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Throughout Machiavelli’s analysis of the princes in The Prince and The Discourses, his criterion for success is founded on the idea of balance between a number of elements (both at the individual and system level), mobilization of resources for success and adaptation to the constantly changing environment. In terms of the prince’s qualities Machiavelli aspires to the creation of order and evaluates the success of the prince on his ability to balance virtue and vice, shame and glory, opportunity and necessity, love and fear, cruelty and compassion, generosity and misery, cunning and integrity and to balance the satisfaction of his populace and soldiers. Maintaining a balance in these various principles ensures that the ruler develop strength in his reputation and build a foundation for long lasting power. Due to the fact that the “affairs of the world are governed by fortune and God” , with fortune determining half of life’s outcomes, and individual action controlling the rest, a ruler cannot solely depend on fortune but must have the ability to adapt to his environment with autonomy in his actions, political foresight, prudence with knowledge of when to act and when to act virtuously, vision of the ultimate goal, boldness in his actions and the ability to practice cruelty. If the prince is unable to adapt successfully, similar to the process of natural selection, he will fail and be removed from power. Machiavelli also believes that the successful prince should possess the virtues of strength or power, skill, boldness and prowess, but must have the ability to use vices only as the circumstance deems necessary, while maintaining the reputation of being compassionate, trustworthy, sympathetic, honest and religious. many rulers who have been unable to balance these elements, unable to mobilize resources for success and adaptation (inadequate military preparation, at odds with populace)


It is important to evaluate the prince’s that Machiavelli recommends as successful and those which are unsuccessful, by the context in which the came to power (type of principality), the timing of his ascendancy, the conditions which supported his reign, and his personal qualities. Although Machiavelli does praise the success in the political careers of a few other princes, including Aragon, Cyrus, Romulus, Moses and Thesus he emulates Cesare Borgia as the ideal, most successful prince.


Cesare Borgia (Duke Valentino)


Borgia acquired Romagna as a hereditary principality by the good fortune of his father, Pope Alexander VI; but unlike those rulers who inherit territories with ease and do not prepare the foundation first, Borgia laid a solid foundation for future power. The foundation was created through the adversity that Borgia had to overcome in his ascension to power. His father, desired to make his son into a ruler, but couldn’t make him the lord of just any territory, except that of the church. However, the reward of land to Borgia would be met with opposition from the Duke of Milan and the Venetians, and the Italian armed forces, which Pope Alexander VI had hoped to employ to defeat his opposition but were under control of individuals who feared any rise in papal power. Since he could not use the Italian armed forces, he turned to Orsini, the Colonna and their associates, even though he felt they could not be trusted. Borgia and Pope Alexander VI utilized great political foresight in concluding that the easiest way to acquire Romagna would be to create chaos within the territories of his opponents and then seize it. The process was done with ease, beginning with the Venetians who, for their own reasons, had decided to encourage the French to invade Italy. Pope Alexander VI aided in the French advance by dissolving the previous marriage of King Louis, following which the king marched into Italy, allied with the Venetians. As soon as the King had reached Milan, the pope borrowed the French forces for the attack on Romagna, which he conquered. Once Borgia had ascended to power, he found it under the control of weak nobles who had exploited rather than governed their subjects, creating a source of conflict and disorder. Borgia recognized that order and balance must be restored to society and in order to make Romagna peaceful, prosperous and obedient to his commands, he


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