Niccolo Machiavelli quotes

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Birthdate: 3. May 1469
Date of death: 21. June 1527

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer of the Renaissance period. He has often been called the father of modern political science. He was for many years a senior official in the Florentine Republic, with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned in the Italian language. He was secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his most renowned work The Prince in 1513.

"Machiavellianism" is a widely used negative term to characterize unscrupulous politicians of the sort Machiavelli described most famously in The Prince. Machiavelli described immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. He even seemed to endorse it in some situations. The book itself gained notoriety when some readers claimed that the author was teaching evil, and providing "evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power". The term "Machiavellian" is often associated with political deceit, deviousness, and realpolitik. On the other hand, many commentators, such as Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot, have argued that Machiavelli was actually a republican, even when writing The Prince, and his writings were an inspiration to Enlightenment proponents of modern democratic political philosophy. In one place, for example, he noted his admiration for the selfless Roman dictator Cincinnatus.

Works

The Prince
The Prince
Niccolo Machiavelli
Discourses on Livy
Discourses on Livy
Niccolo Machiavelli
The Art of War
Niccolo Machiavelli
Florentine Histories
Niccolo Machiavelli

Quotes Niccolo Machiavelli

„Women are the most charitable creatures, and the most troublesome. He who shuns women passes up the trouble, but also the benefits. He who puts up with them gains the benefits, but also the trouble. As the saying goes, there's no honey without bees.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli

Le più caritative persone che sieno sono le donne, e le più fastidiose. Chi le scaccia, fugge e fastidii e l'utile; chi le intrattiene, ha l'utile ed e fastidii insieme. Ed è 'l vero che non è el mele sanza le mosche.
Act III, scene iv
The Mandrake (1524)

„Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Variant trans: Everybody sees what you seem, but few know what thou art.
Ch. 18
Variant: Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are
Source: The Prince (1513)
Context: Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.

„The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 18
Variant translations of portions of this passage:
Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word.
Ch. 18. Concerning the Way in which Princes should keep Faith (as translated by W. K. Marriott)
A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second.
Context: A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognise snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this.
Context: How laudable it is for a prince to keep good faith and live with integrity, and not with astuteness, every one knows. Still the experience of our times shows those princes to have done great things who have had little regard for good faith, and have been able by astuteness to confuse men's brains, and who have ultimately overcome those who have made loyalty their foundation. You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary to know well how to use both the beast and the man. This was covertly taught to princes by ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of those princes were given to Chiron the centaur to be brought up, who kept them under his discipline; this system of having for teacher one who was half beast and half man is meant to indicate that a prince must know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other is not durable. A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognise snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.... those that have been best able to imitate the fox have succeeded best. But it is necessary to be able to disguise this character well, and to be a great feigner and dissembler.

„Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book Discourses on Livy

Book 1, Chapter 39
Discourses on Livy (1517)
Context: Anyone who studies present and ancient affairs will easily see how in all cities and all peoples there still exist, and have always existed, the same desires and passions. Thus, it is an easy matter for him who carefully examines past events to foresee future events in a republic and to apply the remedies employed by the ancients, or, if old remedies cannot be found, to devise new ones based upon the similarity of the events. But since these matters are neglected or not understood by those who read, or, if understood, remain unknown to those who govern, the result is that the same problems always exist in every era.

„The prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other reproaches.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 19: 'That one should avoid being despised and hated'
Context: The prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other reproaches. It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain. And when neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has only to contend with the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease in many ways. It makes him contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous, effeminate, mean-spirited, irresolute, from all of which a prince should guard himself as from a rock; and he should endeavour to show in his actions greatness, courage, gravity, and fortitude; and in his private dealings with his subjects let him show that his judgments are irrevocable, and maintain himself in such reputation that no one can hope either to deceive him or to get round him. That prince is highly esteemed who conveys this impression of himself, and he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against; for, provided it is well known that he is an excellent man and revered by his people, he can only be attacked with difficulty.

„The reason is easy to understand, for it is the common good and not private gain that makes cities great.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book Discourses on Livy

Book 2, Chapter 2
Discourses on Livy (1517)
Context: It is truly a marvelous thing to consider to what greatness Athens arrived in the space of one hundred years after she freed herself from the tyranny of Pisistratus; but, above all, it is even more marvelous to consider the greatness Rome reached when she freed herself from her kings. The reason is easy to understand, for it is the common good and not private gain that makes cities great. Yet, without a doubt, this common good is observed only in republics, for in them everything that promotes it is practised, and however much damage it does to this or that private individual, those who benefit from the said common good are so numerous that they are able to advance in spite of the inclination of the few citizens who are oppressed by it.

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„The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 3 (as translated by RM Adams). Variants [these can seem to generalize the circumstances in ways that the translation above does not.]: The Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others.
There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.
Context: The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage. Therefore, they made war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in order not to have to fight them in Italy... They never went by that saying which you constantly hear from the wiseacres of our day, that time heals all things. They trusted rather their own character and prudence — knowing perfectly well that time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad.

