Machiavelli’s Art of War: A Reconsideration

machiavelliMachiavelli’s Art of War: A Reconsideration

Marcia L. Colish

Renaissance Quarterly: v.51 (1998)

Among  Niccolo Machiavelli’s works, the Art of War (published 1521) has received comparatively little scholarly attention. Students of Renaissance literature, finding its theme otiose, content themselves with labeling it a “catechetical” dialogue, one in which one interlocutor is the central speaker while secondary speakers merely keep the conversation going. Scholars have also placed the Art of War in the tradition of such Ciceronian dialogues as De legibus, De finibus, Brutus, De partitione oratoria, and Paradoxa Stoicorum, since the speakers are all contemporaries of the author and figures with views well known to the dialogue’s audience.1 The fact that the Art of War is set in the Rucellai gardens, it has been noted, evokes the garden setting of Cicero’s De natura deorum and the more recent Paradiso degli’Alberti of Leone Battista Alberti.2 Also noted is the influence of Platonic dialogue technique in Machiavelli’s shift from narrative to dramatic dialogue, paralleling his shifts from description or analysis to quotation in his field reports to the Florentine government as a civil servant.3


            As for historians and students of Machiavelli’s political theory, they have generally confined their attention to tracking his sources among the classical historians and earlier humanists.4 Observing that he displays in this work the humanist’s propensity for a selective and ad hoc use of sources, some have also pointed out that Machiavelli’s message in the Art of War-his familiar call for the imitation of ancient military institutions, the praise of the citizen militia, and the critique of mercenary troops-reveals his lack of realism and his failure to acknowledge the military technologies, arrangements, and outcomes prevalent in his own day.5 This latter point has been amply confirmed by historians specializing in Renaissance military history.6 The unconvincing argument that the work anticipates modern mathematically based game theory has also been offered.7

            But there is more to the Art of War than that. It is remarkable that so little attention has been directed to the central anomaly of the Art of War. the principal interlocutor in the dialogue is Fabrizio Colonna (1450/60-1520). Presented as the chief exponent of Machiavelli’s military desiderata, he was a member of a distinguished aristocratic Roman family who shared with numerous relatives, past and present, the profession of condottiere. He, and they, were mercenary captains in the employ of the Aragonese kings of Naples, the papacy, Ferdinand of Aragon, the French, and, occasionally, the Florentines.8 Indeed, so important was Fabrizio’s personal service to the house of Aragon that Michael Mallett, the foremost military historian of Renaissance Italy, gives him more credit than any other captain for the success of Spanish arms in Italy 9 the same Spanish arms that brought Medici rule back to Florence in 1512, ending the republic led by Piero Soderini in which Machiavelli had made his political career. In the early years of the sixteenth century, Colonna condottieri figured heavily in the reconstruction of Florence’s defenses, the plan for which Machiavelli drafted; he was also instructed by the Dieci di Balii to negotiate with them in his legations to Rome and did so.10 Following the collapse of the Soderini republic, Colonna condottieri continued to serve both the popes, the Aragonese, the Holy Roman Emperors, and the Florentines. They remained on excellent terms with the Soderini family.11 Why, therefore, would Machiavelli place an argument in defense of citizen militias over and against mercenaries in the mouth of a mercenary captain? And, given that there were other noteworthy members of that profession who had worked for Florence, including some of Fabrizio’s own relatives (not to mention scions of other families), why choose Fabrizio as the vehicle for Machiavelli’s military opinions, none of which Fabrizio espoused either in theory or practice?

            Surprisingly little attention has been given to these questions. Roberto Ridolfi and Harvey C. Mansfield have noticed the gap between the Fabrizio of the Art of War and the historical Fabrizio, although they do not attempt to explain the discrepancy between them.12 Mallett thinks that the Fabrizio of the dialogue is a “caricature” of the real Fabrizio, but does not clarify why Machiavelli would have wanted to present him as such or what he expected his audience’s reaction to be; Frederique Verrier also sees the dialogue’s Fabrizio as a fiction but thinks that Machiavelli uses this literary device to point a contrast between theory and practice.13 Bernard Guillemain fancies that Machiavelli was deluded enough to hope that Fabrizio Colonna could actually become the leader of a united Italian army, to be used to eject the foreigners from Italy.14 But Carlo Dionisotti points us in the right direction. As he sees it, Machiavelli deliberately used Fabrizio as his spokesman in the Art of War because he knew that this tactic would be recognized as an anti-Orsini and therefore as an anti-Medici gesture.15 This thesis is correct, so far as it goes. But it remains to be documented. At the same time, in addition to Machiavelli’s desire to criticize the Medici obliquely by choosing a condottiere interlocutor whose family had been locked in contention with the Orsini for centuries, there are two other Machiavellian agendas at work in the Art of War, sometimes interacting with this first one: his criticism of the papacy and of Girolamo Savonarola.

            Like the Colonna, the Orsini were a noble Roman family who contributed heavily to Italy’s military and ecclesiastical life for many centuries. Moreover, two heads of the Medici family had made recent marriages with Orsini women, Lorenzo the Magnificent marrying Clarice degli Orsini and his son Piero taking Alfonsina degli Orsini to wife. As Machiavelli notes in his Florentine Histories, both matches rubbed Florentines the wrong way. It seemed to many, he observes, that the Medici disdained their fellow citizens and, in allying with a noble, and foreign, house, they showed their contempt for republicanism and their own princely ambitions. As he states, i propos of the first of these unions, “He who does not desire his fellow citizens as relatives desires them as slaves, and therefore it is reasonable that he should not have them as friends.”16 As another irritant, when Piero de’ Medici died, his widow Alfonsina sued the Florentine republic, claiming that it had confiscated property that was part of her dowry. This association between the Medici and the Orsini led the Soderini family, both the gonfaloniere Piero and his brother Francesco, Cardinal Soderini, to align themselves with the Colonna and against the Medici after 1498, although the position of the Soderini in the constitutional ups and downs of Florentine life had not been marked, hitherto, either by single-mindedness or principle.17

