• Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince

Created 1st May, 2005 10:10 (UTC), last edited 8th May, 2006 07:59 (UTC)

… A question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you.

Il Principe (The Prince in English) by Niccolò Machiavelli is not only the book that made Machiavelli famous, but also introduced his name as a word in the English language. Unfortunately for Machiavelli the book didn't do during his lifetime what he hoped it would.

He wrote it around 1513 CE (although it wasn't published until 1532, posthumously) and dedicated it to the head Medicis, Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici, (then ruler of Florence) in order to try to gain patronage with him. The book failed in this task.

The book isn't quite as underhand as the term would seem to imply. Although many consider it realistic he really tells people in power that they should be without scruples. He isn't interested in any moral imperative behind power (apart from in as much as this helps the powerful stay powerful), but he is very interested in the ways and means of staying in power.

The text

This particular text is a translation by W. K. Marriott and I have left out his introduction, but left in his footnotes (although I have changed one or two a little). I have also slightly re-edited some of the text, but in essence my changes are pretty insignificant.

References in the footnotes to "Mr. Burd" and "Burd's Il Principe" should probably be taken as references to Il Principe edited by Lord Arthur Burd (Oxford Clarendon press 1891). There are also references to the "Testina edition" which is an Italian printing from 1550.

The dead trees edition I have is part of Penguin Book's Great Ideas series and is translated by George Bull. Although the language is slightly more modern I find the text on this site much easier to read and much more punchy. The footnotes are especially helpful.


  1. Dedication
  2. How many kinds of Principalities there are, and by what means they are acquired
  3. Concerning hereditary principalities
  4. Concerning mixed principalities
  5. Why the Kingdom of Darius, conquered by Alexander, did not rebel against the successors of Alexander at his death
  6. Concerning the way to govern cities or principalities which lived under their own laws before they were annexed
  7. Concerning new principalities which are acquired by one's own arms and ability
  8. Concerning new principalities which are acquired either by the arms of others or by good fortune
  9. Concerning those who have obtained a principality by wickedness
  10. Concerning a civil principality
  11. Concerning the way in which the strength of all principalities ought to be measured
  12. Concerning ecclesiastical principalities
  13. How many kinds of soldiery there are, and concerning mercenaries
  14. Concerning auxiliaries, mixed soldiery, and one's own
  15. That which concerns a Prince on the subject of the Art of War
  16. Concerning things for which men, and especially Princes, are praised or blamed
  17. Concerning liberality and meanness
  18. Concerning cruelty and clemency, and whether it is better to be loved than feared
  19. Concerning the way in which Princes should keep Faith
  20. That one should avoid being despised and hated
  21. Are fortresses, and many other things to which princes often resort, advantageous or hurtful?
  22. How a Prince should conduct himself so as to gain renown
  23. Concerning the secretaries of Princes
  24. How flatterers should be avoided
  25. Why the Princes of Italy have lost their States
  26. What fortune can effect in human affairs and how to withstand Her
  27. An exhortation to liberate Italy from the Barbarians