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  • Niccolò Machiavelli

    May 3, 1469 - June 22, 1527
    Part 4 of 11: New Militia

    The greater part of 1506 and 1507 was spent in organizing the new militia, corresponding on the subject, and scouring the country on enlistment service. But at the end of the latter year European affairs of no small moment diverted Machiavelli from these humbler duties. Maximilian was planning a journey into Italy in order to be crowned emperor at Rome, and was levying subsidies from the imperial burghs for his expenses. The Florentines thought his demands excessive. Though they already had Francesco Vettori at his court, Soderini judged it advisable to send Machiavelli thither in December. He travelled by Geneva, all through Switzerland, to Botzen, where he found the emperor. This journey was an important moment in his life. It enabled him to study the Swiss and the Germans in their homes; and the report which he wrote on his return is among his most effective political studies. What is most remarkable in it is his concentrated effort to realize the exact political weight of the German nation, and to penetrate the causes of its strength and weakness. He attempts to grasp the national character as a whole, and thence to deduce practical conclusions. The same qualities are noticeable in his Ritratti delle cose di Francia, which he drew up after an embassy to Louis XII. at Blois in 1510. These notes upon the French race are more scattered than the report on German affairs. But they reveal no less acumen combined with imaginative penetration into the very essence of national existence.

    Michiavelli returned from Germany in June 1508. The rest of that year and a large part of 1509 were spent in the affairs of the militia and the war of Pisa. Chiefly through his exertions the war was terminated by the surrender of Pisa in June 1509. Meanwhile the league of Cambray had disturbed the peace of Italy, and Florence found herself in a perilous position between Spain and France. Soderini's government grew weaker. The Medicean party lifted up its head. To the league of Cambray succeeded the Holy League. The battle of Ravenna was fought, and the French retired from Italy. The Florentines had been spectators rather than actors in these great events. But they were now destined to feel the full effects of them. The cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, who was present at the battle of Ravenna, brought a Spanish army into Tuscany. Prato was sacked in the August of 1512. Florence, in extreme terror, deposed the gonfalonier, and opened her gates to the princes of the house of Medici.

    The government on which Machiavelli depended had fallen, never to rise again. The national militia in which he placed unbounded confidence had proved inefficient to protect Florence in the hour of need. He was surrounded by political and personal enemies, who regarded him with jealousy as the ex-gonfalonier's right-hand man. Yet at first it appears that he still hoped to retain his office. He showed no repugnance to a change of masters, and began to make overtures to the Medici. The nove della milizia were, however, dissolved; and on the 7th of November 1512 Machiavelli was deprived of his appointments. He was exiled from Florence and confined to the dominion for one year, and on the 17th of November was futher prohibited from setting foot in the Palazzo Pubblico. Ruin stared him in the face; and, to make matters worse, he was implicated in the conspiracy of Pier Paolo Boscoli in February 1513. Machiavelli had taken no share in that feeble attempt against the Medici, but his name was found upon a memorandum dropped by Boscoli. This was enough to ensure his imprisonment. He was racked, and only released upon Giovanni de' Medici's election to the papacy in March 1513. When he left his dungeon he retired to a farm near San Casciano, and faced the fact that his political career was at an end.

    Part 5: Principe, Discorsi & Arte della guerra

    In this biography:
    Part 1: Early Years
    Part 2: Marietta Corsini & Cesare Borgia
    Part 3: Outlines for a New Military Organization
    Part 4: New Militia
    Part 5: Principe, Discorsi & Arte della guerra
    Part 6: Machiavelli's Study of Man
    Part 7: Medicean Princes
    Part 8: History of Florence
    Part 9: Mandragola & Clizia
    Part 10: Final Years
    Part 11: Related Articles, Sites, etc.

    This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


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