            Despite his acceptance of commissions from members of the Medici family in the 1520s, Machiavelli’s anti-Medicean stance is not hard to demonstrate. In his first Decennale, he remarks that the loss of Pisa prevented Florence from rejoicing in 1494 at her release from the Medici yoke under which she had languished for sixty years.18 Aside from the passage in the Florentine Histories noted above, elsewhere in the same work he tips his hand by noting that, in republics, citizens gain repute in two ways. One is by serving the common weal without creating factions. The other way is by supporting their own followers privately, lending them money, and securing them patronage, thereby creating partisans and opponents. Machiavelli cites Neri Capponi as an example of a citizen who followed the first route to reputation and Cosimo de’ Medici as one who followed both routes. He shows Cosimo manipulating the Florentine legal system for the benefit of his supporters. As for Cosimo’s vaunted patronage of the arts, Machiavelli remarks that his palaces were establishments suitable to a king, not a private citizen.19

            On the same topic, he adds, in the Discourses, that if private citizens are able to make themselves princes, whether by their own ability or by fortune, they should imitate Scipio rather than Caesar.20 Machiavelli offers another pointed portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici in the Discourses. Cosimo’s credit, he observes, rested on the ignorance of his fellow citizens and the support of his partisans as much as on his own merits. Comparing the office of dictator in ancient Rome – an office with a term appointment filled by lawful election – with the role of a citizen who arrogates princely power to himself not legally but by buying support with his personal wealth, he adds that the Dictator had no authority to alter institutions, unlike the citizen-turned-prince who did just that.21 Another contrast he draws is with Cincinnatus at the plow and other Roman worthies who did not seek to enrich themselves through public service.22 Machiavelli presents the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici in 1478 as having failed because decades of Medici rule had deafened the ears of Florentines to the cry of liberty.23 And, speaking of the difficulties of reorganizing a city, he argues that major necessities alone will persuade people that reorganization is possible. Thus, as a consequence of the loss of Arezzo in 1502, Florence was reorganized, with the provision of a gonfaloniere for life. But following Florence’s defeat at Prato in 1512 – the event leading to the restoration of Medici rule -she became not reorganized but disorganized.24 Disorder, disrespect for law, favoritism, and the undermining of republican liberty are thus the Medici legacy, as Machiavelli presents it in works written both before and after the Art of War.

            Papal politics is another topic on which Machiavelli orchestrates his pro-Colonna, pro-republican, anti-Orsini, and anti-Medici themes. Machiavelli states that it was an Orsini pope, Nicholas III, who first practiced nepotism, making his kinsman Bertoldo Orsini duke of the Romagna in the late thirteenth century. Nicholas planned to grant Tuscany and Lombardy to relatives as well. He also conspired with Peter of Aragon to unseat Charles of Anjou in Sicily, paving the way for Aragonese domination of southern Italy. Of Nicholas, Machiavelli has this to say: “He was the first of the popes who openly revealed his personal ambition, and who attempted, under the pretext of aggrandizing the Church, to honor and assist his own relatives” – first his immediate relatives, then their sons, and “in the future they may strive to leave them the popedom as hereditary.”25 Moving onward, Machiavelli notes that Boniface VIII tried to crush the Colonna by excommunicating them, a tactic that backfired. Boniface thereby injured the church, weakening respect for ecclesiastical sanctions by his blatantly political use of them. Further, the head of the Colonna family fled to France, made common cause with King Philip IV, and helped him in the invasion of Italy that led to the arrest of Boniface at Anagni and the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity.26

            In more recent times, following the separate peace negotiated by Lorenzo the Magnificent with Naples in 1480 that broke up a Neapolitan-papal alliance, the Colonna joined forces with the Duke of Calabria, son of the king of Naples, and raided the papal states. They sided with the duke because the Orsini were in the employ of Pope Sixtus IV, who was then attacking Florence.27 Cesare Borgia also employed the Orsini, although he feared both Orsini and Colonna, using them and other condottieri to snatch his chestnuts out of the fire and then seeking to destroy them. Machiavelli refers to this recent history in the Prince. He discusses it in detail in his legations to Cesare Borgia; the Florentine government was extremely interested in the repeated falling-out and making-up of Borgia and the Orsini, as it was in Borgias eventual destruction of his disloyal captains. At one point during these tortuous developments, Machiavelli reports a conversation he had with Paolo Orsini. Noting that this condottiere had once served Florence, he remarks to Orsini that he, Orsini, is at present a poor servant of Florence, given the aggressive moves of his cohorts and his master in Tuscany. Orsini replies disrespectfully. This exchange underscores three points Machiavelli wants to make about the Orsini. First, they are associated with papal (and Borgia) nepotism in the papal states and aggression against Florence. Second, they exemplify the untrustworthiness of mercenaries. And third, they are expressly interested in bringing Medici rule back to Florence.28

            Contests between Orsini and Colonna cardinals also reveal the network of allegiances and antipathies with which we are concerned. In the papal election of 1521 which seated Hadrian VI, the Colonna cardinal was held to have played a decisive role, in alliance with Cardinal Soderini, in blocking the election of a Medici pope. Hand in glove with these cardinals’ consistorial machinations was the support of Prospero Colonna, lay head of the family, who also extended the Colonnas’ protection to the Soderini after 1512 and during a period after 1517 when the Medici pope, Leo X, and Cardinal Soderini were on bad terms.29 It should also be noted that the connections linking Colonna, Soderini, and Florentine republics, on the one hand, and Orsini, corrupt and antiFlorentine popes and their nipoti, and Medici (whether in Florence or Rome or both), on the other hand, were being drawn by other contemporaries besides Machiavelli. Francesco Guicciardini makes some of the same associations, especially viewing the hiring of Colonna mercenaries by Florence in 1505 and after as a consciously anti-Orsini and anti-Medici policy.30

