Discourses, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Table of Contents

Niccolo Machiavelli to Zanobi Buondelmonti and to Cosimo Rucellai

First Book

  1. What have Generally Been the Beginnings of Some Cities, and what was that of Rome
  2. Of the Kinds of Republics There Are, and of which was the Roman Republic
  3. What Events Caused the Creation of the Tribunes of the Plebs in Rome, which Made the Republic More Perfect
  4. That Disunion of the Plebs and the Roman Senate Made that Republic Free and Powerful
  5. Where the Guarding of Liberty is More Securely Placed, Either in the People or in the Nobles; and which have the Greater Reason to Become Tumultuous Either he who Wants to Acquire or he who Wants to Maintain
  6. Whether it was Possible to Establish a Government in Rome which Could Eliminate the Enmity Between the Populace and The Senate
  7. How Much the Faculty of Accusing [Judiciary] is necessary for a Republic for the Maintenance of Liberty
  8. As Much as Accusations are Useful to a Republic, So Much So are Calumnies Pernicious
  9. How it is Necessary for One Man Alone in Desiring to Organize a New Republic to Reform its Institutions Entirely Outside the Ancient Ones
  10. As Much as the Founders of Republics and Kingdoms are Laudable, So Much are Those of a Tyranny Shameful
  11. Of the Religions of the Romans
  12. Of How Much Importance Should Be Given Religion; and How Italy, Because the Medium of the Roman Church was Lacking, Was Ruined
  13. How the Romans Served themselves of Religion to Establish the City and to Carry Out their Enterprises and Stop Tumults
  14. The Romans Interpreted the Auspices According to Necessity, and with their Prudence Made a Show of Observing Religion, Even when They Were Forced not to Observe It, and If Anyone Recklessly Disparaged it They Punished Him
  15. How the Samnites had Recourse to Religion as an Extreme Remedy for the Things Afflicting them
  16. A People Accustomed to Living Under a Prince, If by Some Accident Becomes Free, Maintains its Liberty with Difficulty
  18. In what Way in a Corrupt City a Free State Can Be Maintained, If There is One There, or If not, How to Establish It
  19. A Weak Prince who Succeeds an Excellent Prince Can Be Maintained, but Any Kingdom Cannot Be Maintained If a Weak One Is Succeeded by Another Weak One
  20. Two Continuous Successions of Princes of Virtu achieve great Results; and that well organized Republics of necessity Have Successions of Virtu; Therefore their Acquisitions and Expansions are Great
  21. How Much Blame that Prince and Republic Merit who Lack their own Arms
  22. What is to Be noted in the Case of the Three Roman Horatii and of the Three Alban Curatii
  23. That one ought not to put in Peril all his Fortune and all his Forces; and because of this the Guarding of Passes is Often Harmful
  24. Well Organized Republics Establish Rewards and Penalties for their Citizens, but Never Compensate One [At the Expense] Of the Other
  25. Whoever Wants to Reform an Ancient State into a Free City, Should Retain at Least a Shadow of the Ancient Forms
  26. A New Prince in a City or Province Taken by Him ought to Organize Everything Anew
  27. Very rarely do Men know how to be entirely Good or entirely Bad
  28. For what Reasons the Romans Were Less Ungrateful to their Citizens than the Athenians
  29. Which is More Ungrateful, a People or a Prince
  30. What Means a Prince or a Republic ought to Use to Avoid this Vice of Ingratitude, and what that Captain or that Citizen ought to Do So as not to Be Touched by it
  31. That Roman Captains Were Never Extraordinarily Punished for Errors Committed; Nor Were They Yet Punished When, by their Ignorance or Bad Proceedings Undertaken by them, Harm Ensued to the Republic
  32. A Republic or a Prince ought not to Defer Benefiting Men in their Necessity
  33. When an Evil has Sprung up Either Within a State or Against a State, it is a More Salutary Proceeding to Temporize With it than to Attack it Rashly
  34. The Dictatorial Authority Did Good and not Harm to the Roman Republic; and that the Authority which Citizens Take Away, not Those are Given them by Free Suffrage, are Pernicious to civil Society
  35. The Reason why the Creation of the Decemvirs in Rome was Harmful to the Liberty of that Republic, notwithstanding That it was Created by Public and Free Suffrage
  36. Citizens who have Been Given the Higher Honors ought not to Disdain the Lesser
  37. What Troubles the Agrarian Law Brought Forth in Rome; and How Troublesome it is to Make a Law in a Republic which Greatly Regards the Past but Contrary to the Ancient Customs of the City
  38. Weak Republics are Irresolute and do not know how to decide; and if they take up any Proceeding, it results more from Necessity than from Election
  39. The Same Incidents Often Happen to Different People
  40. The Creation of the Decemvirate in Rome, and what is to Be noted in It; and where it Will Be Considered Among Many Other Things How a Republic Can Be Saved or Ruined Because of Similar Accidents
  41. To Jump from Humility to Pride and from Mercy to Cruelty Without Profitable Means, is an Imprudent and Useless Thing
  42. How Easily Man May Be Corrupted
  43. Those who Combat for their own Glory are Good and Faithful Soldiers
  44. A Multitude Without a Head is Useless, and One ought not to Threaten First, and then Seek Authority
  45. It is a Bad Example not to Observe a Law that has Been Made, and Especially by the Author of It; and it is Most Harmful to Renew Every Day New Injuries in a City and to the One who Governs it
  46. Men Jump from One Ambition to Another, and First They Seek not to Be Offended, then to Offend Others
  47. Men, Although They Deceive themselves in General Matters do not Deceive themselves in the Particulars
  48. Whoever Wants a Magistracy not to Be Given to a Vile or Wicked One, Will have it Asked by a Man More Vile and More Wicked, or by One More Noble and More Good
  49. If those Cities which had their Beginning Free as Rome, have had difficulty in finding Laws that would maintain them, Those that had their Beginning in Servitude have Almost an Impossibility
  50. A Council or Magistrate ought not to Be Able to Stop the Activities of a City
  51. A Republic or a Prince ought to Feign to Do Through Liberality, that which Necessity Constrains them
  52. To Reprimand the Insolence of a Powerful One who Springs up in a Republic, There is No More Secure and Less Troublesome Way than to Forestall Him Those Ways by which he Comes to Power
  53. The People Many Times Desire their Ruin, Deceived by a False Species of Good: And How Great Hopes and Strong Promises Easily Move them
  54. How Much Authority a Great Man has in Restraining an Excited Multitude [Mob]
  55. How Easily Things are Managed in that City where the Multitude is not Corrupt, and that where There is Equality a Principality Cannot Be Established, and where There is None a Republic Cannot Be Established
  56. Before Great Events Occur in a City or a Province, Signs Come which Foretell them, or Men who Predict them
  57. Together the Plebs are Strong, Dispersed They are Weak
  58. The Multitude is Wiser and More Constant than a Prince
  59. Which Alliances or Leagues Can Be Trusted, Whether Those Made with a Republic or Those Made with a Prince
  60. How the Consulship and every other Magistracy in Rome ought to be [Bestowed] Without Any Regard to Age

