ruling the town, they went to Florence to get a man who was
supposedly a Bentivogli, though until shortly before that he
had passed himself off as the son of a blacksmith; they asked
him to govern Bologna and he duly did so until Giovanni was
old enough to take over.

My conclusion, then, is that so long as he has the people
on his side a ruler needn’t worry about conspiracies, but
when they are against him and hate him he’ll have to watch
everyone’s every move. Sensible rulers and well-run states
have always done all they can not to drive the nobles to
despair and to keep the people happy and satisfied; indeed
this is one of a ruler’s most important tasks.

One of the better organized and well-governed states in our
own times is France. It is full of good institutions which
guarantee the king’s security and freedom of action. The most
important of these is parliament and parliamentary authority.

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 75

In fact the king who set up the country’s constitution was
aware of the ambition and presumption of the nobles and
reckoned they needed a bit in their mouths to rein them back.
He also knew how much the people hated and feared the
nobles and he wanted to protect them. But it was important
that the king shouldn’t be personally responsible for doing
this since then he might be blamed by the nobles for favouring
the people or by the people for favouring the nobles. So he
introduced an independent body, parliament, that could keep
the nobles in their place and protect the people without the
king’s being responsible. There really couldn’t be a better or
more sensible institution, nor one more conducive to the
security of the king and the realm. This prompts the following
reflection: that a ruler must get others to carry out policies
that will provoke protest, keeping those that inspire gratitude
to himself. In conclusion, let me repeat that a ruler should
respect the nobles but must make sure he is not hated by the
people.

Perhaps many readers familiar with the fate of certain
Roman emperors will feel that their examples contradict these
opinions of mine, in that they consistently behaved well and
showed great character but nevertheless lost their empire or
even their lives at the hands of subjects who conspired against
them. To meet these objections, I shall consider the qualities
of some of these emperors, showing how the causes of their
downfall are not at all out of line with my reasoning above,
and bringing into the argument some of the context that
historians of the period consider important. I hope it will be
enough to take all the emperors who held power from the
philosopher Marcus Aurelius down to Maximinus, which is
to say: Marcus, his son Commodus, Pertinax, Julian, Severus,
Antoninus Caracalla his son, Macrinus, Heliogabalus,
Alexander and Maximinus.

The first thing to note is that, while in other states a ruler
has only to guard against the ambition of the nobles and

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 75 28/05/2015 14:14

76 t h e p r i n c e

the disrespect of the people, Roman emperors faced a third
hazard: the greed and cruelty of the army. This was such a
tough problem that it proved the downfall of many emperors,
because it was so hard to keep both the people and the army
happy. The people were for a quiet life and hence loved
low-profile leaders, while the soldiers loved leaders with mili-
tary ambitions, men who were brazen, grasping and cruel;
they wanted the emperor to unleash these qualities on the
people so that they could double their incomes and give vent
to their own greed and cruelty.

As a result, emperors who for lack of natural authority or
political flair didn’t have the kind of standing that could hold
both soldiers and people in check always ended badly. When
they saw how difficult it was to deal with these conflicting
demands, most of them, and especially those new to power,
chose to satisfy the army and more or less ignored the people’s
suffering. It was a policy dictated by necessity: if a ruler can’t
avoid hatred altogether, he must first try to avoid the hatred
of the country as a whole, and when that proves impossible
he must do everything he can to escape the hatred of the
classes that wield the most power. So emperors new to their
positions and in need of special support turned to the army
rather than the people, a policy that worked for as long as
they were able to maintain their prestige in the eyes of the
soldiers.

This is why, although Marcus, Pertinax and Alexander
were benign, humane men, who led unassuming lives, loving
justice and hating cruelty, only Marcus managed to avoid a
sad end and still commanded respect at his death. This was
because he succeeded to the emperor’s throne by hereditary
right and owed nothing to either the soldiers or the people.
Possessing many good qualities that aroused general admir-
ation, he kept both the people and the army in their place
throughout his reign and was never either hated or despised.
But Pertinax was made emperor against the army’s will; under

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 77

Commodus the soldiers had got used to a degenerate lifestyle
and wouldn’t accept the standards of honesty Pertinax tried
to impose on them. This aroused their hatred and since Perti-
nax was also despised for being old he was soon overthrown.

In this regard it’s worth noting that you can be hated just
as much for the good you do as the bad, which is why, as I
said before, a ruler who wants to stay in power is often forced
not to be good. Because when a powerful group – whether
they be the common people, the army or the nobility – is
corrupt, then if you reckon you need their support you’ll have
to play to their mood and keep them happy, and at that point
any good you do will only put you at risk. But let’s move on
to Alexander. He was such a good man that among the many
things he was praised for was the fact that over fourteen years
in power he never had anyone executed without a trial. All
the same, people despised him; they thought him effeminate
and said he let his mother run the show; as a result the army
conspired against him and killed him.

Going to the opposite extreme and looking at the characters
of Commodus, Severus, Antoninus Caracalla and Maximinus,
we find they were extremely cruel and grasping; to keep the
army happy they committed every crime a leader can commit
against his people and all of them, with the exception of
Severus, came to a sad end. Severus had such a strong character
that though he tyrannized the people to keep the army friendly
he was always able to govern with success; his qualities
amazed and awed the people, impressed and pleased the army,
so that both groups in their different ways admired him.

Since, for a man who took power rather than inheriting it,
Severus achieved such a lot, I’d like very briefly to show how
well he was able to play both the fox and the lion, animals
that, as I said, a ruler must learn to imitate.

Aware that the emperor Julian was weak and indecisive,
Severus persuaded the army he commanded in Slavonia to
march on Rome and avenge Pertinax, who had been murdered

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 76 28/05/2015 14:14

76 t h e p r i n c e

the disrespect of the people, Roman emperors faced a third
hazard: the greed and cruelty of the army. This was such a
tough problem that it proved the downfall of many emperors,
because it was so hard to keep both the people and the army
happy. The people were for a quiet life and hence loved
low-profile leaders, while the soldiers loved leaders with mili-
tary ambitions, men who were brazen, grasping and cruel;
they wanted the emperor to unleash these qualities on the
people so that they could double their incomes and give vent
to their own greed and cruelty.

As a result, emperors who for lack of natural authority or
political flair didn’t have the kind of standing that could hold
both soldiers and people in check always ended badly. When
they saw how difficult it was to deal with these conflicting
demands, most of them, and especially those new to power,
chose to satisfy the army and more or less ignored the people’s
suffering. It was a policy dictated by necessity: if a ruler can’t
avoid hatred altogether, he must first try to avoid the hatred
of the country as a whole, and when that proves impossible
he must do everything he can to escape the hatred of the
classes that wield the most power. So emperors new to their
positions and in need of special support turned to the army
rather than the people, a policy that worked for as long as
they were able to maintain their prestige in the eyes of the
soldiers.

This is why, although Marcus, Pertinax and Alexander
were benign, humane men, who led unassuming lives, loving
justice and hating cruelty, only Marcus managed to avoid a
sad end and still commanded respect at his death. This was
because he succeeded to the emperor’s throne by hereditary
right and owed nothing to either the soldiers or the people.
Possessing many good qualities that aroused general admir-
ation, he kept both the people and the army in their place
throughout his reign and was never either hated or despised.
But Pertinax was made emperor against the army’s will; under

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 77

Commodus the soldiers had got used to a degenerate lifestyle
and wouldn’t accept the standards of honesty Pertinax tried
to impose on them. This aroused their hatred and since Perti-
nax was also despised for being old he was soon overthrown.

In this regard it’s worth noting that you can be hated just
as much for the good you do as the bad, which is why, as I
said before, a ruler who wants to stay in power is often forced
not to be good. Because when a powerful group – whether
they be the common people, the army or the nobility – is
corrupt, then if you reckon you need their support you’ll have
to play to their mood and keep them happy, and at that point
any good you do will only put you at risk. But let’s move on
to Alexander. He was such a good man that among the many
things he was praised for was the fact that over fourteen years
in power he never had anyone executed without a trial. All
the same, people despised him; they thought him effeminate
and said he let his mother run the show; as a result the army
conspired against him and killed him.

Going to the opposite extreme and looking at the characters
of Commodus, Severus, Antoninus Caracalla and Maximinus,
we find they were extremely cruel and grasping; to keep the
army happy they committed every crime a leader can commit
against his people and all of them, with the exception of
Severus, came to a sad end. Severus had such a strong character
that though he tyrannized the people to keep the army friendly
he was always able to govern with success; his qualities
amazed and awed the people, impressed and pleased the army,
so that both groups in their different ways admired him.

Since, for a man who took power rather than inheriting it,
Severus achieved such a lot, I’d like very briefly to show how
well he was able to play both the fox and the lion, animals
that, as I said, a ruler must learn to imitate.

Aware that the emperor Julian was weak and indecisive,
Severus persuaded the army he commanded in Slavonia to
march on Rome and avenge Pertinax, who had been murdered

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 77 28/05/2015 14:14

78 t h e p r i n c e

by the Praetorian Guard. With this pretext and betraying no
sign of any ambition to become emperor, he led his army
towards Rome and was already in Italy before people realized
he’d set out. When he arrived in Rome, the Senate, out of
fear, elected him emperor and had Julian killed. Having got
thus far, Severus faced two obstacles if he was to take com-
plete control of the empire: one in Asia, where the commander
of the Asian armies, Pescennius Niger, had declared himself
emperor; and the other in the west, where Albinus also aspired
to become emperor. Deciding it would be dangerous to show
he was hostile to both opponents at once, Severus chose to
attack Niger and trick Albinus. So he wrote to Albinus, in
France, saying that now that the Senate had elected him
emperor he wanted to share the honour with him, Albinus.
He sent him the title of Caesar and had the Senate vote to
make him co-emperor. Albinus was taken in, but as soon as
Severus had defeated and killed Niger and got control of the
eastern empire, he went back to Rome and complained in the
Senate that Albinus, far from being grateful for everything
Severus had given him, had set a trap to kill him; as a result,
he, Severus, would have to go and punish his ingratitude. In
fact he went to France, stripped Albinus of his power and had
him killed.

If we look carefully at what Severus did, we find he played
both the ferocious lion and the cunning fox very well; he was
feared and respected by all parties and he managed to avoid
being hated by the army. It’s hardly surprising, then, that
despite being a new arrival he was able to hold so much
power: his enormous reputation always protected him from
the hatred people might otherwise have felt as a result of his
pillage and violence.

Severus’s son, Antoninus, was also a man with some excel-
lent qualities; the people thought him remarkable and the
army welcomed him. He was a warlike leader, capable of
handling every hardship and contemptuous of fine foods and

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 79

easy living of any kind. So the army loved him. But his cruelty
and ferocity were overwhelming and unspeakable, to the
extent that, after endless individual murders, he wiped out
much of the population of Rome and all the people of Alexan-
dria. At this point everybody really hated him and even those
close to him began to get nervous so that in the end he was
killed by a centurion while among his soldiers.

It’s worth noting that assassinations like this, coming as
they do when a determined man takes a considered decision,
are bound to happen to rulers sometimes, if only because,
once a person no longer cares about dying, he’s free to strike.
That said, a ruler shouldn’t be too concerned, because such
murders are extremely rare. He must just take care not to do
a serious injustice to any of the men he has serving him or
keeps beside him to run the state. Antoninus in fact had killed
the centurion’s brother in disgraceful circumstances and was
threatening the man himself every day, yet still kept him in
his bodyguard. It was the kind of rash behaviour that can,
and in this case did, lead to disaster.

But let’s turn to Commodus, who could so easily have held
on to the empire. Son of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus came
to power by hereditary right; all he had to do was follow in
his father’s footsteps and he would have been welcome to
army and people alike. But the man was cruel, bestially so,
and to unleash his appetite and greed on the people he set
about currying favour with the soldiers and corrupting them.
He had no self-respect either and would often go down to the
floor of the amphitheatre to fight the gladiators. He did so
many things that were sordid and unworthy of an emperor
that his soldiers found him contemptible, until, hated by the
people and despised by the army, he eventually fell victim to
a conspiracy.

Which leaves Maximinus. He was a real warmonger. As I
said earlier on, the armies had been frustrated with the effem-
inate Alexander, and when they’d got rid of him they elected

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 78 28/05/2015 14:14

78 t h e p r i n c e

by the Praetorian Guard. With this pretext and betraying no
sign of any ambition to become emperor, he led his army
towards Rome and was already in Italy before people realized
he’d set out. When he arrived in Rome, the Senate, out of
fear, elected him emperor and had Julian killed. Having got
thus far, Severus faced two obstacles if he was to take com-
plete control of the empire: one in Asia, where the commander
of the Asian armies, Pescennius Niger, had declared himself
emperor; and the other in the west, where Albinus also aspired
to become emperor. Deciding it would be dangerous to show
he was hostile to both opponents at once, Severus chose to
attack Niger and trick Albinus. So he wrote to Albinus, in
France, saying that now that the Senate had elected him
emperor he wanted to share the honour with him, Albinus.
He sent him the title of Caesar and had the Senate vote to
make him co-emperor. Albinus was taken in, but as soon as
Severus had defeated and killed Niger and got control of the
eastern empire, he went back to Rome and complained in the
Senate that Albinus, far from being grateful for everything
Severus had given him, had set a trap to kill him; as a result,
he, Severus, would have to go and punish his ingratitude. In
fact he went to France, stripped Albinus of his power and had
him killed.

If we look carefully at what Severus did, we find he played
both the ferocious lion and the cunning fox very well; he was
feared and respected by all parties and he managed to avoid
being hated by the army. It’s hardly surprising, then, that
despite being a new arrival he was able to hold so much
power: his enormous reputation always protected him from
the hatred people might otherwise have felt as a result of his
pillage and violence.

Severus’s son, Antoninus, was also a man with some excel-
lent qualities; the people thought him remarkable and the
army welcomed him. He was a warlike leader, capable of
handling every hardship and contemptuous of fine foods and

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 79

easy living of any kind. So the army loved him. But his cruelty
and ferocity were overwhelming and unspeakable, to the
extent that, after endless individual murders, he wiped out
much of the population of Rome and all the people of Alexan-
dria. At this point everybody really hated him and even those
close to him began to get nervous so that in the end he was
killed by a centurion while among his soldiers.

It’s worth noting that assassinations like this, coming as
they do when a determined man takes a considered decision,
are bound to happen to rulers sometimes, if only because,
once a person no longer cares about dying, he’s free to strike.
That said, a ruler shouldn’t be too concerned, because such
murders are extremely rare. He must just take care not to do
a serious injustice to any of the men he has serving him or
keeps beside him to run the state. Antoninus in fact had killed
the centurion’s brother in disgraceful circumstances and was
threatening the man himself every day, yet still kept him in
his bodyguard. It was the kind of rash behaviour that can,
and in this case did, lead to disaster.

But let’s turn to Commodus, who could so easily have held
on to the empire. Son of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus came
to power by hereditary right; all he had to do was follow in
his father’s footsteps and he would have been welcome to
army and people alike. But the man was cruel, bestially so,
and to unleash his appetite and greed on the people he set
about currying favour with the soldiers and corrupting them.
He had no self-respect either and would often go down to the
floor of the amphitheatre to fight the gladiators. He did so
many things that were sordid and unworthy of an emperor
that his soldiers found him contemptible, until, hated by the
people and despised by the army, he eventually fell victim to
a conspiracy.

Which leaves Maximinus. He was a real warmonger. As I
said earlier on, the armies had been frustrated with the effem-
inate Alexander, and when they’d got rid of him they elected

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 79 28/05/2015 14:14

80 t h e p r i n c e

Maximinus in his place. But he didn’t last long. Two things
led to his being both hated and despised. First, his extremely
lowly background: he had been a shepherd in Thrace – every-
body knew it and thought it scandalous; second, on becoming
emperor he had put off going to Rome for the formal investi-
ture and got himself a reputation for extreme cruelty by
ordering his prefects in Rome and all over the empire to
carry out numerous atrocities. Universally despised for his
low birth, hated and feared for his ferocity, he faced rebellions
first in Africa, then in the Senate; the Senate rebellion was
supported by the entire population of Rome. Then the whole
of Italy conspired against him, until finally his own army got
involved; they were laying siege to Aquileia and finding it
tough going; they were also fed up with his cruelty and when
they realized how many enemies he had they became less
afraid of the man and killed him.

I don’t want to talk about Heliogabalus, Macrinus or
Julian, who were all intensely despised and swiftly dispatched.
Instead I’ll conclude this discussion with the reflection that
contemporary rulers do not have to give the same priority to
satisfying the army that the Roman emperors did. True, one
does have to pay the army some attention, but the problem is
soon resolved, because none of today’s rulers has to live
with armies that have long experience in the government and
administration of the provinces, as the armies of the Roman
empire did. If the emperors had to put their armies before the
people it was because the armies were the more powerful.
These days it is more important for all rulers, with the excep-
tions of the Turkish and Egyptian sultans, to put the people
before the army, because the people are more powerful.

I’ve made an exception of the Turkish leader because he
keeps an army of 12,000 infantry and 15,000 cavalry beside
him. Depending on them as he does for the strength and
security of his realm he has to put their good will before any
other consideration. In the same way, Egypt is entirely at the

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 81

mercy of its army and again the sultan has to satisfy the
soldiers before worrying about the people. It’s worth noting
that Egypt is a unique case; it is similar to the papal state,
which can’t be classified as a hereditary monarchy or as a
new monarchy. When the old ruler dies he is not replaced by
one of his children, but a new leader is elected by a body
vested with this authority. Since the state’s institutions are
well established, this can hardly be compared with a situation
where a new ruler seizes a state, and in fact a pope or Egyptian
sultan faces none of the difficulties that a new ruler usually
faces, because although he may be new to power the insti-
tutions are old and set up to work on his behalf as if he were
a hereditary king.

But let’s get back to our discussion. I’m sure that anyone
reflecting on what I’ve said will see that it was hatred or
contempt that led to the downfall of these Roman emperors;
they will also understand how it was that, while some behaved
one way and some another, there were nevertheless successes
and failures in both groups. Since they had seized rather than
inherited power, it was futile and dangerous for Pertinax
and Alexander to try to imitate Marcus Aurelius, who had
inherited his position; similarly, since they didn’t have the
necessary qualities, it was a fatal mistake for Caracalla, Com-
modus and Maximinus to imitate Severus. Though a man
who has seized power and is establishing a new monarchy
cannot imitate the likes of Marcus Aurelius, that doesn’t mean
he has to behave like Severus. What he must take from Severus
are the policies you need to found a state, and from Marcus
the policies that bring stability and glory once the state is
firmly established.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 80 28/05/2015 14:14

80 t h e p r i n c e

Maximinus in his place. But he didn’t last long. Two things
led to his being both hated and despised. First, his extremely
lowly background: he had been a shepherd in Thrace – every-
body knew it and thought it scandalous; second, on becoming
emperor he had put off going to Rome for the formal investi-
ture and got himself a reputation for extreme cruelty by
ordering his prefects in Rome and all over the empire to
carry out numerous atrocities. Universally despised for his
low birth, hated and feared for his ferocity, he faced rebellions
first in Africa, then in the Senate; the Senate rebellion was
supported by the entire population of Rome. Then the whole
of Italy conspired against him, until finally his own army got
involved; they were laying siege to Aquileia and finding it
tough going; they were also fed up with his cruelty and when
they realized how many enemies he had they became less
afraid of the man and killed him.

I don’t want to talk about Heliogabalus, Macrinus or
Julian, who were all intensely despised and swiftly dispatched.
Instead I’ll conclude this discussion with the reflection that
contemporary rulers do not have to give the same priority to
satisfying the army that the Roman emperors did. True, one
does have to pay the army some attention, but the problem is
soon resolved, because none of today’s rulers has to live
with armies that have long experience in the government and
administration of the provinces, as the armies of the Roman
empire did. If the emperors had to put their armies before the
people it was because the armies were the more powerful.
These days it is more important for all rulers, with the excep-
tions of the Turkish and Egyptian sultans, to put the people
before the army, because the people are more powerful.