            But there is still one more subtext in the Art of War that needs to be brought to light. Another contemporary group to which Machiavelli was hostile was the Frateschi or Piagnone party, followers of Girolamo Savonarola and his political and moral program. This party did not self-destruct after the friar’s ashes were strewn on the Arno in 1498.31 Remaining a powerful element in Florence’s unstable political scene, the Savonarolans were anathema to Machiavelli for two reasons. First, from his standpoint they reversed the relationship he posited between politics and religion. For Savonarola, politics was the means to the end of moral and religious reform of an ascetic and unworldly type, designed to purge Florence of her sins and luxuries so that she could function as the New Jerusalem in the coming apocalypse he preached. Such being the case, it was important that the Florentine government be broadly based, on the model of the Venetian Great Council; the more that citizens were involved in decision-making, the more easily could moral and religious reform be legislated. Savonarola also associated this message with opposition to the Medici and sharp criticism of papal corruption.32 For Machiavelli, the function of religion was to serve politics, inspiring politically constructive attitudes and behavior, civic virtue, and military valor, not humility or the burning of vanities. He regarded Savonarola’s prophetic claims as nonsense and thought the friar was a fraud, and an improvident one since Savonarola’s reforms failed to keep Florence militarily prepared and failed to enforce the laws, harshly if need be. Machiavelli displays his animus toward Savonarola in several places in his oeuvre. The most famous is undoubtedly his comparison of Moses with Savonarola, the “unarmed prophet,” in the Prince.33 Worse yet, in Machiavelli’s eyes, the Frateschi undermined the version of republicanism that he advocated: governo largo, as opposed both to princely Medici rule and to the governo stretto of the immediately pre-Medici republic promoted in his own day by Florentine aristocrats.34 Far from justifying governo largo in apocalyptic or Venetian terms, Machiavelli justified it on the basis of his reading of history and human nature. The continuing popularity of Savonarola’s version of republicanism was cause for alarm, especially since the friar seemed to have preempted Machiavelli’s own criticism of the papacy and the Medici. In the Art of War, Machiavelli takes his stand against the Frateschi in a pair of passages that have been discussed by Barbara Spackman simply as an example of the dyads he likes to use, but without sensitivity to their anti-Savonarolan implications. Ezio Raimondi, however, has appreciated their political resonance.35 As both scholars note, Machiavelli contrasts leaders who think it sufficient “to know how to spin a fraud . . . and to expect their words to be taken as the responses of oracles”36 with leaders who know how to use religion to inspire their troops. He cites a recent example of the latter: “In the time of our fathers, Charles VII, King of France, in the war he made against the English, said that he took counsel with a girl sent by God, who was called everywhere the Maid of France; and this was the cause of his victory.”37 Here, in Joan of Arc, Machiavelli has found a modern prophet armed indeed.

            Still, despite the clarification of the assorted subtexts lurking beneath the surface of Machiavelli’s main argument in the Art of Warsubtexts that explain why he chooses a Colonna spokesman-there remains the question of why he gives the defense of the citizen militia to a mercenary captain. A closer look at the text itself and an understanding of an aspect of the Italian Renaissance dialogue that has not been called on to contextualize the Art of War in literary history will resolve this final dilemma. First, Machiavelli subtly announces his anti-Medicean position at the beginning of the dialogue. Cosimo Rucellai, the host, is portrayed entertaining the distinguished general, Fabrizio Colonna, making his way south in 1519 from Lombardy, which he had helped to win for Ferdinand of Aragon, thereby gaining great military renown for himself.38 The Rucellai gardens had been a center of political and literary discussion since the time of Cosimo’s grandfather Bernardo. The members of the group included republicans of both the largo and stretto persuasion. Machiavelli joined it in ca. 1515. Some of its members sought the restoration of the Medici during the period 1494-1512, but others plotted to overthrow the reinstated Medici regime in 1522.39 As Machiavelli introduces his cast of characters, who include Zanobi Buondelmonti, Battista della Palla, and Luigi Alamanni along with Cosimo, neither he nor any of them comments on Fabrizio’s occupation. But a point is swiftly made about the garden setting. Observing that some of its trees are of the same species as the ancients had, Fabrizio says that it would be better to follow the ancients into the sun, engaging in activities that are rough and difficult, rather than sitting in the shade taking one’s ease. It was from neglect of such vigorous activities, he states, that ancient Rome was overcome.40 In response, Cosimo replies that his grandfather created the garden and the discussion group because Bernardo’s generation lived in corrupt times – that is, he implies, in the age of Lorenzo the Magnificent, when meaningful political action was impossible. Fabrizio accepts this explanation but urges that the example of the Roman republic can still be useful in a state where something of the good survives. Florence, he suggests, is not totally corrupt.41

            At this juncture, as Fabrizio begins to outline his military prescriptions, Cosimo hurls down the gauntlet, raising the question that so few modern readers of the Art of War have noticed. Why, Fabrizio, do you advocate imitating the ancients and condemn those who do not, while “in war, which is your profession and in which you are considered excellent, we do not see that you have used any ancient methods, or any showing likeness to them”?42 Fabrizio answers that he has made all the necessary preparations for imitating the ancients in war through his studies. But, he claims, he has lacked the opportunity to translate theory into practice: “Because no occasion has come to me for showing the preparations I have made for bringing the soldiers back into their ancient courses, if I have not brought them back, neither by you nor by others can I be censured.”43 Fabrizio acknowledges in this statement that it is possible to dispute whether, in fact, the “occasion” has come. Since that issue is debatable, he proposes to treat instead what is not: the preparations that must be made if the opportunity is to be seized effectively, an observation reinforcing his initial claim 44 and one that enables Machiavelli to move the conversation away from the question of opportunity and of Fabrizio’s real career, turning it toward the nuts-and-bolts details of military policy that make up the bulk of the dialogue. In books 1 and 2, Fabrizio catechizes Cosimo on the recruitment and payment of troops, weapons, drill, and battle formations. Luigi is the principal straight man for his comments on tactics, manuevers, and the size of regiments in book 3, with Zanobi assuming that function as he treats morale, the order of march, reconnaissance, provisions, and the division of spoils in books 4 and 5. It is principally Battista who moves the conversation along in books 6 and 7, where Fabrizio discourses on camping, decamping, discipline, communications, horses, and the besieging and defending of towns, with an exchange between Fabrizio and Cosimo ending the dialogue.

