Niccolo Machiavelli quotes
Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was a famous Italian (in reality, Florentine -
a resident of Florence, as the Italian continent at that time was simply divided into many city-states, and not one
united republic or kingdom) philosopher, historian, diplomat, politician and humanist during the Renaissance
period. He is most famous as a writer, yet for many decades was a high-ranking diplomat and military officer in the
Republic of Florence. He is also known as the originator of modern political science; political ethics, to be
exact. Born in 1470, married in 1502 at the age of thirty-two (quite old for that time period) to Marietta Corsini,
Machiavelli died and passed into the annals of history in 1527 at the age of fifty-eight. He was also known to
write poetry comedies and even carnival songs, yet is most famous for his masterpiece, The Prince, which
he penned after the powerful Medici family had returned to power and he no longer held any post of official
influence. Although thought of in modern times as a harsh yet pragmatic statesman, this was far from the truth, yet
this thinking continues to exist due to the fact that the term Machiavellian is generally used in a negative
connotation to describe unscrupulous politicians (ambitious, brutal, devious and deceitful) such as he detailed in
his masterpiece The Prince. In fact, he was quite objective when he penned The Prince while stating his views on
the need of having a strong ruler that is not afraid to be harsh with both his subjects and enemies, and most
experts agree that the reality is that his views were most likely influenced by the history and current affairs of
the Italian peninsula of his time - Italian city states were extremely vulnerable to other unified kingdoms (i.e.
France) due to the lack of unification and a central government/ ruler. However, it would seem that Machiavelli did
endorse behavior now seeming to be, in these modern times, both evil and immoral.
Never was anything great achieved without danger.
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.
It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.
Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.
A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who
are most excellent, so that if he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get
some tinge of it.
A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around
Everyone who wants to know what will happen ought to examine what has happened:
everything in this world in any epoch has their replicas in antiquity.
Men in general judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few
have the gift of penetration.
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.
Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.
There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that
telling you the truth will not offend you.
Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society.
Severities should be dealt out all at once, so that their suddenness may give less offense;
benefits should be conferred gradually, and in that way they will taste better.
It is best to be both feared and loved; however, if one cannot be both, it is better to be
feared than loved.
No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for
The end justifies the means.
God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory
which belongs to us.
It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
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
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.
I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful
man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.
Men are driven by two two principal impulses, either by love or by fear.
Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number
who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be
good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.
Thus a wise prince will think of ways to keep his citizens of every sort and under every
circumstance dependent on the state and on him; and then they will always be trustworthy.
Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.
Good order and discipline in an army are more to be depended upon than ferocity.
People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their
revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone,
do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.
One can say this in general of men: they are ungrateful, disloyal, insincere and deceitful,
timid of danger and avid of profit. Love is a bond of obligation that these miserable creatures
break whenever it suits them to do so; but fear holds them fast by a dread of punishment
that never passes.
Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger, but calculating risk and
acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength
to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.
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.
In judging policies we should consider the results that have been achieved through them
rather than the means by which they have been executed.
The best fortress which a prince can possess is the affection of his people.
Few men are brave by nature, but good discipline and experience make many so.
It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of
success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.