I’ve made an exception of the Turkish leader because he
keeps an army of 12,000 infantry and 15,000 cavalry beside
him. Depending on them as he does for the strength and
security of his realm he has to put their good will before any
other consideration. In the same way, Egypt is entirely at the

av o i d i n g c o n t e m p t a n d h a t r e d 81

mercy of its army and again the sultan has to satisfy the
soldiers before worrying about the people. It’s worth noting
that Egypt is a unique case; it is similar to the papal state,
which can’t be classified as a hereditary monarchy or as a
new monarchy. When the old ruler dies he is not replaced by
one of his children, but a new leader is elected by a body
vested with this authority. Since the state’s institutions are
well established, this can hardly be compared with a situation
where a new ruler seizes a state, and in fact a pope or Egyptian
sultan faces none of the difficulties that a new ruler usually
faces, because although he may be new to power the insti-
tutions are old and set up to work on his behalf as if he were
a hereditary king.

But let’s get back to our discussion. I’m sure that anyone
reflecting on what I’ve said will see that it was hatred or
contempt that led to the downfall of these Roman emperors;
they will also understand how it was that, while some behaved
one way and some another, there were nevertheless successes
and failures in both groups. Since they had seized rather than
inherited power, it was futile and dangerous for Pertinax
and Alexander to try to imitate Marcus Aurelius, who had
inherited his position; similarly, since they didn’t have the
necessary qualities, it was a fatal mistake for Caracalla, Com-
modus and Maximinus to imitate Severus. Though a man
who has seized power and is establishing a new monarchy
cannot imitate the likes of Marcus Aurelius, that doesn’t mean
he has to behave like Severus. What he must take from Severus
are the policies you need to found a state, and from Marcus
the policies that bring stability and glory once the state is
firmly established.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 81 28/05/2015 14:14

20

Whether fortresses and other strategies
rulers frequently adopt are useful

To hold power more securely, some rulers have disarmed
their citizens; some have kept subject towns divided in fac-
tions; some have encouraged hostility towards themselves;
others have sought to win over those who were initially sus-
picious of their rise to power; some have built fortresses;
others have torn them down and destroyed them. And though
one can’t pass final judgement on these policies without
detailed knowledge of the states where such decisions were
taken, all the same I shall try to discuss the matter in general
terms as far as is possible.

No one new to power has ever disarmed his subjects; on
the contrary, finding them disarmed new rulers have always
armed them. When you’re the one giving people arms, those
arms become yours; men who were potentially hostile become
loyal, while those already loyal become your supporters rather
than just your subjects. It’s true you can’t arm everyone, but
in favouring some you can feel safer about the others too.
Seeing that they’ve been preferred, the men you’ve armed will
be under an obligation to you. The others won’t be resentful,
understanding that the people facing danger for you and
binding their lives to yours will inevitably deserve the greater
rewards. But when you take arms away from people, then
you start to upset them; you show you don’t trust them
because you’re frightened or cagey. Either way, they’ll begin
to hate you. Then, since you can hardly manage without an

whether fortresses and other strategies are useful 83

army, you’ll have to turn to mercenary forces, which will
have all the failings I discussed earlier. And even if your
mercenaries are good, they’ll never be good enough to defend
you against powerful enemies and a hostile people.

So, as I said, a new ruler in a newly constituted state has
always armed his subjects. History offers endless examples.
But when a ruler acquires a new territory to add like an extra
limb to an existing state, then he must disarm its people,
except for the men who supported him when he took it. But
with time and opportunity even those men should be kept
weak and emasculated so that all the real armed force in the
state as a whole resides with your own soldiers who live with
you in your home base.

Generations ago, the experts in Florence used to say that
you had to hold Pistoia by playing on its factions and Pisa by
holding its fortresses. So they encouraged factionalism in
some of the towns they held, the better to control them. In
times when there was a certain balance between opposing
parties in Italy this was probably an effective policy, but I
don’t think we should take it as a rule today. I don’t think
factional divisions ever really improved the situation. On the
contrary, when an enemy approaches, a subject town that’s
divided in factions will fall at once. The weaker of the factions
will always join forces with the attacker and the other faction
won’t be strong enough to beat them both.

The Venetians were reasoning along the same lines, I
believe, when they fomented divisions between Guelphs and
Ghibellines in the towns they held; they didn’t let the factions
get as far as bloodshed but encouraged divergences so that
people would be too busy with their own disputes to unite
against Venice. It wasn’t, as things turned out, a successful
policy. After the Venetians’ defeat at Vailà, one or other of
the factions immediately took courage and seized control
of the various towns. This kind of policy actually indicates
weakness on a ruler’s part; in a healthy, confident state such

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 82 28/05/2015 14:14

20

Whether fortresses and other strategies
rulers frequently adopt are useful

To hold power more securely, some rulers have disarmed
their citizens; some have kept subject towns divided in fac-
tions; some have encouraged hostility towards themselves;
others have sought to win over those who were initially sus-
picious of their rise to power; some have built fortresses;
others have torn them down and destroyed them. And though
one can’t pass final judgement on these policies without
detailed knowledge of the states where such decisions were
taken, all the same I shall try to discuss the matter in general
terms as far as is possible.

No one new to power has ever disarmed his subjects; on
the contrary, finding them disarmed new rulers have always
armed them. When you’re the one giving people arms, those
arms become yours; men who were potentially hostile become
loyal, while those already loyal become your supporters rather
than just your subjects. It’s true you can’t arm everyone, but
in favouring some you can feel safer about the others too.
Seeing that they’ve been preferred, the men you’ve armed will
be under an obligation to you. The others won’t be resentful,
understanding that the people facing danger for you and
binding their lives to yours will inevitably deserve the greater
rewards. But when you take arms away from people, then
you start to upset them; you show you don’t trust them
because you’re frightened or cagey. Either way, they’ll begin
to hate you. Then, since you can hardly manage without an

whether fortresses and other strategies are useful 83

army, you’ll have to turn to mercenary forces, which will
have all the failings I discussed earlier. And even if your
mercenaries are good, they’ll never be good enough to defend
you against powerful enemies and a hostile people.

So, as I said, a new ruler in a newly constituted state has
always armed his subjects. History offers endless examples.
But when a ruler acquires a new territory to add like an extra
limb to an existing state, then he must disarm its people,
except for the men who supported him when he took it. But
with time and opportunity even those men should be kept
weak and emasculated so that all the real armed force in the
state as a whole resides with your own soldiers who live with
you in your home base.

Generations ago, the experts in Florence used to say that
you had to hold Pistoia by playing on its factions and Pisa by
holding its fortresses. So they encouraged factionalism in
some of the towns they held, the better to control them. In
times when there was a certain balance between opposing
parties in Italy this was probably an effective policy, but I
don’t think we should take it as a rule today. I don’t think
factional divisions ever really improved the situation. On the
contrary, when an enemy approaches, a subject town that’s
divided in factions will fall at once. The weaker of the factions
will always join forces with the attacker and the other faction
won’t be strong enough to beat them both.

The Venetians were reasoning along the same lines, I
believe, when they fomented divisions between Guelphs and
Ghibellines in the towns they held; they didn’t let the factions
get as far as bloodshed but encouraged divergences so that
people would be too busy with their own disputes to unite
against Venice. It wasn’t, as things turned out, a successful
policy. After the Venetians’ defeat at Vailà, one or other of
the factions immediately took courage and seized control
of the various towns. This kind of policy actually indicates
weakness on a ruler’s part; in a healthy, confident state such

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 83 28/05/2015 14:14

84 t h e p r i n c e

differences would never be allowed; they are only useful in
peacetime when they make it easier to keep people under
control. In times of war everyone can see how flawed the
policy is.

There’s no doubt that rulers achieve greatness by over-
coming the obstacles and enemies they find in their path. So
when destiny wants to make a ruler great, particularly a new
ruler who, unlike a hereditary king, really needs to build up
his reputation, it sends him enemies and prompts them to
attack him. That way he has the chance to beat them and
climb the ladder his enemies have put in front of him. Hence
many people reckon that when the opportunity presents itself
a smart ruler will shrewdly provoke hostility so that he can
then increase his reputation by crushing it.

Rulers, and especially those new to power, have found that
men they initially doubted prove more loyal and useful than
those they trusted. Pandolfo Petrucci ran Siena more with the
men he had doubted than the others. But it’s hard to lay down
firm rules here because things vary from case to case. I’ll just
say this: that a ruler can very easily win over men who
opposed him when he came to power, if they are not in a
position to support themselves with their own resources.
They’ll be forced to behave more loyally than others in that
they know they have to work hard to offset the negative
impression the ruler initially had of them. So a ruler can
always get more out of such men than out of people who feel
too safe in his service and don’t really make an effort.

Since the discussion demands it, I wouldn’t like to leave
out a reminder to any ruler who has taken a new state with
inside help that he must think hard about why the local people
who helped him did so. If they didn’t act out of natural
friendship for the new ruler, but only because the previous
government wasn’t giving them what they wanted, it will
be extremely demanding and difficult to keep their support,
because the new ruler won’t be able to give them what they

whether fortresses and other strategies are useful 85

want either. Looking carefully at the reasons for this and
drawing on the examples available from ancient and modern
history, we find that it is much easier to win over those who
were content with the previous government, and hence your
enemies, than the men who were not content and so made an
alliance with you and helped you take the country.

One way rulers have tried to secure their power is by build-
ing fortresses to curb and discourage potential aggressors and
to offer a safe refuge in case of sudden attack. I approve of
this policy, if only because it has been used for centuries. All
the same, there is the recent example of Niccolò Vitelli who
demolished two fortresses in Città di Castello in order to hold
the town. When Guidobaldo retook possession of his lands
after Cesare Borgia’s occupation, he razed every fortress in
the state to the ground, convinced that he’d be less likely to
lose it again without them. And when the Bentivoglio family
returned to power in Bologna it did the same thing. So,
whether fortresses are useful or not will depend on the circum-
stances; in one situation they’ll be a help and in another they’ll
be dangerous. We can sum up the reasons for this as follows.

The ruler who is more afraid of his people than of foreign
enemies must build fortresses; but the ruler who is more
afraid of foreign enemies should do without them. The castle
Francesco Sforza built in Milan has provoked and will go on
provoking more rebellions against the Sforza family than any
other cause of unrest in the whole state. Your best fortress is
not to be hated by the people, because even if you do have
fortresses, they won’t save you if the people hate you. Once
the people have decided to take up arms against you they’ll
never be short of foreign support. In recent times there are no
examples of fortresses having proved useful to any ruler at
all, with the exception of the Countess of Forlı̀, Caterina
Sforza, when her husband, Count Girolamo Riario, was mur-
dered. Taking refuge in the fortress, she was able to survive
the rebels’ assault, wait till help came from Milan, then take

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 84 28/05/2015 14:14

84 t h e p r i n c e

differences would never be allowed; they are only useful in
peacetime when they make it easier to keep people under
control. In times of war everyone can see how flawed the
policy is.

There’s no doubt that rulers achieve greatness by over-
coming the obstacles and enemies they find in their path. So
when destiny wants to make a ruler great, particularly a new
ruler who, unlike a hereditary king, really needs to build up
his reputation, it sends him enemies and prompts them to
attack him. That way he has the chance to beat them and
climb the ladder his enemies have put in front of him. Hence
many people reckon that when the opportunity presents itself
a smart ruler will shrewdly provoke hostility so that he can
then increase his reputation by crushing it.

Rulers, and especially those new to power, have found that
men they initially doubted prove more loyal and useful than
those they trusted. Pandolfo Petrucci ran Siena more with the
men he had doubted than the others. But it’s hard to lay down
firm rules here because things vary from case to case. I’ll just
say this: that a ruler can very easily win over men who
opposed him when he came to power, if they are not in a
position to support themselves with their own resources.
They’ll be forced to behave more loyally than others in that
they know they have to work hard to offset the negative
impression the ruler initially had of them. So a ruler can
always get more out of such men than out of people who feel
too safe in his service and don’t really make an effort.

Since the discussion demands it, I wouldn’t like to leave
out a reminder to any ruler who has taken a new state with
inside help that he must think hard about why the local people
who helped him did so. If they didn’t act out of natural
friendship for the new ruler, but only because the previous
government wasn’t giving them what they wanted, it will
be extremely demanding and difficult to keep their support,
because the new ruler won’t be able to give them what they

whether fortresses and other strategies are useful 85

want either. Looking carefully at the reasons for this and
drawing on the examples available from ancient and modern
history, we find that it is much easier to win over those who
were content with the previous government, and hence your
enemies, than the men who were not content and so made an
alliance with you and helped you take the country.

One way rulers have tried to secure their power is by build-
ing fortresses to curb and discourage potential aggressors and
to offer a safe refuge in case of sudden attack. I approve of
this policy, if only because it has been used for centuries. All
the same, there is the recent example of Niccolò Vitelli who
demolished two fortresses in Città di Castello in order to hold
the town. When Guidobaldo retook possession of his lands
after Cesare Borgia’s occupation, he razed every fortress in
the state to the ground, convinced that he’d be less likely to
lose it again without them. And when the Bentivoglio family
returned to power in Bologna it did the same thing. So,
whether fortresses are useful or not will depend on the circum-
stances; in one situation they’ll be a help and in another they’ll
be dangerous. We can sum up the reasons for this as follows.

The ruler who is more afraid of his people than of foreign
enemies must build fortresses; but the ruler who is more
afraid of foreign enemies should do without them. The castle
Francesco Sforza built in Milan has provoked and will go on
provoking more rebellions against the Sforza family than any
other cause of unrest in the whole state. Your best fortress is
not to be hated by the people, because even if you do have
fortresses, they won’t save you if the people hate you. Once
the people have decided to take up arms against you they’ll
never be short of foreign support. In recent times there are no
examples of fortresses having proved useful to any ruler at
all, with the exception of the Countess of Forlı̀, Caterina
Sforza, when her husband, Count Girolamo Riario, was mur-
dered. Taking refuge in the fortress, she was able to survive
the rebels’ assault, wait till help came from Milan, then take

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 85 28/05/2015 14:14

86 t h e p r i n c e

control again. Circumstances were such at the time that no
foreign enemies were in a position to help the people. Later,
however, her fortresses were not much use when Cesare
Borgia attacked the town, and the people, who were hostile
to her, fought on his side. Both then and earlier she would
have been safer had she avoided making an enemy of the
people rather than counting on fortresses. All things con-
sidered, I’ll give my approval both to rulers who build fort-
resses and to those who don’t, but I’ll always criticize any
ruler who imagines it doesn’t matter whether the people hate
him or not and trusts in fortresses for his security.

21

What a ruler should do to win respect

Nothing wins a ruler respect like great military victories and
a display of remarkable personal qualities. One example in
our own times is Ferdinand of Aragon, the present King of
Spain. One might almost describe him as a ruler new to power
because from being a weak king he has become the most
famous and honoured of Christendom, and when you look
at his achievements you find they are all remarkable and
some of them extraordinary. At the beginning of his reign he
launched an invasion of Granada, a campaign that laid the
foundation of his power. It was important that he did it at a
moment of domestic quiet when he didn’t have to worry
about possible interruptions: the war then kept the Castilian
barons busy so that they didn’t start plotting changes inside
Spain. Meanwhile, and without their even noticing, Ferdi-
nand’s power and reputation were increasing at their expense.
Supplying his armies with money from the Church and the
people, he was able to sustain a long war that allowed him to
establish, then consolidate, a military force that would do
him proud in the future. After that was done, to ensure the
Church’s support for even larger campaigns, he perpetrated
an act of cruelty dressed up as piety, stripping the Marrano
Jews of their wealth and expelling them from his kingdom, a
move that could hardly have been more distressing or striking.
Once again under cover of religion, he attacked Africa, then
moved into Italy and finally attacked France. So he was always

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 86 28/05/2015 14:14

86 t h e p r i n c e

control again. Circumstances were such at the time that no
foreign enemies were in a position to help the people. Later,
however, her fortresses were not much use when Cesare
Borgia attacked the town, and the people, who were hostile
to her, fought on his side. Both then and earlier she would
have been safer had she avoided making an enemy of the
people rather than counting on fortresses. All things con-
sidered, I’ll give my approval both to rulers who build fort-
resses and to those who don’t, but I’ll always criticize any
ruler who imagines it doesn’t matter whether the people hate
him or not and trusts in fortresses for his security.

21

What a ruler should do to win respect

Nothing wins a ruler respect like great military victories and
a display of remarkable personal qualities. One example in
our own times is Ferdinand of Aragon, the present King of
Spain. One might almost describe him as a ruler new to power
because from being a weak king he has become the most
famous and honoured of Christendom, and when you look
at his achievements you find they are all remarkable and
some of them extraordinary. At the beginning of his reign he
launched an invasion of Granada, a campaign that laid the
foundation of his power. It was important that he did it at a
moment of domestic quiet when he didn’t have to worry
about possible interruptions: the war then kept the Castilian
barons busy so that they didn’t start plotting changes inside
Spain. Meanwhile, and without their even noticing, Ferdi-
nand’s power and reputation were increasing at their expense.
Supplying his armies with money from the Church and the
people, he was able to sustain a long war that allowed him to
establish, then consolidate, a military force that would do
him proud in the future. After that was done, to ensure the
Church’s support for even larger campaigns, he perpetrated
an act of cruelty dressed up as piety, stripping the Marrano
Jews of their wealth and expelling them from his kingdom, a
move that could hardly have been more distressing or striking.
Once again under cover of religion, he attacked Africa, then
moved into Italy and finally attacked France. So he was always

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 87 28/05/2015 14:14

88 t h e p r i n c e

planning and doing great things, keeping his people in a state
of suspense and admiration, concentrated as they were on the
outcome of his various campaigns. Since each of these came
as a consequence of the one before, he never gave the more
powerful men in the country any slack time between wars
when they could plot against him.

A leader can also win acclaim by giving impressive demon-
strations of character in his handling of domestic affairs, as
Bernabò Visconti did in Milan; whenever anyone does any-
thing remarkable, whether for good or ill, in civil life, you
think up some reward or punishment that will cause a stir.
But above all a ruler must make sure that everything he
does gives people the impression that he is a great man of
remarkable abilities.

A ruler will also be respected when he is a genuine friend
and a genuine enemy, that is, when he declares himself unam-
biguously for one side and against the other. This policy will
always bring better results than neutrality. For example, if
you have two powerful neighbours who go to war, you may
or may not have reason to fear the winner afterwards. Either
way it will always be better to take sides and fight hard. If
you do have cause to fear but stay neutral, you’ll still be
gobbled up by the winner to the amusement and satisfaction
of the loser; you’ll have no excuses, no defence and nowhere
to hide. Because a winner doesn’t want half-hearted friends
who don’t help him in a crisis; and the loser will have nothing
to do with you since you didn’t choose to fight alongside him
and share his fate.

When Antiochus was sent to Greece by the Aetolians to
push back the Romans, he sent ambassadors to the Achaeans,
who were allied to the Romans, asking them to remain neu-
tral, while for their part the Romans encouraged them to join
the war on their side. The Achaean council debated the matter
and after Antiochus’s ambassador had spoken, asking them
to remain neutral, the Roman ambassador replied: ‘With

w h a t a r u l e r s h o u l d d o t o w i n r e s p e c t 89

regard to this invitation to remain neutral, nothing could be
more damaging to your interests: you’ll get no thanks, no
consideration and will be taken as a reward by whoever wins.’

The contender who is not your ally will always try to get
you to stay neutral and your ally will always try to get you to
fight. Indecisive rulers who want to avoid immediate danger
usually decide to stay neutral, and usually things end badly
for them. But if you declare yourself courageously for one
side or the other and your ally wins, he’ll be indebted to you
and there’ll be a bond of friendship between you, so that even
if he is more powerful now and has you at his mercy he’s
not going to be so shameless as to take advantage of the
circumstances and become an example of ingratitude. Vic-
tories are never so decisive that the winner can override every
principle, justice in particular. But if your ally loses, you’re
still his friend and he’ll offer what help he can: you become
companions in misfortune, and your luck could always turn.

In the event that the two neighbours going to war are not
so powerful that you need fear the winner, it is even more
sensible to take sides and get involved: you’ll be destroying
one with the help of another who, if he had any sense, would
be protecting the loser. And when your ally wins, which with
your help is inevitable, he’ll be at your mercy.

