Niccolo Machiavelli tells of the methods that have been the most successful in
gaining and maintaining power in non-democratic governments in his classic
novel, The Prince. Through a meticulous analysis of political history up to his
point in time, he tells of the political strategies that had worked for rulers
time and time again and also of those that had failed. Machiavelli maintains
that any opposition to a rulerís power should be disposed of. He gives the
example of Agathocles who had his army quickly and ruthlessly killed the senate
of Syracuse and all of the other powerful people in the city so that he could
easily take control with no one to oppose him. Machiavelli does not glorify
these actions. He merely states that they work. Machiavelli also put a great
value on having a military made up of citizens of the state rather than
mercenaries. He concluded that a citizensí army has more to lose if defeated
and more to gain if victorious. A citizenís army is also more likely to be
loyal to its ruler while mercenaries fight purely for profit. At the moment it
becomes more profitable to take some other course of action than to follow the
orders of their employer, mercenaries will do so. Machiavelli cites several
examples where having an army of mercenaries limited the capabilities of the
stateís military. King Louis XI employed Swiss mercenaries who fought along
side his own troops. In time the French troops were so accustomed to fighting
with the Swiss that they felt they couldnít be victorious without them.

Machiavelli also gave some examples of times when mercenaries actually turned on
their employers such as the Carthaginiansí mercenaries that turned on them
after they fought the Romans. Machiavelli said that it was critical for a ruler
to be constantly thinking of the art of war. He should come to know the
landscape of his own country in order to know the best strategies for battle
should his nation every be attacked, and through this he should also be able to
deduce how to react in similar terrain in another place. Francesco Sforza raised
himself from a private person to the station of Duke of Milan through battle.

Machiavelli believed that a ruler should know how to do wrong. He who tries to
do what is morally right instead of what needs to be done will soon lose his
power. Machiavelli states that it is better to be feared than loved if one
cannot be both. A ruler should not be too merciful. Ruthlessness that sets a few
examples is ultimately more merciful when it prevents disorder because many may
die in disorder. Hannibal was ruthless and cruel, and he was both revered and
feared in the eyes of his enormous army, allowing him to keep them under his
command. Machiavelli explains that a ruler should have the cunning of a fox and
the strength of a lion. Without cunning a ruler is susceptible to tricks and
traps, but without a strong military he is likely to be overwhelmed by the
opposition. Alexander VI was an especially cunning ruler. He was always
deceiving someone. Deceit can often be used to manipulate others. Niccolo

Machiavelli is one of the most widely read authors of all time. His book, The

Prince, has been studied by many people including Hitler and several U.S.
presidents. By the age of 29 Machiavelli was active in the Florentine
government, participating in several diplomatic missions to other nations that
afforded him the opportunity to observe their practices.