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Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince 21
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CHAPTER XXI

HOW A PRINCE SHOULD CONDUCT HIMSELF SO AS TO GAIN RENOWN

Nothing makes a prince so much esteemed as great enterprises and
setting a fine example. We have in our time Ferdinand of Aragon, the
present King of Spain. He can almost be called a new prince, because
he has risen, by fame and glory, from being an insignificant king to
be the foremost king in Christendom; and if you will consider his
deeds you will find them all great and some of them extraordinary. In
the beginning of his reign he attacked Granada, and this enterprise
was the foundation of his dominions. He did this quietly at first and
without any fear of hindrance, for he held the minds of the barons of
Castile occupied in thinking of the war and not anticipating any
innovations; thus they did not perceive that by these means he was
acquiring power and authority over them. He was able with the money
of the Church and of the people to sustain his armies, and by that long
war to lay the foundation for the military skill which has since
distinguished him. Further, always using religion as a plea, so as to
undertake greater schemes, he devoted himself with pious cruelty to
driving out and clearing his kingdom of the Moors; nor could there be
a more admirable example, nor one more rare. Under this same cloak he
assailed Africa, he came down on Italy, he has finally attacked
France; and thus his achievements and designs have always been great,
and have kept the minds of his people in suspense and admiration and
occupied with the issue of them. And his actions have arisen in such a
way, one out of the other, that men have never been given time to work
steadily against him.

Again, it much assists a prince to set unusual examples in internal
affairs, similar to those which are related of Messer Bernabo da
Milano, who, when he had the opportunity, by any one in civil life
doing some extraordinary thing, either good or bad, would take some
method of rewarding or punishing him, which would be much spoken
about. And a prince ought, above all things, always endeavour in every
action to gain for himself the reputation of being a great and
remarkable man.

A prince is also respected when he is either a true friend or a
downright enemy, that is to say, when, without any reservation, he
declares himself in favour of one party against the other; which
course will always be more advantageous than standing neutral; because
if two of your powerful neighbours come to blows, they are of such a
character that, if one of them conquers, you have either to fear him
or not. In either case it will always be more advantageous for you to
declare yourself and to make war strenuously; because, in the first
case, if you do not declare yourself, you will invariably fall a prey
to the conqueror, to the pleasure and satisfaction of him who has been
conquered, and you will have no reasons to offer, nor anything to
protect or to shelter you. Because he who conquers does not want
doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial; and he who
loses will not harbour you because you did not willingly, sword in
hand, court his fate.

Antiochus went into Greece, being sent for by the Aetolians to drive
out the Romans. He sent envoys to the Achaeans, who were friends of
the Romans, exhorting them to remain neutral; and on the other hand
the Romans urged them to take up arms. This question came to be
discussed in the council of the Achaeans, where the legate of
Antiochus urged them to stand neutral. To this the Roman legate
answered: "As for that which has been said, that it is better and more
advantageous for your state not to interfere in our war, nothing can
be more erroneous; because by not interfering you will be left,
without favour or consideration, the guerdon of the conqueror." Thus
it will always happen that he who is not your friend will demand your
neutrality, whilst he who is your friend will entreat you to declare
yourself with arms. And irresolute princes, to avoid present dangers,
generally follow the neutral path, and are generally ruined. But when
a prince declares himself gallantly in favour of one side, if the
party with whom he allies himself conquers, although the victor may be
powerful and may have him at his mercy, yet he is indebted to him, and
there is established a bond of amity; and men are never so shameless
as to become a monument of ingratitude by oppressing you. Victories
after all are never so complete that the victor must not show some
regard, especially to justice. But if he with whom you ally yourself
loses, you may be sheltered by him, and whilst he is able he may aid
you, and you become companions on a fortune that may rise again.

In the second case, when those who fight are of such a character that
you have no anxiety as to who may conquer, so much the more is it
greater prudence to be allied, because you assist at the destruction
of one by the aid of another who, if he had been wise, would have
saved him; and conquering, as it is impossible that he should not do
with your assistance, he remains at your discretion. And here it is to
be noted that a prince ought to take care never to make an alliance
with one more powerful than himself for the purposes of attacking
others, unless necessity compels him, as is said above; because if he
conquers you are at his discretion, and princes ought to avoid as much
as possible being at the discretion of any one. The Venetians joined
with France against the Duke of Milan, and this alliance, which caused
their ruin, could have been avoided. But when it cannot be avoided, as
happened to the Florentines when the Pope and Spain sent armies to
attack Lombardy, then in such a case, for the above reasons, the
prince ought to favour one of the parties.

Never let any Government imagine that it can choose perfectly safe
courses; rather let it expect to have to take very doubtful ones,
because it is found in ordinary affairs that one never seeks to avoid
one trouble without running into another; but prudence consists in
knowing how to distinguish the character of troubles, and for choice
to take the lesser evil.

A prince ought also to show himself a patron of ability, and to honour
the proficient in every art. At the same time he should encourage his
citizens to practise their callings peaceably, both in commerce and
agriculture, and in every other following, so that the one should not
be deterred from improving his possessions for fear lest they be taken
away from him or another from opening up trade for fear of taxes; but
the prince ought to offer rewards to whoever wishes to do these things
and designs in any way to honour his city or state.

Further, he ought to entertain the people with festivals and
spectacles at convenient seasons of the year; and as every city is
divided into guilds or into societies,[*] he ought to hold such bodies
in esteem, and associate with them sometimes, and show himself an
example of courtesy and liberality; nevertheless, always maintaining
the majesty of his rank, for this he must never consent to abate in
anything.

[*] "Guilds or societies," "in arti o in tribu." "Arti" were craft or
trade guilds, cf. Florio: "Arte . . . a whole company of any trade
in any city or corporation town." The guilds of Florence are most
admirably described by Mr Edgcumbe Staley in his work on the
subject (Methuen, 1906). Institutions of a somewhat similar
character, called "artel," exist in Russia to-day, cf. Sir
Mackenzie Wallace's "Russia," ed. 1905: "The sons . . . were
always during the working season members of an artel. In some of
the larger towns there are artels of a much more complex kind--
permanent associations, possessing large capital, and pecuniarily
responsible for the acts of the individual members." The word
"artel," despite its apparent similarity, has, Mr Aylmer Maude
assures me, no connection with "ars" or "arte." Its root is that
of the verb "rotisya," to bind oneself by an oath; and it is
generally admitted to be only another form of "rota," which now
signifies a "regimental company." In both words the underlying
idea is that of a body of men united by an oath. "Tribu" were
possibly gentile groups, united by common descent, and included
individuals connected by marriage. Perhaps our words "sects" or
"clans" would be most appropriate.



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