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Machiavelli’s Opinions of Cesare Borgia and Agathocles

  • Date Submitted: 01/10/2015 07:23 AM
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I Introduction

Machiavelli’s little book The Prince has been a classic of political thought for nearly 500 years.   It is a realistic examination of the way people gain, and hold, power.
This paper explores the question of why Machiavelli admires Cesare Borgia, but dislikes Agathocles, though the two men used similar methods.

II Discussion

In Chapter 7, Machiavelli discusses the problems encountered by rulers like Borgia, who acquire their principalities either by good fortune or though the efforts of others.   He says, “[T]hose who solely by good fortune become princes … have little trouble in rising, but much in keeping atop; they have not any difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they have many when they reach the summit.”   (Machiavelli, PG).  
Borgia, after gaining power, did “all that ought to be done by a wise and able man to fix firmly his roots in the states which the arms and fortunes of others had bestowed on him.”   (PG).   His father had allowed the French back into Italy; the Venetians allied with them.   Then Alexander used French soldiers to attack Romagna, which surrendered.   It was this state that Borgia had to hold, but he had two main problems:   the French soldiers didn’t appear loyal to him, and second, he didn’t have the goodwill of France.   Borgia say that the men he was using were unwilling to fight and of questionable loyalty, so he resolved not to depend on the “arms and luck of others.”   (PG).   Instead, he weakened the opposition by winning the loyalty of his opponent’s adherents, “making them his gentlemen, giving them good pay … and honouring them with office and command.”   (PG).   Within a few months, these men were loyal to him.  
Then he set out to destroy their leaders.   He was able to trick them into gathering at Sinigaglia, where he “exterminated the leaders,” without help from the French.   He thus had eliminated his enemies, either by killing them or by turning them into friends, and he did it without...

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