Second Book

  1. Whether Virtu or Fortune was the Greater Cause for the Empire which the Romans Acquired
  2. With what People the Romans had to Combat, and How Obstinately They Defended their Liberty
  3. Rome Became a Great City by Ruining the Surrounding Cities and Admitting Foreigners Easily to Her Honors
  4. Republics have had Three Ways of Expanding
  5. That the Changes of Sects and Languages, Together with the Accident of Deluges and Pestilence, Extinguished the Memory of Things
  6. How the Romans Proceeded in Making War
  7. How Much Land the Romans Gave Each Colonist
  8. The Reason why People Depart from their National Places and Inundate the Country of Others
  9. What Causes Commonly Make Wars Arise Between the Powerful
  10. Money is not the Sinew of War although this is common opinion
  11. It is not a Prudent Proceeding to Make an Alliance with a Prince who has More Reputation than Power
  12. Is it better, fearing to Be Assaulted, to carry out or await War
  13. That One Comes from the Bottom to a Great Fortune More by Fraud than by Force
  14. Men Often Deceive themselves Believing that by Humility They Overcome Haughtiness
  15. Weak States are Always Ambiguous in their Resolutions, and Weak Decisions are Always Harmful
  16. How Much the Soldiers in Our Times are Different from the Ancient Organization
  17. How much the Army ought to esteem the Artillery in the Present times, and if that opinion that is generally had of it Is True
  18. That Because of the Authority of the Romans and by the Example of Ancient Armies, the Infantry ought to Be More Esteemed than Cavalry
  19. That Acquisitions in Republics not well Organized and that do not proceed according to Roman Virtu, are the ruin and not the Exaltation of them
  20. What Perils are Brought to that Prince or that Republic which Avails Itself of Auxiliary and Mercenary Troops
  21. The First Praetor which the Romans sent any place was the Capua, four hundred years after they had begun to make War [Against that City]
  22. How Often the Opinions of Men in Judging Things [To Be] Great are False
  23. How Much the Romans, in Judging the Matters for Any Incident that Should Necessitate Such Judgment, Avoided Half-Way Measures
  24. Fortresses are Generally More Harmful than Useful
  25. That the Assaulting of a Disunited City in Order to Occupy it by Means of its Disunion is an Error
  26. Contempt and Insult Generate Hatred Against Those who Employ them, Without Any Usefulness to them
  27. To Prudent Princes and Republics, it ought to Be Enough to Win, for Often it is not Enough If They Lose
  28. How Dangerous it is for a Prince or a Republic, not to Avenge an Injury Made Against the Public or a Private [Citizen]
  29. Fortune Blinds the Minds of Men when she Does not Want them to Oppose Her Designs
  30. Truly Powerful Republics and Princes do not Purchase Friendship with Money, but with Virtu and Reputation of Strength
  31. How Dangerous it is to Believe Exiles
  32. In How Many Ways the Romans Occupied Towns
  33. How the Romans Gave their Captains of Armies Uncontrolled Commissions

Third Book

  1. To Want that a Sect or a Republic Exist for Long, it is Necessary to Return them Often to their Principles
  2. How at Times it is a Very Wise Thing to Simulate Madness
  3. How it was Necessary, in Wanting to Maintain the Newly Acquired Liberty, to Kill the Sons of Brutus
  4. A Prince Does not Live Securely in a Principality While Those who have Been Despoiled of it Live
  5. That which Makes a King Lose the Kingdom that was Inherited by Him
  6. Of Conspiracies
  7. Whence that when Changes Take Place from Liberty to Slavery, and from Slavery to Liberty, Some are Effected Without Bloodshed, and Some are Full of it
  8. He who wants to alter a Republic ought to Consider its Condition
  9. How One Must Change with the Times, If he Wants to have Good Fortune Always
  10. That a Captain Cannot Avoid an Engagement If the Adversary Wants to Do So in Every Way
  11. That he who has to Do with Many, Even Though he is Inferior, as Long as he Resists the First Attack, Wins