            Fabrizio at once states his main theme: a well-governed state, be it a republic or a kingdom, depends on a citizen militia; and it was Rome’s departure from this principle that caused her fall.45 Ever the spoiler Cosimo objects again. If we look around our world today, he notes, all we see are professional soldiers who, like Fabrizio and those he leads, are salaried by princes and republics so that they can earn a living, even in peacetime, without becoming highwaymen, brigands, and sociopaths.46 Here, Cosimo points to the contemporary phenomenon of standing armies based on mercenary troops, who were, indeed, being given incentives to serve as loyal and upright members of society through fiscal and bureaucratic institutions that had been in place since the mid-fifteenth century in most Italian city-states except for Florence. Fabrizio’s reply is that there is not enough peacetime activity, such as garrison duty, to keep the troops occupied. Paying salaries to mercenaries, he adds, is a corrupt practice. It is likely to create disorder in states that employ them – an answer that is not truly responsive to Cosimo’s point,47since soldiers who are paid whether they are fighting or not would not need to ravage the countryside, sack cities, and oppress noncombatants when not at war in order to make ends meet.

            But next comes an even stranger remark from Fabrizio. Speaking for himself, he has never, he states, been a professional soldier or mercenary captain. “I have never practiced war as my profession,” he avers, “because my profession is to govern my subjects and to defend them, and, in order to be able to defend them, to love peace and to know how to make war. And my king rewards me and esteems me not so much because I understand war as because I can also advise him in peace.”48 On the heels of this thoroughly disingenuous claim that he is not the condottiere he actually is, Fabrizio continues with the details of drafting the citizen army and the other topics he takes up in the Art of War.

            So it goes until the last book of the dialogue, where Fabrizio reverts to the charge Cosimo had made against him in the first book: Perhaps you will remember, Cosimo, saying to me that since on the one hand I exalted antiquity and blamed those who on important matters did not imitate it, and on the other hand did not myself imitate it in the affairs of war in which I have been concerned, you could see no reason for my conduct. To this I answered that men who wish to do a thing should first prepare themselves to do it, so that they can carry it out when occasion permits. Whether or not I know how to bring military affairs back to the ancient customs, I wish you to judge who have heard me discuss this matter at length. From that you can realize how much time I have spent in these reflections, and also I believe [you] can imagine how great is my desire to put them into effect. If I have been permitted to do so, or if ever I had an opportunity, you may easily conjecture.49

            Once more, Fabrizio claims that opportunity has not presented itself; nor can it do so for a military leader like himself. For the military reforms he proposes would be possible only for states able to draft armies of at least 15,000 or 20,000 men from among their own citizens. In the case of rulers of smaller states and, a fortiori, for commanders employed by other rulers, this possibility does not exist. Fabrizio was, to be sure, not a sovereign or a magistrate who could command an army of the size he regards as optimal. He now admits that he is a commander who works for a foreign prince, and his prince makes the rules, which he must follow. Given the mercenary nature of his troops and their licentious customs, his reforms, he concludes, would simply not work with the personnel he has on hand.50

            This retreat into an “I only work here” mode, while it is designed to exculpate Fabrizio for failing to institute the reforms he advocates and for his lack of the capacity – no less than the opportunity – to swim against the current, at least brings us back to a Fabrizio who acknowledges that he is a condottiere and not merely a sage councilor to his king and the defender of his subjects. The Fabrizio of the final book of the Art of War looks more like the historical Fabrizio Colonna than the Fabrizio who opens the dialogue. Nonetheless, throughout this work a known condottiere denies the utility of the military methods that have proved effective and that have won him success and glory on the battlefield. The argument given above, we hope, explains why Machiavelli chose a Colonna to defend the citizen militia. There remains the question, posed by Cosimo Rucellai in the text and never answered, as to why this particular Colonna should put forth a position so far out of line with his own well known practice.

            It is here that a consideration of Renaissance dialogue as a literary genre can offer a solution. As we have indicated, literary scholars treating the sixteenth-century dialogue give the Art of War short shrift. What has been ignored is the light that can be shed on the Art of War by placing it in the context of the Italian dialogue of the fifteenth century. David Marsh’s important study of that subject resolves the problem.51 As Marsh shows, authors of dialogues in fifteenth-century Italy did more than just choose from among the various models of classical dialogue and imitate them. They also innovated. To be sure, Italian authors preferred to populate their dialogues with interlocutors who were contemporaries, figures whose lives and opinions were thoroughly familiar to their audience. But from Leonardo Bruni at the beginning of the century to Poggio Bracciolini and Lorenzo Valla in the next generation, they added a new twist. In Bruni’s dialogues, the interlocutor Niccola Niccoli asserts, in the first dialogue, a highly unpopular position, criticizing Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio – the “three crowns” of Florence – in marked contrast to what he actually thought. In the second dialogue, Niccoli retracts his first argument, undermining its credibility in a fictitious rejection of it. Poggio uses similar tactics in his De avaritia. Here we also find contemporary interlocutors who argue against their own, known, views. A reader of this dialogue was confused by Poggio’s strategy and wrote him a letter requesting clarification. In his reply, Poggio makes two points. First, he says, he has assigned the attack on avarice to a man held to be greedy and the defense of avarice to another deemed prodigal in order to import irony into the dialogue and thereby make it more entertaining. Second, Poggio notes, we ought to be able to distinguish positions from the people who profess them. If a position is valid or meritorious, this is the case irrespective of persons. Valla applies the same technique in his De voluptate under all its titles and with whichever interlocutors he uses, placing Stoic and Epicurean arguments in the mouths of highly unlikely proponents of those philosophies. His Christian speaker criticizes the Epicurean for maintaining a position that, contemporaries knew, differed from the way the Epicurean interlocutor actually lived. The Christian attacks the Stoic interlocutor in the same way. As Marsh points out, the literary strategy which his analysis of these dialogue authors recovers also enables them to address other personal agendas more or less covertly, be they the attack on a logically-based scholastic theology, the critique of the church’s wealth, or the notion that Christianity must be yoked to asceticism.

            From this perspective, and signaling a mild shift only in his setting of the Art of War not in the present but in the very recent past when Cosimo Rucellai was still alive, Machiavelli’s dialogue and his choice of Fabrizio Colonna as its main speaker make perfect sense if read in the tradition of the fifteenth-century dialogues studied by Marsh. As we have seen, there is no lack of Machiavellian subtexts within this dialogue, as it reflects likes and dislikes found throughout his works. Machiavelli articulates these subtexts by his choice of interlocutors as well as by the lines he gives them. Most of all, placing the Art of War in the context of the Quattrocento dialogue resolves the problem posed by Machiavelli’s use of a condottiere, and one whose efforts had helped a foreign ruler to conquer much of Italy, to deprive many of its cities of their autonomy, to restore Medici rule to Florence, to criticize mercenary armies and to defend the citizen militia so intimately linked in Machiavelli’s mind with republican civic virtue. For Machiavelli and for his contemporary readers, the supreme irony of the Art of War is that no personage of the day was more richly equipped to convey that message than Fabrizio Colonna.

End Notes

*This paper was first presented at the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association meeting in Banff, Alberta, 15 May 1997.

1. The fullest account is Hirzel, 1:173, 494-95, 497, 515; see also Burke, 3; Wiethoff, 308; and Cox, 20-21, who errs in claiming that the Art of War falls outside of the conventions of Renaissance dialogue.

2. Hirzel, 1:460, 2:387, 389.

3. Sarolli, 91-92.

4. The groundbreaking work here, although without commentary on Machiavelli’s use of his sources, is Burd, 187-261; he is closely followed by Strauss, 7-8; Pierone, 6971; Ruffo Fiore, 80-82; and Mansfield, 1996, 199-200.

5. Anglo, 131-38, 152-53, 259-60; Feld, 79-81; Guillemain, 207; Hale, 1961, 19596; Wiethoff, 307-08; Wood, introduction, in Machiavelli, 1965, xx-xxiii, xxvii-xxxii.

6. The single most important scholar here is Mallett, 1974, 87-88, 90-97, 100-01, 112-14, 120-31, 133-34, 142-44, 196-97, 250, 258-59; Mallett, 1979, 1:149-64; Mallett, 1990, 174-79; Mallett, 1994, 1:535-51. Throughout, Mallett emphasizes the fact that Florence was behind the times with respect to the development of a paid, standing army with the bureaucratic infrastructure to support it, a fact coloring Machiavelli’s military views. See also Oman, 89-101; E Gilbert, 1986, 23-30; Hale, 1957, 1:260, 276-80, 282-90; Kraft, 109-21; Pieri, 525-55; Ruffo Fiore, 81-82; Vismara, 1439-50. A. Gilbert, 275-86, appears to be alone in defending Machiavelli’s modernity on the subject of anillery.

7. Barbut, 567-73.

8. The best introduction to the career of Fabrizio Colonna is Petrucci, 27:288-93. For Fabrizio and other members of his family who were condottieri, see Butters, 83-85, 98-101, 104; Chiapelli, 55-56; Consorti, 12, 16-18, 21, 23, 31-32, 52-53, 58, 59, 68, 69, 81, 82, 86-87; Gil, 308; Loewe, 59-62; Ridolfi, 1969, 1:151; Sasso, 1980, 185; Machiavelli, 1965, xviii-xix.

9. Mallett, 1974, 250-51, 257.

10. Niccolo Machiavelli, Prima legazione ala corte di Roma, 14 December 1503; Seconda legazione alia corte di Roma, 25 August 1506, 28 August 1506, 16 October 1506, 24 October 1506, 25 October 1506, ed. Martelli, 568, 573, 575, 604, 609-11. On the role of the Colonna family in the eventual organization of a Florentine militia, the best study is Cooper, 342-57. See also Butters, 108. The Florentines also used Don Michelotto, a Spanish captain formerly in the employ of Cesare Borgia; that some Florentines suspected he was hired to help Piero Soderini launch a princely coup d’Etat is attested by Guicciardini, 281. Dionisotti, 1980, 162-66, and Sasso, 1980, 3-59, think there was some basis for this fear although Cooper rejects that notion, persuasively in our view.

11. Butters, 278; Loewe, 114, 125-26; Mallett, 1974, 254.

12. Ridolfi, 1978, 278; Mansfield, 1996, 203-05.

13. Mallett, 1974, 258; Verrier, 175-87.

14.Guillemain, 202-03.

15. Dionisotti, 1993, 46.

16. Istorie fiorentine, 7.11, 800: “perchb colui non wole i suoi cittadini per parenti gli wole per servi, e per cib Z ragionevole che non gli abbia amici”; trans. A. Gilbert, 3:1351. On the marriage of Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici, ibid., 8.36, 843. On Machiavelli’s increasing dislike of the Medici in the 1520s, see Najemy, 1982, 554.

17.  Loewe, 24-26, 51, 53-54; Bertelli,10-16.

18. Dsennak,1.25-27, 940.

19. Ist. fior., 7.1-2, 7.5, 792-95.

20. Discorsi sopra la prima di Tito Livio, I.10, 3.28, 91-92, 234. 

21. Ibid.,1.33-34,1.46,1.52,115-17,128,133-34. 

22. Ibid., 3.25, 231-32.

23. Ist. fior., 3.25, 822.

24. Disc., 1.2, 79.

25. Ist. fior., 1.23, 649: “e fil il primo de papi che apettamente mostrasse la propria ambizione, e che disegnasse, sotto colore di fare grande la Chiesa, onorare e benificare i suoi; . . . cosl, per lo awenire pensino di lasciare loro il papato ereditario’; trans. Gilbert, 3:1062.

26. Ibid., 1.25, 649.

27. Ibid., 8.23, 8.27-28, 333-34, 836-37. See also Ruffo Fiore, 15-19.

28. Il principe, 7, 13; Legazione al Duca Valentino in Romagna, 20 November 1502, 266-67, 277-78, 452. For other relevant passages, see the entire legation record, passim 401-96. That Machiavelli oversimplifies the policies of both Orsini and Colonna in this period is shown by Shaw, 250-61.

29. Loewe, 125-26.

30. Guicciardini, 277.
31. The best and most recent study of this phenomenon is Lorenzo Polizzotto, 1988, 107-17; Polizzotto, 1994. See also Albertini, 107; Bertelli, 10; Brucker, 119-30; Cochrane, 3, 5, 7-8, 61, 134-35, 136-37; Erlanger, 299; Guillemain, 29-30; Pampaloni, 33747; Ridolfi, 1959, 288-304, and 1978, 397, 602; Schnitzer, 2:22-23, 24, 26-70, 427-56, 463-94; Weinstein, 1970, 323-76, and 1993, 205-25. Butters, 63-66, 69, 106-07, 147, 167-68, 179-81, 186, 194, 204, 263, by comparison, sees the Frateschi as less influential than is true of the consensus position

32. Girolamo Savonarola, 1818, 5-65. See also Ridolfi, 1959, 20, 22-23, 26-27, 3235, 38-40, 44-49, 51, 77-83, 92-93, 101, 107, 134, 154-55, 168, 184, 278-79, 282, 317-19; Roeder, 57-87; Schnitzer, 1:97, 105-16, 123-33, 165-94, 217-59, 265-318, 365-82, 391-97, 437-59; 2:32-33, 199-333.

33. Discursus fiorcntiarum rerum praefatioDisc., 1.1, 1.10-12, 1.19, 1.25, 1.34, 1.45, 1.49, 2,8, 3.30; Princ., 6, 12, 21; Decnnak, 1.154-65; L’Asino, 5.94-127; Canti carnasciakschi, 4, 2-11, 45; Ep. 3, to Ricciardo Becchi, 9 March 1498; Ep. 217, to Francesco Vettori, 19 December 1513; Ep. 261, to Francesco Guicciardini, 17 May 1521, 24-25, 7778, 91-96, 104-05, 108-09, 116-17, 127, 131-32, 157, 264-65, 275-77, 281, 943, 967, 991, 1010-12, 1161-62, 1203. There are some scholars who deny or soft-pedal Machiavelli’s dislike of Savonarola. E Gilbert, 1972, 98, thinks that Machiavelli shared Savonarolds apocalypticism; Massa, 108, thinks that he treated the friar with respect; Peterman, 192, claims that there are favorable references to Savonarola in Machiavelli’s Discorso intorno la nostra lingua; Plamenatz, 1:11, 35, thinks that Machiavelli was fascinated as well as repelled by Savonarola; Weinstein, 1972, thinks that Machiavelli’s opposition to Savonarola lessened over time; and Brown, 57-72; Feld, 88-90; Villari, 1968, 1:300; and Whitfield, 1-15, 24, 33-35, 87-110, think that Machiavelli was influenced positively by Savonarola. Without exhausting the literature on the other side of the debate, strong statements affirming Machiavelli’s profound dislike for Savonarola from various perspecrives can be found in Arciniegas, 184-201; Mansfield, 1974, 136-38, 146, 159, 165-67, 400; Renaudet, 42-45, 178-80; Ridolfi, 1978, 15-17, 397, 602; and Sasso, 1980, 13-16, 18-29, 32-40, 113-15, 122-23, 138, 156, 201, 392, 430-31.

34. Scholars who have noted the manner in which the Frateschi appeared to have preempted the governo largo version of republicanism include Anglo, 119-200; Connell, 95; Najemy, 1993, 72; Rubinstein, 3-16; Stephens, 35-45, 78-79; and Silvano, 41-76. 

35. Spackman, 179-94; Raimondi, 1-16.

36. Arte delta guerra, 7:388: “sapere tessere una fraude, . . volere che le parole loro fussero responsi di oraculi”; trans. Gilbert, 2:724.

37. Ibid., 4:354: “Nei tempi de’ padri nostri, Carlo VII re di Francia, nella guerra che fece contro agli Inghlesi, diceva consigliarsi con una fanciulla mandata da Iddio, la qualesi chiama per tutta la Pulzella di Francia; il che li fu cagione della vittoria”; trans. Gilbert, 2:661-62.

38. Arte della guerra, 1:307.

39. The most important study is E Gilbert, 1949, 101-31. See also Butters, 59-60, 164, 183-84 n. 79, 307.

40. Arte della guerra, 1:304.

41. Ibid. On the anti-Medicean subtext here, see Najemy, 1982, 562-63.

42. Arte della guerra, 1:304: “nella guerra, la quale * l’arte vostra e in quella che voi siete giudicato eccellente, non si vedo che voi abbiate usato alcuno termine antico, o che a quegli alcuna similitudine renda”; trans. Gilbert, 2:572. Mansfield, 1996, 203-05 has also noted Cosimo’s objection and the weakness of Fabrizio’s reply to it.

43. Ibid., 305: “E perche a me non “venuta occasione alcuna di potere mostrare i preparamenti da me fatti per potere ridurre la milizia negli antichi suoi ordini, se non ho ridotta, non ne posso essere da voi ne da altri incolpato”; trans. Gilbert, 2:572-73.

44. Ibid.: “Basterebbe, quando io fussi certo che l’occasione non fusse venuta”; trans. Gilbert, 2:573.

45. Ibid., 305-08.

46. Ibid., 308. 

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid., 309: “dico non aver usata la guerra per arte perch’ l’arte mia t governare i miei sudditi e defendergli e, per poterli defendere, amare la pace e saper fare la guerra. Ed il mio re non tanto mi premia e stima per intendermi io della guerra, quanto per sapere io ancora consigliato nella pace”; trans. Gilbert, 2:580.

49. Ibid., 7:309: “Se vi ricorda bene, Cosimo, voi mi dicesti che, essendo io dall’uno canto esaltatore della antichitl e biasmatore di quegli, che nelle cose gravi non la imitano, e, dall’altro, non la avendo io nelle cose della guerra, dove io mi sono affaticato, imitata, non ne potevi ritrovare la cagione; a che io risposi come gli uomini che vogliono fare, per potere poi operarla quando l’occasione lo permetta. Se io saprei ridurre la milizia ne’ modi antichi o no, io ne voglio per guidici voi che mi avete sentito sopra questa materia lungamente disputare; donde voi avete potuto conoscere quanto tempo io abbia consumato in questi pensieri, e ancora credo possiate immaginare quanto disiderio sia in me di mandargli ad effetto. I1 che se io ho potuto fare, o se mai ne * stata data occasione, facilmente potete conietturarlo”; trans. Gilbert, 2:722.

50. Ibid., 387-89.

51. Marsh, 31-77. The rest of this paragraph is dependent on Marsh’s findings.


Albertini, Rudolf von. Firenze dalla repubblica al principato: Storia e coscienza politica. Trans. Cesare Crisofolini. Turin, 1970.
Anglo, Sydney. Machiavelli: A Dissection. New York, 1969.
Arciniegas, German. “Savonarola, Machiavelli, and Guido Antonio Vespucci: Totalitarian and Democrat Five Hundred Years Ago.” Political Science Quarterly 69 (1954): 184-201.
Barbut, Marc. “En marge d’une lecture de Machiavel: Le `art de la guerre.”‘ Annales 25 (1970): 567-73.
Bertelli, Sergio. “Machiavelli and Soderini.” Renaissance Quarterly 28 (1975): 1-16.
Brown, Alison. “Savonarola, Machiavelli, and Moses: A Changing Model.” In Florence and Italy: Renaissance Studies in Honour of Nicolai Rubenstein, ed. Peter Denley and Caroline Elam, 57-72. London, 1988.
Brucker, Gene. “Savonarola and Florence: The Intolerable Burden.” In Studies on the Italian Renaissance in Memory of Arnofo B. Ferruolo, ed. Gian Paolo Bie.sin et al., 119-30. Naples, 1985.
Burd, L. Arthur. “Le fonte letterarie di Machiavelli nell’ Arte della guerra.’ Atti della nae Accademia dti lincei (Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, ser. 5), 4.1 (1897): 187261.
Burke, Peter. “The Renaissance Dialogue.” Renaissance Studies 3 (1989): 1-12.
Butters, H.C. Governors and Government in Early Sixteenth-Century Florence. 1512-1519. Oxford, 1985.
Chiapelli, Fredi. “Machiavelli segretario.” In Machiavelli nel V cent nario della nascita, 45-60. Bologna, 1973.
Cochrane, Eric. Florence in the Forgotten Centuries, 1527-1800: A History of Florence and Florentines in the Age of the Grand Dukes. Chicago, 1973. Connell, William J. “The Republican Tradition In and Out of Florence.” In Girolamo Savonarola: Piety Prophesy, and Politics in Renaissance Florence, ed. Donald Weinstein and Valerie A. Hotchkiss, 95-105. Dallas, 1994.
Consorti, Aida. II cardenak Pompeo Colonna su documenti in diti. Rome, 1902.
Cooper, Roslyn Pesman. “Machiavelli, Francesco Soderini and Don Michelotto.” Nuova rivista storica 66 (1982): 342-57.
Cox, Virginia. The Renaissance Dialogue: Literary Dialogue in Its Social and Political Contexts, Castiglione to Galileo. Cambridge, 1992. Dionisotti, Carlo. Machiaveleric. Turin, 1980.
Dionisotti, Carlo. “Machiavelli, Man of Letters.” Trans. Olivia Holmes. In Machiavelli and the Discourse of Literature, ed. Albert Russell Ascoli and Victoria Kahn, 17-51. Ithaca, 1993.
Erlanger, Rachel. The Unarmed Prophet: Savonarola in Florence. New York, 1988.
Feld, Maury D. “Machiavelli’s Militia and Machiavelli’s Mercenaries.” In The Military; Militarism, and the Polity: Essays in Honor of Morris Janowitz, ed. Michael Lewis Martin and Ellen Stern McCrate, 79-92. New York, 1984.
Gil, Christiane. Machiavelli fonctionnaire florentin. Paris, 1993.
Gilbert, Allan H. “Machiavelli on Fire Weapons.” Italica 23 (1946): 27586.
Gilbert, Felix. “Bernardo Rucellai and the Orti Oricellari: A Study of the Origin of Modern Political Thought.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 12 (1949): 101-31.
Gilbert, Felix. “Machiavelli: The Renaissance of the Art of War.” In Makers of Modern Strategy, ed. Peter Paret, 1131. Princeton, 1986.
Gilbert, Felix. “Machiavelli’s `Istorie florentine’: An Essay in Interpretation.” In Essays on Machiavelli, ed. Myron P Gilmore, 75-99. Florence, 1972. Guicciardini, Francesco. Storie florentine dal 1378 al 1509. In Opere, ed. Roberto Palmarocchi. Bari, 1931.
Guillemain, Bernard. Machiavelli L’anthropologie politique. Geneva, 1972.
Hale J.R “International Relations in the West: Diplomacy and War.” In New Cambridge Modern History, ed. G.R Potter, 1:259-91. Cambridge, 1957. . Machiavelli and Renaissance Italy London, 1961.
Hirzel, Rudolf. Der Dialog: Ein literarhistorisches Versuch. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1895.
Loewe, K.J.P Church and Politics in Renaissance Italy: The Lift and Career of Cardinal Francesco Soderini (1453-1524). Cambridge, 1993. Kraft, Joseph. “Truth and Poetry in Machiavelli.”Journal of Modern History 13 (1951): 109-21.
Machiavelli, Niccola. The Art of War. Trans. Neal Wood. Indianapolis, 1965.
Machiavelli, Niccola The Chief Works and Others. 3 vols. Trans. Allan Gilbert. Durham, 1965.
Machiavelli, Niccola Tutte le opere, ed. Mario Martelli. Florence, 1971.
Mallett, Michael. Mercenaries and Their Masters: Warfare in Renaissance Italy. Totowa, NJ, 1974.
Mallett, Michael “Preparations for War in Florence and Venice in the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century.” In Florence and Venice: Comparisons and Relations, ed. Sergio Bertelli et al., 1:149-64. Florence, 1979.
Mallett, Michael “The Art of War.” In Handbook of European History, 1400-1600: Late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation, ed. Thomas A. Brady, 535-61. Leiden, 1994.
Mallett, Michael, “The Theory and Practice of Warfare in Machiavelli’s Republic.” In Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner and Maurizio Viroli, 173-80. Cambridge, 1990.
Mansfield, Harvey C. Machiavelli New Modes and Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy. Ithaca, 1974. . Machiavelli Virtue. Chicago, 1996.
Marsh, David. The Quattrocento Dialogue: Classical Tradition and Humanist Innovation. Cambridge, MA, 1980.
Massa, Eugenio. “Egidio da Viterbo, Machiavelli, Lucero e il pessimismo cristiano.” In Umanesimo c Machiavelismo, ed. Enrico Castelli. 75-123. Padua, 1949.
Najemy, John M. Between Friends: Discourses of Power and Desire in the Machiavelli-Vettori Letters of 1513. Princeton, 1993.
Najemy, John M. “Machiavelli and the Medici: The Lessons of History.” Renaissance Quarterly 35 (1982): 551-76.
Oman, Charles. A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. New York, 1979 [reprint of London, 1937 ed.].
Pampaloni, Guido. “II movimento piagnone secondo la lista del 1497.” In Essays on Machiavelli, ed. Myron P Gilmore, 337-47. Florence, 1972. Peterman, Larry. “Gravity and Piety: Machiavelli’s Modern Turn.” Review of Politics 52 (1990): 189-214.
Petrucci, F. “Colonna, Fabrizio.” In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. 27:288-93. Rome, 1982.
Pieri, Piero. II Rinascimento c la crisi militari italiana. Turin, 1952.
Pierone, Luigi. Niccollo Machiavelli. Bologna, 1971.
Plamenatz, John. “Machiavelli.” In Man and Society. 1:1-44. New York, 1963.
Polizzotto, Lorenzo. “Prophesy Politics and History in Early Sixteenth-Century Italy.” In Florence and Italy: Studies in Honour of Nicolai Rubinstein, ed. Peter Denley and Caroline Elam, 107-17. London, 1988.
Polizzotto, Lorenzo. The Elect Nation: The Savonarolan Movement in Florence, 1494-1545. Oxford, 1994.
Raimondi, Ezio. “Machiavelli and the Rhetoric of the Warrior.” Modern Language Notes 92 (1977): 1-16.
Renaudet, Augustin. Machiavel. Paris, 1942.
Ridolfi, Roberto. The Life of Girolamo Savonarola. Trans. Cecil Grayson. London, 1959.
Ridolfi, Roberto. Vita di Niccollo Machiavelli. 7th rev. ed. Florence, 1978.
Roeder, Ralph. The Man of the Renaissance. Four Lawgivers: Savonarola Machiavelli, Castiglione, Aretino. New York, 1933.
Rubinstein, Nicolai. “Machiavelli and the Florentine Republican Experience.” In Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner, and Maurizio Viroli, 3-16. Cambridge, 1990.
Ruffo Fiore, Silvia. Niccollo Machiavelli. Boston, 1974.
Sarolli, Gian Roberto. “The Unpublished Machiavelli.” Review of National Literatures 1 (1970): 78-92.
Sasso, Gennaro. Niccolo Machiavelli: Storia del suo pensiero politico. Rev. ed. Bologna, 1980.
Savonarola, Girolamo. Del reggimento degli stati. Pisa, 1818.
Schnitzer, Giuseppi. Savonarola. 2 vols. Trans. Ernesto Rutili. Milan, 1931.
Shaw, Cristine. “The Roman Barons and the French Descent into Italy.” In The French Descent into Renaissance Italy 1494-95: Antecedents and Effects, ed. David Abulafia. 250-61. London, 1995.
Silvano, Giovanni. “Early Sixteenth-Century Florentine Republicanism.” In Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner, and Maurizio Viroli, 41-70. Cambridge, 1990.
Spackman, Barbara. “Politics on the Warpath: Machiavelli’s Art of War.” In Machiavelli and the Discourse of Literature, ed. Albert Russell Ascoli and Victoria Kahn, 179-94. Ithaca, 1993.
Stephens, J.N. The Fall of the Florentine Republic, 1512-1530. Oxford, 1983.
Strauss, Leo. “Machiavelli and Classical Literature.’ Review of National Literatures I (1970): 7-25.
Verrier, Frederique. “Machiavelli e Fabrizio Colonna nel’Arte della guerra: II polemologio sdoppiato.” In Niccollo Machiavelli: Politico storico lettcrato, ed. Jean-Jacques Marchand, 175-87. Rome, 1996.
Villari, Pasquale. The Life and Times of Niccollo Machiavelli. 2 vols. Trans. Linda Villari. Reprint of London, 1892 ed. New York, 1968.
Vismara, Luigi. “ll pensiero militare di Niccola Machiavelli.” Rivista militare 25 (1969): 1439-50.
Weinstein, Donald. “Explaining God’s Acts to His People: Savonarola’s Spiritual Legacy to the Sixteenth Century.” In Humanity and Divinity in the Renaissance and Reformation: Essays in Honor of Charles Trinkaus, ed. John W O’Malley, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Gerald Christianson, 205-25. Leiden, 1993.
Weinstein, Donald. “Machiavelli and Savonarola.” In Studies on Machiavelli, ed. Myron P Gilmore, 253-64. Florence, 1972.
Weinstein, Donald. Savonarola and Florence: Prophesy and Patriotism in the Renaissance. Princeton, 1970.
Whitfield, J.H. Discourses on Machiavelli. Cambridge, 1969.
Wiethoff, William E. “The Martial ‘Virtue’ of Rhetoric in Machiavelli’s Art of War.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 64 (1978): 304-12.

This entry was posted in Articles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.