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The Prince

The Prince Summary


Here you will find a The Prince summary (Niccolò Machiavelli's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Prince Summary Overview

The text starts by expressing its focus on providing practical advice to rulers, as demonstrated through its dedication to Lorenzo de’ Medici, Florence's ruler. Machiavelli’s straightforward language and uncomplicated logic reflect his intention to offer easily comprehensible counsel. The initial chapters outline the book’s focus on autocratic systems and detail different types of principalities and rulers. These initial sections also discuss maintaining control over unfamiliar territories and introduce key themes like power politics, warfare strategies, and gaining popular favor. The book's core offers pragmatic guidance on various topics, including the pros and cons of different paths to power, the acquisition and retention of new states, handling internal rebellion, forming alliances, and maintaining a robust military. While Machiavelli’s perspectives on free will, human nature, and ethics are implied in these chapters, they do not become explicit discussion points until later. The latter part of the book discusses the qualities of the ruler himself, emphasizing that high ideals often result in poor governance. It suggests that while certain virtues are admirable, they can be detrimental to the state, and similarly, while some vices are undesirable, they can sometimes be crucial for the wellbeing of the state. Machiavelli concludes with the argument that the appearance of virtue may be more vital than actual virtue, which can be a liability. In the final sections, the book connects to Italy's disunity, providing an analysis of past Italian rulers' failures. It ends with a fervent appeal to future rulers for the restoration of Italy’s honor and pride, especially urging Lorenzo de’ Medici to take the lead.


The book was dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici, nephew of Giovanni de’ Medici (Leo X), who took the title of Duke of Urbino in 1516. In a humble gesture, Machiavelli presents his book, mentioning its simple style which he believes doesn't match the stature of Lorenzo. He categorizes the book as a condensed version of his analysis of the actions of notable individuals. Machiavelli aims to guide Lorenzo de’ Medici in gaining prominence as a prince through his book.

chapter 1

Machiavelli outlines various forms of states, stating they can only be republics or principalities. Principalities are further divided into hereditary and new ones. The new ones can be entirely unique or extensions of pre-existing states. A prince may gain a new principality through luck or power, using his own military or borrowing the strength of others.

chapter 2

This is the initial part of three sections concentrated on the governance and maintenance of principalities. Machiavelli disregards the talk of republics, citing his detailed discussion in his previous work, Discourses' first book. Administering a hereditary state is simpler than a new principality, according to Machiavelli, for two reasons. Firstly, inhabitants of such states are acquainted with the prince's lineage and are used to their rule. The hereditary prince merely needs to preserve existing establishments, adjusting them as per contemporary events. Secondly, subjects in a hereditary state naturally have affection for the ruling family, unless the prince commits a terrible deed against his subjects. If an outsider manages to invade a prince's hereditary state, any difficulties they face will enable the prince to reclaim the state.

chapter 3

People often anticipate that a new ruler will be superior to the current one, and this expectation can spur rebellions against an inexperienced prince. This instability is more prevalent when taking over a new principality compared to maintaining a hereditary one. The new prince finds himself in a difficult position with the supporters who helped him gain power as he can't meet all their demands but can't be too harsh either, for fear of losing their support. Should the prince quell a rebellion successfully, he can discourage further insurrection by severely punishing the culprits. This harshness can be greater than what would typically be permissible. Taking control of a new principality is simpler when the prince and the subjects share the same language and customs. To achieve stability, the prince only needs to eliminate the former ruler's family and keep the laws and taxes unchanged. This ensures people continue living as before, allowing for peace and tranquility. In contrast, new territories with different languages and customs present a more significant challenge. The prince can overcome this by residing in the new state, where he can promptly address any issues, prevent corruption, and gain the loyalty or instill fear in his subjects. Potential invaders may also hesitate to attack such a state. Setting up colonies in the new state is another strategy for dealing with cultural and linguistic differences. This approach is cheaper than military occupation and only affects the poor, scattered inhabitants who pose little threat to the prince. It's crucial for a prince to only harm those who can't retaliate, as military bases scattered across the state can antagonise the citizens and create formidable enemies. Princes ruling foreign states should exert control over neighboring regions by weakening stronger states and preventing powerful foreign invasions. Smaller powers will ally with the dominate power if they can't grow stronger themselves. The prince must control the entire country to manage the conquered state effectively. Princes should proactively address issues before they become full-blown problems. They are more manageable when identified early. If left unattended, they may grow beyond control. People naturally desire more and are often praised when they succeed. However, rulers who strive for more at the expense of their current state deserve condemnation. To effectively rule a state, a prince must understand statecraft and warcraft, both closely linked. Avoiding war may involve suppressing disorder, but war is inevitable and can only be delayed, which often favors the enemy.