  12. How a Prudent Captain ought to Impose Every Necessity for Fighting on His Soldiers, and Take them Away from the Enemy
  13. Where One Should have More Confidence, Either in a Good Captain who has a Weak Army, or in a Good Army which has a Weak Captain
  14. What Effects the New Invention and New Voices have that Appear in the Midst of Battle
  15. That an Army Should have One, and not Many, in Charge, and that Many Commanders are Harmful
  16. That True Virtu is Difficult to Find in Difficult Times, and in Easy Times it is not Men of Virtu that Prevail, but Those who have More Favor Because of Riches or [Powerful] Relation
  17. That One who has Been Offended ought not to Be Placed in Any Administration and Government of Importance
  18. nothing is More Worthy of a Captain than to Penetrate the Proceedings of the Enemy
  19. Whether Obsequies are More Necessary than Punishment in Ruling a Multitude
  20. An Example of How Humanity Did Influence the Faliscians More than All the Power of Rome
  21. Whence it Happened that Hannibal, with a Different Method of Proceeding than Scipio, Achieved the Same Result in Italy as the Latter [Did in Spain]
  22. How the Harshness of Manlius Torquatus and the Humanity of Valerius Corvinus Acquired the Same Glory for Each
  23. For what Reason Camillus was Driven Out of Rome
  24. The Prolongation of [Military] Commands Made Rome Slave
  25. Of the Poverty of Cincinnatus and Many Roman Citizens
  26. How a State is Ruined Because of Women
  27. How a Divided City is to Be United, and How that Opinion is not True which Supposes that it is Necessary to Keep a City Disunited in Order to Hold it
  28. That the Actions of Citizens ought to Be Observed, for Many Times a Beginning of Tyranny is Hidden Under a Pious Act
  29. That the Faults of the People Arise from the Princes.
  30. For a Citizen who Wants to Do Some Good Deed in His Republic on His own Authority, it is First Necessary to Extinguish Envy; and How the Defense of a City ought to Be Organized on the Coming of the Enemy
  31. Strong Republics and Excellent Men Retain the Same Courage and Dignity in Any Fortune
  32. What Means Some have had to Disturb a Peace
  33. In Wanting to Win an Engagement, it is Necessary to Make the Army have Confidence Both in themselves and in their Captain
  34. What Fame or Voice or Opinion which a People Make Begins to Favor a Citizen; and Whether They Distribute the Magistracies with Greater Prudence than a Prince
  35. What Dangers Occur in Making Oneself Head in Counselling a Thing, and How Much the Danger Increases when it is an Extraordinary Thing
  36. The Reason why the Gauls have Been, and Still Are, Judged at the Beginning of a Battle to Be More than Men, and Afterwards Less than Women
  37. Whether Skirmishes Before an Engagement are Necessary, and How to Recognize a New Enemy If They are Avoided
  38. How a Captain ought to be Constituted, in whom in Army can confide
  39. That a Captain ought to be one having a Knowledge of Sites
  40. That to use Deceit in the Managing of a War is a Glorious Thing
  41. That One’s Country ought to Be Defended, Whether with Ignominy or with Glory, but it Can Be Defended in Whatever Manner
  42. That Promises Made by Force ought not to Be Observed
  43. That Men Born in a Province Observe for All Time Almost the Same Natures
  44. Impetuosity and Audacity Many Times Can Obtain that Which, with Ordinary Means, Can Never Be Obtained
  45. What is the Better Proceeding in Battle, Either to Sustain the First Shock of the Enemy, and Having Sustained it, Hurl them Back, or Rather to Assault Him First with Fury
  46. Whence it Happens that a Family in a City for a Time, have the Same Customs
  47. That for the Love of His Country, a Good Citizen ought to Forget Private Injuries
  48. When a Good Error is Seen to Be Made by the Enemy, it ought to Be Believed that it is Done Under Deceit
  49. A Republic Wanting to Maintain Itself Free has Some Need of New Precautions, and it was by Such Methods that Q. Fabius was Called Maximus