Here it’s worth noting that a ruler must never ally himself
with someone more powerful in order to attack his enemies,
unless, as I said above, it is absolutely necessary. Because
when you win you’ll be at your ally’s mercy, and whenever
possible rulers must avoid placing themselves in another’s
power. The Venetians allied themselves with France to attack
the Duke of Milan. It was an alliance they could have avoided
and it led to disaster. But when such an alliance can’t be
avoided, as was the case with Florence when the pope and
Spain took their armies to attack Lombardy, then a ruler must
take sides for the reasons set out above. In general, a ruler
must never imagine that any decision he takes is safe; on the

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 88 28/05/2015 14:14

88 t h e p r i n c e

planning and doing great things, keeping his people in a state
of suspense and admiration, concentrated as they were on the
outcome of his various campaigns. Since each of these came
as a consequence of the one before, he never gave the more
powerful men in the country any slack time between wars
when they could plot against him.

A leader can also win acclaim by giving impressive demon-
strations of character in his handling of domestic affairs, as
Bernabò Visconti did in Milan; whenever anyone does any-
thing remarkable, whether for good or ill, in civil life, you
think up some reward or punishment that will cause a stir.
But above all a ruler must make sure that everything he
does gives people the impression that he is a great man of
remarkable abilities.

A ruler will also be respected when he is a genuine friend
and a genuine enemy, that is, when he declares himself unam-
biguously for one side and against the other. This policy will
always bring better results than neutrality. For example, if
you have two powerful neighbours who go to war, you may
or may not have reason to fear the winner afterwards. Either
way it will always be better to take sides and fight hard. If
you do have cause to fear but stay neutral, you’ll still be
gobbled up by the winner to the amusement and satisfaction
of the loser; you’ll have no excuses, no defence and nowhere
to hide. Because a winner doesn’t want half-hearted friends
who don’t help him in a crisis; and the loser will have nothing
to do with you since you didn’t choose to fight alongside him
and share his fate.

When Antiochus was sent to Greece by the Aetolians to
push back the Romans, he sent ambassadors to the Achaeans,
who were allied to the Romans, asking them to remain neu-
tral, while for their part the Romans encouraged them to join
the war on their side. The Achaean council debated the matter
and after Antiochus’s ambassador had spoken, asking them
to remain neutral, the Roman ambassador replied: ‘With

w h a t a r u l e r s h o u l d d o t o w i n r e s p e c t 89

regard to this invitation to remain neutral, nothing could be
more damaging to your interests: you’ll get no thanks, no
consideration and will be taken as a reward by whoever wins.’

The contender who is not your ally will always try to get
you to stay neutral and your ally will always try to get you to
fight. Indecisive rulers who want to avoid immediate danger
usually decide to stay neutral, and usually things end badly
for them. But if you declare yourself courageously for one
side or the other and your ally wins, he’ll be indebted to you
and there’ll be a bond of friendship between you, so that even
if he is more powerful now and has you at his mercy he’s
not going to be so shameless as to take advantage of the
circumstances and become an example of ingratitude. Vic-
tories are never so decisive that the winner can override every
principle, justice in particular. But if your ally loses, you’re
still his friend and he’ll offer what help he can: you become
companions in misfortune, and your luck could always turn.

In the event that the two neighbours going to war are not
so powerful that you need fear the winner, it is even more
sensible to take sides and get involved: you’ll be destroying
one with the help of another who, if he had any sense, would
be protecting the loser. And when your ally wins, which with
your help is inevitable, he’ll be at your mercy.

Here it’s worth noting that a ruler must never ally himself
with someone more powerful in order to attack his enemies,
unless, as I said above, it is absolutely necessary. Because
when you win you’ll be at your ally’s mercy, and whenever
possible rulers must avoid placing themselves in another’s
power. The Venetians allied themselves with France to attack
the Duke of Milan. It was an alliance they could have avoided
and it led to disaster. But when such an alliance can’t be
avoided, as was the case with Florence when the pope and
Spain took their armies to attack Lombardy, then a ruler must
take sides for the reasons set out above. In general, a ruler
must never imagine that any decision he takes is safe; on the

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 89 28/05/2015 14:14

90 t h e p r i n c e

contrary he should reckon that any decision is potentially
dangerous. It is in the nature of things that every time you try
to avoid one danger you run into another. Good sense consists
in being able to assess the dangers and choose the lesser of
various evils.

A ruler must also show that he admires achievement in
others, giving work to men of ability and rewarding people
who excel in this or that craft. What’s more, he should
reassure his subjects that they can go calmly about their
business as merchants or farmers, or whatever other trade
they practise, without worrying that if they increase their
wealth they’ll be in danger of having it taken away from them,
or that if they start up a business they’ll be punitively taxed.
On the contrary, a ruler should offer incentives to people who
want to do this kind of thing and to whoever plans to bring
prosperity to his city or state. Then at the right times of the
year he should entertain people with shows and festivals. And
since every city is divided into guilds and districts, he should
respect these groups and go to their meetings from time to
time, showing what a humane and generous person he is,
though without ever forgetting the authority of his position,
something he must always keep to the fore.

22

A ruler’s ministers

A ruler’s choice of ministers is an important matter. The
quality of the ministers will reflect his good sense or lack of
it and give people their first impression of the way the ruler’s
mind is working. If his ministers are capable and loyal, people
will always reckon a ruler astute, because he was able to
recognize their ability and command their loyalty. When they
are not, people will always have reason to criticize, because
the first mistake the ruler made was in his choice of ministers.
Everyone who knew Antonio da Venafro, Pandolfo Petrucci’s
minister in Siena, thought Pandolfo extremely smart for
having chosen him.

There are actually three kinds of mind: one kind grasps
things unaided, the second sees what another has grasped,
the third grasps nothing and sees nothing. The first kind is
extremely valuable, the second valuable, the third useless. So
although Pandolfo didn’t have the first kind of mind, he cer-
tainly had the second; if someone is sharp enough to recognize
what’s right and wrong in what another man says and does,
then even if he doesn’t have the creativity to make policy
himself, he can still see which of his minister’s policies are
positive and negative, encourage the good ones and correct
the bad. The minister, meanwhile, will realize that he can’t
fool the ruler and so will have to behave.

There is one infallible way of checking a minister’s creden-
tials: when you see the man thinking more for himself than

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90 t h e p r i n c e

contrary he should reckon that any decision is potentially
dangerous. It is in the nature of things that every time you try
to avoid one danger you run into another. Good sense consists
in being able to assess the dangers and choose the lesser of
various evils.

A ruler must also show that he admires achievement in
others, giving work to men of ability and rewarding people
who excel in this or that craft. What’s more, he should
reassure his subjects that they can go calmly about their
business as merchants or farmers, or whatever other trade
they practise, without worrying that if they increase their
wealth they’ll be in danger of having it taken away from them,
or that if they start up a business they’ll be punitively taxed.
On the contrary, a ruler should offer incentives to people who
want to do this kind of thing and to whoever plans to bring
prosperity to his city or state. Then at the right times of the
year he should entertain people with shows and festivals. And
since every city is divided into guilds and districts, he should
respect these groups and go to their meetings from time to
time, showing what a humane and generous person he is,
though without ever forgetting the authority of his position,
something he must always keep to the fore.

22

A ruler’s ministers

A ruler’s choice of ministers is an important matter. The
quality of the ministers will reflect his good sense or lack of
it and give people their first impression of the way the ruler’s
mind is working. If his ministers are capable and loyal, people
will always reckon a ruler astute, because he was able to
recognize their ability and command their loyalty. When they
are not, people will always have reason to criticize, because
the first mistake the ruler made was in his choice of ministers.
Everyone who knew Antonio da Venafro, Pandolfo Petrucci’s
minister in Siena, thought Pandolfo extremely smart for
having chosen him.

There are actually three kinds of mind: one kind grasps
things unaided, the second sees what another has grasped,
the third grasps nothing and sees nothing. The first kind is
extremely valuable, the second valuable, the third useless. So
although Pandolfo didn’t have the first kind of mind, he cer-
tainly had the second; if someone is sharp enough to recognize
what’s right and wrong in what another man says and does,
then even if he doesn’t have the creativity to make policy
himself, he can still see which of his minister’s policies are
positive and negative, encourage the good ones and correct
the bad. The minister, meanwhile, will realize that he can’t
fool the ruler and so will have to behave.

There is one infallible way of checking a minister’s creden-
tials: when you see the man thinking more for himself than

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92 t h e p r i n c e

for you, when his policies are all designed to enhance his own
interests, then he’ll never make a good minister and you’ll
never be able to trust him. A minister running a state must
never think of himself, only of the ruler, and should concen-
trate exclusively on the ruler’s business. To make sure he does
so, the ruler, for his part, must take an interest in the minister,
grant him wealth and respect, oblige him and share honours
and appointments with him. That way the minister will see
that he can’t survive without the ruler. He’ll have so many
honours he won’t want any more, so much wealth he won’t
look for more, and so many appointments that he’ll guard
against any change of the status quo. When rulers and their
ministers arrange their relationships this way, they can trust
each other. When they don’t, one or the other is bound to
come to a bad end.

23

Avoiding flatterers

There’s another important issue we need to consider, a mis-
take rulers can only avoid if they are very canny, or very
good at choosing their ministers. I’m talking about flatterers.
Courts are always full of them and men are so ready to
congratulate themselves on their achievements and to imagine
themselves more successful than they are that it is hard not
to fall into this error. Then if you do try to defend yourself
from flatterers you run the risk of having people despise you.
Because the only way to guard against flattery is to have
people understand that you don’t mind them telling you the
truth. But when anyone and everyone can tell you the truth,
you lose respect.

So the sensible ruler must find a middle way, choosing
intelligent men for ministers and giving them and only them
the right to tell him the truth, and only on the issues he asks
about, not in general. However, the ruler should ask his
ministers about everything and listen to their opinions, then
make up his mind on his own, following his own criteria. In
responding to these advisers, as a group or separately, he
should make it clear that the more openly they speak, the
more welcome their advice will be. After which, he shouldn’t
take advice from anyone else, but get on with whatever has
been decided and be firm in his decisions. Try a different
approach and you’ll either be ruined by flatterers or change

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92 t h e p r i n c e

for you, when his policies are all designed to enhance his own
interests, then he’ll never make a good minister and you’ll
never be able to trust him. A minister running a state must
never think of himself, only of the ruler, and should concen-
trate exclusively on the ruler’s business. To make sure he does
so, the ruler, for his part, must take an interest in the minister,
grant him wealth and respect, oblige him and share honours
and appointments with him. That way the minister will see
that he can’t survive without the ruler. He’ll have so many
honours he won’t want any more, so much wealth he won’t
look for more, and so many appointments that he’ll guard
against any change of the status quo. When rulers and their
ministers arrange their relationships this way, they can trust
each other. When they don’t, one or the other is bound to
come to a bad end.

23

Avoiding flatterers

There’s another important issue we need to consider, a mis-
take rulers can only avoid if they are very canny, or very
good at choosing their ministers. I’m talking about flatterers.
Courts are always full of them and men are so ready to
congratulate themselves on their achievements and to imagine
themselves more successful than they are that it is hard not
to fall into this error. Then if you do try to defend yourself
from flatterers you run the risk of having people despise you.
Because the only way to guard against flattery is to have
people understand that you don’t mind them telling you the
truth. But when anyone and everyone can tell you the truth,
you lose respect.

So the sensible ruler must find a middle way, choosing
intelligent men for ministers and giving them and only them
the right to tell him the truth, and only on the issues he asks
about, not in general. However, the ruler should ask his
ministers about everything and listen to their opinions, then
make up his mind on his own, following his own criteria. In
responding to these advisers, as a group or separately, he
should make it clear that the more openly they speak, the
more welcome their advice will be. After which, he shouldn’t
take advice from anyone else, but get on with whatever has
been decided and be firm in his decisions. Try a different
approach and you’ll either be ruined by flatterers or change

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94 t h e p r i n c e

your mind so often listening to everyone’s opinions that
people will lose their respect for you.

Let me offer an example from modern times. Bishop Luca
Rainaldi, a man close to the present Emperor Maximilian,
said that the emperor never took advice from anyone and
never got his own policies enacted; this is because he did
the opposite of what I proposed above. Being secretive, the
emperor tends not to explain his plans to anyone and doesn’t
seek advice. But when he starts putting his policies into action
and people see what he’s up to, his ministers tell him he’s got
it wrong and all too readily he changes his mind. As a result,
whatever he does one day he undoes the next and nobody
understands what he wants or means to do and no one can
make plans in response to his policies.

So a ruler must always take advice, but only when he wants
it, not when others want to give it to him. In fact he should
discourage people from giving him advice unasked. On the
other hand he should ask a great deal and listen patiently
when an adviser responds truthfully. And if he realizes some-
one is keeping quiet out of fear, he should show his irritation.
Many people think that when a ruler has a reputation for
being sensible it’s thanks to the good advice he’s getting from
his ministers and not because he’s shrewd himself. But they’re
wrong. There’s a general and infallible rule here: that a leader
who isn’t sensible himself can never get good advice, unless
he just happens to have put the government entirely in the
hands of a single minister who turns out to be extremely
shrewd. In this case he may well get good advice, but the
situation won’t last long because the minister will soon grab
the state for himself. If on the other hand he’s taking advice
from more than one person, an ingenuous ruler will find
himself listening to very different opinions and won’t know
how to make sense of them. Each of his advisers will be
thinking of his own interests and the ruler won’t be able to
control them or even sense what’s going on. It’s not a case of

av o i d i n g f l a t t e r e r s 95

finding better ministers; men will always be out to trick you
unless you force them to be honest. In conclusion: a ruler isn’t
smart because he’s getting proper advice; on the contrary, it’s
his good sense that makes the right advice possible.

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94 t h e p r i n c e

your mind so often listening to everyone’s opinions that
people will lose their respect for you.

Let me offer an example from modern times. Bishop Luca
Rainaldi, a man close to the present Emperor Maximilian,
said that the emperor never took advice from anyone and
never got his own policies enacted; this is because he did
the opposite of what I proposed above. Being secretive, the
emperor tends not to explain his plans to anyone and doesn’t
seek advice. But when he starts putting his policies into action
and people see what he’s up to, his ministers tell him he’s got
it wrong and all too readily he changes his mind. As a result,
whatever he does one day he undoes the next and nobody
understands what he wants or means to do and no one can
make plans in response to his policies.

So a ruler must always take advice, but only when he wants
it, not when others want to give it to him. In fact he should
discourage people from giving him advice unasked. On the
other hand he should ask a great deal and listen patiently
when an adviser responds truthfully. And if he realizes some-
one is keeping quiet out of fear, he should show his irritation.
Many people think that when a ruler has a reputation for
being sensible it’s thanks to the good advice he’s getting from
his ministers and not because he’s shrewd himself. But they’re
wrong. There’s a general and infallible rule here: that a leader
who isn’t sensible himself can never get good advice, unless
he just happens to have put the government entirely in the
hands of a single minister who turns out to be extremely
shrewd. In this case he may well get good advice, but the
situation won’t last long because the minister will soon grab
the state for himself. If on the other hand he’s taking advice
from more than one person, an ingenuous ruler will find
himself listening to very different opinions and won’t know
how to make sense of them. Each of his advisers will be
thinking of his own interests and the ruler won’t be able to
control them or even sense what’s going on. It’s not a case of

av o i d i n g f l a t t e r e r s 95

finding better ministers; men will always be out to trick you
unless you force them to be honest. In conclusion: a ruler isn’t
smart because he’s getting proper advice; on the contrary, it’s
his good sense that makes the right advice possible.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 95 28/05/2015 14:14

24

Why Italian rulers have lost their states

Followed carefully, the guidelines I’ve laid down will allow a
ruler who’s just taken over a state to assume the aura of a
hereditary king and give him even greater security and staying
power than if his government was well established. People
watch what a new ruler does far more attentively than they
do a hereditary one and if his achievements are impressive
they’ll have a greater hold on people and command greater
loyalty than an old royal bloodline. Men are more interested
in the present than the past and when things are going well
they’ll be happy and won’t look elsewhere; on the contrary,
they’ll do everything they can to defend a ruler so long as he
doesn’t let himself down in other ways. So he’ll enjoy the
double glory of having both founded a new kingdom and
graced and consolidated it with good laws, a good army, good
allies and good policies. Conversely, the man who’s born to
power but behaves so stupidly as to lose it is shamed twice
over.

Turning now to those Italian rulers who’ve lost power in
recent years – the King of Naples, for example, and the Duke
of Milan and others too – the first thing we find is that they
all had poor armies, this for the reasons I discussed at length
above. Then we see that some of them had the people against
them, or if they did have the people’s support they couldn’t
keep the nobles on their side. Without these failings you don’t
lose a state that’s strong enough to field an army. Philip of

w h y i t a l i a n r u l e r s h a v e l o s t t h e i r s t a t e s 97

Macedonia – not Alexander’s father but the Philip beaten by
Titus Quintius – had nothing like the resources of the Romans
and Greeks who attacked him: all the same, being a military
man and a leader who knew how to please the people and
keep the nobles on his side, he held out for many years and
though in the end he did lose control of a few towns, at least
he hung on to his kingdom.

So these rulers of ours, who were well-established kings
and dukes yet still lost their states, should spare us their
bad-luck stories; they have only themselves to blame. In
peacetime they never imagined anything could change (it’s a
common shortcoming not to prepare for the storm while the
weather is fair) and when trouble struck their first thought
was to run for it rather than defend themselves; they hoped
the people would be incensed by the barbarity of the invaders
and call them back. This isn’t a bad policy when you have no
alternative, but to trust in that reaction when you could have
taken other precautions is a serious failing; a ruler should
never be resigned to falling from power because he’s counting
on finding someone to prop him up again afterwards. Maybe
people won’t oblige, and even if they do, you won’t be safe,
because your strategy was spineless and involved relying on
others. The only good, sure, lasting forms of defence are those
based on yourself and your own strength.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 96 28/05/2015 14:14

24

Why Italian rulers have lost their states

Followed carefully, the guidelines I’ve laid down will allow a
ruler who’s just taken over a state to assume the aura of a
hereditary king and give him even greater security and staying
power than if his government was well established. People
watch what a new ruler does far more attentively than they
do a hereditary one and if his achievements are impressive
they’ll have a greater hold on people and command greater
loyalty than an old royal bloodline. Men are more interested
in the present than the past and when things are going well
they’ll be happy and won’t look elsewhere; on the contrary,
they’ll do everything they can to defend a ruler so long as he
doesn’t let himself down in other ways. So he’ll enjoy the
double glory of having both founded a new kingdom and
graced and consolidated it with good laws, a good army, good
allies and good policies. Conversely, the man who’s born to
power but behaves so stupidly as to lose it is shamed twice
over.

Turning now to those Italian rulers who’ve lost power in
recent years – the King of Naples, for example, and the Duke
of Milan and others too – the first thing we find is that they
all had poor armies, this for the reasons I discussed at length
above. Then we see that some of them had the people against
them, or if they did have the people’s support they couldn’t
keep the nobles on their side. Without these failings you don’t
lose a state that’s strong enough to field an army. Philip of

w h y i t a l i a n r u l e r s h a v e l o s t t h e i r s t a t e s 97

Macedonia – not Alexander’s father but the Philip beaten by
Titus Quintius – had nothing like the resources of the Romans
and Greeks who attacked him: all the same, being a military
man and a leader who knew how to please the people and
keep the nobles on his side, he held out for many years and
though in the end he did lose control of a few towns, at least
he hung on to his kingdom.

So these rulers of ours, who were well-established kings
and dukes yet still lost their states, should spare us their
bad-luck stories; they have only themselves to blame. In
peacetime they never imagined anything could change (it’s a
common shortcoming not to prepare for the storm while the
weather is fair) and when trouble struck their first thought
was to run for it rather than defend themselves; they hoped
the people would be incensed by the barbarity of the invaders
and call them back. This isn’t a bad policy when you have no
alternative, but to trust in that reaction when you could have
taken other precautions is a serious failing; a ruler should
never be resigned to falling from power because he’s counting
on finding someone to prop him up again afterwards. Maybe
people won’t oblige, and even if they do, you won’t be safe,
because your strategy was spineless and involved relying on
others. The only good, sure, lasting forms of defence are those
based on yourself and your own strength.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 97 28/05/2015 14:14

25

The role of luck in human affairs, and how
to defend against it

I realize that many people have believed and still do believe
that the world is run by God and by fortune and that however
shrewd men may be they can’t do anything about it and have
no way of protecting themselves. As a result they may decide
that it’s hardly worth making an effort and just leave events
to chance. This attitude is more prevalent these days as a
result of the huge changes we’ve witnessed and are still wit-
nessing every day, things that no one could have predicted.
Sometimes, thinking it over, I have leaned a bit that way
myself.

