Chapter 8




CHAPTER VIII

CONCERNING THOSE WHO HAVE OBTAINED A PRINCIPALITY BY WICKEDNESS

Although a prince may rise from a private station in two ways, neither
of which can be entirely attributed to fortune or genius, yet it is
manifest to me that I must not be silent on them, although one could
be more copiously treated when I discuss republics. These methods are
when, either by some wicked or nefarious ways, one ascends to the
principality, or when by the favour of his fellow-citizens a private
person becomes the prince of his country. And speaking of the first
method, it will be illustrated by two examples--one ancient, the other
modern--and without entering further into the subject, I consider
these two examples will suffice those who may be compelled to follow
them.

Agathocles, the Sicilian,[*] became King of Syracuse not only from a
private but from a low and abject position. This man, the son of a
potter, through all the changes in his fortunes always led an infamous
life. Nevertheless, he accompanied his infamies with so much ability
of mind and body that, having devoted himself to the military
profession, he rose through its ranks to be Praetor of Syracuse. Being
established in that position, and having deliberately resolved to make
himself prince and to seize by violence, without obligation to others,
that which had been conceded to him by assent, he came to an
understanding for this purpose with Amilcar, the Carthaginian, who,
with his army, was fighting in Sicily. One morning he assembled the
people and the senate of Syracuse, as if he had to discuss with them
things relating to the Republic, and at a given signal the soldiers
killed all the senators and the richest of the people; these dead, he
seized and held the princedom of that city without any civil
commotion. And although he was twice routed by the Carthaginians, and
ultimately besieged, yet not only was he able to defend his city, but
leaving part of his men for its defence, with the others he attacked
Africa, and in a short time raised the siege of Syracuse. The
Carthaginians, reduced to extreme necessity, were compelled to come to
terms with Agathocles, and, leaving Sicily to him, had to be content
with the possession of Africa.

[*] Agathocles the Sicilian, born 361 B.C., died 289 B.C.

Therefore, he who considers the actions and the genius of this man
will see nothing, or little, which can be attributed to fortune,
inasmuch as he attained pre-eminence, as is shown above, not by the
favour of any one, but step by step in the military profession, which
steps were gained with a thousand troubles and perils, and were
afterwards boldly held by him with many hazardous dangers. Yet it
cannot be called talent to slay fellow-citizens, to deceive friends,
to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may
gain empire, but not glory. Still, if the courage of Agathocles in
entering into and extricating himself from dangers be considered,
together with his greatness of mind in enduring and overcoming
hardships, it cannot be seen why he should be esteemed less than the
most notable captain. Nevertheless, his barbarous cruelty and
inhumanity with infinite wickedness do not permit him to be celebrated
among the most excellent men. What he achieved cannot be attributed
either to fortune or genius.

In our times, during the rule of Alexander the Sixth, Oliverotto da
Fermo, having been left an orphan many years before, was brought up by
his maternal uncle, Giovanni Fogliani, and in the early days of his
youth sent to fight under Pagolo Vitelli, that, being trained under
his discipline, he might attain some high position in the military
profession. After Pagolo died, he fought under his brother Vitellozzo,
and in a very short time, being endowed with wit and a vigorous body
and mind, he became the first man in his profession. But it appearing
a paltry thing to serve under others, he resolved, with the aid of
some citizens of Fermo, to whom the slavery of their country was
dearer than its liberty, and with the help of the Vitelleschi, to
seize Fermo. So he wrote to Giovanni Fogliani that, having been away
from home for many years, he wished to visit him and his city, and in
some measure to look upon his patrimony; and although he had not
laboured to acquire anything except honour, yet, in order that the
citizens should see he had not spent his time in vain, he desired to
come honourably, so would be accompanied by one hundred horsemen, his
friends and retainers; and he entreated Giovanni to arrange that he
should be received honourably by the Fermians, all of which would be
not only to his honour, but also to that of Giovanni himself, who had
brought him up.

Giovanni, therefore, did not fail in any attentions due to his nephew,
and he caused him to be honourably received by the Fermians, and he
lodged him in his own house, where, having passed some days, and
having arranged what was necessary for his wicked designs, Oliverotto
gave a solemn banquet to which he invited Giovanni Fogliani and the
chiefs of Fermo. When the viands and all the other entertainments that
are usual in such banquets were finished, Oliverotto artfully began
certain grave discourses, speaking of the greatness of Pope Alexander
and his son Cesare, and of their enterprises, to which discourse
Giovanni and others answered; but he rose at once, saying that such
matters ought to be discussed in a more private place, and he betook
himself to a chamber, whither Giovanni and the rest of the citizens
went in after him. No sooner were they seated than soldiers issued
from secret places and slaughtered Giovanni and the rest. After these
murders Oliverotto, mounted on horseback, rode up and down the town
and besieged the chief magistrate in the palace, so that in fear the
people were forced to obey him, and to form a government, of which he
made himself the prince. He killed all the malcontents who were able
to injure him, and strengthened himself with new civil and military
ordinances, in such a way that, in the year during which he held the
principality, not only was he secure in the city of Fermo, but he had
become formidable to all his neighbours. And his destruction would
have been as difficult as that of Agathocles if he had not allowed
himself to be overreached by Cesare Borgia, who took him with the
Orsini and Vitelli at Sinigalia, as was stated above. Thus one year
after he had committed this parricide, he was strangled, together with
Vitellozzo, whom he had made his leader in valour and wickedness.

Some may wonder how it can happen that Agathocles, and his like, after
infinite treacheries and cruelties, should live for long secure in his
country, and defend himself from external enemies, and never be
conspired against by his own citizens; seeing that many others, by
means of cruelty, have never been able even in peaceful times to hold
the state, still less in the doubtful times of war. I believe that
this follows from severities[*] being badly or properly used. Those
may be called properly used, if of evil it is possible to speak well,
that are applied at one blow and are necessary to one's security, and
that are not persisted in afterwards unless they can be turned to the
advantage of the subjects. The badly employed are those which,
notwithstanding they may be few in the commencement, multiply with
time rather than decrease. Those who practise the first system are
able, by aid of God or man, to mitigate in some degree their rule, as
Agathocles did. It is impossible for those who follow the other to
maintain themselves.

[*] Mr Burd suggests that this word probably comes near the modern
equivalent of Machiavelli's thought when he speaks of "crudelta"
than the more obvious "cruelties."

Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought
to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for
him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to
repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to
reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does
otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to
keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor
can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and
repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so
that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given
little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.

And above all things, a prince ought to live amongst his people in
such a way that no unexpected circumstances, whether of good or evil,
shall make him change; because if the necessity for this comes in
troubled times, you are too late for harsh measures; and mild ones
will not help you, for they will be considered as forced from you, and
no one will be under any obligation to you for them.



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