Chapter 7

New Principalities Acquired By Arms or Good Fortune

by Niccolo Machiavelli Icon

Private citizens who become princes solely through good fortune rise easily but have trouble staying on top.

  • They do not have any difficulties on the way up, because they fly.
  • But they have many difficulties when they reach the top.

Such are people who get a state either by money or by favour. This happened to many:

  • in Greece
  • in the cities of Ionia and the Hellespont

In those places, princes were made by Darius for his own security and glory.

Similar to them are the leaders who got the state by bribing the soldiers. Their position is most inconstant and unstable.

They do not have:

  • the knowledge required for the position
  • friendly and faithful forces

Things in nature which are born and grow rapidly cannot establish their foundations well. This lets them get destroyed by the first storm.

The same is true for states that rise unexpectedly, unless their unexpected princes are so skilled that they know they what to do with whatever fortune has thrown to them.

I give 2 examples of the rise from ability and fortune in our times:

  1. Francesco Sforza rose by ability
  2. Cesare Borgia rose by fortune

Francesco rose from being a private person to be Duke of Milan by proper means and with great ability. Whatever he had acquired with a thousand anxieties, he kept with little trouble.

Cesare Borgia’s Challenges

On the other hand, Cesare Borgia acquired his state while his father, Pope Alexander 6th, was in power.

  • On his father’s decline, he lost it despite his best efforts

A person who did not first lay his foundations might be able to lay them afterwards with great effort. But this will cause danger to the building.

Cesare planned solid foundations for his future power. However, it failed through extraordinary bad luck.

Pope Alexander 6th wished to promote his son Cesare but had many immediate and prospective difficulties.

The only available state was the one belonging to the Church

But he knew that the Duke of Milan and the Venetians would not allow it.

The Italian armies that might have assisted him were controlled by the people who did not want to see the Church made more powerful. He needed to create disorder among the powers, so as to secure himself. He found the Venetians wanting to bring back the French into Italy.

He assisted them by helping King Louis officially end his former marriage. Thus, the King of France came into Italy with:

  • the help of the Venetians
  • the consent of Pope Alexander.

The Pope then asked his French soldiers to attack Romagna, which surrendered to him simply from fear of King Louis.

Cesare, therefore, acquired the Romagna and beaten the Colonnesi. His problem was that his forces were loyal to France, not to him. They might seize whatever territories he had won.

To solve this, he weakened the Orsini and Colonnesi parties in Rome, by winning over all their gentlemen followers and making them his gentlemen:

  • giving them good pay
  • honouring them with official positions and power suited to their rank

In a few months, all loyalty to the parties was destroyed and directed entirely to Cesare. After this, he waited for an opportunity to crush the Orsini, having scattered the Colonnessi supporters.

However, he overcame these with the help of the French.

He decided to act more cleverly and hide his intentions. By the mediation of Signor Pagolo – whom Cesare secured with money, clothes, and horses – the Orsini became more sympathetic, so that their simple trust brought them into his power.

He thus laid good foundations for his power by:

  • removing the leaders
  • turning their supporters into his friends
  • having all the Romagna and the Dukedom of Urbino

The people were now beginning to appreciate their improved living conditions, so they were happy to support him.

When Cesare occupied the Romagna he found it under the rule of weak masters, who robbed their subjects rather than ruling them. This gave them more cause for rebellion than for union. The country was full of robbery, quarrels, and every kind of violence.

Cesare Borgia’s Cruel Reputation

He promoted Ramiro d’Orco, an efficient and cruel man, to whom he gave the fullest power. In a short time, he restored peace and unity with great success.

Afterwards, Cesare reduced his own authority to avoid being disliked. So he set up a court of judgment in the country, under an excellent president, in which all cities had their advocates.

He knew that the past severity had caused some hatred against him. So, to clear himself in the people’s minds and make them loyal to him, he showed that the cruelty came from the governor.

Under this pretence, Cesare killed Ramiro and left in the square at Cesena with the block and a bloody knife at his side. This terrible sight caused the people to be satisfied and worried at the same time.

He knew that the French king was now aware of his own misjudgements with Cesare.

So from this time, Cesare began to:

  • seek new friends
  • delay helping France’s campaign against Naples which was fighting the Spaniards attacking Gaeta.
  1. By killing the families of those lords whom he had defeated

In this way, the new Pope could not use them as an excuse to attack him.

  1. By winning the loyalty of all the gentlemen of Rome, so that they would not support the Pope.

  2. By gaining the support of the college of cardinals

  3. By acquiring so much power before Pope Alexander died that he could by his own means resist the first shock.

He had completed 3 of these at the death of Alexander. He had killed as many of the defeated lords as he could lay hands on. Few had escaped. He had:

  • won over the Roman gentlemen
  • control of the largest group in the college of cardinals.

He intended to conquer Tuscany since he already had Perugia and Piombino. Pisa was under his protection.

He no longer had to worry about France for they were already driven out of Naples by the Spaniards. This forced both of them to seek his support. He wanted to take Pisa. After this, Lucca and Siena would yield at once, partly through:

  • hatred, and
  • fear of the Florentines.

Cesare Borgia’s Ill Health

The Florentines would have had no remedy if he succeeded. This is because he would already have acquired so much power and reputation that he would have stood by himself.

But Pope Alexander died 5 years after he had first drawn the sword. He left Cesare with only the state of Romagna well secured. The rest was in the air, between two very powerful enemy armies, and in very ill health.

Yet Cesare had such boldness and ability. He knew well how men are to be won or lost. The foundations which he laid so quickly were so firm. If there were no rival armies or if he had been in good health, he would have overcome all difficulties.

His foundations were good, because the Romagna waited for him for more than a month.

In Rome, although barely half alive, he remained secure. ; and while the Baglioni, the Vitelli, and theOrsini might come to Rome, they could not carry out anything against him.

If he could not choose the Pope he wanted, at least the one whom he did not want would not have been elected. But if he had been in good health at the death of Alexander, everything would have been different for him.

Pope Julius 2nd was elected to succeed Alexander. On his election day, Cesare told me that he had thought of everything that might occur at the death of his father. Except that he had never anticipated that he himself would be on the point of dying.

I do not blame Cesare. Instead, I hold him up as a model for all those who gain power by the fortune or the power of others.

Cesare had a noble spirit and far-reaching aims. He could not have regulated his conduct otherwise. Only the shortness of the life of Alexander and his own sickness spoiled his plans.

He is the best example of a prince who secured himself in his new principality by:

  • winning friends
  • overcoming enemies by force or deception
  • making himself loved and feared by the people and followed and respected by the soldiers
  • destroying those who have power or reason to hurt him
  • changing the old order of things for new
  • being severe and still loved, generous and liberal
  • destroying a disloyal army to create a new one
  • maintaining friendship with kings and princes to get their help and avoid offending him

He can only be criticised for the election of Pope Julius 2nd, in whom he made a bad choice, because not being able to elect the Pope of his own choice, he could have hindered any other from being elected Pope.

He should never have consented to the election of any cardinal whom he had injured or who had cause to fear him if they became the Pope. Men injure others either from fear or from hatred.

Cesare had injured several cardinals. The rest of them, in becoming Pope, would have feared him.

He should have created a Spaniard Pope. Failing that, he should have consented to a Pope who had depended on him and had a good relationship with him.

He who believes that new benefits will cause great persons to forget old injuries is deceived. Therefore, Cesare was wrong in his choice, and it was the cause of his ultimate ruin.


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