All the same, and so as not to give up on our free will, I
reckon it may be true that luck decides the half of what we
do, but it leaves the other half, more or less, to us. It’s like
one of those raging rivers that sometimes rise and flood the
plain, tearing down trees and buildings, dragging soil from
one place and dumping it down in another. Everybody runs
for safety, no one can resist the rush, there’s no way you can
stop it. Still, the fact that a river is like this doesn’t prevent us
from preparing for trouble when levels are low, building
banks and dykes, so that when the water rises the next time
it can be contained in a single channel and the rush of the
river in flood is not so uncontrolled and destructive.

Fortune’s the same. It shows its power where no one has
taken steps to contain it, flooding into places where it finds
neither banks nor dykes that can hold it back. And if you

t h e r o l e o f l u c k i n h u m a n a f f a i r s 99

look at Italy, which has been both the scene of revolutionary
changes and the agent that set them in motion, you’ll see it’s
a land that has neither banks nor dykes to protect it. Had the
country been properly protected, like Germany, Spain and
France, either the flood wouldn’t have had such drastic effects
or it wouldn’t have happened at all.

I think that is all that need be said in general terms about
how to deal with the problem of luck.

Going into detail, though, we’ve all seen how a ruler may
be doing well one day and then lose power the next without
any apparent change in his character or qualities. I believe
this is mostly due to the attitude I mentioned above: that is,
the ruler trusts entirely to luck and collapses when it changes.
I’m also convinced that the successful ruler is the one who
adapts to changing times; while the leader who fails does so
because his approach is out of step with circumstances.

All men want glory and wealth, but they set out to achieve
those goals in different ways. Some are cautious, others impul-
sive; some use violence, others finesse; some are patient, others
quite the opposite. And all these different approaches can be
successful. It’s also true that two men can both be cautious
but with different results: one is successful and the other fails.
Or again you see two men being equally successful but with
different approaches, one cautious, the other impulsive. This
depends entirely on whether their approach suits the circum-
stances, which in turn is why, as I said, two men with different
approaches may both succeed while, of two with the same
approach, one may succeed and the other not.

This explains why people’s fortunes go up and down. If
someone is behaving cautiously and patiently and the times
and circumstances are such that the approach works, he’ll be
successful. But if times and circumstances change, everything
goes wrong for him, because he hasn’t changed his approach
to match. You won’t find anyone shrewd enough to adapt his
character like this, in part because you can’t alter your natural

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 98 28/05/2015 14:14

25

The role of luck in human affairs, and how
to defend against it

I realize that many people have believed and still do believe
that the world is run by God and by fortune and that however
shrewd men may be they can’t do anything about it and have
no way of protecting themselves. As a result they may decide
that it’s hardly worth making an effort and just leave events
to chance. This attitude is more prevalent these days as a
result of the huge changes we’ve witnessed and are still wit-
nessing every day, things that no one could have predicted.
Sometimes, thinking it over, I have leaned a bit that way
myself.

All the same, and so as not to give up on our free will, I
reckon it may be true that luck decides the half of what we
do, but it leaves the other half, more or less, to us. It’s like
one of those raging rivers that sometimes rise and flood the
plain, tearing down trees and buildings, dragging soil from
one place and dumping it down in another. Everybody runs
for safety, no one can resist the rush, there’s no way you can
stop it. Still, the fact that a river is like this doesn’t prevent us
from preparing for trouble when levels are low, building
banks and dykes, so that when the water rises the next time
it can be contained in a single channel and the rush of the
river in flood is not so uncontrolled and destructive.

Fortune’s the same. It shows its power where no one has
taken steps to contain it, flooding into places where it finds
neither banks nor dykes that can hold it back. And if you

t h e r o l e o f l u c k i n h u m a n a f f a i r s 99

look at Italy, which has been both the scene of revolutionary
changes and the agent that set them in motion, you’ll see it’s
a land that has neither banks nor dykes to protect it. Had the
country been properly protected, like Germany, Spain and
France, either the flood wouldn’t have had such drastic effects
or it wouldn’t have happened at all.

I think that is all that need be said in general terms about
how to deal with the problem of luck.

Going into detail, though, we’ve all seen how a ruler may
be doing well one day and then lose power the next without
any apparent change in his character or qualities. I believe
this is mostly due to the attitude I mentioned above: that is,
the ruler trusts entirely to luck and collapses when it changes.
I’m also convinced that the successful ruler is the one who
adapts to changing times; while the leader who fails does so
because his approach is out of step with circumstances.

All men want glory and wealth, but they set out to achieve
those goals in different ways. Some are cautious, others impul-
sive; some use violence, others finesse; some are patient, others
quite the opposite. And all these different approaches can be
successful. It’s also true that two men can both be cautious
but with different results: one is successful and the other fails.
Or again you see two men being equally successful but with
different approaches, one cautious, the other impulsive. This
depends entirely on whether their approach suits the circum-
stances, which in turn is why, as I said, two men with different
approaches may both succeed while, of two with the same
approach, one may succeed and the other not.

This explains why people’s fortunes go up and down. If
someone is behaving cautiously and patiently and the times
and circumstances are such that the approach works, he’ll be
successful. But if times and circumstances change, everything
goes wrong for him, because he hasn’t changed his approach
to match. You won’t find anyone shrewd enough to adapt his
character like this, in part because you can’t alter your natural

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 99 28/05/2015 14:14

100 t h e p r i n c e

bias and in part because, if a person has always been successful
with a particular approach, he won’t easily be persuaded to
drop it. So when the time comes for the cautious man to act
impulsively, he can’t, and he comes unstuck. If he did change
personality in line with times and circumstances, his luck
would hold steady.

Pope Julius II always acted impulsively and lived in times
and circumstances so well suited to this approach that things
always went well for him. Think of his first achievement,
taking Bologna while Giovanni Bentivoglio was still alive.
The Venetians were against the idea, the King of Spain like-
wise, and Julius was still negotiating the matter with the
French. All the same, and with his usual ferocity and impetu-
ousness, the pope set out and led the expedition himself. This
put the Venetians and Spanish in a quandary and they were
unable to react, the Venetians out of fear and the Spanish
because they hoped to recover the whole of the Kingdom of
Naples. Meanwhile, the King of France was brought on
board: he needed Rome as an ally to check the Venetians and
decided that once Julius had made his move he couldn’t deny
him armed support without too obviously slighting him.

With this impulsive decision, then, Julius achieved more
than any other pope with all the good sense in the world
would ever have achieved. Had he waited to have everything
arranged and negotiated before leaving Rome, as any other
pope would have done, the plan would never have worked.
The King of France would have come up with endless excuses
and the Venetians and Spanish with endless warnings. I don’t
want to go into Julius’s other campaigns, which were all of a
kind and all successful. His early death spared him the experi-
ence of failure. Because if times had changed and circum-
stances demanded caution, he would have been finished. The
man would never have changed his ways, because they were
natural to him.

To conclude then: fortune varies but men go on regardless.

t h e r o l e o f l u c k i n h u m a n a f f a i r s 101

When their approach suits the times they’re successful, and
when it doesn’t they’re not. My opinion on the matter is this:
it’s better to be impulsive than cautious; fortune is female and
if you want to stay on top of her you have to slap and thrust.
You’ll see she’s more likely to yield that way than to men who
go about her coldly. And being a woman she likes her men
young, because they’re not so cagey, they’re wilder and more
daring when they master her.

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100 t h e p r i n c e

bias and in part because, if a person has always been successful
with a particular approach, he won’t easily be persuaded to
drop it. So when the time comes for the cautious man to act
impulsively, he can’t, and he comes unstuck. If he did change
personality in line with times and circumstances, his luck
would hold steady.

Pope Julius II always acted impulsively and lived in times
and circumstances so well suited to this approach that things
always went well for him. Think of his first achievement,
taking Bologna while Giovanni Bentivoglio was still alive.
The Venetians were against the idea, the King of Spain like-
wise, and Julius was still negotiating the matter with the
French. All the same, and with his usual ferocity and impetu-
ousness, the pope set out and led the expedition himself. This
put the Venetians and Spanish in a quandary and they were
unable to react, the Venetians out of fear and the Spanish
because they hoped to recover the whole of the Kingdom of
Naples. Meanwhile, the King of France was brought on
board: he needed Rome as an ally to check the Venetians and
decided that once Julius had made his move he couldn’t deny
him armed support without too obviously slighting him.

With this impulsive decision, then, Julius achieved more
than any other pope with all the good sense in the world
would ever have achieved. Had he waited to have everything
arranged and negotiated before leaving Rome, as any other
pope would have done, the plan would never have worked.
The King of France would have come up with endless excuses
and the Venetians and Spanish with endless warnings. I don’t
want to go into Julius’s other campaigns, which were all of a
kind and all successful. His early death spared him the experi-
ence of failure. Because if times had changed and circum-
stances demanded caution, he would have been finished. The
man would never have changed his ways, because they were
natural to him.

To conclude then: fortune varies but men go on regardless.

t h e r o l e o f l u c k i n h u m a n a f f a i r s 101

When their approach suits the times they’re successful, and
when it doesn’t they’re not. My opinion on the matter is this:
it’s better to be impulsive than cautious; fortune is female and
if you want to stay on top of her you have to slap and thrust.
You’ll see she’s more likely to yield that way than to men who
go about her coldly. And being a woman she likes her men
young, because they’re not so cagey, they’re wilder and more
daring when they master her.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 101 28/05/2015 14:14

26

An appeal to conquer Italy and free it from
foreign occupation

Going back over everything I’ve said, I’ve been asking myself
whether the time is right, in Italy now, for a new ruler;
whether there’s the sort of material available here that would
give a shrewd man with the right qualities the chance to
impose some form, winning honour for himself and doing
good to the people as a whole. And my impression is that a
lot of things are running the way of a new man, so many in
fact that I don’t know what time was ever more right than
the present. If, as I said earlier, Moses could only emerge after
the people of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt, Cyrus show
his great spirit after the Persians were crushed by the Medes,
Theseus prove his excellence after the Athenians were defeated
and dispersed, so today, for us to witness the qualities of a great
Italian, the country had to be reduced to its present state:
more slave than the Jews, more crushed than the Persians,
more divided than the Athenians, leaderless, lawless, beaten,
plundered, broken and overrun, ruined in every way.

There was one man* who showed glimpses of greatness,
the kind of thing that made you think he was sent by God
for the country’s redemption, but then at the height of his
achievements his luck turned. So now Italy lies, half-dead,
waiting to see who will heal her wounds and put an end to
the devastation of Lombardy, the extortionate taxation of

* Presumably Borgia.

a n a p p e a l t o c o n q u e r i t a l y a n d f r e e i t 103

Tuscany and Naples, who will clean up the sores that have
festered too long. You can see the country is praying God to
send someone to save her from the cruelty and barbarity of
these foreigners. You can see she is ready and willing to march
beneath a flag, if only someone would raise one up.

What I can’t see is any family the country could put its faith
in right now if not your illustrious house,* blessed as it is with
fine qualities and fortune, favoured by God and the Church –
actually running the Church, in fact – and hence well placed to
lead Italy to redemption. And if you keep in mind the lives and
achievements of the men I’ve written about, then the project
won’t be too difficult. It’s true they were rare men, remarkable
men, but nevertheless they were still men, and none of them
had a better opportunity than you have now. The things they
did had no greater justification, nor were they any easier; God
was no kinder to them than he has been to you. Justice is defi-
nitely on our side because ‘war is just when there’s no alterna-
tive and arms are sacred when they are your only hope.’ The
situation is more than favourable, and when circumstances
are favourable things can’t be too hard; all you have to do is
take the men I’ve proposed as your models. What’s more,
God has shown us amazing, unprecedented signs: the sea
parted; a cloud led the way for you; stone has gushed water;
manna has rained on us from heaven; everything has worked
together to make you great. The rest is up to you. God doesn’t
like doing everything himself, he doesn’t want to deprive us
of our free will and our share of glory.

It’s no surprise if none of the Italians I’ve spoken about
have been able to do what I believe your family can do, or
again if all our recent wars and revolutions have given the
impression that the country has lost its capacity to fight. This
is because the old states were badly organized and no one
knew how to improve things. Nothing brings more honour

* Machiavelli is addressing Lorenzo de’ Medici.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 102 28/05/2015 14:14

26

An appeal to conquer Italy and free it from
foreign occupation

Going back over everything I’ve said, I’ve been asking myself
whether the time is right, in Italy now, for a new ruler;
whether there’s the sort of material available here that would
give a shrewd man with the right qualities the chance to
impose some form, winning honour for himself and doing
good to the people as a whole. And my impression is that a
lot of things are running the way of a new man, so many in
fact that I don’t know what time was ever more right than
the present. If, as I said earlier, Moses could only emerge after
the people of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt, Cyrus show
his great spirit after the Persians were crushed by the Medes,
Theseus prove his excellence after the Athenians were defeated
and dispersed, so today, for us to witness the qualities of a great
Italian, the country had to be reduced to its present state:
more slave than the Jews, more crushed than the Persians,
more divided than the Athenians, leaderless, lawless, beaten,
plundered, broken and overrun, ruined in every way.

There was one man* who showed glimpses of greatness,
the kind of thing that made you think he was sent by God
for the country’s redemption, but then at the height of his
achievements his luck turned. So now Italy lies, half-dead,
waiting to see who will heal her wounds and put an end to
the devastation of Lombardy, the extortionate taxation of

* Presumably Borgia.

a n a p p e a l t o c o n q u e r i t a l y a n d f r e e i t 103

Tuscany and Naples, who will clean up the sores that have
festered too long. You can see the country is praying God to
send someone to save her from the cruelty and barbarity of
these foreigners. You can see she is ready and willing to march
beneath a flag, if only someone would raise one up.

What I can’t see is any family the country could put its faith
in right now if not your illustrious house,* blessed as it is with
fine qualities and fortune, favoured by God and the Church –
actually running the Church, in fact – and hence well placed to
lead Italy to redemption. And if you keep in mind the lives and
achievements of the men I’ve written about, then the project
won’t be too difficult. It’s true they were rare men, remarkable
men, but nevertheless they were still men, and none of them
had a better opportunity than you have now. The things they
did had no greater justification, nor were they any easier; God
was no kinder to them than he has been to you. Justice is defi-
nitely on our side because ‘war is just when there’s no alterna-
tive and arms are sacred when they are your only hope.’ The
situation is more than favourable, and when circumstances
are favourable things can’t be too hard; all you have to do is
take the men I’ve proposed as your models. What’s more,
God has shown us amazing, unprecedented signs: the sea
parted; a cloud led the way for you; stone has gushed water;
manna has rained on us from heaven; everything has worked
together to make you great. The rest is up to you. God doesn’t
like doing everything himself, he doesn’t want to deprive us
of our free will and our share of glory.

It’s no surprise if none of the Italians I’ve spoken about
have been able to do what I believe your family can do, or
again if all our recent wars and revolutions have given the
impression that the country has lost its capacity to fight. This
is because the old states were badly organized and no one
knew how to improve things. Nothing brings more honour

* Machiavelli is addressing Lorenzo de’ Medici.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 103 28/05/2015 14:14

104 t h e p r i n c e

to a new ruler than the new laws and institutions he intro-
duces. When they are well thought out and show vision they
bring a ruler respect and admiration. Italy is hardly lacking
in raw material for the man who wants to give form to it. The
limbs are healthy and strong; all they need is a head to guide
them. Look how much stronger, defter and more skilful
Italians are than foreigners in duels or small skirmishes. But
when it comes to armies they can’t compete. Because they are
badly led. The capable men are ignored, the incapable are
convinced they are capable, and to date no one has had the
talent and luck to score the sort of success that would force
the others to stand aside. That’s why in all these wars over
the past twenty years, whenever an army has been entirely
made up of Italians it has always failed miserably, as witness
first the battle of Taro, then those of Alessandria, Capua,
Genova, Vailà, Bologna and Mestre.

So if your illustrious family should choose to follow in the
steps of those excellent men who came to the rescue of their
peoples, the first thing that needs to be done, the real foun-
dation of any such achievement, is to establish an army of
your own citizens. You can’t have more loyal, determined
and better soldiers than your own. And if each man taken
singly is good, when they’re all together and find themselves
led, fed and respected by their own ruler they’ll be even better.
Founding an army like this is absolutely essential if we
are to use Italian mettle to defend ourselves against foreign
enemies.

It’s true that the Swiss and Spanish infantries are thought
to be formidable, but both have weak points that would allow
a third force not only to face them but to feel confident of
beating them. The Spanish can’t stand up to cavalry and the
Swiss are in trouble when they run into infantry as determined
as themselves. That’s why, as we’ve seen and will see again,
the Spanish can’t turn back a French cavalry attack and the
Swiss collapse in front of a Spanish-style infantry. And though

a n a p p e a l t o c o n q u e r i t a l y a n d f r e e i t 105

we haven’t had complete proof of this Swiss vulnerability, we
got a glimpse of it at the battle of Ravenna when the Spanish
infantry took on the Germans, who use the same tactics as
the Swiss. Relying on their agility and their small round
shields, the Spanish got under the German pikes, where, safe
themselves, they could strike at will. At this point the Germans
were helpless and if the cavalry hadn’t turned up to push the
Spanish back they’d all have been killed. Knowing the weak
points of these two armies, then, it’s quite possible to train a
new army that could hold back a cavalry attack and wouldn’t
be unsettled by infantry combat: it’s a question of what
weapons you have and what new tactics you can invent. These
are the kinds of developments that enhance a new ruler’s
reputation and bring him great prestige.

It would be a big mistake, then, after all this time, to pass
up the chance of rescuing Italy. Words can’t express the loving
welcome such a saviour would get in all the towns that have
suffered from this torrent of foreign invaders: the thirst for
revenge, the unswerving trust, the devotion, the tears. What
doors would be closed to such a man? Who would refuse to
obey him? What envy could stand in his way? What Italian
would not bow his knee? Everybody loathes this barbarous
occupation. So, may your noble house undertake this duty
with the spirit and hope that inspire just causes, so that our
country may be glorified under your banner, and under your
protection Petrarch’s words be fulfilled:

Virtue against fury
Shall take up arms; and the fight be short;
For ancient valour
Is not dead in Italian hearts.*

* Virtù contro a furore
Prenderà l’arme; e fia el combatter corto;
Ché l’antico valore
Nelli italici cor non è ancor morto.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 104 28/05/2015 14:14

104 t h e p r i n c e

to a new ruler than the new laws and institutions he intro-
duces. When they are well thought out and show vision they
bring a ruler respect and admiration. Italy is hardly lacking
in raw material for the man who wants to give form to it. The
limbs are healthy and strong; all they need is a head to guide
them. Look how much stronger, defter and more skilful
Italians are than foreigners in duels or small skirmishes. But
when it comes to armies they can’t compete. Because they are
badly led. The capable men are ignored, the incapable are
convinced they are capable, and to date no one has had the
talent and luck to score the sort of success that would force
the others to stand aside. That’s why in all these wars over
the past twenty years, whenever an army has been entirely
made up of Italians it has always failed miserably, as witness
first the battle of Taro, then those of Alessandria, Capua,
Genova, Vailà, Bologna and Mestre.

So if your illustrious family should choose to follow in the
steps of those excellent men who came to the rescue of their
peoples, the first thing that needs to be done, the real foun-
dation of any such achievement, is to establish an army of
your own citizens. You can’t have more loyal, determined
and better soldiers than your own. And if each man taken
singly is good, when they’re all together and find themselves
led, fed and respected by their own ruler they’ll be even better.
Founding an army like this is absolutely essential if we
are to use Italian mettle to defend ourselves against foreign
enemies.

