The Prince

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The Prince (Italian: Il Principe; Latin: De Principatibus) is a 16th-century political treatise written by Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli as an instruction guide for new princes and royals. The general theme of The Prince is of accepting that the aims of princes – such as glory and survival – can justify the use of immoral means to achieve those ends.

Quotes[edit]

Time drives everything before it, and is able to bring with it good as well as evil, and evil as well as good.
Original Italian title: Il Principe. Full text.
  • A cognoscer bene la natura de' popoli bisogna esser Principe, ed a cognoscer bene quella de' Principi conviene essere popolare.
    • To understand the nature of the people it needs to be a prince, and to understand that of princes it needs to be of the people.
    • Dedication
  • Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.
    • Ch. 3
    • Variant translation:
    • Never do any enemy a small injury for they are like a snake which is half beaten and it will strike back the first chance it gets.
  • Il tempo si caccia innanzi ogni cosa, e può condurre seco bene come male, male come bene.
    • Time drives everything before it, and is able to bring with it good as well as evil, and evil as well as good.
      • Ch. 3, as translated by M. K. Marriot (1908)
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • If someone puts up the argument that King Louis gave the Romagna to Pope Alexander, and the kingdom of Naples to Spain, in order to avoid a war, I would answer as I did before: that you should never let things get out of hand in order to avoid war. You don't avoid such a war, you merely postpone it, to your own disadvantage.
    • Ch. 3, as translated by RM Adams
  • ...perché sempre, ancora che uno sia fortissimo in sugli eserciti, ha bisogno del favore de’ provinciali a intrare in una provincia.
    • ...because you will always, however strong your armies may be, need the favour of the inhabitants to the possession of a province.
    • Ch. 3
  • And here we must observe that men must either be flattered or crushed; for they will revenge themselves for slight wrongs, whilst for grave ones they cannot. The injury therefore that you do to a man should be such that you need not fear his revenge.
    • Ch. 3
  • And so it is with State affairs. For the distempers of a State being discovered while yet inchoate, which can only be done by a sagacious ruler, may easily be dealt with; but when, from not being observed, they are suffered to grow until they are obvious to every one, there is no longer any remedy.
    • Ch. 3
  • […]you ought never to suffer your designs to be crossed in order to avoid war, since war is not so to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage.
    • Ch. 3
  • ...debbe un uomo prudente entrare sempre per vie battute da uomini grandi, e quelli che sono stati eccellentissimi, imitare...
    • A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent.
    • Ch. 6; translated by Luigi Ricci
  • For, besides what has been said, it should be borne in mind that the temper of the multitude is fickle, and that while it is easy to persuade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion. Wherefore, matters should be so ordered that when men no longer believe of their own accord, they may be compelled to believe by force.
    • Ch. 6
  • 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.
    • Ch. 6; translated by W. K. Marriott
  • Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed.
    • Ch. 6; translated by N. H. Thomson
  • Chi crede che ne' personaggi grandi beneficii nuovi faccino dimenticare l'ingiurie vecchie, s'inganna.
    • He who believes that new benefits will cause great personages to forget old injuries is deceived.
    • Ch. 7; translated by W. K. Marriott
  • Those cruelties we may say are well employed, if it be permitted to speak well of things evil, which are done once for all under the necessity of self-preservation, and are not afterwards persisted in, but so far as possible modified to the advantage of the governed. Ill-employed cruelties, on the other hand, are those which from small beginnings increase rather than diminish with time. They who follow the first of these methods, may, by the grace of God and man, find, as did Agathocles, that their condition is not desperate; but by no possibility can the others maintain themselves.
    • Ch. 8
  • Chi fonda in sul populo fonda in sul fango.
    • He who builds on the people, builds on the mud.
    • Ch. 9; translated by W. K. Marriott
  • E però un principe savio deve pensare un modo per il quale i suoi cittadini sempre ed in ogni modo e qualità di tempo abbiano bisogno dello Stato di lui, e sempre poi gli saranno fedeli.
    • Therefore a wise prince ought to adopt such a course that his citizens will always in every sort and kind of circumstance have need of the state and of him, and then he will always find them faithful.
    • Ch. 9; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • La natura degli uomini è, così obligarsi per li beneficii che essi fanno, come per quelli che essi ricevono.
    • It is the nature of men to be bound by the benefits they confer as much as by those they receive.
    • Ch. 10; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or composite, are good laws and good arms; and as there cannot be good laws where the state is not well armed, it follows that where they are well armed they have good laws.
    • Ch. 12; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • 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.
    • Ch. 14; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • Among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.
    • Ch. 14; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • 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.
    • Ch. 14; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • 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.
    • Ch. 14; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • Molti si sono immaginate Repubbliche e Principati, che non si sono mai visti nè cognosciuti essere in vero; perchè egli è tanto discosto da come si vive, a come si doveria vivere, che colui che lascia quello che si fa per quello che si doveria fare, impara piuttosto la rovina, che la preservazione sua.
    • Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather bring about his own ruin than his preservation.
    • Ch. 15; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • Un uomo che voglia fare in tutte le parti professione di buono, conviene che rovini fra tanti che non sono buoni.
