The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

Duke Filippo being dead, the Milanese enlisted Francesco Sforza against the Venetians, and he, having overcome the enemy at Caravaggio,(*) allied himself with them to crush the Milanese, his masters. His father, Sforza, having been engaged by Queen Johanna(+) of Naples, left her unprotected, so that she was forced to throw herself into the arms of the King of Aragon, in order to save her kingdom. And if the Venetians and Florentines formerly extended their dominions by these arms, and yet their captains did not make themselves princes, but have defended them, I reply that the Florentines in this case have been favoured by chance, for of the able captains, of whom they might have stood in fear, some have not conquered, some have been opposed, and others have turned their ambitions elsewhere. One who did not conquer was Giovanni Acuto,(%) and since he did not conquer his fidelity cannot be proved; but every one will acknowledge that, had he conquered, the Florentines would have stood at his discretion. Sforza had the Bracceschi always against him, so they watched each other. Francesco turned his ambition to Lombardy; Braccio against the Church and the kingdom of Naples. But let us come to that which happened a short while ago. The Florentines appointed as their captain Pagolo Vitelli, a most prudent man, who from a private position had risen to the greatest renown. If this man had taken Pisa, nobody can deny that it would have been proper for the Florentines to keep in with him, for if he became the soldier of their enemies they had no means of resisting, and if they held to him they must obey him. The Venetians, if their achievements are considered, will be seen to have acted safely and gloriously so long as they sent to war their own men, when with armed gentlemen and plebians they did valiantly. This was before they turned to enterprises on land, but when they began to fight on land they forsook this virtue and followed the custom of Italy. And in the beginning of their expansion on land, through not having much territory, and because of their great reputation, they had not much to fear from their captains; but when they expanded, as under Carmignuola,(#) they had a taste of this mistake; for, having found him a most valiant man (they beat the Duke of Milan under his leadership), and, on the other hand, knowing how lukewarm he was in the war, they feared they would no longer conquer under him, and for this reason they were not willing, nor were they able, to let him go; and so, not to lose again that which they had acquired, they were compelled, in order to secure themselves, to murder him. They had afterwards for their captains Bartolomeo da Bergamo, Roberto da San Severino, the count of Pitigliano,(&) and the like, under whom they had to dread loss and not gain, as happened afterwards at Vaila,($) where in one battle they lost that which in eight hundred years they had acquired with so much trouble. Because from such arms conquests come but slowly, long delayed and inconsiderable, but the losses sudden and portentous.

 (*) Battle of Caravaggio, 15th September 1448.

 (+) Johanna II of Naples, the widow of Ladislao, King of
 Naples.

 (%) Giovanni Acuto. An English knight whose name was Sir
 John Hawkwood. He fought in the English wars in France, and
 was knighted by Edward III; afterwards he collected a body
 of troops and went into Italy. These became the famous
 "White Company." He took part in many wars, and died in
 Florence in 1394. He was born about 1320 at Sible Hedingham,
 a village in Essex. He married Domnia, a daughter of Bernabo
 Visconti.

 (#) Carmignuola. Francesco Bussone, born at Carmagnola about
 1390, executed at Venice, 5th May 1432.

 (&) Bartolomeo Colleoni of Bergamo; died 1457. Roberto of
 San Severino; died fighting for Venice against Sigismund,
 Duke of Austria, in 1487. "Primo capitano in Italia."—
 Machiavelli. Count of Pitigliano; Nicolo Orsini, born 1442,
 died 1510.

 ($) Battle of Vaila in 1509.

And as with these examples I have reached Italy, which has been ruled for many years by mercenaries, I wish to discuss them more seriously, in order that, having seen their rise and progress, one may be better prepared to counteract them. You must understand that the empire has recently come to be repudiated in Italy, that the Pope has acquired more temporal power, and that Italy has been divided up into more states, for the reason that many of the great cities took up arms against their nobles, who, formerly favoured by the emperor, were oppressing them, whilst the Church was favouring them so as to gain authority in temporal power: in many others their citizens became princes. From this it came to pass that Italy fell partly into the hands of the Church and of republics, and, the Church consisting of priests and the republic of citizens unaccustomed to arms, both commenced to enlist foreigners.

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