It’s true that the Swiss and Spanish infantries are thought
to be formidable, but both have weak points that would allow
a third force not only to face them but to feel confident of
beating them. The Spanish can’t stand up to cavalry and the
Swiss are in trouble when they run into infantry as determined
as themselves. That’s why, as we’ve seen and will see again,
the Spanish can’t turn back a French cavalry attack and the
Swiss collapse in front of a Spanish-style infantry. And though

a n a p p e a l t o c o n q u e r i t a l y a n d f r e e i t 105

we haven’t had complete proof of this Swiss vulnerability, we
got a glimpse of it at the battle of Ravenna when the Spanish
infantry took on the Germans, who use the same tactics as
the Swiss. Relying on their agility and their small round
shields, the Spanish got under the German pikes, where, safe
themselves, they could strike at will. At this point the Germans
were helpless and if the cavalry hadn’t turned up to push the
Spanish back they’d all have been killed. Knowing the weak
points of these two armies, then, it’s quite possible to train a
new army that could hold back a cavalry attack and wouldn’t
be unsettled by infantry combat: it’s a question of what
weapons you have and what new tactics you can invent. These
are the kinds of developments that enhance a new ruler’s
reputation and bring him great prestige.

It would be a big mistake, then, after all this time, to pass
up the chance of rescuing Italy. Words can’t express the loving
welcome such a saviour would get in all the towns that have
suffered from this torrent of foreign invaders: the thirst for
revenge, the unswerving trust, the devotion, the tears. What
doors would be closed to such a man? Who would refuse to
obey him? What envy could stand in his way? What Italian
would not bow his knee? Everybody loathes this barbarous
occupation. So, may your noble house undertake this duty
with the spirit and hope that inspire just causes, so that our
country may be glorified under your banner, and under your
protection Petrarch’s words be fulfilled:

Virtue against fury
Shall take up arms; and the fight be short;
For ancient valour
Is not dead in Italian hearts.*

* Virtù contro a furore
Prenderà l’arme; e fia el combatter corto;
Ché l’antico valore
Nelli italici cor non è ancor morto.

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 105 28/05/2015 14:14

.

Glossary of Proper Names

Machiavelli would have expected his readers to be familiar with the
exploits of the men he mentions from contemporary and modern
times, while they would not have known so much about some of
the figures he cites from ancient history. In an attempt to put today’s
reader in something of the same position, I have been more generous
with information on the figures from modern history, and less so
with those from Roman times and before.

a c h i l l e s Greek hero in the Trojan War, son of the immortal
nymph Thetis and raised by Chiron the centaur.

a c u t o , g i o va n n i Italianization of John Hawkwood (1320–
94). Having served in the English army in France, in 1360
Hawkwood joined mercenary soldiers in Burgundy and later
commanded the so-called White Company fighting for different
states and factions in Italy. Constantly playing off his employers
against their enemies, he built up considerable wealth. From 1390
on he commanded Florentine armies in their war against the
Viscontis of Milan.

a g a t h o c l e s (361–289 bc) Ruler of Syracuse (317–289 bc)
and King of Sicily (304–289 bc). Seized power in Syracuse, exil-
ing and murdering thousands in the process. His formation of a
strong army and domination of Sicily led to protracted conflict
with Carthage.

a l b i n u s Decimus Clodius Ceionius Septimius (c.150–197).
Roman military commander in Britain who proclaimed himself
emperor on the murder of Pertinax in 193. Albinus initially allied
himself with Severus in Rome who had also proclaimed himself

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 106 28/05/2015 14:14

.

Glossary of Proper Names

Machiavelli would have expected his readers to be familiar with the
exploits of the men he mentions from contemporary and modern
times, while they would not have known so much about some of
the figures he cites from ancient history. In an attempt to put today’s
reader in something of the same position, I have been more generous
with information on the figures from modern history, and less so
with those from Roman times and before.

a c h i l l e s Greek hero in the Trojan War, son of the immortal
nymph Thetis and raised by Chiron the centaur.

a c u t o , g i o va n n i Italianization of John Hawkwood (1320–
94). Having served in the English army in France, in 1360
Hawkwood joined mercenary soldiers in Burgundy and later
commanded the so-called White Company fighting for different
states and factions in Italy. Constantly playing off his employers
against their enemies, he built up considerable wealth. From 1390
on he commanded Florentine armies in their war against the
Viscontis of Milan.

a g a t h o c l e s (361–289 bc) Ruler of Syracuse (317–289 bc)
and King of Sicily (304–289 bc). Seized power in Syracuse, exil-
ing and murdering thousands in the process. His formation of a
strong army and domination of Sicily led to protracted conflict
with Carthage.

a l b i n u s Decimus Clodius Ceionius Septimius (c.150–197).
Roman military commander in Britain who proclaimed himself
emperor on the murder of Pertinax in 193. Albinus initially allied
himself with Severus in Rome who had also proclaimed himself

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 107 28/05/2015 14:14

108 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

emperor, but the two fell out and in 197, having lost the Battle
of Lugdunum (modern Lyons), Albinus either killed himself or
was killed.

a l e x a n d e r Alexander the Great (356–323 bc), King of Mace-
donia (336–323 bc). He conquered Greece, Persia, and much of
Asia.

a l e x a n d e r Marcus Aurelius Alexander Severus (208–235),
Roman emperor (222–235). Adopted as his heir in 221 by the
emperor Heliogabalus, who was also his first cousin, Alexander
was eventually murdered by his own soldiers.

a l e x a n d e r v i Rodrigo Borgia (1431–1503). Born in Valencia
with the Spanish surname Borja, later Italianized to Borgia.
Elected pope in 1492, Alexander openly recognized as many as
eight illegitimate children, all of whom he tried to place in high
positions. The most famous were Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia
Borgia. Involved in endless intrigues to extend his territories and
increase his wealth, Alexander was considered the most corrupt
and grasping of the Renaissance popes. Although frequently
accused of murder, usually by poison, there is no evidence that
his own sudden illness and death in 1503 were the result of
poisoning.

a n t i o c h u s Antiochus the Great (c.241–187 bc), King of Syria
(223–187 bc). Spent most of his reign in military campaigns
rebuilding the state he had inherited and conquering much of
Asia Minor. In 192 bc he invaded Greece but was beaten by the
Romans and eventually lost Asia Minor to them as well.

a n t o n i n u s c a r a c a l l a see c a r a c a l l a .
a s c a n i o See s f o r z a , c a r d i n a l .
b a g l i o n i The Baglioni family ruled Perugia, a town midway

between Florence and Rome, in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries.

b e n t i v o g l i , giovanni (1438–1508) Son of Annibale, ruler of
Bologna, who was murdered in 1445 when Giovanni was just a
child. After a long interregnum Giovanni eventually took his
father’s place in 1462, but was forced to flee when Pope Julius II
attacked the town in 1506.

b e r g a m o , b a r t o l o m e o d a Bartolomeo Colleone (c.1395–
1475). Mercenary leader in the service of Venice and commander

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 109

of Venetian forces against Milan after Carmagnola was killed.
Colleone was remarkable for not changing sides or seeking to
play one side off against another. He is celebrated in the famous
Colleone monument by Andrea Verocchio in Venice, which shows
the leader on his horse.

b e r n a b ò See v i s c o n t i .
b o r g i a , c e s a r e (c.1475–1507) Illegitimate son of Cardinal

Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia was
made Bishop of Pamplona at fifteen and a cardinal at eighteen.
In 1497 the murder of his elder brother Giovanni made him the
main beneficiary of his father’s plans for territorial expansion.
Cesare was suspected of Giovanni’s murder but nothing was
proved. In 1498 he negotiated with Louis XII in Paris on behalf
of his father; the king’s marriage was dissolved, allowing him to
marry the widow of Charles VIII, while Louis agreed to an
aggressive military alliance with the pope to capture Naples.
Cesare then became the first person in history to resign his pos-
ition as cardinal, upon which Louis made him Duke of Valenti-
nois, hence the nickname, Duke Valentino. The alliance with
Louis was reinforced by Borgia’s marriage to Charlotte d’Albret,
the king’s cousin, and Borgia was serving with Louis’s army when
it captured Milan in 1499. Prompted by his father and with
Louis’s military support, Borgia set out to conquer the Romagna,
taking the towns of Fano, Pesaro, Rimini, Cesena, Forlı̀, Faenza
and Imola. In 1501 the pope declared him Duke of Romagna.
Borgia successfully commanded French troops at the siege of
Naples in 1501, returning to the Romagna to capture Urbino and
Camerino in 1502. In this period he appointed Leonardo da Vinci
as his military architect and engineer. Faced with a revolt by
mercenary leaders in his service, he invited them to Senigallia to
negotiate and had them imprisoned and executed. The death of
his father in 1503 eventually led to the loss of the Romagna,
imprisonment and exile to Spain, where Borgia died in the service
of his brother-in-law King John III of Navarre.

b o r g i a , r o d r i g o See a l e x a n d e r v i .
b o r g i a , va l e n t i n o Duke Valentino. See borgia, cesare.
b r a c c i o Andrea Braccio da Montone (1368–1424). Successful

mercenary commander who fought numerous campaigns both

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 108 28/05/2015 14:14

108 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

emperor, but the two fell out and in 197, having lost the Battle
of Lugdunum (modern Lyons), Albinus either killed himself or
was killed.

a l e x a n d e r Alexander the Great (356–323 bc), King of Mace-
donia (336–323 bc). He conquered Greece, Persia, and much of
Asia.

a l e x a n d e r Marcus Aurelius Alexander Severus (208–235),
Roman emperor (222–235). Adopted as his heir in 221 by the
emperor Heliogabalus, who was also his first cousin, Alexander
was eventually murdered by his own soldiers.

a l e x a n d e r v i Rodrigo Borgia (1431–1503). Born in Valencia
with the Spanish surname Borja, later Italianized to Borgia.
Elected pope in 1492, Alexander openly recognized as many as
eight illegitimate children, all of whom he tried to place in high
positions. The most famous were Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia
Borgia. Involved in endless intrigues to extend his territories and
increase his wealth, Alexander was considered the most corrupt
and grasping of the Renaissance popes. Although frequently
accused of murder, usually by poison, there is no evidence that
his own sudden illness and death in 1503 were the result of
poisoning.

a n t i o c h u s Antiochus the Great (c.241–187 bc), King of Syria
(223–187 bc). Spent most of his reign in military campaigns
rebuilding the state he had inherited and conquering much of
Asia Minor. In 192 bc he invaded Greece but was beaten by the
Romans and eventually lost Asia Minor to them as well.

a n t o n i n u s c a r a c a l l a see c a r a c a l l a .
a s c a n i o See s f o r z a , c a r d i n a l .
b a g l i o n i The Baglioni family ruled Perugia, a town midway

between Florence and Rome, in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries.

b e n t i v o g l i , giovanni (1438–1508) Son of Annibale, ruler of
Bologna, who was murdered in 1445 when Giovanni was just a
child. After a long interregnum Giovanni eventually took his
father’s place in 1462, but was forced to flee when Pope Julius II
attacked the town in 1506.

b e r g a m o , b a r t o l o m e o d a Bartolomeo Colleone (c.1395–
1475). Mercenary leader in the service of Venice and commander

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 109

of Venetian forces against Milan after Carmagnola was killed.
Colleone was remarkable for not changing sides or seeking to
play one side off against another. He is celebrated in the famous
Colleone monument by Andrea Verocchio in Venice, which shows
the leader on his horse.

b e r n a b ò See v i s c o n t i .
b o r g i a , c e s a r e (c.1475–1507) Illegitimate son of Cardinal

Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia was
made Bishop of Pamplona at fifteen and a cardinal at eighteen.
In 1497 the murder of his elder brother Giovanni made him the
main beneficiary of his father’s plans for territorial expansion.
Cesare was suspected of Giovanni’s murder but nothing was
proved. In 1498 he negotiated with Louis XII in Paris on behalf
of his father; the king’s marriage was dissolved, allowing him to
marry the widow of Charles VIII, while Louis agreed to an
aggressive military alliance with the pope to capture Naples.
Cesare then became the first person in history to resign his pos-
ition as cardinal, upon which Louis made him Duke of Valenti-
nois, hence the nickname, Duke Valentino. The alliance with
Louis was reinforced by Borgia’s marriage to Charlotte d’Albret,
the king’s cousin, and Borgia was serving with Louis’s army when
it captured Milan in 1499. Prompted by his father and with
Louis’s military support, Borgia set out to conquer the Romagna,
taking the towns of Fano, Pesaro, Rimini, Cesena, Forlı̀, Faenza
and Imola. In 1501 the pope declared him Duke of Romagna.
Borgia successfully commanded French troops at the siege of
Naples in 1501, returning to the Romagna to capture Urbino and
Camerino in 1502. In this period he appointed Leonardo da Vinci
as his military architect and engineer. Faced with a revolt by
mercenary leaders in his service, he invited them to Senigallia to
negotiate and had them imprisoned and executed. The death of
his father in 1503 eventually led to the loss of the Romagna,
imprisonment and exile to Spain, where Borgia died in the service
of his brother-in-law King John III of Navarre.

b o r g i a , r o d r i g o See a l e x a n d e r v i .
b o r g i a , va l e n t i n o Duke Valentino. See borgia, cesare.
b r a c c i o Andrea Braccio da Montone (1368–1424). Successful

mercenary commander who fought numerous campaigns both

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 109 28/05/2015 14:14

110 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

for and against most of the major states in Italy, eventually
becoming ruler of Perugia.

c a e s a r Julius Caesar (c.100–44 bc). After successful military
campaigns in Gaul and Britain, Julius Caesar made himself dic-
tator, taking the first step to transforming the Roman Republic
into the Roman Empire. He was assassinated by a group of
senators including his former friend Marcus Junius Brutus.

c a n n e s c h i A family that vied with the Bentivogli family for
power in Bologna. The Bentivoglis were supported by Venice and
Florence while the Canneschis were allied to the Viscontis, dukes
of Milan. In 1445, with Milanese support, Battista Canneschi,
head of the family, had Annibale Bentivogli murdered. The people
of Bologna, however, turned against the Canneschis and lynched
Battista, after which the rest of the family fled.

c a r a c a l l a Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla (188–217),
Roman emperor (211–217). On the death of his father, the
emperor Severus, Antoninus took power with his brother Geta,
but soon had him murdered, together with all his supporters. He
extended Roman citizenship to all free citizens of the empire,
keeping the support of the army by increasing soldiers’ pay.
Unpopular with the people, Antoninus was eventually murdered
by a member of his own guard, perhaps on the instigation of
Macrinus, the next emperor.

c a r m a g n o l a Francesco Bussone (c.1432–82), Count of Car-
magnola, a small town near Turin. Carmagnola was a mercenary
leader hired first by Duke Visconti of Milan, then later by the
Venetians to fight Milan. Failing to follow up an initial victory at
the battle of Maclodio in 1427, Carmagnola was accused of
treachery, arrested and beheaded.

c h a r l e s v i i (1403–61) King of France (1422–61). Inspired by
Joan of Arc, Charles united France under one ruler, driving the
English from all their French possessions with the exception of
Calais. He built up a powerful standing army.

c h a r l e s v i i i (1470–98) King of France (1483–98). Having
taken effective power in 1492 after the regency of his sister Anne
and encouraged by both the pope and Ludovico Sforza, Duke of
Milan, to assert his claim to the throne of Naples, Charles
assembled an army of 25,000 men and in 1494 marched into

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 111

Italy. Having subdued Naples’ ally, Florence, Charles took Naples
itself in 1495. At this point the other Italian powers, including
the pope and Duke Ludovico, turned against him and drove him
out of the peninsula.

c o l o n n a , c a r d i n a l Giovanni Colonna. Made a cardinal in
1480, Giovanni plotted with Charles VIII against Alexander VI.

c o l o n n a A powerful family in medieval and Renaissance Rome,
notorious for their long feud with the Orsini family. The Colonna
family produced one pope, Martin V (ruled 1417–31), but were
later excommunicated and their estates confiscated by Alexander
VI. The feud between the families was ended by papal bull in
1511.

c o m m o d u s Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (161–193),
Roman emperor (180–93). The son of Marcus Aurelius, Com-
modus rejected his father’s stoic asceticism, giving himself over
to pleasure and amusement while allowing a series of favourites
to run the empire. Boastful about his physique, he regularly took
part in naked gladiatorial combat. Eventually a conspiracy
against him led to his being strangled by the wrestler Narcissus.

c o n i o , a l b e r i g o d a Alberigo da Barbiano (c.1348–1409)
was originally from the Romagna but later became Count of
Conio, a small town in the hills above the Italian Riviera. He
was the first mercenary commander to insist that his army (the
Company of St George) be made up exclusively of Italians, a
development that led to a reduction in the use of foreign mercen-
aries. Alberigo fought for Milan against Florence, dying in battle
in 1409.

c y r u s (c.576–529 bc) Founder of the Persian empire, which he
extended to include much of central and south-west Asia.

d a r i u s Last king of Persia (336–331 bc), Darius was repeatedly
defeated in battle by Alexander the Great and finally deposed and
murdered by one of his provincial governors.

d av i d (c.1012–972 bc) The second King of Israel (after Saul,
his father). Famous for his legendary defeat of the Philistine giant
Goliath, using only a sling and stones. As king, David built up an
empire, capturing Jerusalem, which he made his capital, as well
as areas of modern Jordan and Syria.

e p a m i n o n d a s (418–362 bc) Theban statesman and military

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 111

Italy. Having subdued Naples’ ally, Florence, Charles took Naples
itself in 1495. At this point the other Italian powers, including
the pope and Duke Ludovico, turned against him and drove him
out of the peninsula.

c o l o n n a , c a r d i n a l Giovanni Colonna. Made a cardinal in
1480, Giovanni plotted with Charles VIII against Alexander VI.

c o l o n n a A powerful family in medieval and Renaissance Rome,
notorious for their long feud with the Orsini family. The Colonna
family produced one pope, Martin V (ruled 1417–31), but were
later excommunicated and their estates confiscated by Alexander
VI. The feud between the families was ended by papal bull in
1511.

c o m m o d u s Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (161–193),
Roman emperor (180–93). The son of Marcus Aurelius, Com-
modus rejected his father’s stoic asceticism, giving himself over
to pleasure and amusement while allowing a series of favourites
to run the empire. Boastful about his physique, he regularly took
part in naked gladiatorial combat. Eventually a conspiracy
against him led to his being strangled by the wrestler Narcissus.

c o n i o , a l b e r i g o d a Alberigo da Barbiano (c.1348–1409)
was originally from the Romagna but later became Count of
Conio, a small town in the hills above the Italian Riviera. He
was the first mercenary commander to insist that his army (the
Company of St George) be made up exclusively of Italians, a
development that led to a reduction in the use of foreign mercen-
aries. Alberigo fought for Milan against Florence, dying in battle
in 1409.

c y r u s (c.576–529 bc) Founder of the Persian empire, which he
extended to include much of central and south-west Asia.

d a r i u s Last king of Persia (336–331 bc), Darius was repeatedly
defeated in battle by Alexander the Great and finally deposed and
murdered by one of his provincial governors.

d av i d (c.1012–972 bc) The second King of Israel (after Saul,
his father). Famous for his legendary defeat of the Philistine giant
Goliath, using only a sling and stones. As king, David built up an
empire, capturing Jerusalem, which he made his capital, as well
as areas of modern Jordan and Syria.

e p a m i n o n d a s (418–362 bc) Theban statesman and military

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 110 28/05/2015 14:14

110 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

for and against most of the major states in Italy, eventually
becoming ruler of Perugia.

c a e s a r Julius Caesar (c.100–44 bc). After successful military
campaigns in Gaul and Britain, Julius Caesar made himself dic-
tator, taking the first step to transforming the Roman Republic
into the Roman Empire. He was assassinated by a group of
senators including his former friend Marcus Junius Brutus.

c a n n e s c h i A family that vied with the Bentivogli family for
power in Bologna. The Bentivoglis were supported by Venice and
Florence while the Canneschis were allied to the Viscontis, dukes
of Milan. In 1445, with Milanese support, Battista Canneschi,
head of the family, had Annibale Bentivogli murdered. The people
of Bologna, however, turned against the Canneschis and lynched
Battista, after which the rest of the family fled.

