Considered to be one of the most politically controversial men of his era, Machiavelli was an Italian philosopher who propagated some really contentious schools of thought that have continued to be debated long after his death. Having lived during the late 15th and early 16th centuries, he was so influential during his time that he is now variously referred to as the father of modern political philosophy and political science considering the manner in which his writings impacted and divided societal and political views.
Machiavelli was a very talented man who was not just a philosopher and politician but also a diplomat as well as a humanist, historian, writer, poet and playwright among other things. He is known for writing several comedies as well as carnival songs which thrilled audiences in his day. The many historical documents he wrote are now highly regarded by modern historians. He is best known for writing a political treatise called “The Prince” in which he penned some of his most controversial theories.
The legacies of Machiavelli have been discussed over hundreds of years. We have been able to dig out some facts about his life for your reading pleasure. Continue to see more about him.
Who Was Machiavelli?
Machiavelli was born on the 3rd day of May 1469 and died at the age of 58 on the 21st of June 1527. During this time, he worked to thoroughly establish himself as one of the most symbolic political thinkers of his era. For the record, even though he is now more simply known as Machiavelli, his real birth name is actually Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli or just Niccolò Machiavelli.
Machiavelli was born in Florence, a popular city in Italy, to a father called Bernardo di Niccolò Machiavelli, a prominent attorney, and a mother identified as Bartolomea di Stefano Nelli. Machiavelli was the third child of his parents and the first son in the family.
Growing up, he was taught lessons in Latin, rhetoric, and grammar, however, it is not on record that he was taught Greek even though when he was a child, Florence happened to be one of the centers of Greek scholarship in Europe.
When Machiavelli was born, Florence was under the rule of the Medici, an Italian banking family and political dynasty which had ruled the city for up to 60 years. However, in 1494 when Machiavelli was about 25 years old, Florence restored Republican reign and expelled the Medici. Shortly after this, in 1498, Machiavelli was appointed as the secretary to the Second Chancery, a writing office at the time. He held the position till 1512.
This appointment gave Machiavelli powers to oversee the production of official Florentine government documents. He also carried out several diplomatic missions and started gaining prominence in Florence. In fact, he is reported to have been responsible for the Florentine militia.
However, just when things appeared to be going perfectly for Machiavelli, everything came crashing down in 1512 when the Medici took over power again. The Medici who were backed by Pope Julius II, forced themselves into power using Spanish troops. They consequently dissolved the Republic and Machiavelli lost his job. In 1513, one year after losing his job, he was accused of conspiracy and swiftly imprisoned. He was severely tortured for about three weeks but was eventually released after he kept denying the charges against him.
After Machiavelli’s release, he retreated into his estate, temporarily disappearing from sight. It was during this period that he devoted himself to studying and writing many political treatises that have now made him very popular around the world and have also earned him a place in the intellectual development of political philosophy and political conduct.
During his lifetime, he was married to a woman called Marietta Corsini and had six children; four sons and two daughters.
What Was Machiavelli Famous For?
Machiavelli was a very well-known person in his day and won the hearts of many people with his talent and hard work. It is on record that he had written a number of comedies that were staged in Florence. He also composed a lot of carnival songs which usually took center stage during celebrations. Machiavelli was also a poet who penned many poems voicing his thoughts about politics and life in general. He also wrote plays and other works. These plays were very popular in his day and made him highly acclaimed.
Machiavelli is most famously known for his political thoughts which he did not hesitate to emphatically state whether in writing or by other means. During his time studying political trends and ideas, he wrote one of his most famous treatises called “The Prince” which contains some of his most controversial views. He is now best known for this treatise.
Machiavelli’s principles especially the ones outlined in “The Prince” strongly extolled the use of treachery and vexatious tricks to cling to power. He tried to explain that horrific acts such as the killing of innocent people as well as other immoral behavior like dishonesty were normal acts and very effective in politics.
His book “The Prince”, in simple terms, was written to teach unscrupulous politicians how to use ruthless acts and self-serving, cunning tricks to cheat their people and cling to power by all means possible. This inspired the term “Machiavellian” which, in modern time, is thought to refer to political deceit and deviousness.
Machiavelli’s theories did not sit well with everyone. He has been denounced by many people who condemned him for giving tyrants evil recommendations to help them maintain their grip on power.
However, another less-known treatise he wrote which is called the “Discourses on Livy”, is now being credited with helping to pave the way of modern republicanism.