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Famous Machiavelli quotes from The Prince (1513)
Italian title: Il Principe (written c. 1505)
- Upon this,
one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because
they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot;
therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that
one does not stand in fear of revenge.
- Ch. 3; Variant translation:
Never do an enemy a small injury.
- The Romans
never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because
they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's
advantage. Therefore, they made war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in
order not to have to fight them in Italy... They never went by that saying which
you constantly hear from the wiseacres of our day, that time heals all things.
They trusted rather their own character and prudence— knowing perfectly well that
time contains the seeds of all things, good as well as bad.
- Ch. 3 (as
translated by RM Adams) Variants [these can seem to generalize the circumstances
in ways that the translation above does not.]: The Romans, foreseeing troubles,
dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to
a head, for they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the
advantage of others.
There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to
the advantage of others.
- If someone puts up the
argument that King Louis gave the Romagna to Pope Alexander, and the kingdom of
Naples to Spain, in order to avoid a war, I would answer as I did before: that
you should never let things get out of hand in order to avoid war. You don't
avoid such a war, you merely postpone it, to your own disadvantage.
3 (as translated by RM Adams)
- It ought to be remembered
that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct,
or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of
a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who
have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may
do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents,
who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do
not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.
- From this arises the question whether
it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might
perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can
hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared
- The chief foundations
of all states, new as well as old or composite, are good laws and good arms; and
as there cannot be good laws where the state is not well armed, it follows that
where they are well armed they have good laws.
- A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else
for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art
that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds
those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station
to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought
more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of
your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state
is to be master of the art.
- Ch. 14; Variant: A prince should therefore
have no other aim or thought, nor take up any other thing for his study but war
and it organization and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary
to one who commands.
- Among other evils which
being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.
- Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen
or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought
to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather
bring about his own ruin than his preservation.
- He ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear,
but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much
confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.
- The prince who relies upon their words,
without having otherwise provided for his security, is ruined; for friendships
that are won by awards, and not by greatness and nobility of soul, although deserved,
yet are not real, and cannot be depended upon in time of adversity.
- A prince being thus obliged to know well how to
act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect
himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must
therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
- Every one admits how praiseworthy it is
in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless
our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held
good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of
men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word.
- Ch. 18. Concerning the Way in which Princes should keep Faith
(as translated by W. K. Marriott)
- Every one sees
what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose
themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend
- 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; but because the first is frequently not sufficient,
it is necessary to have recourse to the second.
- The prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid
those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall
have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger
in other reproaches. It makes him hated above all things, as I have said,
to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects,
from both of which he must abstain. And when neither their property nor honour
is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has only to contend with
the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease in many ways. It makes him
contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous, effeminate, mean-spirited, irresolute,
from all of which a prince should guard himself as from a rock; and he should
endeavour to show in his actions greatness, courage, gravity, and fortitude; and
in his private dealings with his subjects let him show that his judgments are
irrevocable, and maintain himself in such reputation that no one can hope either
to deceive him or to get round him. That prince is highly esteemed who conveys
this impression of himself, and he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired
against; for, provided it is well known that he is an excellent man and revered
by his people, he can only be attacked with difficulty.
- Ch. 19 "That
one should avoid being despised and hated"
- A prince
ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his subjects, the other
from without, on account of external powers. From the latter he is defended by
being well armed and having good allies, and if he is well armed he will have
good friends, and affairs will always remain quiet within when they are quiet
without, unless they should have been already disturbed by conspiracy; and even
should affairs outside be disturbed, if he has carried out his preparations and
has lived as I have said, as long as he does not despair, he will resist every
- Ch. 19; Variant: Against foreign powers, a prince can defend
himself with good weapons and good friends; if he has good weapons, he will never
lack for good friends. (as translated by RM Adams)
- The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is
by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful
he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable
and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good
opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them. (as tranlsated
by W. K. Marriott)
- Ch. 22. Variant translation: The first method for
estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
- There are three classes of intellects: one which
comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a
third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first
is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.
- There is no other way of guarding oneself
against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you
by speaking the truth; but when everyone can tell you the truth, you lose their
- I conclude, then, that
so long as Fortune varies and men stand still, they will prosper while they suit
the times, and fail when they do not. But I do feel this: that it is better to
be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her
down must beat and bully her. We see that she yields more often to men of this
stripe than to those who come coldly toward her.
- Ch. 25 (as translated
by RM Adams)
- Where the willingness is great, the
difficulties cannot be great.
is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share
of glory which belongs to us.
yet placed by chapter
These are quotations that are cited as from translations
of The Prince, but as yet are not placed by chapter.
- A prince
never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
Machiavelli quotes from Discourses on Livy (1517)
Quotes from translations
of Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio; 3 vols. published between
1512-1517 (Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius)
all those have shown who have discussed civil institutions, and as every history
is full of examples, it is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic
and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will
use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity; and if such
malignity is hidden for a time, it proceeds from the unknown reason that would
not be known because the experience of the contrary had not been seen, but time,
which is said to be the father of every truth, will cause it to be discovered.