c a r a c a l l a Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla (188–217),
Roman emperor (211–217). On the death of his father, the
emperor Severus, Antoninus took power with his brother Geta,
but soon had him murdered, together with all his supporters. He
extended Roman citizenship to all free citizens of the empire,
keeping the support of the army by increasing soldiers’ pay.
Unpopular with the people, Antoninus was eventually murdered
by a member of his own guard, perhaps on the instigation of
Macrinus, the next emperor.

c a r m a g n o l a Francesco Bussone (c.1432–82), Count of Car-
magnola, a small town near Turin. Carmagnola was a mercenary
leader hired first by Duke Visconti of Milan, then later by the
Venetians to fight Milan. Failing to follow up an initial victory at
the battle of Maclodio in 1427, Carmagnola was accused of
treachery, arrested and beheaded.

c h a r l e s v i i (1403–61) King of France (1422–61). Inspired by
Joan of Arc, Charles united France under one ruler, driving the
English from all their French possessions with the exception of
Calais. He built up a powerful standing army.

c h a r l e s v i i i (1470–98) King of France (1483–98). Having
taken effective power in 1492 after the regency of his sister Anne
and encouraged by both the pope and Ludovico Sforza, Duke of
Milan, to assert his claim to the throne of Naples, Charles
assembled an army of 25,000 men and in 1494 marched into

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 111

Italy. Having subdued Naples’ ally, Florence, Charles took Naples
itself in 1495. At this point the other Italian powers, including
the pope and Duke Ludovico, turned against him and drove him
out of the peninsula.

c o l o n n a , c a r d i n a l Giovanni Colonna. Made a cardinal in
1480, Giovanni plotted with Charles VIII against Alexander VI.

c o l o n n a A powerful family in medieval and Renaissance Rome,
notorious for their long feud with the Orsini family. The Colonna
family produced one pope, Martin V (ruled 1417–31), but were
later excommunicated and their estates confiscated by Alexander
VI. The feud between the families was ended by papal bull in
1511.

c o m m o d u s Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (161–193),
Roman emperor (180–93). The son of Marcus Aurelius, Com-
modus rejected his father’s stoic asceticism, giving himself over
to pleasure and amusement while allowing a series of favourites
to run the empire. Boastful about his physique, he regularly took
part in naked gladiatorial combat. Eventually a conspiracy
against him led to his being strangled by the wrestler Narcissus.

c o n i o , a l b e r i g o d a Alberigo da Barbiano (c.1348–1409)
was originally from the Romagna but later became Count of
Conio, a small town in the hills above the Italian Riviera. He
was the first mercenary commander to insist that his army (the
Company of St George) be made up exclusively of Italians, a
development that led to a reduction in the use of foreign mercen-
aries. Alberigo fought for Milan against Florence, dying in battle
in 1409.

c y r u s (c.576–529 bc) Founder of the Persian empire, which he
extended to include much of central and south-west Asia.

d a r i u s Last king of Persia (336–331 bc), Darius was repeatedly
defeated in battle by Alexander the Great and finally deposed and
murdered by one of his provincial governors.

d av i d (c.1012–972 bc) The second King of Israel (after Saul,
his father). Famous for his legendary defeat of the Philistine giant
Goliath, using only a sling and stones. As king, David built up an
empire, capturing Jerusalem, which he made his capital, as well
as areas of modern Jordan and Syria.

e p a m i n o n d a s (418–362 bc) Theban statesman and military

david (c. 1012–972 bc) The second King of Israel (after Saul, his
father-in-law). Famous for his legendary defeat of the Philistine
giant Goliath, using only a sling and stones. As king, David built
up an empire, capturing Jerusalem, which he made his capital, as
well as areas of modern Jordan and Syria.

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 111

Italy. Having subdued Naples’ ally, Florence, Charles took Naples
itself in 1495. At this point the other Italian powers, including
the pope and Duke Ludovico, turned against him and drove him
out of the peninsula.

c o l o n n a , c a r d i n a l Giovanni Colonna. Made a cardinal in
1480, Giovanni plotted with Charles VIII against Alexander VI.

c o l o n n a A powerful family in medieval and Renaissance Rome,
notorious for their long feud with the Orsini family. The Colonna
family produced one pope, Martin V (ruled 1417–31), but were
later excommunicated and their estates confiscated by Alexander
VI. The feud between the families was ended by papal bull in
1511.

c o m m o d u s Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (161–193),
Roman emperor (180–93). The son of Marcus Aurelius, Com-
modus rejected his father’s stoic asceticism, giving himself over
to pleasure and amusement while allowing a series of favourites
to run the empire. Boastful about his physique, he regularly took
part in naked gladiatorial combat. Eventually a conspiracy
against him led to his being strangled by the wrestler Narcissus.

c o n i o , a l b e r i g o d a Alberigo da Barbiano (c.1348–1409)
was originally from the Romagna but later became Count of
Conio, a small town in the hills above the Italian Riviera. He
was the first mercenary commander to insist that his army (the
Company of St George) be made up exclusively of Italians, a
development that led to a reduction in the use of foreign mercen-
aries. Alberigo fought for Milan against Florence, dying in battle
in 1409.

c y r u s (c.576–529 bc) Founder of the Persian empire, which he
extended to include much of central and south-west Asia.

d a r i u s Last king of Persia (336–331 bc), Darius was repeatedly
defeated in battle by Alexander the Great and finally deposed and
murdered by one of his provincial governors.

d av i d (c.1012–972 bc) The second King of Israel (after Saul,
his father). Famous for his legendary defeat of the Philistine giant
Goliath, using only a sling and stones. As king, David built up an
empire, capturing Jerusalem, which he made his capital, as well
as areas of modern Jordan and Syria.

e p a m i n o n d a s (418–362 bc) Theban statesman and military

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 111 6/1/15 10:10 AM

112 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

commander, he ended Spartan pre-eminence in Greece, making
Thebes the dominant power.

f a b i u s m a x i m u s (c.280–203 bc) Statesman and military com-
mander, five times consul and twice dictator of Rome. Famous
for his cautious delaying tactics against Hannibal in the Second
Punic War and his hostility towards Scipio.

f e r d i n a n d o f a r a g o n (1452–1516) At age seventeen Ferdi-
nand married Isabella of Castile, then eighteen, thus taking a first
step towards uniting Spain. He ruled Castile with his wife from
1474 and became King of Aragon in 1479. After a long campaign
to capture Granada, the last territory held by the Muslims in
Spain, Ferdinand was finally victorious in 1492. In the same year
he expelled the Jews from both Castile and Aragon. The second
half of his reign was spent countering French expansionism in
Italy. From 1494 to 1496 he aided Italian leaders in their battle
to drive Charles VIII of France out of Italy. In 1501 he signed an
agreement with Louis XII to split the Kingdom of Naples between
them, but later turned against France, capturing the whole of the
kingdom by 1504. By the time of his death, Spain was the most
powerful country in Europe, a power enhanced when Ferdinand
was succeeded by his grandson, Charles of Austria, who was also
Holy Roman Emperor.

f e r r a r a , d u k e o f Machiavelli is actually referring to two
dukes in a family that had ruled Ferrara for some four centuries.
(1) Ercole d’Este (1431–1505), duke from 1471–1505. Educated
in Naples, Ercole married the daughter of King Ferrante of Naples
and became one of the great patrons of Renaissance art. In 1481,
in alliance with Ferrante, he fought against the Venetians and the
papacy, losing a considerable amount of territory. He remained
neutral in the so-called Italian War of 1494–98, but after the
French took Milan in 1499 he asked for and was granted French
protection.

(2) Alfonso d’Este (1476–34), duke from 1505–34. Alfonso
married, first, Anna Sforza, sister of Gian Galeazzo Sforza and,
later, Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI. In 1508 he
joined the League of Cambrai, which sought to destroy Venetian
power and partition its territories. After Pope Julius II went over
to the Venetian side, Alfonso remained loyal to France, as a result

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 113

of which he was excommunicated and attacked by both Venice
and the papacy. He resisted successfully, partly thanks to French
help, and partly due to Ferrara’s superior cannons whose manu-
facture was a matter of special concern and pride to the duke. In
1526–27 Alfonso took part in the expedition of Charles V (Holy
Roman Emperor and King of Spain) which led to the sacking of
Rome.

f i l i p p o , d u k e See v i s c o n t i , f i l i p p o .
f o g l i a n i , g i o va n n i A leading citizen of Fermo, Fogliani was

killed in 1501.
f o r l ì , c o u n t e s s o f Caterina Sforza (1463–1509), an illegiti-

mate daughter of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan. She married
Girolamo Riario, officially the nephew but possibly the son of
Pope Sixtus IV. Riario was Count of Forlı̀ and after his murder
in 1488 Caterina took control of the town until it was captured
by Cesare Borgia in 1500. She is famous for having refused to
hand over the citadel of Forlı̀ to rebels despite their threatening
to kill her children, whom they held hostage. Exposing her gen-
itals from the castle walls, she told them she was perfectly capable
of producing more children.

g r a c c h i , t h e The brothers Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Sem-
pronius Gracchus were members of a prominent family in Rome
in the second century bc. Both became Tribunes of the Plebs and
both were murdered after attempting to limit the power of the
nobles and introduce reforms in favour of the plebs.

g u i d o b a l d o , d u k e o f u r b i n o (1472–1508) Guidobaldo
da Montefeltro succeeded his father as Duke of Urbino in 1482.
He fought as a military captain for Pope Alexander VI and
Charles VIII of France, and later for Venice against Charles.
Under attack from Cesare Borgia in 1497, he fled the town,
returning when Borgia’s mercenaries proved disloyal. Under
Guidobaldo’s rule, the court of Urbino was among the most
refined in Europe and is considered to have been the inspiration
of Baldassare Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier, which discusses
the qualities of the perfect courtier.

h a m i l c a r Hamilcar Barca (c.270–228 bc). Successful com-
mander of the Carthaginians in the First Punic War against
Roman forces in Sicily in 247 bc. Launched an invasion of

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 112 28/05/2015 14:14

112 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

commander, he ended Spartan pre-eminence in Greece, making
Thebes the dominant power.

f a b i u s m a x i m u s (c.280–203 bc) Statesman and military com-
mander, five times consul and twice dictator of Rome. Famous
for his cautious delaying tactics against Hannibal in the Second
Punic War and his hostility towards Scipio.

f e r d i n a n d o f a r a g o n (1452–1516) At age seventeen Ferdi-
nand married Isabella of Castile, then eighteen, thus taking a first
step towards uniting Spain. He ruled Castile with his wife from
1474 and became King of Aragon in 1479. After a long campaign
to capture Granada, the last territory held by the Muslims in
Spain, Ferdinand was finally victorious in 1492. In the same year
he expelled the Jews from both Castile and Aragon. The second
half of his reign was spent countering French expansionism in
Italy. From 1494 to 1496 he aided Italian leaders in their battle
to drive Charles VIII of France out of Italy. In 1501 he signed an
agreement with Louis XII to split the Kingdom of Naples between
them, but later turned against France, capturing the whole of the
kingdom by 1504. By the time of his death, Spain was the most
powerful country in Europe, a power enhanced when Ferdinand
was succeeded by his grandson, Charles of Austria, who was also
Holy Roman Emperor.

f e r r a r a , d u k e o f Machiavelli is actually referring to two
dukes in a family that had ruled Ferrara for some four centuries.
(1) Ercole d’Este (1431–1505), duke from 1471–1505. Educated
in Naples, Ercole married the daughter of King Ferrante of Naples
and became one of the great patrons of Renaissance art. In 1481,
in alliance with Ferrante, he fought against the Venetians and the
papacy, losing a considerable amount of territory. He remained
neutral in the so-called Italian War of 1494–98, but after the
French took Milan in 1499 he asked for and was granted French
protection.

(2) Alfonso d’Este (1476–34), duke from 1505–34. Alfonso
married, first, Anna Sforza, sister of Gian Galeazzo Sforza and,
later, Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI. In 1508 he
joined the League of Cambrai, which sought to destroy Venetian
power and partition its territories. After Pope Julius II went over
to the Venetian side, Alfonso remained loyal to France, as a result

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 113

of which he was excommunicated and attacked by both Venice
and the papacy. He resisted successfully, partly thanks to French
help, and partly due to Ferrara’s superior cannons whose manu-
facture was a matter of special concern and pride to the duke. In
1526–27 Alfonso took part in the expedition of Charles V (Holy
Roman Emperor and King of Spain) which led to the sacking of
Rome.

f i l i p p o , d u k e See v i s c o n t i , f i l i p p o .
f o g l i a n i , g i o va n n i A leading citizen of Fermo, Fogliani was

killed in 1501.
f o r l ì , c o u n t e s s o f Caterina Sforza (1463–1509), an illegiti-

mate daughter of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan. She married
Girolamo Riario, officially the nephew but possibly the son of
Pope Sixtus IV. Riario was Count of Forlı̀ and after his murder
in 1488 Caterina took control of the town until it was captured
by Cesare Borgia in 1500. She is famous for having refused to
hand over the citadel of Forlı̀ to rebels despite their threatening
to kill her children, whom they held hostage. Exposing her gen-
itals from the castle walls, she told them she was perfectly capable
of producing more children.

g r a c c h i , t h e The brothers Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Sem-
pronius Gracchus were members of a prominent family in Rome
in the second century bc. Both became Tribunes of the Plebs and
both were murdered after attempting to limit the power of the
nobles and introduce reforms in favour of the plebs.

g u i d o b a l d o , d u k e o f u r b i n o (1472–1508) Guidobaldo
da Montefeltro succeeded his father as Duke of Urbino in 1482.
He fought as a military captain for Pope Alexander VI and
Charles VIII of France, and later for Venice against Charles.
Under attack from Cesare Borgia in 1497, he fled the town,
returning when Borgia’s mercenaries proved disloyal. Under
Guidobaldo’s rule, the court of Urbino was among the most
refined in Europe and is considered to have been the inspiration
of Baldassare Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier, which discusses
the qualities of the perfect courtier.

h a m i l c a r Hamilcar Barca (c.270–228 bc). Successful com-
mander of the Carthaginians in the First Punic War against
Roman forces in Sicily in 247 bc. Launched an invasion of

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 113 28/05/2015 14:14

114 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

Hispania in 236 bc and became virtual dictator of Carthage
before being killed in battle. Father of Hannibal.

h a n n i b a l (247–182 bc) Son of Hamilcar. Commander of
Carthaginian forces from 221 bc, he took an army, which in-
cluded war elephants, across the Iberian peninsula, over the
Pyrenees and Alps and down into northern Italy in what became
known as the Second Punic War. Despite impressive victories he
was forced to return home when the Romans attacked Carthage,
and was defeated at the Battle of Zama (201 bc) by Scipio Afri-
canus. He then served for many years as chief magistrate of
Carthage, introducing all kinds of reforms, before the Romans
forced him into exile. Eventually, to avoid falling into Roman
hands, he killed himself by poisoning.

h e l i o g a b a l u s (c.203–222) Roman emperor (218–22). Grand-
son of the aunt of murdered emperor Caracalla, and priest in the
cult of the sun deity El Gabal, Heliogabalus was proclaimed
the true successor to Caracalla, with some people claiming he
was Caracalla’s illegitimate son by a union between first cousins.
Installed as emperor after the emperor Macrinus had been
defeated and executed, he attempted to revolutionize Roman
religious traditions and flouted sexual taboos, marrying five times
before, aged eighteen, he was murdered and replaced by his cousin
Severus Alexander.

h i e r o o f s y r a c u s e Hiero II, King of Syracuse (270–215 bc).
Illegitimate son of a nobleman and one-time general with Pyrrhus,
Hiero became commander of Syracusan forces on the departure
of Pyrrhus in 275 bc and was elected ruler of the town after
defeating the Mamertines (Mamertina was present-day Messina).
After fighting and losing a war with Roman forces, he made a
pact with Rome in 263 bc, which assured his kingdom’s security
in return for support for the Romans in their war with Carthage.
Hiero was a relative of Archimedes, whose inventions, particu-
larly in the military field, he supported.

j o a n n a , q u e e n (1373–1435) Joanna II ruled Naples from
1414 to 1435. Childless herself, she allowed her court to be run
by her favourites and lovers, playing off the Anjou and Aragon
families by offering prominent members of each succession to
her throne. Conflict between the royal lines saw the two most

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 115

successful mercenary commanders of the period, Francesco Sforza
and Braccio da Montone, pitted against each other.

j u l i a n Marcus Didius Julianus (c.133–193). Consul under Per-
tinax, Julian was proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard
after they had murdered Pertinax. He reigned for only sixty-six
days before he himself was murdered when Septimius Severus,
who had refused to recognize his leadership, arrived in Rome.

j u l i u s i i Giuliano della Rovere (1443–1513), Cardinal of San
Pietro ad Vincula, was made pope in 1503 after the twenty-six-
day reign of Pius III, who had been elected after the death of
Alexander VI. Julius had for many years been a fierce rival of
Alexander and was unlikely to be supportive of his son Cesare
Borgia. He rapidly dismantled the Borgia family’s power and set
about ending the feud between the dominant Orsini and Colonna
families. Having thus secured his authority in Rome, he reasserted
papal territorial rights in the Romagna, attacking the Venetians
and taking Perugia and Bologna in 1506. This gave the papacy
unprecedented temporal power. In 1508 he formed the League
of Cambrai together with France, Spain and the Holy Roman
Empire to expel the Venetians from Romagna altogether. But
after the Venetians were defeated at Agnadello (or Vailà) in 1509,
Julius feared French domination and joined forces with Venice to
drive Louis XII out of Italy. Julius was hugely influential as a
patron of the arts. He had the foundation stone of St Peter’s
Basilica laid in 1506 and commissioned Michelangelo to paint
the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

l e o x Giovanni de’ Medici (1475–1521). Made a cardinal at age
thirteen, Giovanni, son of Lorenzo de’ Medici, was elected pope
in 1513, taking the name of Leo X. His papacy was memorable
for the sale of indulgences to pay for building work on St Peter’s
Basilica, his determined promotion of his Medici relations
and his response to Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses against
indulgences. In 1513 he joined forces with the Venetians and
various foreign powers to expel the French from Italy, but
later allied himself with the French against the Holy Roman
Empire.

l o u i s x i (1423–83) King of France (1461–83). Louis increased
the power of the king in relation to the barons and added

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114 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

Hispania in 236 bc and became virtual dictator of Carthage
before being killed in battle. Father of Hannibal.

h a n n i b a l (247–182 bc) Son of Hamilcar. Commander of
Carthaginian forces from 221 bc, he took an army, which in-
cluded war elephants, across the Iberian peninsula, over the
Pyrenees and Alps and down into northern Italy in what became
known as the Second Punic War. Despite impressive victories he
was forced to return home when the Romans attacked Carthage,
and was defeated at the Battle of Zama (201 bc) by Scipio Afri-
canus. He then served for many years as chief magistrate of
Carthage, introducing all kinds of reforms, before the Romans
forced him into exile. Eventually, to avoid falling into Roman
hands, he killed himself by poisoning.

h e l i o g a b a l u s (c.203–222) Roman emperor (218–22). Grand-
son of the aunt of murdered emperor Caracalla, and priest in the
cult of the sun deity El Gabal, Heliogabalus was proclaimed
the true successor to Caracalla, with some people claiming he
was Caracalla’s illegitimate son by a union between first cousins.
Installed as emperor after the emperor Macrinus had been
defeated and executed, he attempted to revolutionize Roman
religious traditions and flouted sexual taboos, marrying five times
before, aged eighteen, he was murdered and replaced by his cousin
Severus Alexander.

h i e r o o f s y r a c u s e Hiero II, King of Syracuse (270–215 bc).
Illegitimate son of a nobleman and one-time general with Pyrrhus,
Hiero became commander of Syracusan forces on the departure
of Pyrrhus in 275 bc and was elected ruler of the town after
defeating the Mamertines (Mamertina was present-day Messina).
After fighting and losing a war with Roman forces, he made a
pact with Rome in 263 bc, which assured his kingdom’s security
in return for support for the Romans in their war with Carthage.
Hiero was a relative of Archimedes, whose inventions, particu-
larly in the military field, he supported.

j o a n n a , q u e e n (1373–1435) Joanna II ruled Naples from
1414 to 1435. Childless herself, she allowed her court to be run
by her favourites and lovers, playing off the Anjou and Aragon
families by offering prominent members of each succession to
her throne. Conflict between the royal lines saw the two most

