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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. Francesco Sforza, through being martial, from a private person

became Duke of Milan; and the sons, through avoiding the hardships and troubles of

arms, from dukes became private persons. For among other evils which being unarmed

brings you, it causes you to be despised, and this is one of those ignominies against which

a prince ought to guard himself, as is shown later on. Because there is nothing

proportionate between the armed and the unarmed; and it is not reasonable that he who is

armed should yield obedience willingly to him who is unarmed, or that the unarmed man

should be secure among armed servants. Because, there being in the one disdain and in

the other suspicion, it is not possible for them to work well together. And therefore a

prince who does not understand the art of war, over and above the other misfortunes

already mentioned, cannot be respected by his soldiers, nor can he rely on them. He ought

never, therefore, to have out of his thoughts this subject of war, and in peace he should

addict himself more to its exercise than in war; this he can do in two ways, the one by

action, the other by study.

As regards action, he ought above all things to keep his men well organized and drilled,

to follow incessantly the chase, by which he accustoms his body to hardships, and learns

something of the nature of localities, and gets to find out how the mountains rise, how the

valleys open out, how the plains lie, and to understand the nature of rivers and marshes,

and in all this to take the greatest care. This knowledge is useful in two ways. Firstly, he

learns to know his country, and is better able to undertake its defense; afterwards, by

means of the knowledge and observation of that locality, he understands with ease any

other which it may be necessary for him to study hereafter; because the hills, valleys, and

plains, and rivers and marshes that are, for instance, in Tuscany, have a certain

resemblance to those of other countries, so that with a knowledge of the aspect of one

country one can easily arrive at a knowledge of others. And the prince that lacks this skill

lacks the essential which it is desirable that a captain should possess, for it teaches him to

surprise his enemy, to select quarters, to lead armies, to array the battle, to besiege towns

to advantage.


But to exercise the intellect the prince should read histories, and study there the actions of

illustrious men, to see how they have borne themselves in war, to examine the causes of

their victories and defeat, so as to avoid the latter and imitate the former; and above all do

as an illustrious man did, who took as an exemplar one who had been praised and famous

before him, and whose achievements and deeds he always kept in his mind, as it is said

Alexander the Great imitated Achilles, Caesar Alexander, Scipio Cyrus. And whoever

reads the life of Cyrus, written by Xenophon, will recognize afterwards in the life of

Scipio how that imitation was his glory, and how in chastity, affability, humanity, and

liberality Scipio conformed to those things which have been written of Cyrus by

Xenophon. A wise prince ought to observe some such rules, and never in peaceful times

stand idle, but increase his resources with industry in such a way that they may be

available to him in adversity, so that if fortune chances it may find him prepared to resist

her blows.



It remains now to see what ought to be the rules of conduct for a prince towards subject

and friends. And as I know that many have written on this point, I expect I shall be

considered presumptuous in mentioning it again, especially as in discussing it I shall

depart from the methods of other people. But, it being my intention to write a thing which

shall be useful to him who apprehends it, it appears to me more appropriate to follow up

the real truth of the matter than the imagination of it; for many have pictured republics

and principalities which in fact have never been known or seen, because how one lives is

so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for what

ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation; for a man who wishes to

act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so

much that is evil.

Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and

to make use of it or not according to necessity. Therefore, putting on one side imaginary

things concerning a prince, and discussing those which are real, I say that all men when

they are spoken of, and chiefly princes for being more highly placed, are remarkable for

some of those qualities which bring them either blame or praise; and thus it is that one is

reputed liberal, another miserly, using a Tuscan term (because an avaricious person in our

language is still he who desires to possess by robbery, whilst we call one miserly who

deprives himself too much of the use of his own); one is reputed generous, one rapacious;

one cruel, one compassionate; one faithless, another faithful; one effeminate and

cowardly, another bold and brave; one affable, another haughty; one lascivious, another

chaste; one sincere, another cunning; one hard, another easy; one grave, another

frivolous; one religious, another unbelieving, and the like. And I know that everyone will

confess that it would be most praiseworthy in a prince to exhibit all the above qualities

that are considered good; but because they can neither be entirely possessed nor

observed, for human conditions do not permit it, it is necessary for him to be sufficiently

prudent that he may know how to avoid the reproach of those vices which would lose him

his state; and also to keep himself, if it be possible, from those which would not lose him

it; but this not being possible, he may with less hesitation abandon himself to them. And

again, he need not make himself uneasy at incurring a reproach for those vices without

which the state can only be saved with difficulty, for if everything is considered carefully,

it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed, would be his ruin;

whilst something else, which looks like vice, yet followed brings him security and



Commencing then with the first of the above-named characteristics, I say that it would be

well to be reputed liberal. Nevertheless, liberality exercised in a way that does not bring

you the reputation for it, injures you; for if one exercises it honestly and as it should be

exercised, it may not become known, and you will not avoid the reproach of its opposite.

Therefore, anyone wishing to maintain among men the name of liberal is obliged to avoid

no attribute of magnificence; so that a prince thus inclined will consume in such acts all

his property, and will be compelled in the end, if he wish to maintain the name of liberal,

to unduly weigh down his people, and tax them, and do everything he can to get money.

