Niccoló Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian political thinker and historical figure best remembered for his masterpiece, The Prince (written in 1513, but published posthumously in 1532). Machiavelli is considered one of the great early analyzers of political power.
Niccolo Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469, in Florence, Italy. His father, Bernardo belonged to an impoverished branch of an influential old Florentine family. Bernardo was a lawyer and he had a small personal library that included books by Greek and Roman philosophers and volumes of Italian history. Bernardo died in 1500, Machiavelli's mother, Bartolomea de' Nelli, had died in 1496.
As a thinker Machiavelli belonged to an entire school of Florentine intellectuals concerned with an examination of political and historical problems. His important writings were composed after 1512 when he was accused of conspiracy in 1513. The Medici family had returned to power and had ended the Florentine Republic. Lorenzo de' Medici fired Machiavelli who had held the office of Secretary under the previous government. He was suspected of plotting against the Medici, jailed, even tortured, and exiled. Machiavelli found himself unemployed after years of patriotic service, and spent most of his remaining years in producing his major works. He achieved some fame as a historian and playwright, but with The Prince he hoped to regain political favor. It tells how to gain, maintain, and centralize power.
In 1519 Machiavelli was partly reconciled with the Medici and he was given various duties, including writing a history of Florence. When the Medici was deposed in 1527 Machiavelli hoped for a new government post. However, now the republican government distrusted him for his previous association with the Medici.
Machiavelli's political writings became more widely known in the second half of the 16th century. When considered dangerous, they were placed in 1564 on the Church Index of officially banned books. Machiavelli's best known works are Discorsi Sopra La Prima Deca Di Tito Livio (1531, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius) The Mandrake(1528) a satirical play and Il Principe (1532, The Prince), whose main theme is that all means may be used in order to maintain authority. The Prince was condemned by the Pope and its viewpoints gave rise to the well-known adjective machiavellian, a synonym for political maneuvers marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith. This interpretation of Machiavelli's thought is now being challenged on the grounds that it does not take into account any of his works other than The Prince and does not consider the political situation in Italy when he was writing.
From 1521 to 1525, Machiavelli was employed as a historiographer. Niccolo Machiavelli died in Florence on June 21, 1527.
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