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 115

successful mercenary commanders of the period, Francesco Sforza
and Braccio da Montone, pitted against each other.

j u l i a n Marcus Didius Julianus (c.133–193). Consul under Per-
tinax, Julian was proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard
after they had murdered Pertinax. He reigned for only sixty-six
days before he himself was murdered when Septimius Severus,
who had refused to recognize his leadership, arrived in Rome.

j u l i u s i i Giuliano della Rovere (1443–1513), Cardinal of San
Pietro ad Vincula, was made pope in 1503 after the twenty-six-
day reign of Pius III, who had been elected after the death of
Alexander VI. Julius had for many years been a fierce rival of
Alexander and was unlikely to be supportive of his son Cesare
Borgia. He rapidly dismantled the Borgia family’s power and set
about ending the feud between the dominant Orsini and Colonna
families. Having thus secured his authority in Rome, he reasserted
papal territorial rights in the Romagna, attacking the Venetians
and taking Perugia and Bologna in 1506. This gave the papacy
unprecedented temporal power. In 1508 he formed the League
of Cambrai together with France, Spain and the Holy Roman
Empire to expel the Venetians from Romagna altogether. But
after the Venetians were defeated at Agnadello (or Vailà) in 1509,
Julius feared French domination and joined forces with Venice to
drive Louis XII out of Italy. Julius was hugely influential as a
patron of the arts. He had the foundation stone of St Peter’s
Basilica laid in 1506 and commissioned Michelangelo to paint
the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

l e o x Giovanni de’ Medici (1475–1521). Made a cardinal at age
thirteen, Giovanni, son of Lorenzo de’ Medici, was elected pope
in 1513, taking the name of Leo X. His papacy was memorable
for the sale of indulgences to pay for building work on St Peter’s
Basilica, his determined promotion of his Medici relations
and his response to Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses against
indulgences. In 1513 he joined forces with the Venetians and
various foreign powers to expel the French from Italy, but
later allied himself with the French against the Holy Roman
Empire.

l o u i s x i (1423–83) King of France (1461–83). Louis increased
the power of the king in relation to the barons and added

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116 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

Burgundy and Anjou to the French throne. In a treaty of 1474 he
gained the right to levy troops in Switzerland.

l o u i s x i i (1462–1515) King of France (1498–1515). Louis was
the king who got France most determinedly involved in the affairs
of Italy. Originally Duke of Orleans, he succeeded his cousin
Charles VIII in 1498 and quickly made a deal with Pope Alex-
ander VI that allowed him to renounce his first wife and marry
Charles’s widow, thus adding Brittany to the French crown. Since
the house of Orleans had claims to both Milan and Naples, Louis
made an agreement with Venice to split Milan’s territory and
took the town in 1499. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, took it
back in 1500 but was driven out again. Louis then used the same
policy in the south, reaching an agreement with Spain to divide
the Kingdom of Naples and taking the town for France in 1501.
However, the occupying powers fell out over the terms of the
partition and in 1503 the Spanish defeated the French at Gari-
gliano. In 1508 Louis joined the Holy Roman Empire, England,
the Papal States, Florence and Spain in the so-called League of
Cambrai, an aggressive alliance against the Venetians. Louis led
the alliance’s army and scored a comprehensive victory over the
Venetians at Agnadello (or Vailà) in 1509. But the consequent
increase in the power of both Rome and France caused the two
powers to fall out and in 1510 Pope Julius II, together with
England, Spain, Switzerland and the Holy Roman Empire, formed
the Holy League to drive France out of Italy, a goal that was
finally achieved at the battle of Novara in 1513. Two years later,
however, Louis’s successor, Francis I, would return to take Milan
and much of northern Italy.

l u c a r a i n a l d i , b i s h o p An ambassador for the Emperor
Maximilian.

l u d o v i c o i i Also known as Ludovico il Moro. See s f o r z a ,
l u d o v i c o .

m a c r i n u s Marcus Opellius Macrinus (c.165–218). Roman
emperor (217–18). Macrinus was the first emperor not to have
been a senator or a member of a senatorial family. He rose from
humble origins to bureaucratic service under Severus and was
then appointed prefect by Caracalla and proclaimed emperor
after Caracalla was murdered (many believed that Macrinus him-

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 117

self was responsible for the murder). His brief reign was spent
entirely in the east, where military setbacks eroded his power-base
until eventually he was defeated by supporters of the fourteen-
year-old Heliogabalus, grandson of Caracalla’s aunt, Julia Maesa.

m a n t u a , m a r q u i s o f Francesco Gonzaga (1466–1519). Vic-
torious mercenary commander of the forces of the League of
Venice against Charles VIII of France at the battle of Fornovo in
1495.

m a r c u s a u r e l i u s Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121–180),
Roman emperor (161–180). A Stoic philosopher, his work Medi-
tations, written in Greek while campaigning with his army, is
still considered a masterpiece. A successful reformer in domestic
policy, he faced serious military threats from Parthia and from
various tribes in Germany and Gaul. He died of natural causes
and was immediately deified.

m a x i m i l i a n (1459–1519) Habsburg ruler of the Holy Roman
Empire (1486–1519). Maximilian aimed to unify the empire’s
heterogeneous possessions by centralizing the administration. He
also hoped to recover the empire’s dominant position in Italy and
to become leader of the Christian world by launching a crusade
against Islam. While his domestic reforms enjoyed a certain
amount of success, his foreign policies were confused and ineffect-
ive and led to the loss of Switzerland, which became an indepen-
dent confederation in 1499. Although Maximilian hoped to
regain territory from Venice, he was constantly thwarted by the
need to give precedence to countering French expansionism in
the peninsula. In 1495 he joined the League of Venice, which
aimed to expel the French from Italy, but gained nothing from
participation. In 1496 he was invited by the Duke of Milan (his
wife’s uncle) to send an army to meet the threat of a French
invasion, but France did not attack. Persuaded to move south to
help Pisa resist the Florentines, the imperial army surprisingly
failed to save the town. In 1507 he began a long-drawn-out
attempt to take territory from Venice, but without making sig-
nificant progress. In 1512 Maximilian joined the Holy League to
push the French out of Italy. When Francis I once again took
Milan for the French in 1515, Maximilian became involved in
yet another, this time unsuccessful, attempt to keep France north

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116 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

Burgundy and Anjou to the French throne. In a treaty of 1474 he
gained the right to levy troops in Switzerland.

l o u i s x i i (1462–1515) King of France (1498–1515). Louis was
the king who got France most determinedly involved in the affairs
of Italy. Originally Duke of Orleans, he succeeded his cousin
Charles VIII in 1498 and quickly made a deal with Pope Alex-
ander VI that allowed him to renounce his first wife and marry
Charles’s widow, thus adding Brittany to the French crown. Since
the house of Orleans had claims to both Milan and Naples, Louis
made an agreement with Venice to split Milan’s territory and
took the town in 1499. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, took it
back in 1500 but was driven out again. Louis then used the same
policy in the south, reaching an agreement with Spain to divide
the Kingdom of Naples and taking the town for France in 1501.
However, the occupying powers fell out over the terms of the
partition and in 1503 the Spanish defeated the French at Gari-
gliano. In 1508 Louis joined the Holy Roman Empire, England,
the Papal States, Florence and Spain in the so-called League of
Cambrai, an aggressive alliance against the Venetians. Louis led
the alliance’s army and scored a comprehensive victory over the
Venetians at Agnadello (or Vailà) in 1509. But the consequent
increase in the power of both Rome and France caused the two
powers to fall out and in 1510 Pope Julius II, together with
England, Spain, Switzerland and the Holy Roman Empire, formed
the Holy League to drive France out of Italy, a goal that was
finally achieved at the battle of Novara in 1513. Two years later,
however, Louis’s successor, Francis I, would return to take Milan
and much of northern Italy.

l u c a r a i n a l d i , b i s h o p An ambassador for the Emperor
Maximilian.

l u d o v i c o i i Also known as Ludovico il Moro. See s f o r z a ,
l u d o v i c o .

m a c r i n u s Marcus Opellius Macrinus (c.165–218). Roman
emperor (217–18). Macrinus was the first emperor not to have
been a senator or a member of a senatorial family. He rose from
humble origins to bureaucratic service under Severus and was
then appointed prefect by Caracalla and proclaimed emperor
after Caracalla was murdered (many believed that Macrinus him-

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 117

self was responsible for the murder). His brief reign was spent
entirely in the east, where military setbacks eroded his power-base
until eventually he was defeated by supporters of the fourteen-
year-old Heliogabalus, grandson of Caracalla’s aunt, Julia Maesa.

m a n t u a , m a r q u i s o f Francesco Gonzaga (1466–1519). Vic-
torious mercenary commander of the forces of the League of
Venice against Charles VIII of France at the battle of Fornovo in
1495.

m a r c u s a u r e l i u s Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121–180),
Roman emperor (161–180). A Stoic philosopher, his work Medi-
tations, written in Greek while campaigning with his army, is
still considered a masterpiece. A successful reformer in domestic
policy, he faced serious military threats from Parthia and from
various tribes in Germany and Gaul. He died of natural causes
and was immediately deified.

m a x i m i l i a n (1459–1519) Habsburg ruler of the Holy Roman
Empire (1486–1519). Maximilian aimed to unify the empire’s
heterogeneous possessions by centralizing the administration. He
also hoped to recover the empire’s dominant position in Italy and
to become leader of the Christian world by launching a crusade
against Islam. While his domestic reforms enjoyed a certain
amount of success, his foreign policies were confused and ineffect-
ive and led to the loss of Switzerland, which became an indepen-
dent confederation in 1499. Although Maximilian hoped to
regain territory from Venice, he was constantly thwarted by the
need to give precedence to countering French expansionism in
the peninsula. In 1495 he joined the League of Venice, which
aimed to expel the French from Italy, but gained nothing from
participation. In 1496 he was invited by the Duke of Milan (his
wife’s uncle) to send an army to meet the threat of a French
invasion, but France did not attack. Persuaded to move south to
help Pisa resist the Florentines, the imperial army surprisingly
failed to save the town. In 1507 he began a long-drawn-out
attempt to take territory from Venice, but without making sig-
nificant progress. In 1512 Maximilian joined the Holy League to
push the French out of Italy. When Francis I once again took
Milan for the French in 1515, Maximilian became involved in
yet another, this time unsuccessful, attempt to keep France north

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118 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

of the Alps. Maximilian was succeeded by his grandson Charles V,
who became King of Spain as well.

m a x i m i n u s Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus (c.173–238),
Roman emperor (235–238). Born in Thrace and from a humble
background, Maximinus rose to become a seasoned military com-
mander and led an army rebellion against the young emperor
Alexander Severus, who was abandoned by his own troops and
murdered. Hated by the aristocratic Senate, Maximinus faced
numerous rebellions and conspiracies, which he ruthlessly sup-
pressed, until he was eventually murdered by his own troops.

m o s e s Old Testament Hebrew leader who led the Jews out of
their captivity in Egypt to ‘the promised land’.

n a b i s Ruler of Sparta (207–192 bc), ruthless in his determin-
ation to return Sparta to its former glory. After a period of
successful territorial expansionism, Nabis was attacked by the
Romans in alliance with his other enemies. Decisively beaten by
Philopoemen, he nevertheless managed to hold on to the city of
Sparta before being murdered by a group of Aetolians who were
supposedly coming to his aid.

n i g e r , g a i u s p e s c e n n i u s (c.140–194) Roman governor of
Syria, who proclaimed himself emperor after the murder of Perti-
nax in 193, and was defeated and killed by the forces of Septimius
Severus in 194.

o l i v e r o t t o Oliverotto Euffreducci (c.1475–1502). Mercen-
ary commander who took power in Fermo in 1502 and used
ruthless force to eliminate his enemies. Oliverotto was killed by
Borgia at Senigallia in 1502.

o r c o , r e m i r r o d e Ramiro de Lorqua (c.1452–1502). Mili-
tary commander in the service of Cesare Borgia. After being
involved in many military campaigns on Borgia’s behalf, he was
given the governorship of the Romagna in 1501. Arrested on
corruption charges, he was beheaded in 1502.

o r s i n i One of the two powerful Roman families (the other was
the Colonna) whose feuding dominated political life in Rome
from the second half of the thirteenth century to the end of the
fifteenth. Both families had mercenary armies. Cesare Borgia used
the Orsini army in his early campaigns but broke with them when
he suspected them of conspiring against him. He later invited the

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 119

Orsini leaders to Senigallia with the pretence of negotiating an
agreement and had them killed.

n i c c o l ò o r s i n i Count of Pitigliano (1442–1510). Mercenary
commander who led Venetian forces in their war against the
League of Cambrai, and joint commander with his cousin Bar-
tolomeo d’Alviano at the battle of Agnadello (or Vailà) at which,
largely thanks to disagreements between the two, the Venetians
were routed.

p a u l o , s i g n o r Paulo Orsini was leader of the Orsini faction
during the period of Cesare Borgia’s rise to power. He accepted
the invitation to negotiate at Senigallia, where Borgia had him
strangled on arrival.

p e r t i n a x Publius Helvius Pertinax (126–193) was Roman
emperor for three months in 193. Proclaimed emperor after the
assassination of Commodus, Pertinax failed to give the army the
financial rewards they expected, while his attempts to impose
discipline antagonized them. He was murdered when 300 mutin-
ous soldiers of the Praetorian Guard stormed his palace.

p e t r a r c h Francesco Petrarca (1304–74). Scholar, poet and early
Humanist whose work on the sonnet form was to be hugely influ-
ential in European poetry for centuries to come. The lines Machia-
velli quotes at the conclusion of The Prince are taken from poem
XVI of Il canzoniere, in which Petrarch appeals to Italian leaders
to stop using foreign mercenaries to fight Italian civil wars.

p e t r u c c i , p a n d o l f o (1452–1512) A powerful figure in Siena
from 1487 when the faction he belonged to toppled its opponents
in a coup. From 1502 he became ruler of the town, though
always officially maintaining republican institutions. In his role
as ambassador of Florence, Machiavelli negotiated with him on
several occasions.

p h i l i p o f m a c e d o n i a Machiavelli actually refers to two
Philips.

(1) Philip II (382–336 bc) King of Macedonia (359–336 bc),
father of Alexander the Great. Coming to power after the death
of his older brothers, Philip II rebuilt the Kingdom of Macedonia
with a series of wars and astute treaties. He was murdered by one
of his bodyguards.

(2) Philip V (238–178 bc) King of Macedonia (220–178 bc).

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118 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

of the Alps. Maximilian was succeeded by his grandson Charles V,
who became King of Spain as well.

m a x i m i n u s Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus (c.173–238),
Roman emperor (235–238). Born in Thrace and from a humble
background, Maximinus rose to become a seasoned military com-
mander and led an army rebellion against the young emperor
Alexander Severus, who was abandoned by his own troops and
murdered. Hated by the aristocratic Senate, Maximinus faced
numerous rebellions and conspiracies, which he ruthlessly sup-
pressed, until he was eventually murdered by his own troops.

m o s e s Old Testament Hebrew leader who led the Jews out of
their captivity in Egypt to ‘the promised land’.

n a b i s Ruler of Sparta (207–192 bc), ruthless in his determin-
ation to return Sparta to its former glory. After a period of
successful territorial expansionism, Nabis was attacked by the
Romans in alliance with his other enemies. Decisively beaten by
Philopoemen, he nevertheless managed to hold on to the city of
Sparta before being murdered by a group of Aetolians who were
supposedly coming to his aid.

n i g e r , g a i u s p e s c e n n i u s (c.140–194) Roman governor of
Syria, who proclaimed himself emperor after the murder of Perti-
nax in 193, and was defeated and killed by the forces of Septimius
Severus in 194.

o l i v e r o t t o Oliverotto Euffreducci (c.1475–1502). Mercen-
ary commander who took power in Fermo in 1502 and used
ruthless force to eliminate his enemies. Oliverotto was killed by
Borgia at Senigallia in 1502.

o r c o , r e m i r r o d e Ramiro de Lorqua (c.1452–1502). Mili-
tary commander in the service of Cesare Borgia. After being
involved in many military campaigns on Borgia’s behalf, he was
given the governorship of the Romagna in 1501. Arrested on
corruption charges, he was beheaded in 1502.

o r s i n i One of the two powerful Roman families (the other was
the Colonna) whose feuding dominated political life in Rome
from the second half of the thirteenth century to the end of the
fifteenth. Both families had mercenary armies. Cesare Borgia used
the Orsini army in his early campaigns but broke with them when
he suspected them of conspiring against him. He later invited the

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 119

Orsini leaders to Senigallia with the pretence of negotiating an
agreement and had them killed.

n i c c o l ò o r s i n i Count of Pitigliano (1442–1510). Mercenary
commander who led Venetian forces in their war against the
League of Cambrai, and joint commander with his cousin Bar-
tolomeo d’Alviano at the battle of Agnadello (or Vailà) at which,
largely thanks to disagreements between the two, the Venetians
were routed.

p a u l o , s i g n o r Paulo Orsini was leader of the Orsini faction
during the period of Cesare Borgia’s rise to power. He accepted
the invitation to negotiate at Senigallia, where Borgia had him
strangled on arrival.

p e r t i n a x Publius Helvius Pertinax (126–193) was Roman
emperor for three months in 193. Proclaimed emperor after the
assassination of Commodus, Pertinax failed to give the army the
financial rewards they expected, while his attempts to impose
discipline antagonized them. He was murdered when 300 mutin-
ous soldiers of the Praetorian Guard stormed his palace.

p e t r a r c h Francesco Petrarca (1304–74). Scholar, poet and early
Humanist whose work on the sonnet form was to be hugely influ-
ential in European poetry for centuries to come. The lines Machia-
velli quotes at the conclusion of The Prince are taken from poem
XVI of Il canzoniere, in which Petrarch appeals to Italian leaders
to stop using foreign mercenaries to fight Italian civil wars.

p e t r u c c i , p a n d o l f o (1452–1512) A powerful figure in Siena
from 1487 when the faction he belonged to toppled its opponents
in a coup. From 1502 he became ruler of the town, though
always officially maintaining republican institutions. In his role
as ambassador of Florence, Machiavelli negotiated with him on
several occasions.

p h i l i p o f m a c e d o n i a Machiavelli actually refers to two
Philips.

(1) Philip II (382–336 bc) King of Macedonia (359–336 bc),
father of Alexander the Great. Coming to power after the death
of his older brothers, Philip II rebuilt the Kingdom of Macedonia
with a series of wars and astute treaties. He was murdered by one
of his bodyguards.

(2) Philip V (238–178 bc) King of Macedonia (220–178 bc).

