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Niccolo Machiavelli Born May 3 1460


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Niccolo Machiavelli


Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3, 1469 as the son of a legal official. After receiving an education that allowed him to cultivate a good grasp of the Latin and Italian classics he entered government service as a clerk in 1494. This was at a time of a downfall of the power of the Medici family which had ruled in Florence for some sixty years previously.

When the Florentine Republic was proclaimed in 1498 Machiavelli rose to prominence as secretary of a ten-man council that was entrusted with conducting the diplomatic negotiations and supervising the military operations of the state. From 1499-1512 his duties included many diplomatic missions within the Italian peninsula and to the French, Papal and Habsburg courts. In the course of his diplomatic missions within Italy he became acquainted with the political tactics of many Italian rulers. In late 1502 and into 1503 Machiavelli became familiar with the effective statebuilding methods of the ecclesiastic and soldier Cesare Borgia, who was at that time engaged in enlarging his holdings in central Italy through a mixture of audacity, prudence, self-reliance, firmness and not infrequent cruelty.

From 1503 to 1506 Machiavelli was charged with a reorganization of the military defense of the republic of Florence. Although mercenary armies, in the form of condottieri bands, were common during this period, Machiavelli greatly distrusted their capacity for loyalty and preferred to rely on the conscription of a soldiery native to the republic. This preference having been largely inspired by the writings of Livy about the citizen armies of ancient Rome.



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Dec 6, 2015

In the sixth conversation in our series with Harvey Mansfield, a discussion of the Florentine philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.

Chapter 1 (00:15 - 35:55): Machiavelli on politics and morality
Chapter 2 (35:55 - 1:07:20): Machiavelli's new philosophy

In this conversation, Mansfield explains why we should consider Machiavelli not only the founder of modern politics but also a founder of modern science and economics. What was the character of Machiavelli’s critique of Christian morality? Why did he reject the political teaching of the ancient political philosophers like Plato and Aristotle? Harvey Mansfield addresses these and other questions in this provocative discussion of one of the most famous political thinkers of all time.

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