chapter 4

Two methods can be applied to rule a principality. The first includes a ruler and his appointed officials, with the officials assisting in governance but remaining subordinate to the prince. The second involves the prince and aristocrats, who are not chosen by the prince and have their own subjects due to their ancient lineage. The prince is deemed more powerful when governing with official assistance, as he is the sole authority in the country. It's more challenging to overthrow a nation ruled by a prince with ministers since there's little temptation for ministers to betray their prince or be influenced by foreign entities. Even if they did rebel, it would be difficult to gather support due to their lack of personal alliances. In contrast, a nation governed with noble cooperation is more susceptible to conquest as dissatisfaction among nobility is more likely, and these nobles can sway their own subjects. Despite being easier to seize a state governed by nobility, maintaining control presents a greater challenge. Eradicating the former ruler's family won't suffice as nobles could still rebel. Controlling a state with minister assistance is simpler, requiring only the elimination of the prince and his family. Machiavelli's guidelines are in line with historical facts, including Alexander's victorious Asian conquest and revolts against the Romans in Spain, France, and Greece.

chapter 5

Machiavelli outlines three methods of governing states used to self-rule. The first is to ruin them completely. The second involves the conqueror taking direct control. The third permits the state to keep its laws but imposes taxes and installs an oligarchy to keep it aligned. The third method is beneficial as the new oligarchy will strive to keep the ruling prince's authority intact in the conquered state due to its dependence on the prince's support. Hence, unless the goal is to completely ruin the other state, governing it through its own citizens is the simplest strategy. Utter destruction is the surest way to control a previously free state. A prince who refrains from this puts himself at risk. Regardless of how much time has passed since the state's acquisition, revolts can reignite memories of old institutions and past freedom, even if the state has prospered under the prince's rule. Such traditions can unite the people against the ruler. Conversely, cities or provinces used to princely rule are easily governed once the ruling family is eliminated. Its people are used to obedience and lack the knowledge of living freely without a ruler. Thus, the new prince can easily capture and maintain the province. In republics, or former ones, the conquering prince will face strong resentment and vengeful sentiments. Memories of past freedoms endure, hence it's wiser for the prince to either demolish the republic or personally take charge of the conquered state.

chapter 6

Individuals by nature are fickle. Persuading them about something specific is easy, but maintaining their conviction can be challenging. Leaders should aim to emulate the qualities of eminent historical figures, setting high ambitions. If they fail to reach these ambitions, their efforts will still elevate their status as effective rulers. One method for rulers to gain power is through their own competence rather than the good fortune of noble birth, inheritance, or serendipity. Depending on personal prowess for gaining power is hard, but it often results in more control over the state. Notable leaders such as Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus succeeded through their own skills. Leaders who depend on their abilities rather than luck are typically more successful in maintaining control over states, as they can manage the demands of establishing new regimes. Implementing a new system can be perilous as those who prospered from the old system will resist the change, while those who could benefit from the new system don't offer strong support. A leader who depends on convincing others for support will find it hard to overcome such resistance. In contrast, a ruler who leans on his own abilities and is ready to "push the boundaries" is more likely to prevail. Sometimes this may mean using force, which carries risks. However, if successful, the ruler will be robust, secure, and highly regarded.

