Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli wrote this book, The Prince,which is about becomming a political
leader from examples of his own life. Niccolo Machiavelli lived from 1469 to 1527, saw
what we now consider the height of the Italian Renaissance- a period that produced some
of Italy’s greatest achievements in the arts and sciences, but that also produced horrible
scandals and the establishment of foreign domination over the peninsula. Brought up
while members of the powerful Medici family were masters of Florence, he studied the
classics and learned to read and write in Latin. He also showed a keen interest in, and the
ability to learn from, the world around him. He was a diplomat, a student of history, and
a writer of comedy, and his sharp and unique insights changed the face of political
science forever.
Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3, 1469. We first hear of him playing
an active role in the affairs of his native city in 1498, when the government dominated by
Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican friar whose puritanical views had influenced
Florence for the preceding four years, fell from power. Therefore, the post was left
unoccupied, but after a short delay the little known name of Niccolo Machiavelli was
put forward as a possible replacement. He was only twenty-nine years old at the time and
apparently had no previous administrative experience. His nomination was confirmed,
however, and he was appointed second chancellor of the Florentine Republic. It was an
enormous opportunity, and the experiences and insights he would gain in the post would
be used later in writing The Prince.
At the time Machiavelli entered public service, there were already
well-established standards for filling major administrative positions in Florentine
government. In addition to exhibiting diplomatic skill, civil servants were expected to
display competence in the humane disciplines. These disciplines had been derived from
ancient Roman sources especially from the orator and statesman Cicero, who had written
about the need for formal study of Latin, rhetoric, history, moral philosophy, and politics
to prepare a student for professional service to the community. Ultimately, they were the
ancestor of the humanities, or liberal arts curriculum in contemporary education.
The popularity of the humanistic ideals in Florentine government help explain how
Machiavelli came to be appointed to a responsible government post at such an early age.

His family, though neither rich nor aristocratic, were closely allied with the city’s leading
humanists.
Machiavelli’s father, Bernardo, a lawyer, had acquaintance with several
distinguished humanist scholars. According to his father’s diary, Machiavelli began
formal education at the age of seven, which included the study of Latin, the language that
was the passport to the world of humanistic learning. By the time Machiavelli was twelve
he had graduated from primary school and was enrolled in private classes. Later, he was
accepted at the University of Florence, where he received training in the
humanities, literature, and sciences from Marcello Adriani, who succeeded Scala as first
chancellor of Florence.
During the next fourteen years, Machiavelli was sent on numerous diplomatic
missions to France, Switzerland, and Germany. His observations abroad resulted in many
of the ideas that form the basis for the major statements found in his political works. In
The Prince, for example, Machiavelli comments at length on Germany’s
well-fortified cities and evaluates the weak leadership of the French king, Louis XII.

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