- Book 1, Ch. 3 Variant portion: Whoever desires to found a state and
give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to
display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.
- Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free
to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.
- Book 1, Ch. 3 (as translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
- The demands of a free populace, too, are very seldom harmful to liberty, for
they are due either to the populace being oppressed or to the suspicious that
it is going to be oppressed... and, should these impressions be false, a remedy
is provided in the public platform on which some man of standing can get up, appeal
to the crowd, and show that it is mistaken. And though, as Tully remarks, the
populace may be ignorant, it is capable of grasping the truth and readily yields
when a man, worthy of confidence, lays the truth before it.
- Book 1, Ch.
4 (as translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
- So in
all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is impossible
to remove one inconvenience without another emerging.
- Book 1, Ch. 6 (as
translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
- I am firmly
convinced, therefore, that to set up a republic which is to last a long time,
the way to set about it is to constitute it as Sparta and Venice were constituted;
to place it in a strong position, and so to fortify it that no one will dream
of taking it by a sudden assault; and, other the other hand, not to make it so
large as to appear formidable to its neighbors. It should in this way be able
to enjoy its form of government for a long time. For war is made on a commonwealth
for two reasons: to subjugate it, and for fear of being subjugated by it.
Both these reasons are almost entirely removed by the aforesaid precautions; for,
if it be difficult to take by assault owing to its being well organized for defence,
as I am presupposing, rarely or never will it occur to anyone to seize it. And,
if it be content with its own territory, and it becomes clear by experience that
it has no ambitions, it will never occur that someone may make war through fear
for himself, especially if by its constitution or by its laws expansion is prohibited.
Nor have I the least doubt that, if this balance could be maintained, there would
be genuine political life and real tranquillity in such a city.
all human affairs are ever in a state of flux and cannot stand still, either there
will be improvement or decline, and necessity will lead you to do many things
which reason does not recommend. Hence, if a commonwealth be constituted with
a view to its maintaining the status quo, but not with a view to expansion, and
by necessity it be led to expand, its basic principles will be subverted and it
will soon be faced with ruin. So, too, should heaven, on the other hand, be so
kind to it that it has no need to go to war, it will then come about that idleness
will either render it effeminate or give rise to factions; and these two things,
either in conjunction or separately, will bring about its downfall.
since it is impossible, so I hold, to adjust the balance so nicely as to keep
things exactly to this middle course, one ought, in constituting a republic, to
consider the possibility of its playing a more honorable role, and so to constitute
it that, should necessity actually force it to expand, it may be able to retain
possession of what it has acquired. Coming back, then, to the first point we raised,
I am convinced that the Roman type of constitution should be adopted, not that
of any other republic, for to find a middle way between the two extremes I do
not think possible. Squabbles between the populace and the senate should, therefore,
be looked upon as an inconvenience which it is necessary to put up with in order
to arrive at the greatness of Rome."
- Book 1, Ch. 6 (as translated by
LJ Walker & B Crick)
- The people resemble a wild
beast, which, naturally fierce and accustomed to live in the woods, has been brought
up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty,
not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where toconceal itself,
easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again.
- It was the verdict of ancient writers that
men afflict themselves in evil and weary themselves in the good, and that the
same effects result from both of these passions. For whenever men are not obliged
to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human
breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. The reason
is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but
are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than
the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction
to themselves from it. From this arises the changes in their fortunes; for
as men desire, some to have more, some in fear of losing their acquisition, there
ensues enmity and war, from which results the ruin of that province and the elevation
- Book 1, Ch. 37 Variant: Nature has so contrived that to
men, though all things are objects of desire, not all things are attainable; so
that desire always exceeds the power of attainment, with the result that men are
ill-content with what they possess and their present state brings them little
satisfaction. Hence arise the vicissitudes of their fortune. (as translated
by LJ Walker & B Crick)
- When Scipio became consul
and was keen on getting the province of Africa, promising that Carthage should
be completely destroyed, and the senate would not agree to this because Fabius
Maximus was against it, he threatened to appeal to the people, for he knew full
well how pleasing such projects are to the populace.
- Book 1, Ch. 53 (as
translated by LJ Walker & B Crick)
Machiavelli quotes from The Art of War (1520)
Quotations from translations
of Dell'arte della guerra ; also known as On the Art of War
- I believe that it is possible for one to praise, without concern, any man
after he is dead since every reason and supervision for adulation is lacking.
- No proceeding is better than that
which you have concealed from the enemy until the time you have executed it. To
know how to recognize an opportunity in war, and take it, benefits you more than
anything else. Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many.
Discipline in war counts more than fury.
- Book 7; Variant: No enterprise
is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for
Quotes also Attribute to Machiavelli.
- He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence
he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with the greatest loss.
- Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime,
and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the
- War should be the only study of a prince. He should consider
peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes
as ability to execute, military plans.
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