chapter 7

Occasionally, private individuals ascend to princely ranks due purely to luck, often by paying their way into power or being favored by someone already in power. These princes are typically weak, due to the unpredictable nature of fortune and their lack of experience in maintaining their position. They lack loyal troops and the ability to handle adversity, command forces or retain power amidst opposition. Princes who rise to power through their own skill have a firm foundation, unlike those who owe their success to luck or the benevolence of others, who may struggle to build such a foundation quickly enough. A strong foundation is key for a prince to hold his power. This involves removing potential threats and winning over their supporters. Machiavelli references Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI, as an example. Borgia became the Duke of Romagna through his father's powerful position. Despite his brave attempts to consolidate his new power, including territorial conquests and efforts to win his subjects' loyalty and fear, he struggled to maintain his rule. His attempts were further thwarted by his father's death and the reversal of his good fortune. Nonetheless, his efforts paved the way for a stronger rule in the future, proving his individual skill and might.

chapter 8

Machiavelli explains that a rising prince can gain power through criminal behavior or the support of citizens. Power acquired through criminal means involves killing citizens and betraying friends, characterizing these individuals as ruthless and ungodly. Such princes may gain power, but they won't gain honor. Agathocles of Syracuse, a former commoner turned army leader, is an example of gaining power through crime. He orchestrated the murder of senators and took control, enduring numerous challenges but maintaining his rule. Agathocles' competence in power was undeniable, but his cruel path to power prevented him from being considered great. According to Machiavelli, cruelty can be beneficial if used initially, followed by its use only for self-defence and public welfare. Regularly committing cruel acts tarnishes a ruler's reputation. To be successful, a prince who gains power through crime should limit their cruelty like Agathocles. Finally, a prince planning to conquer a state needs to decide the extent of harm to inflict. He should act quickly and then avoid further violence. Over time, his subjects will forget the initial cruelty and start appreciating the benefits of his rule. A prince needs to be consistent in how he treats his subjects.

chapter 9

A prince can also gain authority through the support of his fellow citizens, leading what Machiavelli terms constitutional principalities. He maintains that every city comprises of two citizen classes: the commoners and the nobles. The commoners typically want to avoid being subjugated by the nobles, who in turn seek to govern the commoners. This power struggle leads to either a principality, a free city, or chaos. Both the nobles and the people have the power to establish a principality. If the nobles realize they cannot control the people, they will make one of their own a prince, aiming to fulfill their agenda through this prince. Similarly, the people will do the same if they feel they cannot resist the nobles, hoping to gain protection through their chosen prince. A noble-backed prince may struggle to maintain his rule as his peers may see him as equal and his princely status as arbitrary. Yet, a prince chosen by the people has a solitary position at the top. The nobles are harder to satisfy than the people and often have selfish motives as they wish to rule over the people. The people, in contrast, just want to live untroubled. Displeasing the people might simply lead to abandonment, but if the nobles are upset, the prince should prepare for abandonment and active resistance. Nobles can either rely on the prince or stay autonomous. The prince should appreciate and value those nobles who are dependent on him. Independent nobles can be timid or ambitious. A prince should be cautious of ambitious nobles as they can turn antagonistic when times are tough. A people-chosen prince must keep the people’s friendship, which is relatively easy. A noble-backed prince should strive to gain the people's affection as a potential shield against hostile nobles. Generosity is an effective way to win and maintain people's support. If people anticipate harsh treatment but receive benevolence, they feel immensely indebted to the prince. Transitioning from a limited power government to an absolute one can be challenging for principalities. To manage this shift, the prince can either rule directly or use magistrates. If he chooses the latter, he becomes susceptible to their will and they could overthrow him. If a revolt occurs, the prince may struggle to consolidate absolute power as the people are used to obeying the magistrates and not him. It's easy to pledge loyalty to a prince in good times, but trusted allies are hard to find in times of adversity. A prudent prince should ensure his citizens' dependence on his authority, guaranteeing their loyalty.

