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Chapter 13


That Men rise from humble to high Fortunes rather by Fraud than by Force.


I hold it as most certain that men seldom if ever rise to great place from small beginnings without using fraud or force, unless, indeed, they be given, or take by inheritance the place to which some other has already come. Force, however, will never suffice by itself to effect this end, while fraud often will, as any one may plainly see who reads the lives of Philip of Macedon, Agathocles of Sicily, and many others like them, who from the lowest or, at any rate, from very low beginnings, rose either to sovereignty or to the highest command.

This necessity for using deceit is taught by Xenophon in his life of Cyrus; for the very first expedition on which Cyrus is sent, against the King of Armenia, is seen to teem with fraud; and it is by fraud, and not by force, that he is represented as having acquired his kingdom; so that the only inference to be drawn from his conduct, as Xenophon describes it, is, that the prince who would accomplish great things must have learned how to deceive. Xenophon, moreover, represents his hero as deceiving his maternal grandsire Cyaxares, king of the Medians, in a variety of ways; giving it to be understood that without such deceit he could not have reached the greatness to which he came. Nor do I believe that any man born to humble fortunes can be shown to have attained great station, by sheer and open force, whereas this has often been effected by mere fraud, such as that used by Giovanni Galeazzo to deprive his uncle Bernabo of the State and government of Lombardy.

The same arts which princes are constrained to use at the outset of their career, must also be used by commonwealths, until they have grown powerful enough to dispense with them and trust to strength alone. And because Rome at all times, whether from chance or choice, followed all such methods as are necessary to attain greatness, in this also she was not behindhand. And, to begin with, she could have used no greater fraud than was involved in her method above noticed, of making for herself companions; since under this name she made for herself subjects, for such the Latins and the other surrounding nations, in fact, became. For availing herself at first of their arms to subdue neighbouring countries and gain herself reputation as a State, her power was so much increased by these conquests that there was none whom she could not overcome. But the Latins never knew that they were enslaved until they saw the Samnites twice routed and forced to make terms. This success, while it added greatly to the fame of the Romans among princes at a distance, who were thereby made familiar with the Roman name though not with the Roman arms, bred at the same time jealousy and distrust among those who, like the Latins, both saw and felt these arms; and such were the effects of this jealousy and distrust, that not the Latins only but all the Roman colonies in Latium, along with the Campanians whom a little while before the Romans had defended leagued themselves together against the authority of Rome. This war was set on foot by the Latins in the manner in which, as I have already explained, most wars are begun, not by directly attacking the Romans, but by defending the Sidicinians against the Samnites who were making war upon them with the permission of the Romans. And that it was from their having found out the crafty policy of the Romans that the Latins were led to take this step, is plain from the words which Titus Livius puts in the mouth of Annius Setinus the Latin prętor, who, in addressing the Latin council, is made to say, "For if even now we can put up with slavery under the disguise of an equal alliance, etc"

We see, therefore, that the Romans, from the time they first began to extend their power, were not unfamiliar with the art of deceiving, an art always necessary for those who would mount to great heights from low beginnings; and which is the less to be condemned when, as in the case of the Romans, it is skilfully concealed.


Niccolo Machiavelli

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