9780141442259_ThePrince_TXT.indd 119 28/05/2015 14:14

120 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

Followed a successful expansionist policy until the Romans, who
had finally defeated the Carthaginians, turned their attention to
the threat he posed in 200 bc and comprehensively defeated him
in 197 bc, confining him within the borders of Macedonia.

p h i l o p o e m e n (253–183 bc) Greek statesman and general who
led the Achaean army on numerous occasions.

p i t i g l i a n o , c o u n t o f See o r s i n i n i c c o l ò .
p y r r h u s (318–272 bc) King of Epirus, Pyrrhus was an ex-

tremely successful military commander and a constant threat to
the Romans in southern Italy and Sicily, where he also fought
the Carthaginians. His costly victory at the Battle of Asculum in
279 bc led to the use of the expression ‘Pyrrhic victory’.

r o m u l u s Legendary founder and first king of Rome.
r o u e n , Cardinal of, later Archbishop of Georges d’Amboise

(1460–1510). D’Amboise was already adviser to the Duke of
Orleans when the latter acceded to the French throne (1498) as
Louis XII. Louis at once made d’Amboise prime minister and
persuaded Alexander VI to appoint him as cardinal as part of a
more general agreement between the two. D’Amboise encouraged
Louis in his Italian adventures and drew on the support of Cesare
Borgia in an attempt to have himself elected pope on the death
of Borgia’s father Alexander VI.

r o v e r e , g i u l i a n o d e See j u l i u s i i .
s a n g i o r g i o Cardinal Raffaello Riario of Savona.
s a n s e v e r i n o , r u b e r t o d a Mercenary commander who led

Venetian forces in 1482 and died fighting for Venice in 1487.
s a u l First king of Israel, chosen by the people about 1025 bc.
s av o n a r o l a , g i r o l a m o (1452–98) Born in Ferrara, Savona-

rola studied philosophy and medicine before taking up a religious
vocation in the Dominican Order of friar preachers. He first
preached in Florence between 1482 and 1487 but was largely
ignored until, on the advice of the Humanist Pico della Miran-
dola, Lorenzo de’ Medici recalled him to Florence to head the
influential monastery of San Marco in 1490. He then began a
cycle of sermons denouncing corruption in the town and proph-
esying doom and foreign invasion. When Charles VIII invaded
Italy in 1494 and the Medici fled, his preaching appeared to be
vindicated and he became head of the Florentine government,

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 121

leading the city as a theocracy from 1494 to 1498 and encourag-
ing people to burn anything profane (books, paintings) on his
so-called Bonfire of the Vanities. His impassioned preaching
against every form of corruption in the Church and his insistence
on a return to scriptural purity eventually led to his being excom-
municated by Alexander VI, and when he lost support in Florence
he was arrested, tortured and burned at the stake in the town’s
central piazza.

s c a l i , g i o r g i o One of the leaders of the briefly successful
Ciompi (wool-workers) rebellion in Florence in 1378. Involved
in an attempt to stop magistrates punishing a friend, he was
arrested and beheaded in 1382.

s c i p i o Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (c.234–183 bc). A
Roman general and statesman best known for his defeat of Hanni-
bal at the Battle of Zama in 201 bc. This decisive victory won
him the name Africanus. Accused in the Senate of accepting bribes
from enemies, he retired from Rome to his home on the coast of
Campania.

s e v e r u s , l u c i u s s e p t i m i u s (146–211) Roman emperor
(193–211), notorious for his militarization of Roman bureau-
cracy and the empire in general. After holding military commands
under emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, on the murder
of the emperor Pertinax in 193 he led his legions to Rome and
seized power. In 194 he defeated Pescennius Niger, who had
proclaimed himself emperor in the east, and in 196 he defeated
another would-be emperor, Clodius Albinus, in Gaul. In the last
years of his life he engaged in a long military campaign in Britain,
dying in York in 211.

s f o r z a , c a r d i n a l Ascanio Sforza (1455–1505). Fifth child of
Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, and younger brother of Gal-
eazzo and Ludovico who each in turn became duke. Appointed
as cardinal in 1484, Ascanio made several fruitless attempts to
be elected pope. Acting as a spy for Milan in Rome, he was
demoted by Alexander VI when Milan aided the French invasion
of 1494. Ascanio was subsequently reinstated but lost his power-
base when the French took Milan under Louis XII. He was
imprisoned by the French for three years before Georges
d’Amboise, Archbishop of Rouen and adviser to Louis, persuaded

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120 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

Followed a successful expansionist policy until the Romans, who
had finally defeated the Carthaginians, turned their attention to
the threat he posed in 200 bc and comprehensively defeated him
in 197 bc, confining him within the borders of Macedonia.

p h i l o p o e m e n (253–183 bc) Greek statesman and general who
led the Achaean army on numerous occasions.

p i t i g l i a n o , c o u n t o f See o r s i n i n i c c o l ò .
p y r r h u s (318–272 bc) King of Epirus, Pyrrhus was an ex-

tremely successful military commander and a constant threat to
the Romans in southern Italy and Sicily, where he also fought
the Carthaginians. His costly victory at the Battle of Asculum in
279 bc led to the use of the expression ‘Pyrrhic victory’.

r o m u l u s Legendary founder and first king of Rome.
r o u e n , Cardinal of, later Archbishop of Georges d’Amboise

(1460–1510). D’Amboise was already adviser to the Duke of
Orleans when the latter acceded to the French throne (1498) as
Louis XII. Louis at once made d’Amboise prime minister and
persuaded Alexander VI to appoint him as cardinal as part of a
more general agreement between the two. D’Amboise encouraged
Louis in his Italian adventures and drew on the support of Cesare
Borgia in an attempt to have himself elected pope on the death
of Borgia’s father Alexander VI.

r o v e r e , g i u l i a n o d e See j u l i u s i i .
s a n g i o r g i o Cardinal Raffaello Riario of Savona.
s a n s e v e r i n o , r u b e r t o d a Mercenary commander who led

Venetian forces in 1482 and died fighting for Venice in 1487.
s a u l First king of Israel, chosen by the people about 1025 bc.
s av o n a r o l a , g i r o l a m o (1452–98) Born in Ferrara, Savona-

rola studied philosophy and medicine before taking up a religious
vocation in the Dominican Order of friar preachers. He first
preached in Florence between 1482 and 1487 but was largely
ignored until, on the advice of the Humanist Pico della Miran-
dola, Lorenzo de’ Medici recalled him to Florence to head the
influential monastery of San Marco in 1490. He then began a
cycle of sermons denouncing corruption in the town and proph-
esying doom and foreign invasion. When Charles VIII invaded
Italy in 1494 and the Medici fled, his preaching appeared to be
vindicated and he became head of the Florentine government,

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 121

leading the city as a theocracy from 1494 to 1498 and encourag-
ing people to burn anything profane (books, paintings) on his
so-called Bonfire of the Vanities. His impassioned preaching
against every form of corruption in the Church and his insistence
on a return to scriptural purity eventually led to his being excom-
municated by Alexander VI, and when he lost support in Florence
he was arrested, tortured and burned at the stake in the town’s
central piazza.

s c a l i , g i o r g i o One of the leaders of the briefly successful
Ciompi (wool-workers) rebellion in Florence in 1378. Involved
in an attempt to stop magistrates punishing a friend, he was
arrested and beheaded in 1382.

s c i p i o Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (c.234–183 bc). A
Roman general and statesman best known for his defeat of Hanni-
bal at the Battle of Zama in 201 bc. This decisive victory won
him the name Africanus. Accused in the Senate of accepting bribes
from enemies, he retired from Rome to his home on the coast of
Campania.

s e v e r u s , l u c i u s s e p t i m i u s (146–211) Roman emperor
(193–211), notorious for his militarization of Roman bureau-
cracy and the empire in general. After holding military commands
under emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, on the murder
of the emperor Pertinax in 193 he led his legions to Rome and
seized power. In 194 he defeated Pescennius Niger, who had
proclaimed himself emperor in the east, and in 196 he defeated
another would-be emperor, Clodius Albinus, in Gaul. In the last
years of his life he engaged in a long military campaign in Britain,
dying in York in 211.

s f o r z a , c a r d i n a l Ascanio Sforza (1455–1505). Fifth child of
Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, and younger brother of Gal-
eazzo and Ludovico who each in turn became duke. Appointed
as cardinal in 1484, Ascanio made several fruitless attempts to
be elected pope. Acting as a spy for Milan in Rome, he was
demoted by Alexander VI when Milan aided the French invasion
of 1494. Ascanio was subsequently reinstated but lost his power-
base when the French took Milan under Louis XII. He was
imprisoned by the French for three years before Georges
d’Amboise, Archbishop of Rouen and adviser to Louis, persuaded

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122 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

the king to release him in the hope that Ascanio would support
his, Rouen’s, candidature for the papacy.

s f o r z a , c a t e r i n a See f o r l í , c o u n t e s s o f .
s f o r z a , f r a n c e s c o (1401–66) The most successful mercenary

commander of his century, Francesco frequently fought for
Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan (1412–47). Visconti had no
sons and only one daughter, Bianca Maria, whom he offered in
marriage to Sforza to keep the powerful commander on Milan’s
side, frequently delaying the wedding so as to retain his bar-
gaining power. Having eventually married Bianca Maria in 1441,
Sforza expected to become duke on Visconti’s death in 1447, but
the people of Milan declared a republic. Sforza at first served the
republic in a war against Venice, but then betrayed it and took
Milan for himself, becoming duke in 1450.

s f o r z a , g i a c o m o Giacomo (Muzio) Attendolo (1369–1424).
Father of Francesco Sforza, who would become Duke of Milan.
Joined the mercenary army of Alberigo da Barbiano in the 1380s
and received the nickname Sforza for his strength and determin-
ation. Sforza served as mercenary commander for many Italian
leaders and frequently found himself opposed to Braccio da
Montone, who had also started his mercenary career under
Alberigo da Barbiano. He was eventually killed in the service of
Joanna of Naples.

s f o r z a , l u d o v i c o (1452–1508) Second son of Francesco
Sforza, and Duke of Milan (1494–1500). When Ludovico’s older
brother and duke, Galeazzo Maria, was assassinated in 1476,
power officially passed to his seven-year-old son Gian Galeazzo,
but Ludovico seized control of the state and eventually became
duke when Gian Galeazzo died in 1494. Since Naples favoured
Gian Galeazzo’s attempt to regain his title, Ludovico supported
the claim of Charles VIII to the Neapolitan throne and encouraged
his invasion of Italy in 1494. However, the extent of French
successes led him to join the League of Venice, an anti-French
alliance, which pushed Charles out of Italy. In 1499, Ludovico
lost Milan to Charles’s successor, Louis XII. He managed to
recover the city briefly in 1500 but was then defeated and
imprisoned by the French until his death in 1508. He is chiefly
remembered for his patronage of Leonardo da Vinci.

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 123

s i x t u s Francesco della Rovere (1414–84) was elected pope in
1471, taking the name of Sixtus IV. Sixtus was renowned for his
nepotism and in 1478 took part in the Pazzi conspiracy to topple
the Medici in Florence. Following the failed assassination attempt
on Lorenzo il Magnifico and the execution of the would-be
assassins, Sixtus excommunicated Lorenzo, placed Florence
under interdiction and, in alliance with Naples, declared war on
the town. Sixtus’s nephew, Giuliano della Rovere, would become
Pope Julius II in 1503.

s o d e r i n i , p i e r o (1450–1522) Elected Gonfaloniere of
Florence and hence head of state for life in 1502, Soderini was a
friend of Machiavelli and promoted his career, but Machiavelli
found him indecisive and eventually lost respect for him. In line
with his predecessor, Savonarola, Soderini maintained an alliance
with France throughout his period of government, but he was not
an able statesman and had no protection to fall back on once the
French were driven out of Italy by the Holy League of papal,
Spanish and imperial forces. In 1512 Soderini attempted to resist
Spanish forces at Prato, but had to flee the city as the League’s
forces advanced and a Medici regime was reinstated.

t h e s e u s Legendary Greek hero, son of Aegeus, King of Athens.
He slew the Minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth and was the first
lover of the adolescent Helen of Troy. He united the region of
Attica under the administration of Athens.

t i t u s q u i n t i u s Flaminius Titus Quintius (c.228–174 bc). A
Roman general who led the campaign against Philip V of
Macedonia. Titus defeated Philip at the battle of Cynoscephalae
in Thessaly in 197. Philip was forced to retreat from all his Greek
possessions but his Macedonian kingdom was left intact.

v e n a f r o , a n t o n i o d a Antonio Giordano (1459–1530).
Having helped Pandolfo Petrucci become the ruler of Siena,
Antonio was chosen as his first minister and chief adviser and
was entrusted with important diplomatic missions to Rome and
other courts. In 1502 he was at Magione when Cesare Borgia’s
mercenaries conspired to betray him. When Petrucci’s son,
Borghese, lost power in 1516, Antonio returned to his home town
of Venafro but later went to serve the government of Naples,
where he died.

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122 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

the king to release him in the hope that Ascanio would support
his, Rouen’s, candidature for the papacy.

s f o r z a , c a t e r i n a See f o r l í , c o u n t e s s o f .
s f o r z a , f r a n c e s c o (1401–66) The most successful mercenary

commander of his century, Francesco frequently fought for
Filippo Visconti, Duke of Milan (1412–47). Visconti had no
sons and only one daughter, Bianca Maria, whom he offered in
marriage to Sforza to keep the powerful commander on Milan’s
side, frequently delaying the wedding so as to retain his bar-
gaining power. Having eventually married Bianca Maria in 1441,
Sforza expected to become duke on Visconti’s death in 1447, but
the people of Milan declared a republic. Sforza at first served the
republic in a war against Venice, but then betrayed it and took
Milan for himself, becoming duke in 1450.

s f o r z a , g i a c o m o Giacomo (Muzio) Attendolo (1369–1424).
Father of Francesco Sforza, who would become Duke of Milan.
Joined the mercenary army of Alberigo da Barbiano in the 1380s
and received the nickname Sforza for his strength and determin-
ation. Sforza served as mercenary commander for many Italian
leaders and frequently found himself opposed to Braccio da
Montone, who had also started his mercenary career under
Alberigo da Barbiano. He was eventually killed in the service of
Joanna of Naples.

s f o r z a , l u d o v i c o (1452–1508) Second son of Francesco
Sforza, and Duke of Milan (1494–1500). When Ludovico’s older
brother and duke, Galeazzo Maria, was assassinated in 1476,
power officially passed to his seven-year-old son Gian Galeazzo,
but Ludovico seized control of the state and eventually became
duke when Gian Galeazzo died in 1494. Since Naples favoured
Gian Galeazzo’s attempt to regain his title, Ludovico supported
the claim of Charles VIII to the Neapolitan throne and encouraged
his invasion of Italy in 1494. However, the extent of French
successes led him to join the League of Venice, an anti-French
alliance, which pushed Charles out of Italy. In 1499, Ludovico
lost Milan to Charles’s successor, Louis XII. He managed to
recover the city briefly in 1500 but was then defeated and
imprisoned by the French until his death in 1508. He is chiefly
remembered for his patronage of Leonardo da Vinci.

g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s 123

s i x t u s Francesco della Rovere (1414–84) was elected pope in
1471, taking the name of Sixtus IV. Sixtus was renowned for his
nepotism and in 1478 took part in the Pazzi conspiracy to topple
the Medici in Florence. Following the failed assassination attempt
on Lorenzo il Magnifico and the execution of the would-be
assassins, Sixtus excommunicated Lorenzo, placed Florence
under interdiction and, in alliance with Naples, declared war on
the town. Sixtus’s nephew, Giuliano della Rovere, would become
Pope Julius II in 1503.

s o d e r i n i , p i e r o (1450–1522) Elected Gonfaloniere of
Florence and hence head of state for life in 1502, Soderini was a
friend of Machiavelli and promoted his career, but Machiavelli
found him indecisive and eventually lost respect for him. In line
with his predecessor, Savonarola, Soderini maintained an alliance
with France throughout his period of government, but he was not
an able statesman and had no protection to fall back on once the
French were driven out of Italy by the Holy League of papal,
Spanish and imperial forces. In 1512 Soderini attempted to resist
Spanish forces at Prato, but had to flee the city as the League’s
forces advanced and a Medici regime was reinstated.

t h e s e u s Legendary Greek hero, son of Aegeus, King of Athens.
He slew the Minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth and was the first
lover of the adolescent Helen of Troy. He united the region of
Attica under the administration of Athens.

t i t u s q u i n t i u s Flaminius Titus Quintius (c.228–174 bc). A
Roman general who led the campaign against Philip V of
Macedonia. Titus defeated Philip at the battle of Cynoscephalae
in Thessaly in 197. Philip was forced to retreat from all his Greek
possessions but his Macedonian kingdom was left intact.

v e n a f r o , a n t o n i o d a Antonio Giordano (1459–1530).
Having helped Pandolfo Petrucci become the ruler of Siena,
Antonio was chosen as his first minister and chief adviser and
was entrusted with important diplomatic missions to Rome and
other courts. In 1502 he was at Magione when Cesare Borgia’s
mercenaries conspired to betray him. When Petrucci’s son,
Borghese, lost power in 1516, Antonio returned to his home town
of Venafro but later went to serve the government of Naples,
where he died.

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124 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

v i s c o n t i , Bernabò (1323–85) Ruled Milan together with two
brothers from 1354 to 1385. Imprisoned and killed by his nephew
Gian Galeazzo Visconti.

v i s c o n t i , f i l i p p o (1392–1447) Duke of Milan (1412–47).
Filippo was a cruel and paranoid manipulator who rebuilt the
Duchy of Milan with the services of mercenary leaders such
as Carmagnola and Francesco Sforza. To keep Sforza loyal, he
promised him his only child and heir, Bianca Maria, in marriage,
then made him wait many years for the wedding.

v i t e l l i , n i c c o l ò (1414–86) Military commander in constant
battle with papal forces for the control of Città di Castello, a
town near Perugia, in Umbria. Forced out of the town by Sixtus
IV in 1475, he received support from the Medici after the failed
Pazzi conspiracy in which the pope had been involved. On
recovering the town, he destroyed the fortresses that Sixtus had
built in his absence.

v i t e l l i , p a u l o (1461–99) Son of Niccolò Vitelli. A mercenary
commander who led the Florentine army in its siege of Pisa in
1498. Having breached the walls, Paulo behaved with inexplic-
able caution, failing to push home his advantage, as a result of
which he was suspected of treachery, arrested and executed.

v i t e l l i , t h e Noble family of mercenary commanders who con-
trolled the town of Città di Castello, near Perugia in Umbria, for
most of the fifteenth century.

v i t e l l o z z o Vitellozzo Vitelli (c.1458–1502). Son of Niccolò
and brother of Paulo, Vitellozzo was serving Florence with Paulo
when the latter was arrested and executed for treachery. Vitel-
lozzo escaped and served Cesare Borgia. Together with the Orsini
faction, he conspired against Borgia and was among the conspira-
tors killed in Senigallia in 1502.

x e n o p h o n (431–354 bc) An Athenian and friend of Socrates,
Xenophon was opposed to democracy and spent much of his life
in Sparta. He joined a group of 10,000 mercenaries who served
Cyrus during his campaign against Artaxerxes in Asia Minor in
401. After Cyrus was killed, Xenophon was one of the generals
who led the mercenaries on their 1,000-mile retreat home (fewer
than 6,000 survived). He wrote about the campaign in Anabasis,
one of his many books.

.

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124 g l o s s a r y o f p r o p e r n a m e s

v i s c o n t i , Bernabò (1323–85) Ruled Milan together with two
brothers from 1354 to 1385. Imprisoned and killed by his nephew
Gian Galeazzo Visconti.

v i s c o n t i , f i l i p p o (1392–1447) Duke of Milan (1412–47).
Filippo was a cruel and paranoid manipulator who rebuilt the
Duchy of Milan with the services of mercenary leaders such
as Carmagnola and Francesco Sforza. To keep Sforza loyal, he
promised him his only child and heir, Bianca Maria, in marriage,
then made him wait many years for the wedding.

v i t e l l i , n i c c o l ò (1414–86) Military commander in constant
battle with papal forces for the control of Città di Castello, a
town near Perugia, in Umbria. Forced out of the town by Sixtus
IV in 1475, he received support from the Medici after the failed
Pazzi conspiracy in which the pope had been involved. On
recovering the town, he destroyed the fortresses that Sixtus had
built in his absence.

v i t e l l i , p a u l o (1461–99) Son of Niccolò Vitelli. A mercenary
commander who led the Florentine army in its siege of Pisa in
1498. Having breached the walls, Paulo behaved with inexplic-
able caution, failing to push home his advantage, as a result of
which he was suspected of treachery, arrested and executed.

v i t e l l i , t h e Noble family of mercenary commanders who con-
trolled the town of Città di Castello, near Perugia in Umbria, for
most of the fifteenth century.

v i t e l l o z z o Vitellozzo Vitelli (c.1458–1502). Son of Niccolò
and brother of Paulo, Vitellozzo was serving Florence with Paulo
when the latter was arrested and executed for treachery. Vitel-
lozzo escaped and served Cesare Borgia. Together with the Orsini
faction, he conspired against Borgia and was among the conspira-
tors killed in Senigallia in 1502.

x e n o p h o n (431–354 bc) An Athenian and friend of Socrates,
Xenophon was opposed to democracy and spent much of his life
in Sparta. He joined a group of 10,000 mercenaries who served
Cyrus during his campaign against Artaxerxes in Asia Minor in
401. After Cyrus was killed, Xenophon was one of the generals
who led the mercenaries on their 1,000-mile retreat home (fewer
than 6,000 survived). He wrote about the campaign in Anabasis,
one of his many books.

.

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