chapter 10

While a ruler should strive to match their enemy's military power, it's equally critical to establish solid defenses and fortifications. The safety and deterrence these provide are invaluable. Critics might suggest that the sight of their homeland being ravaged during a siege would turn the inhabitants against their ruler. However, a ruler who has made proper defensive preparations can actually motivate his people in such scenarios. He should assure them that the tough times are fleeting and stir up a sense of pride and zeal for their city’s defense. Thus, once the siege ends, the appreciative citizens will have even more affection for their ruler.

chapter 11

Territories overseen by the Catholic Church, known as ecclesiastical principalities, have their own unique characteristics. Seizing these territories can be challenging, often needing exceptional luck or strength. Machiavelli humorously states that since these territories are governed by religious principles, the ruling prince doesn't even have to manage the state. They don't need defense and the inhabitants don't need to be administered. Despite this, these states consistently remain safe and content. As they are upheld by divine powers beyond human understanding, probing further into this matter would be inappropriate. Nevertheless, it's worth examining how the Church acquired its significant earthly power. Italy was previously split among the pope and the city-states of Venice, Naples, Milan, and Florence. Each entity was cautious of the others and barred any interference from outside powers. The papal rule was relatively feeble at this time, marred by disputes among Roman barons and short-lived papacies. However, Popes Alexander VI and Julius II amplified the Church's power by using military force to suppress other groups, amassing wealth to bolster the Church's standing, and fostering internal disputes among remaining factions. Consequently, the Church under Pope Leo X's leadership has become powerful through military might. It's now expected that Pope Leo will use his kindness and moral integrity to preserve this power.

chapter 12

A secure power base for rulers requires two key elements: effective laws and strong military. The existence of sound laws is dependent on the existence of a robust army. However, a solid army also implies the presence of sound laws. Three kinds of armies exist: the ruler's personal army, hired soldiers (mercenaries), and auxiliary forces. Both mercenaries and auxiliary forces are unreliable and perilous. Mercenaries, driven by money, are typically inefficient in warfare and suffer from low morale. Their leaders may be competent or incompetent. Incompetent ones are useless, while competent ones may be driven by personal ambition. Thus, it's best for a ruler to lead his own army. Italy's reliance on mercenaries in history led to its downfall. During its fragmentation, which the Church backed to enhance its prestige, many territories employed mercenaries due to their lack of military expertise. As the mercenaries were more interested in boosting their own status and avoiding risk than achieving military goals, the struggles among them turned into ineffective, theatrical, fake battles. This substantially weakened Italy's political and military power.

chapter 13

Relying on auxiliary forces—military aid from a stronger kingdom—is as ineffective as hiring mercenaries. These forces might be capable fighters, but a ruler who depends on them is trapped in a lose-lose situation. If the auxiliaries lose, the ruler is left vulnerable, and even if they win, the ruler's triumph is attributed to another's power. These auxiliary forces, though competent and systematic, owe their loyalty to a different leader, making them a bigger risk than mercenaries. A ruler's realm can never truly be safe if he doesn't control his own local forces. Relying on foreign armies is akin to solely depending on luck. While employing auxiliaries and mercenaries can work during prosperous times, turning to such borrowed forces in tough times, like relying on luck, can be a dangerous gamble.

chapter 14

The sole focus of a prince should be on the practice of warfare. The prince only needs to learn the art of war as it is the main requirement for leadership. A regular person can become a remarkable ruler with this knowledge. Disregarding this discipline could result in losing a state, while proficiency in it could lead to acquiring one. Machiavelli makes a comparison between two men, one armed and the other not. The armed man will not follow the directions of the unarmed one, and neither will the unarmed man trust if his servants possess weapons. This develops a mistrust and disrespect between the two, making cooperation challenging. In the same way, an uninformed prince trying to steer an army is like the unarmed man trying to control the armed. The prince should dedicate all his efforts to mastering warfare, a task that demands both physical and mental involvement. The prince has to condition his body to endure hardships and become skilled in hunting. He also needs to comprehend the influence of geography on battle plans and learn from history and the deeds of successful leaders. Rigorous preparations during peace time will ensure the prince is well-equipped for times of war.

