Niccolo Machiavelli tells of the methods that have been the most successful in gaining and maintaining power in non-democratic governments in his classic novel, The Prince. Through a meticulous analysis of political history up to his point in time, he tells of the political strategies that had worked for rulers time and time again and also of those that had failed. Machiavelli maintains that any opposition to a ruler’s power should be disposed of. He gives the example of Agathocles who had his army quickly and ruthlessly killed the senate of Syracuse and all of the other powerful people in the city so that he could easily take control with no one to oppose him. Machiavelli does not glorify these actions. He merely states that they work. Machiavelli also put a great value on having a military made up of citizens of the state rather than mercenaries. He concluded that a citizens’ army has more to lose if defeated and more to gain if victorious. A citizen’s army is also more likely to be loyal to its ruler while mercenaries fight purely for profit. At the moment it becomes more profitable to take some other course of action than to follow the orders of their employer, mercenaries will do so. Machiavelli cites several examples where having an army of mercenaries limited the capabilities of the state’s military. King Louis XI employed Swiss mercenaries who fought along side his own troops. In time the French troops were so accustomed to fighting with the Swiss that they felt they couldn’t be victorious without them. Machiavelli also gave some examples of times when mercenaries actually turned on their employers such as the Carthaginians’ mercenaries that turned on them after they fought the Romans. Machiavelli said that it was critical for a ruler to be constantly thinking of the art of war. He should come to know the landscape of his own country in order to know the best strategies for battle should his nation every be attacked, and through this he should also be able to deduce how to react in similar terrain in another place. Francesco Sforza raised himself from a private person to the station of Duke of Milan through battle. Machiavelli believed that a ruler should know how to do wrong. He who tries to do what is morally right instead of what needs to be done will soon lose his power. Machiavelli states that it is better to be feared than loved if one cannot be both. A ruler should not be too merciful. Ruthlessness that sets a few examples is ultimately more merciful when it prevents disorder because many may die in disorder. Hannibal was ruthless and cruel, and he was both revered and feared in the eyes of his enormous army, allowing him to keep them under his command. Machiavelli explains that a ruler should have the cunning of a fox and the strength of a lion. Without cunning a ruler is susceptible to tricks and traps, but without a strong military he is likely to be overwhelmed by the opposition. Alexander VI was an especially cunning ruler. He was always deceiving someone. Deceit can often be used to manipulate others. Niccolo Machiavelli is one of the most widely read authors of all time. His book, The Prince, has been studied by many people including Hitler and several U.S. presidents. By the age of 29 Machiavelli was active in the Florentine government, participating in several diplomatic missions to other nations that afforded him the opportunity to observe their practices. Bibliography Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Word Count: 592
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