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Chapter 5


How an Hereditary King may come to lose his Kingdom.


Tarquin the Proud, when he had put Servius Tullius to death, inasmuch as the latter left no heirs, took secure possession of the kingdom, having nothing to fear from any of those dangers which had stood in the way of his predecessors. And although the means whereby he made himself king were hateful and monstrous, nevertheless, had he adhered to the ancient ordinances of the earlier kings, he might have been endured, nor would he have aroused both senate and people to combine against him and deprive him of his government. It was not, therefore, because his son Sextus violated Lucretia that Tarquin was driven out, but because he himself had violated the laws of the kingdom, and governed as a tyrant, stripping the senate of all authority, and bringing everything under his own control. For all business which formerly had been transacted in public, and with the sanction of the senate, he caused to be transacted in his palace, on his own responsibility, and to the displeasure of every one else, and so very soon deprived Rome of whatever freedom she had enjoyed under her other kings.

Nor was it enough for him to have the Fathers his enemies, but he must needs also kindle the commons against him, wearing them out with mere mechanic labours, very different from the enterprises in which they had been employed by his predecessors; so that when Rome overflowed with instances of his cruelty and pride, he had already disposed the minds of all the citizens to rebel whenever they found the opportunity. Wherefore, had not occasion offered in the violence done to Lucretia, some other had soon been found to bring about the same result. But had Tarquin lived like the other kings, when Sextus his son committed that outrage, Brutus and Collatinus would have had recourse to him to punish the offender, and not to the commons of Rome. And hence let princes learn that from the hour they first violate those laws, customs, and usages under which men have lived for a great while, they begin to weaken the foundations of their authority. And should they, after they have been stripped of that authority, ever grow wise enough to see how easily princedoms are preserved by those who are content to follow prudent counsels, the sense of their loss will grieve them far more, and condemn them to a worse punishment than any they suffer at the hands of others. For it is far easier to be loved by good men than by bad, and to obey the laws than to seek to control them.

And to learn what means they must use to retain their authority, they have only to take example by the conduct of good princes, such as Timoleon of Corinth, Aratus of Sicyone, and the like, in whose lives they will find such security and content, both on the side of the ruler and the ruled, as ought to stir them with the desire to imitate them, which, for the reasons already given, it is easy for them to do. For men, when they are well governed, ask no more, nor look for further freedom; as was the case with the peoples governed by the two whom I have named, whom they constrained to continue their rulers while they lived, though both of them sought repeatedly to return to private life.

But because, in this and the two preceding Chapters, I have noticed the ill-will which arose against the kings, the plots contrived by the sons of Brutus against their country, and those directed against the elder Tarquin and Servius Tullius, it seems to me not out of place to discourse of these matters more at length in the following Chapter, as deserving the attention both of princes and private citizens.


Niccolo Machiavelli

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