This will soon make him odious to his subjects, and becoming poor he will be little

valued by any one; thus, with his liberality, having offended many and rewarded few, he

is affected by the very first trouble and imperiled by whatever may be the first danger;

recognizing this himself, and wishing to draw back from it, he runs at once into the

reproach of being miserly.

Therefore, a prince, not being able to exercise this virtue of liberality in such a way that it

is recognized, except to his cost, if he is wise he ought not to fear the reputation of being

mean, for in time he will come to be more considered than if liberal, seeing that with his

economy his revenues are enough, that he can defend himself against all attacks, and is

able to engage in enterprises without burdening his people; thus it comes to pass that he

exercises liberality towards all from whom he does not take, who are numberless, and

meanness towards those to whom he does not give, who are few.

We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been

considered mean; the rest have failed. Pope Julius the Second was assisted in reaching the

papacy by a reputation for liberality, yet he did not strive afterwards to keep it up, when

he made war on the King of France; and he made many wars without imposing any

extraordinary tax on his subjects, for he supplied his additional expenses out of his long

thriftiness. The present King of Spain would not have undertaken or conquered in so

many enterprises if he had been reputed liberal. A prince, therefore, provided that he has

not to rob his subjects, that he can defend himself, that he does not become poor and

abject, that he is not forced to become rapacious, ought to hold of little account a

reputation for being mean, for it is one of those vices which will enable him to govern.

And if anyone should say: Caesar obtained empire by liberality, and many others have

reached the highest positions by having been liberal, and by being considered so, I

answer: Either you are a prince in fact, or in a way to become one. In the first case this

liberality is dangerous, in the second it is very necessary to be considered liberal; and

Caesar was one of those who wished to become pre-eminent in Rome; but if he had

survived after becoming so, and had not moderated his expenses, he would have

destroyed his government. And if anyone should reply: Many have been princes, and

have done great things with armies, who have been considered very liberal, I reply: Either

a prince spends that which is his own or his subjects' or else that of others. In the first

case he ought to be sparing, in the second he ought not to neglect any opportunity for

liberality. And to the prince who goes forth with his army, supporting it by pillage, sack,

and extortion, handling that which belongs to others, this liberality is necessary,

otherwise he would not be followed by soldiers. And of that which is neither yours nor

your subjects' you can be a ready giver, as were Cyrus, Caesar, and Alexander; because it

does not take away your reputation if you squander that of others, but adds to it; it is only

squandering your own that injures you.

And there is nothing wastes so rapidly as liberality, for even whilst you exercise it you

lose the power to do so, and so become either poor or despised, or else, in avoiding

poverty, rapacious and hated. And a prince should guard himself, above all things,

against being despised and hated; and liberality leads you to both. Therefore it is wiser to

have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred, than to be

compelled through seeking a reputation for liberality to incur a name for rapacity which

begets reproach with hatred.



Coming now to the other qualities mentioned above, I say that every prince ought to

desire to be considered clement and not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to

misuse this clemency. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty

reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this be

rightly considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine

people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed.

Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind

the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those

who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or

robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which

originate with a prince offend the individual only.


Upon this a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared or feared than

loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to

unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either

must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are

ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours

entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above,

when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that

prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined;

because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of

mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be

relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is

feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of

men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread

of punishment which never fails.

Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he

avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which

will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and

from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of

someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause, but above all

things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly

forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Besides, pretexts for

taking away the property are never wanting; for he who has once begun to live by

robbery will always find pretexts for seizing what belongs to others; but reasons for

taking life, on the contrary, are more difficult to find and sooner lapse. But when a prince

is with his army, and has under control a multitude of soldiers, then it is quite necessary

for him to disregard the reputation of cruelty, for without it he would never hold his army

united or disposed to its duties.

Among the wonderful deeds of Hannibal this one is enumerated: that having led an

enormous army, composed of many various races of men, to fight in foreign lands, no

dissensions arose either among them or against the prince, whether in his bad or in his

good fortune. This arose from nothing else than his inhuman cruelty, which, with his

boundless valor, made him revered and terrible in the sight of his soldiers, but without

that cruelty, his other virtues were not sufficient to produce this effect. And short-sighted

writers admire his deeds from one point of view and from another condemn the principal

cause of them. That it is true his other virtues would not have been sufficient for him may

be proved by the case of Scipio, that most excellent man, not only of his own times but

within the memory of man, against whom, nevertheless, his army rebelled in Spain; this

arose from nothing but his too great forbearance, which gave his soldiers more license

than is consistent with military discipline. For this he was upbraided in the Senate by

Fabius Maximus, and called the corrupter of the Roman soldiery. The Locrians were laid

waste by a legate of Scipio, yet they were not avenged by him, nor was the insolence of

the legate punished, owing entirely to his easy nature. Insomuch that someone in the

Senate, wishing to excuse him, said there were many men who knew much better how

not to err than to correct the errors of others. This disposition, if he had been continued in

the command, would have destroyed in time the fame and glory of Scipio; but, he being

under the control of the Senate, this injurious characteristic not only concealed itself, but

contributed to his glory.

Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men

loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise

prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of

others; he must endeavor only to avoid hatred, as is noted.