The great Italian, born in 1469 in Florence, became famous as a politician and a political philosopher. To his pen belongs to the poem, The Golden Ass, treatises On Art of War, History of Florence, and the Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius. A man with a surname that speaks for itself – translated from Italian Machiavelli means “an obnoxious nail” – has received a remarkable classical education. With this classical education it was possible to do anything, but he opted for the unrewarding and poorly-paid public service. In the Republic of Florence, he was engaged in military and diplomatic affairs and oversaw the defense of the city. It was then that Machiavelli acquired an invaluable knowledge of human psychology and studied the experience of political institutions of different rulers. It was during this period that Machiavelli came up with the idea of universal conscription which has survived for six centuries: distrustful of mercenaries, he believed that a militia formed of citizens should defend the homeland.
In 1512, the Medici regained power over Florence, and the republic was abolished. Machiavelli fell into disrepute, withdrew to an estate near Florence and fully devoted himself to political philosophy. Machiavelli’s philosophy is characterized by empiricism, that is, the belief that all our knowledge is based on experience. Then there is immoralism, that is, the belief in the relativity of good and evil, the belief in the weakness and imperfection of the human race. Yet, the proverbial Machiavellism which is basically cynicism and the belief that the end justifies the means, and politics are totally driven by the forces of benefit and power does not fully correspond to Machiavelli’s actual views. It is no more than his image, and this image arose from the fact that Machiavelli was honest and called things by their names. In his famous treatise The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote: “to understand the nature of the people it needs to be a prince, and to understand that of princes it needs to be of the people.” “You must know there are two ways of contesting, the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts.” “The intelligence of the ruler is judged primarily by the people he surrounds himself with.”