chapter 15

Machiavelli shifts focus to talk about the appropriate conduct of a prince. He acknowledges that other thinkers have explored this topic, but asserts that unique, practical guidelines are needed, as opposed to theoretical ones. Earlier philosophers have envisioned societies based on ideal human behavior rather than reality. However, reality often departs from these idealistic expectations. Specifically, humans do not always act virtuously, and a prince should prioritize practical gains over virtuous living. Generally, some traits win admiration, while others draw disapproval. Qualities like bravery, empathy, reliability, cunning, and generosity are often commended. Conversely, traits like cowardice, cruelty, obstinacy, and stinginess typically face criticism. Ideally, a prince should embody all the 'good' attributes. But this is an impractical expectation. A prince's primary duty is to protect the state, and sometimes 'bad' traits are necessary to accomplish this. Such traits are truly harmful if they jeopardize the state, but if they serve the state's interests, a prince should disregard the disapproval of others.

chapter 16

Keeping hatred and disdain at bay is crucial for any ruler, and being overly generous can spark both. While many admire generosity, a ruler known for such behaviour could risk destroying his realm. This is because maintaining a reputation for generosity necessitates extravagant spending, which could exhaust the ruler's wealth. Eventually, the ruler may impose high taxes on his subjects to uphold his generous image, causing them to loathe and resent him. Furthermore, if a generous prince tries to change his ways, he may be labelled as stingy. On the other hand, an initially miserly ruler can eventually earn a reputation for generosity. By being economical, the prince can accumulate enough wealth to protect his state and fund projects without overtaxing his subjects. Historical figures like Pope Julius II, the current French king, and the Spanish king, prove that frugality can help rulers achieve remarkable feats. Some may argue that leaders like Caesar gained and maintained power through generosity, but had Caesar not been assassinated, he would have found that he needed to curtail his spending to keep his rule intact. In conclusion, being generous can be self-destructive. It depletes resources and restricts further generosity. Even though stinginess may initially harm a ruler's image, excessive generosity will ultimately breed hatred.

chapter 17

While kindness and generosity are often praised, a prince should exercise caution in demonstrating these traits. Too much leniency, particularly towards disloyal subjects, can breed chaos, leading to extreme crimes like murder and theft. While executions only affect the wrongdoers, crimes disrupt the entire society. Therefore, a certain level of harshness is essential for maintaining order. However, a prince should balance this ruthlessness with wisdom and compassion. Machiavelli further discusses whether it's better for a prince to be feared or loved. Ideally, he should command both emotions but achieving such a balance is challenging. If forced to choose, it is preferable to be feared as men are naturally ungrateful, inconsistent, deceptive, fearful of danger, and greedy. They may act bravely when danger seems afar but betray their prince when danger is imminent. Love bonds can be easily broken, but the fear of punishment remains effective in all situations. Yet, in instilling fear, a prince must ensure he does not incite hatred. He should ensure any punitive actions are well justified. More importantly, a prince should avoid seizing his subjects' properties or women, as such actions breed resentment. If property confiscation is unavoidable, a sound reason is necessary. Regarding one's army, extreme cruelty is permissible to maintain discipline and unity, even if it verges on inhumanity.

chapter 18

Machiavelli contends that while a prince who keeps his word is often admired, those who are shrewd and deceitful tend to be more successful. He believes that a prince must be adept at using both legal means and force, essentially being part man and part beast. When using force, a prince must imitate both the lion and the fox. The fox avoids wolves while the lion evades traps. The prince, like these animals, must learn to deter threats and identify danger. If promises hinder the prince or their reasons no longer stand, he should not hesitate to break them as human nature is unreliable and deceptive. A prince, therefore, should be skilled in deceit. Nonetheless, a prince must maintain a facade of virtue, despite his deceitful tactics. He should appear compassionate, trustworthy, pious and innocent, like Pope Alexander VI. Possessing all these virtues is neither feasible nor beneficial, but appearing virtuous is important as people judge their prince on his image and achievements. Even if a prince uses evil means to achieve his goals, as long as he appears virtuous and successfully governs his state, he will be regarded as virtuous.

chapter 19

A ruler must steer clear of actions that earn him hatred or contempt. While a lack of virtue might draw criticism, it won't attract hatred. However, confiscating a subject's property or interfering with their women will. Similarly, undermining a subject's dignity can make a ruler despised. Signs of inconsistency, frivolity, weakness, cowardice, or indecisiveness can harm a ruler's reputation. A well-respected ruler, on the other hand, is safe from plots and direct opposition. Rulers should primarily concern themselves with avoiding revolt from within and threats from outside. Combating external threats requires a solid military and dependable allies, with a robust army often leading to beneficial alliances. Maintaining a positive image among the populace is a robust defense against internal turmoil. A conspirator will only act if he believes the people will approve of the ruler's downfall. Otherwise, the risks are too great. Conspirators need many collaborators, each risking severe punishment if exposed. Plus, any of them could earn a significant reward from the ruler for revealing the plot. A ruler who earns public support becomes seemingly impervious to plots, backed by the government, his allies, and the law. Wherever possible, a ruler should assign the implementation of unpopular policies to others, keeping the distribution of benefits for himself. There may be times when some public hatred is unavoidable. In such cases, a ruler must prioritize avoiding the ire of influential groups. Often, this involves maintaining good relations with the military. But pleasing the troops shouldn’t come at the expense of the general populace. Several Roman emperors fell due to excessive brutality in favour of their army. The exception was Septimius Severus, who managed to awe both his army and the people. Modern rulers usually don't need to fear their armies and should focus more on serving their people.

chapter 20

Princes employ various tactics to counter internal rebellion. Some split towns, disarm citizens, woo unfaithful subjects, or construct or raze fortresses. Each tactic's success hinges on the specific circumstances, but some common patterns can be observed. Traditionally, new rulers have not disarmed their subjects. Arming them fosters loyalty and safeguards the prince. Disarming them, conversely, engenders mistrust and stokes civil discord. However, when a prince conquers a new territory, he should disarm the residents. Those who support him can retain their weapons temporarily, but eventually, they too should be weakened. The optimal strategy involves the prince's soldiers taking control of the new territory. Yet, creating divisions in a conquered region only makes it more vulnerable to foreign conquest, as exemplified by Venice's history. Greatness among princes is typically achieved by overcoming adversaries. Therefore, they can boost their reputation by craftily encouraging easily squashed opposition. Besides, fostering dissent in a newly conquered territory uncovers potential conspirators' motives. Princes have sometimes built fortresses to check rebellion, while others have demolished them to control new territories. The utility of a fortress depends on the particular situation. However, if a prince is disliked by his subjects, a fortress won't offer protection. The question isn't whether a prince should construct a fortress. Instead, a prince should not place all his confidence in a fortress while ignoring his people's sentiments.

chapter 21

A ruler can gain prestige through grand ventures and exemplary actions. King Ferdinand of Spain, for instance, earned renown through his successful military campaigns in Granada, Africa, Italy, and France, which not only diverted his subjects' attention but also warded off potential threats. Public demonstration of rewards and penalties can also help a ruler achieve prominence. The most important thing is for the ruler to be known as a person of exceptional capability. Taking sides in times of conflict can also enhance a ruler's prestige. A neutral stance often displeases both the winner and the loser - the victorious party might see the neutral ruler as an unreliable ally, while the defeated might view him as cowardly. Instead, rulers should openly support one party. If a ruler aligns himself with a superior power and the ally triumphs, the ruler secures his position through the alliance. Even if the ally falls, the ruler can still seek refuge and protection. If the ruler is the strongest, aligning with another power will result in the obliteration of one party. However, rulers should be cautious about allying with powers that surpass their own, as this might leave them at the mercy of the more powerful ally. In some cases, though, this might be inevitable. Hence, rulers should always carefully evaluate all potential risks and choose the least harmful path. Wise rulers can recognize threats and opt for the lesser evil. Lastly, rulers should motivate their subjects to excel in their professions and cultivate a peaceful life. They should not discourage or overtax private accumulation or flourishing trade. Instead, they should reward those who contribute to the state's prosperity through city-wide festivals and personal meetings with guilds and family groups.

chapter 22

Choosing ministers is a vital duty as they shape the first perceptions visitors form about the ruler. Skilled and devoted ministers help enhance the ruler's image, while inadequate and disloyal ones tarnish it. Three types of intelligence can be found in individuals: independent comprehension, the capacity to recognize others' understanding, and the lack of both. The first one is superior, the second is satisfactory, and the last is futile. A ruler with at least the second cognitive ability can assess the merit of his ministers' actions. An unsuitable minister is one who prioritizes his own interests over the prince's and acts solely for personal gain. A wise prince should identify such situations. On the other hand, competent ministers should be incentivized to secure their loyalty. These incentives can be financial, prestigious, or involve increased authority. A crucial aspect for a ruler is to share a trusting bond with his ministers.

chapter 23

Flattery can harm a leader, as power tends to breed vanity. To protect oneself, it's crucial to show a willingness to hear the truth. Yet, if everyone has direct access to the leader, his authority could suffer. Only wise consultants should be allowed to converse with the leader, and only upon his invitation. He should ignore any others, remaining resolute in his choices to avoid loss of esteem. A leader should always seek counsel, but it should be on his terms, and he should greet each piece of advice with a healthy dose of skepticism. If he discovers deceit, he should punish the liar sternly. Irrespective of the genius of his counselors, if a leader lacks intelligence, he’s bound for failure. Leaders who perform good deeds based on sound advice should receive due recognition.

chapter 24

Machiavelli advocates that a fresh ruler who heeds the counsel in The Prince will relish the steadiness of an inherited ruler, as humans are more conscious of the present than history. Many Italian rulers have forfeited their territories due to military blunders. They retreated when they should have engaged in battle, hoping their people would summon them back. These rulers' downfall wasn't due to a series of unfortunate events, but their own ineptitude. They revelled in prosperous times, neglecting potential risks. Upon defeat, they wished for a people's uprising to reinstate them, but relying on others for safety is always unwise. A ruler's prime safeguard is his own bravery.

chapter 25

Though it's commonly believed that luck governs human activities, in reality, it only influences half of our actions, with the rest under our own control. Luck can be compared to a flood-prone river; it poses danger only when no measures have been taken to prevent its excess. Italy's chaos is due to its failure to build such protective measures, unlike Germany, Spain, and France, who have enjoyed stability because of their foresight. Even with fluctuating luck, one person may prosper while another fails despite following the same course. As situations and times change, a prince must be adaptive to stay triumphant. However, people often stick to the strategy that has previously brought them victory. Julius II's reckless nature was rewarded due to the circumstances of his time, but had he lived longer, this changeable tide would have led to his downfall. Generally, impulsiveness seems to fare better than caution. Fortune seems to prefer the vigor of youth over the prudence of old age.

chapter 26

Italy's current state of disorder sets the stage for a new ruler to emerge and bring joy to its citizens. Prior to this, there was one leader who was believed to be destined to save Italy, but unfortunate circumstances stopped this from happening. Lorenzo de’ Medici is the most promising candidate for Italy's salvation. If he can learn from the notable figures referred to in The Prince, rescuing Italy should not be an insurmountable task. Despite their greatness, these figures were only human, no more gifted or privy to opportunities than Lorenzo. Previous wars and rulers failed to fortify Italy due to its antiquated and flawed military system. For Lorenzo to triumph, he must establish a national army. Italians are skilled warriors; their leaders are the ones who have fallen short. Lorenzo's forces will require both superior cavalry and infantry to overcome the Spanish and Swiss forces. The prince who manages to restore Italy to its former glory will enjoy everlasting admiration and will be cherished throughout the provinces.

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