Niccolò Machiavelli, Life and Times

 Machiavelli was born in 1469 and raised in Florence, Italy.
 Machiavelli was born in a tumultuous era in which popes waged acquisitive wars against Italian city-states, and
people and cities often fell from power as France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire battled for regional
influence and control.
 Political-military alliances continually changed, featuring mercenary leaders, who changed sides without
warning, and the rise and fall of many short-lived governments.
 In 1494 Florence restored the republic, expelling the Medici family that had ruled Florence for some sixty years.
Shortly after Machiavelli was appointed to an office of the second a medieval writing office that put Machiavelli
in charge of the production of official Florentine government documents.
 In the first decade of the sixteenth century, he carried out several diplomatic missions: most notably to the
Papacy in Rome. Moreover, from 1502 to 1503, he witnessed the brutal reality of the state-building methods
of Cesare Borgia and his father, Pope Alexander VI, who were then engaged in the process of trying to bring a
large part of Central Italy under their possession. Other excursions to the court of Louis XII and the Spanish court
influenced his writings such as The Prince.
 Between 1503 and 1506, Machiavelli was responsible for the Florentine militia. He distrusted mercenaries (a
distrust that he explained in his official reports and then later in his theoretical works for their unpatriotic and
uninvested nature in the war that makes their allegiance fickle and often too unreliable when most needed) and
instead staffed his army with citizens, a policy that was to be repeatedly successful.
 In 1513 the Medici family returned to Florence. Machiavelli was first imprisoned and tortured on the grounds of
conspiracy, then sent in exile. It is here he devoted himself to studying and writing of the political treatises that
earned his place in the intellectual development of political philosophy and political conduct
 If the rotten politics of Italy affected him deeply, Machiavelli was also materially influenced by the growing spirit
of the Renaissance in Italy which ushered in an era of unstrained intellectual outlook, freedom from the shackles
of’ scholastic dogma and ancient i.e. pre-Christian attitude towards morality and religion.
 The Catholic Church and the clergy of Machiavelli’s time wanted to maintain a shadow of their spiritual power
over whole of Italy, which left Italy in a state of degradation.
 Machiavelli was very much a creature of the Renaissance, native city of Florence being then the center of Italian
Renaissance. In the middle Ages, the church and the state were closely interrelated, the Church on the whole
dominating the state and profoundly influencing the political philosophy of the latter. The Renaissance
encouraged men to re-examine things from-other than the religious point of view.
 It was possible now to formulate political theories on a purely secular basis and Machiavelli is the chief exponent
of this school of thought.
 Dunning says that “Machiavelli stood on the border-line between the Middle and the Modern ages. He
ushered in the Modern Age by riding politics of the vassal state of religion”.
 In the middle ages people had concentrated on matters of spirit salvation and God in the light of dogmatic
Christian theology. Man, as man, had little significance then. With the renaissance, man instead of God, became
the chief entity and subject of study.
 There developed the spirit of individualism which laid stress on the dignity of man, natural and human. Renaissance ushered in rationalism which viewed on God, man and nature from the standpoint of reason.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: