Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527), was an Italian diplomat, author, philosopher and historian who lived during the Renaissance. He is best known for his political treatise The Prince, written around 1513 but not published until 1532. 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 also important to historians and scholars of Italian correspondence. He worked as secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. After his death Machiavelli’s name came to evoke unscrupulous acts of the sort he advised most famously in his work, The Prince. He claimed that his experience and reading of history 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 are beneficial to him. Machiavelli’s Prince has been surrounded by controversy since it was published. Some consider it to be a straightforward description of political reality. Others view the Prince as a manual, teaching would-be tyrants how they should seize and maintain power. Even into recent times, some scholars, such as Leo Strauss, have restated the traditional opinion that Machiavelli was a “teacher of evil”. 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 has been said to have paved the way for modern republicanism. His works were a major influence on Enlightenment authors who revived interest in classical republicanism, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and James Harrington. Machiavelli’s political realism has continued to influence generations of academics and politicians, including Hannah Arendt and Otto von Bismarck.
Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy, the third child and first son of attorney Bernardo di Niccolò Machiavelli and his wife, Bartolomea di Stefano Nelli. The Machiavelli family is believed to be descended from the old marquesses of Tuscany and to have produced thirteen Florentine Gonfalonieres of Justice, one of the offices of a group of nine citizens selected by drawing lots every two months and who formed the government, or Signoria; he was never, though, a full citizen of Florence because of the nature of Florentine citizenship in that time even under the republican regime. Machiavelli married Marietta Corsini in 1502. Machiavelli was born in a tumultuous era. The Italian city-states, and the families and individuals who ran them could rise and fall suddenly, as popes and the kings of France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire waged acquisitive wars for regional influence and control. Political-military alliances continually changed, featuring condottieri (mercenary leaders), who changed sides without warning, and the rise and fall of many short-lived governments. Machiavelli was taught grammar, rhetoric, and Latin, by his teacher, Paolo da Ronciglione. It is unknown whether Machiavelli knew Greek even though Florence was at the time one of the centres of Greek scholarship in Europe. In 1494 Florence restored the republic, expelling the Medici family that had ruled Florence for some sixty years. Shortly after the execution of Savonarola, Machiavelli was appointed to an office of the second chancery, a medieval writing office that put Machiavelli in charge of the production of official Florentine government documents. Shortly thereafter, he was also made the secretary of the Dieci di Libertà e Pace.
In the first decade of the sixteenth century, he carried out several diplomatic missions, most notably to the Papacy in Rome. Florence sent him to Pistoia to pacify the leaders of two opposing factions which had broken into riots in 1501 and 1502; when this failed, the leaders were banished from the city, a strategy which Machiavelli had favoured from the outset. From 1502 to 1503, he witnessed the brutal reality of the state-building methods of Cesare Borgia (1475–1507) and his father, Pope Alexander VI, who were then engaged in the process of trying to bring a large part of Central Italy under their possession. The pretext of defending Church interests was used as a partial justification by the Borgias. Other excursions to the court of Louis XII and the Spanish court influenced his writings such as The Prince. At the start of the 16th century, Machiavelli conceived of a militia for Florence, and he then began recruiting and creating it. He distrusted mercenaries (a distrust that he explained in his official reports and then later in his theoretical works for their unpatriotic and uninvested nature in the war that makes their allegiance fickle and often unreliable when most needed), and instead staffed his army with citizens, a policy that was to be repeatedly successful. By February 1506 he was able to have four hundred farmers marching on parade, suited (including iron breastplates), and armed with lances and small firearms. Under his command, Florentine citizen-soldiers defeated Pisa in 1509.
Machiavelli’s success did not last. In August 1512, the Medici, backed by Pope Julius II, used Spanish troops to defeat the Florentines at Prato. In the wake of the siege, Soderini resigned as Florentine head of state and left in exile. The experience would, like Machiavelli’s time in foreign courts and with the Borgia, heavily influence his political writings. The Florentine city-state and the republic were dissolved, and Machiavelli was deprived of office and banished from the city for a year. In 1513, the Medici accused him of conspiracy against them and had him imprisoned. Despite being subjected to torture (“with the rope”, in which the prisoner is hanged from his bound wrists from the back, forcing the arms to bear the body’s weight and dislocating the shoulders), he denied involvement and was released after three weeks. Machiavelli then retired to his farm estate at Sant’Andrea in Percussina, near San Casciano in Val di Pesa, where he devoted himself to studying and writing his political treatises. He visited places in France, Germany, and Italy where he represented the Florentine Republic.
Despairing of the opportunity to remain directly involved in political matters, after a time, he began to participate in intellectual groups in Florence and wrote several plays that (unlike his works on political theory) were both popular and widely known in his lifetime. Politics remained his main passion and, to satisfy this interest, he maintained a well-known correspondence with more politically connected friends, attempting to become involved once again in political life. In a letter to Francesco Vettori, he described his experience: When evening comes, I go back home, and go to my study. On the threshold, I take off my work clothes, covered in mud and filth, and I put on the clothes an ambassador would wear. Decently dressed, I enter the ancient courts of rulers who have long since died. There, I am warmly welcomed, and I feed on the only food I find nourishing and was born to savour. I am not ashamed to talk to them and ask them to explain their actions and they, out of kindness, answer me. Four hours go by without my feeling any anxiety. I forget every worry. I am no longer afraid of poverty or frightened of death. I live entirely through them.
Machiavelli died on 21 June 1527 from a stomach ailment at the age of 58 after receiving his last rites. He was buried at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. In 1789 George Nassau Clavering, and Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, initiated the construction of a monument on Machiavelli’s tomb. It was sculpted by Innocenzo Spinazzi, with an epitaph by Doctor Ferroni inscribed on it.
The Prince: Machiavelli’s best-known book Il Principe contains several maxims concerning politics. Instead of the more traditional target audience of a hereditary prince, it concentrates on the possibility of a “new prince”. To retain power, the hereditary prince must carefully balance the interests of a variety of institutions to which the people are accustomed. By contrast, a new prince has the more difficult task in ruling: He must first stabilise his newfound power in order to build an enduring political structure. Machiavelli suggests that the social benefits of stability and security can be achieved in the face of moral corruption. Machiavelli believed that public and private morality had to be understood as two different things in order to rule well. As a result, a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act unscrupulously at the right times. Machiavelli believed that, for a ruler, it was better to be widely feared than to be greatly loved; a loved ruler retains authority by obligation, while a feared leader rules by fear of punishment. As a political theorist, Machiavelli emphasized the “necessity” for the methodical exercise of brute force or deceit, including extermination of entire noble families, to head off any chance of a challenge to the prince’s authority. Scholars often note that Machiavelli glorifies instrumentality in state building, an approach embodied by the saying, often attributed to interpretations of The Prince, “The ends justify the means”. Fraud and deceit are held by Machiavelli as necessary for a prince to use. Violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new political institutions. Force may be used to eliminate political rivals, destroy resistant populations, and purge the community of other men strong enough of a character to rule, who will inevitably attempt to replace the ruler. Machiavelli has become infamous for such political advice, ensuring that he would be remembered in history through the adjective, “Machiavellian”.
Due to the treatise’s controversial analysis on politics, the Catholic Church banned The Prince, putting it on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Humanists also viewed the book negatively, including Erasmus of Rotterdam. As a treatise, its primary intellectual contribution to the history of political thought is the fundamental break between political realism and political idealism, due to it being a manual on acquiring and keeping political power. In contrast with Plato and Aristotle, Machiavelli insisted that an imaginary ideal society is not a model by which a prince should orient himself. Concerning the differences and similarities in Machiavelli’s advice to ruthless and tyrannical princes in The Prince and his more republican exhortations in Discourses on Livy, a few commentators assert that The Prince, although written as advice for a monarchical prince, contains arguments for the superiority of republican regimes, similar to those found in the Discourses. In the 18th century, the work was even called a satire, for example by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Scholars such as Leo Strauss and Harvey Mansfield have stated that sections of The Prince and his other works have deliberately esoteric statements throughout them. However, Mansfield states that this is the result of Machiavelli’s seeing grave and serious things as humorous because they are “manipulable by men”, and sees them as grave because they “answer human necessities”. Another interpretation is that of Antonio Gramsci, who argued that Machiavelli’s audience for this work was not even the ruling class, but the common people, because rulers already knew these methods through their education.
Discourses on Livy: The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, written around 1517, and published in 1531, often referred to simply as the Discourses or Discorsi, is nominally a discussion regarding the classical history of early Ancient Rome, although it strays very far from this subject matter and also uses contemporary political examples to illustrate points. Machiavelli presents it as a series of lessons on how a republic should be started and structured. It is a much larger work than The Prince, and while it more openly explains the advantages of republics, it also contains many similar themes from his other works. For example, Machiavelli has noted that to save a republic from corruption, it is necessary to return it to a “kingly state” using violent means. He excuses Romulus for murdering his brother Remus and co-ruler Titus Tatius to gain absolute power for himself in that he established a “civil way of life”. Commentators disagree about how much the two works agree with each other, as Machiavelli frequently refers to leaders of republics as “princes”. Machiavelli even sometimes acts as an advisor to tyrants. Other scholars have pointed out the aggrandizing and imperialistic features of Machiavelli’s republic. Nevertheless, it became one of the central texts of modern republicanism, and has often been argued to be a more comprehensive work than The Prince.
Originality: Commentators have taken very different approaches to Machiavelli and have not always agreed. Major discussion has tended to be about two issues: first, how unified and philosophical his work is, and second, concerning how innovative or traditional it is. There is some disagreement concerning how best to describe the unifying themes, if there are any, that can be found in Machiavelli’s works, especially in the two major political works, The Prince and Discourses. Some commentators have described him as inconsistent, and perhaps as not even putting a high priority on consistency. Others such as Hans Baron have argued that his ideas must have changed dramatically over time. Some have argued that his conclusions are best understood as a product of his times, experiences and education. Others, such as Leo Strauss and Harvey Mansfield, have argued strongly that there is a very strong and deliberate consistency and distinctness, even arguing that this extends to all of Machiavelli’s works including his comedies and letters.
Influences: Commentators such as Leo Strauss have gone so far as to name Machiavelli as the deliberate originator of modernity itself. Others have argued that Machiavelli is only a particularly interesting example of trends which were happening around him. In any case, Machiavelli presented himself at various times as someone reminding Italians of the old virtues of the Romans and Greeks, and other times as someone promoting a completely new approach to politics. That Machiavelli had a wide range of influences is in itself not controversial. Their relative importance is however a subject of ongoing discussion. It is possible to summarize some of the main influences emphasized by different commentators.
Classical republicanism: Commentators such as Quentin Skinner and J.G.A. Pocock, in the so-called “Cambridge School” of interpretation, have asserted that some of the republican themes in Machiavelli’s political works, particularly the Discourses on Livy, can be found in medieval Italian literature which was influenced by classical authors such as Sallust.
Classical political philosophy: Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle: The Socratic school of classical political philosophy, especially Aristotle, had become a major influence upon European political thinking in the late Middle Ages. It existed both in the Catholicised form presented by Thomas Aquinas, and in the more controversial “Averroist” form of authors like Marsilius of Padua. Machiavelli was critical of Catholic political thinking and may have been influenced by Averroism. But he rarely cites Plato and Aristotle, and most likely did not approve of them. Leo Strauss argued that the strong influence of Xenophon, a student of Socrates more known as a historian, rhetorician and soldier, was a major source of Socratic ideas for Machiavelli, sometimes not in line with Aristotle. While interest in Plato was increasing in Florence during Machiavelli’s lifetime, Machiavelli does not show particular interest in him, but was indirectly influenced by his readings of authors such as Polybius, Plutarch and Cicero. The major difference between Machiavelli and the Socratics, according to Strauss, is Machiavelli’s materialism, and therefore his rejection of both a teleological view of nature and of the view that philosophy is higher than politics. With their teleological understanding of things, Socratics argued that by nature, everything that acts, acts towards some end, as if nature desired them, but Machiavelli claimed that such things happen by blind chance or human action.
Classical materialism: Strauss argued that Machiavelli may have seen himself as influenced by some ideas from classical materialists such as Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius. Strauss however sees this also as a sign of major innovation in Machiavelli, because classical materialists did not share the Socratic regard for political life, while Machiavelli clearly did.
Beliefs: (Empiricism and realism versus idealism): Machiavelli felt that his early schooling along the lines of traditional classical education was essentially useless for the purpose of understanding politics. Nevertheless, he advocated intensive study of the past, particularly regarding the founding of a city, which he felt was a key to understanding its later development. Moreover, he studied the way people lived and aimed to inform leaders how they should rule and even how they themselves should live. Machiavelli denies the classical opinion that living virtuously always leads to happiness. For example, Machiavelli viewed misery as “one of the vices that enables a prince to rule.” Machiavelli stated 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.” In much of Machiavelli’s work, he often states that the ruler must adopt unsavoury policies for the sake of the continuance of his regime. A related and more controversial proposal often made is that he described how to do things in politics in a way which seemed neutral concerning who used the advice—tyrants or good rulers. That Machiavelli strove for realism is not doubted, but for four centuries scholars have debated how best to describe his morality. The Prince made the word Machiavellian a byword for deceit, despotism, and political manipulation. Leo Strauss declared himself inclined toward the traditional view that Machiavelli was self-consciously a “teacher of evil,” since he counsels the princes to avoid the values of justice, mercy, temperance, wisdom, and love of their people in preference to the use of cruelty, violence, fear, and deception. Strauss takes up this opinion because he asserted that failure to accept the traditional opinion misses the “intrepidity of his thought” and “the graceful subtlety of his speech”. Italian anti-fascist philosopher Benedetto Croce (1925) concludes Machiavelli is simply a “realist” or “pragmatist” who accurately states that moral values, in reality, do not greatly affect the decisions that political leaders make. German philosopher Ernst Cassirer (1946) held that Machiavelli simply adopts the stance of a political scientist—a Galileo of politics—in distinguishing between the “facts” of political life and the “values” of moral judgment. On the other hand, Walter Russell Mead has argued that The Prince’s advice presupposes the importance of ideas like legitimacy in making changes to the political system.
Religion: Machiavelli shows repeatedly that he saw religion as man-made, and that the value of religion lies in its contribution to social order and the rules of morality must be dispensed with if security requires it. In The Prince, the Discourses and in the Life of Castruccio Castracani he describes “prophets”, as he calls them, like Moses, Romulus, Cyrus the Great and Theseus (he treated pagan and Christian patriarchs in the same way) as the greatest of new princes, the glorious and brutal founders of the most novel innovations in politics, and men whom Machiavelli assures us have always used a large amount of armed force and murder against their own people. He estimated that these sects last from 1,666 to 3,000 years each time, which, as pointed out by Leo Strauss, would mean that Christianity became due to start finishing about 150 years after Machiavelli. Machiavelli’s concern with Christianity as a sect was that it makes men weak and inactive, delivering politics into the hands of cruel and wicked men without a fight. While fear of God can be replaced by fear of the prince, if there is a strong enough prince, Machiavelli felt that having a religion is in any case especially essential to keeping a republic in order. For Machiavelli, a truly great prince can never be conventionally religious himself, but he should make his people religious if he can. According to Strauss (1958, pp. 226–27) he was not the first person to ever explain religion in this way, but his description of religion was novel because of the way he integrated this into his general account of princes. Machiavelli’s judgment that governments need religion for practical political reasons was widespread among modern proponents of republics until approximately the time of the French Revolution. This, therefore, represents a point of disagreement between Machiavelli and late modernity.
Positive side to factional and individual vice: Despite the classical precedents, which Machiavelli was not the only one to promote in his time, Machiavelli’s realism and willingness to argue that good ends justify bad things, is seen as a critical stimulus towards some of the most important theories of modern politics. Firstly, particularly in the Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli is unusual in the positive side he sometimes seems to describe factionalism in republics. For example, quite early in the Discourses, a chapter title announces that the disunion of the plebs and senate in Rome “kept Rome free”. That a community has different components whose interests must be balanced in any good regime is an idea with classical precedents, but Machiavelli’s particularly extreme presentation is seen as a critical step towards the later political ideas of both a division of powers or checks and balances, ideas which lay behind the US constitution, as well as many other modern state constitutions. Similarly, the modern economic argument for capitalism, and most modern forms of economics, was often stated in the form of “public virtue from private vices.” Also in this case, even though there are classical precedents, Machiavelli’s insistence on being both realistic and ambitious, not only admitting that vice exists but being willing to risk encouraging it, is a critical step on the path to this insight. Mansfield however argues that Machiavelli’s own aims have not been shared by those he influenced. Machiavelli argued against seeing mere peace and economic growth as worthy aims on their own if they would lead to what Mansfield calls the “taming of the prince”.
Machiavelli’s ideas had a profound impact on political leaders throughout the modern west, helped by the new technology of the printing press. During the first generations after Machiavelli, his main influence was in non-republican governments. Pole reported that The Prince was spoken of highly by Thomas Cromwell in England and had influenced Henry VIII in his turn towards Protestantism, and in his tactics, for example during the Pilgrimage of Grace. A copy was also possessed by the Catholic king and emperor Charles V. In France, after an initially mixed reaction, Machiavelli came to be associated with Catherine de’ Medici and the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. in the 16th century, Catholic writers “associated Machiavelli with the Protestants, whereas Protestant authors saw him as Italian and Catholic”. In fact, he was apparently influencing both Catholic and Protestant kings. One of the most important early works dedicated to criticism of Machiavelli, especially The Prince, was that of the Huguenot, Innocent Gentillet, whose work commonly referred to as Discourse against Machiavelli or Anti Machiavel was published in Geneva in 1576. He accused Machiavelli of being an atheist and accused politicians of his time by saying that his works were the “Koran of the courtiers”, that “he is of no reputation in the court of France which hath not Machiavel’s writings at the fingers ends”. Another theme of Gentillet was more in the spirit of Machiavelli himself: he questioned the effectiveness of immoral strategies (just as Machiavelli had himself done, despite also explaining how they could sometimes work). This became the theme of much future political discourse in Europe during the 17th century. This includes the Catholic Counter Reformation writers summarised by Bireley: Giovanni Botero, Justus Lipsius, Carlo Scribani, Adam Contzen, Pedro de Ribadeneira, and Diego de Saavedra Fajardo. These authors criticized Machiavelli, but also followed him in many ways. They accepted the need for a prince to be concerned with reputation, and even a need for cunning and deceit, but compared to Machiavelli, and like later modernist writers, they emphasized economic progress much more than the riskier ventures of war. These authors tended to cite Tacitus as their source for realist political advice, rather than Machiavelli, and this pretence came to be known as “Tacitism”. “Black tacitism” was in support of princely rule, but “red tacitism” arguing the case for republics, more in the original spirit of Machiavelli himself, became increasingly important.
Modern materialist philosophy developed in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, starting in the generations after Machiavelli. This philosophy tended to be republican, but as with the Catholic authors, Machiavelli’s realism and encouragement of using innovation to try to control one’s own fortune were more accepted than his emphasis upon war and factional violence. Not only was innovative economics and politics a result, but also modern science, leading some commentators to say that the 18th century Enlightenment involved a “humanitarian” moderating of Machiavellianism. The importance of Machiavelli’s influence is notable in many important figures in this endeavour, for example Bodin, Francis Bacon, Algernon Sidney, Harrington, John Milton, Spinoza, Rousseau, Hume, Edward Gibbon, and Adam Smith. Although he was not always mentioned by name as an inspiration, due to his controversy, he is also thought to have been an influence for other major philosophers, such as Montaigne Descartes, Hobbes, Locke and Montesquieu. Although Jean-Jacques Rousseau is associated with very different political ideas he was also influenced by him, although he viewed Machiavelli’s work as a satirical piece in which Machiavelli exposes the faults of a one-man rule rather than exalting amorality.
In the seventeenth century it was in England that Machiavelli’s ideas were most substantially developed and adapted, and that republicanism came once more to life; and out of seventeenth-century English republicanism there were to emerge in the next century not only a theme of English political and historical reflection—of the writings of the Bolingbroke circle and of Gibbon and of early parliamentary radicals—but a stimulus to the Enlightenment in Scotland, on the Continent, and in America. Scholars have argued that Machiavelli was a major indirect and direct influence upon the political thinking of the Founding Fathers of the United States due to his overwhelming favouritism of republicanism and the republican type of government. According to John McCormick, it is still very much debatable whether or not Machiavelli was “an advisor of tyranny or partisan of liberty”. Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson followed Machiavelli’s republicanism when they opposed what they saw as the emerging aristocracy that they feared Alexander Hamilton was creating with the Federalist Party. Hamilton learned from Machiavelli about the importance of foreign policy for domestic policy, but may have broken from him regarding how rapacious a republic needed to be in order to survive. George Washington was less influenced by Machiavelli. The Founding Father who perhaps most studied and valued Machiavelli as a political philosopher was John Adams, who profusely commented on the Italian’s thought in his work, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. In this work, John Adams praised Machiavelli, with Algernon Sidney and Montesquieu, as a philosophic defender of mixed government. For Adams, Machiavelli restored empirical reason to politics, while his analysis of factions was commendable. Adams likewise agreed with the Florentine that human nature was immutable and driven by passions. He also accepted Machiavelli’s belief that all societies were subject to cyclical periods of growth and decay. For Adams, Machiavelli lacked only a clear understanding of the institutions necessary for good government.
Machiavellian: Machiavelli is most famous for a short political treatise, The Prince, written in 1513 but not published until 1532, five years after his death. Although he privately circulated The Prince among friends, the only theoretical work to be printed in his lifetime was The Art of War, which was about military science. Since the 16th century, generations of politicians remain attracted and repelled by its neutral acceptance, and also positive encouragement, of the amorality of powerful men, described especially in The Prince but also in his other works. His works are sometimes even said to have contributed to the modern negative connotations of the words politics and politician, and it is sometimes thought that it is because of him that Old Nick became an English term for the Devil. More obviously, the adjective Machiavellian became a term describing a form of politics that is “marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith”. Machiavellianism also remains a popular term used casually in political discussions, often as a byword for bare-knuckled political realism. While Machiavellianism is notable in the works of Machiavelli, scholars generally agree that his works are complex and have equally influential themes within them. For example, J.G.A. Pocock (1975) saw him as a major source of the republicanism that spread throughout England and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries and Leo Strauss (1958), whose view of Machiavelli is quite different in many ways, had similar remarks about Machiavelli’s influence on republicanism and argued that even though Machiavelli was a teacher of evil he had a “grandeur of vision” that led him to advocate immoral actions. Whatever his intentions, which are still debated today, he has become associated with any proposal where “the end justifies the means”. For example, Leo Strauss wrote: Machiavelli is the only political thinker whose name has come into common use for designating a kind of politics, which exists and will continue to exist independently of his influence, a politics guided exclusively by considerations of expediency, which uses all means, fair or foul, iron or poison, for achieving its ends—its end being the aggrandizement of one’s country or fatherland—but also using the fatherland in the service of the self-aggrandizement of the politician or statesman or one’s party.
In popular culture: In English Renaissance theatre (Elizabethan and Jacobian), the term “Machiavel” (from ‘Nicholas Machiavel’, an “anglicization” of Machiavelli’s name based on French) was used for a stock antagonist that resorted to ruthless means to preserve the power of the state, and is now considered a synonym of “Machiavellian”. Christopher Marlowe’s play The Jew of Malta (ca. 1589) contains a prologue by a character called Machiavel, a Senecan ghost based on Machiavelli. Machiavel expresses the cynical view that power is amoral, saying “I count religion but a childish toy,/And hold there is no sin but ignorance”. Somerset Maugham’s last book Then and Now fictionalizes Machiavelli’s interactions with Cesare Borgia, which formed the foundation of The Prince. Niccolò Machiavelli plays a vital role in the young adult book series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott. He is immortal, and is working in national security for the French government. Niccolò Machiavelli aids Cesare Borgia and protagonist Nicholas Dawson in their dangerous intrigues in Cecelia Holland’s 1979 historical novel City of God. David Maclaine writes that in the novel, Machiavelli “is an off-stage presence whose spirit permeates this work of intrigue and betrayal … It is a brilliant introduction to the people and events that gave us the word ‘Machiavellian”. Machiavelli appears as an Immortal adversary of Duncan MacLeod in Nancy Holder’s 1997 Highlander novel The Measure of a Man, and is a character in Michael Scott’s novel series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (2007–2012). Machiavelli is also one of the main characters in The Enchantress of Florence (2008) by Salman Rushdie, mostly referred to as “Niccolò ‘il Macchia”, and the central protagonist in the 2012 novel The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis. Television dramas centring on the early Renaissance have also made use of Machiavelli to underscore his influence in early modern political philosophy. Machiavelli has been featured as a supporting character in The Tudors (2007–2010), Borgia (2011–2014) and The Borgias (2011–2013), and the 1981 BBC mini series The Borgias. Machiavelli appears in the popular historical video games Assassin’s Creed II (2009) and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (2010), in which he is portrayed as a member of the secret society of Assassins.