    • 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.
    • Ch. 15; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • È necessario ad un Principe, volendosi mantenere, imparare a potere essere non buono, ed usarlo e non usarlo secondo la necessità.
    • 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.
    • Ch. 15; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • But since it is my object to write what shall be useful to whosoever understands it, it seems to me better to follow the real truth of things than an imaginary view of them. For many Republics and Princedoms have been imagined that were never seen or known to exist in reality. And the manner in which we live, and that in which we ought to live, are things so wide asunder, that he who quits the one to betake himself to the other is more likely to destroy than to save himself; since any one who would act up to a perfect standard of goodness in everything, must be ruined among so many who are not good. It is essential therefore for a prince to have learnt how to be other than good and to use, or not to use, his goodness as necessity requires.
    • Ch. 15
  • I say that every prince must desire to be considered merciful and not cruel. He must, however, take care not to misuse this mercifulness. ... A prince, therefore, must not mind incurring the charge of cruelty for the purpose of keeping his subjects united and confident; for, with a very few examples, he will be more merciful than those who, from excess of tenderness, allow disorders to arise, from whence spring murders and rapine; for these as a rule injure the whole community, while the executions carried out by the prince injure only one individual. And of all princes, it is impossible for a new prince to escape the name of cruel, new states being always full of dangers. ... Nevertheless, he must be cautious in believing and acting, and must not inspire fear of his own accord, and must proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence does not render him incautious, and too much diffidence does not render him intolerant. From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved more than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting. For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger, and covetous of gain ; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours; they offer you their blood, their goods, their life, and their children, as I have before said, when the necessity is remote; but when it approaches, they revolt. And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined, for the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is merited but is not secured, and at times is not to be had. And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.
    • Ch. 17, as translated by Luigi Ricci (1903)
    • Variant translations of portions of this passage:
    • From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
    • He ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear, but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.
    • The prince who relies upon their words, without having otherwise provided for his security, is ruined; for friendships that are won by awards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved, yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.
  • Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred; for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together, and will be always attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women. And when he is obliged to take the life of any one, to do so when there is a proper justification and manifest reason for it; but above all he must abstain from taking the property of others, for men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Then also pretexts for seizing property are never wanting, and one who begins to live by rapine will always find some reason for taking the goods of others, whereas causes for taking life are rarer and more quickly destroyed.
    • Ch. 17; translated by Luigi Ricci
  • A Prince, therefore, if he is enabled thereby to forbear from plundering his subjects, to defend himself, to escape poverty and contempt, and the necessity of becoming rapacious, ought to care little though he incur the reproach of miserliness, for this is one of those vices which enable him to reign.
    • Ch. 17
  • And when he is obliged to take the life of any one, to do so when there is a proper justification and manifest reason for it; but above all he must abstain from taking the property of others, for men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.
    • Ch. 17
  • For of men it may generally be affirmed, that they are thankless, fickle, false studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lives, and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against you.
    • Ch. 17
  • 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.
    • Ch. 18; translated by Luigi Ricci
    • 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.
  • Sono tanto semplici gli uomini, e tanto ubbidiscono alle necessità presenti, che colui che inganna, troverà sempre chi si lascerà ingannare.
    • Men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.
    • Ch. 18; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise... But it is necessary to know how to disguise this nature well and to be a great hypocrite and a liar.
    • Ch. 18; translated by ‎Peter Bondanella
  • ognuno vede quello che tu pari, pochi sentono quello che tu se; e quelli pochi non ardiseano opporsi alla opinione di molti che abbino la maestà dello stato ch li difenda:...
    • 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.
    • Ch. 18; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • Be it known, then, that there are two ways of contending, one in accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second.
    • Ch. 18
  • ...and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.
    • Ch. 18
  • 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.
    • Ch. 19; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • A prince ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his subjects, the other from without, on account of external powers. From the latter he is defended by being well armed and having good allies, and if he is well armed he will have good friends, and affairs will always remain quiet within when they are quiet without, unless they should have been already disturbed by conspiracy; and even should affairs outside be disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations and has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will resist every attack.
