Welcome to our collection of quotes by Niccolò Machiavelli. We hope you enjoy pondering them and please share widely.
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (, also US: ; Italian: [nikkoˈlɔ mmakjaˈvɛlli]; 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) was an Italian diplomat, philosopher, politician, historian and writer who lived during the Renaissance. He is best known for The Prince (Il Principe), written about 1513. He has often been called the father of modern political philosophy and political science.
For many years he served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is of high importance to historians and scholars. He worked as secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power.
Machiavelli's name came to evoke unscrupulous acts of the sort he advised most famously in The Prince. His experience showed him that politics have always been played with deception, treachery and crime. He also notably said that a ruler who is establishing a kingdom or a republic, and is criticized for his deeds, including violence, should be excused when the intention and the result is beneficial. Machiavelli’s Prince was much read as a manuscript long before it was published in 1532 and the reaction was mixed. Some considered it a straightforward description of the evil means used by bad rulers; others read in it evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power.
The term Machiavellian often connotes political deceit, deviousness, and realpolitik. Even though Machiavelli has become most famous for his work on principalities, scholars also give attention to the exhortations in his other works of political philosophy. While much less well known than The Prince, the Discourses on Livy (composed c. 1517) is often said to have paved the way of modern republicanism.
It is better to act and repent, than not to act and regret.
And if, to be sure, sometimes you need to conceal a fact with words, do it in such a way that it does not become known, or if it does become known, that you have a ready and quick defense.
For the mob is always impressed by appearances and by results, and the world is composed of the mob.
There is nothing so difficult or so dangerous as to undertake to change the order of things.
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.
Men rise from one ambition to another. First, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.
Men may second fortune, but they cannot thwart her.
For titles do not reflect honor on men, but rather men on their titles.
A sign of intelligence is an awareness of one's own ignorance.
One should never permit a disorder to persist in order to avoid a war, for wars cannot be avoided and can only be deferred to the advantage of others.
Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.
Men are always wicked at bottom unless they are made good by some compulsion.
Whoever takes it upon himself to establish a commonwealth and prescribe laws must presuppose all men naturally bad, and that they will yield to their innate evil passions as often as they can do so with safety.
It is better to be adventurous than cautious, because fortune is a woman.
Only those means of security are good, are certain, are lasting, that depend on yourself and your own vigor.
Benefits should be granted little by little, so that they may be better enjoyed.
For as laws are necessary that good manners be preserved, so there is need of good manners that law may be maintained.
Always assume incompetence before looking for conspiracy.
For without invention, no one was ever a great man in his own trade.
Nothing feeds upon itself as liberality does.
Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.
It is often found that modesty and humility not only do no good, but are positively hurtful, when they are shown to the arrogant who have taken up a prejudice against you, either from envy or from any other cause.
Among other causes of misfortune which your not being armed brings upon you, it makes you despised.
For friendships that are acquired by a price and not by greatness and nobility of character are purchased but are not owned, and at the proper moment they cannot be spent.
For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.
So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging.
Whoever is the cause of another becoming powerful, is ruined himself.
In respect to foresight and firmness, the people are more prudent, more stable, and have better judgement than princes.
It is a common failing of man not to take account of tempests during fair weather.
The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.
I hope and hoping feeds my pain
I weep and weeping feeds my failing heart
I laugh but the laughter does not pass within
I burn but the burning makes no mark outside.
It is a base thing to look to others for your defense instead of depending upon yourself. That defense alone is effectual, sure, and durable which depends upon yourself and your own valor.
For it must be noted, that men must either be caressed or else annihilated; they will revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for great ones; the injury therefore that we do to a man must be such that we need not fear his vengeance.
Ability and perseverance are the weapons of weakness.
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.
Since the handling of arms is a beautiful spectacle, it is delightful to young men.
It is better to be bold than too circumspect, because fortune is of a sex which likes not a tardy wooer and repulses all who are not ardent.
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.
A blast in the human breast is nothing to boast of.
Men are of three different capacities: one understands intuitively; another understands so far as it is explained; and a third understands neither of himself nor by explanation. The first is excellent, the second, commendable, and the third, altogether useless.
The world has always been the same; and there is always as much good fortune as bad in it.
For as good habits of the people require good laws to support them, so laws, to be observed, need good habits on the part of the people.
Men are more apt to be mistaken in their generalizations than in their particular observations.
Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them.
Sometimes it has been of great moment while the fight is going on, to disseminate words that pronounce the enemies' captain to be dead, or to have been conquered by another part of the army. Many times this has given victory to him who used it.
Every little advantage is of great moment when men have to come to blows.
In our own days we have seen no princes accomplish great results save those who have been accounted miserly.
A battle that you win cancels any other bad action of yours. In the same way, by losing one, all the good things worked by you before become vain.
The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.
He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation.
The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or composite, are good laws and good arms.
It is necessary that the prince should know how to color his nature well, and how to be a hypocrite and dissembler. For men are so simple, and yield so much to immediate necessity, that the deceiver will never lack dupes.
One must consider the final result.
The ends justifies the means.
Delusion gives you more happiness than truth gives to me. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.
He who makes war his profession cannot be otherwise than vicious. War makes thieves, and peace brings them to the gallows.
Few men are brave by nature, but good discipline and experience make many so.
Because just as good morals, if they are to be maintained, have need of the laws, so the laws, if they are to be observed, have need of good morals.
The Swiss are well armed and enjoy great freedom.
The innovator has for enemies all who have done well under the old, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.
I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, while in the latter are only beggars, monks and apostles.
For a prince should have two fears: one, internal concerning his subjects; the other, external, concerning foreign powers. From the latter he can always defend himself by his good troops and friends; and he will always have good friends if he has good troops.
When settling disputes between his subjects, he should ensure that his judgement is irrevocable; and he should be so regarded that no one ever dreams of trying to deceive or trick him.
Republics have a longer life and enjoy better fortune than principalities, because they can profit by their greater internal diversity. They are the better able to meet emergencies.
So far as he is able, a prince should stick to the path of good but, if the necessity arises, he should know how to follow evil.
The sinews of war are not gold, but good soldiers.
The sinews of war are not gold, but good soldiers; for gold alone will not procure good soldiers, but good soldiers will always procure gold.
Good order makes men bold, and confusion, cowards.
He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with the greatest loss.
The nature of man is such that people consider themselves put under an obligation as much by the benefits they confer as by those they receive.
States that rise quickly, just as all the other things of nature that are born and grow rapidly, cannot have roots and ramifications; the first bad weather kills them.
In order not to annul our free will, I judge it true that Fortune may be mistress of one half our actions but then even she leaves the other half, or almost, under our control.
A prince who is not himself wise cannot be wisely advised... Good advice depends on the shrewdness of the prince who seeks it, and not the shrewdness of the prince on good advice.
We work in the Dark, to serve the Light.
When fortune wishes to bring mighty events to a successful conclusion, she selects some man of spirit and ability who knows how to seize the opportunity she offers.
We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been considered mean; the rest have failed.
He who would foresee what is to happen should look to what has happened: for all that is has its counterpart in time past.
When every province of the world so teems with inhabitants that they can neither subsist where they are nor remove themselves elsewhere.
A wise prince then...should never be idle in times of peace but should industriously lay up stores of which to avail himself in times of adversity so that when fortune abandons him he may be prepared to resist her blows.
Occasionally words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.
Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious, and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities.
Power is the pivot on which everything hinges. He who has the power is always right; the weaker is always wrong.
I hold strongly to this: that it is better to be impetuous than circumspect; because fortune is a woman and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her.
For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.
The reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order.