„This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 6
Context: It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

„And though, as Tully remarks, the populace may be ignorant, it is capable of grasping the truth and readily yields when a man, worthy of confidence, lays the truth before it.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book Discourses on Livy

Book 1, Ch. 4 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
Discourses on Livy (1517)
Context: The demands of a free populace, too, are very seldom harmful to liberty, for they are due either to the populace being oppressed or to the suspicious that it is going to be oppressed... and, should these impressions be false, a remedy is provided in the public platform on which some man of standing can get up, appeal to the crowd, and show that it is mistaken. And though, as Tully remarks, the populace may be ignorant, it is capable of grasping the truth and readily yields when a man, worthy of confidence, lays the truth before it.

„The demands of a free populace, too, are very seldom harmful to liberty, for they are due either to the populace being oppressed or to the suspicious that it is going to be oppressed…“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book Discourses on Livy

Book 1, Ch. 4 (as translated by LJ Walker and B Crick)
Discourses on Livy (1517)
Context: The demands of a free populace, too, are very seldom harmful to liberty, for they are due either to the populace being oppressed or to the suspicious that it is going to be oppressed... and, should these impressions be false, a remedy is provided in the public platform on which some man of standing can get up, appeal to the crowd, and show that it is mistaken. And though, as Tully remarks, the populace may be ignorant, it is capable of grasping the truth and readily yields when a man, worthy of confidence, lays the truth before it.

„You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 18
Variant translations of portions of this passage:
Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word.
Ch. 18. Concerning the Way in which Princes should keep Faith (as translated by W. K. Marriott)
A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second.
Context: How laudable it is for a prince to keep good faith and live with integrity, and not with astuteness, every one knows. Still the experience of our times shows those princes to have done great things who have had little regard for good faith, and have been able by astuteness to confuse men's brains, and who have ultimately overcome those who have made loyalty their foundation. You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary to know well how to use both the beast and the man. This was covertly taught to princes by ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of those princes were given to Chiron the centaur to be brought up, who kept them under his discipline; this system of having for teacher one who was half beast and half man is meant to indicate that a prince must know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other is not durable. A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognise snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.... those that have been best able to imitate the fox have succeeded best. But it is necessary to be able to disguise this character well, and to be a great feigner and dissembler.

„A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 14; Variant: A prince should therefore have no other aim or thought, nor take up any other thing for his study but war and it organization and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary to one who commands.
Context: A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state is to be master of the art.

„They trusted rather their own character and prudence — knowing perfectly well that time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 3 (as translated by RM Adams). Variants [these can seem to generalize the circumstances in ways that the translation above does not.]: The Romans, foreseeing troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others.
There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.
Context: The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage. Therefore, they made war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in order not to have to fight them in Italy... They never went by that saying which you constantly hear from the wiseacres of our day, that time heals all things. They trusted rather their own character and prudence — knowing perfectly well that time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad.

„How laudable it is for a prince to keep good faith and live with integrity, and not with astuteness, every one knows.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 18
Variant translations of portions of this passage:
Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word.
Ch. 18. Concerning the Way in which Princes should keep Faith (as translated by W. K. Marriott)
A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second.
Context: How laudable it is for a prince to keep good faith and live with integrity, and not with astuteness, every one knows. Still the experience of our times shows those princes to have done great things who have had little regard for good faith, and have been able by astuteness to confuse men's brains, and who have ultimately overcome those who have made loyalty their foundation. You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary to know well how to use both the beast and the man. This was covertly taught to princes by ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of those princes were given to Chiron the centaur to be brought up, who kept them under his discipline; this system of having for teacher one who was half beast and half man is meant to indicate that a prince must know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other is not durable. A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognise snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.... those that have been best able to imitate the fox have succeeded best. But it is necessary to be able to disguise this character well, and to be a great feigner and dissembler.

„I do feel this: that it is better to be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her down must beat and bully her.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Prince

Source: The Prince (1513), Ch. 25 (as translated by RM Adams)
Context: I conclude, then, that so long as Fortune varies and men stand still, they will prosper while they suit the times, and fail when they do not. But I do feel this: that it is better to be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her down must beat and bully her. We see that she yields more often to men of this stripe than to those who come coldly toward her.

„Discipline in war counts more than fury.“

—  Niccolo Machiavelli, book The Art of War

Book 7; Variant translation: No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.
Nothing is of greater importance in time of war than in knowing how to make the best use of a fair opportunity when it is offered.
Few men are brave by nature, but good discipline and experience make many so.
Good order and discipline in an army are more to be depended upon than ferocity.
As translated by Neal Wood (1965)
The Art of War (1520)
Context: No proceeding is better than that which you have concealed from the enemy until the time you have executed it. To know how to recognize an opportunity in war, and take it, benefits you more than anything else. Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many. Discipline in war counts more than fury.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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