Painted portrait of Florentine statesman and philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.

Niccolò Machiavelli

(1469 - 1527)

At the age of twenty-nine in 1498, Niccolò Machiavelli assumed charge of relations between the Florentine Republic and its territories. He held the post until 1512, at which time the Medici family returned to power, and he was imprisoned, tortured, and then banished. From exile in San Casciano he wrote to a friend, “When evening comes I return home and go into my study, and at the door, I take off my daytime dress covered in mud and dirt, and put on royal and curial robes.” While there he wrote The Prince and his Discourses.

All Writing

If the present be compared with the remote past, it is easily seen that in all cities and in all peoples there are the same desires and the same passions as there always were.

—Niccolò Machiavelli, c. 1513

Men are able to assist fortune but not to thwart her. They can weave her designs, but they cannot destroy them.

—Niccolò Machiavelli, 1531

It is impossible to tell which of the two dispositions we find in men is more harmful in a republic, that which seeks to maintain an established position or that which has none but seeks to acquire it.

—Niccolò Machiavelli, c. 1515


Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince, was well known in his lifetime as a comic dramatist. An early performance in Florence of The Mandrake caused Pope Leo X to insist that its actors and scenery be brought to Rome in 1520. In the prologue to Clizia, a play inspired by Plautus, Machiavelli wrote, “Comedies were invented to be of use and of delight to their audiences.”

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