The Prince | Study Guide

Niccolò Machiavelli

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The Prince | Character Analysis

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Machiavelli

Considered the father of modern political theory, Machiavelli was the defense secretary for the Florentine republic for 14 years until the Medici family—who controlled Florence for most of the Renaissance—returned to power in 1512. When it was discovered he had attempted to organize a militia against the Medici dynasty, he was jailed, tortured, and temporarily exiled to his father's estate just south of Florence. It was there he began writing his political treatise, The Prince, which was first published as a pamphlet in 1513 and dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici, who became ruler of Florence that year. There is continuous debate as to whether Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a satirical piece, or as a sincere gift to Medici as a way to regain the powerful family's good graces. Regardless, the theories he proposed in his book coined the now-famous term Machiavellian, used to describe a manipulative person in power.

Lorenzo de' Medici

Lorenzo de' Medici ruled Florence from 1513 to 1519 following his uncle, Giovanni de' Medici, who became Pope Leo X. This was a position he took rather reluctantly as he preferred Rome and had little interest in Florentine affairs. In 1516 the pope made him Duke of Urbino. When Machiavelli dedicated The Prince to Lorenzo de' Medici, he wrote "...if you diligently read and study it, you will recognize my extreme desire that you should attain to that eminence which Fortune and your own merits promise you." While The Prince was intended to serve as a form of counsel for the young ruler, it's unknown as to whether Medici actually read it.

Pope Leo X

Pope Leo X, born Giovanni de' Medici, was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. He's known for being one of the most extravagant Renaissance popes and a pivotal figure in establishing Rome as a political and cultural powerhouse. After studying theology in Pisa from 1489 to 1491, he moved to Rome in 1492 to attend the Sacred College of Cardinals. Tragedy struck that year when his father died, forcing the 17-year-old cardinal to return to Florence to help his older brother, Piero, oversee the city. When the family was exiled in 1494, he traveled throughout northern Europe for the next six years, studying his passions of art and literature. When the Medici family returned to Florence in 1512, Leo helped reestablish the family's power and named Lorenzo, his nephew, ruler in 1513. That same year, Leo was elected pope at the age of 37. He spent huge sums of money on making Rome the cultural center of Europe, commissioning works from artists Raphael and Michelangelo.

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