    • Ch. 19; Variant: Against foreign powers, a prince can defend himself with good weapons and good friends; if he has good weapons, he will never lack for good friends. (as translated by RM Adams)
  • Gli stati bene ordinati, e li Principi savi hanno con ogni diligenza pensato di non far cadere in disperazione i grandi e di satisfare al popolo, e tenerlo contento.
    • Well-ordered states and wise princes have taken every care not to drive the nobles to desperation, and to keep the people satisfied and contented, for this is one of the most important objects a prince can have.
    • Ch. 19; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • Si deve notare che l'odio si acquista così mediante le buone opere, come le triste; e però, come io dissi di sopra, volendo un Principe mantenere lo Stato, è spesso forzato a non esser buono.
    • It should be noted that hatred is acquired as much by good works as by bad ones, therefore, as I said before, a prince wishing to keep his state is very often forced to do evil.
    • Ch. 19; translated by W. K. Marriot
    • Variant: And here it is to be noted that hatred is incurred as well on account of good actions as of bad; or which reason, as I have already said, a Prince who would maintain his authority is often compelled to be other than good. For when the class, be it the people, the soldiers, or the nobles, on whom you judge it necessary to rely for your support, is corrupt, you must needs adapt yourself to its humours, and satisfy these, in which case virtuous conduct will only prejudice you.
  • Queste simili morti, le quali seguitano per deliberazione di un animo deliberato e ostinato, non si possono da' Principi evitare, perchè ciascuno che non si curi di morire, lo può fare.
    • Such-like deaths, which are deliberately inflicted with a resolved and desperate courage, cannot be avoided by princes, because any one who does not fear to die can inflict them.
    • Ch. 19; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • For a Prince is exposed to two dangers, from within in respect of his subjects, from without in respect of foreign powers. Against the latter he will defend himself with good arms and good allies, and if he have good arms he will always have good allies;
    • Ch. 19
  • La migliore fortezza che sia, è non essere odiato da' popoli.
    • The best possible fortress is—not to be hated by the people.
    • Ch. 20; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • There never was a new prince who has disarmed his subjects; rather when he has found them disarmed he has always armed them, because, by arming them, those arms become yours, those men who were distrusted become faithful, and those who were faithful are kept so, and your subjects become your adherents. And whereas all subjects cannot be armed, yet when those whom you do arm are benefited, the others can be handled more freely, and this difference in their treatment, which they quite understand, makes the former your dependents, and the latter, considering it to be necessary that those who have the most danger and service should have the most reward, excuse you. But when you disarm them, you at once offend them by showing that you distrust them, either for cowardice or for want of loyalty, and either of these opinions breeds hatred against you.
    • Ch. 20, S. 2 [1]
  • It is easier for the prince to make friends of those men who were contented under the former government, and are therefore his enemies, than of those who, being discontented with it, were favourable to him and encouraged him to seize it.
    • Ch. 20; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • Nè creda mai alcuno Stato poter pigliare partiti sicuri... La prudenza consiste in saper cognoscere la qualità degli inconvenienti, e prendere il manco tristo per buono.
    • Never let any Government imagine that it can choose perfectly safe courses... Prudence consists in knowing how to distinguish the character of troubles, and for choice to take the lesser evil.
    • Ch. 21; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • And it will always happen that he who is not your friend will invite you to neutrality, while he who is your friend will call on you to declare yourself openly in arms. Irresolute Princes, to escape immediate danger, commonly follow the neutral path, in most instances to their destruction.
    • Ch. 21
  • The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
    • Ch. 22; translated by W. K. Marriot
    • Variant translation: The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
  • Sono di tre generazioni cervelli; l'uno intende per sè, l'altro intende quanto da altri gli è mostro, il terzo non intende nè sè stesso nè per dimostrazione d'altri. Quel primo è eccellentissimo, il secondo eccellente, il terzo inutile.
    • There are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.
    • Ch. 22; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth; but when everyone can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.
    • Ch. 23; translated by Luigi Ricci
  • A prince who is not wise himself will never take good advice.
    • Ch. 23; translated by W. K. Marriot
    • Variant translation: A prince who is not wise himself cannot be wisely counseled.
  • Conchiudo adunque, che, variando la fortuna, e gli uomini stando nei loro modi ostinati, sono felici mentre concordano insieme, e come discordano sono infelici. Io giudico ben questo, che sia meglio essere impetuoso, che rispettivo, perchè la Fortuna è donna; ed è necessario, volendola tener sotto, batterla, ed urtarla; e si vede che la si lascia più vincere da questi che da quelli che freddamente procedono.
    • 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.
    • Ch. 25, as translated by RM Adams
  • Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.
    • Ch. 26; translated by W. K. Marriot
  • God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.
    • Ch. 26; translated by W. K. Marriot

Attributed[edit]

  • And that prince who bases his power entirely on...words, finding himself completely without other preparations, comes to ruin.

Quotes about The Prince[edit]

  • No work in the history of political thought has aroused greater controversy than The Prince. Machiavelli's full intention in writing the work remains obscure. What does come through clearly is his ironic quality of mind.
    • Dante Germino, Machiavelli to Marx (1972), Ch. 2 : Machiavelli

External links[edit]

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