Niccolo Machiavelli
Zanobi Buondelmonti
And to
Cosimo Rucellai


I send you a present which if it is not equal to the obligations that I have toward you, it is one which without doubt the best that Niccolo Machiavelli has been able to offer you. Because in it I have expressed what I know and what I have learned through a long experience and a continuing study of the things of the world. And neither you nor others being able to desire more of me, I have not offered you more. You may well complain of the poverty of my endeavor since these narrations of mine are poor, and of the fallacy of [my] judgement when I deceive myself in many parts of my discussion. Which being so, I do not know which of us should be less obligated to the other, either I to you who have forced me to write that which by myself I would not have written, or you to me that having written I have not satisfied you. Accept this, therefore, in that manner that all things are taken from friends, where always the intention of the sender is more than the quality of the thing that is sent. And believe me I obtain satisfaction from this when I think that even if I should have been deceived on many occasions, I know I have not erred on this one in having selected you, to whom above all other of my friends I address [dedicate] these Discourses; as much because in doing this it appears to me I have shown some gratitude for the benefits I have received, as well because it appears to me I have departed from the common usage of those writers, who usually [always] address [dedicate] their works to some Prince, and blinded by ambition and avarice laud him for all his virtuous qualities when they should be censuring him for all his shameful parts. Whence I, so as not to incur this error, have selected, not those who are Princes, but those who by their infinite good qualities would merit to be such; [and] not to those who could load me with rank, honors, and riches, but to those who although unable to would want to do so. For men, when they want to judge rightly, should esteem those who are generous, not those who are able to be so; and likewise those who govern a Kingdom, not those who can but have not the knowledge. And writers lauded more Hiero of Syracuse when he was a private citizen than Perseus the Macedonian when he was King, for to Hiero nothing was lacking to be a Prince than the Principality, and the other did not possess any part of the King than the Kingdom. Enjoy this, therefore, whether good or bad, that you yourselves have wanted; and if you should continue in this error that these thoughts of mine are acceptable, I shall not fail to continue the rest of the history according as I promised you in the beginning. Farewell.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57